Banter was writing up notes on classes that she could teach the undercovers. The others were reviewing her videos. The door to the conference room opened. She looked up.
“Lunch,” Corey said.
He dropped the bag in front of her.
“How did he find you? You bugged?” Peter said.
“I told Nessa,” she said, deciding not to discuss the fact that her car was bugged.
“We’ll need you bugged on Thursday,” Bert said.
“I will be.”
“Police issue or your equipment,” Peter said.
“My own. I like to use what works. I’ll get you the app, so you can track me.”
“You should have seen the camera she let me use last Friday,” he said.
“We’ll send our next requisition through you,” Bert said.
“Can I send this case to you for a look?” Jose said.
“Sure, I’m almost done with my notes.”
“You wouldn’t by chance know Spanish, would you?”
“Si,” she said.
“Awesome,” he said. “Some of the interviews are in Spanish, and I haven’t had the time to translate.”
“Spanish, sign language, what else do you know?” Peter said.
“Dutch and French,” she said. “Ah can do an accent, too.”
She let her natural accent come through.
“Cool,” he said. “Does Corey know this?”
She eyed him.
“Yes, of course.”
Everyone seemed to have made the conference room their office for the day. They had left at broken intervals to fetch their laptops, so they could work. She had reviewed Jose’s file and many others, feeling this was the most cohesiveness that the group had experienced since she had joined.
Peter checked his watch.
“Damn. I have to go,” he said, rising. “I’m supposed to pick up dinner tonight.”
Banter looked at the computer.
“Yeah. Five pm already. I have to go, too.”
Bert, Mark and Jose didn’t look like they were ready to leave just yet.
“We got a lot done,” Peter said. “See you tomorrow.”
“Who’s watching tonight?” she said.
“I am,” Bert said. “I do both Monday and Thursday.”
“Knock it off early. You’re only there for show, now.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“Bye,” the other three said, hardly looking up from their laptops.
She trotted down to the fourth floor. Nessa was gone. Corey’s office was locked. She spun on her heels to trot down the stairs to her car. On her way, she sent a text to Corey to see if he was going to be late. She pulled out of the parking lot and still hadn’t gotten a response from him.
“Hopefully you’re driving home and can’t answer.”
However, when she turned onto their street, she could see his cruiser wasn’t parked in the driveway. She pulled into the garage.
“Mom. Mom,” Kyle said, bouncing up to her when she stepped into the house.
“Kyle. What? You’re not reading? You feel okay?”
“We got Patsy to do some obstacles,” he said.
“You’ll have to show me after dinner. Hey, Bea.”
“Dinner is in the oven ready to go. There’s a load of clothes in the dryer.”
“Super. Where’s Colo?”
“Backyard,” Kyle said, running to the door and out.
“Did Colo talk to you?” Banter said to Bea.
Bea shook her head.
“Give me a sec before you leave.”
She stepped out.
“Colo. Come help me. Let Kyle play with the dogs a second.”
Colo came into the house. Banter led them out the front door.
“Let Bea know about her chips,” Banter said in a quiet voice once the three of them were outside.
“Sorry, Bea. I got into your chips,” Colo said.
He hunched his shoulders, looking shy.
“He had a sudden craving,” Banter said.
“Those chips were starting to get stale anyway. I don’t eat them fast enough which is a good thing. Maybe you and Kyle can help me finish them off.”
“I told Bea that it might be good to have chips for snacks,” Banter said. “This is not a reward for you stealing. This is so you don’t get any more cravings and decide to go out and rob the store.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Colo said.
“Thanks for telling me,” Bea said. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Early again?”
“I think so,” Banter said.
“Take care. Bye, Colo.”
Banter stood with Colo and watched her go.
“How did you get Patsy to do an obstacle?”
“Stinky socks,” he said.
The boys were finishing dinner when Corey came home.
“Hi, Dad,” they said.
Banter rose to dish him up a plate while he headed in to change. She thought he looked tired. He only nodded his greeting to the boys.
Even though she was finished eating, she stayed at the dinner table. The boys did as well. Corey soon joined them to eat.
“Have a hard day at work?” Colo said.
“Tiring,” Corey said. “What about you?”
“We got Patsy to do an obstacle.”
“Just the picnic table,” Kyle said.
“How did you do that?”
“We took one of your stinky socks. Dragged it across the picnic table and told her to find,” Colo said.
“Did she find me?”
“She found your other sock,” Colo said. “But she followed the scent over the picnic table.”
“Wow,” he said, nodding.
The boys chatted about the dogs. Banter watched Corey eat and nod. As soon as he was done, the boys jumped up and cleared the table. Soon they were outside with the dogs. Patsy, however, wouldn’t demonstrate going over the picnic table. Instead, she went right to Corey and sat.
“She found me,” he said.
Both boys laughed, finding it funny.
Banter settled on the couch while Corey went through the boys bedtime routine. Soon, he joined her.
