Mission Critical

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Chapter 5 - Hit Man: Revisited

Morning. SRT training at their shooting range. The truth? I like the one where the Sarge and I train a lot better. This one is on the edge of a pretty big junkyard, so it’s not what you’d call scenic. You can probably imagine how it smells, too. Today is the basic marksmanship phase of the assessment. They want to see how well we can shoot with pistols and SRT weapons, which in my case means the submachinegun. My sniper marksmanship tests will come later. Right now, it’s the basic stuff. I’ll have to shoot the M-4 as well, but I already know how to shoot one of those pretty damned well. I’ll do fine. This is one part of the assessment where I really don’t have any worries. They won’t have us shoot that MP-5 at more than fifty yards, and I was doing just fine with it at that range yesterday. In a real situation, anything further than that and they’d have me shoot it with a rifle. For this phase? I’m in my element. I plan to ace this.

I’m still a little sore from yesterday. I swear, if I ever see a rope and someone orders me to climb it again? I think I’ll just hang myself with it. All of that PT and obstacle course training took a toll on me. From the looks of my fellow applicants, it took a toll on them, too. Between phases, there’s plenty of talk about aches and pains going around. None of us expected them to run us that hard yesterday. I guess we should’ve known better, huh? It’s not just the chatter, either. I can smell the Icy Hot cream on them. You know, for sore muscles? Me? I used Tiger Balm. Same stuff, different name. Tiger Balm comes in these teeny-tiny little jars, so it was a little cheaper than a big honking bottle of Icy Hot or some other crap like Ben Gay. Girl on a budget, remember? Beefy the dog absolutely hated the smell of that stuff. He took one whiff of me and ran away like Superman running away from kryptonite. Poor doggie! Anyway, I’m fine and I’m ready to go. So is everyone else. No one dropped out or got dropped from the assessment yet. We’ll see if that’s still the case after today.

Between the usual nervous chatter, everyone’s talking about the bank robbery yesterday. That security guard? He was in surgery for seven hours. That bullet did a lot of damage; especially for a guy his age. Hell of a way to spend your retirement years, huh? He’s alive and the doctor confirmed he was going to make it, which is some damned good news. We’re hoping – make that praying – that when he wakes up, he’ll have some information we can use. You know, like a detailed description of the assbag he shot? That would be nice, don’t you think? Everyone in the bank was so freaked out by the shooting that they couldn’t tell us a damned thing. He was the only good guy who kept his focus. The bad guys? They were plenty focused. We’re going to need more than an empty shell casing if we’re going to catch these guys. Right now, he’s our best bet.

One good thing about this robbery crew: they don’t seem to be a bunch of expert tactical freaks. I’m sick to death of assbags who know exactly what they’re doing. Corey Faisse? Reese Childerson? The lightning struck twice in the same place in less than a year for me! How’s that for being born under an evil star? No more! No more real-life Rambos! I’m totally fucking sick of them! I hereby propose a law: no psychotic killers who know what the hell they’re doing are allowed to come to Arizona! Let them stay in Florida with Florida Man! All in favor? Yea! All opposed? Silence! Yes! It’s unanimous: the motion carries! Stay the fuck out of here, nut jobs!

We ordered that book and had it shipped overnight delivery so we’ll get it either today or tomorrow. Of course, that means I paid more to have it shipped than the damned book cost. I’ll put in a voucher for it. Hey, I’m not being cheap! I don’t have any money to throw away! Toss in the price of the “subscription” to that dickface’s website and I’m in the hole almost a hundred bucks! Do I look like my stupid fucking ex with money to burn? I shop at Dollar General, for God’s sake! Anyway, I’m really curious to see what the “author” has to say. I didn’t even watch the videos he’s got on his website last night. I was too tired and too frustrated. We’ll watch some of them this afternoon. The Sarge is here for this phase of the selection process, so he can’t sit in the station and watch them while I’m out here. I also want to run the guy’s name through the system and see if he’s really an experienced bank robber or just some dickface who made the whole thing up. That Hit Man book the Sarge was talking about yesterday? I did manage to Google that one. It turns out the “guy” who wrote it was actually a housewife from – you guessed it – Florida! She wrote it as a private detective novel and when she couldn’t get a sale, she tweaked it into a bullshit how-to manual, gave herself some ridiculous pen name and sold it that way. Can you believe it? I can’t! Three people actually got murdered and the assbag who did it used that bullshit book to show him how to do it! Truth really is stranger than fiction, isn’t it?

