Indisposed

The Only Good Rat is a Dead Rat

Hmm. Stella’s Yoga Studio. Deeks Googled it on his phone as he sat in the car. It was a couple of miles away. Kensi would have to pass his location to reach it.

Sure enough, at 7:18 p.m. he saw her car roll by. Traffic was moderate so he had no problem blending in three cars behind her. He imagined she was so happy to be back behind the wheel that she would be focused on her techno music and not spot him. But to be on the safe side, he grabbed a baseball cap from the back seat and slapped it on his head.

Okay, not much in the way of disguises, but better than nothing.

Kensi turned into a strip mall and parked. Deeks parked several rows over and down from her location. She retrieved a rolled-up yoga mat from the trunk and headed for the door. A car parked near her and four women emerged. They called to Kensi and pointed to her foot. He could imagine the conversation:

Yeah, my foot’s healed. Don’t have to wear that stupid boot. Glad to be back, yada, yada, yada.

The only male entering the yoga studio was an elderly Japanese man. He tagged along behind an attractive younger woman.

I really hope that’s your granddaughter and not a trophy wife.

The younger woman called over her shoulder, “Hurry up, gramps! It wouldn’t look good for the teacher to be late.”

The man nodded briskly. “Hai, hai.”

Deeks chuckled. He waited another ten minutes and ended his surveillance. If Kensi knew about this, she would be livid. Not that I’ll ever tell her, of course. He then started the car and drove home. He knew Monty would be wondering about him.

Monty rushed to greet him at the front door with tail wagging furiously. But he kept looking out the door. Deeks dropped his messenger bag on the end of the couch. Monty turned back to look at him.

“She’s not coming tonight, buddy. We had a fight.”

Monty whined and gave him a pitiful look. Deeks could only shake his head. My dog loves my partner more than he loves me.

“I know. It was my fault, but I apologized.”

“Woof!”

“Maybe tomorrow she’ll be in a better humor. She’s driving now, you know.” Deeks leaned over to scratch Monty behind the ears. “Hey, how about some supper?”

“Woof, woof, woof!” Monty ran into the kitchen and Deeks closed the door.

Kensi was a bit rusty after being out of yoga for a while. But she also found it hard to concentrate on the positions since her mind kept going back to Deeks. He saw the incident as nothing more than a harmless joke at her expense. He had no way of knowing about her muriphobia, so how could she go off on him like that?

Because that’s just me. We could have been spending the evening together, but I had to blow up.

She begged off before the end of class, citing fatigue and a bad day at work. Everyone was sympathetic and wished her a good evening.

“You’ll feel stronger next week,” said Meiko, the instructor.

“I’m sure I will,” agreed Kensi.

As soon as she left class, Kensi pulled out her phone to check for messages. Nothing. Why hasn’t he called? I wonder what he’s doing.

Her stomach growled and she got an idea. There was a grocery store next door and she knew it had a good deli section. She hurried to the car to drop off her mat. As she was locking the car, she got quite a shock.

“No freakin’ way,” she mumbled and ducked down to avoid being seen. FBI Special Agent Sabatino was leaving the grocery store with two bags. He was still in his suit from work.

Where did he come from? Does he live around here? I hope to hell not.

Thankfully, he was not parked near her and quickly got in his car and drove away in the opposite direction.

Glad Deeks wasn’t here to see that. I’d never hear the end of it. Her face scrunched up in a frown. Why would Deeks think I’d be even remotely interested in Sabatino? I know what my type is and I sit across from him every day.

Her heart was racing, almost as much as when Deeks flung that silly toupee in front of her. She glanced around the parking lot. Not in the mood for any more surprises tonight.

Everything appeared normal so she hurried into the store. Fifteen minutes later, she was back out with her purchases: Two bulging roast beef-and-Swiss sandwiches, a tub of pasta salad, potato chips, and beer.

That should do it!

“Let’s go for a run, Monty,” said Deeks.

Monty chewed on his new rawhide bone and paid no attention to Deeks.

“I bet if Kensi was suggesting it you’d want to go.” Monty lifted his head briefly, then focused again on the bone.

Deeks shrugged. “Okay, have it your way.”

As he left his apartment, some neighborhood kids called to him. “Hey Deeks, want to shoot some hoops?”

He considered for a moment. He had nothing better to do. “Sure. Why not?”

Kensi pulled up outside Deeks’ apartment. His car’s here. Good. She hauled the grocery bag to the front door and pressed the bell. Nothing happened. No Monty barking or scratching at the door either. She called his cell, but it went to voice mail.

What’s going on? Okay, maybe he’s in the shower. Yeah, that’s probably it. Unless . . .unless he’s not alone in there. No, he wouldn’t. He better not! I’ll kill him.

The grocery bag slipped from Kensi’s hand as that terrible thought gripped her and she battled indecision. She knew there were some flirty young women in a nearby apartment who would love to spend time with Deeks. Finally, she hit re-dial.

“Deeks, I’m at your front door with dinner. Where are you? If you don’t answer, I’m going to use my key to come in. And I don’t care if you’re decent or not!” she shouted into the phone.

An elderly woman entering an apartment two doors down gave Kensi a strange look.

“Sorry, just checking on my partner,” said Kensi. The woman scurried inside and slammed the door.

This is ridiculous. What am I waiting for?

She used the key Deeks had given her for emergencies and entered. “Deeks! Are you here?”

