Everyone stood when she entered the room.
“Afternoon, Banter. You can call me Phil.”
The door was shut behind her, and she was alone with the five men.
Phil was the one officer in the room. He gestured for her to sit. When she took her seat, everyone else sat. No one else was introduced.
“Tell us about these antennas that are being used to block signals.”
Banter had already looked them up. She told him the manufacturer and the model number.
“They looked exactly like that type of antenna,” she said. “However, I couldn’t verify the exact model. I didn’t have a ladder at the time I saw them.”
One man smiled. One man was on his phone. The others remained serious.
The man with the phone handed it over to her. She saw he had pulled up the same one she had researched. He was even on the same website.
“Exactly,” she said, handing the phone back.
“Those are directional,” the man said, speaking to Phil.
“I was told you know the location of these?”
“Are you going to try and take them out?” she said.
“We can block them,” he said.
“Blocking the blockers?” she said.
“I have a map.”
“We’ll get it,” Phil said with a nod toward the man closest to the door.
That man rose and left.
“How did you figure this out?” Phil said while they waited.
“I shop at the same website,” she said using a monotone voice.
He smiled and nodded. Nothing more was said.
The man returned with the map she had marked off.
“This is where I noted antennas,” she said, pointing each one out.
“How were they aligned?” someone asked.
“They are aimed toward the loading docks.”
She marked arrows on the map, showing the direction that they were pointed.
“So why aren’t the apartment all around here not complaining about cell service?”
“Directional with a narrow path,” one man said. “Will only affect them when they are in the street.”
“I was in this building. So they have an antenna here in the building?”
Probably have one pointed directly at the building,” the man said.
“Oh, yeah,” the man laughed. “Camo.”
All of the men looked at the aerial and nodded.
“The highlighted area is the open space for the loading docks,” she said, but the men seemed to be able to see this.
“So there is nothing like this at the club location?”
Phil seemed well-versed in all the information.
“Nothing is blocked in that area,” she said. “Nothing of great importance is happening down there.”
“We’ll be part of the first wave to block those antennas, so communication will flow,” he said.
“Good to hear. Anything else?” she said.
Phil shook his head.
“Thanks for your info.”
“No problem,” she said, rising. “You want the map?”
“Leave the map.”
The conference room was quiet compared to the controlled chaos she walked out into. She wove her way through the mass of people to reach her office. A man she didn’t know was sitting in her chair.
“Out,” she said, even though she suspected he was FBI.
He moved over to the table where Jose and Mark still were.
Banter sat and sipped her soda. It was warm. She frowned.
John stepped in and sat across from her.
“We’ll group here before we head out. I need your timeline for this evening.”
“I usually head out at nine-thirty and get dropped off a mile or so away. I walk in. I get picked up somewhere near the end of the alley that runs behind the club. East end. They vary where they pick me up. It will be a white van that arrives promptly at ten pm.”
She wished she had the map, so she could point it out to John.
“When I reach the location, they weave me through the building, then out a back door. The last time I just stood there with a gun out for a little over an hour. Keeps their workers honest.”
“We want you out safe when we raid.”
“I’ll be standing in the middle of the open area, probably across from the loading dock on the far right, facing north. When you guys come in, I intend to do what a hired-gun would do,” she said. “I’m going to drop the gun and walk away from it. Should there be any shooting, I’m dropping to the ground.”
“Why drop the gun?”
“If I was a real hired-gun and you know you’re going to get caught, you try and get caught for something less like breaking and entering or disorderly conduct. If I don’t have a gun, then I wasn’t armed. I would look like I got caught in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”
“Being female, you would probably get away with it.”
“You don’t have a darn thing on your record,” he said.
“Of course, not,” she said. “I’m a professional.”
“Let’s keep it that way,” he said.
“I intend to.”
“If you go home, be back here by eight,” he said. “In case there are any other briefings.”
John rose and left.
“You are still a scary woman,” Jose said.
“Thanks. I’ll take that as a compliment.”
She drew out the gun.
“I think I’ll move the bug down further, in case I do have to do some shooting. I know if I shoot up to the bug, it’ll jam the gun.”
“Good idea,” Jose said.
Peter came in and sat.
“New soda?” she said.
“So what are the plans for the rest of the undercovers?” she said.
“I’m watching the club,” Mark said. “Peter usually does on Wednesday, but he’s your ride tonight.”
“I’ll be a bum or drunk down by the loading docks after I drop you off,” Peter said. “All of us will be in supporting roles, so we’re not exposed.”
Banter ejected the magazine in order to unload the bullets.
“What are you doing?” Peter said.
“Moving the bug further down,” she said.
She reached it and pulled it out, then continued to pull out bullets until she was a few from the bottom. Her desk was now strewn with bullets.
“How strong is that bug? There’s a lot of pressure in a magazine,” Peter said.