Time to focus on the training. They’ve got a long table with all of the weapons on it. I think they’re going to start with the pistol, though. Are they going to give us one to use, or have us use what we normally carry? SRT uses the 1911, which is what I’ve got. I’m hoping they just let me use my own. This beauty the Sarge gave me? I can’t miss with it. It practically shoots by itself. I’m just afraid they’ll say it gives me an unfair advantage and hand me some worn-out piece of crap that couldn’t hit the side of a barn. I’ll find out right now. Lieutenant Shears is about to start. He’s got his clipboard again. Whenever the boss has a clipboard, you know it’s time to work.

“Listen up, candidates! The first course of fire is with your sidearm! If you’ve already got a 1911, use it! If you don’t, we’ve got some you can use! The 1911 is the standard service pistol for SRT, so you’d better get used to it! Line up on the seven yard line!”

Good! I get to keep my tackdriver! That means I’ve got this in the bag! Since I’m number five, I guess I should line up on lane number five. And we’re…hey, wait a minute! There’s two silhouettes on each target! One in front of the other! They’re starting with a hostage drill? These guys don’t screw around, do they?

“We know all of you can shoot, so we’re starting with a challenge! You have three seconds to take out the bad guy from seven yards! Wait for the whistle! Three seconds! One round to the head! Do not shoot the hostage! I will be very upset if I see any bullet holes in those hostage targets! Stand by!”

Thank God the Sarge made me do this drill a thousand times! I’ve got this! The bad guy’s head isn’t sticking out much, but I’ve done this plenty of times already. There’s the whistle! Aim…fire! Got him! Low ready! Wait for them to order us to holster! Just in case they order a second round!

“Safeties on! Holster your weapons! All right, let’s see how many lawsuits we’ve got today!”

Not me! I nailed that son of a bitch! But judging by the looks on some of the guys’ faces, they didn’t.

“All right! We’ve got four lawsuits! For those of you who missed, don’t sweat it! We did this on purpose to get you a little jaded! Hitting you with a difficult shooting situation right from the start! There’s a method to the madness, people. SRT is always under a microscope. Every shooting we have is second, third, and fourth guessed. When SRT gets a callout, we bring a lot of firepower to the table. Some people are uncomfortable with that and they’re looking for us to screw up so they can rake us over the coals for it. We’re held to a higher standard whenever we discharge a weapon. If this had been an actual SRT callout, we’d never hear the end of it! People expect us to be perfect and we all know that’s not possible, so we have to train until we get every drill right each and every time. It’s no guarantee we won’t have a tragedy out in the field, but it’s the best we can do to prevent that. There’s a lot of pressure on you if you’re a part of this unit. We have to make sure you can handle it. There’s too much at stake for us to do it any other way.”

That much, I already knew. A lot of people mistakenly believe that SRT shoots more people than any police unit, but it’s not true. A lot of assbags see SRT deploying and they give up when they see what they’re up against. The truth is, patrol has the most shootings because they have the most encounters with people. You think SRT is dangerous? Try pulling over a car in the middle of the night and not knowing who’s behind the wheel. Now that’s dangerous!

“All right, everybody tape over your shots and move it back to twenty-five yards! We’re going to try it again from that distance!”

Is he kidding? Twenty-five yards and our target is a headshot with about three inches of the bad guy’s head sticking out? With a pistol? That’s insane! I’m good, but I don’t think I’m that good with a pistol! I’d never take that shot in the field! Not without a rifle, anyway. I can do it with a rifle all day long. A pistol with iron sights? That’s crazy!

“Listen up, candidates! How many of you think you can make that shot? Remember: there’s a hostage standing in front of the bad guy! You’ll get one chance! How many of you think you can make it?”

Not me! I’d just try to keep the guy talking until someone showed up with a rifle! And it looks like only number three and number six think they can do it. This, I’ve got to see!

