Monday morning started out normal. Banter rose with Corey. He left for work, and she got breakfast ready for the boys. Bea came just before Banter had to leave.
“I’ll be home a little after lunch, Bea. Will you guys be home?”
Kyle shook his head.
“We’re very busy,” he said.
She could tell he was mimicking someone, but she couldn’t tell who. It wasn’t her or Corey.
“Well, you’ll be even busier this afternoon. You better fit me into your schedule,” she said.
Kyle pulled out his phone as if checking his calendar.
“We’ll be here,” Bea said with a grin.
Banter headed to the police station. While she walked up the stairs to the sixth floor, Ray almost ran into her.
“Oh, Banter. You’re needed at the firing range. Shooting training.”
“I don’t need any training to shoot.”
Banter wondered what this was about. He had seen her targets.
“Not that kind of training. It’s required of everyone. Go ahead and join the class down there.”
Banter spun around to trot down the stairs all the way to the basement level with the firing range. When she opened the door to go into the waiting area, she noted a large screen on one end. A man was talking to a group of officers.
The man looked over at her. Everyone turned.
“You’re…” he checked a clipboard. “Banter?”
He said her name as if it was a foreign object.
“Yes. What is this?”
“Situational shooting training,” he said. “Each of you will have a chance. On the screen, you will be presented with a scenario. You decided if you shoot or not. We have a special gun here, that interacts with the screen. It will show when you shot, where you were aiming, and what you would have hit.”
Banter glanced over to see Peter.
“Teaching a hired gun when to shoot?” he mouthed to her.
She shook her head, then smiled, thinking this might be fun.
The first officer up was presented with an ordinary situation where the correct response was not to shoot. The officer didn’t shoot, and the instructor bored them all while he explained about what they had just seen. Even the new recruits in the group were looking unimpressed. The next officer up was Juan, an officer she knew. The situation he had was of a boy coming toward him. She caught Juan instinctively try some sign language. Juan continued to sign for the boy to stop as well a telling him to stop and show his hands. However, the boy continued until he suddenly pulled his hands in view with a card that said he was deaf. Banter was impressed that Juan was able to recognize this and knew not to shoot. A few others had mumbled that they would have fired. She had to admit that this was one situation that was a good learning experience.
Banter signed to Juan that he did well. He smiled and nodded. There was a brief discussion about sign language.
“We don’t have many who know it,” someone said.
“More than you think,” she said.
“I know of five,” Juan said, and he named them.
“Include me,” Banter said.
“And you,” Juan said, gesturing toward her.
“You’re next,” the instructor said, pointing at her.
He didn’t seem to like the interaction between the officers.
She rolled her eyes and stepped up. The instructor handed her the gun.
“Ready. Begin,” the instructor said.
Banter watched as an officer approached her. There were other officers in the background running around. There were police cars with flashing lights. The simulator was trying to recreate a chaotic scene. Banter didn’t even have her gun up.
“Stand down. Show me your hands,” she said in a loud voice.
The officer on the screen continued to approach.
“I need to see some ID.”
The officer continued to approach.
“Stand down. Show me ID.”
The officer reached behind him.
Banter lifted her hands and fired one shot.
The simulator froze. The screen had a dot on the man’s heart, showing where she had shot him.
“Banter, you just shot an officer,” the instructor said with a little distaste in his voice.
“He was reaching for a gun,” she said.
“He was reaching for his wallet to show you ID.”
“Officers don’t carry their wallets or their ID in a back pocket.”
“What?” the instructor said.
Banter recognized Peter’s voice.
“She already taught us not to carry a wallet in a back pocket,” another man said.
Banter recognized him as one of the newer recruits.
“You need to update your simulator,” she said.
She handed him back the special gun.
“Where is your wallet?” she said, staring hard at him.
“I would watch your wallet,” someone said.
There were a few laughs.
The instructor seemed a little perturbed at being the center of this type of attention.
“This place is antiquated enough, and you’re teaching this crap?” she said with another roll of her eyes.
She wanted to leave, but she wondered what else this guy was going to try and teach. She decided it might be a good idea to stick around.
Peter moved up and volunteered to be next. His situation was to shoot, which he did. He stepped over by her when he was done.
“What do you think?” he said.
