The Bookstore

I stood in the atrium of a bookstore. I was a little muddled and I reached to my face and it was wet, no, more than wet, it was damp and soaked at the same time. I shook my head and heard the voice.

“Sir are you ok?” the tall man in the crisp black suit said to me, “I haven’t seen lightning hit that close in a while. Wow, would you look at the storm.”

I turned, outside the door a few feet behind me a storm raged that could only be considered a monsoon. The rain pelted off the door and clinks of small ice pellets jingled like an insane tambourine staccato that held no real pattern. I paused trying to remember something that was almost there, but I could not.

“How did I get here?” I asked the man. He was tall true, well over 6 foot and much taller than my 5’11. He was not big nor small and there was a radiance about him, something that imposed control and noted power. Even though I did not feel intimidated I could not remember why I was here, nor how I got here.

“You walked in the door of course.”  There was a clap of thunder that ripped the heavens in pieces and I looked outside as a tree fell across the road. “I guess we will be stuck here for a while,” he said. “I will make a few calls and see if we can get that tree gone. So how can I help you?”

“I am not sure,” I said and looked around the small store. To my left a stage was placed with eerie precision. Couches and tables were scattered around the stage and a bar behind them to the left of the store. To the right there were books, books everywhere of seemingly every type.

“Well, we have a little bit of everything, from the positive to the negative, from the enlightened to the macabre, from history to fiction we have it all. If you can’t find what you need, we will find a way to get it for you, all you have to do is ask,” the man said. “By the way, my name is Luke. They call me lucky Luke, but my luck hasn’t been all that great, it is just so-so.”

“Umm, hi Luke, my name is Rob, Rob Pelican. You know, maybe I should go,” I said wiping my face dry, “I really don’t know why I am here.”

“Must be either to get a book or meet someone,” Luke laughed, “but you won’t be going anywhere until the storm slows down. Why don’t you look around and maybe you will remember something?”

I looked back at the door and watched the storm rage. I wiped my face and noted my pants and shirt were mostly dry. I wondered how I had avoided being soaked but did not worry about it now. I started to walk as Luke walked to the back.

“I am going to go downstairs to the office, I will be a few minutes. Look around, I will be right back. There is another customer in here somewhere. Just wait for me if you remember what you were looking for, I won’t be long.”

I smiled and yelled back, “OK, I will do that.” Then I began to walk in the deep stacks of books. Luke was right. If you had an imagination it would be fueled by everything in this store. I wandered through the children’s books for a moment, then the teen, books were stacked nearly 20 feet high with sliding mahogany ladders allowing you to climb up. I thought about lawsuits but saw a little gold chain with a sign on the ladder that said, “If you enter the steps, abandon all hope of lawsuit, it is your choice”.  I laughed at the language and knew it was a literary mention, but I did not know or remember for what.

My head began to feel a little better as I reached the edges of the teen books and entered the romance section. I still did not remember how I got their or why, but I was actually starting to enjoy looking at the books. I saw a book called Q and picked it up for a moment, it was for a young person and I set it down and went on. Further a book called “The Rejects of Room 5” sparked my attention as I had always felt like a reject. Still, it was not what I was there for, so I continued on. I moved into history and historical fiction. A book called “Road Home” was enticing but it was not why I was there.

I turned a small corner and pushed a ladder a few feet and saw a woman looking at books to my right. From where I stood she was small and well dressed. Her crisp pencil skirt was offset by a lined blouse and a stunning vest. Her long red hair seemed to flow even though there was no wind in the building. She stood on maybe 5’7 but 4 inches of that were the stylish black heels and though she wore no stockings her legs were well tones and tanned. That hair, it was haunting until she turned.

“Rob?” she said to me as she looked into my eyes with a mixture of anger and despair. “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I am trying to remember but I walked in through the storm. What are you doing here? I thought you moved to Paris or New York or something?” Her name was Amy, and we had some history, a very deep history.

“I am visiting friends if it matters at all to you,” she said with more than a little anger attached to it, “I just wanted to get a gift for their daughter.”

I looked at her, she was stunning as always. “You look amazing.”

She shook her head, “That really doesn’t mean much to me anymore. Once maybe, but I am not even sure why you are talking to me right now.”

I paused and considered, “Why wouldn’t I?”

“You sure you want to ask that?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I replied, “Why wouldn’t I?”

