I arrived at the bonds office, parking in the back parking lot. Vinnie was in, which was good for a couple of reasons. I had to talk to him about what was happening on the upcoming Monday, and because he needed to write me a couple of cheques. I needed to pay Rangeman back for Ranger’s assistance in Browne’s capture.
I walked into the office with lunch for Lula, Vinnie and myself in my hands. I placed the large bucket of extra crispy on Connie’s desk, with the large box of fries, some paper plates, some napkins, a handful of ketchup packets, and a six-pack of diet cokes. “Vinnie”, I called out, “put your pecker back in your pants. Food’s here.” There was a scrambling in Vinnie’s office and Vinnie came running, quickly zipping his pants up as he opened his office door.
“Oh. Lunch is here.” Vinnie sounded disappointed.
“What did you think I said?”
“I thought you said Lou was here.”
“Lou is my favourite pimp. He has the best girls in the business. He said he might bring something special out to me today. I’m waiting for his delivery.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“What are you doing here, Steph? You have lots of skips to catch. I am drowning in skips, and I suspect there will be another couple come in today for you to chase. I am getting an ulcer. Harry isn’t happy.” Harry the Hammer is the owner of the bonds office. He is a former interrogator for the mob. His name reflects his favourite interrogation tool rather than a skill in carpentry. Harry also happens to be Vinnie’s father-in-law. There were a whole lot of reasons why it was not advisable to displease Harry.
“I have a plan, Vinnie. If it all goes according to plan, we will capture eight of those skips on Monday. The other three I will work on this weekend.”
“How are you going to capture eight in one day?”
“With Rangeman’s help.” I outlined the plan for Vinnie and Lula. By the end of lunch both Vinnie and Lula had smiles spread from ear to ear. “What do you think?” I asked.
“It’s brilliant”, said Lula. “This could actually work.”
Vinnie nodded his head in agreement. “Knowing this will make my weekly dinner at Harry’s house more comfortable. He said he wanted to talk to me about the office’s performance this weekend. He met with the accountant yesterday and he did not sound happy.”
“I will let you know if I capture any of the other three this weekend as well”, I said.
“Do you need help?” asked Lula.
“Thanks, but no. Rangeman has a team on surveillance for Nyetta and Alyssa Peyton is a sixteen-year old girl. I am going to ask Ranger to do the capture. She will be drooling so much over him she will gladly go wherever he suggests. As for Vance Deville, I am just going to try to pick him up the usual way at some point this weekend. He’s on sick leave from his company as a result of the blast, and from what I understand he’s not very mobile, so I should be able to find him around his house.” I got up and put the lunch garbage in the trash bin. “I have a pile of work to do at Rangeman. Here are my body receipts. For Vivian Slater, it all goes to me. For Marianne Browne, sixty percent of the capture fee goes to Rangeman and the rest goes to me. If you give me their cheque, I will take it to them when I return to their offices this afternoon.”
“Don’t forget those other three. You still have to get those other three”, said Vinnie.
Getting back to Rangeman, I popped my head into Ranger’s office on the way down to my desk. “I have another favour to ask.”
“I have a teenaged girl, a sixteen-year old who needs to be picked up. I think it would ease matters if you were along.”
“Because you’re every girl’s dream. I think she would be quite willing to follow you anywhere.”
“Would you follow me anywhere?”
“I’m pleading the fifth out of self-defence”, I said with a laugh. “Are you in for this evening?”
“I love to do anything with you. Sure, I’m in.”
Four o’clock was a good time to break. I had just finished my fourth Sales file. Three more showed up in my in-box in the same time period. I felt like I was doing one step forward and two steps back, even though I was making slow progress overall. I picked up the completed files and stopped by Ranger’s desk. He was on the phone, so I whispered to him that I was going down to Sales and would meet him in the range.
I grabbed a box of bullets from the storeroom and walked down the three flights of stairs to Sales. I walked in, saying “hi” to everyone and walking back to Emilio’s desk to drop the files on it. “I just got three more requests this afternoon. I should be able to get to them this weekend.”
“You don’t have to work on the weekend, Steph. Monday is plenty soon enough.”
“I am busy Monday, but thanks anyway.”
“Tuesday is fine, as well”, Emilio said with a smile.
“I will keep that in mind. Sleeping this weekend sounds really good, too. How are you doing? Do you have plans for the weekend?”
“I am painting the living room this weekend, and am having dinner with the in-laws on Sunday. A pretty boring weekend, but since I like painting, it will be a good weekend as well.”
“Do you get along with your in-laws?”
“I do. They are nice people.”
“That’s good. I never got along with my ex-husband’s family. It was a source of tension in our marriage.”
