“I’ll be going out tonight,” Banter said, handing Corey his cup of coffee in the morning.
She realized she hadn’t told Corey about any of the plans for her to act like a gun-for-hire and go to the club.
“They really want me to get close to this drug lord,” she said. “I shouldn’t be too long. I’m not doing two hours.”
“I should be home on time.”
“Bea’s being really flexible. We’re getting her pretty much full time plus a little more.”
“What time do you need to head out?”
“Eight-thirty, just like the last couple of times.”
“I’ll be home. If not, I can text both you and Bea.”
She followed him out to his cruiser.
“Do you need any more boxes?” she said.
He had put the two empty boxes into his cruiser. Their contents were now strewn around the backyard. As expected, the little toy box that they did have hardly held any of the items.
“These are pretty big. I don’t have a lot of personal items. How about you?”
“It’s all in my backpack. Even the damn phone. I didn’t know the phone is configured for me, and you can take it and plug it in anywhere.”
“The wonders of technology. Hopefully, lunch today,” he said, giving her a hug and a kiss.
Banter watched him drive off. Bea arrived and parked in front of the house.
“Morning, Bea. Guess what is in the backyard.”
Banter took her time leaving, knowing she was going to be out in the field working. She enjoyed watching the boys get up and excitedly show Bea the backyard.
“You’re making my job easier,” Bea said. “This looks awesome.”
“Pour a cold drink. Sit on the picnic table and watch them create,” Banter said.
Banter drove to work wondering what she was going to find on the sixth floor.
“No more hiding from Ray,” she said to herself. “And no more hiding up on seventh since that area is going to be Corey’s.”
She stopped on the fourth floor to get a soda.
“Someone already came and took your folders,” Nessa said, handing her a soda.
“And they already took out the desk. I think they’re turning it back into a closet.”
“It is a small office.”
Banter noted Corey’s door was closed and the office filled with people.
“Do they ever actually work?” she said, opening the can.
“I don’t know, but I do know Corey hired two more assistants.”
“You have help?”
“Yes and no. They’re for his other people. There’s a whole lot of stuff they want me to do for Corey. So some work goes away. More comes at me.”
“I like busy. I don’t have a problem with it.”
“Have a good one, Nessa.”
“Same to you.”
Banter trotted up to the sixth floor. There were people packing up their stuff in boxes. Ray was in his office meeting with Bert and two other guys who she knew were narcs. She figured they were discussing the raid that wasn’t going to happen.
“Damn, that’s a big office.”
She stood at the door, looking in. It was three times the size of her other one. The desk was wood and looked a little more stylish than her plain metal one. The chair looked new. There was a table with six chairs.
“To have meetings, of course,” she said to herself.
She stepped around to her desk and put down her backpack. There was no window, except the wall with the door in it was all glass. The view was Carla who sat outside Ray’s office.
Banter frowned. Her desk already had three stacks of folders. She noted that Carla didn’t have any folders.
“That’s going to change,” she said to herself.
“Well, well, well,” Peter said, stopping at the door.
He was again dressed in business casual and had his usual soda.
“I need drapes.”
Peter turned around to look and chuckled.
“We ain’t hiding from Ray anymore,” she said.
“If it looks like we’re in here working with you, then he’ll be happy. He’s getting yanked around so bad.”
“How was last night’s sit?”
“Light on. Same cars. Five customers. Two white containers. I have license plates, but haven’t ID’d them yet. I’m betting small-time dealers just getting inventory for their own customers.”
“I wonder if those are safety nets.”
“If someone goes after those dealers with the white containers, then they know their setup is suspect.”
“Sort of like a sacrifice fly, if you know what that is.”
“I know baseball terms. Corey coaches and his oldest son plays.”
Banter pulled out her phone and laptop. She shoved her backpack into one of the large drawers. While she was plugging everything in, a maintenance man came up and fiddled with her lock, then he handed her a key.
“Is this the same key that opens everyone’s door?” she said.
“No. Keyed unique.”
He nodded with a smile and left.
“Don’t get too excited,” Peter said. “I bet Ray has a master key for all the offices.
Banter put it on her keyring and took the other key off.
“I actually loved that they were all keyed the same when I wasn’t working here.”
Peter was lounging at the table with his soda. He had no folders with him.
“Easy to pick the same lock over and over again.”
“You ran through the police building?”
“Good place as any to research where my hits were.”
Peter shook his head.
“I wish I could have watched you work back then.”
“You’ll see me tonight,” she said. “Does that woman ever work?”
Banter could see Carla filing her nails.
“I often wondered why she still works here,” Peter said. “She has to be doing something to be kept on.”
“She gets Ray coffee,” Banter said.
“Or she’s sleeping with someone.”
“More like everyone,” he said under his breath.
She checked her emails. Most of the emails were regarding cases and people asking her questions.
Jose came in and settled at the desk with Peter. He had a stack of folders.
