“What are we doing in regards to the club?” Ray said.
“I’m going to the club, like you asked me to,” she said. “Tonight.”
“I’ll sit at my usual post,” he said.
Banter thought he was being vague.
“Excellent. That’s all I have. Have you seen Bert, yet?”
Banter shook her head no the same time Peter did.
They both rose at the same time and left.
Peter walked down the stairs with her.
“So how are you going tonight? Hot babe or what?”
“Female exec that had a long day, stopping for a drink.”
“Best I’ve heard yet,” he said.
“Where will you be?”
“That’s your usual post?”
“Tonight is Bert’s night. Ray can never remember. I’ll be out there on Wednesday night. Total waste of time.”
“Yeah. It is.”
“Let me know what you see.”
He continued down the stairs when she left the stairwell on the fourth floor.
Corey was in his office, but his door was shut. She could see it was full of people.
“Morning, Banter. Soda?”
Banter settled at her desk. There seemed to be a lot of email. Someone had ‘replied all’ to the email about the situational training which had resulted in a barrage of emails since everyone who’d received it, also replied all.
“I must have deleted the original,” she said to herself.
However, she looked at one of the messages about the training, instead of deleting it. The general consensus was that it was a waste of time and training dollars. The biggest concern was that the training wasn’t current with the times or the laws.
Banter filtered out all these emails to a folder for later. She needed to see if there was anything important, such as an update to a case. There was one on the failed raid. That one she replied to.
“No fifteen year old is as naive and honest as you think when she knows as much as she did,” Banter muttered while she wrote out the email. “The wool was pulled over your eyes, and while you were blind, the drug business was booming, safe from your prying eyes.”
She sent the email, wondering if the same thing was happening at the club.
Nessa came in with her soda.
“Sorry it took so long. They were just stocking the fridge. I had to wait.”
“No problem. Thanks.”
She spent the next hour going through and answering emails. When she checked the time, it was almost one.
“What happened to lunch?”
She stood and stretched, then stepped out of her office.
“He just went to the...” Nessa jerked her head toward the elevator and restroom areas.
“I guess he’s allowed that once in a while.”
Banter waited, looking around the office. The people that she did see were the assistants for all the detectives. Everyone looked busy with paperwork or was on the phone.
“Give me a sec,” Corey said when he passed her.
She shut and locked her door, wondering how long his second was actually going to be, but he only took a few minutes.
“I’ll be back in forty-five, Nessa,” Corey said, taking Banter’s hand.
“We just walking to the deli?”
“Yeah. Hectic day.”
Banter liked that he trotted down the stairs with her. If she wasn’t with him, he would take the elevator down, but usually walked up.
“That raid failed.”
“Yeah, you said it would. I mentioned that. No one wanted to hear it.”
“Of course not. What the heck do I know?” she said.
“There’s still a lot of egos out there. Unfortunately, it’s the ones with the most seniority.”
“The ones that need to change the most. Times are changing fast.”
“I hear you,” he said.
The deli was crowded, but it wasn’t the packed lunch crowd.
“I see a table. I want the usual,” she said.
She claimed a table and found herself watching two women chat. They seemed engrossed in their conversation. Beside them was a single woman who was looking at her phone.
Corey arrived with their drinks, then went back up to the counter to get their sandwiches. She switched her gaze to him, but caught another single woman giving him the eye. That caused her to smile.
“What so funny,” Corey said, handing her a sandwich.
“What would get your attention more? Two ladies having lunch? Or a single lady looking at her phone?”
“Depends on my intentions.”
“Suspicions. Who would you be leerier of?”
“Two women plotting? Or one woman on the hunt?”
“I’m asking the wrong guy,” she said.
“Two ladies tend to blend in better. A single woman, though, looks like she’s waiting for someone.”
“I guess it’s all based your point of view.”
Corey took a big bite of his sandwich.
Banter took the hint. She ate fast. They both finished their sandwiches together. When they headed back to the office, she noted that the two ladies were still chatting, but the two single ladies were gone.
“I think it’s time,” she said.
“What is time?”
“Two ladies talking can sit a long time in one place. Single people don’t.”