“Woof, woof, woof!” Monty ran out of the kitchen and almost knocked Kensi down.

“Hey, big guy. Where’s your daddy?”

Monty continued to jump around and bark, unable to contain his excitement. Kensi set the grocery bag on the coffee table and walked slowly toward the bedroom. No sign of Deeks, or anyone else, there or in the bathroom.

“Well, I guess he’s out running. Is that it, Monty?”

“Woof, woof!”

Kensi sighed. “Okay, we’ll wait him out.”

Deeks bent over to catch his breath. “Good game, guys.”

“Hey, why wasn’t Kensi with you tonight,” asked Antonio.

Good question. “Uh, she went to yoga class.”

“My mom does that,” said another kid. “Boorrrinng!”

“I hear you, pal,” agreed Deeks. He checked his phone and saw two missed calls from Kensi. “We’ll do this again soon.”

“Great! And bring Kensi next time. I want her on my team!” said Antonio.

Deeks was listening to her message when he saw she was calling again. “Go for hoops champion,” he said.

“What? Deeks, where are you?” she demanded.

“Hanging with the neighbor kids. Why?”

“Why? My hot roast beef sandwich is getting cold and if you’re not here soon, I may eat yours, too.”

Deeks laughed. “Is that a threat, Kensalina?”

“Ugh!” snorted Kensi. “I don’t threaten; I take action.”

“I’m at the park around the corner. Be there in a sec.”

“Hurry!” urged Kensi.

“Anxious to see me, are you?” Deeks grinned like a fool.

“Ugh! I’m sure you’re wearing that stupid grin, so cut it out.”

Deeks laughed, but Kensi had already disconnected.

“Hi honey, I’m home!” announced Deeks as he came in. I love saying that! “How was yoga?”

Kensi and Monty were on the couch watching TV. She clicked it off.

“Fine.” Even as she said that, Kensi was aware of a little soreness in her foot. But no way would she admit that to Deeks.

Deeks was thrilled to see Kensi, but at the same time it was a bit awkward. He sat down on the other side of Monty. “I didn’t expect to see you tonight.”

“You stink,” said Kensi.

“Yeah, sorry. Shooting hoops. Let me get a shower, then we’ll talk. Okay?”

“Sure.”

Kensi stared into space while petting Monty. She tried to gather her thoughts and calm her nerves. She needed to do this, but it wouldn’t be easy.

Ten minutes later, Deeks was back. His hair was damp and he wore a fresh tee shirt and cargo shorts.

“Hey, this smells really good. Did these get cold because I can zap them in the microwave . . .”

“They’re fine. Deeks, sit down. I need to tell you something.”

“Okay, I’m listening.” Deeks always got scared when women said that.

Kensi bit her bottom lip. “I wanted to apologize for freaking out this afternoon. I totally lost it.”

Deeks touched her forearm. “No Kens, come on. It was my fault. You were right. I was an idiot. I’m always an idiot. I don’t mean to be, but I can’t seem to get it right with you.”

“Please Deeks, let me finish. I wanted to explain why things like that terrify me.”

“You don’t have to,” said Deeks. He could see this was an emotional minefield for her.

“I want to tell you because I want this . . . us . . . our thing . . . to work out. We’re good together, but I want us to be great together. And I realize I have to open up more, to share more.”

Deeks didn’t comment, but nodded. He gently squeezed her arm to encourage her.

Kensi inhaled a deep breath and continued. “When I was six, we moved into a house on base. My dad was off on one of his secret missions. My mom was unpacking dishes and stuff in the kitchen with her friend Mrs. Richardson. I went down to the basement looking for my favorite doll. I thought it was in one of the boxes so I started poking around. But it was only more dishes and linens. I was a stubborn little kid and just knew that doll was somewhere down there. As I was about to open another box . . .”

Kensi paused and her eyes grew huge as the memory flooded back. She chewed her bottom lip and somehow summoned up inner strength. “I started to open that box and a gigantic rat ran out from behind it. I screamed and screamed, but I couldn’t move, I couldn’t run. I was paralyzed with fear. I kept screaming until mom and Mrs. Richardson ran downstairs. We could hear the rat rustling around in the corner under some old newspapers. Colonel Richardson heard me screaming and ran in. He grabbed a rusty shovel and beat the stupid rat to death.”

Kensi shuddered. “Thinking about stupid rat brains being splattered in the corner was almost as bad as seeing it alive.”

Deeks handed Kensi the beer she’d opened while he was showering. She took a long swallow.

“The next day I went to school and a stupid boy named Kevin teased me about the rat. Then other kids joined in. It was hell. But the next month, Kevin’s dad was transferred and I never had to see his ugly face again.” Kensi paused as if an idea had suddenly occurred to her. “If I ever have a son, I will NOT name him Kevin.”

Deeks’ eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Duly noted.”

Kensi sighed and her shoulders slumped. “Now you know my secret phobia. And for the record, I’m sorry I went ballistic on you. You were in the dark about this and well, you were just being you.

“Wow. Okay. Yeah, boys are so stupid,” agreed Deeks. “What do girls see in them anyway? And for the record, if you ever had a son, would you consider naming him Marty?”

Kensi looked at him for a long moment. He was doing it again, wearing her down with those blue, blue eyes.

“I believe I would give it serious consideration.” A hint of a smile played on her lips.

Deeks grinned and clinked his beer bottle to hers. “Touché, Fern.”


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