Bea walked herself out. Banter stayed by the front door and watched her drive away. She closed the door, feeling undecided. Before she could make a decision, Corey came out dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.
“I have another box coming,” he said, looking excited. “More things the boys can use for obstacles and such.”
He gave her a hug and a kiss then headed out to the back.
Banter found herself speechless, unable to think of how to start the conversation with him on where he had been. She ended up following him out.
The boys already had all the cones out.
“Looks like a mess,” she said.
“No. No,” Colo said. “It’s a course that Ollie has to run on his own with just me standing on the picnic table guiding him.”
“It didn’t take them long to get this set up,” Corey said.
He looked somewhat impressed.
The boys tried to get Ollie to go through once, but the single light by the door was all the light there was. Ollie didn’t seem to catch all of Colo’s hand signals.
“It’s too dark. You’ll have to do this tomorrow. Let’s go. Bedtime,” Corey said.
He turned toward her and muttered in a low voice so that the boys didn’t catch it.
“The other box might be here tomorrow anyway.”
Banter gave him a quizzical look, but he had already turned to usher the boys into the house. She followed, but headed for her usual place on the couch to listen to the progress overhead. However, she phased out with weariness. It had been a long day. She didn’t hear Corey until he sat next to her and put his arm around her.
“You look tired,” he said.
He kissed her forehead.
“Can I take you to bed?” he said.
“You’re taking my clothes off. You know that distracts me.”
He ran his hand down her back. She felt a lot of tension from the day slide away.
“You’re wonderful,” he said. “I don’t know how you manage my boys, run the house, do undercover work, and crack your whip at the police station.”
“What have you heard?”
“Just people who said you helped them close cases.”
“Easy crap they should have figured out.”
“You helped them refocus on what was important and what was right in front of their noses.”
He took her hand and pulled her up, then led her into the bedroom, and he shut the door behind them.
“Our time,” he said.
She forgot what she wanted to talk to him about.
Wednesday morning was a rush. Banter wanted to get to the office as soon as she could. She wanted to hear how Tuesday at the club went and go over with the guys how she wanted Thursday to play out. Bea came fifteen minutes after Corey left, allowing her to leave. When she passed his office, she saw he was already in a meeting with a dozen men and women.
“Here you go,” Nessa said, handing her a soda.
“That’s one packed office,” Banter said.
“If yours was any bigger they would expand his, but yours is too small. He may get bumped up to the seventh floor.”
“Just him or all his guys?”
“I’m not sure. I’m not in on that decision. Just heard the rumblings.”
“They usually move pretty slow.”
Banter opened her office door, thinking that she wouldn’t like it not having Corey next door.
There was a new stack of folders on her desk.
“I should change the lock.”
She settled to sort through them while her laptop booted up. Peter and Bert soon joined her.
“Mark will be in later, but his preliminary report showed nothing out of the ordinary from last night at the club,” Bert said.
“Good. At least behaviors aren’t changing,” she said. “I do want to review for Thursday night. I like to be proactive and not do it on the day everything is to happen. That gives us time should we need additional prep.”
“I’ll be watching,” Bert said. “Jose said he would be available if needed.”
“I’m game,” Peter said.
“Let’s leave it to you and Bert,” she said. “I don’t want to have to keep track of too many people. I’m used to working alone, and knowing there will be a bunch of you out there will make me nervous.”
“I can do an intercept, if you need one,” Peter said. “The car will be within a few block area.”
“Keep it to the north of the place. That direction has the most obstacles for losing a tail.”
“You think they’ll follow you?”
“If they are good, yes. If they aren’t so good, they’ll scare the hell out of me and won’t follow me.”
“From that comment I can’t tell if you want them to be good or not,” Peter said.
“Good are actually predictable, but you have to be more careful. The not so good tend to be unpredictable with trigger fingers. You never know what they’ll do. Remember, I’m used to going in, making my kill, and getting out.”
“No kill this time,” Peter said.
“My kill is having a conversation with them and building a relationship.”
“Hum, you just changed your perspective and used your same skills,” he said. “Interesting.”
“My skills for interacting with people have improved immensely with taking care of two kids. They test you almost daily.”
“And how is that going for you?”
“Pretty good, actually. We found a sniffing dog at the pound. We’re having fun training her.”
“Droolers,” Bert said.
“She keeps two kids occupied during the day. Her drool is worth it,” she said.
“Okay, I’ll keep the car two blocks to the north of the club. I’ll be one block off near the club. People walk in that area. It’s a thoroughfare between some bars.”
“Good. Here’s the app.”
She showed him which one to download while she picked out a bug from her desk drawer. Bert watched on as well.
“I’ll configure it. I’ll just name it number one. No other name, just in case this group is sophisticated enough. But my bugs aren’t exactly used around here. Not that I’ve found.”
“No, never seen any like yours,” Bert said.
She activated it.
“I see you,” Peter said. “Are you going to wear this all day?”
