“How much work did you get done this afternoon?” asked Ranger over dinner.
“I completed the research on Vinnie’s files and got two of Sales requests completed as well. I am partway through a third Sales request, and have five more to go after I finish this one. I suspect that you are going to have more for me to do with the installation of your new client as well, am I right?”
“I will, but I won’t be ready for you to do that work for another couple of days. I am still getting the names for us to research from our client.”
“Good. I’m glad I have a bit of time until I need to start that file.”
“You do. Did Eduardo, Miguel and Jake have any success this afternoon?”
“No. They brought in the apprehension papers from Lula though, so there was some progress made. However, they were unable to pick up any of the skips. Where did you get Jake from?”
“He was one of our new hires that we thought would make a good security personnel. Why?”
“Eduardo and Miguel said that he was grossed out by the stitches on the back of my leg. I thought he looked a little green when he saw them.”
Ranger laughed. “I noticed that as well. He will have to toughen up if he is going to make it at Rangeman. The number of knifings, shootings and beatings that can be a by-product of doing security can be high. You will not be the only person he will see with stitches in his career here. Most of the time the job is boring. It is the rest of the time that injuries can occur.”
“Hope he is better with it when it’s his partner that is hurt and needs help.”
“I’ll keep my eye on him. Who are we going after tonight?”
“We are going to try for Marianne Browne first. That’s the skip we have been trying for all day. If we do a couple of spot checks on her this evening and she still isn’t there, I am going to assume that she’s out of town and will leave her alone for a couple of days. After hopefully capturing Marianne, I would also like to go after the AIDS patient. I am worried that, with him being a serial rapist, he is continuing to rape little children while he is avoiding jail. I would like to capture him sooner rather than later.”
“Let’s try to capture him tonight. There are more reasons than simply missing his court date that make it important to capture him.”
“That’s what I was thinking. Start with Marianne and then capture Nolan Nyetta.” I stood up and cleared the table, Ranger putting the remaining vegetable lasagne, salad and dressings back in the fridge and me putting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher.
“What did Marianne Browne do again?” asked Ranger.
“She is the skip who was taking pictures of people’s credit cards and their security numbers, and using the information to shop online. She spent thousands of dollars and was only caught when a police officer working in the fraud division was off duty and happened to be shopping in the store that Marianne was working in. He caught her taking the pictures and demanded that he be allowed to look at the woman’s phone. When he said that he was going to call the police if he did not get a chance to see her phone, she relented. He found a number of pictures of credit cards and numbers on the phone. He arrested her and held her for questioning while he researched the credit cards. Several of the cards had been maxed without the knowledge of the cardholder, and several more of the cards had been maxed previously and the cardholder did not know anything about it until they received their statement, at which point it was too late to report the theft. The cardholders were required to pay the bill even though the card had technically been stolen.”
“So this was a smart thief who just happened to steal from the wrong person.”
“Looks like it.”
Ranger parked the car a couple of houses down the street from the Browne residence. I checked the file. She was divorced and lived with her parents. She had two young children and should be home looking after them.
Ranger and I got out of the car. Ranger put on his utility belt. I did not. I moved my cuffs up to the back pocket of my shorts. I did not need pepper spray, a gun or a stun gun. I had a Ranger instead.
Ranger and I walked up to the house and knocked on the front door. There was no answer but we could hear squeals from children upstairs. We rang the doorbell again and waited. There was no answer. After several more bell ringings, Marianne answered the door with a child wrapped in a towel in her arms. “What is it?” she asked, irritated. “You could have wakened the baby with your incessant ringing.”
“I am sorry to bother you, but I am Stephanie Plum and this is Ranger Manoso, and we are here representing your bonding agent. You missed your court date and we have come to take you into court to reschedule.”
“I can’t go right now. I am putting the children to bed.”
“I understand, but you need to get someone here to look after the children while we take you in. Perhaps your parents?”
“My parents are in Quebec on a holiday. They can’t look after the children.”
“Then, I am sorry, but you have to find someone else to look after the children. If you cannot, we can call in Child Protective Services to look after them.”
“You don’t need to call in Child Services. I will find someone. Just give me a few minutes to phone around to try to set up babysitting.”
Ranger and I followed Marianne into the house as she grabbed the phone and her phone book. On the sixth call, she found someone who was available to look after the children. “My brother’s going to come. How long do you think he’ll need to be here?” asked Marianne.
“I can’t answer that. I don’t know as I haven’t been involved in that end of the process before.” I didn’t want to tell her that she was likely going to be held at the station until the following day. It was after hours and the courts were closed for the night.
We waited about half an hour for her brother to show up. “I hope you are not going to be long. I left dinner warming in the oven for when I get home”, he said.
