Banter was sipping her tea when Colo’s alarm went off overhead. The dogs came bounding down. They circled the table.
“Morning, you two.”
Patsy stuck her head into her lap for some petting.
Ollie was too hyper and continued to circle the table.
“Just don’t slobber on me.”
She scratched Patsy’s ears.
Colo came down followed by Kyle a few seconds later.
“Ollie,” Colo said.
“Patsy,” Kyle said.
Both dogs left the kitchen.
She listened while the boys took the dogs out together. Kyle was impatiently telling Patsy to stop sniffing. Colo was telling him that was her way of getting the morning news.
They came back in together, laughing about the latest news on rabbits and the morning rabbit traffic report.
“Patsy always poops in the same spot,” Kyle said, opening the dog food bin.
“That will make it easier to clean up the yard,” she said.
“I’ll have to train Ollie to do that,” Colo said.
“Am I making breakfast again?” Kyle said, pretending to be put upon.
“Are you younger than you were yesterday?”
“He’s a day older,” Colo said, getting bread out.
“Then he’s making breakfast.”
Banter smiled while she watched them work. Maybe she should teach them to cook using Bea’s book.
“What’s on the agenda for today?” Kyle said.
“Maybe you should take me to the park. I know today is cleaning and laundry day so Bea’s going to be busy.”
“I think we can fit that in,” Kyle said.
“Can we go after breakfast?”
She was letting them make the decisions.
“I guess we can manage that,” Kyle said. “How about you, Colo?”
“Yes, I’m free after breakfast.”
Banter thought he was an excellent waiter. He served her an egg and piece of toast.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Can I have a second piece of toast?” Kyle said.
“If you think you want one, then ask Colo to put in another slice.”
“We need a bigger toaster,” Colo said, popping in Kyle’s second piece.
“You just have to do it in batches,” she said.
The boys also worked together to clear the dishes and put everything away. They were almost done when Bea arrived.
“Let’s go,” Colo said.
“We’re off to the park, Bea,” Banter said. “We’ll be out of your way.”
Kyle led the way with Patsy. He wanted to jog, but Patsy didn’t.
“Go slow today. We have to ease Patsy into things,” Banter said.
“It’s too hot to run,” Colo said.
Banter had to agree it was too hot, even this early. Walking was nicer.
“Oh no, there are people here,” Kyle said with a pout.
There was one rule Banter had. If there were people in the park, the dogs couldn’t run free.
“We’ll have to do close proximity training,” Banter said, leading them to an area with a slide.
“Ollie,” Colo said, doing the hand command.
Ollie climbed the slide and slid down while Colo held onto his leash.
“Patsy,” Kyle said.
Patsy looked at the slide and sat.
Kyle didn’t look happy.
“She doesn’t look like a slide girl,” Banter said.
“She doesn’t do obstacles like Ollie,” Kyle said.
“She won’t go over the picnic table like Ollie,” Colo said.
“We’ll have to find her talents.”
Banter led them around the park for two laps, then headed for home. Both boys looked hot. The dogs were panting.
“We’ll find what she’s good at,” she said to Kyle.
“She just sniffs,” he said, looking gloomy.
Bea was vacuuming upstairs.
“Stay out of Bea’s way as much as possible, okay? Take the dogs out until Bea is done vacuuming.”
Ollie didn’t like the vacuum, but Patsy didn’t seem to mind.
Both boys nodded and headed out back. Kyle seemed subdued. Banter now had a new worry about Patsy. She didn’t think a bloodhound would make a good agility dog, but she had to be good at something.
“See you later, you two.”
When Banter reached the office, she wanted to talk to Peter. However, he was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t answering his phone, either. She knew it was his day off. However, she wondered about the new initiative. There seemed to be few people around. They were either out working their cases or avoiding the office all together. Even Corey was out of his office.
Nessa had a pile of folders on her desk.
“Hold up a moment, Banter,” she said.
She reached by her desk and pulled out a soda.