Amy seemed to consider her path for a moment. She was a powerful person in my previous position, but she had left that. She was respected by a significant number of people and I had been a part of her team. “Don’t go believing your own press releases,” Amy said to me. “I know how you pretend to be so Petey pure heart with people, but I grew up. After your little shot across my bow a lot of people came to me and started filling in the blanks, I had been too blind to see.”

“Amy,” I said to her, “I am not sure what to say. I know I don’t know what you are speaking of.”

“Oh please,” Amy laughed with fiery indignation in her eyes, “I liked how after you set me aside you told everyone I was the bad guy, I like how when people who knew us as great friends asked you about me and if we were going to get together that you said, what was it ‘don’t you think I could do better’?”

I remembered, and remember saying it to a few people, I cringed being caught but felt bad about it. “I am sorry Amy, I really didn’t know what to say.”

“Why not say what I said?” Amy continued, seething with rage, “I told everyone you were exceptional and special and would always be a part of my heart.” Amy stopped for a second and the rage changed, she was upset but would not cry, the edge of a tear being held back by her indomitable will. “I told people I respected you and your work, I told people I moved on to do better. Let me see, I was told you said I overstepped, I went to far, everything was one sided, that I was a stalker. I was even told you thought I was leaving you candy on your desk, let me ask you Rob, why would I care? You ripped my heart out and slept with another woman and blamed me for your problems.”

Some clarity was coming but this was too fast. How had I forgotten all of this until this moment? I remembered saying a lot of things, but I was trying to save my marriage. I looked into her battered but dry eyes, “I was trying to save my marriage.” I said. “You do remember I was married?”

“I was too,” Amy said, “It was you who chased me, you who made me feel special when I was ignored at home. You who spent the time talking to me and more. It was you who set me on my path.”

I remembered, and I had told Amy that over and over. Yes, it was wrong, but we were both in such wrong relationships it felt so right. I was at once ashamed and angry for what I had done. “Amy,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Amy continued, “Destroying my life or trying to destroy my reputation. I did my homework Rob, after I left several men came forward and said they would have warned me but were afraid of me. It seems everyone feared me but you.”

I was torn suddenly, the passion, the excitement, the love. It was all there, yes, I loved her and now here I was divorced and alone. Now I lived in a small apartment trying to get by alone. My wife had divorced me when she found out. I felt my anger flair.

“You called my wife and told her about us, you destroyed my life and my marriage,” I said with renewed anger.

Amy laughed hard and the tears were gone, “I know this will count against me when I stand before the pearly gates, but you are a fool of a fool. I said nothing. A friend called me and asked about you, but I never spoke to your wife.”

“She said you told her,” I said with more force.

“She did huh?” Amy was almost mocking me, “and poor little Rob did not trust me and just coerced himself into belief. What a joke. I thought you were more intelligent that that. It is a 3rd grade move to trick someone, but she had your number and you fell for it hook line and sinker. I bet you even told her about the other gal, what was here name? Wendy? Clair? Who cares? Rob, I will hurt for a long time because of you, but I am done.” Amy put down a book and walked past me towards the door. I smelled her and felt her breeze as she passed. I walked behind her, “Amy, don’t go.”

She stopped and looked at me, “Why?”

“I miss you,” I said to her. “I miss us.”

“Well,” Amy said, “You tell all your friends the truth, and figure it out for yourself and maybe we will see if I can talk to you again, then again, maybe not. I will feel my love for you every day of my life, but I likely will not share it with you again.”

“Amy,” I said again, “there is a storm.”

“Story of my life babe, story of my life.”

I walked behind her until we reached the door. The storm raged outside pelting the door like a thousand rainy bullets. A truck was being battered as it was moving the tree in the road.

“Goodbye Rob, thanks for ruining another day,” Amy said as the tears began to flow. Tears I never saw, tears I ignored. I felt her now like I should have before. Amy turned rapidly and slammed out the door.

I went to follow and felt a hand on my arm. “Mr Pelican, are you OK?”

“No,” I said, “I am not OK.” I tried to wrench my arm away but it was held with a grip far more powerful than I could have guessed. I looked at Luke. He looked different now, more foreboding. I had not noticed his eyes, they were nearly black if not a deep ebony black, and I sat looking into those eyes for a moment. “I messed up, I remember Amy telling me once that all I had to do was ask and we would be together, and I waited. I waited for family, for my girls to grow up, for every excuse in the world, and she waited for me. I think I screwed up.”

Luke laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” I said with a little anger.