“All right, six and three! You think you can do it? Prove it! One shot each! You have five seconds to make it! Stand ready!”

Ready to shoot the hostage right through the noggin! I’ll be amazed if either of them can do it in five seconds. And even if I thought I could do it, I wouldn’t dare try it when somebody’s life was on the line. No way, no day!

There’s the whistle! And…number six missed by about three inches. At least he didn’t shoot the hostage. I can’t see where number three’s shot hit. Did he make it?

“Congratulations, number three! You just killed the hostage! Number six, you missed both of them! Now the gunman freaks out and kills the hostage!”

Maybe I’m an idiot, but I’ve got to say something. This is crazy!

“Sir! Why would you take a shot like that with a pistol? Why not leave it to someone with a rifle?”

“Because you don’t have a rifle, number five!”

“So wait for someone who does! A shot like that at twenty-five yards? And if he were a real person, his head would be moving! You’ve got almost no chance! It’s crazy! Why would you put someone’s life at risk on a wild stroke of luck?”

He’s giving me the nasty look. I think I just screwed up massively! I should’ve kept my mouth shut!

“Is that what you think, number five?”

No sense backing down now. I honestly believe I’m right about this.

“Yes, sir!”

What’s he doing now? I think he’s about to tear me a new asshole in front of the whole group!

“Did everybody hear what she said? You’d better! Because she’s absolutely right! A shot like that with a pistol? Twenty-five yards and the bad guy’s head is moving behind the hostage’s head? In a real-world situation? You’d be out of your mind to take that shot! The chances of failure are too high! On SRT, failure is not an option! We’ve got a lot of tools at our disposal and you don’t risk someone’s life for the sake of expediency! Not ever! Number five! How would you handle a situation like that?”

OK, this isn’t what I expected. I think I totally just stepped in it!

“I’d try to distract him. Keep him talking or at least listening to me while someone with a rifle got lined up for the shot.”

“And what if that didn’t work?”

Good question. Too bad I don’t have an answer for him.

“I don’t know, sir. I’d try to think of something else, but right now? I don’t have an answer for that.”

He’s smiling. He’s not ripping my head off. That’s a good sign, isn’t it?

“Neither do I, number five. And neither does anyone else. You’re right: we can control the situation only so far. If that asshole is determined to kill that hostage, then there’s probably not a lot we can do to prevent it. The asshole always holds at least a few good cards. We can’t change that. Keeping him engaged while the rest of the team executes a more effective solution is probably the best thing you could do under the circumstances. Good call, number five. You know, we do this scenario every time we hold a selection and I can count on one hand the number of times one of our candidates has called me out on it. That took guts.”

Guts or stupidity? I’m not sure which. I’m just glad it worked out for me. I sure as hell didn’t see that coming! I guess it’s better that it happened so early in the assessment, though.

“Let that be a lesson to all of you! During this assessment phase, we may intentionally push you to make the wrong move, like I did just now! Why? Because you have to do more than just follow orders! You have to think at all times! There’s a time for blindly following orders and a time to think for yourself and for your team! And believe me, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two!”

Oh, I can believe that! Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’d know the difference when it came down to it. I was taking a risk just now. I didn’t think it was a test of some sort. I got lucky. What if I make the wrong choice when it really counts? I could get somebody killed.

“Everybody pull off the hostage target from your targets and set up on the fifteen yard line. We’re going to run some speed drills. We know you can shoot rings around the qualification course. Now we’re going to see how you do under pressure! Go to it!”

Pressure is right! I’m beginning to think I underestimated how hard this was going to be. Well, I’ll adapt. I’m not going to blow this. Whatever it takes, I’m going to make it.

Back at the station. We spent five hours on the range, doing all sorts of drills. I was familiar with most of them, but that didn’t mean they were easy. Nothing about that course was easy. I’m betting that’s going to be true for the rest of it. The Sarge said this would be one of the most difficult challenges of my life, and now I see what he meant. I have to admit: I’m even more fired up about it than I was at first. I want this. I want to succeed. The fact that it’s hard just makes me want it even more. Does that make me a masochist? No, just a glutton for punishment. Hey, I already knew I was one of those, right? Training with the Sarge is proof of that. So was my marriage.