She heard Ray’s office door open. Everyone in his office left, including him.
Banter pulled up the HR system and looked up Carla’s address. Then she pulled up the DMV system and looked up her car.
“You...” she pointed to Peter. “You want to know how I work. Go find Carla’s car in the parking lot. Get a picture of it with the license plate and if you can, get a picture of whatever is inside, like a car seat for her kid or something.”
He didn’t look like he wanted to move.
She jotted down the license plate.
“Here’s the license plate to look for if you’ve never seen her car. Go.”
Peter rose and took the slip of paper, then left.
“What are you planning?” Jose said.
“She’s going to take all of our folders and go through them like she should. I was finding closed cases. Wasting my time. Oh, and it says here in her HR record that she knows Spanish. She’s going to start doing your translations.”
Jose looked at her like he was thinking deep.
“I got to see this,” he said.
“She works, or I’m going to get her fired,” Banter said.
She took a long drink of her soda, then worked on emails.
It was a good twenty minutes before Peter returned.
“You should have the pics in your email pretty soon here,” he said. “She was parked on the third level, which is where she’s assigned to park. There was a car seat in the back. Diapers and a lot of trash. Two empty coffee cups in the front cup holders. She also needs new tires.”
“So a few slashed tires might actually be of benefit to her?”
Banter looked at the pictures. Carla drove an old four-door car. It was silver and dingy looking.
“Ten-year old car. She would probably make more money as a hooker.”
“I overheard that she lives with her sister,” Jose said.
“Nice to know, thanks.”
Banter rose and stepped to her door. Other than Carla, there was no one visible. She could hear someone in an office further toward the elevators, but they were out of sight.
With purpose, she walked to Carla’s desk while pulling out her gun and twisting on the silencer. She shoved it under Carla’s nose.
“Do you know what I did before the police force?”
Banter kept her voice very low.
Carla looked a little startled, and surprisingly kept silent.
“I shot people. Usually liked a couple hundred thou to shoot someone, but people like you I would do for free.”
Carla swallowed hard.
“You don’t have a silencer in your allotted equipment,” she said in a dry voice.
“Personal cache. This isn’t even a police issue gun. Tory said it was untraceable. I could hit you in the parking lot, and no one would ever know.”
Carla swallowed hard, again.
“Third level. Silver car. Car seat. Does your sister babysit?”
Carla’s eyes narrowed.
“Why are you doing this?”
“I don’t see any folders on your desk. Why is that?”
“You guys are supposed to review them.”
“I think you need to review them first. And translate the Spanish for Jose. I don’t need to see closed cases. Or cases where the paperwork was never finished. I think you need to go through them and then find the person who didn’t do their job.”
“Some of those people have moved on.”
“Then that’s when you give the case to us.”
Banter heard the elevator. She twisted off the silencer and made it disappear as well as the gun.
“I’m going to bring you all the folders on my desk. I don’t want to see them back unless they are open cases. Do I make myself clear.”
“I work for Ray,” she said, starting to get braver.
“And I know where you live. Where you work. Where you park your car.”
“We’ll see,” Carla said.
“Yeah, and maybe you should stay out of the bars and save your money. Your car needs new tires.”
“What did you do to them?”
“Nothing, they’re getting a little bald. A few hints to Social Services about neglect and hazards get them riled up.”
Carla was starting to look a little pissed.
“Thanks for offering to help, Carla. I’ll bring my folders over.”
Ray passed them just as she spoke. Banter timed her words perfectly.
Banter spun on her heels.
“All folders to Carla,” she said in a murmur.
“What about the ones in my office?” Peter said.
“Bring those, too.”
Peter and Jose both jumped up to grab all the folders in her office. They plopped them on Carla’s desk with relish. Banter sat back at her desk while Peter and Jose headed to the offices of the other undercovers. Carla was soon invisible behind the stacks of folders.
Peter came back and sat at the table.
“I don’t need drapes now,” she said.
“I barely heard what you said, but it was awesome,” he said.
“You got those IDs done, yet?”
“Damn, slave driver.”
However, he smiled when he stood and left.
Within an hour, Peter, Jose, Mark and Bert were sitting at her table with their laptops. No one had any folders. Banter was halfway done with her emails when Carla stepped in.
“These are open cases.”
She put them on Banter’s desk.
“Thank you, Carla. We’ll get them looked at.”
“You being nice to her now?” Peter said.
“She did what I asked. I’ll be nice.”
She doled out the folders to them.
“Hey, what about you?” Peter said.
“I saved you a few dozen. Look at what she’s wheeling out to be filed.”
Carla left with a cart filled with folders.
Banter smiled that no one complained after that.
At eleven-thirty, Corey called her on her office phone.
“Lunch?” he said.
“I’m on my way.”
“Where you going?” Peter said when she hung up the phone.
She trotted down the stairs. Corey was waiting for her on the landing of the fourth floor.
