A/N: Thank you so much for all the kind words and reviews. I tried to thank you individually, but somehow I couldn't get through the FF "are you human" thing on my iphone the other day and gave up. I really appreciate all your enthusiasm. You guys are the best :)
This takes place after EE. Some spoilers. This is my first FF, so please be kind. Don't own the characters, JE does, just taking them for a test drive.
Extra special thanks to my Beta Reader Fredda (Rangergirl1234) who has great insight, kept me honest and also suggested the title for this story.
Chapter six The Quinceañera
We woke up at 6:53 am–at least that's what the digital display next to my head read–to the sound of Carlos' iPhone vibrating against the nightstand on his side of the bed. After unfolding from me he answered with the perfunctory "Yo" greeting and got up quickly when he heard the voice on the other end of the line.
"Daria, what's up? Is everything ok?" "My sister," he mouthed to me as he walked into the sitting room to take the call. "Yeah, I'm up. How did you get this number?" I only heard one side of the conversation, so I could only imagine what was being said on the other end.
"You're calling me at 7 am to invite me to a party? Are you out of your mind?" I heard him say loudly. Uh, oh, this can't be good I said to myself, and tried to go back to sleep. I tossed and turned a couple of times but quickly realized that I was now fully awake, so I pulled up the covers and waited for Carlos to come back and fill me in.
"We should be back in Trenton early next week if everything pans out the way I'm hoping." Long pause. "You don't need to know that. Send me the invite, send it to Haywood. Ok, you too."
Carlos came back with a strange look on his face. "What's up," I asked, almost afraid to find out.
"My sister couldn't reach me, so she called Tank."
"Which sister is this?" I asked again, hoping for a little information.
"This is my oldest sister, Daria. She can be a pain in the ass…she likes getting her way." Yeah, so does someone else, I thought. Must run in the family.
"She's having a party for my niece's 15th birthday next month and wanted to know if I would 'grace the family with my presence', as she put it. This is a quinceañera, a fiesta de quince años." I looked at Carlos, slightly confused, and tried to figure out what he was talking about. I'd never heard of a quinceañera, before. Carlos must have read my mind so he continued to explain.
"It's a big thing in wealthier Latin communities. It's a coming of age party for teenage girls, kind of like a bar mitzvah and my sister will probably invite the world. I made the mistake of saying "we" instead of "I" when I told her when I'd be back in Trenton and she started asking a lot of questions. She's not going to leave me alone about this. I shouldn't have taken her call."
"How bad can this be? You show up for a few hours, or you just send a gift. Surely it's not that big of a deal, is it? Don't worry about it." I chanced a glance up a Carlos, but the look I found on his face told me that he was disturbed.
"Babe, I need to go for a run. Want to come?"
I shook my head no and pointed to the pillow I was holding. "I need a little more sleep. " Carlos didn't make any effort to move, so I asked him, "Are you ok?"
"That was just a disturbing call. I need to shake it…I'll be alright."
"Is she your only niece?" I ventured.
"No, I have 3 nieces and 5 nephews, and I'm sure there will be more." he said as he pulled on his running shorts. "Madeleine is the oldest."
"The 15-year-old?" I tried.
"Yeah, the15-year-old. Sure you don't want to come? You seem to be awake now?"
I had a feeling Ranger wanted to talk, so I got up to go out with him. Argh. "Give me a minute to splash some water on my face and brush my teeth and I'll come with you."
We had been running in silence for a few minutes when Ranger began. "If I go to this party, will you come with me as my date?"
"What's the matter Batman? Afraid to face your family alone?" I tried joking to lighten his mood.
"No, but I'd much rather face them with you. I want to introduce you to them anyway, and it might be easier to meet everyone at once."
"I can't believe a little 15-year-old girl has the great big Rangeman frightened." I pushed again.
"It's not the 15-year-old, it's her mother," he laughed.
As anyone who's ever gone for a run with me knows, I can't run and talk at the same time, so we had to have been running at a snail's pace for me to carry on that conversation.
"Want to up the pace Batman?" I said, more to see if he wanted to continue talking or if he'd rather run and get this conversation that seemed to be bothering him out of his system. If this were me, I'd opt for donuts, but this is Ranger and thankfully he hadn't 'called me to the mats' yet. I guess I should count my blessings.
"Is that ok with you? I need to run full out for a bit."
"Go for it, I'll just fall back if I can't keep up." And watch that perfect ass in front of me.
After Carlos took off at a marathon clip, I thought about the last couple of days and realized I never gave him any answers. I was deep in thought when I got this strange feeling that I was being watched and looked around me to see if there was a threat nearby. Carlos and I were the only runners on the beach that I could see. There were a couple of senior citizens out power walking but that was it. I tried to shake the feeling, but it just got stronger and stronger the further away from the hotel we ran. There was no way I could catch up to Carlos, so I just kept up my pace and figured he'd eventually turn around and come back. I could still see him in front of me and he didn't seem to be phased but I was, even more so now, so I stopped, took my phone out of my shorts, and called Tank.
