Armed with antibiotic cream and instructions to return in a week to get the sutures taken out, I texted Vinnie from the car as we returned to Rangeman. “I got bitten by a dog today. The bite is infected and has now been stitched up. I am going to be out of commission for the next couple of days. I brought two of your nine skips in today. I have done the research on each of the remaining skips already and will be doing the analysis tonight. Ranger is pulling a team off patrol to pick up the skips for you. Don’t worry. We’ll get them.”
I sent another text to Lula. “The dog bite got infected. Ranger is just driving me back from the doctor who cleaned it up and sutured it. Ranger is going to provide a team to capture the skips over the next couple of days. No Joyce. Please text me with any details of any new files for me to research and pass along to Rangeman.”
By the time we got back to Rangeman, I had received a text from Lula. “Three new files. Will send you the details tomorrow. Sorry to hear about your leg. Take care of yourself.” I did not hear from Vinnie. I thought he was probably too busy dancing his happy dance. Rangeman staff are remarkably more effective bounty hunters than Lula and I are. There was a reason I called them the A team.
“I can’t believe this. Lula said there are three more files waiting at the office for me.”
“It’s feast or famine, Babe.”
“I could do with a little famine right now.”
“So could Vinnie. He isn’t making much money with having to pay you all those ten percents.” He keyed us into the underground and parked his car in his dedicated spot. Then, helping me out of the car, he led me upstairs to his apartment.
We finished dinner and put away the uneaten food in the refrigerator and the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. “Why don’t you work up here in the office? I have some reading to get done, so you can use the desk if you like. I will go down to your office for you to retrieve your research on each of your files.”
My phone pinged while Ranger was down picking up my files. It was a text from my mother. “Did not hear any gossip about you being in the hospital. You escaped under the radar. How is your leg?”
Instead of writing back to my mother, I called her. “Hi, Mom.”
“How is your leg?”
“It’s okay. There were a couple of car crashes that came into the hospital just before I got there, so I didn’t stick around for my leg. Ranger took me to the staff doctor this evening, and the doctor sutured it and treated it to ward off any infection. It hurts but I’ll live. What’s new around there?”
“Vivian Slater, I don’t think you know her, was found dead on her kitchen floor today. She lives just a couple of streets over.”
“I was the one that found her, Mom. She was alive when I found her, and she was alive when she got to the hospital. Has she died since?”
“You found her! I heard that she was dead when she was found, but if you are saying that she wasn’t, then…”
“No, she was definitely still alive. The paramedics thought she had a heart attack. They said that, if I had been even half an hour later, she probably would have been dead when I got there. It was her dog that bit me.”
“That mutt is a terrible animal. You should have shot it. All the neighbours would have thanked you for it.”
“Well, it’s true. The dog is yappy and constantly tries to bite people. You never want to go near that dog when it is out on walks. Vivian tells us that her dog is misunderstood. Misunderstood, my foot! Misguided, maybe. Misbehaved, definitely. Misunderstood, never. It is hard to misunderstand a dog that is trying to bite you. Did you just get the one bite?”
“I got one deep one, the one that required stitches. I got a few other little nips, but they didn’t break the skin.”
“You got lucky. Beverly Channing’s daughter got bitten by that dog, and she’ll likely require plastic surgery when she is older. She got bitten right below her eye. She’s terrified of dogs now.”
“I don’t blame her. How is everyone? How are Val and her family?”
“They are good. Val finally announced that she is pregnant again. She’s three months along. She’s still feeling sick, but she says the morning sickness is getting better.”
“Five kids. Wow. All the power to her. I couldn’t do it.”
“You could if you wanted to. You’d be a good mother.”
“That’s the thing, though, Mom. I don’t want to. I like my life the way it is and I don’t want to change it for anything.”
“You have nothing. You have no boyfriend. No children. A job where you find dead people and get bitten by dogs. No prospects for the future.”