She didn’t answer, instead she pulled the gun she got from Tory out of her drawer.
“These bugs are small enough, I can actually fit it in between two bullets in the magazine as long as I don’t have a full magazine. I’ve already fired three, so I’m good.”
She pulled out her police issue gun and put it in her drawer and holstered the other gun.
“Nice. I can watch the Master at work,” Peter said.
Banter rolled her eyes.
“You can watch me sit in this office all day with occasional visits to the restroom or a vending machine.”
Her words proved to be rather accurate since that seemed to be how her day was going.
“Corey is in meetings most of the day,” Nessa said when Banter went through for a restroom break.
She went out to a vending machine for some chips.
Peter left for lunch, but he came back with a fast-food soda.
“You cycle but won’t take the stairs. And you eat junk food,” she said.
“Lanny makes sure I eat healthy at night.”
“Are you two shacking up?”
He shook his head.
“I don’t do that. I have seen too many messy breakups when it doesn’t work out.”
“Probably a good thing based on how many I hear you go through.”
“Three customers, one white carton,” Mark said. “Light in the alley was on. All the cars were the same except for the three customers. I did get the license plate for the guy with the carton. We know him. Small-time dealer.”
“Don’t do anything with that info just yet,” she said.
“So noted,” he said.
Jose stepped in and shut the door.
“Ray is on the way. Scatter if you don’t want to talk to him. I know he wants an update on the raid.”
“Meet back here in thirty,” Bert said.
All the extra chairs left with the guys. Banter found herself in an empty office with not only her folders, but all of theirs. Her desk looked overflowing. She pulled over a folder.
“This is a closed case.”
The folder was labeled closed. She double checked the person who had been arrested.
“Yep, you’re in jail.”
Ray stepped into her room.
“Why am I getting closed cases?” she said, cutting him off.
His lips moved as if he was recomposing himself and changing what he was going to say.
“I don’t need to go through closed cases,” she said.
“It was probably misfiled.”
“Why am I having to deal with misfiled stuff? You need the support staff to handle this, not the field guys. Like Jose having to transcribe the interviews in Spanish. Don’t we have a person for this?”
“These are management issues, not issues with the guys on the beat. You’re tying us up. No wonder cases aren’t getting closed. We’re too busy being administrators,” she said.
“That has been...”
“And you expect us to do raids? Expect us to do eight-hour stakeouts and still show up for an eight-hour shift in the morning. Shit, Ray. Look at this desk?”
“Yes, I can see...”
“No, you don’t see. You’re running with your ass hanging out, trying to please upper management that won’t be pleased. You’re running your guys ragged, and you’ll end up losing some of them if you keep this up. Hell, you’ll lose me first.”
“You need to find your focus. The focus should be the cases in hand. There is supposed to be a process. That’s broken. Fix that first before you start expecting your guys to do all of this. This is insane.”
“You should be wasting the time of the less expensive support staff, not your top guys.”
“Then get to it,” Banter said. “That’s where you need to focus. Your guys know what they need to do. They know how to do their job. Let them do it.”
She rose and walked out of the office, not wishing to have any more conversation with him. He had the skill for going around and around until you either gave up and agreed with him or you left the room. She decided leaving the room would give him time to think about what she said, and she headed for the one place he couldn’t follow her: the women’s restroom.
“One good thing about being a gal,” she said.
The restroom was empty. While most of the support staff were women, few wasted time primping in the restroom.
Banter sat in a stall, reading comics on her phone. She waited a half hour before she left. All the undercovers were back in her office.
“I just heard they’re moving you up to the sixth floor,” Bert said.
“Just when I get a stocked fridge with soda, they move me.”
“What? Where?” Peter said.
“Nessa. The fridge was gifted to Corey.”
“That soda isn’t supposed to be for the likes of us,” Peter said.
“So, what hole in the wall are they stuffing me?”
“Not sure. I think they’re moving the couple of narc guys up to ninth where they’re trying to get them all together. That will leave us a couple of offices,” Bert said.
“I like this office,” she said.
“A little cramped,” Bert said.
“So why aren’t you up in your office?”
“Ray. Carla,” Peter said.
Jose and Mark both laughed and nodded.
“That girl needs an adjustment,” Banter said.
“Give it to her,” Bert said.
“And waste a perfectly good bullet?” she said, being half serious. “They ever find out who daddy was for her kid?”
“I haven’t heard,” Bert said.
“I heard someone ran the kid’s DNA through the prison system to see if she was visiting down in the cells. No hits,” Jose said.
“At least she doesn’t have any relatives in the slammer,” Mark said.
“They DNA the hookers?” Peter said with a serious face.
That sent all of them laughing to tears.
An email landed in her inbox.
“Damn. Official notice to report to sixth floor tomorrow,” Banter said, wiping her eyes. “I’ve been given office six-o-four.”
“That’s actually a nice office,” Bert said.