Since the shift is almost over, we came back here to take a look at some of those videos on that dork’s website. It turns out he’s not a housewife from Florida. He’s the real deal. Curtis Jerome Prentiss: bank robber extraordinaire. That’s not an exaggeration, either. This dickface robbed over forty banks in his career and stole who knows how many millions of dollars. We called over to our old friend Agent Nunez in Phoenix and asked about him. Since he’s with the FBI and bank robbery is a major federal crime, we figured he’d be the one to ask. We were right: he emailed most of the file they had on this guy. I read the whole thing, cover to cover. What a fucking dickface! This dork would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down and crazy glued to the floor! The file said Prentiss has been in and out of jail since he was nineteen. He’s not a violent guy or anything like that, but he’s a total fucking kleptomaniac! His record is theft, theft, theft! I’ll bet he’s got a tattoo that says “Born to Steal!” It turns out LC was right: he got caught the last time because his bitch girlfriend got mad at him for some ridiculous shit and snitched him off to the cops. Damn! Just stab the guy in the back, why don’t you? Don’t get me wrong: I’m not in favor of criminals. I’m just not in favor of people who roll on you and get you locked up for ten years because you forgot their birthday or whatever. That’s really fucking petty, isn’t it?

Agent Nunez kind of groaned when we asked about the guy and his how-to book. It seems the Bureau knows of it and they’re none too happy about it. Agent Nunez said it’s full of real-life information on how to rip off banks and all of it really works. It even has a whole chapter on how to avoid getting caught by the FBI. I’m actually looking forward to reading it when it gets here. He said the Bureau looked into getting the publisher to withdraw the book, but they’re a bunch of Conspiracy Boys just like the weirdos over at Cydonia so that went nowhere. He also said a legal challenge was a total long shot. He even mentioned the case with the Hit Man book, just like the Sarge did. He said the Bureau was afraid that if the FBI pushed it, the case would definitely end up in front of the Supreme Court and they’d probably lose and the bureau didn’t want to draw attention to the book, anyway. That’s exactly what the Sarge said, wasn’t it? The Sarge is kind of like a walking, talking Sphere of Destiny: knows all, sees all, tells all. I guess we’re better off not having a final decision on whether you can publish how-to-commit-mayhem books after all. We might not like the answer. I’m starting to wonder if this case is going to wind up being Hit Man: Revisited. It’s possible, right?

The videos? They’re informative, to say the least. The guy’s pretty eloquent. He’s definitely not your typical ex-con. He’s very matter-of-fact when he goes over what to do and what not to do when you walk into a bank and steal all their money. He actually seems nice enough, but I’m guessing he’s got absolutely no shred of a conscience. Shrinks have a name for that: sociopaths. Contrary to popular belief, not all sociopaths are violent. Some of them are just total kleptos like Prentiss. Guys like him would give no more thought to breaking into your house and stealing all your stuff than they would give to telling you what time it was if you asked them. Go figure, huh? He’s got fourteen videos up so far and a promise of more to come: everything from selecting the best banks to hit to casing the place to where to deploy in the room and keep everyone from messing with your deal. He’s got one that’s forty-nine minutes long that does nothing except talk about dye packs and how to spot one and avoid getting one in your loot bag. He’s got one on alarm systems that’s unbelievably detailed. You could probably deactivate the bank’s alarm with that knowledge if you had the inclination for it. He shows exactly where the silent alarm buttons are located, how banks keep the real vault in the basement and how it’s usually a maze down there so the crook gets lost and the police have time to get there. There’s another one on disguises that’s fifty-eight minutes long. That’s got to be some seriously detailed information. I’ve watched three of the videos so far and all of them totally blew me away. The guy knows his stuff; I’ll give him that. If his girl hadn’t snitched him off, he’d probably still be at it.

The best part? He lives in Las Vegas. That’s not too far away, so we could go interview him in person if we had to. I don’t know if he’ll talk to us, but at least we won’t have to take a plane to Saskatchewan or someplace like that to find out. Maybe the department will spring for us to go up there and interview him? And maybe they won’t be so cheap this time and actually spring for a decent hotel? Remember what I told the Sarge about the two of us overnight in a hotel? This could be it! Stranger things have happened, you know.

