Always the Last to Know

Chapter 16

Cal’s POV

With Kit’s right wrist sprained, I’d taken the opportunity in the last couple of days to get her comfortable using a gun with her non-dominant hand. She was absolutely dreadful at first, but at least she was hitting the paper now. Not hitting within the person outline, yet, but we’re getting closer. It was strangely rewarding seeing her make so much improvement from just my instructions, even if she did give me some hinky vibes. There was just something off about the woman. Like yesterday, when I asked her where she grew up that she never needed to learn how to shoot and she took almost a minute to answer. It was like she was trying to recall facts that were not directly related to her life.

It didn’t necessarily mean she was an imposter, sometimes disease or trauma can make people forget, but from what I knew of her past, there was nothing like that. Certainly, that would have been the kind of thing that was highlighted in the cliff notes version of her record that we was passed around the office the day she was hired. So naturally, I was suspicious.

This morning, my shift started just half an hour before Kit was due arrive, but I was determined get some investigating done in the mean time. I did a quick online yearbook search of Kit’s old high school to see if I could come up with anything there, only to find that there was not a single person enrolled at that school named Kit Danger. Ever.

Suspicions rising.

I tried not to get ahead of myself. People change their names all the time. Kit Danger did sound made up, after all. So I ran her ID photo through facial recognition. That, too, came up empty on the online year book. So Ms. Danger had lied about where she went to school. Nothing out of the ordinary there; I’d once dated a woman who lied about going to college... of course she had claimed that she was not going to college, thinking that it would make her more appealing to the kind of guy she thought I was, but that’s beside the point. For whatever reason, Kit was being far from truthful about who she was, which could easily lead to corrupt intentions. I saw it as my duty to get to the bottom of it before she managed to infiltrate any major security systems and wreak havoc on the company and surrounding community.

I checked my watch, noting that Kit was due in the office in five minutes and quickly set my computer to running a wider facial rec search and dashed out of my cubicle. My aim was to do a quick search of Kit’s work space before she got here just to see if there was anything lying around that might clue me into her intent. With time cutting so fine, though, I needed a look out. Lucky for me, Hank was passing through the comm. room at that very moment.

Grabbing his arm, I dragged him toward Kit’s cubicle in the back. He was confuse, I was sure, but he said nothing on the matter, not even when we’d come to a halt, which made it all the more easy for me.

“Act casual. If you see Kit coming before I’m out, distract her,” I instructed right before I ducked behind the dividing wall.

The first thing I noticed was that it was organised. Never a good sign. A tidy, unassuming desk is a sign of a person out to hide something. That was my new saying. Of course I may have been biased by the fact that I kept a perfectly disorganised desk in my own cubicle. I’d have been slammed for it back in the service, but unlike the training regime, tidiness was something I could just not keep up with in real life. The other guys hated it, but they could all get over themselves.

It almost made me miss Bomber all over again. I used to love it when she was around, because as unorganised as I was, she made me seem anal.

With so much precision in the placement of each item on and in the desk, I had to be extra careful to put everything back exactly as I found it. To avoid excessive disruption, I pulled the top desk drawer completely out, knowing that there was a secret compartment right at the back that Lester had installed for Bomber to hide her sweets in. And judging by the candy bar I found there that was at least five years out of date, I’d say Kit was not aware it was there. So no hidden secrets in the back of the drawer.

I did a quick rifle through the file drawer, but since it wasn’t locked, I didn’t hold much hope of finding anything incriminating in there either.

Disappointed by the lack of evidence, I was returning everything to the way I found it when Hank’s voice reached my ears.

“Sorry,” he said, and I knew he was deliberately speaking loud enough for me to hear. Usually he was quite softly spoken. “I didn’t mean for you to do a full about face. It’s been so long since we’ve had a woman around here, I guess I forgot how to act.” It was definitely Kit he was talking to, which meant I probably had thirty seconds to cover my tracks and get out. As Hanks words returned to their normal volume, I swept my care over the cubicle, and caught on the computer monitor. I desperately wanted to search the hard drive, but I had to move. There was no knowing how long Hank could hold Kit’s attention. I’d just have to get Hector or Hank to search it remotely later....

Once I was satisfied that everything was back the way I’d found it, I quickly ducked back out of the cubicle and found myself standing directly behind my newest suspect.

“I can handle a little man handling from time to time,” she was saying. “Just please don’t call me the D-word.”

“D-word?” I asked curiously, announcing my presence. “What would that be? Delightful?”

An almost inaudible chuckle drifted through the air toward us right before Tony suggested, “Delicious?” He was a bit left of centre as far as I was concerned, and I was glad Bobby was keeping him down in the infirmary more and more often.

