Banter jerked and looked up. She had never seen the woman before, but she looked like an employee only because she was wearing a security badge. The rest of her looked like she was trolling for a date. Her makeup was heavy and her clothing was tight.
“I work here. Waiting for Ray,” Banter said.
The woman didn’t look like she believed her.
“There is a waiting area over there.”
Banter didn’t move.
“I’m Banter. The security adviser.”
The woman looked her over. Banter knew she didn’t look like much since she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She did have a light jacket on over her t-shirt which hid the fact that she was carrying a gun on her back.
Banter flashed her ID and her eyes. She was getting annoyed. She was feeling a little cranky from the lack of sleep to have to deal with this.
Ray walked past and the woman followed him. Peter appeared and sat by her. He had a large soda he was sipping.
Ray’s voice summoned them in.
They both rose at the same time to go into his office.
“Who’s the new girl?” Banter said, nodding toward the woman.
“Oh, yeah,” Ray said.
He raised his voice and called out.
Carla appeared to stood in the doorway.
“Carla was on medical leave. She’s back. Carla, this is Banter. She’s our security advisor. Banter, this is Carla. She is the department admin. Banter’s office is on the fourth floor next to Van Baine.”
“The cute one,” Carla said with a smiled.
“My husband,” Banter said in monotone.
Carla went back to her desk.
“She’s annoying,” Banter said.
Two other guys, Bert and Mark, that were part of their group arrived and found a seat.
“What happened last night?” Ray said.
Mark spoke first. “Banter tagged the wrong person. She moved from her position and jeopardized the whole operation.”
“One moment she was there, and the next she was gone. If I hadn’t moved, they would have found her,” Bert said.
“Our target went out a side door,” Banter said. “Not the front. Our target wears a strong cologne. The one who went out the front had no cologne.”
“The target always goes out the front. That was his car. He got in and drove off without you tagging him,” Mark said.
“And the person we followed?” Ray said.
“Don’t know who he was,” Bert said.
Banter flashed her eyes.
“I tagged our target. He wears a strong, tangy cologne.”
She wrinkled her nose at the memory of it.
“You need to make that part of his profile. He’s a dandy. He’s always well dressed, every hair in place, and wears the same cologne. The guy who went out the front needed a shower. His clothes were wrinkled.”
“Dandy?” Ray said, giving her a weird look.
“Someone who is more concerned about how he looks than anything else,” she said. “I could tell that the first time he was pointed out to me.”
“We needed to stick to the script,” Ray said.
“Script? This isn’t a fucking play,” she said with some ire in her voice. “They didn’t follow the same script. I think they have been fooling you the whole time, and our target goes out the side. And quit all this elaborate setup. You spooked ’em.”
“We can start watching the drug house that we discovered last night to see if our target goes there,” Ray said.
“He went there last night,” Banter said, trying to control her exasperation. “You need to look at the whole person and develop a profile, just like the profilers do. When your target deviates from his profile, then you know when they are faking you out or throwing in a decoy.”
“Yeah, she’s got a point.”
It was Peter who finally spoke.
“Just put him on the job board and let someone else get rid of him,” she said.
The job board was where hits were listed. Banter had used it when she was a gun-for-hire to find work. The police monitored it and sometimes used it to their advantage.
“We don’t want him dead,” Ray said. “He has a connection with a bigger fish. That’s the fish we want, but we don’t know who that is yet. That’s why we’re trying to follow him to see when he makes contact with the bigger fish.”
“You need to get someone closer to him,” she said.
“Yeah, we were thinking about that. I remember seeing you at the gala last fall. You doll up pretty nice.”
Banter rolled her eyes.
“I didn’t think anyone noticed me,” she said.
“I noticed you because you danced with Corey who at the time was having wife issues.”
“I’m not liking the direction of this conversation,” she said.
“I’d like you to doll up and go visit the club.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.”
“Time to go prove what you have been telling us,” Ray said. “And being that tonight is Friday, it would be a perfect night.”
“Tonight? It’s pizza night with the kids.”
“Club action doesn’t start until after nine,” Ray said. “Peter, here, can be your date. Maybe you two can have a spat, and he leaves. Then you’re a pretty little thing needing a new date.”
“Another elaborate setup,” she said, but this was one she knew would work better than spraying the area with paintballs.
She turned to look at Peter.
“You need a haircut.”
“Ponytails are in for guys,” he said with a grin.
“Arrange it, you two. That’s all for now,” Ray said, dismissing the meeting.
“We can discuss this down in my office,” she said.
Peter tailed her down the stairs to her office. She noted that Corey was out.
“Hi, Nessa. Is Corey in the field?”
Nessa shook her head.
“He’s downstairs in a meeting.”
Nessa was Corey’s assistant. Her spiked hair was pink now. Banter swore it was green the last time she saw her.