“You look exhausted. Were you working in the field?” she said.
“No. Just everyone is going crazy trying to get the new initiative to work. It’s not going to work.”
“The undercovers worked with me today to review cases for the first time. We got a lot done,” she said.
He nodded and leaned back.
Banter wondered where he had gone that evening. He had said he wasn’t working in the field, but when she checked the bug on his cruiser before dinner, she had found it parked within a residential neighborhood.
She stopped. He was already asleep. She let him sleep an hour before she got ready for bed and woke him up.
“Let’s go to bed,” she said.
On Tuesday morning, she left for work as soon as Bea arrived. Her office door was already open.
“So much for locking my office,” she said.
Bert and Peter were sitting there reviewing cases.
“For you,” Peter said, pushing a soda from a fast-food place over to her. He had one for himself.
“Anything different last night?” she said to Bert.
“Alley light was on. Same cars as on the video. Zero traffic the whole time I was there. Not even a drug buy.”
“I think we can clear this case,” Peter said, handing her a file.
For the next hour, they reviewed cases.
Banter put down a folder and stretched. She sipped the last of her soda and tossed it into her trash bin.
“I’ll need a different gun on Thursday,” she said, thinking about what she needed to prep for the role.
Usually, she would go visit a pawn shop and borrow a gun. Now, she knew she just had to go down to the shooting range and ask for one. The thought caused her to smile, because she knew she would have to take some practice shots. She also knew she would be watched. Taking a pad of paper from her drawer, she drew on it.
“It won’t do to be wearing police issue,” she said.
“See Tory down by the firing range,” Peter said.
“I’ve gotten guns from Tory before,” she said.
“I have to go. I got the notes on these three cases, and I’ll pass on who we need arrested,” Bert said, rising and scooping up the folders.
“I’m heading downstairs,” she said, rising.
She folded the paper and slipped it into the pocket of her jacket. She wasn’t surprised to find Peter following her. She was actually expecting him to.
“You’ve already seen me shoot,” she said.
“You are fun to watch.”
She shook her head.
The shooting range was in a basement level. She was anticipating it to be empty since everyone should be out working on cases. There was only one officer in a lane, and he seemed to be practicing taking a gun apart and putting it back together.
“I need a gun. Nine millimeters.”
“I wouldn’t go that far, but close enough.”
“I have a few. Wait one moment.”
He disappeared into a back room.
Banter fingered her silencer in her pocket, thinking about Thursday and what she could wear. She did have a light-weight black hoodie. The fabric was thinner. Even when she was a gun-for-hire, she hadn’t worn it much. Her other one gave her a feeling of comfort because of the weight and coziness of the fabric. However, it was staying hot even after the sun had gone down. She decided this might be a good occasion to wear it.
Tory returned with a pistol.
“Full loaded. Give it a go.”
He handed it to her.
In two quick moves, she had the silencer twisted on.
Good threads, she thought.
That was one of her requirements. She had to be able to twist on and off the silencer quickly.
“Take number two.”
She stepped into lane two and shut the door. There was no privacy in a shooting lane. There were windows to allow anyone to see. She knew Peter and Tory were watching. Everyone liked watching her shoot.
She attached a paper target to a clip and pushed the button to send the target out to the seven yard mark. The target was the upper torso and head of a figure. She felt the weight of the gun which has changed with the addition of the silencer. Her eyes checked the target, then she raised the gun and fired in one smooth motion.
The shot clipped the right ear.
She fired again and solidly hid the earlobe of the left ear.
Each time, she lowered her arm as if she was resetting.
She raised her arm again and fired.
This shot was in the middle of the eyes. It was a perfect shot.
She smiled as she hit the button and brought the target back. This gun shot with a slight shift to the right. She knew she had automatically compensated for this on her second and third shots.
“I think you missed the first two times,” Peter said when she stepped out.
“You are predictable,” she said to him, handing him the folded up piece of paper from out of her jacket.
“Open it,” she said.
He unfolded the paper and laughed.
“What?” Tory said.
Peter revealed what the paper had drawn on it. There was head and torso. There were three Xs. One on each ear and one between the eyes, just like on her target.
“Don’t always aim for the same place,” she said. “It improves your accuracy.”
“You are amazing,” Peter said. “I wish I could shoot like that.”
“Sign here and it’s checked out to you,” Tory said.
“Put a note that this gun has a slight shift to the right,” she said.
“I see,” Peter said, pointing to her first shot. “Is that why you do practice shots?”
“I’m thinking I’ll need to do an exhibition and for that I need utmost accuracy.”
“I’ll note it,” Tory said, “but you’re the only one who will even care.”
“Their loss,” she said, heading for the stairs.
“I’ll see you after lunch,” Peter said. “I’m taking the elevator.”
Banter trotted the whole way up to the fourth floor. Corey wasn’t in his, office.
“I don’t even know where he is,” Nessa said.
