I called Ranger from the car on my way into the office. “Hi. I am running a little late, but will be there in ten minutes. Would you mind grabbing me something from the break room for lunch? I don’t want to be late for the afternoon appointments.”
“Sure. I heard about your car.”
“Ramon and Jorge stole it back from me, and they only had to shoot one person.”
“No, they said it was just a flesh wound. But then, while I was talking to them, our skip got away. My fault, as she seemed so reasonable I took the cuffs off her while we waited for Ramon and Jorge to come back with my car.”
“How did you get her back?”
“She escaped into her room in the rooming house where she lived. As I was talking to her I heard her open her window. I told Jorge to go and wait outside the window, thinking that she would try to make a run for it. Jorge did one better and climbed up, went through her window, and cuffed her before she got over the surprise of finding someone coming through her window. She was crying and begging to be released as we walked her back down to the car. I felt sorry for her, but I’m mad at her at the same time.”
“I’m glad you got both your car and your skip back. Anything in particular you want from the break room?”
“A chocolate bar?”
“Smart ass”. Ranger thinks dessert is the devil’s work and does not allow it to be stocked in the Rangeman break room. I have a different opinion. I think he’s nuts.
I got to the Rangeman facility and drove into the underground parking lot. I parked the car and opened the trunk just to make sure the bottles of Jack were still there. They were, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I did not want to have to take the time to make another shopping trip to buy more jugs. Besides, I had run out of ribbon for the bows.
I got off the elevator at the fifth floor and saw many of the men designated for the capture teams. Some of the men were still off shift, waiting for their three o’clock start. “Good going, Steph”, said Hal. “This is working well.”
“Yeah, chica”, said Eduardo. “This was a good idea. I am looking forward to my turn this afternoon.”
“It was working well until the last one. I screwed up and we almost lost our skip.”
“But the important part”, said Ranger as he came through, “is that you were able to get her back safely and with everyone in one piece. Don’t reflect on what might have happened. Celebrate what did.”
“Why are you all here?” I asked the group.
“We wanted to be in on the fun. I didn’t want to wait all the way until my chance comes up this afternoon”, said Manuel. “How many more do you have left?”
“Did you really shackle her?” asked Calvin with a smile.
“We did. She really ticked me off by trying to get away.”
“I would have shackled her as well”, said Ranger.
“The difference between you and me, though, is that you wouldn’t have lost her in the first place.”
“I don’t know. I have made mistakes like that in my time as well. The important thing is that you got her back.”
He led me into his office and to his conference table. On it were two sandwiches, a couple of bowls of cream of asparagus soup, soda crackers for the soup, two containers of cut fruit, and two cups of coffee, one of which had cream in it. I sat down and smiled. “You chose well. This looks great.”
“In the folder on the table are your body receipts for the first two captures. Do you want to leave them here?”
“Yes. I will leave them here until I have them all collected.” I ate a mouthful of my sandwich and sighed. “I can’t believe she got away from me. I am usually so good at reading the skips and knowing if I need to cuff and/or shackle them. I really missed this time.”
“Don’t worry about it. What was she in for?”
“Solicitation. She is a criminology student and was doing some research for her thesis paper. She just had the misfortune of being picked up. She said she ran away from us because she wanted to turn herself in rather than be taken in by a bounty hunter. And if she had said that to me initially, I might have driven her to the station and watched her do it. But I got angry when she ran away.”
“Now that your initial anger has died away, would you do anything differently?”
I thought for a minute. “No, probably not. I gave her a chance and treated her better than many of my skips, and she blew it. I might not have shackled her if I hadn’t been angry, but I might have as well. Getting arrested isn’t a lark, and she needs to be taught a lesson. As long as she can still get a job in the criminology field, the lesson will stand her well.”
“Then that’s what you have to hang onto, that you wouldn’t have done it any differently. It wasn’t your mistake that messed up the capture; it was hers.”
“Thanks.” I ate for a moment, finishing off my soup. “Who are the capture teams this afternoon?”
“Tank and Alvin…”
“Another new recruit. This guy was military police for a few years and has recently come to us. He looks promising, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. You also have Eduardo and Miguel, Manuel and Ethan, Hector and Jose, and I will be flying solo with you for the last one.”
“That sounds great.”
“And after we take in our final capture, we can go out to dinner. I have phoned, and the Mexican restaurant is open until eleven. We should have plenty of time to get there before the kitchen closes.”
“Thanks. I am looking forward to it already.”
“I have also made an appointment at the doctor’s to get your sutures out. Your appointment is for one in the afternoon. That was all he had available, so I hope that time is all right with you.”
“That works for me. All I have to do that will be on the essential list is to take in my body receipts to get cheques signed, and to chase down the leads on Nyetta.” I stood up, putting my garbage into the trash can and picking up my dirty cutlery and crockery to take back to the break room. “I am sure that Sales has generated some requests as well.”
“I have some more research requests for you, too.” He stood up and took the dirty dishware out of my hands and put it on the table. He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a deep kiss. He broke away and said “are you coming back in for a snack at five o’clock?”
“I was planning on it.”
“Great! I will see you then.” I picked up my dirty dishware and Ranger said “leave it. If you don’t get moving, you are going to be late for your next capture.”
I gave Ranger a quick kiss, said thanks, and walked out of the room.
Tank introduced me to Alvin in the control room. I could tell Alvin was the new recruit. Like many of the Rangeman staff, he had his hair cropped short. However, unlike many on the Rangeman staff he had not yet lost his stiffness, and was standing at parade rest while he waited for me.
“Who are we going for this afternoon, Steph?” asked Tank.
