03 – You Better Watch Out

I have to admit, torturing her with Christmas music all day has been the highlight of my week. She is a trooper, though. Not once did she reach over to change the station. We sat in this car and watched the poor schmuck ringing his heart out at the entrance. I was feeling pretty smug this morning about being right on the next location and having her confirm it. It meant we both knew how to do our job. The longer we sat here though, the less confident I felt. When the sun started to set, I huffed and shifted my weight for the hundredth time.

“Relax, Wolfe. All the attacks happened after sundown, anyway. We’re just looking to see if anyone is watching Santa here other than us.”

“Well, that’s obvious. So, FBI? What made you want to become a fed?”

“I thought it would take me far, far away from Kansas City.”

“What do you have against this town?” The sudden pride in my home town welling up. There is nothing wrong with the big KC.

“The people in it.”

“Okay. You’re going to have to be more specific. What kind of people? We talkin’ people people? Purple people? Green people?” I give her the most serious of looks, “Purple people eaters?”

“You’re an ass,” she says as she lets a laugh escape before locking it back under the stern Agent Harris gaze.

“I am being serious. Is it purple and eats people? Or does it eat purple people?” I continue to have a very stoic expression on my face. I watch her bite her lip to stifle the laughter. Her face turns red, and her shoulders shake from the internal giggling I can see. Then she lets out the laugh.

“The parent people kind.”

“Ah, the great birthers! Overbearing, over-doting, underachieving?”

“You have no idea who I am, do you?” She looks amused.

“No ducking the question. What kind of parents?” I give her a side-look. She is right. I have no clue who she is, and it’s eating me up.

“Disapproving and disappointed. I did not become a teacher, a nurse, a rich man’s wife, or a lawyer. In that order, specifically.”

“Really? Well then, you got off easy.”

“Right,” her tone drips with sarcasm. “Because the Great Joe Wolfe had so much pressure to perform.”

“I mean, literally, the bar was set at ‘don’t be a draft dodger’. Kind of hard to screw that one up.” I shrug. I had my older brother, Billy, to thank for that.

“I figured you would’ve followed in your old man’s footsteps.”

“What? And become a history teacher? Meh. I didn’t like school when I was in it. Why would I want to go back on purpose?” This gets a laugh from her again.

“I meant the army, jackass.”

“Hrmph. Okay, I’ll throw it back on your plate. Why didn’t you follow in mommy dearest’s footsteps?”


“You know that’s not actually an answer, right?” There is a long silence between us as she ignores my question. We both resume watching the guy ringing the bell. I can’t take the silence. I break first.

“Can’t even imagine how annoying that would be. Listening to the bell ring for eight hours. I can’t even stand it just walking into the damn store.” I tap my hand to the beat of the music on the steering wheel.

“But you’ll listen to that shit?” She motions to the radio.

“When it comes with figgy pudding, hell yah. Wait. Have you ever had figgy pudding? What is figgy pudding? Now I want some.”

“Seriously, Wolfe? Don’t you have a chef in that baseball team sized family of yours?”

“I mean, Tristan enjoys dabbling. Don’t know if he has ever made it to figgy pudding. I’ll have to ask him to do that this year.” The fact she knows so much about my family doesn’t put me off. My father is pretty well known in these parts. I mean, war hero, state and federal representative, and beloved high school teacher. That man can do no wrong in the eyes of some of these people.

“You do that. Look, he’s packing it up for the night.” She motions to where the bell ringing has stopped.

We wait until the man has actually left and drive back to the station. It’s a little past ten o’clock when I turn the keys in. We head back in to the bullpen and she returns the case files to my desk, newly marked map included. I lock everything up. She stops at the front desk, and I hear her ask for the phone. She dials a number and then waits patiently.

A moment later, she says, “Hello. Yes. I would like to have a cab pick me up.” I cross my arms and tilt my head. Why would she be ordering a cab? Didn’t she have her own car? “What do you mean it will be an hour? There aren’t that many people in this city.” She gives a sharp breath and then grumbles. “Fine, one hour. I’m not paying for your drive over here either.”

