TRIGGER HAPPY TWENTY-THREE: A STEPHANIE PLUM-INSPIRED NOVEL
I phoned my mom and gave her the change in phone numbers. I phoned the office and gave them the change in phone numbers. And I phoned Morelli and gave him the change in numbers. Talking to him, I explained "I hadn't told Connie and Lula what was going on. So when a guy called and asked for my cell number this morning, Lula didn't think anything of it and gave it to him. I got a call from him minutes after leaving the office. He said that he was watching me. Neither Ranger nor I could see anyone out of the ordinary though, so I don't know if he was just saying that. I turned off my phone, and Ranger is lending me one of Rangeman's until this is sorted out."
"What was Ranger doing while you were being harassed on the phone?"
"He was sandwiching me between himself and the front of the bonds office, protecting me with his body. If Brodie had tried to shoot me again, he would have had to shoot through Ranger first. It was kind of scary, actually, that someone would put themselves in danger so they could protect me."
"That's the nature of Ranger's job. And of my job. The fact we know you just makes that job personal."
"Well, your job stinks."
"Sometimes it does. But when you catch someone, when you stop some of the insanity, it makes the job worthwhile."
"So how is the painting going at your parents' place?"
"A couple more days and they should be going home. Bob will be glad. I am sleeping on his couch and he has to sleep on the floor. He is not happy. Last night he tried to climb on top of me and he growled when I pushed him off."
I sat behind Ranger's desk and turned on the computer. I pulled out my files. There were two left over from last week. One was Lucy Robinson, a medium bond woman arrested for identity theft. She put her car up as collateral to secure the bond. I plugged her name into Ranger's programs. As the reams of information came up, I saw that she was the single mother of three kids. Living in the projects, she did not have a job. I decided I would take her in the morning next week so she would have time to get rebonded before the kids were due home from school.
I looked at the second file. A DUI arrest, Davina Sanders was a low bond. It was her first offence. She lived in Hamilton Township. She was married with no kids. That was good. I didn't need to be concerned about capturing her in front of kids or parents – I hate doing that. It just seems wrong to me, and causes a lot of unnecessary upset. She offered her TV as collateral.
Connie had given me two new files today, both of which were high bonds. The first of the high bonds, Willy Couch, was arrested for attempted murder. He would have been charged with domestic disturbance, but when Willy decided to throw his wife through the window and then go outside and kick her until she was unconscious and half dead, he increased the severity of the charges. He was still married, but his kids were all older and no longer lived at home. He lived in a neighbourhood just off State Street. He put his house up for collateral to secure the bond.
The second of the high bonds was for a man named Thomas Elanski. He was a 25-year old man who was charged with rape and attempted murder of a 13-year old girl. While raping her, he tried to strangle her. A passer-by heard the struggles and came to investigate. She interrupted the raping and thankfully saved the girl, and she was able to identify Elanski. His wife put their house in Hamilton Township up for collateral on the bond.
I printed off the search results for each of the cases and filed the information in each of the folders. I classified the files according to the value of the bond. I wanted to attack the high value bonds first, to take advantage of Ranger's expertise, and I wanted to have his protection when picking up some of the skips. I didn't want to meet that rapist by myself, and I'm not sure how much protection Lula would provide against the attempted murderer. I could technically bring them in myself, but I figured I might as well get Ranger's help on the big ones while I had it.
I finished putting the files in my purse and turned off the computer as Ella came in with dinner. When Ranger is home, Ella provides a gourmet meal every night. She put a casserole in the oven to keep warm, and a loaf of bread in the warming drawer. She put a new stick of butter on the counter to come to room temperature and put a salad in the refrigerator. Turning to me, she apologized for bringing the flowers up to me. "I thought they might have been from someone good – perhaps a client. It did not occur to me that they were from a stalker. I'm so sorry. I should have thought."
"Don't apologize. It's not your fault. There is just a very sick person out there right now, and he is getting his kicks out of stalking me. I will be glad when he is caught. But until he is, I guess I am staying here."
"Ranger will catch him quickly. He's good at that. But it is always nice when you stay here. I wish you came more often rather than only when you are in danger. Ranger never has anyone over to stay other than you. He is too alone. He worries me." Ella sounded more like a mother than she did an employee.
I went over and gave Ella a hug. "He is lucky to have you", I said. Ella gave me a little sort of embarrassed hug in return, then stepped away. Just as we were separating, Ranger came in the door. Spying us, he said "everything okay?"
"Yes. I was just thanking Ella for dinner. Doesn't it smell wonderful?"
Ranger looked at me quizzically. I gave him a small shake of my head, and he picked up on the hint. He asked Ella what was for dinner, thanked her for making it, and escorted her to the door. He locked the door after her, turned back to me, and said "what was that all about?"
"Ella was feeling guilty for bringing the flowers up to me. So I tried to make her feel better. She's a worrier. She worries about you, she worries about me. She is really a nice person."
"Yes, she is. I have known her for years, since I was a boy growing up in Newark. I'm glad Ella and Luis work for me now. They are good people." He got out the hot chicken and broccoli divan and bread from the ovens, while I brought the salad and dressings to the table. I set the table and Ranger poured wine. We dished up plates in the kitchen, and carried our full plates over to our seats.
"How was your client this afternoon?"
"Good. We have a new account. And it's a big one, which is nice. I am at the point where I need to hire more staff. How about you? Were you able to complete your searches?"
"Yes, I think so. If you have time tomorrow, maybe we could go look at some of them. I have two high-bond cases I would really like help with, in addition to Brodie. If I could catch the high value bonds it would address some of Vinnie's money flow problems, in addition to getting some money into my own account. Then I just have the medium-value bond and the low-value bond left. I feel comfortable doing those with Lula if I don't get to them with you. The high-value bonds scare me a bit, though."
"I have the whole day to help you tomorrow."
"Thanks." We cleaned up the kitchen and put the leftovers in the fridge. I put a leftover piece of green pepper from the salad in Rex's cage and changed his water. Then we went to the sofa and turned on the TV. There was no prevaricating about where I would sit tonight. Ranger sat down and I immediately sat down next to him, leaning my back into his side, my head on his shoulder. I could feel his smile as his arm came about me in a hug.
"Does this mean there won't be a pillow between us tonight?" he asked.
"The pillow didn't work. I will just have to trust you."
"Hey, it was your hand down my pants, not the other way around, Babe."
"But I have a boyfriend."
"That doesn't matter to me. I would never force you but if you give me the opportunity, I will take it." He gave me a kiss to the top of my head, then started flipping through the channels until he found a rerun of Spiderman playing.