“I’m going to go after Isaac Wang first, the movie distributor. He knows me and I think will come easily – at least he did last time – and because he is a medium level bond it will take some pressure off Vinnie. Wish me luck!” I left the office with Isaac’s file in hand, the accordion file under my arm. I drove to Isaac’s house, a modest two-story in Hamilton Township. Parking a couple of houses down the street, I sat for a minute taking the pulse of the neighbourhood. There were two children riding their bikes up and down the sidewalk, enjoying their summer vacation. There was a lady out taking advantage of the shade at the front of her house and gardening before the sun got too hot. And there was an older gentleman who, just having driven into his driveway, was taking to-go coffees and a bakery bag out of his car. I imagined that he was bringing breakfast home to his wife. It was my kind of breakfast.
I got out of the car and made sure that I had all my accessories in my purse. Gun, stun gun, pepper spray and cuffs. I made sure that the cuffs were at the top. They were the only thing I thought I was going to need.
I walked up the pathway and knocked on Isaac’s door. I heard scrambling in the house, and saw the curtain twitch. Then I heard nothing. “Isaac, it’s Stephanie. I know you’re in there. I can either shout at the top of my lungs to make sure your neighbours all know I am bringing you in for rescheduling, or you can come with me peacefully. It’s your choice. Either way, you are going into the precinct today. It’s morning. If you come in now, we can have you rebonded out quickly and you will be home copying movies by this afternoon. If I take you in later today you might not be bonded out again until tomorrow. Your choice. Come in this morning or take the chance of having to spend the night in jail. You’re a businessman. What are you going to choose?” There was silence on the other side of the door. “Isaac, you knew this would happen when you skipped your court date. This is a simple business deal. You miss your court date, you get brought in. That’s how it works. You know this, as this isn’t your first time around the block. This is what, your third time having me bring you in? Open the door.”
“Sorry – can’t do that. It’s my job to bring you in. We have a saying around the office. “You play, you pay.” That’s something I’ve always admired about you. You understand that concept really well.”
“I’m in my boxer shorts.”
“You wouldn’t be the first person I brought in wearing nothing but boxer shorts. However, because you have always been so reasonable to work with, as long as you let me in the house I will give you the time to finish up in the bathroom and get dressed.”
“I haven’t eaten yet either.”
“I’ll give you some time to have breakfast first. But you have to let me in for that. Otherwise, I’d have to break down the door, and that will leave you with a problem. You wouldn’t be able to lock your house when you come to the station with me.” That’s a lie. I was good at a lot of things, but forcible entry was not one of them. I was banking on Isaac not knowing that, however. I was successful in not smiling as the door tentatively opened enough so that I saw Isaac’s face through the crack.
“I don’t want you to see me in my boxers.”
“Why? Boxers cover you as much as shorts do, and you aren’t the first person that I have seen in his boxers and hopefully you won’t be the last.”
The door opened wider and a red-faced Isaac, stepping aside to let me in, said “I just want to say, for the record, that my girlfriend bought these for me. I wear them because they are incredibly comfortable.” I looked down to find a black pair of boxer briefs with the white outline of a hand on the crotch.
“Different, but why the big deal?”
“You haven’t seen the back yet.”
He turned around to display the words “it isn’t going to suck itself” written across both cheeks. “It was a joke gift between my girlfriend and myself. We were trying to find the sluttiest underwear that we could find. I don’t know where she got these, but it makes what I gave her look particularly tame.”
“What did you give her? Panties with the picture of a squirrel on it, with the caption ‘looking for nuts’?”
“Close. A thong with a picture of a beaver on it, with the saying ‘I need wood’.”
“I don’t know. I think yours runs hand in hand, no pun intended, with your girlfriend’s.”
“Do you really think so?” Isaac brightened up at the possibility.
I started laughing. “Yeah, I do. How about you go change? I will buy you some breakfast on the way into the precinct.” Isaac went upstairs and came down a few minutes later, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. He made sure all his windows were locked and his computer was turned off. Then we left the house.