“I have a hamster. I have friends and family. I have a job that I enjoy and, now that I am working part-time for Ranger, I have some financial stability and am even saving money. I am happy. Is Val happy? Because I certainly would not be happy with five rug rats running around my feet. I would be the most depressed mother you could ever imagine. I don’t think I would be able to take all that noise and confusion. I can barely take it when Val, Albert and the kids come over to visit, and that is when I know I get to go home at the end of the night.”
“It does get to be a little much, doesn’t it?” My mom laughed. “Val seems to be happy though.”
“Face it, Mom. I’m not a minivan-driving, carpooling, school-volunteering sort of woman. I would not be happy living my life that way. I am a much better aunt.” Ranger came into the room with my files and put them on the desk. “Thank you”, I whispered to him.
“Is someone there with you?” asked my mom.
“I‘m at Ranger’s. He just went down to my office and brought up some files for me so that I wouldn’t have to walk too far.”
“That was nice of him. Are you together with Ranger now?”
“We are good friends and we spend a lot of time together. That does not mean that we are boyfriend and girlfriend”, I said. And it was true. We have spent a lot of time together, and had three spectacular dates. But we only had three, and three dates do not make a relationship, even though it felt at times as though we were in a relationship. “I have to go, Mom. I have a tonne of work to do for Vinnie this evening. I have to catch up after missing time today to look after my leg.” I said good-bye and hung up.
“Sounds like you were delving into the relationship discussion with your mother”, said Ranger.
“She always wants me to settle down and have children. She doesn’t seem to understand that I am happy the way I am. I don’t need another person to make me happy, and I definitely don’t need children to make me happy.”
“With the work I do for the government, I don’t think I could even have more children. It wouldn’t be safe.” A couple of weeks ago, Ranger told me a secret. He told me of some covert work he was doing in the War on Drugs on behalf of the American government. This work endangers him and everyone closely associated with him and is one of the reasons he lives in a separate city from his daughter. A long time ago he was married just long enough to give his daughter his last name. His ex-wife has now remarried and his daughter, Julie, lives in Miami with her mother and stepfather. A couple of years ago Julie was kidnapped by someone trying to steal Ranger’s identity. It was a scary time for everyone and has resulted in Ranger pulling back even more from his daughter.
By knowing him, Ranger feels that my life is also endangered. For Ranger’s comfort, I am now wearing a tracking watch at all times so that Ranger can find me wherever I am. While this makes Ranger feel more secure, I abhor the increased level of monitoring. I find it restrictive. As a testament to how much I like him – maybe even love him – I have not yet run screaming from the building.
I opened up my files and started reading, jotting notes down as I went and as I created capture plans for each of the skips. I got five skips in when Ranger came back into the office. “It’s time for bed, Babe. It’s after midnight. You have enough there to get the Rangeman team started, and you can finish the remainder of the cases tomorrow.”
I stopped and stretched. “I didn’t realize it was that late. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you up.”
“If it was a problem I would have come through earlier. You’re staying the night, aren’t you?”
“If that is all right.”
“It’s always all right for you to stay the night. As I have told you before, my bed is always open to you. Tell me about the skips that you’ve picked out for the Rangeman team to capture tomorrow.”
“I’ve prepared capture plans for five of the seven skips. One of the skips I especially want you to capture. Nolan Nyetta. He has AIDS. There is a myth out there that one can rid themselves of a STI by having intercourse with a virgin. He has raped three little girls in an effort to rid himself of the disease. He seems to be all over the place, not shopping in any one particular location, banking in any one particular branch or attending any entertainments regularly. We can try getting him at home and, if we cannot get him there, we can try at his doctor’s office. He should be going for regular appointments. I was thinking that we could focus on some of the easier skips in the morning, then focus on Nyetta in the afternoon. Make sure that all staff are aware that he has AIDS to ensure that he doesn’t bite anyone or anything like that.”
