I told Ranger about my morning, about finding Vivian half dead on the floor and the protectiveness of her dog. I also told him about Isaac, and his unique slogan on his underwear. “I thought you were going to tell me that it said ‘can you give me a hand’ across the back”, said Ranger.
“I thought it could have said ‘don’t bother me – I’m in my happy place’.”
Ranger started to laugh. “How about ‘all hands on deck’?”
“Or maybe ‘say hello to my little friend’?”
I spent three hours researching Vinnie’s skips. By the end of the searches I knew physical characteristics, favourite haunts, the names of past sexual partners and the skips’ favourite colours. Ranger popped his head into my office. “Are you ready to head down to the shooting range?” he asked.
“As ready as I will ever be.” I put away my files and locked my purse away in my desk drawer. Ranger had already visited the storeroom and picked up a box of bullets for me. He led me to the elevator and down to the basement.
“Were you working on Vinnie’s work or Rangeman work this afternoon?”
“On Vinnie’s work. I have to do something to get the files cleaned up. I mostly researched and printed off information. I will go through it after dinner this evening.”
“Are you staying for dinner?”
“I was thinking I would grab something from the break room.”
“Ella has already made enough for you to stay at my place for dinner, and then you can head back down to your office afterwards if you want to work more.” Ella was Ranger’s chef and housekeeper. She looks after Ranger and his apartment, keeping his life easy and stress-free. She is also responsible for feeding the Rangeman staff, making an assortment of food available in the break room 24/7.
“Thank you. I may take you up on that, although it will have to be a fast dinner. I still have a number of files to do for Rangeman this evening after I get through Vinnie’s stuff.”
Ranger handed me protection equipment and, when I had put it on, opened the door to the range for me. He cued up a body target and looked like he was smiling when I glared at him. It was a mock glare. About two months ago I shot someone. It was in self-defence, but after I shot him I found it very difficult to shoot body targets. They reminded me too much of real people. It was even more difficult when Ranger affixed photos of real people to the heads of the targets. Luckily, today he did not have any photos in his pocket.
I was starting to get used to shooting at body targets. I was getting better at aiming for the chest. I wasn’t as good at aiming for the head. I shot a clip at the chest, getting many bulls-eyes. When I finished my seventeen shots, Ranger said “again. This time aim for kill shots at the head.” This time my glare was real. Ranger refilled my clip, giving me a minute to get my bearings, then handed me my gun.
“It’s just a piece of paper”, I muttered to myself. I brought up my gun and shot a clip into the head with some success. Half of my shots made it somewhere into the head, with the other shots close by. After a few more targets and several more clips, I was able to get many of the shots somewhere in the head. For the last clip, Ranger instructed me to aim for the chest again. All of my shots made it into the black centre of the target.
“You have really improved over the last few weeks. Three months ago you couldn’t hit a bulls-eye. Even one month ago you would not have been able to hit all your shots in the black centre. Now you are hitting more bulls-eyes than ever before, and you are hitting many more of the harder head shots as well.” Ranger took down the target and handed it to me. “You should hang this up in your office. You did a really good job on it.”
“Thanks, but I don’t know if I want that constant reminder of guns in my office. I would rather it was a gun-free zone.” We put away our protective gear and walked back towards the elevator. “What are we going to do in the gym this evening?”
“Just some stretches. Judging by the placement of that dog bite, you will find it pretty sore for fighting and, since you are still limping, I think cardio is going to be a little beyond you today as well.”
“You know, I would like to come back with some smart-ass comment about how I would gladly get bitten by a dog to get out of cardio any day, but my leg really does hurt a lot and I think even I would prefer to do cardio over getting bitten.”
We entered the gym. Ranger has made it a practice to shut down the gym when I am working out. He says that the distraction I present to the rest of the staff could cause injuries as the men would pay more attention to me than they would to what they were doing. Sometimes it is a pain being the only female, besides Ella, on staff. While Ranger blames the need to shut the gym down on the distraction factor that I present, I personally think that he just doesn’t want his staff oogling me when I am in workout gear. On my side, although I feel guilty for disrupting the men’s workout schedule, I am thankful that I don’t have witnesses to my general lack of fitness and my radiating red face following cardio.