“I do not know how long Marianne is going to be. My job is just to bring people in and I am not involved in the rebonding process. Do you have anyone you can call to get them to turn your oven off?” I asked.
“I can call my neighbour.”
“Good. I would hate to think you caused a fire if you have to stay for a bit.”
“How long is a bit? I have an episode of Kustom Kars to watch, and my parents don’t get the Speed channel.”
“I really can’t say how long Marianne will need to be there. As I said, I’m not involved in that end of the bonding process. But I know that Marianne appreciates you coming to look after the children. If it had been left up to us, we would have had to call Child Protective Services to look after them.” I went up to Marianne and took out my cuffs. “I am sorry, but it is protocol to take all skips into the station in cuffs. We are not going to shackle you, however. I do not think that you are going to try to escape.” I didn’t want to cuff her. My instinct says that she was not going to try to escape. However, I was with Ranger and thought that it would be better to follow protocol. I hate looking stupid and screwing up in front of him.
Ranger went down to pick up the car and drive it into the driveway. I cuffed her behind her back and walked her to the front door to wait for Ranger. Marianne started to cry and her brother got upset. “Is this really necessary?” he asked. “Stop being mean to my sister.” He went into the kitchen and came back with a broom. “Uncuff her and let her go.” He raised the broom into the air and smacked it down on my head. The smack hurt, and the dust dislocated from the broom made me sneeze. I pushed the bawling Marianne out of the house, chased by her brother and his broom as he whacked me across my back and shoulders. Ranger drove into the driveway, and I opened the rear door of the Cayenne. I helped Marianne into the car and put on her seatbelt.
Meanwhile, Ranger got out of the car and captured the broom handle as Marianne’s brother tried to bring it down on my head again. “What you are doing is assault and my partner is within her rights to charge you. Your family does not need another person facing jail time. It would not be good for the children and it would not be good for your parents.” He checked to make sure I was getting in the car. “I’m going to give you your broom back and you’re going to put it back in the house. As long as you do that, we are going to forget about the assault. If you continue to attack either of us, we will charge you. Do you understand?”
“She put my sister in cuffs!”
“Yes, and if it was me I would have shackled her as well. However, because this is Stephanie’s capture I am letting her call the shots and she has requested no shackles.”
“You are treating her like a criminal!”
“According to her file, that is why she is supposed to go to court. She was caught stealing.”
“It was online stealing. That doesn’t count.”
“According to the Criminal Code, it does. Now, the sooner we get her into the precinct, the sooner she will be able to come home.” Ranger got into the car and started it up.
“Do either of you have children? Can you not let me go, so that I can look after my children?” begged Marianne.
“No”, I said. “I don’t have children and I can’t let you go.”
“If you had children, you would understand the need to look after those children. They’ll be scared if they wake up in the middle of the night and I’m not there.”
“You should have thought of that before you stole all those goods. Now they have a mother who is facing jail time and won’t be there to look after them when they fall and skin their knees or need a hug in the middle of the night when they have a nightmare. Who are you going to have look after your children when you’re in the slammer?”
“I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”
“That can be your Plan A. You need a Plan B in case you are put in jail.”
Marianne started to wail.
A few minutes later Ranger arrived at the precinct. He parked in the short-term parking. Together we walked Marianne through to the docking area. Apologizing, I cuffed her to the bench and handed her a tissue. Her mascara was running down her face with her tears.
I got my paperwork filled out by the officer in charge, and joined Ranger at the door. “Not bad”, he said.
“We still have a couple of hours to find Nyetta.”
We got back in the Cayenne. “Did Marianne’s brother hurt you at all?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave me a bruise or two, but he didn’t really hurt me.”
Ranger and I walked up to Nyetta’s apartment. He was on the fourth floor of a run-down building on the bad end of Stark Street in which the elevator was broken. By the time we got to the fourth floor, I was panting. Ranger was not breathing heavily in the slightest. “Cardio, Babe”, he said as he stopped at the top to give me a chance to regain my breath. “This is why cardio is so important.”
“Shut up”, I wheezed out without heat. Ranger looked like he was thinking about smiling.
After I was breathing regularly again, we walked down to Nyetta’s apartment and banged on the door. No one came to answer the knock. We banged a few more times, but no one came to the door. “What do you want to do, Babe?”
“I know we are on Stark and we are tempting fate by leaving your car on the street,” Stark was known for its crime-ridden environment and shady residents. Any car parked on Stark is considered in bounds in the chop shop game. “But I would like to stake out the building and try to capture this guy tonight if we can.”
“There is only the one main entrance and exit from the building. There is a secondary door that leads to the parking lot. Does your skip have a car?”
“No, he doesn’t. His collateral was a whole lot of diamond and gold jewellery. Some beautiful pieces, actually. His collection does not match his level of income and so you have to wonder how much of it was stolen.”
