As I have said before, surveillance with Ranger is a peaceful process. There is no unnecessary discussion. It gave me a chance to catch up on deleting phone messages off my phone, and I filed my nails while I also had the time. “Do you also have nail polish in there?” asked Ranger, watching me file my nails.
“Smart-ass. I carry a nail file because it is a multi-purpose tool. I can use it to file my nails, but I can also use it to stab someone with.”
“Dangerous woman with a nail file?”
“Don’t knock it. I don’t think you would want your eyes taken out with it.”
Ranger shuddered. “You’re right. I wouldn’t want my eyes taken out by it. I wouldn’t want my eyes taken out by anything, come to think of it.”
I knocked the nail dust off my shirt as I finished filing my nails. I looked up and saw Lucas enter the building. “That’s him”, I said, pointing out Lucas as he disappeared from sight. “Let’s give him a minute to get up to his apartment so that it doesn’t look like we were staking him out, then follow him up.” We waited for a few minutes then entered the building. I looked towards the staircase and sighed.
Ranger looked at me, again thinking about smiling. “Ten percent, Babe. It’s worth ten percent.” I gave him a dirty look and started up the stairs.
“Sometimes I think ten percent just isn’t enough”, I grumbled as I climbed the stairs. Ranger smiled a half-smile.
At the top of the stairs Ranger stopped to give me a chance to catch my breath. “How is your leg feeling now?” he asked.
“It still pulls a bit, but it is a lot better. I have to go back to the doctor’s tomorrow to get the stitches out.”
“Have you made an appointment yet?”
“No, I forgot.”
“I’ll make an appointment this afternoon for you. Does anytime work for you tomorrow?” I nodded my head. “I’ll let you know when I can get you in, and I’ll take you tomorrow.” Seeing that I had caught my breath, Ranger led me down the hall to the Cooper residence again.
I rang the doorbell. Lucas answered. “Hi, I am Stephanie from the Jack Daniel’s company, and I am here to see Lucas Cooper.”
“You mean this is real?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“No one gives away free booze.”
“Are you Lucas Cooper?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I need to see some photo ID, and I need to get your signature on this piece of paper before I hand over the Jack’s.”
Lucas disappeared into the living room. “Just a minute”, he called out, “I have to get my wallet.” He came back a couple of minutes later with his ID. His mother followed him, her eyes sparkling with the thought of free whiskey.
I took the ID from him and wrote down his driver’s licence number. Then I handed the form over to Lucas to sign. As he finished signing, Ranger whipped out his cuffs and snapped one around Lucas’s wrist. He whipped Lucas around and snapped the other cuff on the other wrist behind Lucas’s back. “Bond enforcement”, said Ranger quietly.
“What the hell?” exclaimed Lucas. “What are you doing? I was just getting the whiskey for my mother. I know I am too young to drink. I wasn’t planning on drinking it myself.”
“This isn’t about the whiskey”, I said. “You were due in court a few days ago and you missed your court date. We have to take you in to reschedule. You will probably be out again by the end of the day. It isn’t a big thing. We just offered you the booze so that you would be here when we showed up to pick you up.”
“I thought free booze was too good to be true”, he said, Ranger leading him out the door.
“It pays to question things, that is for sure”, said Logan. “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Does this mean there is no free whiskey?” asked Lucas’s mother.
“No, we are going to leave the jug of Jack’s here anyway as an apology for tricking you.” I handed the bottle over to his mother and apologized for interrupting her day.
“No problem”, she said as she opened the bottle and took a swig. “I would be interrupted like that anytime for free booze.”
I walked down the stairs and met up with Ranger as he was sitting Lucas in the backseat of his car. “Good one, Babe. You have an hour for lunch after your next capture. See you at the office?”
Ramon and Jorge were waiting at the curb in their car when I drove up and parked my car behind them. We were on Stark Street. Stark ran the gamut from bad to very bad, and we were in the middle of it. I parked my car and put my Club on the steering wheel before getting out and meeting up with the two Rangeman men. Ramon and Jorge got out of their car and met with me on the cracked sidewalk. I apologized for being late. “Our last appointment was running late as the person was not there when we showed up and we had to wait for him to come.”
“No problem, chica.”
I opened up my trunk and removed a bottle and the clipboard. Then, checking my instructions, I looked at the rooming house and said “she’s on the second floor”. We entered the house and were met by the landlady. She was frantically scrubbing the steps with a toothbrush. The smell of lemon cleaner was strong, and I didn’t want to walk on her freshly washed stairs. “Excuse me, ma’am, but we are here from the Jack Daniel’s company to meet with Crystal Zoli. Do you know if she is in?”
“Yes, she is. Did she win anything? Because she is a month behind in paying me rent and I would like the money.”
“She won a free jug of Jack’s in a special promotion, our Jugs of Jack’s promotional offer. I need to go up to see her, and unfortunately I have to walk on your nice clean stairs. Is that all right?” I asked.
“That is fine”, she said, looking like it was anything other than fine.