“So how is sixth,” he said.
“Shaping up. Are you all packed up?”
“What’s on the menu for today?”
“Oh, how I love you,” she said with a laugh.
There was a crowd when they reached the parking garage. Banter figured everyone wanted to escape and they all had the same idea to head out for lunch.
“I received an apologize today,” Corey said while he navigated out onto the street.
“For what? Working too hard or all the meetings you have to attend?”
“For being asked to supply DNA. HR stated it was inappropriate for that request to be coming from the police station, and that it was Carla’s responsibility to know who she slept with and who she didn’t. It’s her responsibility to request paternity testing.”
“You dodged a bullet there.”
Banter chuckled too.
They rode in a comfortable silence to the restaurant.
“Which office did they give you?” Corey said after they had ordered.
“I don’t know the numbering system.”
“Facing Ray’s office, I’m to the left, two doors down.”
“That’s a big office.”
“With a table for meetings. Although, all the other undercovers think it’s their new work space. They must think there’s safety in numbers.”
“If you’re all looking like you’re working, Ray will leave you alone type of thing?”
“Yeah. And Carla is helping take some of these case reviews off our backs.”
“That’s nice of her.”
“We had a little chat.”
Corey eyed her.
“I’m not going to ask,” he said.
“Best not to.”
Banter was happy they had leftovers.
“Maybe this is lunch tomorrow. In my new office.”
“I might have room for that in my fridge,” he said.
“Just don’t do any snacking.”
The drive back was slow due to traffic, and their walk up the stairs was leisurely.
“I can make it,” she said, looking up at the flights she had to go. “See you tonight.”
“Just wait until I’m on the seventh floor. We’ll both be huffing and puffing.”
Before he left the stairwell, he gave her a quick kiss.
When she reached her office, there was no one there. There were no folders on her desk. The folders by Carla were greatly reduced.
Jose came in looking chipper.
“Thank you,” he said, handing her a soda.
“What’s this for?”
“Carla did my translations. Albeit I almost had most of them done. She finished them.”
“Good. We can spend our time more wisely.”
At three, Banter’s phone rang. It was Corey.
“I’m going to be late. I have no idea how late,” he said.
Banter thought he sounded winded.
“Okay. I’ll let Bea know. Call if you need anything.”
She wondered what was up since he said he wasn’t doing field work. Something big must have come up.
“I’m heading out, Jose.”
None of the other undercovers had appeared after lunch.
“I’ll head back to my own office. See you tomorrow,” he said.
Banter locked the door and headed home.
She expected to be greeted by Kyle, but both he and Colo looked busy in the living room.
“Hey, Bea. What’s up?”
“They had a slight squabble about how to arrange the backyard, but...” she held up a hand as if Banter was going to react. “...they figured it out. Now, they are drawing on paper all the designs they could possibly do. Which is good, because...”
Bea gestured toward the dogs. Both of them were sprawled on the ground fast asleep.
“They both got a workout.”
“I can’t even take credit for this. This was Corey’s evil plan.”
“Oh, talking of planning… can you be around at eight-thirty? Corey said he is going to be late. I don’t know how late and I have to go out to that club again.”
“Sure. I’ll head out now and get some grocery shopping done, then come back.”
“Thank you. And did some…” she lowered her voice, “chips get eaten?”
Bea smiled and nodded.
“Temptation gone. I’ll get some individual serving kind for future snacks.”
The evening progressed smoothly. The dogs were still too tired to do any more of the agility course, and the boys still had ideas in their heads. After dinner, they went right back to their designing. She wondered if they had enough paper for them.
Banter prepared for the evening. Bea was reading while sitting in the kitchen.
“I’m off. I’m hoping I’m only gone an hour,” Banter said, coming from the bedroom.
“No problem. See you later.”
She headed out and slid into her car. Banter almost felt as if she should be doing an exit protocol like she did at her apartment. She was dressed like she was going to do a hit. She had a loaded gun holstered on her back. Her lockpick wrist band was on her left arm. A knife was in a sheath on her ankle.
The bug that had been on her wrist band was now defunct. It had died a few weeks ago, and she had removed it. The only one she had on her now was the one in her magazine and the one on her car. She put her phone in the glove box since she rarely carried one when she did a hit. It could be a dangerous distraction or a dangerous reveal about whom she was.
She drove toward the club, but parked in a grocery store lot about a mile and a half away. The rest of the way was to be traveled on foot. She headed out at a jog, knowing she was going to get hot. The nights weren’t cooling as much as she wanted.
“Dog days of summer are early this year.”
She went over her plan in her head. Bert was stationed across the street watching the front. Her path was to go through the back. Somewhere to the north was Peter. Even though she had done things like this many times as a hired-gun, she felt anxious. She was still used to working alone. Knowing there were people out there who knew where she was or was going to be, made her feel nervous.
“They’re just going to get in the way,” she muttered.