“You screwed up all right.” Luke giggled.

“I need to go after her,” I said and as I turned there was no door, just a brick wall where windows and a door had been. I ran to the wall and pushed it and my hands burned hot. The wall was impenetrable to me.

“What is going on here?” I said. “What is this place?”

“Just a little store,” Luke told me, “Well, it is your store after all. You built that wall as well, it is the wall that keeps others out. You are stuck in one of your well managed boxes. Every time we talk you ask this and every time I tell you.” Luke walked around on the finely finished wood floor, his black shoes clicked on the floor as he paced. “I actually enjoy it some, telling you. Don’t you remember? Your divorce? The pain? Remember saying ‘I want to die every day’ and finally finding your way to do it? Remember the EMTs, and the blood everywhere, your wrists cut?” Images flashed through my mind and emotions ran with them. I remembered the despair I felt. I felt as though I had lost everything. The world seemed to crush me and I felt as though I had no way out, no way but one. I had spiraled to deeper and deeper depression. I made a decision to end it all, and did so. The blade had cut deep and I remembered feeling lightheaded, then darkness, then I opened my eyes here looking at the storm.

“What is going on?” I demanded.

Luke laughed again, “You haven’t figured it out? I am disappointed, I know you are a smart man, or were a smart man. I am playing a game with you. You need to understand how your actions made your destiny. Everything you did lead to this moment with you and me.”

“What about Amy,” I asked.

“Amy is still alive, and after you she built her own little hell, she suffers as much as you do every day. She grieves for herself each night as sunset falls. She is her own nightmare and she may well avoid seeing me.” Luke smiled. “You, on the other hand get to enjoy my company, well, forever. You get to feel this indescribable feeling over and over.”

“No, that’s not possible.” I said, “I am a good person, I help people. I know I cheated and have not followed a good path but.”

“Ha,” Luke laughed, “I see everything remember? You stab everyone in the back. You talked bad about all your friends to your other friends. Those who stood up for you eventually regretted it. Even your best friend, who came out of the relationship with Amy, figured it out after you killed yourself. Eventually they all talk to each other, eventually they know. Sure, Amy was no saint, after all she broke her vows to be with you and someday, she might be here, but you, wow Rob, you are an expert at destroying people. A few thousand years from now I may give you a job torturing people just to watch and be amused. Your sin was not cheating, your sin was being you. You denied love, you denied friendship, you destroyed yourself.”

“What do you mean,” I asked knowing the answer.

“I mean it is time to remember,” Luke said and suddenly I did. I had talked to Amy hundreds, no thousands of times. I remembered them all, sometimes it went as today, sometimes I was nicer and it was tender, but it always ending with her leaving, always I focused on the faults and not the good we had. Always she got angry and I could not connect with that special part of who we had been. Always she walked out the door, the door I could not walk out of, and always Luke gave me this speech.

I began to cry, no I began to sob. I saw who I was and I did not like it. “Why?” I asked, even pleaded. “Why?”

“You already know,” Luke said, “You cannot seem to learn. You think that your way is the only way. You are lost and cannot see beyond that small pitiful excuse of a person you were to what others are. Even as Amy is angered she still loves you while you, you lost that ability if you ever had it. Now here is the fun part, now it’s time to forget.”

Luke’s voice faded and I felt a strange dizziness cross over me. I grasped and tried to hang on but the memory of it all seemed to escape like a butterfly in the wind until it was there no more. I felt muddled for a second and all the things I was thinking were lost. There was darkness for just a moment, finally a clap of thunder startled me.

I stood in the atrium of a bookstore. I was a little muddled and I reached to my face and it was wet, no, more than wet, it was damp. I shook my head and heard the voice.

“Sir are you ok?” the tall man in the crisp black suit said to me, “I haven’t seen lightning hit that close in a while. Wow, would you look at the storm.”

I turned, outside the door a few feet behind me a storm raged that could only be considered a monsoon. The rain pelted off the door and clinks of small ice pellets jingled like an insane tambourine staccato that held no real pattern. I paused trying to remember something that was almost there, but I could not.

Prices slashed

A line was loosely formed outside the new store, “Slashed!” and Gayle Levy was glad to be in it. She had heard the store would be the ultimate fast paced shopping adventure and was fired up to get some great deals.

