Always the Last to Know

Chapter 6

Waking up in a strange bed in a different country to what I was accustomed to, and being called an entirely new name made for an interesting first few minutes of the day. And it didn’t get any less interesting as it went on.

I opened my eyes to find Tank staring down at me, a coffee cup in one hand and a donut bag in the other. His blank face was firmly in place, but there were little tension lines around his eye and mouth, making me uneasy, especially after his openness yesterday.

“You need to get up,” Tank commanded, stepping away from the bed and taking his peace offerings with him.

I could recognise a lure when I saw one, but that wasn’t going to be enough to get me moving so early in the morning. Stretching my arms over my head, I let out a wide yawn, feeling very much like a cat as I did so. What I wouldn’t give for another hour of sleep. “I didn’t realise that staying here would mean keeping boot camp hours,” I moaned, draping an arm over my arms as my body relaxed once more.

“Kit, we don’t have much time.”

The urgency in his tone had me out of bed before I’d even registered his words. Did I need to throw on joggers and run? Should I high tail it to the basement panic room Tank had shown me during the house tour yesterday? I didn’t get a chance to ask these important questions of my host before he handed me the donut bag and set the mug on the desk across the room.

“I have some bad news,” Tank announced as I took my first bit of donut.

A groan filtered out my throat. “You couldn’t have allowed me one moment of sugary bliss before dropping a bomb like that?” I lamented around a full mouth.

“Ranger has taken over the interviewing process for this new position,” Tank informed me quickly, ignoring my protests. I forced myself to swallow my mouthful, but suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. If Ranger is taking charge, my chances of pulling this off just plummeted from slim to oh-my-God-why-are-you-even-bothering. He was bound to see straight through my make-up and my act. He’d know it was me before I even sat down.

Good bye, hopes of gaining this job fair and square. Hello, pity party of one.

“This is a disaster,” I breathed, my voice trembling almost as much as my knees. I wasn’t ready to face Ranger. He’d want explanations, reasons. I was going to have to tell him everything. He’d be angry and disappointed, but he’d give me the job anyway, because I need it and that’s the kind of thing he does. I was one step away from being a charity case all over again.

“Breathe,” Tank coaxed, sound far away as he urged me to sit on the side of the bed, tucking my head between my knees and applying gentle pressure to the back of my neck. Just like Ranger used to.

Lordy, my thoughts weren’t helping calm me down at all.

“Slow, deep breaths,” Tank reminded me. I tried to follow his instructions as he continued speaking, assuring me that it would be all right. Easy for him to say, he wasn’t about to face his demise this morning...

Or maybe he was...

If Ranger saw through my act, which, let’s face it, there’s a one thousand percent chance of that happening, then the fact that Tank had instigated the whole plan would be out before I could count to ten. How would Ranger react to finding out his second in command had known where I was for the last six months and not told him? Would his crime be punishable by death? Or wold the fact that he’d managed to get me to come back overshadow Ranger’s anger? Would Ranger even be happy to see me? Maybe he’d written me off all those years ago when he’d ordered the men to stop looking for me. Maybe I was better off dead. Was it too late to hop on a plane back to Mexico and join Sera at the next volunteer camp? Could I go back to helping kids in need and pretend I’d never come home in the first place?

“We can still do this,” Tank assured me, apparently oblivious to the chaos inside my head. “You’re here now, and Ranger is expecting to interview Kit Danger for the position of community affairs officer in two hours. Pull yourself together, strap on your big girl panties and get your head in the game. So what id Ranger recognises you? You’re Kit Danger. Nothing can bring you down.”

“I’d believe that a whole lot more if it weren’t for the fact that Ranger probably doesn’t ever want to see me again after the way I ditched town without a word six years ago,” I told him, straightening from his hold. “Is there even any point in keeping up the Kit Danger pretence? Why don’t I just wash this dye out of my hair, swipe on a few coats of mascara and waltz right onto the command floor?”

“Can I tell you a secret?” Tank asked, sitting down beside me and leaning down to pet Geraldine as she rubbed up against his black cargos. It was a wonder she didn’t leave any cat hair behind to marr his immaculate, bad ass uniform.

“If you profess a deep seated longing to deceive Ranger, I promise you I will scream.”

Tank was silent long enough that I found it within myself to drag my gaze away from the adorable little white fluff ball sitting on Tank’s combat boot, all the way back to his face where I found a most peculiar expression. As I stared into his eyes for an extended moment, realisation and horror struck at the exact same instant.

“No,” I breathed, unsure if I was denying him out right, or pleading with him not to go there.