I drove back to the bonds office. Vinnie was not in, which was probably a good thing. He has been overly annoying lately with so many skips outstanding. He is treating the outstanding money as if it was his own, and has been texting me regularly asking where his skips are. He has been driving me nuts.
“Isaac is going to want to be bonded out again”, I told Lula, interrupting her game of Flappy Bird as I entered the office. “I’m not sure if he’ll come in the next time either. He makes more money skipping bail than he spends paying us the fifteen percent. Fine by me. He is an easy skip to bring in.” I handed her my body receipt. “Vinnie will have to write the check for that when he gets in.”
“Who are you going to go after next?”
“I’m thinking Vivian Slater, the barking dog owner. She sounds so clueless I suspect that she just forgot her court date. She is a low bond, but she would still be good to bring in and, since she lives close to my parents’ house, I was thinking of going home for lunch. I haven’t said ‘hi’ in a few days, and my mother has been texting me asking whether I am dead.”
Vivian Slater lived in the Burg, a pocket of Trenton originally settled primarily by Italians and Eastern Slavics. More recently it has become the melting pot of Trenton with residents, often new Americans, representing a wide range in countries. It is a working class neighbourhood where people are trying desperately to establish themselves and get ahead. It is the neighbourhood where I grew up.
Vivian Slater lived three streets over from my parents. I parked the car two houses down the street and took my purse out of the car. While I did not think the low bond and suspected non-violent nature of Vivian warranted me wearing my gun belt, I did put my Maglite and cuffs at the top of my purse. My cuffs to capture Vivian; my Maglite to bash in the head of the dog if it turned out to be an attack dog.
Walking up to the door, I heard a little yappy dog go nuts inside the house. I rang the doorbell and the dog alternated between growling and barking. I rang the doorbell again. After waiting a couple of minutes, I looked in the windows. I could see through the living room and dining room to the kitchen, and could see someone lying on the floor, feet sticking out through the doorway. I tried the door. It was locked. Running around the side of the house, I looked through the back door. Vivian was lying flat on her back on the ground. I tried the door and found it unlocked. I ran inside, tripping over the little dog, and felt for a pulse. I am not very good at doing that. I couldn’t find a pulse, but knowing how useless I am at finding pulses I decided that the absence of a pulse didn’t mean anything. I licked the back of my hand and placed it near her nose. I could feel Vivian’s breath on my hand. Thank God.
The dog ran over to me and bit me. “Shit!” I took out my Maglite and whacked it lightly over the dog’s head. The dog stood back and shook its head. Taking out my phone, I called 911. Giving dispatch the details, I wet a paper towel with cold water and placed it on her forehead. Leaving Vivian alone for a minute, I hobbled through the house to unlock the front door for the paramedics, all the while being nipped on the heels by her dog. On the way through, I found a dog crate in the dining room. Worried about the dog and how it would react to the paramedics, I put the dog in its crate. Then I returned to the kitchen to replace the paper towel on Vivian’s head with a new, cold towel, and to smack the ground beside Vivian’s ears and call her name in an attempt to get her to regain consciousness.
Seconds later the police and ambulance showed up. Carl Constanza and Big Dog were the first police officers on the scene. I did not know the names of the paramedics. “Did you scare your skip into a heart attack?” asked Carl. I knew Carl and Big Dog well. I had gone through Communion together with Carl and, although I met Big Dog more recently, he has been a first responder to my mishaps so often I feel like I also know him well.
“She didn’t even see me. I just rang the doorbell and when I could not get an answer, I looked in the windows to see if I could see whether she was there. She was lying on the ground, so I ran around to the back to see if I could get in. The door was unlocked. When I got in, I could not get a response from her.”
“She had a heart attack. If you had been even twenty minutes later, she would probably be dead”, said the paramedic as they hustled her out of the house on a stretcher.
“The dog is in the crate, Carl. I put it there when I knew a lot of people were going to be in the house. The dog already was not happy having me in the house. It bit me once and tried to bite me twice more.”
