Bantering With A Dandy (Book 3)

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Chapter 21

“White Van Delivery service.”

She sat on the couch and pulled over her laptop to look up the address that was also on the card. It was only four miles down the same road that the club was on.

“Damn,” she muttered.

The address was also within the ten mile search area that Bert had drawn out.

“Is this an oops? A card that shouldn’t have been given out? A card that was supposed to only be used just in case to validate your fake company?”

She checked the time. It was almost two am.

“I can’t sleep with this,” she said to herself. “I have to go check it out.”

She put her laptop aside and returned to the bedroom, wondering if she could dress and get her gun without waking Corey. The safe door made a click when it was opened. She decided it was worth a try, and she dressed slowly.

“Where are you going?”

She jumped at the voice even though she was half expecting it.

“I think I found something. I have to go look.”

“You’re not going alone,” he said, getting out of bed.

He turned on the bedroom light.

“Someone has to stay here with the kids,” she said.

“They’re sleeping and there are two dogs.”

She didn’t argue, thinking she would like his company.

“What did you find?” he said, pulling clothes out of the dresser.

She told him about the business card.

“I would call that a big slip up on their part and a big break on ours,” he said. “Although you should have looked at it earlier.”

“Don’t I know it. I’m hitting myself for not looking at it closer. I didn’t follow my own advice that everything is a clue.”

“I guess it was before you realized what the club was,” he said.

She looked at him.

“How are you going?” she said.

“Lonely guy out walking. Maybe my wife snores and I can’t sleep.”

She chuckled.

“I’m going to be invisible.”

“Sounds like a plan. Let’s take your car because it’s small and easy to park,” he said.

“I was going to suggest that.”

She took her gun out of the gun safe, noting the click. Corey would have woken immediately at the sound. She strapped on the gun, then grabbed her light weight hoodie.

“Let’s go,” she said.

“Let’s check the aerials first,” he said while he tied his last shoe. “That way we have an idea of the building layout around us.”

They settled on the couch. Patsy came down and joined them.

Corey picked up the card to examine it while she pulled up maps of the city. She keyed in the address. When it was found, she zoomed out.

“Here is the club. Go east on the same road, and here we are.”

She pointed at the location.

“So there is a strip of buildings on both sides of the street. Alleys in the back then more buildings.”

“I don’t know what we’ll find, but I’m hoping for some loading docks,” she said.

“Not seeing any in the aerials. What year were they taken?” he said.

“The dates are from last summer, but I’m thinking these loading docks won’t be as visible through an aerial as we think. They’re not used for semis anymore. The area where I saw them was smaller. Maybe a street wide at the most.”

“Still not seeing anything like that.”

“No, me either. Have you seen enough? Let’s go walk around.”

They headed for the car. She drove.

“Where are these cars going?” she said, somewhat surprised with the traffic.

“There is a new factory that does offset shift times so they’re not part of rush hour,” Corey said.

Banter made a turn and all the traffic vanished.

“Not much down here. Tell me when the bug stops working. Do you still have phone service?”

“Bug still good. Phone service is good.”

Corey was staring at his phone.

“I’m three quarters of a mile away now from that address.”

She drove another block.

“Gone,” Corey said.

“Ominous,” she said.

“Ominous but good news.”

Banter turned around and parked.

“So the bug works here but not across the street. Phone service?”

“Phone service still good,” he said.

“Let’s spend no more than a half-hour down here, then come back to the car,” she said.

“Got it.”

They sat there in silence for a few minutes while she checked her own bug.

“I’m good,” she said.

“You go first,” he said. “I’ll mosey out a few minutes behind you.”

She slid out of the car and disappeared into the shadows. Banter broke into a fast jog. She was almost a block away when she heard the car door shut. The area was so quiet that she could tell he hadn’t slammed it, but carefully closed it. She tried to jog as quiet as she could. The loudest noise around her was her own breathing.

She avoided going down the street in front of the address of the company, choosing to aim for the alley behind it. Once she reached it, she slowed to a walk. She moved carefully, listening and looking hard at everything.

While there were trash bins in the alley, they were pushed tight against the walls of the buildings, and there was no trash on the ground. A vehicle could easily drive through. She paused halfway down to listen.

There was no static overhead, but there were wires. She couldn’t tell if they were out of the ordinary or not. Her tracking bug was still blocked based on her app. She kept it open on her phone, so she could periodically check it.

She continued to the end, then turned up the block toward the front of the building. At the corner, she paused, surprised to see two white vans parked on the street. What surprised her even more was the building number she could see across the street. It was the same number she had seen before. The door was familiar as well.

She felt like this was almost too good to be true. Here was the entrance to the stairs and hallways that they led her through. Now, where was the final destination? She didn’t think she could risk going through the door even thought she figured she could remember the sequence of stairs and hallways.