“It must be hard for Vinnie to screen for stolen goods.” He paused. “Okay, so chances are most likely he will be entering and exiting from the main doors. I have parked within view of the building. Why don’t we wait in the car in comfort and watch the building for him?”
Doing a stakeout with Ranger was a peaceful experience. There is no need for unnecessary talk, leaving me a lot of time to worry about all the work that was ahead of me. As I worried, I fidgeted.
“What’s wrong, Babe?”
“How do you know something is wrong?” I asked.
“You’re fidgeting so much you’re wearing a hole in the seat. There is either something bothering you or you have to go to the bathroom.”
“I don’t have to go to the bathroom. I purposely didn’t drink much water with dinner.”
“So what is wrong?”
“I’m worrying about all the work that is outstanding. We captured Marianne tonight, which was great, but there are still nine other fugitives out there to catch. I have five or more files from Sales to research, and your file will be coming soon as well. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. I have to figure out a method of capturing skips faster to try to get through this backlog that Vinnie has created.”
“Do you have any thoughts on how to do that?”
“I keep thinking of the time the police force offered free coupons for a toy store if you brought in your unregistered guns. I wonder if we could do something like that? Offer something for free, mail the coupon to the skip’s house and have them come in to pick up the free item. However, instead of giving them a free item we would cuff them and take them to jail. If we did it, it would require a lot of Rangeman manpower to pull it off.”
“That’s a good idea. What are you thinking of offering your skips?”
“That is the part that I am stuck on. The only thing I can see all the skips wanting is a bag of weed, and I think even the dumbest felons would be able to see through that. I was wondering about movie passes.”
“Yeah, or a case of beer.”
“Or a bottle of Jack.”
“A bottle of Jack could be good. You could phrase it that it was a free promotion offered to select Trenton residents in an effort to test out a new blend.”
“I think it could work. Most of the felons I have on my list don’t seem very smart.”
“Who do you have?”
I pulled the files out of my stuffed bag. “In addition to Nyetta, I have Shane O’Shaunessy, the felon who filled out a job application with his real name while he was waiting for the opportunity to rob a gas station. There is Lucas Cooper, a felon who cold called potential customers to find out if they wanted to buy some drugs. Unfortunately he called the wrong person and he was arrested when Lucas showed up to complete the transaction. Mila Madison showed up for her driving test drunk and was charged with a DUI. Vance Deville transported dynamite, which went off as he was transporting it. Apparently that’s a crime. Jonathan Jones lied in court to try to protect his rapist friend. Those are the ones that have been outstanding for a couple of days. I got three more in today. The first, Crystal Zoli, is wanted for solicitation. The second, Aiden Multan, was charged with selling illegal substances. He was selling powdered iguana testicles, advertising it as a method of increasing men’s virility. The last, Gianna Bermley, was charged with theft and child abandonment as she took a taxi to the convenience store that she was going to rob, left her one-year old in it with the meter running, and went into the convenience store to rob the place. She said she needed the money in order to be able to pay the taxi fare.”
“You are right. It doesn’t sound like there are any bright lights in there. You may be able to get a few of them through a Jack promotion.”
“Are you in, then? Can I count on Rangeman support?”
“Yes. I can pull the patrol staff and divert them to captures for the day. When were you thinking of doing this?”
“I don’t know. I’m still hatching the idea in my head as we speak. I’ll have to figure out where to have the promotion offered. I can’t have the fugitives come to the bonds office. They would figure it out. How about if we offer to come to the felon’s house. We could phone them and say that we are offering the promotion to them and need them there to collect their bottle of Jack as they will need to sign for it. That is one option. Or, we could rent a storefront and capture the felons as they enter the storefront. The problem with that option is that we would have to put out a significant amount of money to rent the space for nine felons. It might not make sense when you take into account the economics of it.”
“I like the idea where we go to the felon’s home. What we could do would be have you call and set up an hour-long window for you to show up. Then, you could show up with a couple of Rangeman staff in tow. You could identify the felon and, as you are getting them to sign the paper for the bottle of Jack, you could cuff them. You could leave the felon and his or her apprehension papers with the Rangeman staff, and you could collect another two support staff and go on to the next felon’s house. You could theoretically get through all nine felons in one day. I could give you seven support teams. Five patrol teams plus Tank and a new recruit for a sixth, and myself and a new recruit for the seventh. I know that I want to be in on the fun, and I know Tank will want to be involved as well. When are you thinking of doing it?”
“Soon. Vinnie needs the relief as soon as he can get it. When is Rangeman available?”
“Today is Thursday. How about we plan on doing it on Monday? That gives you time to set it all up.”
“Sounds good to me.” We sat in silence for a few minutes.
“You’re still fidgeting. What’s wrong now?”
“Now I have to go to the bathroom.”