Banter was in the house and almost to the bedroom when Corey stepped out.
“You’re late,” she said.
“Bathroom,” he said. “How was your evening?”
“Go change and enlighten me,” he said.
Banter undressed and showered.
“So what did you learn?” he said when she slid into bed beside him.
“You were right about the slow cooker on all three accounts.”
“That’s not what you were supposed to be working on.”
“I need to add liquid to any slow cooker roast.”
“And the club?”
He poked her in the ribs.
“Bea taught me about bartenders, and the one we had tonight, she said wasn’t a bartender.”
“Someone filling in on a slow night?”
“And why was everyone else drinking water?”
“She noticed that every table had water glasses. No mixed drinks. No wine.”
“I’m going to scour both videos I have to see if this was some kind of fluke.”
“Bartender using the wrong glasses?”
“So everyone was drinking something clear?”
She was reminded of the drink Marcus had. It was clear, and she hadn’t smelled any alcohol.
“I think you may have something,” he said.
“So do I, but what?”
“Are you going again tomorrow?”
“I should. I’ll see if I can get Bea to come again. On Friday night, I’ll ask Peter to go there with his girlfriend.”
She was silent a long time while she thought things out. Corey’s heavy breathing told her he had fallen asleep. Banter wanted to get up and view the video, but that would take two hours. She could do it in the morning.
Yeah, right, she thought.
Banter slipped out of bed and put on her nightshirt. She settled on the couch with her laptop. A few minutes later, Patsy joined her. She uploaded all the video that she had into the police records, then put out a message for the other undercovers to take a look. She settled in to review the new video.
“Do you want to go back to bed?”
Banter jolted awake. Corey was kneeling beside her.
“What time is it?”
“I have the coffee maker going.”
He was dressed for work.
“No, I’ll get up,” she said, noting Patsy was no longer sleeping by the couch.
She hoped she was back upstairs with Kyle.
“Seeing anything?” he said.
Banter swung her legs off the couch.
“The problem is what I’m not seeing,” she said.
“Are you still going tonight?”
She rose and headed to the bedroom to dress.
Corey was sipping his coffee when she stepped out.
“Are you heading out?” she said.
“Are you going to be late tonight?”
“Not that I know of,” he said.
She followed him out to his cruiser. The neighbor drove by. Corey gave her an extra snug hug.
“See you later,” he said.
Banter watched him drive off, then headed back into the house. She had to smile. A mug of tea was sitting on the table for her. She sat to sip her tea. Overhead, Colo’s alarm buzzed. The dogs came running down.
She could hear the boys dressing overhead. Kyle was usually the slowest. Today, he came down the stairs the same time as Colo. They went out together with the dogs. She felt like they were out there longer than usual.
“She’s a slowpoke,” Kyle said when they came in.
“Ollie knows what he needs to do,” Colo said.
There was some chaos while they fed the dogs.
“Where’s breakfast?” Kyle said, staring at the table.
“I think Colo is old enough to make toast,” she said. “And I think you are old enough to take the eggs out of the fridge.
Their usual breakfast was hard-boiled eggs, which Banter boiled every Sunday for the week, and toast.
Colo look rather proud when he popped the bread into the toaster.
Patsy finished her food and moved over to Ollie.
“Kyle, stand between them so Patsy doesn’t get Ollie’s food.”
“Boy, Patsy eats fast,” Kyle said, keeping himself between her and Ollie.
“Kinda like grandpa,” she said, referring to Corey’s dad.
Both boys laughed.
“Ollie’s done,” Kyle said.
He took out the eggs and jam, setting them on the table. Banter almost laughed when he carefully doled out an egg to each of them.
“Was it raining?” she said.
“Nope,” Colo said, buttering toast.
“So what are you doing today?” she said.
“Reading and working with the dogs,” Colo said.
“Can we go to the park?” Kyle said.
“I’ll ask Bea if she has the time.”
After breakfast, the boys settled down to read. Banter fetched her laptop to sit at the kitchen table. She viewed the videos, but now she was taking notes. She watched the first ten minutes of one, then switch to the other. There were disturbing similarities.
