Cate’s mood was as gloomy as the overcast Georgia sky. She pulled her travel mug out of its holder and sucked in a mouthful of coffee, heavily laced with chocolate caramel-flavored creamer, as she guided her midnight-blue Mustang up the highway toward work.
On the passenger seat was her gear bag, containing her holsters, magazines, range glasses, ear defenders, and other miscellaneous tools of her trade. Cate had once been a field agent, but now spent her days teaching agent-wannabes how NOT to shoot the good guys or get shot themselves.
Cate heard her Blackberry trill out a distinctive ringtone.
Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame
Darlin’ you give lo-o-ove a Ba-yad name…
She grabbed it from the front pocket of her range bag. “What?” she mumbled in answer.
“Hey Slick, get your ass to work!” It was Danny, her long-time friend, partner, drinking buddy, and all-around big brother. And heartbreaker to more than a few women in his day. Hence the ringtone.
“I’m on my way.” Cate grumbled. “I’m not on the range today – Floyd has me doing ammo inventory with Steve. So no reason to hurry my ass in.” Cate would much rather be on the range – even with students – than doing one of the many necessary accountability inspections that go with the job of Federal Firearms Instructor. She scowled at a slow-moving minivan in front of her and whipped into the left lane, guiding around it and resuming her 75-mile-per-hour pace.
“Ha ha. Better you than me.” Cate could hear the smirk in Danny’s voice. “Hey, just wanted to check in before I hit the ready room for the students, and let you know that Floyd needs to see ya as soon as you get here. He has a new project for you. Starts today.” Danny’s voice still belied barely controlled taunting.
“Shit, another dog-and-pony show?” Cate swore. Though she would rather do almost anything besides inventory, she was getting tired of having to serve as the Firearms Training Branch “tour guide” for anyone and everyone who came to visit the Center.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center was a sprawling facility, dedicated to training almost every federal agent to take an oath to serve the U.S. Government. The centerpiece of the facility was the Firearms Training program, where Cate worked. The main tools of a cop's trade are a badge and a gun. So of course, every single VIP who visited the Center had to come and watch the students do firearms training. After all, shooting stuff was cool.
As the only female FT instructor and a naturally-gifted communicator, Cate always seemed to be the one called upon to serve as “Ambassador” for the branch. She could pretty much give the tour and spiel that went with it in her sleep. She was always professional, entertaining, and charming, and it didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes.
But lately it had been harder and harder to put on a happy face and do the dance. She had considered asking Floyd to stop giving her that particular detail, but she adored her Boss like a second father, so she sucked it up and bit her tongue.
“Who the hell is coming through now?” she asked Danny snarkily.
“Oh, you’re gonna love this one, Slick! Some hotshot actor is coming in to spend two whole weeks with you, so you can teach him how to not look like a complete Dumbass in his next big Special Agent movie!” Danny gleefully emphasized the words he knew would get under Cate’s skin. He knew her better than probably anyone else on the planet, and he always knew what buttons to push. The problem was, she also knew what he was trying to do, so he didn’t get much of a rise from her.
“Goddamnit! TWO weeks?” Cate grouched. “I’m scheduled to teach the BATs the rest of this week, and I’m supposed to do my own proficiency and re-qual tomorrow. And I have to certify that new Practical Pistol Course next week!” As if she didn’t have enough shit to do, now she had to babysit some candy-ass actor who probably didn’t know his dick from a Glock.
“Well, not anymo-oore!” Danny sing-songed. “You’re on Babysitter detail, Slick.”
Cate wanted to crawl through the phone and strangle him, he was having so much fun breaking this news. Floyd probably told Danny to call her so she could get her “pissy-face” about this new turn of events over with before she got to work.
Danny dropped his voice a bit, but Cate could still hear the mischief in his tone. “Seriously, though, Slick, I don’t think this one will be that bad. Besides, don’t you want to teach this Hollywood yahoo how to look like a REAL cop on the big screen?” Danny knew how Cate hated watching movies or TV shows where the actors waved their toy guns up around their ears around like Charlie’s Angels. “This is your chance to improve the quality of American cinema. And I think you’ll like working with this, um, actor.”
