Ranger parked the car behind the fire truck. Cops were milling around, Miguel and Eduardo looking grim as they stood beside a teenager who was in cuffs. Luke was looking energized. Ranger got out of the car and walked over to the Rangeman team. “Luke, you’re with Stephanie. Eduardo and Miguel, you’re with me”, I heard him say.
“But…” said Luke. Ranger just turned and looked at him. Luke stopped protesting and turned towards the car.
“The keys are in the ignition. Stephanie needs transport to the station with a skip, and then you are bringing the Cayenne back to pick us up. Stephanie is in charge.”
Luke got into the car and started driving to the station. “You should have seen it, Stephanie. This kid just walked by and threw the bottle in the car at me. Eduardo and I jumped out of the car and Miguel took after the kid. Then, wham! Miguel had him in cuffs before the kid even knew what was going on. It was beautiful. That’s why I wanted to work at Rangeman. Not for this surveillance shit.”
“You realize that ninety-five percent of what you do at Rangeman is standard driving around and surveillance, don’t you? Then you have little spikes where there is some action. And often the action is pretty tame.”
“I’m going to request to move towards a team that has more action. I’m not a person who can sit around and wait for something to happen. I’m a slam, bam, thank you ma’am kind of guy. The kind of guy that can get the job done.”
“You’re already on the team that has all the action.”
“Eduardo and Miguel didn’t seem enthused when it was all going down. I was all ‘bring it on, baby’, and they were all ‘oh, crap’. I could do their job better than them.”
“You should take a lesson from Eduardo and Miguel. They are extremely good at what they do. And they probably thought ‘oh, crap’ because they knew how close you came to all being toasted. They knew you had been made, and they knew that all those hours you had put into surveillance are now shot.” We got out of the car, Alyssa listening interestedly to our conversation. She was listening so intently she forgot to complain when she had to walk into the station.
“Stephanie, do you know whether Ranger has a girlfriend?” Alyssa asked.
“Yes, he does.”
“And even if he didn’t, he would prefer to go out with someone who was born in the same decade as himself.”
We entered the building just as Morelli was walking out. “Working late?” I asked with a smile.
“Same as you, Cupcake. Who are you bringing in?”
I looked over at Alyssa, and her eyes had glazed over. I think she had gone into hotness overload.
“This is Alyssa Peyton. She was caught in an animal trap when she was trespassing on and vandalizing her neighbour’s property after she was warned off it.”
“I heard about the Rangeman vehicle getting torched. I’m glad you are okay. Was anyone hurt?”
“No. Luke was just telling me all about it. Ranger and I were picking up Alyssa when we got the call. We drove over to Stark and dropped Ranger off and picked up Luke. Eduardo and Miguel are there with Ranger. Everybody is fine, thank goodness.”
“Do you know why the kid did it?”
“I’m not sure. Luke, did Miguel and Eduardo find out why the guy did it?”
“I don’t know. The kid only spoke Spanish and I didn’t understand what was being said.”
“Can I talk to you for a minute, Cupcake?”
“Sure can. Luke, would you please cuff Alyssa to the bench and then take my paperwork over to the duty officer for my body receipt?” Luke nodded his head and escorted Alyssa over to the bench, hurrying to get back to us as soon as possible.
“I don’t like the way that kid looks at you”, said Joe.
“No, Luke. He looks at you like he’s going to jump you.”
“I think he’s harmless. He’s just pumped from this evening. Whereas everyone else was unhappy about the events that happened tonight, Luke is excited. He’s young and has only been on the job for a week, most of which time he spent doing surveillance. Ranger is getting tired of hiring staff for their security potential. He would rather hire former SEALS and Special Forces or, at least, those with a military background. He is having trouble finding applicants and he needs bodies so badly.”
“I heard that Vinnie has a long list of skips outstanding right now. That must be leaving him one man short on research as well.”
“I’m currently working about ninety hour work weeks. I’ve been catching people, but Vinnie is racking them up faster than I can capture them. I even have a crew from Rangeman helping me. Vinnie currently has ten skips outstanding now that I have caught Alyssa.”
“Be careful. You don’t want to get burned out. Do you have any ideas on how to capture these skips? Are they going to be easy captures, or challenging ones?”
“I have a plan and hope to have most, if not all, of the skips captured by the end of Monday.” I stood on my tiptoes, Morelli bent down and I whispered to him my plan to offer a bottle of whiskey in order to entice the skips to give themselves up.
Morelli started to laugh when I got to the end of my explanation. “That’s brilliant, Cupcake. I will stick around the precinct as much as I can on Monday to see how it goes. If I get called out, can you let me know?”
“Sure thing. I need to go. Luke is finished and is coming over.”
“Thanks for giving me a laugh. It has been a crappy day. I got two murders in today, and then everybody and their brother was calling me to let me know that Rangeman’s car got torched and wanted to know if you were in it. I tried texting you.”
I pulled out my phone. “No texts have come in yet. I guess it was lucky then that we were bringing in a skip and you caught me here.”
“Yeah, it’s certainly better for my heartburn. Take care of yourself”, he said, dropping a light kiss on my lips before turning around and leaving.
“Morelli, that is his name, right?” Luke said as he came up to me. When I nodded my head, Luke said “is he your boyfriend?”
“No, he’s my ex-boyfriend. We’re just good friends now.”
“I don’t like him. I don’t trust him”, said Luke.
I thought about what Morelli had said. I didn’t have a problem with the way that Luke treated me, but I still agreed with Joe. I didn’t like Luke very much. There was just something about him that set me off. Maybe it was his overenthusiastic response to danger, maybe it was his belief that he could do the job better than Eduardo and Miguel. I could not place it, but I didn’t like him.