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “I guess I’ll find out.”
She slipped in the bug, then began to load bullets.
“My bet is five and it’s squashed,” Peter said.
“Six,” Jose said.
“Four,” Mark said.
“What was on top of it before?” Peter said.
“Three, then I fired one,” Banter said.
“She’s got to four,” Jose said.
Banter rolled her eyes, feeling they were getting annoying.
“You can go work in your own offices,” she said.
“Nope, they’re using them,” Mark said. “All the team briefings. They’re going to go over stuff until everyone is sick of it.”
“Are the army guys just going to block the antennas?”
Banter reached the fifth bullet.
“No. They’re pulling in military and FBI because this has the possibility of being really big,” Jose said.
There was an audible crunch.
“Six. I won,” Jose said with a laugh.
“Yeah. You won the configuration of a new bug,” she said.
“Don’t know why you’re doing that,” Peter said. “We’ll know where you are.”
“If they block the antennas, then you’ll be able to see exactly where I am,” she said. “If there’s shooting, get me the hell out of there.”
“Gotcha,” he said.
Banter configured a new bug.
“I can already see it,” Jose said.
“I gave it the same name, plus I can override the serial. I made it the same as the other so no one has to change anything.”
“Smart,” Peter said.
“There. I have five bullets to work with. More than I usually need, but I’ve never been in a raid before.”
“Everyone is assigned a zone and you stay in your zone,” Peter said.
“I’m not liking that my zone is in the middle of everything.”
She checked the time and was shocked to see it was after three.
“I’m going home. If anyone is looking for me, you know my phone number.”
She noted that when she left her office, the man who had been sitting there before went back to her chair. Curiosity got the better of her and she stepped back into her office.
“Who are you?”
The man looked up.
“He’s Eric from the K-9 group,” Peter said.
“They’re bringing in the dogs?”
“If anyone runs, the dogs will get them,” Eric said.
She turned and left. Once in the parking garage, she wasn’t happy to remember that she was on the fourth level. She trudged up the stairs. Before she left the garage, she sent a text to Corey letting him know she was heading home. She received an instant reply.
OK. I’ll be home soon.
Banter felt tense.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to working with a team,” she muttered to herself while she navigated out of the parking garage.
She pulled up their street. Blue, green, and yellow on their lawn met her eyes. The sight suddenly seemed welcoming to her instead of irritating.
“Mom. Mom. You should see this,” Kyle said, bouncing up to her.
“It’s the best ever,” Colo said.
“I can see. Show me.”
“It starts at the front door. Ollie.”
Colo waved hand commands.
Banter thought Ollie looked tired, but he obeyed, albeit slowly. He walked the course that ended at the back door. The boys had again used kitchen chairs and rope.
“Where did you find the rope?”
“Garage,” Colo said. “We’ll fold it back up.”
“Inside,” Kyle said. “She doesn’t do obstacles. She’s only a sniffer dog.”
“We’ll get her to do obstacles one day while she’s sniffing.”
The boys ran to pick up the obstacles.
“No, wait for Dad to see. He’s coming home soon,” she said.
The boys looked extra happy.
Banter went inside. Bea was standing in the living room.
“I can watch them from here,” she said. “And stay cool.”
The curtain to the front window was fully open.
“Yeah, it is hot out.”
“I have them come in once and awhile, but Ollie panting usually is cluing Colo in that they have to come inside.”
A delivery truck slowly passed, but stopped by the driveway.
A guttural growl floated in from the kitchen.
Patsy trotted into the room, baying at the door. It was loud with a deep bass. Banter could feel the sound vibrating within her own chest.
Banter saw the boys walking toward the door. Then the bell rang. Patsy’s bay intensified.
The front door opened.
“We got another box delivered,” Colo said.
The delivery truck drove off. There was a large box on the front porch.
Patsy growled and looked out the door.
“It’s okay, Patsy,” Kyle said, putting his hand on her.
I’ve never heard her howl like that before,” Banter said.
“Only when the delivery truck stops,” Bea said.
“What did your dad order now? We don’t have much room left.”
Both boys shrugged.
“Push it in. All this stuff already doesn’t fit in the new toy box,” she said, wondering when Corey had time to shop for this stuff.
“Maybe it’s another new toy box?” Colo said.
He and Kyle pushed the box into the living room. Banter shut the door.
“Can we open it?” Kyle said.
“Nope. Dad’s coming home soon. Stay in for awhile. Ollie looks hot.”
The boys settled on the couch. Banter stood for a few minutes before she headed toward the bedroom. She was feeling unsettled and getting ready for tonight seemed the thing to do. From the gun safe, she pulled out her wrist wrap and her light-weight hoodie. She set them on the dresser which reminded her to remove her wedding ring.