Ranger kissed me awake at eight the next morning. “You were so tired you did not even wake when I got up for a workout this morning.”
“It was a late night.” I sat up, pried my eyes open and gratefully accepted a coffee. “Did you get up at five again?”
“How come we can go to bed at the same time, but you can get up after four hours of sleep and be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and I am barely functioning after seven?”
“One of life’s mysteries, I guess.”
“Hunh. Time for a shower now, or breakfast now?”
“Sorry, but I was trying to let you sleep as late as I could. Ella just brought up breakfast.”
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “I’m good. I can do this.”
Ranger tucked some hair behind my ear. “How is your leg?”
“It was lucky that the doctor said you could get the bite wet. I won’t have to tape a plastic bag over it so that you can shower. But I still want to take a look at it after breakfast to see if the redness has gone down.”
Ranger helped me out of bed and held my coffee while I put on Ranger’s housecoat. I hobbled through to the kitchen and sat at the breakfast bar while Ranger doled out breakfast. Ella had made a good one, French toast with apple cinnamon topping. I enjoyed every mouthful.
“What are you planning on doing today? Are you doing research all day and sending out the Rangeman team, or are you going to go out with the team and do the captures yourself?”
“I plan on finishing the research this morning and sending out the team by themselves, and then going out with the team this afternoon.”
“Should you be resting your leg instead of going out?”
“I was planning on my leg feeling a whole lot better this afternoon.”
Ranger laughed. “I’m glad to hear that you are thinking positively, but sometimes one’s body has different ideas from what you planned. See how you feel before you decide what you’re going to do.”
“What do you have planned for the day?”
“I’m around the office today. I’m working on that new secret training program that Tank and I were working on over the weekend, and I’m devising a security system for a new personal client that we got signed up yesterday. Using your cases, Calvin and Hal are going to be training Logan this morning. Eduardo is going to be training Luke this afternoon. If you go out with him, you can also train Luke at the same time. If you choose to not go out with them, I will send Miguel to help train Luke.”
“Thanks. I should be good to go.”
“Decide later. You don’t have to decide until eleven o’clock when the shift changes and the patrol guys come in to handle monitoring. Although our new recruits will not actually be doing monitoring, I require all patrol staff to know how to do the job in case they are needed. In a pinch, I can do without patrol staff but I absolutely cannot do without monitoring staff.”
I finished my breakfast and, on Ranger’s request, showed him the bite. “It is looking better, Babe. It is not so red and hot anymore. The antibiotic shot seems to have cleared up the infection. You should put some more antibiotic cream and a gauze bandage on it this morning. Do you need help?”
“No, I’m good, thanks.”
I met with Calvin, Hal and Logan in the break room grabbing a coffee. “Hey, Steph. We heard we are finding your skips this morning. How is your leg?”
“Sore, but I’ll live.”
“I heard the dog did a good job. I would have shot the mutt”, said Calvin.
“That’s what my mother said.”
“You can’t shoot a dog!” said Hal.
“And that’s what I said”, I said with a smile. “It is so rare to hear my mother advise me to shoot something, it took me by surprise.” Hal started to laugh. He had met my mother several times in the past when he was providing protection to me. He knew of my mother’s hatred of guns and even greater hatred of me using them.
“I can see why it took you by surprise, Steph. She must really hate that dog.”
“Apparently I’m not the only person that the dog has bitten. He bit a little girl not that long ago, and she’s going to require plastic surgery to recover.”
“Who do we have up for today? Let’s get this show on the road. I am ready to go out and capture bad guys”, said Logan enthusiastically. He had grabbed his coffee and looked ready to run down to the car and take off after the first skip.