“Let’s wipe our shoes off as best as we can on the carpet out here”, I said to the Rangeman team. “It is a good thing that the weather outside isn’t mucky and that only dust is coming in on our shoes.” We started up the stairs, carefully avoiding the wet puddles of washing water.
I knocked on the door that the landlady had indicated, and when Crystal called out to invite us in, I opened the door and we entered.
“I am here for the Jug of Jack’s promotion, where we are handing out free bottles of Jack in exchange for your review of the new blend. I need to see your driver’s licence in order to give this bottle to you.”
“I don’t have a driver’s licence.”
“Do you have any sort of photo ID to prove that you are Crystal Zoli? I don’t care if it is a library card. I just want a photo ID.”
Crystal flipped through her wallet. “Here is my student ID. Will that do?”
“Absolutely.” I looked at her college ID. “What are you going to school for?” I asked.
“Criminology”, she said.
I wrote down her ID information and had her sign the form. Then, I placed the jug on the desk near her bed. “We are actually here as bond enforcement agents. We are here to escort you into the police station so that you can get rescheduled.” I saw her looking at the jug. “You get to keep the jug as an apology for tricking you.”
“Okay.” She held her hands behind her back and stood still while Ramon put on the restraints.
“I have to ask, if you are studying criminology in school and obviously believe in the criminal system, why were you arrested for solicitation?”
“I wrote my thesis on the treatment of prostitutes in society. The best way to get information for my thesis is to dress like a hooker, talk like a hooker, walk like a hooker, and both experience a hooker’s life as well as talk to other hooker’s to hear about their experiences. I could not go to court on the day that I was assigned because that was when I was giving my doctorate dissertation. I am happy to go to court now, though.”
“This is more fodder for your dissertation, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Yes, it is.”
“Okay. I will leave the bottle on your desk here for you to return to this evening, once you are rescheduled.”
“No problem.” I picked up Crystal’s keys and her purse, and locked the door behind us. Then I led the two men and Crystal down the clean stairs and out the front door, apologizing again to the hard-working landlady.
“Does she have obsessive-compulsive disorder?” I asked Crystal as we walked down the sidewalk to the car.
“I think she must. She has a thing about clean floors and goes absolutely nuts during the winter. She washes the floors at least once per day. Since she is equally as obsessive about the cleanliness of the bathroom, I don’t mind.”
“Oh, oh”, said Jorge.
“What?” I asked. I looked up to see the Rangeman vehicle, and no Stephanie vehicle. Instead, where my car had been parked was my steering wheel, the Club still attached. I looked at Jorge and Ramon. They both had smiles a mile wide on their faces. “This isn’t funny, guys.”
“No, ma’am”, said Jorge, trying unsuccessfully to wipe the smile off his face.
“Why is it always my car? Compared to the Rangeman vehicle, mine is an old hunk of junk. Why did my car get jacked while yours did not?”
“I don’t know, Steph”, said Ramon. “Do you want to call it in, or do you want me to?”
“I’ll call it in, thanks.” I called the control room, getting Hal on the line. “Hi, Hal, I am on Stark Street right now, and all I have left of my car is my steering wheel.”
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I am fine. I am with Ramon and Jorge right now with our skip, and I have no car.”
“I have located your car on the screen. It is very close to where you are standing. If you want, you can wait in the Rangeman vehicle with your skip and Ramon and Jorge will steal your car back for you.”
“That sounds like a good idea, thanks.”
“I will route the car’s location to Ramon’s and Jorge’s phones.”
“Thanks, Hal. I owe you one.” I got off the phone and told Ramon and Jorge what Hal had suggested that they do.
“Hot damn! This is a good day”, said Ramon. “I get to play in the Jug of Jack’s game, and I get to steal a car. It doesn’t get much better than this!” Their phones pinged with the location of my car. Ramon and Jorge took the Club off my steering wheel, gave me the keys to their car, and set off down the street to pick up mine.
“I am going to take off your cuffs and let you get comfortable in the backseat”, I said as I uncuffed her. “This could be a long wait, and it is too hot to be restrained all that time. I am just going to trust that you are not going to try to escape. If you do, we will just capture you again and we would not be so gentle a second time. With your defence, that you were doing research, you should get a minor sentence. Perhaps even just community time. It just looks bad if you do not go into court when you are supposed to though, so you may want to show up the next time.”
“You work as a bounty hunter, is that right?”
“That is one of my jobs. I work two. I am also the researcher for Rangeman, a private security company.”
“What do you do as a researcher?”
“You review information on different people and corporations to determine their suitability to take them on as clients – we will not accept clients that have a criminal past – or to help out existing clients, for example by vetting potential employees.”
“And as a bounty hunter you pick up those who have skipped bail?”
“Yes, I do. We don’t normally do it by offering free alcohol, but Vinnie has overextended himself and no one is coming in for their court date. Which means he is out a lot of money until everyone is brought into court. This was our solution to capture a lot of people in a very short period of time.”
“It’s a good idea. I didn’t even suspect that it was anything other than a promotion.”
I looked in the rearview mirror as I saw my car drive up and park behind me. “Good luck with your defence”, I told Crystal as I got out of the car. I walked over to mine as Ramon and Jorge unfolded themselves from the car.