“Quit watching those things, Rane! They’re a goddamned disgrace!”

The Sarge. Yes, he wasn’t crazy about them when we started poking around the guy’s website.

“This guy knows everything there is to know about bank robbery. He talks about things I never would’ve thought of.”

“There should be a law against posting things like that on the internet! That assbag belongs in fucking Alcatraz!”

Seriously? Where the hell has he been for the last six decades?

“Alcatraz closed in nineteen sixty-three, Sarge.”

No, I’m not being a know-it-all. I just happened to get that question wrong during one of our math club tension-breaker parties. We were playing one of our made-up games: trivial poker. That one cost me a blowjob and swallow. I wasn’t complaining, mind you. I just always remembered the answer afterward.

“Then throw his ass in Marion! I can’t believe that guy is a free man! He’s running a goddamned criminal college! Those things aren’t a bunch of words in a book! He’s actually showing you how to do it!”

I know. Some of his little movie sets look as if they were filmed in a real bank. I wonder how he pulled that off?

“His website says he was paroled. Even Agent Nunez said he’s not breaking the law with this stuff. Judging by the number of views he’s gotten, he’s probably doing pretty well for himself.”

“Yeah, making money training the next generation of assbags! Not exactly the American way, is it?”

I suppose it depends on your point of view. I might not like it, but if it’s legal, then who cares what I like, right?

“We need to show this to our Robbery detectives and see if they can tell us if our assbags are following this guy’s instructions. When the book arrives, we’ll have them look at that, too. What did you find out from the guy’s Q&A forum?”

“I found out a lot of assbags are too fucking interested in robbing banks! We’re not talking about a handful of questions! No, we’re talking about hundreds of very specific questions! There could be robbery teams working all over the country who use this guy as their sensei!”


“It’s a Japanese martial arts master who teaches you. Read a book for God’s sake, princess!”

Oh, I’ll read one! “How to kill a grouchy old man and get away with it!” It’ll probably be on the bestseller list!

“I don’t suppose any of the questions were dumb enough to mention specific banks, were they?”

“No such luck. At least, none that I found. But some of them were specific enough that our Robbery guys might be able to tie them to the bank jobs our assbags have pulled. I gave them everything and they’re looking at it now. We’ll see if they come up with anything. Not for nothing, but they were just as disgusted by this assbag and his school for scoundrels as I was!”

I hope they do find something useful. I’ve got the weirdest feeling we’re on the right track. Our robbery crew is still learning. I think they’re a bunch of dickheads who just decided to rob banks and went looking for information on how to do it and found this guy. I can’t explain why I feel that way. I just do.

“All units, Nightwatch is down.”

And there it is: our shift is over! I’m going home and rub some Tiger Balm on my aching muscles! I’ll probably watch a few of these videos while I’m at it. At the very least, I’ll get a graduate course on bank robbery. I think every cop should know about that sort of thing, don’t you? The assbags know how we work, so why shouldn’t we know how they work? It’s like Anthony used to say: knowledge is power.

Home at Casa de Allison. I’m actually in more pain now than I was when I got up. Muscle aches are like that. Fortunately, I bought a whole pack of these Tiger Balm jars so I’ve got plenty. I’ve got to admit: the stuff works. You can feel the heat when you rub it on your muscles. It feels really good. Since I’m aching all over, I’m lying on my bed in my underwear and smearing this stuff on my legs, arms, and shoulders. Oh, and Beefy absolutely hates it, as I already mentioned. It’s got a strong menthol-type smell, so it probably irritates the crap out of his nose. Poor guy. Whenever I’m stretched out on the bed, he likes to jump up here and lean up against me. Not now. He’s giving me this look like he’s saying “God, you totally stink!” Well, he’d better get over it. This assessment is going to take the rest of the week and I’ve got a feeling I’ll be going through a lot of this stuff. I’ll tell you this much: depending on where you put it, you won’t even notice your aching muscles. Your mind will be taken in a totally different direction, if you know what I mean. Hey, you smear this stuff on your legs and then on your butt and before you know it, some of it winds up on the more sensitive parts of your anatomy. It definitely gave me a little jolt. The good kind, I mean. I wonder if it only works for women? Oh, who cares? It works on me and that’s all that counts. I may have to try this stuff out if I ever manage to get laid again. It might be an interesting experience.