Next thing, Darren was joining the group, which was typical of him. If there was something going on he liked to be right in the thick of it. The better to learn and improve his skills and knowledge that way, I guess. “Delectable?” he said, clearly not having heard anything but my and Tony’s input and figured we were after either d-words or delicious synonyms.

Kit shook her head, but I could tell even from behind that she was smiling. She liked the goofy antics, it appeared. That was a good sign if she was a legitimate employee, because it meant she could take a joke and wouldn’t immediately go on the defensive like some women I’d dealt with in the past. The moment you said something that even sounded like it could have maybe been meant in a hurtful or insulting way, they’d been all over the person who’d said it, whether it was aimed at them or not. If Kit turned out to be clean as a hospital bedpan, she’d probably fit right in here... Like Bomber did.

To keep myself from thinking too much about it, because Kit was definitely not Bomber and Bomber was undoubtedly not coming back, ever, I came up with a few more D-words as I moved to stand next to Hank.

“Delerioius,” I said, “Dilemma?”

“It’s de-lovely!” Tony announced, though I had a feeling he was trying to sing. Like I said, he was left of centre. Probably, he was into musical theatre. I don’t know, but apparently it was funny to the few guys that had gathered around, because they let out chuckles and laughs, slapping Tony on the back as they disbanded. We all knew that hanging around in groups was likely to attract the wrong kind of attention from Ranger and Tank. Usually, we’d get a stern – read: loud – talking to, but if you caught them on a particularly bad day you’d end up pinned to the mats a half dozen times before you realised what was going on. I decided to risk the consequences, however, because I needed to figure out why Kit was making me feel off.

“So seriously,” I said casually, crossing my arms over my chest. I travelled my gaze between the subject of my suspicion and Hank. Instinctively I knew that Hank would be the one to answer my question, because Kit was too busy watching our actions.

Hank studied her for a long moment, gauging her reactions before saying, “She says we can’t call her delicate. But the way I figure it, she is, comparatively, incredibly delicate.”

Kit reacted instantly, her shoulders shooting back, fists clenching. If she was a dog, her hackles would be raised. It was obvious that Hank’s comments hit a nerve. “Of course I am compared to you,” she defended. “For a start, I don't spend every free moment I have working out. And secondly, you're male. Genetically, you're designed to be bigger and beefier."

I shook my head more vigorously than I usually did, allowing my hair to swing back and forth along my forehead. At one time the light contact would have irritated the hell out of me, but I’d grown used to it. “We didn’t mean compared to us,” I informed her, my thoughts turning to Bomber once more. What was it about this woman that she could bring back all that vulnerability?

“Who?” she asked. She appeared curious, which was to be expected, but there was something else in her expression. I could have sworn it was hope, but that didn’t make sense. Before I could think too much about it, Hank answered her question and the odd expression changed to something even odder, given the discussion topic.

“The greatest woman to ever live,” Hank said wistfully. His tone was shocking even to me. Sure, we’d all been prone to nostalgia where Bomber was concerned, but I’d never heard him talk about her like that. Clearly, it affected Kit as well, because she suddenly looked like she was on the verge of tears. “Her name was Stephanie Plum,” Hank added, also watching Kit carefully. I’d have to ask his opinion later. Add it to the list.

Kit swallowed hard before asking her next question, and although she tried to hide it, I could tell she was emotional. How could talking about a woman she’d never had the pleasure of meeting cause such reactions?

“She worked here?” Kit enquired, attempting to sound casual.

“Somewhat,” I confirmed, not willing to give away too much information at this point. I was still wary of why she would want to work in such a testosterone fuelled environment. I’d have given a smidge more detail, just to see what she did with it, but Tank’s sharp whistle rent the air at that moment, forcing me to transfer my attention to the second in command.

“We just got a lead on a high end bond,” Tank announced. “He’s not likely to go down without a fight, so I need all available hands. Hal, Mal, Aaron, Darren, Hank, Cal and Kit, you’ll stay behind and man the fort, everyone else, the details are already in your inboxes, buddy up and move out.”

There was a flurry of motion as men moved to follow orders and I returned my attention to Kit, who was peering intently through the crowd toward the stairwell. Following her gaze, I spotted nothing out of the ordinary, just Ranger leading a mass of men through the doorway. Probably, she was just caught up in the moment and seeing the men move so swiftly was strange to her.

Mentally shrugging, I tugged on her elbow, unable to suppress the small smile that tugged on my lips when she spin right around.

“Kit, it’s time for you to learn the ropes,” I informed her, using the elbow still in my grasp to guide her toward the now almost vacant monitors station. “These screens monitor every properly under our security,” I explained with a sweeping hand gesture that took in the twenty odd screens on the wall. “Our job for the rest of the morning, or until our relief gets in, whichever comes first, is to keep an eye on them all.”

