I almost had a heart attack when I stepped through the door to my medical office on Tuesday morning after a week away. The place was a shambles, bandages half unrolled and strewn across the table, bottles of antiseptic and antibiotic ointment out in the open on the bench rather than in their correct, clearly labelled places in the glass front cupboard. The entire scene reminded me of what you would find in the kitchen of a frat house on a Sunday morning after a big Saturday night party. Except the alcohol in this room would probably cause a lot more internal damage if you drank it.
I’d entrusted my domain to Tony, an up an coming medic in training, while I’d been at a conference keeping up to date on the current procedures. He had been working with me for three months now and I’d thought he was ready to take over responsibility at least for a short time. Apparently, I overestimated his abilities. It would take me hours to reorganise and re-sanitise the room. I’d have forced Tony to do it, but it would just frustrate me, and I’d be looking over his should the entire time to make sure it was done correctly. To save my sanity, I decided to undertake the task by myself. Tony would get his punishment in some other way.
This last week had been a test to see whether the kid was ready for a longer term of responsibility. I was long overdue for a holiday, and my wife had two weeks of holidays coming up. She thought it would be a nice idea if we could both have the time off together. We hadn’t had more than the odd weekend away together in over six years. And half the time I got called back to work anyway. Training Tony up was a way of ensuring that I got a full two weeks off, but clearly, he needed more instruction between now and then.
Dumping the bandages and other paraphernalia that had been left out into a box, I set to work. First on the agenda was removing everything from cupboards and drawers and disinfecting all the surfaces. I’d set the equipment to sterilising while I wiped down bottles and jars, returning them to their rightful places, had mopped the floor and was working on rewinding the bandages when I heard footsteps approaching.
I stepped out into hall, still holding my latest bandage, and was met with an odd sight. Lester was leading a woman down the hall toward me. She wore shorts and a Rangeman shirt and Lester was dressed in his gym clothes, so they’d clearly come from the gym. The question was, why? We hadn’t had a woman in the gym since... Well, I’m not sure we’d ever had a woman in the gym. I must have missed a memo while I was away. Probably, I wouldn’t be so confused if I’d stopped to check my emails before checking on the infirmary.
“Who’s this?” I asked as Lester and the red headed woman came closer. As I took in her body language, though, I realised there were more important questions. “Are you alright?” She was holding her right wrist against her chest and looked as though she was being very careful not to move it. There was no blood that I could see so my first thought was a sprain or strain. Possibly a fracture, though it was less likely. “What happened?”
“Kit Danger,” the woman said. “But you probably already knew that. Everyone here seems to know who I am before I meet them.”
“I must have missed the memo,” I replied. By this time she’d reached the doorway to the room I’d just painstakingly returned to order, so naturally I stepped aside to let her through with in instructions to hop up onto the table. Once she was out of sight, I raised an eyebrow at Les, hoping he’d understand and give me the cliff notes on why she’s here.
“She’s new,” he said simply. “Ranger hired her yesterday specifically for the new community aid initiative. I was training her in self defence. She hurt her wrist.”
“Ranger hired her?” I questioned, just to be sure I’d heard him correctly. Ranger had never hired a woman before for anything other than housekeeping. He’d put Stephanie Plum on payroll briefly when she was behind on rent, but I doubt he’d ever have seriously considered hiring her if he wasn’t interested in her for other reasons. This Kit woman must have stellar experience. Clearly wasn’t military, if she required self defence training. This was a puzzle and a half.
“I know what you’re thinking, man,” Les said, craning his neck to see into the room and make sure Kit wasn’t trying to listen in. He lowered his voice a little more. “I confronted him and Tank on it yesterday and they both said that she was the most qualified person for the job that they’d seen.”
“But she’s a –“
“Believe, me I pointed that out. To Ranger. To Tank. Hell, I even pointed it out to Kit.” He shook his head. “They were unfazed. She called me sexist, man.”
I shook my head. “Well, you have been known to make the odd comment. But if she’s here to stay, I guess I better go see to her wrist and get her to sign a form so I can have access to her medical records.”
“That might be a bit difficult,” Les said matter-of-factly. “I think she’s right handed.” He slapped my on the shoulder, wished me luck and was off back down the hall, presumably, to go write an incident report pertaining to Kit’s injury.
I took a slow breath to centre myself before stepping back into the medical office to introduce myself to Rangeman’s newest employee.
“Well, Kit,” I said, setting the half rolled bandage I still held on top of the rest. “Let’s see what damage you’ve managed to do on your second day.”
“I think I just need to ice it,” she assured me, gingerly moving the offending wrist, trying to test its range of motion. “It just twisted funny, is all.”
I gave her a reassuring smile. It was a nice change to not have to deal with the other guys, who turned into overgrown babies at the first sign of injury. Mostly, I thought the reason for their dramatics was that they knew if they weren’t in tip top shape they’d be stuck behind a desk until they were cleared for active duty. Probably, Kit would be spending the majority of her time behind a desk anyway, so it didn’t really matter to her.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” I informed her. “How about you let me take a look at it and then we can put some ice on it while we discuss the next step.”
I spent the next couple of minutes poking and prodding at her wrist and hand, determining where it hurt most. There was a good chance that he’s sprained it, but I couldn’t be sure until I’d done some x-rays. I told her as much and lead her to the x-ray room next door. I was positioning her arm on the table when I noticed a feint scar on the inside of her forearm. It was about an inch and a half long and barely visible, but being a medic, it was the kind of thing I tended to notice. I could tell that whoever had stitched her up had done a brilliant job; it had healed to near perfection. But something about it struck me as odd. Like maybe I’d seen it before, but I couldn’t quite remember where.
