“What the hell am I here for if no one is going to take my advice?” Banter said.
“It got you off the streets,” Peter said.
“Corey is the reason I’m off the street, not Ray.”
“They could have arrested you.”
“For what? They have no fricken evidence. They have my word and nothing more.”
“And what’s the word on this raid?”
“It will fail.”
“What are you seeing that we’re not seeing?”
“Every damn thing,” she said.
“Can you teach me?”
“Can you teach me?”
“To do what? Be a gun-for-hire?”
“No,” he chuckled. “To see what you see.”
“And I could easily go back to being a gun-for-hire and they would never even know it.”
“The only reason I wouldn’t,” she said.
She took a sip of the soda.
“I’m serious,” Peter said. “Can you teach me? I’ve spent the last three years in this department doing some of the stupidest stuff. I’m up on all the trade rags on what we should be doing and we’re not doing it. When I try to change things, I get pushed back.”
She took another sip of her soda.
“If things don’t change, I’m transferring out, getting married, and settling down,” he said.
“Yeah. She’s cool.”
“I watch you and Corey. I see how he treats you. I treat Lanny the same and she’s butter in my hands.”
“You like butter?”
“I get back in return for what I give. I like the exchange rate,” he said.
Her door opened. Bert stepped in. He pulled up a chair and sat beside Peter.
“What do we have to do?” he said.
“He’s as sick of things as I am,” Peter said.
“Don’t do the raid,” she said.
“What do we do?” Bert said.
Both men were looking at her sincerely.
“You need to get the whole picture. You need to understand what is going on. This is complicated. The drug lord has you running after the wrong guy, freeing him up totally. He knows you’re there. I would pick you out as cops in a second.”
“We’re not dressed as cops. We’re not acting like cops.”
“If that’s what you think, then you’re not getting the picture,” she said.
Her door opened and Jose stepped in.
“You’ll need another chair,” Peter said.
Jose left and came back with a chair.
“So, what are we doing?” he said.
“No raid,” Peter said. “Banter needs to bring us up to speed on what’s really happening.”
“So, you’re going to leave Mark to do the raid on his own?” she said.
“No. He’s coming. We just didn’t think it looked right for all of us to come down at once,” Peter said.
“You’re all going rogue on Ray?”
Peter and Bert both smiled and nodded.
Banter took another sip of her soda. She liked the concept of rogue.
Her office door opened. Mark stepped in. He was already carrying a chair. He shut the door behind him.
“So, what’s going on?” he said, when he joined them.
“I need a bigger office,” she said.
There was a tap at her door. She knew it was Corey. He was the only one who tapped that way.
“Just Corey,” she said in a low voice. “Yeah?” she called out to him.
He opened the door, stopping short when he saw everyone.
“You’re busy,” he said.
“Big meeting. This is going to take a while.”
“We can discuss later. Lunch is brown bag. I’ll pick you up one.”
“You picked that up, but you don’t see what I do in the field?” she said.
“I’m busy in the field. I can’t watch you.”
“Catch what?” Bert said.
“Exactly,” she said.
They were all looking at her. Waiting.
“We need a room with a screen. I have some video to show you,” she said.
“I saw all the video you took,” Peter said. “And I was there on Friday.”
“Seeing and not seeing are two different things,” she said.
Bert, Mark, and Jose looked confused.
“The stuff we’re not seeing,” Peter said.
He seemed to understand.
“Exactly. It’s the stuff we’re not seeing that’s the problem.”
“There’s a room on seventh,” Jose said.
“I thought an auditor was up there,” she said.
“He just left.”
“Scatter. Meet up there in ten,” Peter said, rising.
Everyone left, taking the extra chairs with them. They left her door ajar.
Banter stared at her desk, wondering what just happened. She took another sip of soda and rose. She looked at her laptop, but knew she didn’t need it since there was a computer up on seventh she could use.
Ray stepped in.
She was impressed that the guys had scattered that fast and evaded Ray.
“I am not a babysitter,” she said.
She didn’t hide the displeasure in her voice.
“Look, Banter. I know you have great ideas, but we have years of experience doing these raids.”
“Old experience. You are behind the times, Ray.”
“We keep up with the new technologies.”
“Like the situational training that didn’t reflect the new K-9 law?”
“A fluke,” Ray said.
She shook her head.
“Do you know how many years that law has been out there?”
“A fluke,” he said again.
“I’m outta here, Ray. I have stuff to do. Have a nice day,” she said.
Ray, looking frustrated, left.
Banter stepped out and locked her door.
“I’m being invisible today. If Corey is looking for me, I’m not on the seventh floor.”
“Got that,” Nessa said.
Banter headed for the stairs. The seventh floor was even quieter than the fourth. The guys were just regrouping.
“You watch what with Corey and Banter?” Bert was saying when she stepped into the room.
Everyone was positioning themselves in chairs facing the screen.
“Watch how he treats her and how she treats him,” Peter said.
“They’re married,” Bert said.
“I treat Lanny with just as much respect and she’s putty in my hands.”
“Don’t make me get sick,” Bert said.
“She’s one hot babe,” Jose said with a grin.