“Go to the hospital and get that treated properly. That looks like a nasty bite”, advised Carl.
“Really? It hurts like the devil. I can’t see it with it being on my calf. I have to go to the hospital anyway to make sure she is put into the lockdown section, and so I can get my body receipt.”
“Do you need a ride?”
“Nope. I can drive, thanks.” I hobbled out to the car, phoning my mother on the way. I know from experience that gossip travels faster than the speed of light in the Burg, but that it isn’t always accurate. My mother will hear about me being in the hospital even before I am admitted, but the story might get a bit mixed up and have me being the person with the heart attack and my skip as the person with the dog bite. I didn’t want to worry my mother overly. I was lucky. I got the answering machine.
“Hi, everybody. I just wanted to let you know that I’m all right. One of my skips had a heart attack and I was bitten by her dog when I was trying to help her. I am on the way to the hospital, primarily to get my body receipt but also to get my dog bite taken care of properly. Just wanted you to know so that you don’t worry when you hear that I was at the hospital.” Then, arriving at the hospital, I parked in short-term emergency parking and walked into the emergency room. It was bedlam. There had been two car accidents close by, with severe injuries in both. I spoke to the appropriate person in security and got my body receipt, then deciding that I did not want to wait for hours in Emergency for the dog bite to be cleaned properly, I left the hospital. Knowing that Rangeman had a better first aid kit than I did, I headed there, phoning Lula on the way. “I got my body receipt for Vivian. She is in the hospital in lockdown with a heart attack. Her dog bit me and it hurts like a bitch, so I am going to Rangeman for the afternoon. Don’t tell Vinnie. I will be back chasing skips tomorrow.”
“Okey-dokey. Make sure you disinfect the bite properly. You don’t want to be getting no gangrene or nothing.”
Rangeman is located in a seven-story office building in the heart of Trenton, a ten-minute drive away from anything important – the police station, the hospital, the bonds office, and my apartment. It contains three floors of staff residences, including the luxurious penthouse apartment where Ranger lives, three floors of office space, and one floor – plus the basement – of training facilities. I drove into the underground parking lot and parked in one of Ranger’s personal spaces. He has four personal spaces and three cars to fill them, a Porsche Turbo 911, a Porsche Cayenne, and a Toyota Tacoma truck. I usually park in his fourth spot. I haven’t ever asked whether this was all right with him but I have not heard any complaints and until I do I will continue to park there. His spots are the closest to the elevators.
I limped in the building and pressed the button for Ranger’s apartment on the seventh floor. I looked at the back of my leg and saw that my leg was all bloody. Great. Another scab to add to the skinned knees I got a few days ago while chasing down a skip.
I got off the elevator and keyed my way into Ranger’s apartment. Ranger had given me the key the first time I used his apartment as a safe house. Since then our relationship has changed. We have moved from mentor to friend to periodic lover to part-time boss. I am not sure what we are now. We are still good friends and Ranger is still my boss, but the lover designation has gone well past the periodic description. We have been on a handful of dates and I recently have met his family, but I would need to know a lot more about him before I could ever class our friendship as a romantic relationship.
Ranger’s apartment is set up as two halves. The living half contains an open concept gourmet kitchen, dining room, and living room. This area is separated from the master suite by a hall and a powder room. The master suite is comprised of a sumptuous five-piece bathroom, a roomy walk-in closet, a large bedroom, and a spacious office/den combination. The entire apartment is decorated in masculine neutrals and dark woods with walls the colour of chocolate milk. I have stayed there enough to know that there is a shelf of my favourite foods in his kitchen, a drawer of my toiletries in his bathroom, and a section of his closet with my clothes.