Banter came back out and settled on a chair in the kitchen. Bea had the cookbook out.
“This is dinner tonight.”
“Thanks. I’ll practice again this weekend.”
“You must be doing okay,” Bea said. “No one looked sick on Monday.”
Banter chuckled, feeling some of the tension leave her.
“Yeah, they all survived.”
Patsy did half a baying howl while she rose, trotting to the door.
Corey came in the front. Patsy wagged her tail.
“Dad. Dad,” both boys said, springing up.
“Poor Ollie. He’s going to be one tired dog,” Banter said.
Everyone, including Bea stepped out to watch Colo send Ollie through the course.
“That is awesome,” Corey said when they reached the end.
He went in to change. Banter stayed out and watched the boys dismantle what was in the front yard. Both dogs had followed Corey inside.
“The sensible ones,” Banter said, feeling the heat. “I hope it cools down tonight.”
She checked the weather report on her phone. It was supposed to be partly cloudy and hot overnight.
“Okay. Inside before we melt.”
“Dad. Dad. What’s inside the box?” Kyle said.
“Now what did you buy?” Banter said.
Corey whipped out his pocket knife.
“I thought, since Ollie has his obstacle course, that Patsy would like a scent marking kit.”
He opened the box.
“Video and a book for Kyle on training your bloodhound. A scent marking kit for creating a trail. Plus a few dog chew toys and treats just because.”
“Whoa,” Colo said.
“Wow,” Kyle said with a big smile.
Dinner seemed to go faster than normal, even though Bea was there adding to the conversation.
“Banter. Time,” Corey said.
Banter felt rushed when she grabbed her wrist wrap and hoodie.
“Take a deep breath,” Corey said.
“I think I like working alone better,” she said.
He gave her a hug and a kiss.
“I will be talking with Ray about using you in the field. This is coming to an end.”
Together they headed out.
“See you boys later. Behave.”
Both boys waved, hardly looking up from their readers.
“Since you found the right books, we can’t get their noses out of those readers,” Corey said when they got into his cruiser.
Banter was glad to see he had cleaned up his front seat.
“The only thing I have to remember is to use my accent,” she said.
“You sometimes fall into it when you’re tired,” he said. “In fact, that’s when I know you’re really tired.”
“I’m not tired now. Just nervous.”
“We’ve got a lot of people involved. Some good people are leading and everyone is stepping up,” he said.
Corey pulled into the parking garage. They had to go up to the second level to find a spot.
“Lots of people helping.”
“The vans will be fully loaded,” he said.
They walked down the stairs, but took the elevator up.
“I don’t want you too tired,” he said.
“I’ve gotten a lot of exercise lately. I feel like I’m getting back into shape again.”
“You never lost it,” he said in a whisper causing her to smile.
The sixth floor was as packed as when she left, then suddenly, it emptied out.
“Everyone is suiting up,” Ray said. “Do you need a bulletproof vest, Banter?”
“No. I have to keep the same persona. Besides, I can’t have anything on me that would give me away. The one bug I have is enough and they would have to unload the gun to find it.”
“I’m on my way down.”
Peter and Bert were sitting in her office.
“I’ll drive you as usual,” Peter said. “Then I’ll position myself a few blocks from the warehouse, but as discreet as I can be.”
She nodded, sitting at her desk. There was nothing to do but wait for the time to leave. She settled herself and zoned out while controlling her breathing. This was something she could do and had done many times when tracking a target or waiting for a target. There had been a lot of waiting involved when she had done hits.
“You don’t have to stare at me,” she said to Peter.
“Watching the Master,” he said with a grin.
“What? No soda?”
“When this all starts, you can’t stop to pee. Best not to drink.”
Ray stepped in and reviewed where everyone was going to be. Nothing had changed from his earlier briefing. Banter knew better than anyone. Once she assumed the gun-for-hire persona, she had to keep it up, even during the raid, until she was clear of the area.
A new thought rose in her mind.
I might experience getting arrested for the first time in my life, she thought.
“They use the handcuff ties now, don’t they?” she said.
“Yes. They carry and use the metals ones for special cases only,” Bert said.
“Why do you need to know?” Peter said.
Banter smiled and didn’t answer.
“Impossible to get out of unless you break them,” he said. “You have to be pretty strong to do it.”
“Time,” Peter said.
Together they rose and left the building. Peter had the beater car.
“No fucking air conditioning,” she said.
It was Peter’s turn to shrug.
“Where do you want to be dropped off?”
“On the west side about ten blocks away.”
They drove the whole distance without a word. When he stopped at a corner, she got out and silently stepped into the shadows. He drove off and she waited.
The area felt deserted. She waited an extra five minutes before she headed out at a jog in full alert. Her eyes darted around, looking for movement. She caught sight of a stray cat running under a car. That was the only living thing she saw.