“Lame. They need to update the scenarios. I mean, those police cars are at least thirty years old? Look at those haircuts.”
“I would be arrested as a long-haired hippy dude,” he said.
She nodded, watching the next officer come up.
“This one is up Greg’s alley,” she said, seeing that he was being presented with two men who were beating up a police dog.
Greg didn’t hesitate. He fired twice or tried too. The simulated stopped and didn’t record his second shot, but the sound of his pulling the trigger a second time was audible.
“Sorry. This is a no fire situation,” the instructor said with a disapproving shake of his head.
“What do you mean? Office in trouble,” Greg said.
“Police dogs don’t qualify. Human life only.”
“That’s bull shit,” Greg said.
“Wrong person for this scenario,” someone said. “He’s on the K-9 unit.”
“Dogs are officers,” Greg said.
The instructor shook his head.
Greg took a step in his direction, looking rather stern, causing the man to step back.
“You’re dead wrong. The Police K-9 law makes killing a police dog a second-degree felony,” Greg said. “You’re a few years behind the times.”
“Who hired this guy?” Banter said.
There was a wave of disgruntled complaints.
“I’m not sitting though another hour of this,” someone said.
“If we have questions like this, we’re supposed to ask her,” another recruit said, pointing at her.
The group started to break up.
“I’m out of here,” she said.
“Yeah,” Peter said, following her.
“Who arranges for these things?” she said.
“Not sure, probably HR.”
Banter headed for the stairs.
“Don’t you believe in elevators?” he said.
“So how did your Friday night end? Did you lose another girlfriend?”
“No. She was cool.”
“What was she doing there? Out with another guy?”
“No. She met her sister there.”
“Never understood the whole thing about going to the bars. Never did it.”
“Supposedly that’s a nice place to go for a drink, albeit an expensive place for just a drink. She likes it because she says no one hits on you. A girl can relax.”
“Weird. I thought all clubs and bars had guys cruising for girls.”
They reached the second floor.
“I’m taking the elevator the rest of the way,” he said.
“What happened to our ten o’clock meeting? Is it rescheduled?”
“I haven’t heard. I love how much notice they give us for these classes. I’ll see you up there,” he said.
He left the stairwell. Banter sped up her pace to the fourth floor, heading toward her office. Neither Nessa nor Corey was around. She unlocked her office door, closing it behind her. While she booted up her computer, she called Ray.
“Are we having our ten o’clock meeting?”
She checked the time on her computer. It was almost eleven.
“How was situational training?”
“Antiquated. The guy wasn’t up on the K-9 law or that officers don’t carry anything in a back pocket. Who puts these things on?”
“Human Resources. Sorry to hear it wasn’t helpful.”
There was laughter in the background. She could tell it was Peter.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Ray said, sounding like he was responding to Peter. “You want to come up? We can meet.”
“Just put the phone on speaker,” she said.
She didn’t feel like running up to the sixth floor.
“So what went down,” Ray said.
She could hear the tinny noise created when on speaker. There was a little echo in his office.
“Peter and I went to the club. We ordered drinks. His girlfriend showed up and provided the argument. They left.”
She didn’t say it was unplanned.
“I stayed and met the manager of the place. I didn’t see the target.”
“He’s always there by nine pm,” Ray said with certainty.
“He wasn’t there. I even did a walk around,” she said.
“Backroom?” Peter said.
“I didn’t notice any activity going in and out of any area other than the waiters to the bar and people using the restrooms,” she said.
“Damn. I wonder why he wasn’t there.”
“Did we note him leaving at his usual time?” Peter said.
“I haven’t seen Bert’s report,” Ray said.
“I would say we spooked him with the paintball fight,” she said. “Or he’s still hurting where I got him in the back.”
“We will have to keep our eye out for him,” Ray said. “Can you visit the manager some evening?”
“You want me to go out again? You know I’m just supposed to be a consultant. You’re going to get Corey mad.”
“We just want you to get information,” he said.
“Yeah, right. If I have to collar him, it’s going to be with a bullet.”
Peter laughed in the background.
“And I’m certainly not going out with him again,” she said, thinking about the steamy car.
“No, we want you to go alone,” Ray said. “Chat up some guys.”
“I’m not going on a Friday night.”