In reality, Gayle knew she didn’t need anything, she just loved the thrill of finding a bargain and had gone out for years on Black Friday to get the deal, not the item. Just a few years ago she had made the news when a group of women fought over the last 4K television at a local chain and she ended up getting it, with a few other women getting black eyes. Fortunately, No charges were filed.

The store in front of her was in an old Wal-Mart, closed from the attacks on retail from online shopping companies that offered low prices and near same day delivery for free. In the new world there was no need to even see someone else, Gayle hated the idea of that, after all, where is the fun in that. Where is that thrill of winning.

Looking around the line had grown since she arrived and over three hundred people were gathered to cram into this new store with more cars pulling up every minute. Men in grey uniforms walked around and handed people small papers.

“What’s this?” Gayle asked.

“Contract, no one gets in unless it is signed, allows video access and is a general release of liability.” the guard said.

Gayle reached in her purse, got a pen, then filled out and signed the paper. Nothing was stopping her shopping today.

A massive bell sounded. The bell was reminiscent of the bell that rang as horses were let out of the gate at popular race tracks. The doors opened wide and the signed “Slashed” lit up bright blue.

People began to push into the doors as men checked contracts. One by one people were let through as their contracts were checked then slipped into a file folder. Some were stopped to sign or change something but the line flowed with great vigor. Gayle noticed each contract being fed into a document scanner at the door and whisked off to who knows where. Gayle pressed as hard as anyone as she handed over her signed contract. As they pressed forward she found herself in a massive white room. People stood impatiently and huge fans blew air downward into the group keeping it from getting hot. A diminutive woman stood on a high podium and began talking.

“Welcome to the future of shopping!” the woman began. “My name is Lizzie, and I will be opening these doors in just a moment so you can compete for the best deals you can get anywhere, online or offline. The rules are simple, you make your best deals by getting the products you want at the best price. If you achieve certain goals you advance to the next room and get more discounts up to the fourth room where you have the opportunity to get 99% off. To advance to more savings you must get the best deal, and be chosen to move to a new level. No one moves forward unless chosen.”

There were some groans and some “ahhhs” in the audience.

“Now don’t worry,” Lizzie continued, “Everyone will walk out of here with a deal, but only the most tenacious people will move on to the challenge rooms and better and better prices! As the doors behind me open you will find your deal, and the prices will be slashed based on you and your ability to make your deal happen.”

Gayle was ready and the people around her pushed forward.

“When you hear this sound,” a groaning low pitched horn sounded, “someone has checked out and moved out of the area and is headed home or back to the start.”

“When you hear this bell,” a ring sounded like the one she had heard previously, “You will know someone is moving on to better prices and more intense competition. Is everyone ready?”

“yes,” came the weak murmur around the room.

Lizzie strained and took a deep breath, “I asked, is Everyone READY?”

Screams echoed in the room as people cheered “Yes!!!!” and the bell rang.

Gayle was pushed forward with the crowd at first and saw bin upon bin in front of her as the halls began opening in the first rooms. There were about 30 bins of difference sizes filled with merchandise. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. To the left was a door marked cashier, Huge men in blue uniforms pocketed the area like massive sentinels looking over a prize, everything else was about the deal. this room was massive and could hold hundreds of shoppers.

Within seconds there was a ring and Gayle could not see what happened. She did see a tall woman escorted to a door marked “2” in front of her. Guards at the door kept anyone else from thinking about going to “2” unescorted.

The bell rang again and another woman moved forward with several items in hand, then another, and another.

Gayle saw a woman with an armload of merchandise head to the cashier door and she heard the low pitched moan as the woman went out of the one way door. People were grabbing things left and right. Gayle saw something in front of her, a name brand purse worth a lot sitting on a table. She grabbed at it as another small woman grabbed it as well. The two pulled and Gayle saw a fire in the small woman’s eyes. She decided she was going to get that purse and she turned and as she did she elbowed the woman in the stomach. Choking, the woman dropped the purse.

The bell rang and a huge man in a blue uniform walked to Gayle, and pointed her towards door 2. Escorting her she heard the bell ring again and again. More people made their way to door 2. The door swung open and Gayle was in a new room. There was Lizzie, standing on a new podium. She began to speak.

“Welcome to level 2 where prices are better than any online location could offer! We offer the best pricing because our backers are interested in you and your shopping habits! Get ready to experience shopping like never before in our Electronics Area! Make sure you get a cart to keep your purchases safe!”