I grin as I saunter over and pluck the receiver from her hand. “Cancel the car. She won’t be needing it.” I then hand the phone to the man behind the desk, and he hangs it up.

“What the fuck, Wolfe?”

“I’m giving you a lift.” I smile. “But if you don’t want it,” I motion to the phone. “Good luck gettin’ that cab before midnight on this side of town.” I watch as her expression goes from shocked to angry to murderous in no time flat. I am pretty sure if we weren’t in a police precinct she would punch me. She might still.

“Okay. Fine. But no funny business. These assholes already think I’m fucking’ the bureau chief.”

“Yah. We both know that ain’t true. If you were, you wouldn’t be on this shit case.” I flash her a grin and turn to head to my car. I can hear the guys behind the desk chuckling. Then there it is, the mystical girl grunt again. I am learning that inflection means something different when she uses it. I try not grin like an idiot when she trots up next to me to keep pace. A few minutes later, we’re pulling out of the parking lot, and I turn the car to The Wolfe’s Den.

“My apartment is that way,” she points in the other direction from where I turned.

“I’ll get you there, eventually. First, a detour.”

“Wolfe,” she growls at me.

“What? You’ll like it.”


“You know. Keep that up, and it’ll freeze in place one of these days.”

“HMPH,” and she crosses her arms like a petulant child. It’s not long before we are pulling into the parking lot of my uncle’s bar. It is obvious it is a cop bar by the line of blue and white vehicles parked outside.

“After the shit show we sat through today, I don’t know about you, but I need a drink. You can stay out here if you want. It’s gonna get cold, fast.” I kill the engine and ease out.

“A bar. Really? I am not drinking with you,” she informs me as she gets out of the car.

I grin at her and head into the bar, taking up my usual spot at a table. I knew when Trouble walked into the bar as all the boys erupted into wolf whistles and catcalls. Most of those boys knew better, seeing as they are married, or old enough to be her father. I raise my hand up to signal for two beers when she plops down across from me with a sulk.

“Assholes, all of them. Can’t they see I’m an agent?”

“Doesn’t matter to them. All they see is a fine piece of work come walking through that door.” She gives me an eyeroll and shakes her head. The beers are set before us and then Hatchett and Cleaver come walking up.

“Look at what we have here. Didn’t even take you a day, Wolfe.” Hatchett teases.

“To what? Share a drink with my partner? I hear it took you boys all of an hour before you were down here. At least we’re off the clock.” I smirk up at the asshole before me.

“Right. Partners,” Cleaver chimes in. “Didn’t realize escorts were a thing in the FBI now.”

I sip my beer and chuckle as she comes up out the chair ready to box. This is going to be interesting.

“Listen here, cow paddy. Call me a whore again and I’ll put you in the wall. Got it?” She gets right up in his face, brandishing a finger at him. I see her shift her beer in her other hand to make it a weapon.

Cleaver laughs right in her face and Hatchett joins in. He then turns to me and smirks. “This one’s a spitfire. Got your work cut out for ya, Wolfe.”

“Yah. That spitfire’s about to bust you upside the head, you keep on like this.” I nod to Trouble, whose eyes have narrowed to a dangerous slit as she contemplates wasting perfectly good beer on this idiot.

“Sit your asses down and leave the lady alone. You’re not gettin’ anywhere with her, and you know it.” Thankfully, my uncle knows how to diffuse the situation. The room erupts into chuckling, and we all settle back down. Some poor kid with a guitar thinks he can play and gets up on the makeshift stage in the corner. It’s not even a stage, really. It’s a stool, next to a microphone with a gap between tables for the performer. I lean forward, watching Trouble.

“Ignore them idiots. Most of them wouldn’t know how to talk to a girl if she climbed up into their lap and sat down.”