Shaking it off, I continued with the x-ray and examination of her wrist. She had managed a mild sprain through the simple act of wrenching her arm free of Lester’s hold, so I strapped it up, got her to sign the form that allowed me access to her medical records, and sent her on her way with instructions to rest her wrist. Hopefully she could follow that simple request better than the men, who always seemed to make matters worse by continuing as if there was nothing wrong.
Kit Danger was definitely different to the average Rangeman employee, and not just because her anatomy was fundamentally dissimilar, but that did not mean she didn’t fit. My overall impression of her was that she was mild mannered, confident, and able to hold her own against the likes of the motley crew we had assembled in this building. Any woman who had the balls to call Lester on his lines had a high chance of being accepted into the brotherhood.
But there was something about her...
I took the box of still yet to be roll bandages and made my way up to the control centre in search of Tony. He could roll the rest of the bandages himself while I caught myself up on the events of the last week. And it wouldn’t hurt if I could keep an eye on Kit at the same time.
“Ashley?” I called, unbuckling my utility belt and stashing it in the safe at the back of the coat closet before heading down the central hallway toward the kitchen. I knew she was home, her car was in the garage, but I had no way of knowing how long she’d been home. Ashley taught second grade at the local public school and every other Tuesday they had a staff meeting after work. These meetings could last anywhere from one hour to three, depending on how eventful it had been at the school and what kind of professional development needed to be done. So although it was almost seven, and on a normal day she would have already eaten and be in the midst of planning or marking for her class, on alternating Tuesdays, anything was possible.
“Ash? You there?”
“Kitchen,” she called back. “Meeting ran seriously late today, so I’m making nachos, you in?”
“Love some,” I replied, reaching the doorway to the kitchen to find my gorgeous wife bent over so that only her beautifully rounded ass stuck out from behind the refrigerator door. We’d been married almost ten years now, and each time I saw that rear the love I felt for her hit me all over again. It was the same with any part of her that I caught a glimpse of. Unable to resist such an open invitation, I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her upright up against my chest. “How was your day?” I asked, squeezing gently.
“Timmy threw up all over his desk after lunch,” she informed me easily. “Madeline decided to throw sticks at birds during lunch. None of them know how to write an A the right way around. And I think there’s a new lice epidemic starting up.”
“We’ll treat your hair after dinner,” I suggested. “Did they at least like the rocket ship activity you planned for them?”
“It was a hoot,” she said, spinning in my arms to face me. “And then Jackson threw his rocket and it hit Jasmine in the eye.”
I smiled. “Hearing about your class makes dealing with the men at work easier,” I told her not for the first time. “At least the guys don’t pull each other’s hair and punch each other in the face simply because they were being teased.”
“True,” she agreed, wiggling free and placing the bag of grated cheese on the bench next to the two plates of Doritos. “Speaking of which, how was your day?”
“Met the newest member of the Rangeman team,” I said mildly, deliberately misleading her. She knew all about the company, and the men. They were all men. Always. Until now.
“What’s he like?” she asked, just like I knew she would.
“Mild mannered. Not as quiet as some. Female.”
She paused in the action of pouring cheese all over the chips and stared at me. “Pull the other one,” she said.
“She’s female,” I insisted. “Kit Danger was hired yesterday for the new community project. She’s been volunteering in Mexico for the last six years and for some reason decided to return to the States and apply for a job at Rangeman. God only knows how she found out about it. Hell, I was only vaguely aware of this new side we were going for.”
“You’re sure she’s female?” Ashley asked, putting down the cheese and facing me fully with her hands on her hips. “You’re not joking?”
I didn’t know how to convince her that the woman was just that, so I said the first thing that came to mind. “She had boobs.”
Just as I thought would happen, she grinned for a moment, showing all her teeth until finally, the smile gave way to a giggle. “Okay,” she conceded. “I guess I have to believe you. But I thought you said Ranger would never put another woman on staff after that Stephanie woman you were all so obsessed with a few years back.”
“That’s what makes this so confusing. We honestly believed that he never would. You remember what it was like after she left. The entire company was devastated. It doesn’t make sense.”
“You know what you need, don’t you,” she said, sliding the first plate into the microwave to melt the cheese.
“Horrendous action films with lots of big, Hollywood car crashes?” I suggested hopefully. She nodded in the affirmative and I pulled her into a kiss. “You know just how to switch my mind off. I’ll go set it up.”
“I’ll bring dinner in in a sec,” she assured me.
As it turns out, we only made it half an hour into the movie. The Kit thing had been playing on my mind the entire time. I just couldn’t get the image of that fine, neat scar on her forearm out of my head. I could have sworn I’d seen it before. And it wasn't just that. Her entire being just called to me, like she was familiar. Her red curly hair, her grey eyes, the eyeliner, none of it was familiar, but at the same time it was.
And then the first major car explosion had occurred on screen. As the cameras artfully captured the debris flying through the air, it suddenly hit me. I knew where I’d seen that scar before. I knew how that scar had happened. I had been the one to stitch the wound.
“Shit,” I breathed, reaching for the remote. I’d turned the movie off and was halfway out of the room by the time Ash had caught up with me.
“Where are you going?” she asked, more confused now than she had been when I told her that the new employee was a woman.
“To Tank’s house.”
“Kit Danger is Stephanie Plum.”