“Are you losing your touch?”
“He’s supposed to be in a meeting.”
Nessa nodded toward his office.
“But apparently, they are meeting somewhere else since no one is here,” she said.
Nessa’s desk looked like she had more folders to review.
“I would help you there, but I seem to be helping everyone else and haven’t even gotten through my folders,” Banter said.
Nessa waved a hand at her.
“Don’t worry about it. Priorities are changing at the drop of a hat. Some of the problems they’re finding is that cases are actually solved, but no one finished closing them. This month’s closure rate is going to be out of this world.”
“And cause high expectations for next month.”
“Exactly. You need a soda?”
“Sure. Looks like lunch is out of the vending machines again.”
Nessa chuckled and handed her a soda.
Banter stashed the pistol in her desk. She spent the rest of the day in her office. Corey never showed. At five, she headed home. Before she went into the house, she had checked her tracking app. Corey’s cruiser was parked in the same residential area as last night.
“What are you up to, Corey?”
She decided if he wasn’t home by dinner, she was going to go see what was going on.
“Mom. Mom,” Kyle said, dancing around her when she finally stepped into the house.
She danced around him. He giggled.
“I just have to make beds today.”
Banter’s phone dinged. It was a text from Corey saying he was going to be late: much later.
“Can you hang around longer?” she said to Bea.
“Sure. What’s up?”
“I have an errand to run after dinner.”
“Is Bea staying for dinner?” Kyle said.
“What a great idea. If she’s poisoning us, then she’ll poison herself, too.”
Bea broke out laughing.
“Punishment if my cooking isn’t up to par?” Bea said.
“Yeah,” Kyle said with a big smile.
“You can show her how well you set the table and clean up,” Banter said.
She thought dinner was entertaining. The boys showed Bea how the table was set and how things were cleaned up. Bea nodded and seemed impressed. Banter was impressed that Patsy went upstairs with Ollie and stayed put.
“I totally forgot,” Bea said. “A box was delivered. The boys pushed it into the garage. It’s quite large.”
“I didn’t even see it,” Banter said. “I wonder if it’s something Corey ordered?”
“It does have his name on it.”
“I’ll leave it then until he gets home. How late can I be out?”
“Whatever. I don’t have anything going on.”
At seven, Banter headed out. The boys hardly noticed her leave since they were in the backyard showing Bea what Patsy could do. She checked her tracking app. Corey’s cruiser was still in the same place. She headed that way to drive through the neighborhood. It was a typical middle-class area. There were a few cars parked in the street since the driveways were short. Corey’s unmarked cruiser blended in unless you were looking for it.
“A typical person wouldn’t look too closely. But I would see all the gadgets on his dash and know it was a police car.”
She parked a block away and walked in. Her gun was back home in the safe and she wasn’t wearing a jacket. However, she knew she didn’t look out of place in jeans and a t-shirt. Besides, she thought, it was getting late and most families were inside enjoying the air conditioning.
“Air conditioning would be nice right now. It’s hot and humid.”
The neighborhood wasn’t familiar to her. She had no idea in which house he might be. There were two cars parked a couple of houses away from his cruiser. She settled on the curb between them with her phone acting as her blind. The two people that did walk by with their dog didn’t seem to notice her.
It was getting dark when she heard a door and his voice. His cruiser was parked right in front of the house he had just left. A woman walked him out. She gave him a quick hug, and they said goodnight.
What the fuck, she thought.
However, she thought about what exactly she was seeing. They didn’t seem like lovers. She wondered what was up. A widow being consoled? The woman looked really young.
His cruiser passed her. She rose and went back to her car and drove home. When she pulled up their street, she was surprised that she beat him home. She parked her car, then decided to take a look at the box. She found it on the other side of the SUV. While she was examining it, Corey pulled up into the driveway.
“Great, it came. The boys are going to like this,” he said, getting out of his car. “Help me carry it in. Are they still up?”
The reason she had beat him home was explained by the hamburger wrapper he tossed into the garbage bin. She knew better than to chide him about a fast-food burger.
Banter helped him carry the box into the house, not sure when she should bring up asking where he had been and why.
He hit the garage door button to close the door behind them.
“Colo. Kyle. Oh, hi, Bea,” Corey said.
“What is it?” both boys said together.
Everyone gathered around while Corey took out a pocket knife and opened the box.
“What are these?” Kyle said.
“Small traffic cones,” Corey said.
He pulled one out. There had to be dozens of them.
“For creating an obstacle course or a sniffing course.”
“Whoa,” Colo said, looking excited.
“Take it out back,” he said.
“I’m heading out,” Bea said.
“See you tomorrow, Bea. Thanks,” Banter said, following her to the front door.
She made sure the porch light was on.
The boys hauled out the box. Corey headed to the bedroom to change.
Banter felt a little unsettled, not sure if she should walk Bea out, follow the boys or follow Corey.