Taking off my shoes at the door and dropping my purse on the kitchen counter, I walked back to the master ensuite. Running warm water in the sink, I got a clean facecloth and towel out of the cupboard and climbed up on the counter. I turned off the water and sat so that my calf was over the sink, taking off my blood-soaked sock and gingerly washing out the bite. A few seconds after I started washing my leg, I heard the front door open. “Babe?” Ranger asked as he came into the bathroom. Cuban-American in heritage, his Latino colouring and hard body made him look more like a GQ model than a James Bond. However, he had the kind of skills that would give even James a run for his money. Former Special Forces, Ranger has made a living by listening intently, always having his back to the wall, and blending in with the scenery. “What happened?”
“A skip had a dog”, I said with disgust. Ranger took over washing out the bite as I continued to tell him what happened. “The skip had collapsed on the floor with a heart attack and the dog did not like the fact that I broke into her house to look after her. The dog bit me.” Ranger grabbed the towel and patted the area dry.
“Was she all right?”
“I don’t know. There had been two major car accidents come in to the hospital, so I didn’t stick around. It was a zoo there. I got my body receipt and got out.”
Ranger got out the first aid kit and helped me down from the counter. He led me over to the bed and had me lie down on it, face down, so that he could spread on the antibiotic cream and a bandage. “This is a pretty significant bite. It’s going to take a while to heal.”
“Does this mean I get out of training today?” I asked hopefully. As part of my job, Ranger requires me to practice self-defence and shooting daily. He has recently added cardio training to the requirements. I hate all of it. It was a toss-up as to what I hate the most, although I think cardio and shooting are tied for the number one spot.
“This means you get out of cardio and fighting for a couple of days. You still have to shoot, and you can still stretch.” As my mother would say, beggars can’t be choosers, and I would take what I could get.
Ranger taped a bandage in place and helped me off the bed. I walked awkwardly through to the bathroom and cleaned up the blood spatters off the sink. I rinsed out the washcloth and draped it over the side of the tub. Then I rinsed out the bloody sock and also draped it over the tub to dry. Ranger got me a pair of his socks to wear. “Have you had lunch yet?”
“No. Have you?”
“No. I was just about to break for lunch when Jorge called me to let me know that you looked pretty banged up on the feed.” Ranger’s facility is like Fort Knox. Only the private residences and the washrooms have escaped monitoring. Nothing can happen in the building without the control room knowing. “He was worried about you.”
“I’ll have to go down and let him know that I’m okay.”
“Why don’t we do that now, then grab some lunch and eat in my office. I’d like to hear about the skips you caught today.” He led me from the apartment. “Are you doing more skip chasing this afternoon, or are you in the office doing research?”
“I am doing research for Rangeman this afternoon, as well as research for Vinnie. He has so many skips outstanding right now. I had nine starting out this morning, although I brought in two today. Vinnie is texting me hourly putting pressure on me to capture more and to capture them more quickly. It just keeps going from bad to worse. I don’t think any of Vinnie’s bondees are showing up in court lately. I seem to be getting them all.”
“He does seem to be having a bad run of it. On Monday you had three skips. Are you saying you had six more show up in the last two days?”
“Incredible, isn’t it? And now that Connie is at her wedding, I don’t have Lula for backup. Some of these are skips that I really want backup for, so I can’t do them until after Connie is back from her wedding. Vinnie is having a coronary and making noises about bringing in another bounty hunter to help out. Unfortunately, he usually means Joyce when he says that.”
“I can take someone off patrol to send along with you for backup if you want.”
“I may end up taking you up on that if I can’t clean this list up myself.” We walked on the Operations floor and into the control room. I walked over to Jorge. “Thank you for calling Ranger for help. I had a dog bite me at a skip’s today, and my leg bled a bit.”
“It looked like it was pouring down the back of your leg.”
“It just needed cleaned up with some antiseptic. It’s more uncomfortable than anything else. I would have gone home but you have a better first aid box here. I’m going down to the break room. Do you want anything?” Jorge and Calvin said that they were fine. Eduardo and Hector also said they were fine. “How are the new monitoring stations?” I asked them.
“Good, Steph”, said Eduardo. “They are exactly the same as the old ones, even with everything located in the same placement at the stations. It should be seamless transferring from one station to another. The only difference is that these chairs are more comfortable.”