“She’s on fire,” Peter said, licking a finger.
“Cool it, dudes,” she said.
She sat at the computer on the table to pull up the video she had filed with the case.
“While I’m getting the one video, I want you to watch, tell me about the night club.”
“Expensive,” Peter said.
“Yeah, no drink under ten dollars,” she said. “What else?”
“They have music. Once a month they have live music on Friday nights,” Bert said.
“What are their days of operation?” she said.
There was a pause.
Peter was flipping through his phone, looking for the answer.
“Monday through Friday.”
“Why not Saturday?” she said.
“Weird,” Bert said. “We only watched them on weekdays.”
“They also have a limited food menu,” Peter said. “Maybe half a dozen hor d’oeuvres.”
“Very limited. Remember that.”
She brought up the video.
“Watch who sits where,” she said.
The video showed the arm of Bea, part of the bar and the door. For a long time, there wasn’t much to watch, then a couple came in.
“They were seated somewhere behind you,” Peter said.
“Can you fast forward to what you want us to see?” Bert said.
“This is what I want you to see. Keep watching. Pay attention.”
They watched another couple come in.
“Where are they all being seated?” she said.
“Behind you,” Jose said.
“We can see that all the seating in front of you is taken,” Mark said.
Banter could see they were getting impatient. She knew they weren’t seeing any of what she was seeing.
“I’m not seeing anything here,” Bert said, confirming what she thought.
“Keep watching,” she said. “Watch who leaves next.”
“There goes that couple that was seated behind you,” Mark said.
“Yeah,” Peter said.
“Now, here’s the big question. How many people sitting up front have left?”
“None,” Jose said.
The video showed a man come in.
“Watch this guy,” she said.
The man headed into the front area and beyond the camera range. Five minutes later, he left.
“What did you just miss?” Banter said, stopping the video.
All four men were silent.
“Play it again,” Peter said.
“There’s no replay in real life,” she said.
“Play it again,” he said in a more demanding voice.
She backed the video up and replayed the man coming and leaving.
“I didn’t know the club did takeout,” Peter said.
The man carried a white takeout container.
“They don’t,” Banter said. “But it’s so common place, you don’t see it. And you didn’t.”
“So what did we just see?” Jose said.
“A drug buy,” she said.
The silence of the room was intense.
“And what else haven’t you seen?” she said.
“Shit,” Peter said after a long silence. “No one in front of you has left.”
“And what are they drinking?”
All four men were looking intently at the screen.
“Those look like the water glasses that you would find in a restaurant,” Jose said.
“Every single one of them.”
She fast forwarded the video where it showed the bartender taking out a drink order to a table behind her. The video followed him and there was a view of all the tables in the alcove. She stopped the video.
“What are they drinking?”
“I see beer. Wine. A mixed drink. No water glasses,” Jose said.
“Exactly. I’ll save you from watching the other hour and a half of this video. During the two hours, I was there, no one left that was seated in the front area. Just that small alcove behind me had people who came and went.”
“Why?” Mark said.
“Because everything you see is a screen. You see a quiet night club. People drinking. A guy walks in and out with a takeout box. Or could be leftovers. But this place doesn’t serve meals. In fact, in all the time I was there, I didn’t smell any food. And if you study the videos and watch the people in front, you’ll see them be bored. Playing with their phones. Some don’t even interact with the person seated across from them. The dim lights and music cover a lot of this.”
“Keep playing the video,” Mark said.
She clicked play.
“We weren’t seated in the alcove,” Peter said.
“On what night were we there?”
“Friday is the only night that the club is open to just real customers. No drug buys. And while the police are watching a busy night club on a typical night where they would suspect drug buys to happen, the real stuff is getting moved in mass quantities two blocks down the street.”
“You never told us that,” Peter said.
Everyone turned to look at her.
“No one was listening to me,” she said. “No one let me talk.”
“Shit,” Bert said. “How long were we watching this place?”
“Months,” Peter said.
“And we never saw this?” Bert said.
“You saw exactly what they wanted you to see,” she said.
“I want you to teach me how to see these things,” Peter said.
“How does Corey handle you?” Bert said.
“He listens to me,” she said.
“So you wear the pants in the family?”
“No. We listen to each other and talk it out.”
“My ex-wife just yelled,” Mark said.
“You weren’t listening to what she was really saying,” Banter said.
“So where do we go from here?” Bert said.
“Ignore the club,” Banter said. “It’s a front. No more than an outlet store. Not worth the trouble. We need to move our eyes down the street. That’s where I’m not quite sure where we need to be.”
“Maybe you need to explain everything you’re seeing in this video,” Peter said.
Banter started the video from the point when she had gotten out of the car. The video panned the area.
“If you had taken license plate numbers of these cars every night you had watched the club, you would have seen the same cars, even parked in the same places on Monday through Thursday,” she said.
She quickly switched to the night before that showed her panning the street.
Every man in the room was watching intently.
“Damn,” Jose said. “I always wrote it off to staff and regulars.”
