I awaken in the dark on my back, a crushing pain in my head. I try to move my arm, but there is resistence, something holding it in place. But I overcome the resistance and the arm rises, accompanied by the soft dripping of some sticky, viscous liquid.
Blood. I’m in a pool of my own blood. I have been left for dead. I raise my hand to my head to find the gaping wound, and blood drips from my shirtsleeve onto my face, on my lip. I lick.
Sweet. So sweet. Too sweet. Wait … honey?
I feel my head thoroughly, and find no gaping hole. I am lying in a pool of honey. I try to get up, an operation that is surprisingly difficult. I overcome the stickiness of the honey and finally sit up with a wet squelching sound.
I blink in the darkness and try to remember. I was in the storeroom. Someone must have hit me over the head with a jar of honey. A man. But what was he after? What did he want?! The money, of course.
There is a click and the outline of the storeroom door is illuminated in a milky yellow light. Has he returned to finish the job?
“Walter?” a worried female voice calls. “Are you here, Walter?”
His accomplice? The storeroom door opens, blinding me with light. I raise my arm to shield my eyes.
“Oh, good lord,” the voice continues. “I don’t believe I didn’t notice you in here! I thought you went home!” Her shoes clack on the cement floor, she touches my arm but then pulls immediately away. “Oh, what a mess! Are you alright?”
Stinging shards of light assemble themselves into a face. “Judy?” I say.
“Can you stand? Are you alright?”
“I’m alright … my head, but … help me up! Blasted honey!” I lean on her arm and rise.
“Oh my, what a mess! But you should sit. Hold on to the shelf while I get a chair. And paper towels, or …”
“Judy!” I grab her arm before she can leave. “He got the money! The man!”
“What man? What money? Walter! Hold the shelf just for a second while I get this chair.”
She drags a metal folding chair to the perimeter of the pool of honey and coaxes me into it.
“I’m going to call Gwyneth,” she says.
“Your wife, Walter!” she shouts like a maniac. “I’m going to call your wife on the telephone!”
“No, don’t call Gwyneth! Well, call her, but call the police first!” But she’s already dialing the phone in the other room. “He can’t have gotten far,” I say but of course she is no longer listening.
“Gwyneth! Walter was here the whole time! … In the storeroom, he must have fainted …” She lowers her voice, and I have trouble hearing what she is saying.
“Tell her to call the police!” I shout.
“… babbling about a man, some money … no, nobody broke in … nothing disturbed ..”
“Babbling?!” What is this I’m hearing? Judy doesn’t believe me about the man! She thinks I’m a lunatic!
“… yes, you’re right, I’ll call 911 and you get over here…” She hangs up.
“The police, Judy!” I try to get up, but I’m glued to the chair. And I’m dizzy. He must have hit me good…
“Yes! I’m calling now!” she screams, but I bet she’s calling for an ambulance.
She comes back in the room and pulls up another metal chair, which makes a horrendous scraping sound on the cement floor.
“I called the police, Walter! I called them! They’re on their way!” But I know she’s lying. My energy dumps out of me like an overturned bucket.
“Okay,” I say.
She takes my hand. “Everything’s going to be fine, Walter. Gwyneth is coming. The … police are coming.”
We sit in silence. Judy is eyeing the honey. I can tell it’s driving her crazy. She wants to clean it up. “What a mess,” she mumbles again, and sighs her exasperated sigh. When she hears the siren (an ambulance siren, of course, not a police siren) she jumps up and rinses her sticky hands in the utility sink before going out to meet them.
Gwyneth enters at the same time as the paramedics. Gwyneth is a wail of questions and exclamations and explanations and exhortations. The paramedics are rough and efficient and inhumanly strong, and I’m not quite awake as they wheel me out of the store.
The next thing I know I’m in the ambulance and all of the cotton and sawdust and mist clear away from my senses suddenly. Gwyneth is on my left and a man I don’t know is on my right. I look to Gwyneth and her eyes brighten.
“Gwyneth! I’m so sorry! They got it!”
“What, Walter? What did they get?”
“I’ve been saving … in the back of the warehouse … behind the honey …. Like an idiot I went to count it.”
“It’s okay, Walter! Rest now, rest!” I am crying, and it makes her start crying. I glance in embarrassment at the man, and he’s looking at me out of the corner of his eye. I think he is smiling.
“Oh, Gwyneth, what have I done! Now he knows!” I try to raise my left arm to point at the man, but with his inhuman strength he presses it to the gurney.
“I told Judy, I begged her to call the police!”
“Shhhhh, Walter. Rest. Rest now.”
I look at the man. I must keep an eye on him.
“Walter,” he says. “There’s nothing you can do. I know about the money now, and I can kill you in a second and not even your wife here will suspect a thing.”
“Did you hear that, Gwyneth! Gwyneth! He’s going to kill me!”
“What, Walter? This man is here to help! We are all here to help!”
I turn back to the man, and he looks all innocent, alarmed. My energy drains out of me.
“Just take it,” I say.
“Now you’re being reasonable,” he says.