“And this revelation is…?”
“Wondering if I should have someone sit with me at the club. I can sit longer without being so obvious.”
“Why not go there tonight to scope things out, then go back the next night with someone.”
“It can’t be an undercover.”
“Ask Bea. She likes challenges.”
“I think I like Bea as a better option. She’s more plain Jane than pink haired Nessa. Or green. She keeps changing it.”
“I can’t keep up, either,” Corey said.
They trotted up the stairs to the fourth floor.
“Pink,” Corey said under his breath, indicating Nessa’s hair.
“See you later,” Banter said.
He went into his office, and she went into hers.
Banter was annoyed to find her inbox full of messages again. There were more regarding the situational training. There was also a survey regarding the training.
“You really want me to answer this?”
She took the time to lambaste the training, backing all her comments up with the current laws and practices that weren’t used in the training videos.
The time was three pm when she checked.
“I’m going home.”
She shut down her laptop, locked her office, and trotted down the stairs. When she got out of her car at home in the garage, she could hear the voices.
“I’m not taking your dog out. You have to take her out.”
“I will, but she followed. You stay away from my dog.”
Banter entered the house. Colo and Kyle had their faces inches from each other.
“Mom, you tell him he has to take his own dog out,” Colo said.
“She followed him,” Kyle said. “He has to stay away from my dog.”
Banter couldn’t see Ollie. Patsy was by the couch looking rejected. She felt irritation flow through her that the dogs had to go through this.
“Then no one takes them out. That’s it,” she said, using a controlled voice.
She grabbed the leash by the door and put it on Patsy.
“Ollie,” she said.
Ollie appeared from upstairs.
Banter ushered both dogs out to the garage and into the car.
“Where you going?” Colo said with a strained voice.
“If you’re going to argue about who does what with the dogs, then no one gets a dog. They both go to the pound.”
“What?” Colo said with big eyes.
His voice squeaked.
“My dog,” Kyle said.
“You each have a responsibility to both dogs,” Banter said. “If one can’t, then the other does. I don’t tell your father that he has to feed you because your his do I?”
Both boys looked stunned. She knew she had hit them hard with something they fully understood. Their mother had failed them. Banter had taken up the slack and more.
“I accept you as my boys, too. It doesn’t matter whose dog is whose. You are both responsible that they get taken out, fed, brushed and walked. You’ve shown me you can’t handle that. No dogs.”
Banter knew a slight slap on the wrist wouldn’t be enough. This had to hurt deep in both boys. This was something they were going to remember forever. She got in the car, locked the doors, and opened the garage door.
“No,” Colo said with tears streaming down his face. “Ollie is our dog. He’s family. You can’t take him.”
He hurried to the back door where the dogs were and pulled on the handle, but the door was locked.
Banter was waiting for Kyle’s reaction. He had only had Patsy a short time. He seemed frozen to the spot. She put the car in gear.
The scream ripped through the car.
Kyle ran to her door and pounded on it.
“No. Please. No.”
He had a frantic look on his face.
“You can’t throw her away. We just found her,” he said.
The tears started streaming down his face.
“I’m sorry,” Colo said, yelling as loud as he could so she would hear. “Please. I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.”
The car engine wasn’t that loud and she could hear them as clearly as if they were screaming in her ear. Ollie whined.
She put the car back in park and turned off the engine. Kyle was still tugging at her door. She was careful to only unlock her door to get out. Then she hit the key fob to lock her door behind her. Colo was poised to open the door to the dogs. He tried the door once even though the door lock on her side was distinct.
“Colo. You’re the oldest. You should know better,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he said, sniffling.
“You should know that Patsy doesn’t understand all the commands or what she’s supposed to do.”
He sniffled again and nodded.
“I’m sorry. Can I have Ollie back? Please?
“You and Kyle need to work together.”
“W-we always worked together with Ollie,” Kyle said. “I can take care of Patsy and Ollie. We know how to take care of both. You can’t take her away. We just got to know her.”
Colo was nodding in agreement.
“She’s sad and lonely at the pound. You can’t take her,” Kyle said. “We’re her family now.”