“Is that why you broke up?”
“No, it was walking in on one of his many girlfriends doing the deed with him that caused the split. We are still in the record books as the most acrimonious divorce in Burg history.”
“Ouch. I didn’t know you lived in the Burg. I just moved there myself.”
“Yup. Born and bred there. My family still lives in the house that I grew up in, and my sister has moved back into the Burg. I live just on the outskirts.”
“I’m sorry. I thought you lived here.”
I paused, struck by the knowledge that everyone in the building thought that I was living with Ranger. And I guess in many ways, I was. “No, I have my own apartment. I only live here when my life is in danger. I use the Rangeman facility as my safe house.” I picked up the box of bullets and wished Emilio a good weekend, then left for the range.
Entering the range, I saw Hal as he was finishing a training session. I put on protective gear and left the observation area to enter the shooting range itself. “Just finishing your shift off with a little practice?” I asked.
“Yeah. I haven’t been in a couple of days, so I wanted to get some shots in.”
“Do you practice every day?”
“Usually, from quarter after three to a quarter to four. I get out just before you come down.”
I looked at his target. “Tight grouping”, I said.
“Thanks. I am not up to Ranger’s usual, but I have definitely improved over the last year. And three years ago? I was useless. It is embarrassing to look back and review my targets.”
“My skill level is about where yours was three years ago by the sound of it.”
“Just keep practicing then. You’ll get there.” He picked up his box of bullets and, taking off his protection, left the range.
I cued up a circle target. Reminding myself of everything Ranger had taught me, I aimed and fired a clip into the target. I got many bulls-eyes, some of which were right in the centre.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ranger enter the range. Donning protection, he came onto the range proper and picked up a body target. He took out a picture and placed it face down on the ledge in front of me. Then he retrieved the circle target and replaced it with the body target. I gave him a dirty look. He ignored me. When the target was up he stapled a picture of Nolan Nyetta to the target’s head. “Good grouping on the circle target. That was a good warm-up. We are now going to do head shots on Nyetta.” I started hyperventilating. Ranger put his hand on my shoulder, giving me space to get control of myself. “Breathe, Babe. Remember what he is doing to all those little girls, and think about what you would do if he was sighting a gun on you.”
I stepped back. “I can do this.” I picked up my gun and shot seventeen shots into Nyetta’s head. Most hit somewhere, although many of them hit the ear region and would have ticked him off rather than incapacitated him or killed him.
Ranger brought the target up and exchanged it for a clean target. “Again”, he said. I shot another clip into the target. “Getting better. Try it again.” I refilled the clip and shot another one in the same target. Ranger had me do that five more times before he pulled up the target. “You have shot just over one hundred bullets into this target. Notice that the paper is shredded on the head. That is because you hit the target so many times. You did well. I am going to send down a clean target and you can try another clip in the head, and then one in the chest. We will count how many shots you are able to get in the target at the end.”
I was getting better on the shooting of the targets, but I was not so sure that I wanted to do the assessment at the end to see how accurate my shots were. I filled the clip with bullets while Ranger replaced the target. Then, I carefully sighted the target and shot a clip into the head. I refilled the clip and shot another seventeen bullets into the chest. I refilled my clip while Ranger pulled up the target. He took the target over to the table and picked up a red marker. He circled each bullet hole and counted the shots. “You did really well, Babe. Out of the seventeen shots at the head you were able to get thirteen somewhere in the head, and six of them were on the black centre. Out of the seventeen shots you had at the chest, you were able to get fifteen of them somewhere in the chest, and ten of them were in the black centre. Your biggest problem is consistency. While ten were in the centre of the chest, the remaining five were spread out throughout the rest of the rings. And that is not including the two that sailed over the shoulder of the target. The only thing that is going to improve consistency is practice, and you are already seeing a difference based on the amount that you have been practicing. You could not have done this a month ago. I think you should keep that target for reference.” He slung his arm over my shoulder and guided me out of the range. “Proud of you, Babe”, he said as he kissed the side of my head. I murmured my thanks as he said “how did it go with Sales? Are you still having problems with them?” Two weeks ago I had a problem with a member of the Sales team. He became obsessed with me and was fired for sexual harassment. Just one week ago I discovered that the Sales staff had made available a pool of money for the first person who got me to agree to go out with them. I told Ranger, and he met with the staff and told them they had to buy pizza for the whole company with the money they had collected, and that they had to desist on bothering me. Sometimes it is a bitch being the only single female in a company where ninety-nine percent of the staff are male.
“No. They seem to have relaxed quite a bit. I haven’t had a problem since the pizza party.”