“Never write anything off,” she said. “Also, you have to watch the light in the ally. It’s on Monday through Wednesday. It’s off on Thursday and back on for Friday. I’m not talking just on, but that the bulb is actually gone on Thursday and back in for all the other days.”
“Thursday is the actual day the drug lord shows up. He leaves by the side door.”
“Who have we been watching then?”
“Here’s a clip of the guy managing the bar. Every night it’s a different guy. They all are dressed up and they all have handlebar mustaches. Why? Because they are all emulating the real drug lord and being his double. They are who you see leaving the bar.”
Banter couldn’t tell who said that.
“Damn,” Peter said. “That’s why a raid on Friday is useless. No drug buys and I bet that place is squeaky clean.”
“Spotless,” she said.
There was silence in the room. Banter could hear them all breathing.
“You need to question everything. The drug lord created a club that showed you what you wanted to see. Answer this question: why were you watching this club in the first place?”
“Tip hotline,” Bert said. “Then some of our stoolies verified that this was a hot place.”
“You got set up big time,” she said. “The drug lord profiled you and knew how to give you what you wanted to see. You failed to profile the drug lord accurately.”
“You said he wears a strong cologne,” Peter said.
“It was pure luck that the night you showed him to me was a Thursday. I actually saw the right one. Smelled the right one. So I caught the right one leaving through the side door, not that anyone leaving through a side door wouldn’t have gotten my attention.”
“Where do we go from here?” Peter said.
“Beyond the club. However, that is what we don’t know.”
“You said down the street…”
“I was guessing. I was figuring they would want to make sure they had a good visual on whoever was watching so they could adjust what they were doing accordingly.”
“So you don’t know for sure?”
“Nope. In a sense, we’re back to square one.”
“I think we need to go through these videos, so we can recognize who is who,” Mark said.
“Yeah,” Peter said.
There were nods all around.
“I think you should send a gun-for-hire into the club on Thursday,” she said.
They all looked at her.
“What’s that going to do?” Bert said.
“If I was a gun-for-hire and needed work because the job board isn’t getting used any more than I would go seek out some high-class crime boss. A step into his world is going to reveal a lot more than watching that club.”
“Ever done that?”
“Do tell,” Peter said.
“Found some potentials. Profiled them. Picked one out. Learned about the job board through some of his flunkies. A week later, he was on the job board, and I took him out.”
“Belloid North,” Bert said. “Shot between the eyes.”
“Damn, you got a good memory,” she said.
“Never heard of him,” Peter said.
“Before your time,” Bert said. “I have been here the longest. I was a newbie when he was taken out. I remembered it because he was shot between the eyes, like your targets.” He looked at her. “Usually, they just get shot in the chest or stabbed. Or filled with lots of holes, not a nice clean shot between the eyes.”
“Were you guys watching the job board back then?”
“No. Only in the last few years, did we get access. It took us a long time to find it and get access, but we knew it was out there.”
“The job board does a public service. You’ve ruined it,” she said.
Bert rolled his eyes.
“And what does Corey say about that?” he said.
“That I’m on the side of the law now.”
“I was wondering about that,” Peter said, being factitious.
Banter cracked a smile.
“How do we proceed?” Mark said.
“You can keep watching the club as if nothing has changed. Do you guys watch the back?”
Mark shook his head.
“We did at one time, but nothing happened back there. We keep to the front. Apparently, we didn’t watch it long enough.”
“I bet they know what you’re watching and what you’re not watching. Through the back is how I’ll go in. You’ll never see me,” she said.
“And if they recognize you from your sitting at the bar?”
“Tell them the truth, that I’ve been watching and that I know what they are.”
“You’ll be armed to the hilt, I take it,” Peter said.
“You bet. I’m banking on the fact that gun-for-hires are hard to get now that the job board is defunct. Maybe I’ll learn of another one. I went looking, but didn’t find it.”
“I can ask around,” Bert said.
“If you do and they say something, I need to know what they said verbatim and whether they say yes or no. Sometimes there is a key word thrown in that I can use to find the new board. It’s usually from someone who says they know nothing.”
“We start this Thursday,” she said. “What about Ray?”
“Ignore him. Pretend we’re doing the raid, but have something happen at the last minute,” Bert said.
“Good plan. Does anyone have any further questions?”
“How did you pick up that everyone had a water glass?” Peter said. “You don’t drink. You don’t go to bars. You’re a homebody.”
“That arm in the video is my nanny who is sitting with me. She went through a bartender class. Her knowledge opened my eyes to the water glasses and the fact that every day except Friday, the bartender isn’t a real one. He hardly poured drinks correctly. Also, my soda on that night was stale, a sign, she said, that it’s not getting used a lot.”
“Damn,” Peter said.
“Eye opener,” Jose said.
“I’m going to watch all these videos again,” Mark said.
“You guys were so busy watching for the bad guys and certain behavior that you missed everything else. Just like that failed raid based on the information of a fifteen year old. They saw a kid. I saw a drug queen.”
“My first impression of you certainly wasn’t a gun-for-hire,” Bert said. “I’m certainly impressed now.”
“I’m not a newbie,” she said. “I’ve got more experience than all of you.”
“It just wasn’t in the police force.”