She was the reason he killed his wife. There was no affair, no one was stalked or blackmailed. They had never met before that day.
Greg was an overworked man attempting to cater to his demanding wife. They were trying to conceive a child with no luck. This only added to Greg’s stress. He had picked up drinking to ease his troubles and prepare for their nightly attempts to conceive.
He worked forty miles away, down in the metro area. Every day it was the same slow crawl in a mass of cars and hellish construction.
And as usual, his wife called, demanding he pick something up from the store.
“Honey,” his wife, Milly, whined on the other end of the phone, “I need more blueberry lemonade.”
“You just bought two bottles the other day,” he sighed, his fingers strumming the steering wheel, waiting for the car in front of him to move.
“They’re all gone!” she barked. “Just stop at the store on your way home.”
“Milly, it’s going to be packed-”
“Don’t you love me?”
He grumbled yes, getting a cheer from his wife.
As predicted, the store was packed, the parking lot full of unobservant shoppers zipping through the cramped lot. Greg parked in the farthest spot from the door, slugging himself into the store and down to the refrigerated section. People stepped in his path left and right, doubling the time it would normally take to get to the back of the store.
“Oh great…” he growled, finding the shelf was empty. Searching around he found a stock girl pushing a cart and muttering under her breath.
“Excuse me, miss?” he called, making her jump. “Do you have any more of the blueberry lemonade in the back?”
“Umm…” she smacked her gum, mentally going over what was in the stockroom. “Maybe, let me check,” she answered, turning back to pushing the cart as Greg muttered his thanks.
She rammed the cart filled with back stock through two sets of doors into the refrigerated backroom.
“Okay,” she sighed, looking at the five pallets lined up against the milk racks. The dairy department was behind, as usual, and there were four carts she needed to stock before ripping into the pallets that had been delivered this morning. She walked around the pallets, trying to find what the guy had asked for. One pallet had a load of juice on it and she could see boxes labeled “Blueberry Lemonade” at the very bottom.
“Well screw that,” she huffed out. “That guy can come back later if he wants the shit so bad.”
The stock girl waltzed out to where Greg stood slouched against an endcap by the cooler. “No luck,” she announced. “You can always give us a call later in the week-”
“You’re sure you don’t have any back there?” he grumbled, his fists jamming onto his hips.
She frowned at him. “We might, but it’s probably buried in a pallet that won’t be torn apart until tomorrow if anything.”
Greg sighed annoyed, turning on his heel to leave the stock girl who called him an ass behind his back. He stomped out of the store to his car.
“Milly is going to have a meltdown,” he growled, cursing the stock girl for not finding the lemonade. “She just didn’t want to do more work than she had to, the little bitch.”
Greg was already back on the freeway when he considered going to another store, but he dismissed the thought. He just wanted to get home and have a stiff drink…or five.
“Did you really forget my blueberry lemonade?” Milly snapped as soon as he walked in the door empty handed.
“They were out,” he muttered, pulling off his jacket.
“Out? How can they be out? The manager told me they would get another delivery today.” She was whining again, pouting her lip like an ugly child.
Greg ground his teeth then sighed, “The stock girl said it was probably on a pallet that needed to be broken down-”
“Why didn’t she break them down?”
“I don’t know.” Greg made a b-line for the kitchen. He pulled a bottle of Scotch from under the sink, rolled off the cap and took a big swig. It burned in the best of ways.
“You should have told her-”
“And be stuck there waiting?” Greg snapped.
Milly glared at him, hands on her hips. “Well, why didn’t you stop at another store?”
Greg rolled his eyes, taking another drink. “Because I wanted to get home,” he muttered.
“So, you could drink?”
“No, so I could listen to you bitch because you didn’t get your goddamned lemonade.”
An object struck him in the back of the head making him drop his bottle. It shattered into the sink, amber liquid running quickly down the drain.
He slowly turned to find Milly smirking at him, then looked back to the sink. That bottle had cost him a pretty penny and was only a quarter of the way gone. His hands started shaking, a red haze covering his vision.
“You shouldn’t be such an ass,” she growled.
“You bitch,” he whispered, stalking towards her. “Do you know how much that bottle cost me?”
“Who cares?” she snorted. “I don’t get my lemonade, so you don’t get your booze.” She held her ground as Greg approached.