After memorizing the one visible license plate, she backed up and went around the block to approach the other building from a different direction. There was an alley behind that building. However, it went only a short distance before it opened up into a large area.

She stopped and stared. According to the aerial maps, a building should have been there. Instead, it was the open area in front of the loading docks. They were right behind the building with the familiar building number. She figured they had only gone up and down stairs within the same building to put her off. She had to admit, it was effective.

Overhead, she could feel the static. She checked her phone and wasn’t surprised to see there was no coverage. Movement caught her eye. A figure appeared, coming from the other direction. It took her a moment to realize it was Corey. He had his hands in his pockets and his head down. His demeanor was that of someone not being too attentive of his surroundings. However, she had the feeling he was very aware.

“What are you doing here?”

She jumped at the voice.

Corey’s only reaction was to stop. He never even removed his hands from his pockets.

“Evening,” he said, using a gruff voice.

The person that had spoken was dressed like a security guard. He had been standing in the shadows near the door across from the loading docks. The man walked out only a few steps.

“What are you doing here?” the guard said again.

Corey shrugged.

“Walking. Damn wife snores. Does you wife snore?”

“Not married.”

“Girlfriend?”

Banter was impressed with the image that Corey was portraying. He looked like a man who wanted to talk and wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere.

“She doesn’t snore,” the guard said. “You should try the couch.”

Corey shrugged again.

“You can hear it everywhere. Need a man cave in the basement, but…” He gave a half laugh and a shrug. “No basement in an apartment.”

There were only apartments in the area. Corey was staying true to the type of neighborhood.

Banter backed up. She spied one camera, but could see it was a fake. With all this static, it wouldn’t have taken good video anyway if it had been real. She figured it was to keep the guard honest.

Her suspicion was confirmed when the guard glanced up at it.

“I have to keep this area clear. Keep walking,” the guard said.

“Have a good one,” Corey said, continuing on his way toward her.

Banter left the way she came, but she wasn’t ready to head back to the car. She wanted to see how far her bug was blocked in all directions. She kept on going until her bug appeared.

She had crossed a street, but she had crossed a couple of streets.

“So what is different about this corner from the one across the street?”

She looked up and examined every wire she could see. Finally, it was through a glint of light from the streetlight that she found what was different. Wires crossed the street high up on a building, but right in the middle, pointed in the direction of the loading docks, was an antenna. It was very fine and difficult to see.

“You look familiar. I’ve seen you before in a catalog.”

She thought about taking a picture, but being that it was dark and the street light provided glare, she didn’t think she could take a good one.

“I can look up an example to show everyone.”

She trotted down the street to the next intersection and found another antenna. It took her longer than she expected, spending almost an hour checking for antennas before she returned to the car.

“You were getting me worried,” Corey said when she slipped into the driver’s seat.

“I found what’s blocking the bugs and determined the whole area,” she said. “It’s a ten block area.”

“That’s a huge.”

She pulled away from the curb and drove around the city, keeping a watch for tails.

“I’m not seeing anything, yet,” Corey said.

He was also watching through the side view mirror.

“Nope, me either.”

She pulled over and stopped, turning off the car.

“Let’s wait and make sure,” she said.

“Want to pretend to argue?”

Banter threw up her hands.

“I hate arguing.”

“We can argue about arguing,” he said, keeping a straight face.

Banter caught the car through the rear view mirror. It pulled up to the corner on a side street, but it didn’t proceed through the intersection. It parked. It was unusual because it didn’t have any lights on.

“We have company. If they can read lips, they’re going to read yours,” she said.

Corey turned just a little more as if facing her more.

“I can’t take it any more,” he said, emphasizing with his hands.

His voice was quiet since they didn’t need to yell.

“You’re doing great,” she said. “Are they watching?”

She acted as if she was responding to him with her own arm movements.

“You know that answer,” he said, making the yes sign with his hand out of view of the other car.

“One or two in the car?”

“Two. Too much is going on. I can’t take it.”

She almost smiled at how he was doing while she pretended to talk and he make exasperating movements.

Then Corey stiffened and turned.

“You’re going to get me in trouble. Cops,” he said.

She turned as well.

A patrol car was coming, but it was moving rather slow.

Banter waited until the patrol car passed and was a few car lengths away before she started the car.

“Looked like Luther,” Corey said.

She waited another minute before pulling out. Once she took a turn, she sped up and turned on her own lights.

“Keep to the speed limit,” he said.

“I am.”

She took a few more turns, then headed toward the middle of the city, toward her old apartment.

“If they got your license plate, they could find out who we are,” he said.

“They’ll find a Katrina who lives in my apartment, my old apartment, which is why we’re heading in that direction,” she said.