“Slow down, cowboy. I’ve prepared files for five of the outstanding skips. Vinnie has two more that I am creating capture plans for this morning, and Lula has texted me the info on three more. I also have a body receipt to take into the bonds office when you go for payment.” I handed the receipt over to Hal as I walked over to one of the tables and sat down. “I think the first person you should go after is Marianne Brown. She stole credit card information and used it for online shopping. She has been fired from her job as a cashier at a clothing store as a result. I have not been able to identify a specific time when she might be home. Her internet usage is all over the map, but instinct is saying that the earlier you go the more likely you will find her there. Alternatively, she purchases a coffee from Starbucks every morning at some point between ten and twelve. You can always stake out the coffee shop in an effort to capture her. Since she is a medium bond, she will be a good one to catch.” I handed the file to Hal.
“Don’t you have any higher bonds to capture?” asked Logan, disappointed.
“Yes, one, but it is going to require a stakeout and more research, so it would be better to clean up the remaining cases first.”
“Okay, let’s go”, said Logan.
“I have other files prepared for you, but Marianne would be the best person for you to start with.”
“All right. We will check in with you when we either have caught her or need a change in scenery”, said Hal.
Two hours later I was finished creating capture plans for each of the remaining skips, including the three new ones from Vinnie. I sent a text to Hal. “How is it going?’’ I got the response “Skip was not at house. Have been drinking coffee at Starbucks for the last hour and a half. I am starting to float. Logan is antsy. Grasshoppers.”
I reviewed the files, and decided that it would be better to follow up on the Marianne file this afternoon by simply knocking on her house door and, if she was not home, to try to capture someone else and leave her for the next morning.
I looked over the other files and decided that Jonathan Jones, the perjurer, would be the best person to start with in capturing skips this afternoon. I had his work address and would be able to take him there. I usually prefer to take them in their home as it is less embarrassing for them, but face it. Since he had lied in a rape case and got his friend’s charges dropped as a result of his lies, I had no sympathy for him. Luckily, his friend was re-arrested when the perjury became known.
Ranger popped his head into my office. “Do you have time for lunch?”
“I do.” I walked down to the break room to grab some lunch and carried a container of minestrone soup and a chicken and lettuce sandwich back to Ranger’s office.
“How is your leg?”
“Sore, but liveable. Much better than it was yesterday.” I crumbled soda crackers into the soup and started to eat.
“Have you decided whether you are going to go out skip chasing this afternoon?”
“I think I’m going to go out. I have a number of Rangeman files to research, but I was planning on doing them after dinner and going out skip chasing this afternoon. I have already let Eduardo know. He is doing regular patrol until one with Luke, and will swing by to pick me up then. We are going to start with the perjurer. Hal, Calvin and Logan did not have any success capturing Marianne Browne this morning, so we will try to pick her up as well. I would be happy if we could capture two skips today, even if Vinnie seems to be producing them faster than I can catch them.”
“I know you want to be there for the takedown, but remember that you don’t need to be there. The Rangeman staff are good at what they do. You could do the research on the Rangeman files this afternoon and take the evening off. It wasn’t that many days ago you fell asleep standing up.” And it was true. I had been working so many hours lately that I have been getting run down. About five days ago I was so tired I fell asleep at my desk and, when Ranger tried to guide me upstairs, I fell asleep again leaning into him in the elevator. He ended up having to carry me to bed.
“I know. But I want to be there. The guy lied so that his friend wouldn’t be charged with rape! I need to be on that takedown.”
“Can the guys capture anyone else instead?”
“Probably. I could send them out after Shane O’Shaunessy. He tried to rob a convenience store. The store was too busy when he showed up, so he filled out a job application while he waited for an opportunity to rob the store.”
“Don’t tell me he used his real name on the job application.”
“Yes, he did. And the job application mixed with the video surveillance tape got him arrested. He would be a good one to get off the streets just for his pure stupidity.”
“He probably just forgot his court date.”
“Possibly. Either way, it would be another one to cross off Vinnie’s list. The thing is, I would really like to be there for the takedowns. I am okay on sleep. I slept seven hours last night. I should be good to do research tonight.”
“Are you staying here tonight?”