“They had not yet opened up the trunk when we got there, so the bottles are still in there”, said Ramon.
“Were there any fatalities?” I asked.
“No, although there are some wet pants.”
“Yeah, twice. When Jorge threatened them with his gun they were full of swagger. When he shot the ground an inch away from the head honcho’s foot, they started getting upset. And when Jorge told them that the next shot was going to be at their balls and he sighted up the leader again, all attention was focused on him. That was when they wet their pants. Then they rediscovered their swagger and started to crowd him out. Meanwhile, while he was diverting attention, I reattached your steering wheel using the tools that they had left in the front seat, put their tools on the ground because I didn’t want to steal them, and started your car. I rolled your car into the group, right up beside Jorge, and leaned on the horn. They all jumped and that was when they wet their pants a second time. Jorge got in the car while they were all looking at me. I started inching forward and, when they wouldn’t move, I told them that I was going to run over the first person that stood in front of the car. They didn’t believe me, so I gunned it forward a foot and Jorge took out his gun again. He sighted up the leader and shot him in the thigh. Don’t worry. It was just a little flesh wound. I was able to drive around them when they all came after your car with guns. I don’t think your car was hit though.” He walked around the car inspecting it. “Yup, no hits”, he said with great satisfaction.
I felt a little lightheaded. “Thank you for getting my car back. I appreciate the effort, even if you had to shoot someone.”
“No problem. That was fun!” said Jorge.
I started to laugh. “You definitely have a different idea of fun than I have.” I shook my head and reached out my hands for my keys. “I left the apprehension papers on the front seat of the car. I uncuffed Crystal. I didn’t think she was a runner. She’s still in the car.”
“Uh, Steph, there’s no one in the car”, said Ramon.
My head whipped around to look. The passenger door was open and Crystal was no longer in the car. I turned to look at the house in time to see Crystal re-entering. “One of you, stay with the cars and watch the house”, I said as I ran up to the house. Jorge and I entered, running past the landlady who was still cleaning the steps, and raced up the stairs. We got to Crystal’s door and pounded on it.
“Go away”, she said. I could hear the sound of her bedroom window opening up.
“Go and wait outside her bedroom window”, I whispered to Jorge. “Crystal, it’s Stephanie. You really do not want to do this. If you avoid court, it is going to look bad for you. It is only going to result in a stiffer sentence when I bring you in, and I will bring you in eventually. Things will go a lot smoother for you if you come in voluntarily.”
“That’s what I want to do. I want to go to the police station myself and give myself up, explaining that I could not come in when I was supposed to and that I want to come in now.”
“It doesn’t work that way. You signed the agreement with Vincent Plum bail bonds office that said we were allowed to bring you in if you did not come into court when you were supposed to. You did not come into court and, no matter how good your reason is, your signed contract says that you are supposed to be brought into court by me. That is why I am here, and that is why you need to come with me.”
I heard and “eek” on the other side of the door and a thump before it was all silent again. Seconds later, Jorge opened the door with Crystal cuffed and ready to go to jail. She was crying. “I just wanted to go to jail myself. I didn’t want to be brought in by a bounty hunter. How is this going to look on my job applications when I am applying for jobs in the criminology field? Can’t you just drive me to the station and let me turn myself in? You can watch me do it if you want.”
“Thank you for the offer, and I would like to accommodate you. However, if we do it your way I don’t get paid, and since I need to pay Rangeman no matter what happens, this means that I will be out of pocket. That is not how this day is going to go.” Technically, I could have done it her way and I wouldn’t have had to pay Rangeman, but I was mad at her. I was angry that she was infringing on my lunch period but, more importantly, I was angry that she had made me look incompetent in front of Rangeman staff. “If you go to court now and explain why you were doing what you were doing, I suspect that you won’t even get a record. However, if you don’t go in now, all bets are off as to what will happen.” Jorge led her out of her room and I took her key and purse off her dresser. I closed and locked the window, then shut and locked the door.
Following Jorge and Crystal to the car, I heard Ramon say “Damn. I missed the fun.”
“You can’t have it all, I guess. You are going to have to settle with carjacking today”, I said with a smile. “Guys, as I was saying initially, the apprehension papers are in the front seat. I was wrong about Crystal not being a runner. Keep her cuffed and shackled. I don’t want to lose her again.” Ramon jumped over to the rear of the car and took out a set of shackles.
As Ramon put the shackles on her, Crystal cried harder. “Can’t you take a little pity on me? I promise I’ll be good.”
“I’m sorry. I already took pity on you and you ran away from us. I’m not going to take another chance on you getting away again. I don’t have the time to spend chasing you down today.”
“I promise I’ll be good, I swear!”
“No. I’m sorry, but no.”
“You aren’t sorry. You aren’t sorry at all.”
“You know, you’re right. I’m not sorry. Take her away, guys. I am going back to the office to grab some lunch before catching our next skip at one o’clock. Thanks for your help. Oh, and if she tries to escape again? Shoot her.” I turned around and walked back to my car, got in, and drove away.