"Hal called me while you were picking up your paperwork and said your car is on its way back to Rangeman. Ramon and Calvin found it. Cal stole it back. Apparently he had to pull his gun, but when he did the carjackers were quite happy to let Cal have it."
"The patrol staff must be getting tired of continually needing to pick up my car."
"I wouldn't worry about it. They think of it as a game. When your car gets stolen they line up trying to pick it up for you. The monitoring staff have been told to spread the jobs around so that everybody gets a chance to steal your car back. They actually keep a log on the station to try to ensure that no one person gets too many chances to carjack your car. It adds some excitement into what essentially is a very boring job."
"I don't know whether to think of that as being bad or good."
"It's good. Now, are you seriously wanting a shower?"
"He stunk to high heavens, he touched me extensively, and he came all over my skirt. Damn skippy I want a shower."
"Are you showering at my place or yours?"
"I want to shower at mine. All my clothes at your place are uniform black and I want to wear some colour this evening."
"Have you decided where you would like to go?"
"There is that new pub that opened up on Main Street, the one with the outdoor patio. I was thinking we could go there. I haven't tried it, and I don't know anybody who has, so I don't know if it would be good or not. I just picked it for the patio. Now that it's summer, it is definitely patio weather."
Ranger drove into my parking lot. "You are coming up? I thought you would have to get back to work."
"My day is flexible and I thought you might need a hand in getting clean."
Oh, boy. "Partner showering is always good", I said.
Following a shower where Ranger made sure that every inch of me was squeaky clean, I blasted my hair with the dryer, put it up in a ponytail, reapplied my makeup, and dressed in a stretchy sky blue tank top minidress. I paired it with a thin white long sleeved sweater from a sweater set and strappy silver heels. I was ready in under fifteen minutes.
After complimenting me on my appearance, Ranger said "are you going after your other skips today?"
"No. I can't run in this outfit and a gun belt looks stupid on it. I was planning on coming into the office, as long as it is all right to not wear black and not wear my gun. If not, I will pick up my car and go visit my mother."
"I don't mind you being out of uniform as long as you are in uniform when you are representing the company offsite. Just keep a couple of uniforms in my closet so that you can change into them if and when you need to. As for the gun, I will make a special exception today."
"Thanks." I changed Rex's water and put some hamster crunchies and a raisin in his bowl. Rex darted out and stuffed the raisin in his cheek, looked at me, body quivering, in thanks, and darted back into his soup can hidey-hole. All's good in Rex-land.
Telling him to be a good attack hamster and not to eat all of his dessert before he eats his dinner, Ranger and I walked out of the apartment. Ranger took my key and locked the door. I watched him, then said "someday you will have to teach me how you get into my apartment so easily when I have locked the door."
"I pick the lock, Babe."
"Sure, that tells me how you are able to get past the padlocks, and I think I know how you get past the security chain. But I really do not understand how you get past the floor bolt."
"Ahh. A guy's got to have some secrets."
"Isn't that a girl's line? That a girl has to have her secrets?"
"Apparently it is a unisex line. Everybody has to have some secrets."
"Not me. I don't have secrets."
"Yes, you do. Do you tell your parents and grandmother about all your daily activities? Will you tell them about the unfortunate ejaculator, Heskell?"
"I guess I see your point. I won't be telling them that. But I don't have any secrets from you."
"You have secrets from me. You just don't realize it. They may not stay secret for forever, but at this point you have secrets from me."
"Like how you feel about me and where you want this relationship to go, and whether you can accept the increased level of security. It's okay if you are still figuring that out yourself – so am I – but as of this point, where you are in your figuring is still a secret."
"I don't know the answers to those questions yet."
"I know. And neither do I." He held the car door open for me, shutting it after I had put on my seatbelt.
When we got back to the office, my car was waiting in Ranger's parking spot. It was shiny clean again.
Ranger and I walked off the elevator, and I walked over to Hal. "My car has been cleaned. Did someone bounce off the front bumper again?"
"No, this time I think it was the back bumper. Your bumper was dented slightly, but Cal knocked it back into shape before he washed it."
"I will have to thank him. My car hasn't been this clean in a long time."
"We haven't had this much fun in a long time, either", Hal said with a smile.
Sitting down, I opened up my phone and checked for messages. I had received one from Lula. "Hey, there. I assumed we aren't going out again today. I booked an appointment to get my nails done instead. Have another file for you, in case you want to research it. Aphrodite Akuna. She has been marrying people with no qualifications to do so. She has been arrested for fraud, but she seems rather benign. She could be fun to go after. Better than that loser today."
I wrote back, "thanks for the info. I will research Aphrodite while I am at Rangeman today. Am here for the afternoon. Will see you tomorrow."
I got the response, "have fun tonight. Let me know what the pub is like."
I also received a text from my mother. "Are you dead? I haven't heard from you for a while. Do you want to come for dinner?"
I responded with, "Not dead. Just busy. Thanks for the offer for dinner but I going out with a friend tonight. Will come soon."
Leaving my phone on my desk, I walked down to the break room, poured myself a coffee and selected a sandwich from the lunch tray and an apple from the fruit basket.
I cued up the Songza app on my phone to play upbeat '90s music and turned the volume down low. I turned on the computer and unwrapped my sandwich, eating it while I logged into the network and waited for the search engines to spit out information on Aphrodite. By the time I had finished my corned beef on rye and my apple, the computer was spitting information out at me. I printed it all off and put it aside to look at later.
Then I turned to the Rangeman files. There were six files from Sales to research that had been sitting for a couple of days. I tackled those files first. After four hours, I had finished the Sales files. Thankful for an excuse to get up and move around, I opened my office door. Sven was just putting some more Sales requests in the in-basket on the wall outside my office. "This is perfect timing", I said with a smile. "I was just about to come down to the Sales department to deliver some files. You have saved me some work."