“Where’s Bea?” she said.
“In the kitchen. She said if we kept arguing that we’d lose the dogs,” Colo said.
“And you didn’t believe her?”
Colo shook his head.
“They’re not her dogs.”
“And what happened?” she said.
His tears started anew.
“Are we losing them?”
“Bea’s pretty smart. You didn’t think she’d tell me? You didn’t think her warning should have been taken seriously?”
“Are we losing them?” he said in a hoarse voice.
“I like Ollie,” she said. “I know he likes Patsy and would be sad if she’s gone.”
Colo and Kyle both nodded.
“You’ll have to tell your dad.”
Colo looked rejected, but nodded.
“I’ll tell Dad,” Kyle said, stepping up.
“I started it,” Colo said with his head down. “I’ll tell Dad.”
“I guess the dogs can stay for now,” she said.
She unlocked the car doors. Colo opened the door and signaled for Ollie. She wondered if he would just get Ollie and leave, but he didn’t. He grabbed Patsy’s leash.
“Come on, Patsy,” he said, giving her the signal.
She jumped out.
Colo handed the leash to Kyle.
“Let’s take them out back,” he said to Kyle.
Banter watched them go. The boys could be competitive. She had been expecting something like this to happen, especially after what Colo had said this morning about not taking Kyle’s dog out.
She paused in the kitchen where Bea was.
“They were good until the last half hour,” Bea said.
“Hopefully, they just learned a good lesson,” Banter said. “I like Patsy too much to take her back.”
Bea nodded with a smile.
“She is rather well-behaved.”
The boys had left the sliding glass door ajar. Banter could hear Colo explaining to Kyle that they had to switch dogs so that Patsy learned that she had to obey the one who said the command. She heard Kyle agree. She was relieved that the boys were working it out.
“Can I ask a favor?” she said to Bea.
“I’m doing a little undercover work. I’ve noticed that two women having a chat can sit in one place for a while without bringing attention to themselves.”
“Where do you want me to meet you?”
“There’s a night club called The Purple Door.”
“Heard of it, but never been there. It’s not in the best of neighborhoods. When and what time?”
“Tomorrow. Nine pm.”
“How should I dress?”
“How about office worker? Business exec if you have the clothes.”
“Dark dress pants and light blouse always works,” Bea said.
“Perfect. What do you drink?”
“Old fashion sweet.”
“Never heard of it. Might be a good topic for the night. Different types of drinks.”
“I actually took a bartender class. I know quite a few.”
“You’re welcome. I’m just finishing up making dinner. It’s make-your-own-taco night.”
“We haven’t had that in a long time.”
“Too hot to turn the oven on.”
Bea turned back to grating cheese.
Banter stepped over to the door to watch the boys. Colo was going through commands with Patsy.
“What’s the snack for the day?” she said to Bea.
“String cheese and apples.”
“I’ll core them.”
Banter took out three apples and the cheese from the fridge. She cored and sliced the apples.
“Whose chips?” she said, noting the bag on the counter.
“Mine,” Bea said. “My little sinful snack. I hide it up in the cabinet over the stove.”
“Good place. No one looks in there. And I can’t reach it.”
Bea put a clip on the bag and stashed it in the cabinet.
“I’m done. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Bea said.
“Thanks. Have a good evening.”
Banter put the cheese and apples on a plate and took them outside. She sat at the picnic table and waited. There was no need to call them. The boys ran over as soon as they saw.
“Patsy’s doing better today,” Kyle said.
“She’s obeying both of us,” Colo said.
“That’s good to hear.”
She stayed at the picnic table, eating with them. When the boys were finished, they went back to working with Patsy. Banter remained at the table to watch and stay out of their way. The boys needed to be the ones working things out and be in control. She refrained from helping and kept silent, even when they could have used a little help when Patsy wandered away from them. Kyle merely intercepted her, gave her some attention, then issued a command for her to heel. Both boys then lavished attention on her when she obeyed. Patsy seemed to respond to good attention. Banter was glad the boys didn’t yell commands anymore.