“I need to get home to look after Rex, but thank you anyway.” Rex is my attack hamster.
“Are you going to stay for dinner?”
“Don’t plan on me being here. If I am, I will grab something from the break room and eat while I am working. If we can’t get Marianne this afternoon, I will try to get her this evening before I work on the Rangeman files. Vinnie needs her brought in.” My phone pinged. “Great. Lula says that two more files have come in for me.”
“Leave the Rangeman files and have dinner with me. After dinner, I will help you do skip chasing. This is getting ridiculous. Vinnie has overextended himself, and I doubt any of his felons have come in for their court dates in the last two weeks. He must be beside himself.”
“Judging by the number of texts I am getting from him, I think he is.” I finished up the last of my soup and started on my sandwich. “Thank you for the offer of backup this evening. I need to clean up the workload fast. The files for Rangeman are piling up. I’ll send a text to Eduardo letting him know that he is going out with Miguel and Luke this afternoon, and I will hang back until this evening to go skip chasing with you.” I wrote a text to Eduardo and Miguel. “Hi, guys. Change in plans. You are on your own for skip chasing this afternoon. I am going to try to get caught up on researching. Vinnie has more files for me, and there is a stack of Rangeman files for me to research. Ranger and I are going skip chasing this evening. Come on into the office and I will hand you over some files for you to work on.” I got texts from each of them saying that they would be in the office in about ten minutes.
I finished my sandwich and as I stood Ranger asked to see the dog bite. I stood with my back to him and lifted my leg so that my foot was on his chair behind me. He gently lifted the tape of the bandage and looked at the bite. “It looks good, Babe. I think you could take off the bandage and let the air at it to heal it now. Just put a bandage on it tonight when you spread some more of the antibiotic cream on.”
Eduardo came to Ranger’s door as I was putting my foot back down again. “Hey, chica, you have some files for us to chase?” Luke stood behind Eduardo and was staring at my dog bite. He looked a little green.
“I do. Come on down to my office and I will hand them over.” I threw out my garbage. “I don’t think I have time to train today, Ranger. I am too snowed under.”
“We can still do half an hour on the range, although we can skip the gym workout.” Just about when I was going to argue, Ranger said “it’s important, Babe. Create capture plans for Vinnie’s files, then work on Rangeman files to fill in the time before five o’clock At five we can work in the range for half an hour, then have dinner before going out this evening. It is important to practice regularly on the range. You are doing so well, and it would be a shame to lose the momentum.”
There really wasn’t anything I could say to that, so I led Eduardo and Luke down to my office, meeting Miguel on the way. “I heard you got bitten by a dog, chica”, he said.
“Yeah, one of those little yappy dogs with sharp little teeth. I felt like an idiot for needing stitches. The bite was almost as big as the dog was.”
“Hal told me that it got infected as well?”
“Yup. I had to go to the doctor’s last night and have it cleaned out and stitched up. The stitches are going to be in for a week.”
“I’m glad you’re taking care of it. We’re pleased to do your skip chasing for you while you’re down and out. Who do you want us to start with?”
“I want you to go after two people this afternoon. Hal, Calvin and Logan were on a stakeout for Marianne Browne this morning, but they couldn’t get eyes on her. I would like you to spot check her house. She is currently unemployed, so she should be around somewhere. I would also like you to go after Shane O’Shaunessy. He is also unemployed. I have the particulars of some pick-up locations with high potential to be good listed in the front of each of the two files. I think that will probably fill your time until you come off shift in two hours but, if things go relatively smoothly, could you pick up the Right to Apprehend papers from Lula at the office so that I can add them to the research for the three new cases that Vinnie sent me this morning?”
“Sure thing.” Eduardo took the files from me and looked through my notes. “Let’s start with Marianne Browne’s house, then go after O’Shaunessy. See you later, chica.”
I thanked the guys and then, looking at the pile of files in my in-basket, I headed down to the break room for some liquid energy.