People saw the row of carts and began taking the steel reinforced monstrosities and putting their items in the carts. The carts had grates on them that pulled over the front of the top opening making it difficult to reach in. Gayle got a cart, put the purse in it and pulled on the handle closing the top off with a steel grate. She played with the handle and the grate slid up and down on rubber gliders easily. She saw others playing with the lever that worked the grate, and wondered how cutthroat the prices would be to set this type of cart up.

Guards in orange shirts and blue pants opened the next set of doors and the group of perhaps 50 men and women rushed the next room. Gayle pushed forward and was happy her cart was not one from grocery stores. The wheels and bearings were slick and easy and pivoted so easily they seemed to read her mind. Gayle wound her way through the bins and grabbed a few watches and saw the price was hundreds less than normal. A woman grabbed an Apple Watch from her and threw it in their cart. Gayle was furious but saw another one and grabbed it. She put it in her own cart and began to move on when a man started to reach into her cart for the watch, smiling at her with an obvious disdain. Gayle grabbed the grate lever and pulled hard closing on the mans arm. He winced and began to pull back, but as Gayle allowed a little opening for him to withdraw he began to reach in again. Gayle jammed the lever hard and he yelped looking a her with obvious anger. His arm pinned he swung at her with his free arm. Gayle grabbed the lever and slammed it over and over until the man began to tear up and started to pull away. Gayle was not having it and pulled again and again catching the mans hand as he pulled out and seeing bruise and blood as he cradled his arm. As the man backed away from Gayle her eyes glared with righteous indignation.

A guard in an orange shirt came up to the man and escorted him out of the area through the door marked “cashier” and she heard the low groan again. Moments later a guard came to her and she was concerned she was in trouble, but instead the man escorted her to a door marked “3” on the wall, and for the first time in room 2 the bells sounded.

Gayle and her cart were now in a smaller podium room with Lizzie walking to the podium. A massive woman with a bit of blood on her lip and a few items in her cart joined Gayle. Then a man with mussed hair and a slight limp with a fuller cart. He was followed by a short woman with a blonde ponytail that looked like a soccer mom, she popped her gum with her half full cart and Gayle could see a little blood on her running suit.

Soon about 20 people were in the room and as the door opened Gayle could see more and more people entering room 2. Each time the door opened she could hear the groaning klaxon or the ringing bells, over and over like some massive assembly line of shopping.

Lizzie began talking again. “Welcome to level 3. I have a special gift for all of you in here, a 20% off coupon on your cart so far!” Men in green shirts began passing out the coupons to each person in the room.

“Are you ready for kitchen deals?” Lizzie asked.

The room was filled with nervous energy and everyone in that room screamed. “Yes!!!!!”

The bells rang and everyone, including Gayle ran forward with their carts. Gayle grabbed the Ninja blender and threw it in her cart for a great deal off. There were only a few and another big woman in black spandex grabbed one but was knocked down and kicked as a man took it from her. He put it in his cart and Gayle heard the bell sound. She saw the man escorted to the door marked “4” on the side of the room. The big woman in black spandex stood and grabbed a “Kitchen Aid” mixer and as a smaller woman reached for it swung the box by the handle and knocked the smaller woman reaching for it across the floor. The big woman in black spandex put the mixer in her cart but as the other smaller woman struggled to get up, she also opened her cart and took a bunch of items and moved them over to her waiting cart.

The smaller woman on the floor dove onto her and started swinging. As she did Gayle moved to the big woman’s cart and took the Mixer. Opening her cart and putting it in Gayle moved away from that scene. Gayle grabbed a knife block from a display and put it in her cart. She then came to a display of meat tenderizers and grabbed one. A hand was on her shoulder and she turned to find the big woman in black spandex swinging at her.

“Give me my mixer!” the woman screamed. A little blood dripping from her cut lip.

Gayle swung the meat tenderizer up and smacked the woman in the chin. She felt a crunch and the big woman fell back to the floor. Gayle saw the blood spray and the woman’s jaw was now at an odd angle. The guards in green came forward and the bells and groans went off at once. Gayle was escorted one way, the big woman in black spandex another.

“She asked for it,” Gayle said but soon realized she was moving to the door marked “4”.

A new woman was at a podium with only a few others in the room. The 4 waited together as others were ushered into the room and guards with red shirts wandered around the room offering water bottles to the shoppers.

