I woke up, bathed in sweat, sheets tangled around my torso, to the same nightmare I had experienced every night over the last three weeks.
Brodie saying "I am going to kill you, bitch. You shot me and now you are going to die." The sound of my gun going off and seeing Brodie fall to the floor, blood spreading across his chest and leaking out onto my carpet. Morelli yelling at me, saying it was all my fault.
Despite the fact it was still dark out, I got up and walked into the kitchen, skirting the area of carpet still bloodstained. Rex was running enthusiastically on his hamster wheel. When I turned on the light he stopped and stood, blinking his beady black eyes at me in confusion. He turned back towards his wheel until I said "do you want some food?" Then he stared at me, whiskers twitching, body vibrating in excitement.
Shaking off the vestiges of the nightmare, I searched in the fridge for my drug of choice. My body was vibrating in excitement, too. I took out a bag of two-bite brownies and an aerosol can of whipped cream. Happy food. I opened a bag of raisins and put one in Rex's dish. He scurried over, stuffed the raisin in his mouth, and ran over to hide in his soup can hidey-hole. Bliss in hamster-land.
Not bliss in Stephanie-land. I started the coffee and sprayed a dollop of whipped cream on a brownie and shoved it all in my mouth at once. Whoever named them two-bite brownies was much more of a dainty eater than I am. Seriously. Who actually eats them in two-bites? I would have called them one-bite brownies. I sprayed some whipped cream directly into my mouth, then prepared another brownie-whipped cream concoction for eating.
I ate standing up. Everybody knows calories don't count if the food is consumed standing up. It is only when you are sitting down that calories have a chance to grab hold. And since I had resorted to wearing stretchy yoga pants lately, I could use all the help I could get.
Food worked its usual magic. After several brownie and whipped cream masterpieces, my emotions were steadier even if my stomach wasn't. I poured a coffee and put the remaining brownies and whipped cream away before jumping in the shower. After a long, hot shower the coffee and sugar had kicked in and I felt remotely human again. I blasted my hair with the hair dryer, put some concealer on the black circles under my eyes, and gunked my eyelashes up with mascara. I looked in the mirror and stuck out my tongue. My eye bags would soon need a bell hop to carry them around. I threw on a pair of my new black yoga pants, a black Rangeman stretchy t-shirt, and a too-large hoody I had scammed from Ranger's closet. I rolled up the cuffs and grabbed my purse. I was as ready as I would get for the day.
I walked into Rangeman at six thirty and headed straight for my desk. I put on the holster and gun – God, I hate that thing. It makes my stomach feel squishy – and turned on the desk lamp and computer. While the computer was booting up I went to the break room to grab a coffee, running into Miguel while I was there. "Just coming on shift, or off?" I asked. Ranger's patrol and monitoring staff work around the clock in three shifts – seven to three, three to eleven, and eleven to seven – on a two-week rotation.
"Just coming on. I wanted to do a work out before my shift. I am in the control room for the first four hours and on patrol the next four. How is the research desk going?"
I grimaced. "Slowly. I am just thankful I installed the Songza app on my phone. You would be distracted on the floor by the snores coming from my desk otherwise."
"I hear you. I remember when I was doing that job. The quiet and dim lights on the floor are perfectly conducive to sleep. I think there were a few times when I nodded off. I heard you made a good save on one of Jay Technologies' potential hires."
"Thanks. I didn't want to see anyone else threatened by this guy if I could help it. It's a shame people are too afraid to come forward to charge this joker. He needs to be arrested and put in jail."
"I agree." Miguel picked up his coffee and headed to the floor. On my side, I looked over the breakfast selections and decided my stomach was too unsettled from brownies and whipped cream to eat anything else. I poured myself a coffee and added cream. Then, taking my coffee to my workstation, I settled down into researching potential companies and private citizens for the Sales department.