"This may be nothing, but Ranger and I are out running on the beach and I can't shake this feeling that someone is watching me. I can't catch up to Ranger to warn him and he doesn't have his phone on him, but the feeling is so strong that I felt I had to call you in case it's the feds and they are going to try to apprehend him."
"Where are you, Bomber?"
"Same place. Islamorada- we're running north on the beach in front of our hotel. Is Lester still in Miami?"
"Ranger has good instincts. If he feels you aren't right behind him, he'll turn around and come back to you. Don't put yourself in any danger. I'll get in touch with Santos."
"Tank, can you stay on the phone with me until he comes back? If someone jumps him, at least you'll know right away. But if it's someone that's after me maybe they won't try anything if they see I'm on the phone and can call for help."
"This isn't like you, Steph. Yes I'll stay on. Have you been threatened?"
"No, no. Nothing like that, but I had this feeling yesterday too, only it wasn't as strong as right now. I didn't want to head down to Key West because something told me it was safer here, but I'm not feeling quite so sure right now. Um, Ranger just turned around but it will take him a few minutes to reach me." I took a glance around me to see if I could spot anyone and realized someone was headed Ranger's way.
"Shit Tank, someone just came out from one of the other hotels on the beach and started to run in his direction. I'm going to try to catch up to Ranger. If I don't say anything, just stay with me, ok?"
"I'm here, Bomber."
I took off as fast as I could just as I saw the figure in front of me veer into Ranger's path. Quick as lightening, I watched Ranger grab the guy around his neck, throw him to the ground, and subdue him as he finally pinned his hands behind his back. I knew Ranger didn't have any cuffs on him, but maybe he had a gun or a knife. I kept running and tried to talk to Tank at the same time.
"He went for Ranger. I don't know what happened, but it looks like Ranger has him down. I'm almost there."
"Bomber, stay away."
By the time I got to Ranger, a couple of people had gathered around. A security guard from one of the hotels was out with his gun drawn and they were putting cuffs on the guy who seemed to just be coming to. Ranger saw me and yelled, "Jennifer call 911." I picked up immediately that we needed to use our cover aliases and I called back to him, "Vic are you ok?" Carlos nodded that he was ok as I quickly told Tank what happened and hung up. Next, I called the police.
When the police finally arrived, Ranger and the security guard had the attacker cuffed and ready to be taken into custody. The guard, Ranger, and myself were asked to come down to the police station to give our statements. We were still in our running clothes with no ID on us, so we asked if we could go back to our hotel to shower, change, and grab some breakfast before stopping by in an hour or so, and they agreed. The police offered to drive us back, but I got the feeling that it was more to interrogate us than as a courtesy. Ranger pointed that we were within walking distance and we'd be ok as he promised that we'd see them shortly.
When we were out of hearing distance I asked Ranger, "Did you know that guy? Any idea what that was about?"
"Yeah Babe, I know him. His name is Manuel Garcia and he used to work for Rangeman Miami. We had to let him go because he liked to use very excessive force during his takedowns and almost killed a couple of the skips. He probably blames me for losing his job. I came down a couple of months ago to personally do the firing. I guess he saw us here and decided to jump me to get even. I think we should stick to our Colón story. If they check us out it will be collaborated, and with my glasses and haircut we may even have Manuel second-guessing that I'm not Victor Colón."
I told him about the strong feeling I had of being watched and my call to Tank as we used our cardkey to enter the hotel through the side door. Ranger said he'd call Tank and fill him in while I was in the shower.
I was done in record time, including a couple of coats of mascara for courage, and came out into the sitting room to find Ranger still on the phone with Tank.
"Babe," he called me over. "Tank thinks that my attack might not be what we first assumed. Turns out Garcia was arrested in Trenton about a month ago for carrying concealed after he went through a red light right near our Rangeman offices. The guys think he may have been scoping out our place and maybe me in particular, although we think it was just luck that he found me here. There was no way he could have tailed me through my government op and followed me to Miami. Tank also thinks he may not be working alone. I ordered us room service, let me hang up with Tank and we'll talk."
Ranger finished up with his conversation with Tank, the last part of which sounded like code to me, when our door buzzed bringing breakfast. I was happy to see that Ranger ordered me pancakes with maple syrup and not some kind of healthy thing. He, on the other hand, got yogurt with seeds and bark again. Jeez, that man might be hot, but he doesn't know how to eat.
"Ok, Babe," he said when I had my mouth full of blueberry pancake goodness, the syrup dripping down my chin. "I think we should go to the police station, then come back here and check out. Tank still hasn't gotten through to McHugh so I can't go back to Trenton, but we can head either south to Key West or north to Disneyworld. We need to go someplace where we can blend in."