“Do you need a soda?” Nessa said.
“Yes, she does,” Peter said. “Before she takes mine.”
“Very funny, wise guy,” Banter said while she settled at her desk.
“Carla has the hots for Corey,” Peter said.
“Doesn’t everyone know we got married? Most of the police force was there at the courthouse.”
“She was still on medical leave. She’ll learn.”
Nessa stepped in and handed Banter a can of soda.
“I’ll meet you at the park and ride off of exit 92 at nine pm,” Peter said. “I’ll borrow a sports car and make us look fancy. I wasn’t at the gala last year, what did you wear?”
“Femme fatal outfit. Hat, tight skirt, short jacket.”
“Don’t ever tell my girlfriend. She’ll have a fit.”
“If that’s the case, you need a different girlfriend.”
“I might need a new one after I tell her we’re not going out tonight.”
“You have to make it up to her.”
“Two weekend evenings and one is shot. Those are hard to make up.”
“Well, go meet her after you’ve broken up with me at the club.”
Peter shook his head.
“I think I better hang around in case you need a ride.”
“I can always get a ride.”
“Ray won’t look kindly at you if you hotwire a car,” he said.
“Ever hear of a taxi? Or the fact I’ll have a phone and can call Corey?”
“It’s going to take a long time for you to lose your status as an ex-criminal.”
“A criminal is someone convicted. I was never convicted.”
“Semantics,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ll see you at nine.”
He rose and left.
Banter turned on her laptop. She sipped her soda while she waited for it to boot.
“All this place does is send emails,” she said once her computer was up.
She spied the dozens of emails waiting for her. She sorted through them.
“And why are you sending these to me? This is policies and procedure stuff. Like I’m the person deciding that stuff.”
She forwarded all those emails to the Compliance Officer, then she spent the rest of the morning answering the rest and clearing her inbox.
Corey passed by her door just when she pulled up comics to read. She waited a moment, then stepped over into his office.
“Lunch?” she said.
“Give me ten minutes and yes.”
He looked a little harried.
She returned to her office to read comics while she waited. In less than ten minutes, he stepped in and shut the door. She had no glass window like most office doors had which allowed her a bit of privacy when the door was shut.
“What’s up?” she said, rising.
He moved over by her and pulled her into his arms and kissed her. It was a long kiss.
“Okay, what did you do?” she said, once he released her lips.
He still has his arms wrapped around her.
“It’s what I need to continue to do,” he said. “And don’t let me forget about it.”
“You haven’t forgotten yet.”
“Lunch?” he said when he released her.
“Now you are sweet talking me.”
He led her out of her office by her hand. Then still held her hand while they walked down the steps and out to the parking garage.
“Let’s take your car. My passenger seat is full of papers. Toss me your keys.”
She flipped them over to him.
“Where’s your car?”
“Second level,” she said, taking the lead.
He opened the door for her when they reached it.
“This is a lot of special treatment,” she said.
“Special lady,” he said.
She read a lot of emotion in his two words.
He pulled out of the lot.
“So, what happened?”
“Just making sure that we connect. We’re both busy.”
“So… is this a bad time to tell you I have a date tonight at a ritzy nightclub?”
He almost laughed.
“Ray is sending you out on a Friday night?”
“Nine pm. I’ll meet Peter and we’ll go together, but then we’re supposed to have a spat and he leaves me.”
Corey had to brake hard to avoid a white delivery van that cut him off.
“What’s the objective?”
She could tell he was keeping his cool which was better than what she would have done.
“Try to position me to get closer to this drug lord. There are some discrepancies about who he is and some bigger fish they want to catch.”
“Well, you are a lot prettier than most of Ray’s team.”
“Considering they’re all guys, yes.”
“Is Peter totally abandoning you, and you need a ride home?”
“No, he’ll hang out somewhere.”
Corey pulled into the restaurant.
“Italian. One of my favorites,” she said.
“One of your many favorites. Besides, Bea doesn’t cook Italian, and I have a craving for it.”
“You sure you’re not Italian?”
“I asked my dad and he said no Italian. Maybe Dutch and German, but as far as he was concerned, we’re American.”
“Sounds like a good police answer.”
Corey held her hand going into the restaurant.
The hostess was quick to seat them.
“I don’t like that Ray’s sending you out,” Corey said after they had ordered their drinks.
“I won’t be carrying any ID. Besides, they shouldn’t suspect a couple coming to the bar.”
“What are you wearing?”
“What you wore at the gala?”
“Now I’m really worried.”
He over emoted a look of concern.
Banter smirked at him.
“I’m not a blonde bombshell. You have nothing to worry about. I probably won’t even attract the bigwig. I’ll get a peon.”
“You have nice legs,” he said in a murmur.
“Apparently, Ray saw me at the gala dancing with you which seems to be why he nominated me.”