“Thanks. You look busy.”
“Reviewing case loads,” Nessa said, not looking too overjoyed.
“If there’s something I can help with, let me know.”
“You haven’t seen your desk, yet. Look at your desk and if you have time, you let me know.”
Banter opened her office door to find two stacks of folders.
“I see what you mean.”
Banter sipped her soda while her laptop booted up.
For the next few hours, she read through the folders, checked her emails, and made notes. All of her notes started with the words ‘based on the information on hand.’ She made recommendations on what they should look for or who they should arrest.
Nessa stepped in.
“Corey won’t be back for lunch.”
“Okay. That’s fine.”
Banter stepped out to a vending machine for some chips and grabbed another soda from the fridge by Nessa. That’s when the line formed.
“Banter, can you look at this?”
She found she could no longer work on the folders on her desk because of the people waited to consult with her.
“About time. You should have asked me earlier,” she told the first couple of guys.
It was five o’clock before she could end her day. Corey wasn’t in his office. In fact, she hadn’t seen him all day. Nessa was busy working on her stack of folders.
“I don’t even know where he is,” Nessa said. “Everyone is running wild.”
“Thanks. Have a good night.”
On her way to her car, she sent a text to Corey. He replied that he would be late. She wondered how hard he was being pushed despite he said he was ignoring the directive.
When she got home, both boys were on the couch reading. The dogs were crashed on the floor.
“Did you have a good day?”
Kyle shrugged. Colo nodded.
“Don’t get too excited now.”
Kyle cracked a smile.
She decided they looked tired.
“Dad’s going to be late.”
“Okay,” both boys said together.
Bea was in the kitchen snacking on her chips.
“Sorry, I’m late. Very crazy day.”
“No, problem,” Bea said. “This is what I made for dinner tonight.”
She opened the book and showed her.
“I’m almost thinking Colo is old enough to learn to cook,” Banter said.
“With some of these recipes, I’d say yes.”
Bea put her chips up in the cabinet.
“I’m out of here. Have a nice weekend.”
Banter walked out with her and watched her go. When she walked back in, Kyle was petting Patsy.
“I still like you even though you’re a dud,” he muttered.
Banter let them be until dinner time.
“Colo come set the table.”
She took the casserole out of the oven and served it up. She was surprised that no one complained. This was Friday night and it was usually pizza night.
“Why is Dad late?” Kyle said.
“I think work is wanting things to get done faster than they can get done.”
“Get it done yesterday,” Colo said.
Banter knew he was imitating a neighbor who was always complaining about his work.
“Yeah, sort of like that,” she said, wondering how much they were outside listening to the neighbors.
Banter sat at the table until the boys had cleaned up the dinner dishes.
“Let’s go outside with the dogs for a while. Kyle, put Patsy through the commands that she knows.”
Patsy obeyed his commands to sit, stay, heel and come. Banter was impressed. She also wasn’t surprised about the things the boys were picking up. She could hear one of the neighbors next door complaining about his boss. He was using a few choice words that Banter wondered when the boys would use them. She decided to be a little proactive.
The boys came over by her immediately.
“Did you hear Doug next door?” she said, using a low voice.
“He said some bad words,” Colo said.
Kyle became more attentive.
“Yeah. Be sure not to use those around Dad.”
“Which words?” Kyle said.
Banter looked at Colo and nodded. He whispered them to Kyle.
“Oh,” Kyle said.
“How’s Patsy doing?” she said.
“She won’t fetch,” Kyle said, looking mopey.
“More time,” Banter said.
“She’s just a friend,” Kyle said, but Banter thought he seemed sad.
It was almost nine when Banter told the boys to do their own showers and get ready for bed. Then she had them tell her the story they had made up about the dog that could play baseball.
“Patsy’s the umpire,” Kyle said.
“She would make a good one, staring at you,” she said.
It was close to ten when Corey came home.
“Go change. I’ll warm up some dinner.”
“No need,” he said. “I had something.”
Banter followed him into the bedroom and shut the door.