“Just pick a night,” he said, sounding a little exasperated.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said. “In the meanwhile, tell HR to stop trying to save a penny by hiring crappy instructors.”
“I will pass that on,” he said.
Banter ended the call. She didn’t like how they were operating. If the drug lord was known to be at the club every night, but wasn’t there last night, then something was up. A change of behavior like that meant they didn’t know the guy well enough.
She finished going through her emails, then shut down her laptop. There were noises next door, which probably meant Corey was back. She rose and stepped out of her office. Nessa was at her desk.
“Hi, Nessa,” she said while she locked her office.
“Morning, Banter. Corey just got back, but he’s now in a meeting.”
“That’s okay. I have to head home. Have a good one.”
Banter trotted down the stairs, and out to the parking garage. The lunch crowd was leaving. For one of the first times in a long time, she had to wait to pull out.
She switched gears, thinking about the task that Corey had given her. He wanted her to pick out the next dog. It did make sense to get another one. Not only did it give Kyle something to be responsible for, it gave both boys the same chores.
She braked when she reached a red light. A car beside her kept on going.
Focus, she said to herself, and she ignored the car.
Corey was right. She found herself always seeing the bad guys.
The light changed. She was glad she hadn’t reacted to the car that ran the light. Three blocks down, the car was pulled over by a police car. She recognized the officer.
“Give Harold something to do on a nice day like this,” she said to herself.
As her usual habit, she made sure she wasn’t followed. When she pulled up into the driveway, she hit the garage door opener. Bea and the boys were in the front yard with Ollie. She pulled into the garage.
“Mom. Mom,” Kyle said, running up to her when she left the garage.
“Kyle. Kyle,” she said, dancing around him.
He broke into giggles.
“You ready?” she said.
“For what?” Kyle said.
“We’re going shopping,” she said.
Kyle stopped dead and his face dropped.
“Shopping?” he said in deadpan.
Colo flashed his eyes and looked bored.
“I’m taking the SUV,” Banter said to Bea. “We shouldn’t be long.”
Bea tossed her the keys.
Colo turned to put Ollie into the house.
“Bring Ollie. He’s going to help us,” she said. “Bring a leash, too.”
She knew there was always an extra leash in the SUV, but intended to use that one if they did find a dog.
“I want the one we use for walks,” she said, before he could say anything.
“Come on, Ollie,” Kyle said, giving the hand signal.
Ollie obeyed, coming to him.
Colo disappeared into the house, but was back in a few moments with the leash.
“Okay, pile in,” she said.
Kyle rode up front while Colo sat in the back with Ollie.
“Where we going?” Kyle said.
“Shopping,” Banter said.
She pulled out of the driveway.
“Where are we shopping?”
“Surprise,” she said.
He didn’t look excited, and she didn’t expect him to be. She had already used the ‘Surprise’ destination, and they ended up at the grocery store for milk. Both boys were now going to be quiet. They already knew that interrogating her wasn’t going to get them an answer.
Banter had already checked about the hours of operation. She was surprised to find that setting appointments to see animals were recommended. She had made an appointment for one pm to see the dogs.
She pulled into the Humane Society parking lot.
“We’re…we’re not getting rid of Ollie, are we?” Colo said, sounding terrified.
“Of course not,” she said, wondering what brought that on.
“What are we here for then?” he said. “Only bad dogs come here.”
She wondered where he had learned that.
“Unwanted dogs or lost dogs come here. People then come here to adopt them,” she said.
“I don’t want a used dog,” Kyle said with conviction.
Banter parked. She controlled rolling her eyes, wondering if this was a good idea. They had gotten Ollie when he was a puppy. She and Corey had already agreed that an older dog was the way to go.
“Let’s go look anyway,” she said.
She grabbed the extra leash.
Neither of the boys looked too happy. She thought they looked as if they were being forced to take in and surrender Ollie, and that this was their last goodbye.
“Van Baine,” she said to the front desk. “We have an appointment to see dogs.”
“Wait one moment,” the woman said.
Ollie didn’t look like he was happy being there either. He kept as close to Colo as he could. His tail was tucked between his legs.
“Right through that door.”
Banter took Kyle’s hand and led the way.
A young man met them.
“Hi. I’m Steve. I’ll be taking you through the dog areas. We have two of them. What are your names?”
He was looking at the boys.