"Are you serious about Disneyworld, Batman?" I asked, not really seeing this man going on rides or strolling along with a crowd and tons of kids.
"Anything for you, Babe."
"Ok, then Disneyworld it is. Oh and Carlos my answers are 'yes' and 'yes'."
The 200-watt smile stretched from one side of his face to the other. "And we are talking about what, Babe?"
"You asked me the other night if I would except your apology and go out with you. I never actually answered and today you invited me to your nieces 15th birthday party. Yes and yes."
Ranger smiled as he pulled me close to him. "Only you, Babe."
We arrived at the police station outfitted in our Colón best…Ranger in his Oliver Peoples glasses and me in my Tahari linen knee-length short ensemble. We held hands as we entered the sacred police space and pretended that none of this was familiar. Ranger kissed me to assure me everything would be ok, but also to keep up our front that we were just a vacationing couple. Before we met with the officers that took Garcia in, the detective in charge told us that in doing a sweep of the area, they discovered another armed man and brought him in for questioning.
"Where did you find this guy?" I asked, wondering if he might have been the cause of my spidey-sense meltdown.
"About half-way between your hotel and where your husband was accosted. Why do you ask?"
There was no way in hell I was going to tell him about my sensing danger, so I just shrugged. "Just wondering."
Taking the pressure off of me in case he questioned further, the desk sergeant came over and informed us we could meet with the arresting officers now. We breezed through the paperwork, our story collaborated by the hotel security guard and a few senior citizens that were on the beach at the time, and we were back in the car heading towards the hotel when Ranger's iPhone vibrated against the console separating our two seats. "Babe, can you check the readout? Not too many people have this number," he said with his eyes still on the road.
I picked up the phone and saw that the call was from Lester, so I answered. "Hi Les, what's up?"
"Hey Beautiful. You and the boss man must be in pretty tight if he's letting you answer his phone," Lester teased.
"Well as a matter of fact, Ranger and I are going to Disneyworld," I batted my eyes. "We're on our way back to the hotel now to checkout and leave."
"I just spoke with Tank so I know about the beach incident. What did you think about seeing Ranger in action?"
"It was pretty amazing. I saw the guy pivot towards Ranger and the next thing I knew Ranger had him on the ground and out like a light."
"Thought you'd be impressed. But the reason I'm calling is to tell you I saw the driver that picked us up at the airport snooping around the hotel here last night. I didn't have any reason to apprehend him, and I'm pretty sure he didn't see me, but it seems like something may be up. Now after hearing about Garcia, I would be very cautious if I were you. I planned on checking out today and was going to catch a flight back to Trenton, but maybe it'd be a good idea for me to meet up with you in Orlando. You may need some backup. Talk it over with Ranger and let me know what you decide."
I relayed Lester's story to Ranger and we both thought a backup might not be a bad idea. Then out of the blue it dawned on me that Lester promised to take care of my skips. "Uh, Carlos, maybe we should get someone else as backup. Lester promised to take care of my outstanding FTA's for Vinnie."
"Tank isn't going to let Lester do this on his own anyway- you know we always travel in pairs. He may suggest another team. Can you call him? He's programmed in…just hit that little "contacts" icon on the bottom there, then touch the "T" off to the right and he'll pop up. "
"Got it." I did as Ranger instructed and the next thing I knew Tank was answering on the other line. "Tank? Steph. We just spoke with Lester and he thinks it might be a good idea for us to have backup for the Orlando trip. He volunteered, as he's not that far away, but Ranger wanted me to check with you." I paused as I tried to figure out how to tell Tank my real worry without sounding selfish "And, well…ummm…Les promised to help me with my skips while I'm down here."
I heard Tank laugh. "Is that what this is all about? You want Lester to capture your FTA's for you? You do realize that any of the guys would be happy to help you out…all you have to do is ask. Bobby was already at your apartment checking on Rex. He was worried that you might not have left enough food and water for more than a day. Oh and just so you know, he brought him back here and he's now entertaining the command room."
"Really, Tank? That's so sweet. " I turned to Ranger as he was driving and smiled. "Ranger, Bobby brought Rex to Rangeman." I saw Ranger grimace through the corner of my eye and I nudged him. "Hey, what's that face for? You don't like Rex?" I gave Ranger a poke in the rib as he smirked and turned my attention back to Tank. "Anyway Tank, thank Bobby for me and whatever you decide about my skips is fine. I just don't want Vinnie getting all bent out of shape that I'm working for Rangeman and ignoring my other responsibilities."
"I'll send Manny down to team with Santos. Do you have a preference as to who takes care of your skips? How about Ram and Cal? They have a pretty light schedule for the next couple of days. We can pick up duplicate paperwork from Connie."
I agreed that the plan worked for me and he disconnected.