The next day I woke up at the same time as Ranger got up for his workout. As he finished in the bathroom, I sat up in bed. Ranger came out and looked surprised to see me up. “How are you feeling?”
“Okay, I think. My stomach seems to be steady, but I am still waking up.”
“Why don’t you go back to sleep?”
“I slept most of yesterday and then all of last night. I think it is time to get up and get going for the day.” I yawned. “I was thinking I would get some practice time in on the range.”
After my shower I went to Ranger’s computer and downloaded a picture of Nyetta’s head. While the picture was printing I got dressed, put on my tinted moisturizer, mascara and lip gloss, and accessorized in a way that only bad-ass women can accessorize. I put on my gun holster and gun.
I picked up the picture off the printer and shut down Ranger’s computer. I went down to the storeroom on the fifth floor to grab a box of bullets, then down to the basement to the range.
I entered the range, passing Hector as he was coming out. His scary teardrop tats were revealed again, and I walked quickly past him, saying “hi” as I did so. There was no one left on the range, which was just the way I liked it. I cued up a body target, and affixed the headshot of Nyetta before sending it to the other end of the range. I shot several clips into targets, at first avoiding the head. After having some success at chest shots, though, I forced myself to look at Nyetta’s head. I thought about what he had done, and the number of children he had infected – three known ones, and countless others that were unknown. Then I shot several clips into his head, with moderate success. Better than I had ever done, but not as good as Ranger could have done. Of course, I doubted that I could ever do as well as Ranger could do.
After shooting several clips into the head, I took the pockmarked picture and affixed it to a clean target. I looked at the picture of Nyetta and imagined him threatening me. I imagined him pulling a gun on me, and I shot the target again. I hit the head so many times out of my clip that the pockmarks in the paper became actual holes. I then refilled my clip, and shot a final clip in Nyetta’s chest. All of these final shots were kill shots. Satisfied, I pulled up the target as Ranger came on the range. “Good job”, he said. “I was watching through the observation window. You were doing really well, especially with your last two clips. What were you imagining when you shot them?”
“I was imagining that he was threatening me with a gun.”
“All your chest shots are kill shots.”
“Yes. You once told me that, if I could hit the head consistently I would be better at shooting kill shots on the chest. You were right. Most of my practice I concentrated on the head, only focusing on the chest at the beginning of practice and with my final clip.” I put the targets in the recycling bin and led the way out of the range.
Ranger put his arm around my shoulders as we walked down the hall. “Now that you have had a chance to wake up, how are you feeling?” he asked.
“Good. I guess I just needed sleep.”
“So I don’t have to make an emergency run to the pharmacy for a testing kit?” he teased.
I laughed. “No, you don’t.”
Ranger smiled. “I am actually not surprised that you got sick. You have been working an incredible number of hours lately and there has been an incredible amount of pressure on you to perform. Something was going to break down soon, and personally I would rather see you get the stomach flu than see you fall asleep at the wheel when you were driving.”
“I was okay.”
“Apparently not, Babe, if you’re making yourself sick. Do you think you should take another day to rest?” He guided me onto the elevator and pressed the button for the seventh floor.
“I’m all right, but thanks for being concerned. I want to start to focus on Nyetta again. And I want to go to the bank and deposit my cheque. My bank account could use the cash infusion.”
“Are you doing all right financially now that you are working at Rangeman as well?”
“Yes, I am. Last month I was actually able to move some of my chequing account into my savings account, and it has been a long time since I have been able to say that. Even better, with this cheque from Vinnie I will be able to do the same thing again this month.”
“If you ever need money, just let me know.”
“Thank you”, I said, reaching up on my tiptoes to kiss him on his cheek. “That’s not necessary, but thank you.”
Ranger keyed us into the apartment and called down to Ella that we were ready for breakfast. While we were waiting Ranger poured both of us a coffee. “I’m around today, if you want to take another run at the doctor’s office. I was able to do today’s work yesterday so that I would have time to help you today if you needed it.”
“Thank you. I plan on telephoning all his family and friends that I can find as well to see if they know where he’s located.”
“Let’s try the doctor first, and then if he is of no help you can try phoning family and friends.”
Ella came in with breakfast, giving us a huge smile. “I heard about the bebé. Congratulations!”
“Baby! I had the stomach flu! I’m not pregnant!”
Ella’s face fell. “You aren’t pregnant?”
“No. Just overtired and I caught a bug. I’m sorry”, I said when I saw the disappointment on Ella’s face. “Just judging by time of the month, I am definitely not pregnant.”
“Oh, I just thought…One of the guys said you were at the doctor’s yesterday, and then when you threw up…And then when you needed to rest yesterday afternoon. Everyone thinks that you are pregnant. The guys are already laying bets as to when you are going to tell us, and whether the baby is going to be a boy or a girl.”
“My staff have too much time on their hands”, said Ranger in disgust.
“They are all just happy for you, and this is their way of wishing the best for you”, soothed Ella. “Don’t be angry with them. They are just having a bit of harmless fun.”
“So should I send out a staff memo saying that Stephanie isn’t pregnant and that she had the stomach flu?”
“Or”, said Ella, “you could let it go and I will bet that Stephanie isn’t pregnant. Considering everyone thinks that Steph is pregnant, I could earn a significant amount of money.” She laughed and, I could not help it, I started laughing with her.
“Aren’t you even the least bit upset about this?” Ranger asked me.