She knew Kyle was usually the stubborn one and always wanted to be the leader. Today, Colo was actually stepping up, and Kyle was stepping back. She smiled, thinking that Corey had produced some nice kids.
“Okay. The dogs are tired. Dinner.”
Ollie went upstairs on his own. Kyle led Patsy upstairs, explaining things to her as they went. Colo set the table. She heard him shut the door to his room.
“Where’s Dad?” Colo said.
Banter set out the bowls with the shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and olives. She could hear Patsy whining.
“He has to work late.”
The boys enjoyed making their tacos and making a mess.
“Sweep the floor,” she said, not specifying who on purpose. “You don’t want to clean up after a sick dog who has eaten too much taco meat.”
Usually, Colo set the table and Kyle helped with cleanup. She was glad to see Colo grab the broom. The kitchen cleanup went smoothly.
The house was quiet and the boys were reading, when Corey came home. Banter was getting a little concerned with the timing since she had to leave at eight-thirty. It was almost a quarter to eight. She was already dressed to go.
Corey waved the boys in with him when he headed to the bedroom to change. Ollie followed, but Patsy stayed on the floor by the couch.
Banter wondered if Colo would tell about the argument while he was in with his dad or during his usual time when Corey put them to bed. She could hear Colo talking but not what he was saying.
Corey came out of the bedroom.
“You have to go?”
“A few more minutes. Dinner is in the fridge.”
“I’ll get it for you, Dad,” Colo said.
Corey eyed her.
She smiled, knowing he knew something had happened. Colo hadn’t told him yet. She rose and joined them in the kitchen.
“How late are you going to be?” he said, sitting at the table.
Colo was waiting on his dad, bringing out the items for making tacos.
“Taco night? How did I miss taco night?” he said.
“I’m only going to sit about two hours,” she said.
“Necklace camera. Nice,” he said.
“It doesn’t look like a camera,” Kyle said.
“Then it must not be a camera,” Corey said.
The boys laughed.
Banter knew they weren’t understanding the conversation.
“Well, I’m off. You all be good,” she said, giving Corey a kiss.
“Which car you taking?”
“SUV. My car isn’t very corporate-ish like the SUV.”
“Good idea. I’m parked behind you.”
“You usually leave enough room for me to get around unless you parked up close.”
He usually parked at the very end of the driveway.
“I’m parked at the end.”
“I have enough room.”
Banter headed out and had no problem getting around his cruiser.
The drive was quiet. She made no attempt to case the area when she arrived. Because the typical person usually parked as close to the door as one could, that was what she did. There were hardly a dozen cars parked around the place.
“I’ll sit at the bar,” she said to the manager who stepped up.
He led her to one end near an alcove that contained about five tables and chairs. There was no one seated there.
Banter positioned herself to face the main area of the club. Most of the tables were occupied. There were few people at the bar.
“What can I get you?”
“Rum and coke,” she said. “Easy on the rum. I’m driving.”
The bartender smiled and nodded.
“Olive or cherry with it?”
“Let’s go with an olive,” she said.
“That’s twelve dollars,” the bartender said.
While she waited for her drink to come, she did one quick look around. The manager that had seated her wasn’t Marcus, the one she had met the Friday before. However, he was dressed similarly to Marcus and also had a handlebar mustache. He settled himself at the far end of the bar where he was barely in her view.
Her drink arrived.
She took one sip of the drink and had to agree with Peter. What a way to ruin a soda. However, she was prepared. She had a piece of cloth up her sleeve that easily soaked up liquid. The whole process of pretending to drink and soaking up some of the liquid each time, made her feel like a kid hiding veggies she didn’t want to eat.
The time was eight-fifty three.
She focused on her phone, relying on the camera to catch what she couldn’t watch. However, she was aware of people entering and leaving as well as activity at the bar. For a Tuesday night, the place had more people than she expected.
Banter managed to make her whole drink disappear. At exactly eleven, she rose and left.
The outside of the club was eerily quiet. She pretended to drop something, so she had time to take a good look down the alley. There was a light bulb over the door, and it was lit. There still were only a dozen cars parked around the building. She got into her car and headed home, taking the long route, so she could make sure no one was following her.