“You have to admit, it would be an epic feat if we could pull it off,” Tank pointed out.

“But we can’t,” I said. “It’s impossible. And besides, it wouldn’t be WE. It would be ME. Which lessens the chances of success significantly.”

“I thought you’d changed,” Tank said, sadness tinging his tone. “I thought you’d finally gotten past the insecurities left over from your childhood.”

“What can I say?” I shrugged. “You can take the girl out of the Burg, but the tainted confidence will be with her forever.”

“Then it’s a good thing Kit Danger didn’t grow up in the Burg.”

I stared at him, horrified anew. He really was suggesting we try pull one over on the Great Ranger Manoso! “You can’t be serious,” I gasped.

“I believe you promised you would scream,” Tank reminded me lightly.

“I lied. I won’t do it.”

“You won’t scream?”

“I won’t scream. I won’t do the interview. I won’t pretend to be Kit Danger. I won’t do it.”

Tank glanced at his watch, apparently having tuned me out, and stood. “I have to go if I want to be on time for my shift and avoid suspicion,” he explained on his way to the door. “I’ll be keeping an eye on the monitors for when you turn up. Don’t disappoint me.”

“Ranger used to say I never disappoint,” I said without thinking.

“I know,” Tank said over his shoulder. “I’m counting on that being true.” And he was gone.

In her owner’s absence, Geraldine jumped up onto the bed beside me and began rubbing her head against my arm. Absently stroking the cat, I listened to the sounds of Tank leaving. It wasn’t until the sounds of the SUV backing out of the driveway were a distant memory that I found the energy to walk across the room to where Tank had left the coffee. I’d drink it, eat the donut and then figure out what to do about this Ranger deceiving plan Tank had in his head, I decided. It definitely wasn’t part of what I’d agreed to when he convinced me to come back, and I honestly didn’t think we’d – I’d – last longer than it took Ranger to first catch sight of me.

I pinned my hair up and took longer in the shower than I’d intended because I got lost in thought imagining Ranger’s reaction when I walked into his office. By the time I’d wrapped a towel around my body and fixed my hair I only had an hour left before Tank and Ranger were expecting me – Kit Danger – at Rangeman, and in that time I still had to make myself look and feel like Kit, and make my way there. It wouldn’t be such a problem, except I was still arguing the pros and cons of going through with this cockamamie plan.

Pro – See Ranger again.

Con – Have to explain the whole sad story of why I left.

Pro – Possible have a steady income if Ranger agrees to give me a job after all.

Con – Ranger will probably end up giving me a job out of pity.

Pro – Helping Rangeman help the community.

Con – Dealing with the sad looks from the Merry Men when they ask why I didn’t come to them for help six years ago.

It all kept circling around in my head until finally, I found myself in Tank’s front hall with my bag hitched over my shoulder, ready to face the music. One way or another, I was going to that interview as Kit Danger and I was going to do my damnedest to act confident and qualified. Fake it ‘til you make it, and what not.

Nodding affirmatively to myself, I gave Geraldine one last thankful pet where she sat on the side table by the door. It was then that I noticed the envelope addressed to me (Kit). Inside was a set of car keys and a short note.

White rental in the back alley. No excuse for being late.

I took the keys and made my way down the hall to the back door, slipping out and trotting down the path in my low heeled pumps, tugging down the skirt of the teal form fitting business dress I’d found in the cupboard of the room I’d been allocated. I don’t know if Tank planted it there of his own accord, or if his sister had something to do with it, but I loved it. I could never wear something like this with my blue eyes, for fear of it clashing with the vibrant colour, but with grey I could pull it off with ease. It even looked okay with my new red hair. Go figure.

I slid behind the wheel of the non descript, white sedan and sat there for a long moment wondering once again if I was making the right decision. Should I just go back inside and hide out until I could find a flight out of the country? I glanced on the time displayed on my phone. Now or never.

Turning the key, I made the split second decision to just do it. I had to have faith in my abilities. Tank had faith in me, so I could too.

Fifteen minutes later I was parked across the street from Rangeman, repeating the argument I’d had with myself several times over the course of the last two hours. Would I do this? Should I do this? Could I do this? Finally, I goaded myself into it by imagining how awesome it would feel to one up the un-one-up-able. If I could pull the wool over Ranger’s eyes even briefly, I’d go down in the history books as miracle worker.

Taking a deep breath, I fluffed my hair and slipped from the car, tugging my dress back down again and adjusting the clear lenses perched on my nose. Kit Danger, experienced community worker, was as ready for action as she’d ever be.

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