“What? You never changed it?”

“Not yet.”

“Oh, right. We haven’t been married that long. Feels like we’ve been married forever,” he said.

She eyed him.

“In a good way,” he said.

“I was going to wait until it was time to renew the registration,” she said. “Maybe it might be wise to keep it registered the way it is.”

“You’re not doing any more undercover work,” he said.

“Tell that to Ray.”

She drove right to the apartment building and found a parking space half a block down.

“I never usually parked this close,” she said.

“Where did you park?”

“Three or more blocks away. Depended on when I arrived.”

A car passed, but it was a different one. It kept on going.

“Anyone sitting up there?” he said, glancing out the window at her apartment.

“No. I think it’s empty at the moment. The undercovers are treating it like a safe house. Sort of like what we’re using it for now.”

“Maybe we should get out of the car and go into the building,” he said. “Complete the charade.”

“Okay.”

Banter kept her eyes peeled, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. It felt strange going into the front of her old apartment building and walking up the stairs.

As expected, the building was silent. She keyed in her code and opened the door. The air was stale, and the place didn’t look any different from the last time she had been there.

She turned on one small light near the door. Corey closed the door behind them.

“Looks the same. They haven’t done much,” she said.

“I have never been here.”

He did a walk-through of the apartment.

“You made thousands and this was your apartment? Pretty low-key.”

“I liked small. Easy to clean. Anything larger would require a maid. I couldn’t have a maid, other wise I’d be hiding equipment all the time.”

They stood together in the kitchen. He wrapped his arms around her.

“You are very practical.”

“I still am.”

“Yes, you are.”

He held her tight for a moment, then released her.

She opened the fridge. Someone had stocked it with bottled water and soda. She took out a bottle of water.

“Want one?”

“Sure.”

She handed him one and then sat by the window so she could peer out. Corey settled on the couch. She drank half the bottle then leaned with both arms on the book shelf that stood under the window. This allowed her to lay her head down and still see out. She watched traffic a long time.

A truck rumbled down the street. Banter bolted upright. It was light out. Her neck was stiff when she turned. Corey was sleeping on the couch.

“Corey?”

She stretched and rose.

“Corey?” she said again a little louder.

He woke and sat up.

“What time is it?” he said.

“Six am. We better head home before the kids wake up.”

“Yeah.”

He stood and stretched.

“See anything?” he said.

“No. Let me use the bathroom before we go.”

When she came out, he went in.

“Okay. Ready,” he said, stepping out.

Banter turned out the light when they left. There were sounds of people up and about in the other apartments, but she still remembered everyone’s schedule and knew they could leave without being seen.

“Traffic is picking up. We’ll be harder to track,” he said once they were back in the car.

“And harder to tell if we’re tailed.”

Banter drove the long way home, but then started to worry. They were going to get home after the boys got up. What would they think? Would they panic? That feeling made her drive a little faster than she normally would.

“Slow down,” Corey said. “We’ll get there.”

“I’m just worried about the boys.”

“They know to call grandpa if anything happens.”

She was relieved when they pulled up the driveway and into the garage.

They both waited until the garage door was shut before getting out of the car. Corey led the way into the house. The boys were sitting at the table with their breakfast, looking a little surprised to see them.

The dogs wagged their tails.

“I thought you were still in bed,” Colo said. “We were going to let you sleep.”

“We had to run an errand,” Corey said. “Are you going to make us breakfast?”

“Sure,” Kyle said.

“We’ll go change so you don’t have to hurry,” Corey said.

Banter almost beat him undressed.

“I had to put my gun away,” she said, joining him in the shower.

“I’m missing meetings,” he said as if warning her that she was going to make him more late. “I had to text Nessa.”

Even with that said, Corey didn’t seem in a hurry to finish their shower.

“You are so nice,” he said.

He handed her a towel.

“I wish we could sleep in.”

“This is going to be one frantic day,” she said.

“Keep me posted and make me part of it,” he said.

“I’ll try.”

He finished straightening his tie, and they went out together. The boys had just put their toast on a plate.

While Corey ate, he called into a meeting.

Banter ate fast, so she could get on her computer. The boys joined her in the living room with their readers.

“Thanks for being quiet while your dad is on the phone,” she said.

“He’s busy,” Kyle said.

“He’s important,” Colo said.

“Yeah, he is,” she said. “To all of us.”

She pulled up the aerial maps and zoomed in. The area behind the building looked like there was another building. She zoomed in even more, but the image just got fuzzy.

Damn, she thought. She was going to have to wait until Bea came before she could go into the office to see if the printouts or the city aerials were any better. Otherwise, they needed to get new pictures.

She pulled out her phone to call Bert.

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