Let me know what you think! – Heather
Setting the scene: Steph stayed with her parents until her apartment was free again, Ella dropped by to give Steph some Arnica gel for her bruises and also gave Steph her phone number, in case Steph needed some more. Steph and Morelli are off-again.
I searched through the mess that was my kitchen side. Ah ha, I found it! I picked up my cell and dialled the number on the elusive scrap of paper that Ella had given me.
'Ella?' I asked. 'It's Stephanie.'
'Oh. Hello dear, how are you?'
'Ok, thanks. I was wondering if you knew where Ranger is?'
'He's in the conference room on the second floor of the Haywood offices, dear.'
'Is it an important meeting?'
'It's nothing earth shaking dear, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if you interrupted. Is everything alright?'
'Yeah, fine, thanks Ella.'
'You're welcome dear, have a good day.'
'You too.' I said.
Hmm, clearly not all Rangeman employees have terrible phone manners.
I pulled on surgical gloves and picked up the box, carefully locking my door behind me and putting my security system in place. I walked out to my car, placing the box in the shotgun position next to me. I cranked over the engine and drove to Haywood.
I parked a block away and walked to the office building. I hadn't been here since staying here three weeks ago during the Slayer thing, and it felt a bit awkward.
I shoved my awkwardness aside and got in the lift, I rode up to the second floor, and sure enough, there was a wooden door with a gold plaque that read conference room. Since Ella said Ranger would be in 'the conference room' rather than 'a conference room', it was fairly safe to assume that Ranger was inside.
I knocked once, the box under my arm, and then I opened the door and walked in.
'Babe?' Ranger said.
The conference table appeared to be full of Merry Men, but at a glance I only recognised Tank, Bobby Brown and Lester Santos.
Ranger was at the head of the conference table in one of those big leather chairs that big time Bosses always sit in; you know, the swivel ones that looks like the person sitting in it should have a cat on his lap and should say things like 'So, we meet again.'
'Babe?' Ranger repeated, bringing me back to the present.
I walked over to him and put the box down on the desk, in front of him.
'It's a gift for you.' I said.
'It has 'To my dearest Stephanie' written on it.' Ranger said.
'Well, yes, but it's for you.' I maintained.
He raised an eyebrow.
'What?' I said, 'it could happen! Sometimes people kidnap me when they're looking for you…so maybe someone this for you.'
'Stolle kidnapped you, no one else.'
'What about the thing with the guy yesterday?' I said, before I could stop myself. My eyes widened as I said this, oops. I really hadn't meant to tell Ranger about that.
'Explain.' He said firmly.
'It's nothing, really. In fact, I probably dreamt it. I should go now.' I turned on my heel and started to walk away.
'Stop.' Ranger said.
Damn. I knew he wouldn't let me get away so easily.
I turned around slowly so I was facing him.
'Back.' He said.
I rolled my eyes, feeling like a dog, but I nonetheless walked back to him.
'Explain Babe. Now.'
I blew out a sigh.
'I was walking out of Pino's, and this guy with a gun told me to come with him, cos his boss wanted to talk to me about you.'
'And I'd had a bad day.' I said.
I sighed again. 'So I kicked him in the bollocks, punched him in the face and told him to take a long walk of a short pier. Then I told him that if his boss wants info on you he can phone you like normal person and ask you. And then I told him it was rude to pull a gun on a girl, especially before she's eaten her pizza.'
Ranger grinned at me, 'Babe.' He said, 'he had a gun.'
I folded my arms across my chest, 'So?'
'Did you have your gun?' he asked.
'I had hair spray,' I said defensively.
'Hair spray.' He repeated, shaking his head.
'What?' I said, 'I'm a girl from jersey - I could probably kill someone with hair spray!'
'What did he look like?'
'Caucasian male, quite built, about six ft, dressed in jeans and a white shirt.' There, that sounded professional, probably I should stop there – but my brain and mouth aren't always connected so well and I carried on talking. 'And he had terrible hair' I said. 'He could have done with some of my hair spray.'
I could see the amusement in Ranger's eyes. 'And the box?' He asked.
'I told you - it's a present. For you.'
'You always give people presents wearing surgical gloves?' Ranger asked.
I shrugged. 'I didn't want to get prints on it.'
Ranger reached into a draw and pulled out some leather gloves. Then he lifted the lid off the shoebox and looked in.
He stared into the box for a long minute before he replaced the lid firmly.