Kyle and Colo looked as if they didn’t understand a single word he said.
“This is Colo and Kyle. We have Ollie here to assist us,” Banter said. “I’m Banter.”
“Glad to meet you.”
They went though a door and were immediately hit by a wave of barking.
“Each kennel has a label. It shows the dog’s name, age or thereabouts, breed mix, and whether it’s a boy or a girl.”
Most of the dogs came forward with wagging tails. There were a few that hung back.
Kyle didn’t look interested. Ollie was practically hugging Colo to the point of tripping him. Colo looked astonished.
“A lot of dogs, huh?” she said to Colo.
She decided his astonishment was actually shock.
“Why are they all here?”
“They were either lost and no one claimed them. Or people no longer wanted to take care of them.”
Kyle was walking ahead of them. He showed no interest in any of the dogs. She didn’t think he was even looking at them.
Ollie, however, stopped and sat. Colo stumbled, but caught himself. Ollie’s tail was wagging.
Banter followed Ollie’s gaze. They were by a kennel. The dog within, however, sat looking dejected in the corner.
“Patsy. Bloodhound mix. Four years old,” Banter read off the label on the kennel door.
Ollie edged over to the door, sniffing.
“I think your Ollie found himself a friend,” Steve said.
Kyle trotted over.
“I’m supposed to pick out the dog,” he said, sounding miffed.
“That dog is almost as big as you are,” Banter said. “You couldn’t handle a dog like that.”
She intentionally challenged him.
Ollie whined. Patsy raised her head to look. She almost looked like she was asking for permission to move.
Out of the corner of her eye, Banter caught Kyle doing a hand signal.
“I don’t think...” she said.
She was a big dog. In contrast to Ollie, her fur was short. Her ears, muzzle and tail were a dark brown while the rest of her was a lighter rusty brown in color.
“Do they drool?” she said, looking at Patsy’s large jowls.
“Bloodhounds are known to drool some,” Steve said.
“She could probably fly with those ears,” Kyle said.
“That’s not being nice,” she said.
“I just meant they are pretty long,” he said.
“Yes, they are long ears. Probably good at hearing things.”
“Bloodhounds are good with their noses,” Steve said.
“What does that mean?” Kyle said.
“It means that if we let Ollie and Colo go ahead of us on a walk, but we didn’t see what direction they went, Patsy would be able smell them and find them,” she said.
Kyle suddenly looked interested.
Patsy took a few steps toward them.
Ollie whined. His tail was now thumping the ground. Banter always thought it sounded painful.
“I can bring her out,” Steve said.
“Give her a moment,” Banter said, seeing that Patsy flinched whenever Steve talked.
Kyle pressed up against the gate of the kennel. Patsy took another step.
Another group of people entered the area.
“This is one of the dog areas,” a young woman said, who was leading a man and a woman through.
Kyle was trying more hand signals, but Patsy wasn’t responding.
“I don’t think she knows that language. We’ll have to teach her,” Banter said.
Ollie whined again, and Patsy took another step.
“I think she does speak Ollie’s language.”
The people were coming closer. Steve stepped back. Patsy took another step toward them. Banter wondered if she was fearful of men.
“Oh, look, a bloodhound.”
The woman and man stepped over to look at Patsy. Their guide joined Steve.
Patsy took a couple of steps back.
“I always wanted one of those,” the man said.
“That’s my dog,” Kyle said with disdain, speaking each word clearly.
Banter knew this was a done deal. Steve smiled.
“I have a leash. Kyle and I will get her,” she said.
She wanted Steve to stay away in order to promote a good interaction between Patsy and Kyle.
She opened the kennel and was glad that Kyle stepped around her to go in.
The woman and man walked away with a few grumbles, but their guide told them of a few other dogs they might want to see if since they had liked the bloodhound.
“Let her sniff your hand,” she said, but Kyle was already extending his hand to her.
“I know,” he said. “She needs to get to know me.”
Patsy sniffed his hand, up his arm, across his face, down his other arm and all the way down to his shoes.
“I got sniffed,” he said wide-eyed.
“I guess you did,” she said.
She clipped the leash to Patsy’s collar. With the click of the snap, Patsy wagged her tail.
Banter just hoped Patsy was as calm as she appeared to be once they got her home.