Tomorrow is more physical stuff. I’m not entirely sure what, but that’s what they told us. As for today’s courses? I did very well on all of them. So did everyone else, from what I could tell. We did have a mishap, though. One of our SRT guys was demonstrating a tactical reload with the M-4 and after he resumed firing, he got off two or three rounds and then the gun blew up. There was this “boom!” and the magazine blew apart into a million pieces. He wasn’t hurt, but nobody could figure out what went wrong. Remember how I told you all of their gear was surplus stuff? There you go. We really need to get them some new gear. They should’ve filmed that explosion and shown it to the city council. That might’ve pried open the city’s wallet.

I’ve got a laptop from the station and I’ve been watching these bank robbery videos. I don’t want it on my personal computer. Let me tell you something: this dickhead? He really knows how to market his stuff. He’s got a bunch of teasers in the videos about different subjects that he wants to make videos about “if enough people would be interested in them.” Uh-huh! Why not just set up a GoFundMe page? He says he’ll do one on how to launder all of your stolen cash. That’s all we need: a bunch of assbags who become experts in hiding their criminal money. Most of them run it through the casinos all over the southwest and we have enough trouble tracking that crap. Oh, and he’s already got a whole hour and fifteen minute video on the statute of limitations on bank robbery: state and federal. I really hate this guy! We don’t want smart criminals! We want stupid ones! The stupid ones are easier to catch! Hello! What part of that does this dickhead fail to understand?

I’ll give him this much: he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He makes it clear a lot of times that you’re taking your life in your hands if you try this crap. He had a whole segment on the number of bank robbers who got shot and killed by the police, and it was pretty chilling stuff. He didn’t even include the number of people shot by security guards and armed citizens. He also makes it clear that the feds and most of the states tend to hand out massive prison time for bank robbery; even for a first offense. That’s true. A second conviction for bank robbery at the federal level? You could easily find yourself looking at life in prison with very little hope of parole. More than a few dickheads in Arizona found that out the hard way. It makes me wonder how many morons are going to get themselves killed by following this guy’s instructional videos? In this state? Probably more than a few.

One good thing, and it kind of surprised me: he goes on and on about how if you’re into bank robbery for the fear and violence, then you’re a total dickface and he says he hopes you get caught and spend your sentence getting banged in the ass for it. He says a number of times to never use a loaded gun because if you get caught, it’s major prison time, but if you use an empty gun, your sentence will probably be a lot less because the people were never in any real danger. He says if you do it right, you’ll never need the bullets. Too bad our assbag crew didn’t follow that part of the lecture. He said at one point that the only reason why he didn’t get life on his last conviction was because he never used a loaded gun. Smart. Too bad most criminals aren’t that smart.

Before we left the station, we checked in with the detectives to see if the guy who got shot in the bank turned up in a hospital. He hasn’t. Of course, we don’t know for sure that he got shot. And if he did, we don’t know how bad it was. It could’ve been a nasty scratch for all we know. The only guy who can tell us won’t be able to talk to the detectives until tomorrow. That security guard was old and out of shape. It’s not a good combination when you suddenly find yourself with a bullet in your gut. He’s still really out of it. I’m thinking he’s going to have a long road back. I just hope he makes it all the way back. It would be hell on him if he had to adjust to something permanent at that stage of his life. If you ask me, the guy’s a hero. He took on three bank robbers single-handedly just because it was his job. Sounds pretty heroic to me.

“Beefy, stop hiding! It’s just some sore muscle cream! It’s still me!”

He probably thinks I’ve been replaced by an alien and my weird scent is the clue. I saw this movie once where aliens started kidnapping people and replacing them with perfect duplicates, but this guy in a gas station had a dog who could smell the aliens and that’s how the people figured it out and destroyed them. It wasn’t very good. It should’ve taken itself more seriously. That’s the key to great schlock films, you know. I’m quite the expert in that regard.