“I think it’s probably because you’re female.”
“Yeah. That too.”
“Is Peter getting a haircut?”
“Nope. He said ponytails are in.”
“Neither of you look like the typical police officer. Which is good.”
The waiter arrived again, and they ordered.
“We’re going to have some good leftovers,” she said, already looking forward to them.
“If you need any backup, let me know,” he said in a quiet voice.
“I can eat my own leftovers,” she said, but she knew he meant for tonight.
It was his turn to smirk at her.
“I need to have a talk with Ray. You’re supposed to be more of a consultant,” Corey said. “Undercovers are usually single and without families because of the work. There are exceptions, but it’s really hard on relationships.”
“Peter said something to that effect regarding his girlfriend.”
“He’s been through a few.”
Their food came.
“Bread sticks are extra garlicky today,” she said after she bit into one.
“Better brush your teeth before you bowl Peter over. I’m sure you’ll have to get a little close.”
“His sniffer is broken. He’s been working in too much garbage. Last night I was reeking, and he didn’t smell a thing.”
“Are you going home for a nap, in case you’re out late?”
“Yeah. I’ll head home right after lunch. I can take our leftovers.”
“Assuming I have leftovers. And assuming I trust you with my leftovers.”
Banter knew the restaurant was generous with their servings. Both she and Corey needed boxes.
“That was awesome. Thank you,” she said when they headed back out to her car.
“No, thank you. Here, you drive. You can drop me off and head straight home.”
Banter reached the block of the police station and pulled over.
“See you later.”
He reached over to give her a kiss before exiting the car.
She drove off, wondering why he was being so attentive. Neither had been lacking in that department even of late with her working. In fact, they seemed to see more of each other.
“Something happened, and you’re not telling me? Carla pinch your ass, and you’re reconfirming our relationship?”
She chuckled over the thought.
The house was quiet without the boys or the dog. She stashed their leftovers in the fridge and was reminded of the cooking class. She called to register and was surprised find there was only one spot left.
“Damn, that’s thirty people. There are others who can’t cook?”
She shook her head, wondering if she was going to be in a class with a bunch of teenagers. With that done, she headed to check her closet to find the outfit for the night. The dress and jacket that she wanted to wear were there, but she had to hunt around to find the hat.
“And no wedding band.”
She slid it off and put it on the dresser before she curled up on the bed. She was in a warm comfortable sleep when she felt Corey cuddle up to her.
“Don’t tell me its nine pm, and I slept through my cue.”
“No, its five-thirty. Pizza is here. The boys have been really good about not waking you up. Do you want to join us outside on the picnic table?”
“Do you always sleep with your gun?”
“I forgot to take it off?”
“You forgot to take it off.”
“I never even felt it.”
“Not when you sleep on your side.”
She unfastened the strap when she got up. Corey already had the gun safe door open.
“Thanks,” she said after she put it inside.”
He took her hand and led her outside.
“Mom,” Kyle said, bouncing up to her for a hug.
He was six and a carbon copy of his dad.
“Kyle. Colo. What did you two do all day?”
Ollie, the golden retriever, was crashed under the table.
“And what did you do to Ollie?”
“We went to a dog class,” Kyle said.
“Agility,” Corey added.
“Oh, man. I would love to have gone. How did you do?”
“The lady said that Ollie wouldn’t be a good dog,” Colo said.
He was nine and also looked very much like his dad.
“Mo,” Kyle said.
“Swallow that pizza first,” she said.
“No,” Kyle said again. “But we told her Ollie had lots of training.”
“They had a professional dog there, and Ollie did better than him,” Colo said with some pride.
“Did you both work with Ollie?”
“But he got tired fast,” Colo said. “We were only there for two hours.”
“We need another dog,” Kyle said. “I need a dog.”
“Two hours is a lot of running for Ollie. Didn’t you want another dog?” she said to Corey with a teasing smile.
“Yeah, back when I thought we needed a guard dog.”
“I’ll get a guard dog and train him,” Kyle said.
“I think you’ll need Banter’s help on that one.”
“So, I get a dog?”
Kyle jumped to his feet with excitement.
“We’ll see,” Corey said.
“We can make our own course in the backyard,” Colo said.
“Weekend project,” she said with a laugh.
“I have to mow back here,” Corey moaned, but she could tell he wasn’t too serious.
“We’ll help,” Kyle said.
“Yeah, we’ll move all the obstacles.”
“No, make the dogs do it,” Kyle said with bright eyes.
“He’s got something there,” she said.
“Train the dogs to set up and take down their own agility course?” Corey said. “If you can do that, you start training dogs for a living.”
“I can do that,” Colo said.
“You have baseball,” Corey said.
“You have coaching,” she said to Corey.
“I need a dog,” Kyle said.