“Not really. Remember, I went through this yesterday at the bonds office, and we went through this to a certain degree with both sides of our families. As long as we are having a relationship, people are going to wonder every time I am sick or overly tired. They do it out of love for us. At least, that is what you tell me when my mother starts pestering me to have children. Is it any different when it is your staff? At least they aren’t telling you that you should have children or get married like my mother does.”
A muscle jumped in Ranger’s jaw before he smiled. “I will still send out a memo to everyone today. I will do it at the end of the day, Ella, so that you have time to lay your bets.”
Ella thanked Ranger, then said “don’t take any notice of your breakfast. I made it when I thought you were pregnant.”
Curious, I lifted the plate cover as Ella was leaving the apartment, and started to laugh out loud. She had made a plate of scones, all in the shape of pacifiers, and had included a pot of strawberry jam, a pot of marmalade, a dish of butter, boiled eggs, orange juice, and what appeared to be a mug of ginger tea. When I looked at Ranger, he smiled. “Ginger tea is made with a piece of ginger steeped in hot water. It is old remedy that is good for settling tummies.”
I tried a bit and wrinkled my nose. “I think I am especially glad I’m not pregnant if that is supposed to make you feel better.”
“You might like it better if it had honey in it, or if it had sugar in it. Think of flat ginger ale. It is fairly similar.”
“How are you going to tell staff that I am not pregnant?”
“I am going to send out a memo asking if I can bet as well, and I am going to bet that you aren’t pregnant.”
“Okay. Just don’t give the guys a hard time. They are just having a bit of harmless fun in a job that is essentially pretty boring.”
“I won’t. I was more worried about your reaction. If you were at all upset about this, I would be stamping down on it as soon as I get in the office. However, since you aren’t I will let them have their fun for the day and will send out my memo this evening.”
Ranger and I entered the doctor’s offices for Nyetta’s doctor. He was with a patient when we got there. We sat and waited in the waiting room, Ranger sitting in a corner with a good vantage point on the whole room, me sitting beside him. Ranger stretched out his legs and steepled his fingers as he entered his tranquil stillness, his heartrate decreasing to reptilian level. I was not so calm. I fidgeted as I waited, shifting on my seat so frequently that Ranger left his meditative state and re-entered the world of the living. “Something on your mind?” he asked.
“No, not really. Just worried about what Nyetta is doing while he is roaming free.”
“We are doing everything we can to catch him.”
“But what happens if he has attacked another little girl while I was concentrating on all the other skips that I captured on Monday?”
“What happens if he didn’t? What happens if you had concentrated on catching Nyetta and Madison had got behind the wheel of a car while drunk again and hit someone? Or if Piper had hurt her husband again or, god forbid, hurt her baby? Or if Bermley hurt little Alexandria or moved with the baby away from the baby’s father so that we were not able to find her? There are all sorts of ‘what ifs’ that could have happened. Don’t torture yourself with them. Just deal with what did happen and move on.”
I snaked my hand over and put it in his. He gently squeezed it, then brought it up to his mouth to kiss my fingers. “Don’t drive yourself nuts over ‘what ifs’, Babe. It is an unproductive use of your time.”
The receptionist came out and called Ranger and I into the doctor’s office. The office was comfortably utilitarian, with simple, minimalistic lines and clean colours. We sat in the chairs in front of the doctor’s desk. A couple of minutes later an older gentleman came in. “How may I help you? You said that you are here about Nolan Nyetta?”
Ranger looked at me, so I took lead. “I am Stephanie Plum and this is Ricardo Manoso. We are here representing Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. Nolan Nyetta was arrested a little bit ago for the rape of three little girls. He raped them in a desperate bid to cure his AIDS. He was due in court a couple of weeks ago, but did not show up. This makes him a fugitive and it is our job to bring him back into the courts to reschedule the date of his trial. Anybody who withholds information is considered aiding and abetting a fugitive, which is a big no-no. We have been staking out his apartment but have not yet found him. Do you know where we could find him?”
“I didn’t know about the children. I knew about the teenagers, but was able to convince him that the teenagers would not cure him. I thought that I was able to convince him that unprotected sex of any sort was a bad idea for him, but I guess I did not get through to him the way I thought I had.”
“Did you report the rapes of the teenagers?”
“No, I didn’t. He told me what he did in confidence, and I could not break that confidence. I did try to get him to turn himself in, but you can see how well I did with that thought. He really raped three young girls?”
“Yes. One was three, one was five, and the third was four. Those are only the ones we know of and were partly identified by the fact they all have developed HIV. There may be more that we just don’t know about yet.”
“Those poor little tykes. Unfortunately for them, they will not be able to achieve closure. Nolan died yesterday.”
“We will need to get a copy of the death certificate so that we can close our file.” The doctor opened a file and gave me the particulars I needed to be able to obtain a copy of the death certificate. “Thank you for your help.” Ranger and I stood up and shook the doctor’s hand, then followed him out the door.
“That’s that, then”, said Ranger as we got into his car. “You’re all cleaned up on cases.”
“Not quite. Lula texted me earlier this morning and said that she has two more files for me, Connie gave me three more yesterday, and I have some files to research. Life goes on.”
“But instead of having an insane workload, you’ll be working normal hours.”
“Rex will appreciate that. I’ll finally have time to clean out his cage.”
“I’ll appreciate it. I was thinking, we have never gone to see a movie together. Is there anything on right now that you want to see? Do you even know what is playing? I don’t.”
“Are you interested?”
I smiled. “Hell, yeah, I’m interested.”
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