Sven tripped over his tongue. "You look w-w-wonderful, Stephanie." He looked both ways and, not seeing Tank around, said "do you think you would be in-in-interested in g-g-going out with me some t-t-time?"
I saw Ranger come out of his office behind Sven and start walking towards us. "Thank you for the offer, Sven, but I am not interested in anything more than an office friendship." I handed him the files.
"We could go out as friends", he said hopefully.
"Thank you. I am sure you are a lovely person, but I am not interested in a friendship outside the office."
Ranger came up behind Sven in his cat-like way. "Sven", he said, making Sven jump, "I have already fired one person for making advances towards Stephanie. If you value your job, you will not make advances to her again."
"Yes, sir", said Sven. His face blushed red and, not looking at either Ranger or me in the eyes, he hurried away.
"Let me know whether he bothers you again, all right?" asked Ranger.
"He doesn't bother me. He is like an awkward little puppy, tripping over his feet in an effort to please me. He is harmless. He isn't another Adam", I said.
"I remember when you thought Adam was harmless as well."
"Adam took besotted to a whole new level. I think the infatuation with Sven will resolve itself as soon as he finds a girlfriend of his own."
"Are you in the matchmaking business now?"
"No. I don't know any girls who are that young. He's just a pup, still wet behind the ears. Although, it would be funny to see him with Lula. She'd chew him up and spit him out before he knew what was happening to himself."
Ranger laughed out loud, leaned down and gave me a light kiss on the lips, and whispered in my ear "Babe, you never fail to make my day." With another light kiss, he turned around and walked back to his office.
I took the files out of my in-basket and walked back into my office. Sven had brought me four more files from Sales to research. I sighed, picked up my coffee cup, and walked back to the break room for a refill on liquid energy.
Three hours later, Ranger was at my office door. "Are you ready to go, Babe?" He had changed into faded black jeans and a black polo shirt that stretched across his shoulders and biceps. My mouth went dry. He looked sexy. Better than, actually. He looked like an advertisement for something good. For Bulgari Green perhaps. I would buy it based on his looks.
"Can you wait fifteen more minutes? I am just about finished these files for Sales and I was hoping to drop them off on the way down to the car."
"Of course. I'll be in the control room talking to the guys when you are ready." I watched him as he walked away and checked to make sure I wasn't drooling. I hustled to finish the file, completing it in under ten minutes. Organizing my work into a file folder, I picked up my purse and locked my office door.
Walking into the control room, I saw Ranger talking quietly to Eduardo. He smiled when he saw me, said something to Eduardo and clapped him on his shoulder, then walked towards me. "That didn't take long. Did you finish your file?"
"Yes, I did, thanks. Can we just drop these off in Sales on the way out?" Ranger held the elevator door for me, then pressed the number for the second floor.
"Any surprises in what you researched?"
"Just one company. Nothing adds up. From what I read, I think it is a front for selling stolen goods. I have advised Sales to stay away from the company. The rest are all pretty commonplace, some big, some little. All profitable, nothing outstanding."
"What is the name of the company fencing stolen items?"
"You won't believe this. Gateway Fencing Company. And that is if I am right. I am not entirely sure, but that is how I am reading the information. I am sure enough to flag the company and advise Rangeman to stay away from taking them on as a client."
"You know, if I didn't know you were serious I would think this was a joke. A fencing operation named Gateway Fencing Company? Really?"
"I know. The irony is astounding." We walked into Sales. Sven saw us and scuttled away into a room in the back. "Here are your files", I told Emilio as I dropped them on his desk.
"Just a minute. I have to talk to Andy", said Ranger. He walked back into the office of the Head of Sales. He spoke to Andy for a couple of minutes, Sven peeking around the corner at me the whole time. Any time I saw him, however, he quickly flushed and looked away.
"Adam told us that you and he were getting married", said Emilio.
"Adam was delusional", I said. "I never gave him any encouragement, yet he persisted in believing he loved me. He didn't even know me."
"He wanted to."
"That's true, but you don't always get what you want. I hadn't known him more than two days before he decided he was in love with me. In comparison, after the same time period I did not even know his last name. He was sending texts to me and I didn't know who was sending the texts. If he had been reasonable, maybe I could have become friends with him with enough time. But he wasn't reasonable. It is impossible to hound someone into loving you."
Emilio lowered his voice to a whisper. "Just so you know, a number of men in Sales have chipped in and made a pool of money available to the first person to get you to agree to go out on a date with them."
I could feel my eyes grow round. "I hope that you didn't waste your money on this bet", I whispered back.
"No. I'm married and I've got three sisters. I wouldn't want my wife or sisters to be treated like that. I think only Andy and myself abstained. I don't even think Andy knows about it."
"Thank you for telling me."
I smelled the faint scent of Bulgari Green just seconds before I felt the tug on my ponytail. Ranger's hand drifted lower and settled on my lower back. I turned to him, and he kissed me lightly on the lips. "Ready to go, Babe?"
"Absolutely", I said, forcing a smile.
He looked at me, assessing, then guided me out of the office and into the elevator. "What's going on?"
"Emilio just told me everybody in Sales, with the exception of Andy and Emilio, contributed to a fund. Whoever was the first person to successfully go out with me will win the pot. It makes me feel a little weird. I am choosing to take this as a compliment, however, even if it does make me feel off balanced."
"I will deal with this tomorrow morning. This is ridiculous. I just spoke to Andy about Sven, asking him to stop sending Sven upstairs with the files. Tomorrow I will ask that Emilio be sent up instead."