Ranger sent a memo out to all staff on the weekend announcing that he was going to shut the gym down from four thirty to six each afternoon. That was the time that he earmarked for running me through my paces. Fifteen minutes of stretches, half an hour to three quarters of an hour of self-defence training, fifteen minutes of cardio, and finishing with another fifteen minutes of stretching. It was my least favourite time of the day and was only tolerable because Ranger gives me massages after I work out. His massages are amazing. The dessert that he arranged for me to have for every time I do at least fifteen minutes of cardio doesn’t hurt either. At Rangeman, dessert is non-existent and him arranging to give me dessert was a huge concession to my sweet tooth.
There were three people working out and, when they saw Ranger enter the gym with me, they immediately got off their machines and headed for the door. Ranger scrambled the security feed for the monitoring stations and followed the men out to the door, locking it after them.
“We are going to do some stretches, then do some slow-motion self-defence moves, followed by more stretching.” Over on the mats, he led me through a series of stretches that over time were slowly becoming easier. Ranger saw me wince as I stretched my legs. “Does your bite feel hot at all?”
“It feels burning hot. Much like a hot poker is being stabbed into my leg. I don’t understand. It didn’t feel this bad immediately after I was bitten. It seems to have gotten worse as the day has worn on.”
“That doesn’t sound good, Babe. Let me see.” He carefully peeled the tape off my leg and looked at the wound. “It is red and inflamed, definitely infected. Instead of finishing a workout, we’re going to go to the doctor’s before dinner. If the staff doctor is not available, we will find a walk-in clinic to go to. You need this taken care of sooner rather than later.”
“Again, I think I would rather do the workout than have a need to go see the doctor.” I smiled. “Remind me of this when I say that I would do anything to get out of exercising.” I picked up my gun belt and limped to the door. Ranger unscrambled the feed, unlocked the door, and led me up to the Operations floor. While I was getting my purse, Ranger called the staff doctor.
“He was just getting ready to leave, but said that he would wait for us to come. He will be able to take us right away when we get there. I have let Ella know that we might be a few minutes late for dinner.”
Ranger drove me in the Cayenne to the doctor’s office. We got there just as the receptionist was leaving for the day. She held the door for us as I limped through.
The doctor met us at the waiting room, leading us back to the examining room and asking me to lie on my stomach on the examining table. He took off the bandage, then washed out the bite with antiseptic wash. “I am going to put a couple of sutures in this”, he said. “The bite is quite deep and I think it would heal better if there were sutures in it. I am also going to give you a shot of antibiotics to help with the infection.” He left to get the suture kit and the shot.
“How are you doing, Babe?”
I sighed. “This wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my evening, but it is what it is. I’m glad that Dr. Mendez is looking after it. I just hope that it feels better tomorrow. I need to go out and capture those skips before Vinnie brings in the C team.”
“The C team?”
“Yeah. You’re the A team, I’m the B team, and Joyce is the C team. I labelled her as the C team because she has only been successful once in bringing in a skip, and I helped her with the capture. Not because of what the letter ‘C’ stands for, although that would describe Joyce as well. Vinnie is degrading his standards.”
“You have already run the research for each of the skips. Why don’t you do the analysis tonight and tomorrow, and I will send a team out to do the captures tomorrow and the day after? With sutures in your leg, you are not going to be running anywhere over the next couple of days, and it would be hard for you to do the capturing with only you and no backup anyway. If your leg feels up to it, you can go out to do the captures with the Rangeman team or, if you would prefer to rest, you can let them do the captures on their own. You can let Vinnie know this evening, so he knows not to call in Joyce.”
“You don’t mind?”
“No, in fact you would be doing me a favour. I am training some new recruits right now. I would be able to send out a couple of experienced staff members, whether that is you with another Rangeman employee or two other experienced Rangeman employees, with a new recruit and we would be able to use the captures as training opportunities.”