I walked onto the fifth floor to see Hal and Eduardo at the monitoring stations. "Next time", said Hal.
"I just feel bad. Everybody interrupted their day to help me and I lost the guy."
"From what we heard, it would have been too dangerous for you to continue the chase. You will get them next time", said Eduardo.
"It will be harder now. He knows my car."
"So, drive one of the fleet cars", said Ranger as he came up behind me. "There will be another chance and you will get him then. Don't worry. There wasn't anything you could have done differently."
"You wouldn't have lost him."
"Yes, I would have. Like you, I would have elected to stay alive and not go through the intersection."
"I was coming up to see if you had time for a workout or to spend some time in the range?"
"I do. Let's go into my office for a minute and talk."
"This sounds ominous."
"No, not really." He led me into his office and closed the door. "A few things. First of all, thank you for not going through that intersection. The guys said they weren't sure at first whether you were going to stop."
"It did occur to me to just go for it. But I thought the guys would follow me and, if one of us was lucky enough to make it through the intersection, there would be no way that all four of us would."
"I know how much capturing this skip means to you, but no skip is worth taking chances with your life. These skips seem to be particularly important to you. Why?"
"The short answer is I don't know." I paused. "I have always been sickened by the thought of slavery. To think that a person is owned by another person is disgusting. Some of those poor women signed up for this life, thinking they were signing up for a better life. For the American dream. Others were kidnapped from their homes. No matter how they got here, the traffickers are taking advantage of the women and are treating them as moneymaking machines rather than as people with thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams. The women they choose to prey upon are women who have little power. Because of a language barrier, their illegal alien status, and segregation from society, they are helpless and that makes me angry. These women will never have a chance for a normal life, to fall in love, to get married, to have children if that is something they want.
"With what happened with Adam, I have become especially sensitized to those who are helpless, just because at times I felt so angry and helpless. And that was with a whole team of people behind me supporting me. It would have been so much worse if I had been all alone, not able to speak the language, trapped in this life, not knowing anyone other than other people trapped in the same situation, knowing I couldn't return to my home country, like these women must feel. What these women have to deal with is not sexual harassment like I underwent. It is so much worse."
"You're right. Slavery is disgusting and human trafficking is no better than slavery. No one should ever have to feel helpless or all alone. Although this slavery is different than your sexual harassment, I can understand why your feelings would be the same as theirs. You should never have to deal with sexual harassment again, at least not at Rangeman."
"Thank you, but I think it is an unfortunate fact that sexual harassment of some sort is experienced by nearly every female out there at some point or another. It's not right, but you have to learn to roll with the punches a bit. Most of it is harmless. Some isn't. You just have to put up with the harmless stuff and hope that you have support to help you with the stuff that is less benign."
"You will always have support here to deal with both the harmless and not so harmless harassment. Speaking of which, I spoke to Andy this morning. He did not know of the pool that had been started in Sales. Together we talked to the Sales team and made it clear that the next person who made any advances to you would be fired. We also said the money should be spent on a pizza lunch for the guys on Friday. It was a significant amount of money so Sales is treating the whole company to pizza. You are invited to come as the guest of honour, but you do not need to come. If you think that it will make you feel at all uncomfortable, tell me."
"It will make me feel odd, for sure, but I think it will be important for me to do if I want to become one of the team. I wouldn't think twice about a pizza lunch with the guys from Operations and I need to get the relationship with Sales back on an even keel."
"I think it will be good for the Sales team to see how the Operations staff treats you."
"Will you be there?"
"Yes, I will be there for the entire time period that you are there."
"Okay, then. I will go."
"I have also asked that, for the time being, Emilio is sent up to Operations with any files and research requests. Once the hoopla has died down, we can try some of the other guys again."
"They can also e-mail their requests to me. They don't have to run them up. Then, when I finish the reports, I will run them down. It may be faster that way, and less annoying for Emilio. I was trying to get Adam and Sven to do that, but they preferred to run them upstairs. Could Sven look in your face today?"
"No. I talked to Andy about his performance. He isn't as much of a go-getter as we would like in Sales. He is too young and hasn't developed the way that we thought he would. I am not sure if we will keep him. I am still worried about his treatment of you. I know you think he is harmless, but both Andy and I are watching him to see what happens over the next few weeks before we make any final decisions. His annual review is coming up, so we want to have some decisions made before we meet with him then."
"He's just a pup. He's what, eighteen?"
"Twenty-seven? You're kidding! I can see why you are worried about him. He doesn't have the confidence for Sales. I always imagine that those in Sales need to have a fair amount of self-assurance."
"You just nailed Andy's concerns about him. He will try to work with him a little more, to see if there is something we can do to try to save the working relationship. The problem is that we are growing so fast, we are taking on staff too rapidly. We need people so desperately that we aren't getting only the very best but are also hiring some rejects in our attempt to hire bodies and fill spaces. We might have to chalk Sven up to a poor hiring decision. Tell me about the rest of your day."
"We caught the terrorist hoaxer. She was violently upset. We had to stun her to shackle her and get her into the car. She was so angry. She was having such a bad temper tantrum and shaking the car so hard when she came to I thought my car must have been dancing on its tires. I called for backup when I got to the station and Morelli came out to help me. When we released her from the seatbelt she head-butted Morelli and knocked him aside, then tried to run away. I tackled her, skinning her hands and knees. She was so angry. I don't know if I have ever had a skip that was so violently angry before, and that is saying something. I was happy when Morelli and I escorted her into the holding area."
"How was Morelli?"
"He was fine. He said that his grandmother wants to curse me."
"Just words, Babe."
"Not from where I'm sitting." Ranger just smiled. "Also, I found out the identity of the other skip. Do you know who it was? The lady last night who wanted to marry us. Her name is Aphrodite Akuna. Lula and I went back to the pub for lunch today and talked to the serving staff and the manager. She doesn't work there and no staff member knew who she was or even that she had been there. We looked at the surveillance tapes and she left shortly after talking to us. I have her address and work information, so Lula and I will try to chase her down tomorrow."
"Are those all the files you have outstanding? The traffickers and the cupid?"
"Yes, although Connie texted me on the way in here and said that I have two more waiting in the office. Vinnie has been upset about me not catching the skips fast enough. He is threatening to go out skip chasing himself."
"Vinnie?" Ranger let out a bark of laughter. "Wasn't the last time he went skip chasing the time he ended up dressed in a Hobbit costume?"
"I think he liked that Hobbit costume", I said.
"I actually could see him better as a furry."
"We know he likes dogs, and Lucille just found out about the duck. Thinking of him having sex with someone dressed up as an animal doesn't seem like that much of a stretch to me."
"I wonder what animal he would choose to dress up as?" asked Ranger.
"I always thought a weasel would be appropriate."
"Either that, or a beaver."
"True. Any excuse to get in a beaver…costume."