“I doubt that kind of girl would talk,” she takes a large swig of her beer.

“True. Bad analogy. My bad. So. Back to my question. Why didn’t you follow in mommy’s footsteps?”

“Tell you what, Wolfe. You out drink me tonight and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. But if I win. You shut the fuck up about my family, and I pick the music tomorrow.”

“Oh, hell no! We’re not not listening to Christmas songs.” With a smirk I catch the bartender’s eye and motion. He gives a nod and a minute later the flights of shot glasses are set before each of us.

“Here are the rules,” she says. “Have to drink them all. No puking. No sloshing. If we tie, we order another flight. Got it?”

“If that’s the way you want to roll,” I say as I slam back the first shot. It’s the cheap whiskey. The kind that just burns and has no real taste. It will definitely get you drunk, but you’re going to regret in the morning. I thought for sure I’d have her on the whiskey.

Like I said, she’s Trouble.

She throws that whiskey shot back like it is sweet tea and even makes a point of turning the glass upside down on the table with a clank.

“You hate Christmas music that much?” I eye her as I pick up the next shot and throw it back with gusto.

“I do right now.” She grins and matches me.

“So, you admit you like Christmas music?” I snatch up the third shot.

“I plead the fifth,” as she is already setting her third glass down.

“Oh, we both know that means you’re guilty. Innocent people never plead the fifth.” Four shots down. We’re drawing a crowd at this point. I see money hitting the table and another flight is being set in front of each of us. She downs the fourth shot and smirks, reaching for number five. “What? No witty comeback? Plus, Christmas music is as American as apple pie.” I slam back the last shot of the first flight.

“It’s adorable you think you’re witty.” She slams her final shot of the first flight and the men around are now chuckling at us.

“‘C’mon, Wolfe. Put this fed in her place! Awoo!”

“Awoo,” she practically purrs at me as she reaches for shot number six. It’s probably the hottest thing I have ever heard.

“You’re still gonna have to listen to Christmas music. My car, my driving, my music,” as I slam back shot six.

“Not your car. I’m driving, and you’re gonna suck it up, buttercup.” She snags shot seven. Jesus, this girl can drink. I feel like I am being played, but I’m digging it. She has relaxed and hell, it’s kind of fun to see where this goes.

“Do you like, hate Christmas or something?” I slur as seven goes down the hatch.

“Hmph. I have to pee,” she starts to get up.

“Ah! You leave the table you lose!” I shout it far too loud. “That means Christmas music until Christmas!” I laugh as she sits back down.

“That’s not what we agreed on,” she giggles. She takes shot eight and eyes it before drinking it.

I pick up number eight for me and hold up dramatically. “So what? I changed it! It’s Chrismas,” I slur, “Means chrimasusic,” and number eight goes down the hatch. I am breathing a little harder and I have singed all of my taste buds off with the amount of whiskey we have shot in the past ten minutes. I cannot look away from her. Her cheeks are flushed, and in spite of her scornful retorts, she is grinning. I see her squirm, then give a girlish giggle. Her fingers curl around shot nine, and then shot ten.

Jesus, she’s going to get us killed. I don’t think I can do another round and she is determined to not listen to Christmas music. I have completely forgotten the rest of the bet. I watch in fascination as she slowly gulps down nine, takes a breath, then throws back ten triumphantly. Two can play at this game. I do not hesitate as I throw back nine and ten.

“Yous surindur,” comes out, but I was trying to ask if she surrendered.

“Never!” she squeaks. “You are not going to beat me, Elijah!” She erupts into giggling as she says my first name. I know the sound of that giggle.

“Noelle?” I squint at her as if she were far away.

“Elle,” she barks at me and gives me the dirtiest of looks.

“Joe,” I bark back trying to match her look.

“Deal! Now, I’m gonna go pee.” Then she races off to the bathroom.

“AWOO!” I call to the room. “Kissmas Music!” Then I stagger up to go use the restroom myself.