“You look tired,” she said.
“It’s been a long one,” he said.
She noted his demeanor that told her he didn’t want to talk.
“Boys in bed?” he said.
“Yeah. They told me their story about the dog that plays baseball. Kyle made Patsy the umpire.”
She refrained from saying that Kyle was a little disappointed that Patsy didn’t want to do obstacles like Ollie.
Corey spun through the dial on the gun safe and put in his service gun.
“I have to go out tomorrow afternoon, but it will only be a few hours.”
“That’s fine. I have a cookbook from Bea. I’m going to try and do dinner.”
He smirked at her.
“Do we have a backup plan like pizza?”
“Do you want to sleep alone tonight?”
He shook his head.
“However, I might not even notice if I’m alone or not. I’m pretty sure I’m going to crash as soon as I hit the pillow,” he said.
“Go for it. I’m going to try and reach Peter to see if I can get the video he is supposed to be taking tonight.”
Corey gave her a long hug and a kiss.
“I love you,” he said.
She felt some strong emotion in him and wondered what was happening. Cases that involved a dead wife with a bereaved husband tended to make him like this.
“I love you, too,” she said, returning his hug.
He released her and headed to take a shower.
Banter left, going into the kitchen to get some tea. By the stove, she saw a chip on the floor. The sight of it caused her to pause.
“There’s no way that could have survived unnoticed while we were having dinner. There’s no way a dog wouldn’t have eaten that up. And Colo swept the floor after dinner.”
Yeah, she thought, still staring at the chip. A dog would have snarfed that up in seconds.
“Someone’s been in the chips.”
She heard a dog trot down the stairs. By the heavier tread, she knew it was Patsy. The dog stopped by the door, looking in. Banter picked the chip up so Patsy wouldn’t eat it. Patsy looked at it with interest.
“I know you weren’t the one in the chips. Do you know who was? Can you find who was in the chips?” she said.
Banter hadn’t expected Patsy to take it as a command, but her ears perked up at the word ‘find.’ Banter had never seen Patsy look so focused. She let her sniff the chip.
“Find,” Banter said, not knowing what Patsy was going to do.
Any dog would be interested in the chip. It was food. However, Patsy left the kitchen and trotted up the stairs faster than she had ever moved before. Banter had to run to keep up.
Patsy nosed into Colo’s room. His reading light was on, and he had one of his real books, not his reader, open in his lap. Ollie was on the foot of the bed. Patsy stood over by Colo’s bed table and sat, staring intensely at him.
“You missed one,” Banter said, holding up the chip. “And you have chip dust on your chin.”
Colo reflexively wiped his chin, confirming that Patsy was correct. He suddenly looked guilty.
Banter tossed the chip to Patsy who crunched it down in one gulp.
“These aren’t our chips,” she said in a soft voice. “They’re Bea’s.”
Colo was speechless. She could tell his mind was churning, but he couldn’t make up a story fast enough.
“If you really needed some chips that bad, you should have asked.”
“I-I asked Dad, but he said no.”
Corey wasn’t a fan of junk food.
“Well, next time you feel like stealing, ask me,” she said.
“I didn’t think she would notice one or two gone,” he said, looking down.
“No, she wouldn’t, but it’s still not right.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“We don’t need to tell your dad. He doesn’t need to know everything,” she said. “Maybe we can get some chips for snacks once in a while. I like them, too.”
She remembered her lunch that day was nothing but a pack of chips.
He nodded, then looked at Patsy.
“Why is Patsy in here?” he said.
“I asked her to find who stole the chips. She led me right here.”
She thought Colo looked like he wasn’t sure whether to believe her or not.
“Bloodhounds have a good nose. I can show you tomorrow,” she said. “Have a good night. Brush your teeth.”
She signaled Patsy to come by her. Patsy was slow in responding, but she did.
“Thank you. You can go back to watching Kyle,” she said, gesturing toward Kyle’s room.