“Who is it?” Cate asked warily. “Is it somebody I’ve heard of?” Danny was enjoying this way too much. Something was up. This actor must be somebody Danny knew would get under Cate’s skin. And he and the guys were probably rubbing their hands together in glee at the thought of watching her suffer for two weeks.
“Nuh-uh, can’t tell ya.” Danny replied. “It’s Top Secret. Floyd said not to tell you anything else until you get to the office, and he can lay out the details. This is pretty hush-hush – the Director’s office wants to keep it as low-profile as possible so the media doesn’t get all goofy.”
“So I’m babysitting some Big Shot?” Cate asked. Danny knew by her tone her mind was sifting through all the entertainment news she had heard over the past few months, trying to recall any reports of a big-name star making a new cop movie.
“Well, depends on your definition of ‘Big Shot’.” Danny replied. “But yeah, he’s made a few movies.” Danny knew damned well that this guy qualified as a Big Shot in Cate’s book. Hell, “Mr. Big Shot” had been the object of Cate’s lust and adoration since before she and Danny had met in college over 20 years ago.
“So it is a He?” Cate immediately replied, relief evident in her voice. She didn’t work and play well with women, unless they proved they could hold their own with her. Cate, like many female cops, had a small circle of close girlfriends almost all of whom were cops or agents themselves. If she had to spend two weeks with some goofy Hollywood bimbo who was afraid to break a nail pulling the trigger, Cate may well have to turn her gun on herself.
“Yeah, Slick, it’s a ‘He’.” Danny chuckled at the other end of the line. “Jesus, could you be any more Butch?” Danny loved to taunt Cate about being a “She-Man” but it was one of his favorite of her many attractive qualities. Cate was definitely one of the guys, but she was able to hold her own as a woman, too. Danny grinned at the secret he was keeping from his best friend. “Cate, trust me – this isn’t going to be that bad. You may even enjoy yourself.”
“I doubt it.” Cate sighed. “But I guess I’ll do it for Floyd. Damn, is he gonna owe me for this one….”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” Danny answered sarcastically. “I have a feeling you’ll just spend the next year thanking him and kissing his ass for letting you have this ….. experience.” He could barely contain himself now. Danny covered the mouthpiece of his phone to laugh wickedly to himself at what he knew Cate was going to find when she walked into Floyd’s office. It was gonna rock her world.
Cate heard Danny’s hand cup over the mouthpiece. The Shit was enjoying torturing her about this WAY too much. “Yeah…fuck you, Slick!” Cate retorted, lightening the curse with their shared nickname.
“Naw thanks, Slick … you’ll have to find someone else to service ya. I was done with that back in college.” Danny was laughing openly now. “Just get your ass in here.” I gotta see the look on her face! he thought to himself.
“I’m almost there – five minutes. And stop fucking laughing at me!” Cate commanded. With that, she hung up, tossed her Blackberry back into her range bag, and turned onto the road that led to the Center’s main entrance. She sighed heavily and sucked in another long gulp of coffee as she headed for the gate. It was gonna be a long day.
On the other end of the call, Danny flipped his phone shut and looked toward the Boss’ office. He could clearly see Cate’s charge through the small window. The man was reclining comfortably in the chair in front of Floyd’s desk, one scuffed boot rested on the other denim-clad knee, nodding as he listened to whatever Floyd was telling him.
Danny watched the man laugh, then run a hand through the front of his thick, tousled, honey-toned hair and finish the coffee from the cup Danny had given him earlier. His tight black tee showcased his muscular torso, and gleaming white teeth flashed as he laughed again. The bottom of a Superman logo tattoo showed briefly at the edge of his left sleeve as he reached forward to deposit the cup on the corner of Floyd’s desk. Then he settled back in the chair and resumed the conversation.
Danny grinned to himself. This was one assignment his best friend was gonna remember for awhile.