“Beefy! Ball! Get the ball! Come on, boy! Get your ball!”

Nothing! He thinks I’m an alien duplicate! The next thing you know, he’s going to tell the guy at the gas station and he and his girlfriend will get the sheriff and they’ll end up shooting me in an old warehouse, just like in the movie!

“Fine! Suit yourself! I’m going to watch a movie and make popcorn! Which you hate! You can sit in the bedroom and sulk!”

I can see him staring at me. Now he thinks I’m an alien and crazy! Well, he might be right about that last part. So what should I watch? Continuing in my new grindhouse phase, I think it’s going to be The Beyond. It’s got zombies in it, so it has to be pretty good, right? You can’t go wrong with zombies.

Hang on! I’ve got a phone call. It’s the Sarge. Why is he calling? He’d better not tell me he’s at the station right now and I need to come in. I’m a patrol sergeant now; not a detective. Patrol sergeants don’t get called in unless there’s a citywide alert. There had better not be one of those right now!

“Hey, Sarge. What’s up?”

“Rane, I was looking though those Q&A forums on that assbag’s website. I think I may have found something.”

“And it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”

Seriously! Isn’t it bad enough that I have no life? He’s got no life and he wants to make me suffer for it!

“There was a posting this morning about what to do if one of your crew gets shot and needs a doctor. The detectives traced the server where the message came from to one in Phoenix. I’m thinking it could be our assbag from the last bank robbery.”

Uh, maybe? Then again, the sender might be in Provo, Utah! Just because the server is local doesn’t mean the sender is. Anthony taught me that.

“So we’ll see if we can’t narrow it down tomorrow. We’re not going to figure it out tonight.”

“I don’t think we should wait on this.”

Is he crazy? Anthony’s gone! He’s in Witness Protection! He was our computer expert! Without him, we have no idea how to track that crap! We’ll have to leave it to the IT guys and they won’t be in until tomorrow morning!

“What are we supposed to do about it, Sarge? That’s high-tech stuff and the computer geeks are all at home playing Call of Duty.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t go over what we’ve got, Rane.”

He’s not going to quit! He must be especially bored for some reason. I can relate, but I have zero desire to pour over printouts from that stupid website tonight.

“Sarge, you know how much I respect and adore you, but I’m tired and it’s going to be a busy day tomorrow. For both of us. We’ll leave what you found for the tech heads and see what they come up with tomorrow. Don’t worry: it’s after five. All the banks are closed. Those assbags aren’t going to hit again tonight. And we’ve still got a BOLO at all the hospitals in case someone turns up with a suspicious gunshot wound. We’ve done as much as we can for now.”

“Where the hell is your dedication to duty, Rane! We’ve got a goddamned robbery crew working our city! Are you telling me you’re too tired to try to put them behind bars, princess?”

OK, reason didn’t work. Time for Plan B!

“You know, I get really hot when you yell like that. Sarge, what are you wearing? Tell me you’re wearing your boots!”

I know, I know. Cruel. But I really need him to leave me alone and let me relax!

Rane! You stop that bullshit this instant!

“I’m wearing nothing but a bra and panties and I’m rubbing this stuff all over my body right now that gets me all hot! Just hearing you yell like that and I just want to touch myself on my…”

He hung up! It worked! I know I’ll pay for that tomorrow, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay up until two in the morning going over a bunch of messages to some dickhead crook-turned-entrepreneur!

“Beefy, I know that was cruel of me, but sometimes I have to do things I shouldn’t. You understand that, right? I don’t want you getting the wrong idea about me. It’s like how people cross the street when we’re out on a walk because you’re a pit bull. They just don’t understand you the way I do.”

He’d be jumping up and down and slobbering all over me if I didn’t stink of Tiger Balm. Oh, well. Movie time! Put the popcorn in the microwave and get ready for ninety minutes of pure cinematic horribleness! It’s not a good old-fashioned Tiger Balm-covered bang-fest with the Sarge, but it’ll do for tonight. When you have no life, you’ve got to learn how to settle for less. I’m an expert in that, in case you hadn’t noticed.

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