“I have to take my phone with me. Okay, laptop, phone, and the gun in the desk. I’m good. Can I leave these folders here?”
“I would,” Peter said.
“I’m heading out. I’ll be sitting this evening.”
“Take notes,” she said.
At four, the other two left. She left with them, but only to trot out to her car to grab a backpack from her trunk. Back in her office, she loaded up her service gun, the laptop and all the cords, and the phone.
“Nothing else in here, except folders.”
She left and locked her door. Corey’s office was dark.
“Upstairs in a meeting,” Nessa said.
“Thanks. I’m getting moved to sixth. So you won’t see me tomorrow. I’ll send someone down for the folders.”
“I’m betting they move us next. Everyone’s getting shifted around,” Nessa said with a roll of her eyes. “As if that will solve all their problems.”
“I’ll miss the fridge.”
“Just stop in on your way through.”
“I just might,” Banter said. “Have a good night.”
Banter trotted out to her car with the backpack. She put it in the trunk. Corey’s car was still there.
“They’re wasting your time in meetings,” she said.
Her trip home was slower than normal. There was a lot of traffic. She could tell by the license plates that there were a lot of out-of-state people.
“Tourists. Who the hell wants to go to a city on vacation?”
She had to think about what Corey was planning. He had two major league baseball trips planned for the boys.
“I guess those are in a city.”
She hadn’t really ever thought about what was a tourist attraction here. When she had gone on vacation before meeting Corey, she always went to the Caribbean for a week or two of sun, but in February. When she was a gun-for-hire, summer was the busy time.
Banter pulled up into the garage noting that there was another big box beside the SUV. She wondered what Corey had bought now for the boys.
Kyle danced around her.
“I’m heading out. I have some errands to run,” Bea said.
“I’m home for the night. Have a good one, Bea.”
She walked out with her.
“Can we open the box?” Colo said.
Corey pulled up in the driveway.
“Your dad’s early. You can ask him.”
Both boys ran to him.
Dinner was hectic and fast. The boys were antsy to find out what was in the box. Banter found herself just as curious. The dishes were hardly put in the dishwasher when Corey hauled in the box. The boys helped him carry it into the backyard while the dogs came thundering down the stairs to join them.
Corey seemed to be working in slow motion while he took out his pocket knife and cut open the box.
“What is it?” Kyle said.
The box was full of blue, green and yellow items.
“This is an eighteen foot tunnel,” Corey said, pulling out a round blue and flat bag. “These are poles that can snap together for jumps or a weaving obstacle. This is a rope toy that Ollie has to pick up and put somewhere on your command.”
“A tunnel?” Colo said.
“Open it,” Corey said.
“Eighteen feet?” Banter said.
The round bag was hardly a couple of inches thick.
Colo pulled out the tunnel from the bag and untied the strings. It instantly expanded.
“Get it out into the yard,” Corey said, sounding like he was under attack.
“Kyle, that’s for the dogs, not you,” she said.
Kyle was already crawling through.
“He has to show Ollie how it’s done,” Corey said with a chuckle.
Ollie was excitedly prancing around. Patsy was sniffing everything.
Banter sat on the picnic table to watch. Corey joined her. She was glad he wasn’t telling the boys what to do. They were figuring it out all by themselves.
“It’s amazing how well they troubleshoot,” he said.
“They’re smart kids,” she said. “I can’t believe that tunnel can scrunch up that much.”
The boys now had Ollie running through the tunnel.
“I don’t think tunnels are Patsy’s thing,” she said.
Patsy was sniffing along the outside of the tunnel, ignoring any commands by Kyle to go into the tunnel.
“I heard you might be moving up to the seventh floor,” she said.
“Monday. I need to have my office boxed up on Friday for the move this weekend.”
“They have me going to sixth tomorrow.”
“We’re only one floor apart.”
“But I’ll have to go up one extra flight to get my soda.”
“You might have to start taking the elevator.”
“Yeah, from four flights to seven.”
“It keeps you in good shape,” he said in a quiet voice.
She saw him move his eyes over her, and he smiled.
“That goes both ways, sweetheart,” she said.
“I’ll be taking the stairs. With all this office work, I need the exercise.”
“You need to go back to your Thursday night workouts,” she said. “Why did you stop?”
“Because you taught me how to get through my paperwork faster, which allowed me to get home sooner. We started taking walks with the boys.”
“By the way, I’m teaching all my reports about these efficiencies. Which unfortunately is making me look a little too good. I was just assigned four more people.”
She thought the yard now looked like a disaster area.
“We’re not going to have room for the dogs any more,” she said.
“We’ve maxed out this house.”
“We’re not having any more children.”
“I ordered another toy box. All this stuff has to get packed away when I need to mow.”
“Mow? Hell, we’re not going to have any grass left.”
“We might lose a couple of kids,” he said.
Both Colo and Kyle were no longer in sight. There were giggles coming from the tunnel.