He rushed her, hands locking around her slender neck, and pinned her to the wall. As he squeezed her throat, he could feel her quickening pulse, and see the terror in her eyes. Milly started struggling as she realized he wasn’t letting go. This only prompted Greg to squeeze even tighter. It didn’t take long for the light to fade from her eyes, her body going limp.
Greg held her up for a minute more before letting go, stepping back as she thumped to the floor.
“Milly?” he stuttered, slowly kneeling beside her body, touching her cheek. He felt for a pulse but failed to find it. “Oh god,” he breathed, scooting back into the cabinets. A tremble took over his body. He stared at his wife’s lifeless form, asking himself why? How could he have done that?
Greg had never lost his temper to this extent, not even when he was drunk off his ass. He never laid a hand on Milly, even through all her bitching and moaning. Her constant nagging, telling him he was the reason they would never have a child. And then today, all that whining over some damn lemonade. Why couldn’t that stupid stock girl have just done her job? If he had gotten that lemonade, Milly would’ve been happy. She would have left him alone, wouldn’t have made him drop the bottle of Scotch.
Greg looked at the ceiling, like it held the answer. “That stupid stock girl,” he whispered in realization, “this is her fault.”
Fire flared in his chest, his hands curling into fists. He felt relief knowing that this was not his fault. Milly wasn’t dead because of him, no, it was that stock girl. She didn’t do her job, her lack of professionalism caused all of this. Wasn’t the customer always right? Shouldn’t employees strive to please the customer? Yes, it was her job, but she blew it off because she was lazy. She didn’t want to put in the extra effort to please a desperate customer. And that customer was pushed to murder his wife.
But the courts would never buy that, they would never understand. If he called the police, they would arrest him, not the stock girl. They would call him insane if he used that explanation. Those bastards wouldn’t care about the stress he was under, or how that girl made it so much worse.
He looked at his wife’s body. He’d be cuffed on the spot and hauled off to the looney bin. There was only one way to take care of this.
“I’m so sorry, Milly,” he cooed, bringing her body down to the chest freezer in their basement. “You’ll have a proper burial soon. I’ll let them know you are here; I just have to take care of something first. I won’t be coming back though. People just won’t understand.”
Greg kissed the corpse’s forehead before closing the lid. He then packed a bag and left to find a hotel close by the store.
Greg learned the stock girl’s name was Tessa and she had been with the company for about five months. He also learned her schedule, tracking when she worked alone, which was often, and when the store was the least busy. Greg went as far as following her home one night to where she lived with her parents. The only opportunity he would have to kill her was at work.
After two weeks of gathering information, he planned what he hoped to be a simple, quiet murder. He just had to get her alone, and get his hands around her worthless throat. He would make her feel the same pain Milly did. Then he would leave town, a one-way ticket to Italy was packed in his suitcase.
It was a Thursday night; the store was calm as Tessa walked in late to her four to nine shift with a sour look on her face.
He followed her to the cooler, watching her disappear through a set of swinging doors. Peeking through the glass display doors, he saw her fighting with milk carts, rolling them over to restock the milk facing the doors for the customers to grab. Opening a door, he could hear her cursing and ramming carts around.
Greg stood by the door, waiting a few minutes to make sure no one else went in the back. When the coast was clear, he pushed through the swinging doors. He was in a small room with a set of stairs on his left and two doors to his right that lead into the freezer and the cooler. Peeking through a small window of the cooler doors, he saw Tessa still fighting with carts and moving in between full pallets.
Greg knew this would be quick and easy. Tessa didn’t look like much, it would be easy to kill her.
He went through the cooler doors, chilled air blasting him in the face. The noisy fans working hard to cool the air covered the sound of his entrance.
Tessa was between two pallets still restocking. He moved to where she was, watching the doors for other workers.
She came out from the pallets, cursing about the leaking milk on her hands when Greg leaped at her, grabbing her shirt to force her against the pallet. She dropped the milk, causing it to explode when it hit the ground. Greg clamped a hand over her mouth, gazing into her startled eyes.
She was limp for a moment, then started to struggle as realization set in. Tessa pushed against his chest, trying to wiggle out from under his hold.
“You made me kill her,” he growled in her face. “If you had just done your job, she would still be alive.”
Tessa stopped struggling, looking at him in confusion.
“Of course, you don’t remember because you don’t care.” Greg’s hand moved from her shirt to her throat causing her to renew her struggles. He brought his other hand down around her neck too.