“What if something happens on one of the screens?” She asked. I didn’t know whether her curiosity was a healthy willingness to learn, or if I should be careful how much I told her in case she somehow found a way to use the information to bring about the downfall of the company.

The contrast of her apparent lack of defence and firearm ability and her current, worrying displays of curiosity were certainly screwing with my brain today. On the one hand, I knew she would never have made it past the screening process if she was untrustworthy. But on the other, there was just something about her that made me want to look deeper than she was showing me. It was almost like my brain knew something but wasn’t going to clue me in as to what it was.

I explained the protocol of getting a team on the scene, pinpointing the simple process of clicking the tracker dot and the communication being transferred automatically to the headset I had yet to give her.

Naturally, she asked after the tech. Because she wanted to get her hands on the integral part of out system? I had to get my head around this woman before I did something I’d regret.

“I don’t have a headset,” she pointed out.

“Right here,” Mal announced. Always quick off the mark, he’d already swept her hair out of the way and was hooking the ear piece over the shell of her ear by the time I’d taken a breath to explain. “Don’t worry too much about it, though,” he’d said before I managed to find words. “It’s not like you’ll be witnessing anything major, like a-.”

“Don’t say it,” I warned, my mouth finally catching up. Mal was obsessed with the supernatural – zombies in particular – and felt the need to mention the possibility of their occurrence at every opportunity at every opportunity. He’d been warned about it already, which is more than most would have gotten, but since he was here as some sort of favour to Junior, and Junior had put his neck on the chopping block to save the kid’s ass, he was still here. We were all under strict instructions to send him straight to Tank if he even uttered the name of a fictional being. “You know you’ll be out of here in a flash if you even utter the word I know you want to say,” I reminded him.

Clearly confused, Kit turned her head, looking back and forth between us, as though she were looking for answers to questions she hadn’t voiced. “What word?” She finally questioned.

“It starts with ‘z’,” Mal said dejectedly, removing his feet from the desk and fixing his gaze on the monitors, suitably chastised.

Kit’s brows furrowed a moment before her expression cleared with apparent understanding. “Ohhh,” she said, drawing the sound out. “The apocalypse thing. Gotcha.” She, too, turned her attention to the screens, curiosity satisfied for the moment, and I followed suit. We sat in silence for a few minutes until Kit said, “I thought you mean car bombings or gang shoot outs.”

Her tone was casual, and I guess it could possibly be a natural assumption, but something about the way she said it, perhaps even the mere fact that she said it, had my head jerking around to stare at her. She glanced toward me briefl, but kept her gaze on the screens for the most part.

“What?” she asked defensively.

“Why did you say car bombings?” I asked curiously. Was it possible that she knew Rangeman’s history with Stephanie Plum and her propensity for exploding cars? Was she trying to tell me something?

Kit shrugged, fiddling with the bandage on her wrist. “It was the first thing that came to mind,” she admitted, an almost pained expression creasing her forehead as she stared resolutely at the screens.

Odd, that car bombings should be her first thought when regarding what she might witness on a security feed. I’d have thought murder or burglary might be the first. I didn’t get time to mull it over, though, because at that moment, Bobby burst through the stairwell door, a pleasant expression on his face. He leaned over the edge of the monitor wall, looking down at us, but his attention was more on Kit than Mal or me.

“Hey, Kit,” he greeted. How could he be so friendly with her when I was trying to figure out if she was a spy or not? “How’s your wrist?”

The question caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t used to Bobby asking after people’s injuries. Usually he was barking at guys to stop testing the limits and settle the hell down. I found myself staring at Bobby, slack jawed, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Kit lift her wrist, except she didn’t look like Kit anymore. In the slanted view I had of her she had morphed and it was so utterly shocking that I suddenly knew what my brain had been withholding for days.

“Bobby,” I said, standing abruptly from my chair. I was sure my eyes were wild as my gaze travelled between the woman and the rest of the office. “I need you to cover us for a bit.”

I didn’t bother waiting for him to answer, just wrenched Kit up by the same elbow I’d used earlier and dragged her across the comm. floor to bathroom. Uncaring of who saw, I pushed her inside and followed her in, locking the door behind me.

“What the hell?” she demanded, slapping me in the shoulder before I turned around to face her. “You can’t just drag a girl into the toilet with you! It’s gross! It’s pretty much sexual harassment! What are the guys out there going to thi-.”

“You’re not Kit Danger,” I interrupted her, before she managed to work up enough volume to draw extra attention. I turned slowly to face her, noting that she was as slack jawed as I had felt just a few moments ago at the monitors station.

“What... what makes you say that?” she asked hesitantly.

“You’re Stephanie Plum,” I stated firmly.

“Uhhh.....”


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