'Babe.' He sighed.
'Is it gross?' I asked.
Ranger raised an eyebrow.
'I didn't look inside.' I admitted, 'it smelled icky.'
Ranger got up and put the box in what appeared to be a dumb waiter. He closed the clear door and pressed a few buttons and the box disappeared downwards. Ranger pressed some more buttons on the intercom, 'I'm sending you down a package. Dust it for finger prints, do some DNA tests and get me an ID.'
'Sure thing Boss.' Said a disconnected voice out of the intercom.
Ranger turned back to me, 'sit.' He said, gesturing to his chair.
I sat. Wow, comfy - maybe I should get myself one of these…of course to pull off the chair I really needed a huge international company of some kind, and office buildings.
Maybe I wouldn't bother with the chair.
'You notice anyone unusual hanging around?' Ranger asked.
'Ranger, this is me. I'm friends with a woman with a moustache and mob connections, a plus size ex-hooker with a preference for lime green spandex, a doped out man who wears what he terms a 'supersuit', not to mention a cross-dressing, puzzle solving, rock singer. Most of the people I hang round with are unusual!'
Ranger nodded fractionally, 'true. You seen any strangers around?'
I shook my head.
'Have you been tailed recently?'
I thought about that, then mentally shrugged, I've never been that good at the whole spotting-the-tail thing. 'This may surprise you,' I warned Ranger, 'but sometimes I'm not 100 aware of my surroundings. Sometimes things like being tailed slip under my radar.'
Ranger's lips twitched upwards, 'no shit.' He said, amused.
'It's true.' I admitted.
'Where was the box?' Ranger asked.
'Outside my apartment door. I checked the hair and it was still in place so I doubt anyone broke into my apartment.'
'The hair?' Ranger asked.
'I put a hair across the bottom of the door; if the door gets opened the hair gets moved across the hall some. But if the hair's where I left it then probably no one broke in.'
'That's your security?' Ranger asked, incredulous.
'It's what James bond does! Besides, I didn't have enough money for a thumb-printing, eye-scanning, security system.' I said, shrugging.
'You could just get an alarm.'
'I had one of those, but people broke in so often that my neighbours complained to the super.'
Ranger pulled out his cell and dialled some numbers. 'Hola Hector. Me gustaria…' he babbled on in Spanish and I tuned it out. I kicked off my sneakers and pulled up my legs onto the chair; that was comfier. I'll just rest my head here a minute.
I felt warm hands encircle my waist and then I was lifted up and settled on to a warm lap. Mmm, scent of Ranger, I wrapped my arms around Ranger's neck and nuzzled in so I could smell him better, no one smells this good.
'Babe.' Ranger said, 'wake up.'
'Nuh uh.' I murmured, trying to go back to sleep.
'I don't wanna go running.' I said.
I could feel Ranger laugh silently and I could hear the amusement in his voice as he said, 'ok, if I promise not to make you run today, will you promise to run with me tomorrow?'
'Mmm,' I replied, still half asleep, 'ok, I promise.'
'Good, now wake up, Babe.'
I sighed and opened my eyes, and was completely disorientated as I realised I wasn't in my bedroom.
'What? Where? Huh?'
'You fell asleep, in the conference room in Haywood, and I'm not sure how to answer 'huh'.' Ranger said.
'Wiseass.' I muttered.
I stretched slightly and rubbed my eyes.
'I'll be over at 5am tomorrow.' Ranger said.
'To go for our run.'
I blinked. Shit. 'You can't hold me to that! I was half asleep!'
'Doesn't matter. You promised.'
'Raaaa-nger!' I whined, 'No fair. Besides, what kinda person gets up at 5am? That's not normal!'
'Babe, you're not normal.' Ranger said.
'I am so! I could normal your ass off.'
Ranger grinned, '5am. Be ready.'
'Shit.' I said, 'couldn't we go for donuts instead?'
I sighed, if I changed the subject, maybe he'll forget. Besides, I'm curious.
'So, what was in the box?' I asked.
'A pair of severed hands.'
'You have a sick sense of humour, you know that?' I yelled.
'What?' Ranger said, surprised at my outburst.
'Not, you.' I explained, 'God.'
'God.' Ranger repeated; sounding a little mystified.
'Just the other day I was thinking to myself 'hey, I could really do with another pair of hands.''
'And you think God sent you a pair of severed hands?'
'It could happen. He sent the Israelites bread.'