“Aiden Multan. He was charged with selling illegal substances when he was caught selling powdered iguana testicles. Apparently there is a belief that it increases men’s virility.”
“How does that work? Are you supposed to mix it in water and drink it? Eat it? Inhale it? Rub it on your bits?”
“I don’t know. You are going to have to ask Aiden when we catch up to him. Why, Tank? Are you trying to tell me something?”
“NO!” bit out Tank, going a little red in the face. I could hear Ranger laughing quietly behind me.
“It’s okay, Tank”, I said, patting his arm. “Every man goes through it at some point in their lives.”
“No, I don’t … I mean …” Tank was positively flustered in his embarrassment.
I smiled. “Gotcha.” I reached up on my tiptoes and kissed Tank on the cheek. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
I followed Tank’s car out to the Multan apartment. He lived in a barebones three-story apartment building much like mine. No extra amenities. Unlike mine, each apartment had a balcony. Also unlike mine, there were no elevators. I sighed. Multan lived on the top floor.
There was a security system on the door, and I buzzed Multan. He answered on the first ring. “This is Stephanie here from the Jack Daniel’s corporation with the Jug of Jack’s promotional giveaway. May we come up?”
“Yes, you may.” He buzzed the door open.
We climbed to the third floor, me trying to breathe normally and hide the fact that I am desperately out of shape. When we got to the top of the stairs, Tank asked us to wait a minute. I was grateful for the delay. “What are we doing?” asked Alvin.
“Reconnaissance”, said Tank. I was also thankful for the lie. When I got my breathing under control, Tank started forward. “Our reconnaissance is finished”, he said.
I walked down to Multan’s apartment and knocked on the door. Aiden answered, a glass already in his hand, powder at the bottom of the glass. He moved to take the bottle from me. “Not so fast”, I said with a smile. “I need to see some photo ID and get you to sign for the bottle before I can hand it over. I am not allowed to just hand out free alcohol, you know.”
“Sure, sure, of course.” He went to get his wallet and came back with a huge smile on his face. “I have superpowers, you know. I have a special powder that makes me stronger, firmer, longer than normal”, he said to me.
“Really?” I said, copying down his driver’s licence number. I held the paper out for him to sign. “How does that work?”
“It is a magic powder. It gives men great strength and abilities, if you know what I am saying.”
“It makes you more manly.”
“How does it work? Do you eat the powder? Sniff it? Rub it into your skin?”
“You mix it in fruit juice – or whiskey – and drink it.”
“What happens if a woman drinks it?”
“I don’t know. I guess she becomes more manly.”
“Does she grow chest hair and a beard?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know any women who have taken it.”
“That’s too bad. It might be good for all those women out there who would like to be a man but could not afford a sex change operation. There, I have helped you this afternoon. I have found a whole new avenue for your marketing campaign.”
“Thank you”, said Aiden as he reached out to grab the jug of Jack’s. Tank whipped out a set of cuffs but, before he could snap them on Aiden’s wrists, Aiden shoved me aside and took off for the stairs. “You can’t catch me”, he cried. “I am on the magic powder and I am faster, stronger, more powerful than you!”
Tank took two steps, catching up to Aiden who was running away. He caught him by the back of his shirt and lifted him onto his tiptoes. Aiden’s feet pedalled through the air as he tried to reach the ground. Tank shook Aiden slightly. “Stop”, he commanded. Aiden’s feet hung, finally still. “We are here representing your bonding agent. You missed your court date. Now, this is what we are going to do. I am going to put you back down on the ground and you are going to stay where I put you. I am going to cuff you, and we are going to lock up your apartment nice and tight. Then we are going to go out to the car and I am going to drive you to the precinct so that you can get your date rescheduled. Do you understand?”
Aiden nodded his head.
We walked back to the apartment and I put the bottle of Jack’s down on the kitchen table. “You mean I get to keep the bottle?” he asked, surprised.
“Yes, you do. I promised you a jug, and I’m giving you one.”
“That’s great.” He paused for a minute, then said “I don’t understand. I have been drinking that powder religiously for the last week, and I was not able to get away from you.” He puzzled that out in his head for a moment, then said “I know. You are also taking the magic powder, aren’t you?”
“Tank doesn’t need any magic powder. He uses working out instead to make him faster, stronger and more powerful”, I said.
“What about longer?”
“I don’t know anything about that”, I said with a laugh. “But from what I heard, Tank does not need any help in that department either.”
“What?” said Tank. “How would you … Lula.” Tank and Lula were engaged briefly a couple of years ago. Lula broke it off when Tank adopted three cats. Lula is allergic to cats, and made Tank choose between the cats and her. Lula lost. “She has a big mouth.”
“I heard that’s not the only thing that’s big”, I said, laughing as I escorted the three men out of the apartment and locked the door. I led the trio of men back down to the car. By the time I got there Tank had lost some of the redness in his face, and Aiden had finally stopped trying to figure out how Tank was able to catch him.
I watched Alvin load Aiden in the car and handed my apprehension papers to Tank. “Sorry for teasing you like that. It wasn’t very nice of me. But the opportunity just reared itself up, and I could not ignore it. Thanks for being such a good sport. After this morning’s fiasco, I needed a good laugh.”
“Steph, you got her, and that is all that matters. And you got this one as well. You have captured four people today. I think you are doing well. They can’t all go smoothly.”
“Thanks, Tank.” I reached up on my tiptoes again and gave him another peck on the cheek. “You are a good man.” I got back in my car and sent a text to Eduardo and Miguel to let them know that I would be at the Piper residence in less than half an hour.