“Morning, Banter. Kyle. Colo.”
“Hi,” both boys said together.
“The boys would like to go to the park today. You up for it?”
“You have that dog trained?”
“Her name is Patsy. And yes, she’s trained.”
Bea smiled, but didn’t laugh.
“Yeah, we can do the park,” she said.
“Are you up for a repeat of last night?” Banter said.
“I can do that. I think I’ll order something different this time.”
Banter headed into the office, but went looking for Peter. No one but Carla was on the sixth floor. Banter wasn’t going to talk to her. She took out her phone and called his cell.
His voice was curt.
“Where are you?”
“I’ll meet you in your office.”
The call ended.
Banter trotted down to her office. Corey’s office was empty.
Banter had barely sat down when Nessa came into her office with a soda.
“That was fast.”
“Corey was given a small fridge. We have it by my desk. It’s well stocked.”
“He’s moving up in the world.”
Nessa chuckled and left.
A few minutes later, Peter arrived.
“You look a mess.”
“Dressed for work,” he said.
His jeans were torn. His t-shirt was stained. His hair hung down. His fingernails were dirty.
“What do you want?” he said.
He sounded a little grouchy.
“Can you go to the club on Friday? Take your girlfriend. Stay for two hours and video.”
He stared at her. Banter couldn’t tell if he was thinking or glaring at her. She had forgotten that this Friday was his day off.
“What’s the angle?” he finally said.
“I’m betting you’ll pretty much see what we saw last Friday,” she said. “I just want to verify.”
“Are you going again tonight?”
“With the same girl? Friend of yours?”
“Nanny and yes.”
“Someone has to watch the boys when I work, and I don’t cook. She does.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” he said.
She decided surly was a more accurate description of his mood.
“You’re in a mood. Are you having girl problems?”
“No. Work,” he said. “I can do Friday night even though that is my night off. Lanny will be happy to help. We’ll make it a night of adventure.”
She wondered if this was role-playing romance stuff, but decided not to ask.
“Thank you. Here’s a camera. You can put it on one of your chains.”
“Holy crap. That’s tiny.”
“One button. On or off,”she said.
“You didn’t get that from here.”
“How long can it record?”
“A little over two hours. If you run it to the end of space, it just stops. No worry about overwriting what you have,” she said, taking a sip of her soda.
“Cool,” he said, gently taking it and looking it over.
“Be sure to get the manager at the bar, the bartender, a sweep of the area and cars when you come and go. And check down the alley to see if the light is on.”
“Yes, ma’am. Anything else?”
“No. That’s it. And thank you.”
He rose and left.
Banter stared at her soda. She was starting to get a clearer idea about the club, but it still didn’t make sense.
She turned to her laptop and checked emails. There was an update on the case with the failed raid. Someone must have finally looked over what she said and recommended, and taken her seriously. They had completed a raid on the fifteen-year-old’s house last night. They scored a meth lab and arrested ten, including the fifteen-year-old and her parents.
“About time,” she said.
She sorted through the rest of the emails when her stomach rumbled.
“Corey’s late again.”
Banter listened hard, but didn’t hear anything next door. She rose, then sat back down when Corey stepped into her office. He was carrying Chinese takeout. He shut the door.
“You do love me,” she said.
“Did you hear about the raid?” he said, opening the bag.
“Yeah, I did. Took my advice finally?”
He nodded while he pulled out boxes.
“What else is going on?” she said.
She could see he wasn’t going to be chatty.
“Anything on the job board?”
“I haven’t heard anything.”
She grabbed her phone and opened the app.
“Nope. Empty. I bet it’s been abandoned. No one is using it.”
“You should go look to see if there’s another one.”
“I should,” she said. “Food first.”
He nodded in agreement.
She noticed he ate fast and looked deep in thought. Maybe it was time to look up his case load. No, he had so many reports, she would have to look theirs up as well. Yeah, she thought, he was busy.
“Well, I’ll see you at home,” he said, once he finished.
He leaned across her desk and kissed her.
“Yum. Chinese kiss,” he said.
“Don’t get too worked up about your workload,” she said. “It’s always there.”