“Why did you apply to work at Rangeman?” I asked Luke on the way back to Stark.
“For the excitement. I wanted to be a cop, but I didn’t pass the psychiatric evaluation. They said I was too trigger happy and should consider a more relaxed job. But I really want a job where I can carry a gun, where I have the ability to shoot people. I know that I can be the best Rangeman employee ever.”
“Did you tell Ranger and Tank about your job application to the police department and what happened with it?”
“No, I didn’t think it was necessary. After all, Tank didn’t ask me specifically about the police department in the interview. So I didn’t really lie when I failed to mention it.”
“Did you tell him about your wish to shoot people?”
“No, it never came up.”
“Did Tank ask you why you wanted to work for Rangeman?”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him that people were important to me and I wanted to protect them.”
“Don’t you think shooting someone goes against the need to protect people?”
“I would only shoot the baddies. What do you take me for?”
“All people who are shot dead are murdered, whether they are done in self-defence or done in cold blood. Those that are shot are siblings, friends, family members to at least one person out there. No matter the reason for shooting, there will be someone out there mourning the loss of life that occurs as a result of your bullet. Shooting is not an easy thing to live with, nor should it be.”
“I could handle it.”
“What are you, eighteen?”
“No, I am twenty.”
“Talk to me in another five years as to whether it is easy to shoot someone. I hope you never have to find out how hard it is to do.” We arrived at the scene. The fire truck had left and the police were just putting the kid in the cruiser. I got out of the car and walked over to Ranger. He took one look at me and I could tell by his tight eyes that he was not happy. “You okay?” I asked quietly.
“Later.” He looked at me and said “you okay?”
“Later. Did you find out anything?”
“The kid was hired by someone who we think might have been the local drug dealer. He saw my guys sitting at the curb for a long time and thought that we were on surveillance for him. So he decided to get rid of us. Through this process, we have now been made and can no longer sit here. I have sent Eduardo and Miguel up to Nyetta’s apartment, but he again was not there. I think we are going to have to revisit his file and think of somewhere else we can pick him up.”
“I have at least one idea for that, although it is a long shot.”
“A long shot is better than what we have right now.”
We all got in the car, Ranger driving, me in the front passenger seat, and the rest of the guys squished in the back. “Did Eduardo and Miguel tell you that I got a few licks in and softened him up for you?” asked Luke. “Did he talk for you? He only spoke in Spanish to us, despite me telling him that I don’t speak Spanish. That was when I hit him, to try to get him to do what we wanted.”
“He only spoke Spanish because that was the only language that he speaks. He doesn’t speak English”, said Ranger.
“This is an English-speaking country. He should learn how to speak the language.”
“The kid wanted you charged with assault.”
“Assault! He was the one that ran away from us! Tell Ranger, guys. Tell him how that asshole ran away from us when we asked him to stop.”
Eduardo and Miguel didn’t say anything, and an uncomfortable silence fell in the car.
“Cowards”, Luke said under his breath.
Ranger jerked the car over to the side of the road. “Out!” he said in a low voice. “Luke, you are going to walk the rest of the way to Rangeman. You are going to use the time while you walk to think about how this evening went and what you would do if you had the chance to do it over again. When you get in, come up to my office so that we can talk about this. I will see you in about twenty minutes.”
“So, when I said ‘later’ it was to tell you about Luke’s assault on the kid.”
“You are very angry.”
“Anger is unproductive but yes, I am not pleased. What did you say ‘later’ about? You also didn’t look pleased.”
“There were a few things. He lied in the interview with Tank. He failed to mention that he had failed the psych evaluation for the cop shop, and that the fact that he’s too trigger happy is the reason he was not offered a job with the TPD. Also, he said that he told Tank he wanted to work at Rangeman so that he could protect people when in fact he is an adrenaline junkie. He lives for the excitement and the possibility of shooting people. He did not seem to understand the impact it can make on a person when you have to shoot someone. He said that he is going to ask you to transfer him to a team that sees more action, as he feels that is where his strength lies. So I asked him if he was eighteen, and he said that he was twenty. Since I know that you don’t hire anyone under the age of twenty-five, I realized that he lied on his job application. Then there was that overenthusiastic joy over the takedown. I don’t know. Besides being a liar, immature and trigger happy, I don’t really have any concrete reasons why I don’t like him. I just don’t.”
“Being a liar, trigger happy and immature are all good reasons why Luke has to go.” Tank came to the door of Ranger’s office and I stood up to leave. “By the way, how did it go at the precinct?”
“Good. I got Luke to look after Alyssa while I spoke with Morelli. He thought our plan for Monday was brilliant and wants a report on how it went. He got two murders on his desk today, so he wasn’t smiling about much.”
“You didn’t tell Morelli the reason that you wanted to have me go along for the takedown of Alyssa, did you?”
“No, but since she went gaga over Morelli as well, I think he would have believed you.”
“I think I missed something in that conversation. Why did you want Ranger along on the takedown?” asked Tank.
“We were capturing a sixteen-year old girl, and I figured that this girl would be like most sixteen-year old girls and would develop instant crushes. I was not wrong. She took one look at Ranger and was willing to follow him anywhere. The only tricky part was when she wanted to have Ranger carry her down the steps to the car. She was ecstatic that the emergency happened because it meant that Ranger actually picked her up, carried her off the porch and put her in the car. I had to tell her that Ranger would prefer to date someone who was born in the same decade as himself when we were at the station.”
Ranger sat there shaking his head. “She said I was cute”, he lamented.
Tank took a deep breath in. “Cute!” he said. “My kitties are cute. Puppies are cute. Bunnies are cute. Real men aren’t cute.”