She didn’t waste her time with screaming. She kicked and punched at him as hard as she could, but he stayed put. Then she went for his eyes, thumbs gouged into the soft flesh filling his sockets.
Greg screamed as her nails dug into his pupil. His hold on her loosened and she wriggled out of his hands. She was winded and dizzy, but managed to crawl back between the pallets to catch her breath.
Greg was doubled over, clutching his eyes and cursing at her. “You bitch! You little bitch,” he roared.
Tessa was back on her feet, rubbing at her neck, trying to figure out what this guy was talking about. She squeezed farther into the maze of pallets, listening to the madman yelling.
Greg was too wide to get between the pallets. “Come here so I can kill you,” he growled, stalking around, trying to find a space to get through.
“I’d rather not,” Tessa mumbled, looking for a way out. If she was quick, she could run between the other pallets to the door behind the bakery and out the emergency exit by the loading dock. Quietly, she started to move.
“You made me kill my wife,” he screamed, still stalking around the cooler. This was taking too much time, he needed to wrap this up.
Tessa was at the last pallet that had been wedged in front of the egg racks. She couldn’t see where the crazy guy was, but heard the scrap of a pallet jack near the other end of the cooler.
“If you had done your job and given me that lemonade, she wouldn’t have nagged. She wouldn’t be dead!” Greg continued ranting, having decided that he’d move every one of those pallets just to get at Tessa’s neck.
“You’re kidding me,” Tessa breathed, hearing him crank on the jack. He was at the first one, giving her plenty of time.
She steeled herself then moved, squeezing through the gap. She covered the five feet to the swinging door with ease, crashing through them.
Greg saw her. He forgot the jack, taking off to follow as fast as he could. It was a risk moving out of the solitary cooler, but he had to take care of her now. His long legs caught up to her as she rounded the corner into the loading dock. He reached out, grabbing her by the hair.
Tessa cried out, spinning to throw a punch at him. Their legs tangled, and they crashed to the floor. Greg landed on top of her and wrapped his hands around Tessa’s throat again, squeezing hard.
Tessa clawed at his arms. Something stabbed at her backside, reminding her of the box cutter in her back pocket. She wedged a hand under her to grab it, bucking her hips into Greg. Black spots were starting to cover her vision as she brought her hand up, snapping out the blade to stab at Greg’s arm.
Greg cried out, tearing a hand away to slap her across the face.
“What’s going on?” a man demanded, running over to them. It was the butcher who always stopped to chat with Tessa when passing through the cooler.
“Get out of here!” Greg snapped, shoving off the butcher’s hands.
Tessa was starting to blackout, her head feeling light. She could barely hear the butcher calling for help as he fought with the crazy man. Two other stock guys ran up to tear Greg off her.
Greg started kicking and screaming, “She made me do it! She made me kill my wife,” he yelled, restrained by the other men.
Tessa gasped for breath, her cheek stinging from the blow. The butcher checked on Tessa before going to call the police.
Two officers arrested Greg while he was still ranting and crying. A third officer and EMT brought Tessa to the employee break room to check her out. She escaped with only a few minor bumps and bruises. The store manager joined them as Tessa explained what happened in the cooler and what the man had said.
One of the officers who had arrested Greg came in with a smirk on his face. “He spilled the whole story,” the officer said, scratching at his head. “He killed his wife because she was nagging him about not bringing home some lemonade.” The officer looked Tessa in the eyes. “He blames you for not having it stocked.”
Tessa shook her head, “Crazy bastard.”
The officer nodded, “Obviously that story ain’t going to hold up in court. He’ll have attempted murder on his list of charges now.”
They spoke a bit longer, the officer making sure Tessa was alright and told her to call them if she had any questions. They would be contacting her with more information about the charges against Greg.
“Well, this was a learning experience,” Tessa’s manager announced after the officers left. “We must always make sure to meet the needs of our customers-”
“Are you kidding?” Tessa snapped, standing. “That guy nearly killed me and you’re going to lecture me about customer service?”
Her manager narrowed his eyes. “He killed his wife because she didn’t get a product that we had plenty of on hand. You refused to-”
“Fuck you,” Tessa growled and tore off her work shirt to throw it at her stunned manager. “I quit!” She walked out, swearing to never work in retail again.