He left, going into his office.
Banter finished her lunch, then did as he suggested. She started searching for a new job board. This was a difficult type of search, trying to find something that wanted to remain hidden. She had no luck.
Again, she heard nothing from Ray. She thought that was unusual. Lately, he had become something of a micromanager, wanting to know where everyone was and what they were doing. Maybe he was just going to let his people work, like he should.
She doubted it. Something was up.
An hour later, she saw what it was. An email came out. It was detailing a new initiative to get cases resolved and closed faster. She could read between the lines. What she read didn’t mean resolutions and arrests.
“You just want to close them and hand them down to the cold case area. Just makes your numbers look better,” she muttered.
She decided this was why they were doing raids before they should, like in the last case. They hadn’t investigated every angle.
“Idiots,” she said. “Management being stupid as usual.”
She finished the day and headed home.
When she stepped from the car, she could hear the voices. For a moment, she thought the boys were fighting. She hurried toward the house. However, loud laughter enveloped her when she opened the door to the house.
She stepped into the living room to see what was happening.
“Oh, no, poor Patsy,” she said.
“We dressed her up,” Kyle said, bouncing up to her.
On Patsy’s head was Kyle’s cowboy hat. Somehow they had gotten his kiddie holster strapped around her stomach. Patsy stood there, looking unperturbed.
“You better hope she doesn’t learn to shoot,” she said. “You know Ollie bounces around when you do. Maybe you should head outside.”
Ollie’s tail was dangerously hitting everything in sight.
Colo did the hand command and headed for the kitchen. Both dogs followed. Banter had to agree, Patsy did looked hilarious.
Bea came trotting down the stairs.
“What are they doing to Patsy? Poor dog.”
“She’s quite tolerant,” Banter said.
“I can’t see how she ended up at the pound.”
“Neither can I. Are you still good for tonight?”
“Yeah. I have a book my grandmother put together. I use the word book loosely. It has some cooking recommendations. I thought we could go over it tonight.”
“Good. No one would suspect two women talking about cooking.”
Banter followed the boys. The cowboy hat was no longer staying on since Patsy’s head dropped when she sniffed around the yard. Only when she kept her head up, did it stay in position.
“How was the park?”
“Fabulous,” Kyle said.
She knew he was imitating a neighbor lady.
“Patsy is coming along,” Colo said, putting on an adult pose.
The rest of the afternoon flew by. Colo was setting the table while Banter was pulling out dinner when Corey came home. There was the usual chaos while he changed. Patsy trotted up the stairs with Ollie, but came back down. Kyle had to take her back up.
“She almost got it,” Banter said.
The evening was nice, so after dinner, they took a walk.
“She’s heeling well,” Corey said.
Kyle was ahead of them, leading the way. Colo was behind him with Ollie.
“I feel like I’m in a parade,” Banter said.
“It’s a nice parade,” he said, squeezing her hand. “Is Bea going with you again tonight?”
“Yes. She said to ditch the cooking class. She’s going to bring a book her grandmother put together. She said that would help me learn to cook.”
“Nice. Old fashion recipes with arsenic and old lace.”
“Nice attitude, Mr. Policeman.”
“If the recipe calls for a opossum, I’ll pass.”
“Considering Bea learned how to cook from her grandmother, and we haven’t had opossum yet, that we know of, I think we’re safe.”
They turned a corner.
“What do you think about the new directive?” she said.
“I’m going to politely ignore it and continue as we always have.”
“I haven’t heard a word from Ray.”
“He’s really being pushed hard for results. He’s trying to push everyone else. He’s probably so busy doing that he’s not shoving things down your throat. Either that or he knows better.”
“Peter didn’t look too happy today.”
“I’m sure he’s getting pushed.”
They turned another corner and were on their block. The boys now broke into a jog. Kyle was much faster than Patsy who lagged behind.
At eight-thirty, Corey escorted her to her car. He gave her the usual hug and a kiss.
“Be careful,” he said.
“I have Bea. Together we are a force to reckon with.”
She backed out of the garage and headed to the club.