“Hi” The woman said as 10 people were counted in the room. “the 10 of you will now compete in our sporting goods department. The deals are amazing, and before we start our proprietors have given each of you a 50% off coupon for any purchases you have made or will make today. Use it with your 20% coupon and your savings will be stellar!”

A muscular man to Gayle’s side said, “We aren’t gonna get in no trouble are we, I mean, I know I broke that dudes nose but he was trying to take my vacuum.”

“No, by the terms of the store agreement you are in no trouble,” she paused, “In fact it is your tenacious shopping habits that make you the best for room 4. Are you ready?”

The 10 screamed an affirmative and Gayle found her heart racing. 7 women and three men entered the room. It was larger than some others but the tables had fewer items. Gayle noticed there were camera’s in the ceiling everywhere. Gayle rushed to a counter and grabbed a tent. As someone walked towards her she opened her cart, threw in the tent and grabbed the handle of the meat tenderizer. A man reached for her cart and she swung the hammer at his hand, smashing his fingers. He pulled back and looked at her as she blew air to get her hair off her face and swung at his groin. The mans eyes opened wide and he groaned and fell to the floor writhing.

A big black man saw Gayle take the first man down and opened the man on the floors cart and emptied it into his in just seconds. Gayle ran to another table with Gerber machetes on it. She grabbed 4 of the big knives and put them in her cart. A few feet down was a table full of baseball bats and Gayle took a bat, then ducked as a small Asian woman swung one at her. Gayle backed off and moved to another table. The Asian woman hit another woman over the head with the steel baseball bat and pummeled her several times. Gayle thought she saw the woman’s head deform a little and blood began to pool under her. The Asian woman then took items from that woman’s cart.

Gayle looked back at the floor and saw the twisted body of the woman just beaten with the bat. She was now convulsing and blood was running from a gash in her head.

Gayle moved on to the next table and scrapped the contents into her cart with a sweeping arm. She had no idea what she just got but didn’t care, it was hers. A dozen boxes filled her cart and as she closed the top grate she saw she had just taken shotgun shells.

She moved to the next table and turned to see people losing interest in the sales and instead fighting like crazed lunatics over the previous items. As another person fell, the guards in red shirts picked them up and carried them out of the room through the door marked “Cashier”. The groan sounds came one after another. There number of people reduced.

Gayle looked forward and saw the next table and grabbed the item on the table. She knew it well. A Remington 12 gauge shotgun. Gayle reached into her cart, ripped open a box of shells and loaded the weapon with 5 shots. No guard moved, no one came towards her.

Four people remained and Gayle walked back within a few feet of them all. Each was lost in their own fight. Gayle chambered a round as one man looked at her. Gayle shot him in the chest and blood sprayed as he was thrown back. Gayle’s ears rang, but she was already chambering a second round and let it loose on the woman to her right. The shot caught the woman’s arm, and removed it. The woman fell to the floor writhing. Gayle heart pounded but she would not lose!

Another woman was running toward the cashier door with her cart and Gayle let loose a third round into her back. Gayle heart pounded even faster but this was now her deal. The woman’s back peppered with blood and she fell forward into the ground. The last man, the black man who had emptied the cart earlier looked into Gayle’s eyes. He stood for a moment and pushed his cart towards her, then walked to the cashier door empty handed.

Gayle panted, she walked forward and yelled, “Hey.”

The man turned and Gayle shoved his cart to him. The man smiled and pushed the cart out the cashier door. The groan sounded.

The men in red shirts were cleaning up and taking the fallen shoppers out of the room as Gayle gathered the carts together and moved items to her cart. A few men in black uniforms rushed in with mops and cleaned the floors even as Gayle finished loading her cart. She looked up at the dozens of camera’s. Men in grey uniforms came in and were patching walls and painting with rapid haste now. It was a theater of efficiency.

“I’m ready to check out,” Gayle said.

Lizzie walked in the room, “Of course Gayle, and the proprietors have given you this special coupon for 99% off for your fantastic shopping ability! Thank you for your tenacity! You can combine it with your other coupons making your days shopping almost free! What do you think!”

Gayle blew the hair out of her face, took the coupon and made her way out the cashier door. “It’s a lot better than shopping online!” she replied as she left the fourth room.

Behind the cameras, in another room dozens of men and women laughed. “Good job Mister McMillan. We did not see that coming. Number 77, Gayle Levy is the winner. She paid 15 to 1. Congratulations sir! The second group is setting up now, place your bets. Only 5 minutes remain until bets are locked for group 2 in the fourth room.”