However, Patsy followed her back downstairs. Banter poured the tea she wanted and settled on the couch with her phone and laptop. Patsy settled on the floor by her feet. Banter’s thoughts changed gears from dogs to work.
She knew she couldn’t call Peter until after eleven. There was a half-hour wait at least. While she waited, she reviewed the video she took last night. The things she noticed weren’t making her feel very good. She made some guesses and they fit with what she was seeing. Things would gel more once she had Peter’s video.
Her own phone rang, startling her.
“Yes?” she said.
“When do you want this video?” Peter said.
“You want to meet?”
“Yeah. Meet me at the rest area down from the park and ride where we last met. I’ll be walking the dog.”
“I’m heading there.”
The call ended.
Banter jumped up and headed to the bedroom. Corey’s breathing told her he was sleeping. She left, grabbing a leash.
“Let’s go Patsy.”
She snapped on the leash and headed out to the car. Patsy hopped into the backseat as soon as she opened the door.
Traffic was light. The drive was quiet. She almost felt relaxed while she drove, serenaded by Patsy panted in the back seat. She pulled into the rest area and parked over by the dog area. Patsy was good and hopped out only after Banter had given the command.
“That’s a good girl.”
There were a few cars at the rest area. Patsy immediately put her head down to sniff.
A few minutes later, the white BMW pulled in. Lanny hopped out of the passenger side and headed to the restrooms. Peter, as dressed up as he had been last Friday night, casually strolled in her direction.
“Nice dog,” he said.
“Thanks,” Banter said.
She saw him drop the camera onto the grass, then turn back to the car. Banter had to hurry to pick it up before Patsy sniffed it up. She walked Patsy a few minutes more after Lanny returned to the car, and they left.
“You good, girl? Let’s head out.”
Banter loaded her back into the car and headed home. Her phone rang.
“I didn’t see anything different from last Friday,” Peter said.
“I didn’t expect you to. Was the light in the alley on?”
“Let’s meet first thing on Monday,” she said.
“Ray has a meeting request for eight-thirty.”
“I’ll be there.”
The call ended.
Banter returned home. She was in so much of a hurry to look at the video that she almost left Patsy in the car.
Patsy settled on the floor by the couch while Banter accessed the video.
Peter had gotten a good view of the outside with all the cars. The place was packed. Inside, she saw Marcus, the same manager from last Friday. When Peter and Lanny were seated, he positioned himself so he was catching the bar action. The bartender looked like he knew what he was doing. Banter also didn’t see a single water glass on any table. Peter and Lanny were seated up in the front area.
She stopped the video. There was no need to see any more. Now she just had to explain it on Monday to the group. She didn’t see them believing her.
Corey stepped over by the couch.
“Did you go somewhere?”
She jumped, not expecting him.
“Yeah, I met Peter and got the video.”
“We can go to bed,” she said.
She took his hand and led him to the bedroom.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” he said, snuggling against her.
“Yeah. It was the hiding in plain sight stuff. What you didn’t see is what was really important. I’ll present what I found on Monday.”
“It’s going to be a hell week,” he said.
“Every day is hell at work. But right now, we’re in heaven.”
Banter woke to the jingling of dog tags.
“We’ve been invaded,” Corey said. “I’m not getting out of bed.”
She glanced at the clock. It was minutes before Colo’s alarm was to go off.
“I wish he would sleep in on Saturdays, but we have a few minutes.”
Both dogs paced at the foot of the bed.
“Colo can get up. I’m not getting up,” Corey said.
The alarm buzzed upstairs. The jingle of dog tags left their bedroom. Banter tracked the progress of the dogs while they trotted up the stairs. Soon both boys came down and let the dogs out.
Banter almost fell back to sleep.
“Mom? Dad?” Colo said.
“You can make your own breakfast,” Banter said to him.
“They can make breakfast?” Corey said.
“Yeah, they’ve been doing it the last two mornings.”
“And not make a mess?”
“And not make a mess.”
“I so love you,” he said, snuggling.