The same spot was available, but she chose another which allowed her to glance down the alley. The light that had been on all week was off. Or broken? She couldn’t tell.
She had to wait a few minutes before Bea pulled up. Banter stepped out. To get a better glance at the alley, she went over to Bea’s car before she could join her.
“You have that book?” Banter said.
“Yes, I do.”
Banter led them up onto the sidewalk. She swung an arm and dropped her keys.
“Damn. I’m dropping things tonight.”
She stepped into the alley to get her keys. It would take a moment for her eyes to adjust. She looked around and found her keys. When she looked up, she could tell there was no bulb over the door.
“Keys. Here, they are.”
Banter led the way into the club.
“The bar,” she said, gesturing where she wanted to sit.
The manager was again different. He was also dressed just like the others and had the expected handlebar mustache. Banter wondered if this was some kind of look they were going for in the club.
They ended up in the exact same seats.
“Ladies, what can I get you?”
Banter noted it was a different bartender.
“Coke with olives,” she said.
“What do you have for rye whiskeys?” Bea said.
The bartender gestured at a shelf.
“Third one in on the rocks.”
Banter watched the bartender. He didn’t seem to have any problems pouring her soda.
“Yes,” Bea said.
He selected a glass and filled it with ice, then filled the glass almost to the top.
Banter paid for the drinks.
Bea pulled out the book.
“Training?” Banter said in a low voice.
“Same issue as last night.”
This told Banter they were dealing with another bartender who wasn’t a bartender.
Bea carried a small binder. She opened it, and Banter could see that it was filled with notes and recipes.
“This might make more sense to you,” Bea said.
Bea sipped her drink.
“Good, bad or ugly,” Banter said, referring to the drink.
“The right stuff because I indicated the bottle, but twice the amount he should have.”
“Oh, I see,” Banter said.
“I could get drunk with this. Any how, this is the casserole I made last week.”
Banter looked over the ingredients. There was nothing there she wasn’t familiar with. Everything was all mixed together, thrown into a pan, and baked. The oven temperature was noted along with the cooking time.
“That’s it. Simple. Down here are things you can substitute. You can use any veggie. You can use any meat. You still need the two cans of cream soup which can be cream of mushroom or cream of anything. And for some crunch, use bread crumbs. I just tear up two pieces of toast. I usually use cereal, the non-sugared varieties, but you guys don’t eat cereal.”
“I can do this,” Banter said. “And here I thought this was all magic.”
“Excuse me a moment.”
Banter rose and headed for the restroom. She really didn’t need to go, but she wanted to get video of the far side of the bar. Banter got the footage she wanted on the way back.
“This is one of the favorites,” Bea said when Banter settled into her seat.
Banter found almost their entire lineup of dinners in the book.
“I see there are lots we haven’t even tried,” Banter said.
“Probably because I ask the boys what they want for dinner for the week. They’ve been selecting the menu. They tend to cycle through just a few favorites.”
“I’m going to have to try one of these this weekend instead of going to that cooking class.”
Banter paged through the book.
“Talking of cooking,” she said in a quiet voice, “do you smell anything?”
“I can smell my drink, but… no, I don’t smell any food.”
“Hum,” Banter said with a nod, continuing to look as if the book was consuming all her attention.
However, she did continue to take note of the number of people being seated behind them, and the drinks they were getting.
“Three beers, two wines, and a coke,” Bea said under her breath, showing that she was also watching those in the alcove. “And water for everyone out front.”
“A wealth of information,” Banter said.
“When you figure it all out, you have to let me know.”
“I will. Once I’ve figured it out.”
Bea managed to make it look as if she drank most of her drink, but Banter had seen her spill some on the floor. Banter ate the olives and had about three sips. The soda still tasted stale.
“I have to be going,” Bea said.
“That time already?”
They headed out together.
“Thanks for meeting me and thanks for the book,” Banter said.
“You’re welcome. Have a good night.”
Banter drove home. She didn’t have to call Bea since she let her know what she was seeing while they were in the club. She was almost to the door to the house, when it opened. Corey reached out for her.
“Evening,” she said.
He pulled her into the house and into the bedroom without another word.