Hey Charlie.  Yeah, Toni.  She grimaces.  You got any deodorant I can borrow?  I’m going straight to dinner after work.  He gives her a puzzled look.  I’ve got some in my gym bag in my car.  Good, I’ll follow you out after.  Why don’t you just ask Leslie?  Hmmm, why didn’t I think of that?  Toni says with her fingers against her lips.  Charlie breaks out laughing.  It’s so much fun working with you, Toni. What’s your relationship status on Facebook?  You mean two-face book?  I don’t play those games, she says dismissively.  Yeah, I know what you mean.  I’ll find you after, she tells him.  He leaves to tell the guys the latest.

We need to talk, Leslie says an hour later.  I want to finish this report.  Toni says as she types on her computer.  I’m on a roll.  Leslie stands behind Toni and reads over her shoulder:

It was raining out that afternoon.  A driving rain that would leave a rainbow of promise when it finished watering the earth.  The two dedicated agents and their cheerful assistant, Toni, walked into the law office of SBE to do the interview.  The secretary behind the desk was pleasantly plump, likely selected by the wife of the candidate.  She had a candy dish on her desk.  Near her keyboard.  I keep a jar of pickles in my desk, I told her in an attempt to build rapport.  This is for clients; I was just refilling it.  She snapped at me.  Obviously disgruntled by the professionalism of the two strapping handsome agents who did not ogle her ample cleavage or ask to sample her candy…

You actually submit this to the boss?  Sure.  He values my perspective and even told me once that I’m an astute observer.  Leslie looks over toward the bosses office and then back at Toni.  What’s up?  Leslie crosses her arms.  I just want to know why you wouldn’t ask me to borrow deodorant?  Really?  Because I was too embarrassed to ask you, okay?  And yet you’d ask one of the guys?  Sure.  They understand what a turnoff BO is.  Are you saying I have BO?  That I don’t wear deodorant?  Toni looks at her with her mouth open.  This is the last straw.  Leslie marches into the bosses office, and slams the door behind her.  Toni puts her head in her hands and shakes her head.

Mandatory staff meeting in five, the intranet messenger flashes on the office computers.  Summer is coming up, and it’s always hot and humid in NOLA.  So I’m going to address the personal hygiene issue head on.  There’s a school of thought that sweating is what bad guys do.  And as FBI agents, we don’t show weakness.  So some use anti-perspirants.  And some of us feel strongly about not using anti-perspirants, and just use deodorant.  Either way is fine by me.  There is no stigma to either.  It’s strictly a matter of personal preference.  Go with what you like people.  I’m so sorry, Toni tells Leslie, I didn’t mean to offend you.  That’s enough, Toni.  You don’t have to explain.  I like your no-nonsense approach.  We need to preemptively address BO.  Leslie’s face turns beat red, and several of the agents try unsuccessfully to stifle their laughter with their hands.  Toni, you always come in early, so if you need to leave a little early, go right ahead.  Thank you, sir.  I want to finish writing my report though, then I’ll head out.  Learn from this officer, agents.  She leads by example.

Toni, is your dinner related to the Jaxton Ayers incident?  Yes.  Give us an update please. Well, we all meet together last night at Rolf’s and heard Lana’s side of the story.   Now she is willing to hear Jax’s side of the story if his parents aren’t there at the hospital.  So Mike and I are taking them out to dinner.  The boss nods his approval. Domestic violence is the toughest call that you’ll ever get.  I’m glad to hear that you are able to be impartial.  Carry on.

An hour later, Toni notices Leslie pacing back and forth outside her cubicle.  She reaches into her desk, and pulls out a jar of pickles, and starts munching on one. Leslie stops pacing and approaches Toni.  I hate you, she says with gritted teeth. Quit dumping on me, Toni tells her.  I’ve got enough on my plate.  Tramp.  Leave me alone.  I need to finish proofreading this report before I go.  Tell me, Officer, do you even have a high school diploma.  Is a GED all it takes to get into the NOPD? Go away.  I’m going to make your life so miserable that you will wish you quit while you had the chance.  I feel dizzy.  Toni says, and brings her hands up to her head.  Imagine that.  What time is it?  3:23.  No, no, no.  Toni whimpers.  Did you miss your medications, you slut?  Is today Sunday the 27th?  No, it’s Monday the 27th, idiot.  You’re at work.  Why are you being so mean to me, Agent Leslie?  I haven’t even begun to be mean to you yet.  I don’t feel good.  Would you call me a doctor?  Toni whimpers.  No, I hope you die.  And the agent stomps off.  Toni waits for five minutes and then goes and knocks on the supervisor’s door.  I’ve got a problem with Agent Leslie.  I think I should go back to NOPD.  What’s wrong Toni? Toni pulls out her phone and presses the recording.

Charlie.  Yes, sir.  Listen to me, and listen to me very carefully.  This isn’t a joke. We’ve got a potential workplace violence situation.  Put agent Leslie in cuffs and bring her to my office, NOW.  Two minutes later, two agents hustle in Agent Leslie. Badge and gun on my desk.  You are suspended pending an investigation. Whatever she told you is a lie.  Agent Leslie snaps.  He activates Toni’s smartphone and plays the recording.  You bitch, you set me up.  I’m remanding you to the custody of the nearest secure mental health facility.  I believe you to be unstable and a danger to yourself and others.  Get her out of here.  I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU RED-HEADED TRAMP.

Toni, you’re going to miss your dinner.  I know.  She sighs.  Boss, may I use your phone to cancel?  I figure mine is now evidence.  Go ahead Toni.  I don’t want to be alone, she tells him as he gets up to leave the room.  You guys can stay.  She calls Mike.  He presses ignore.  She calls again.  Who is this?  Toni.  Mike, we’ve got a situation at the office.  I cannot make it tonight. I’m really, really sorry.  I’ll tell you what I can when I get home.  Are you alright?  No.  It went really bad.  I’m going to be stuck here giving a statement and being interviewed.  I’ll be there as soon as I can, he replies, and disconnects.  I screw up everything I touch, Toni mutters. Don’t say that Toni.  It’s not true.  The boss tells her.  This isn’t your fault; there’s a lot of stress that comes with the job.  We’ll get former agent Leslie the help she needs.  You stay strong and be positive: you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to this office. The other agents in the room nod in agreement.

Charlie?  Yeah, Toni?  Deodorant.  On it, he tells her.

***

Lana and Bettina come into Jax’s hospital room early that evening.  Simon, Jon, and Sam are already there, and Jax has his bed elevated upright as far as it will go.

Jax and Lana look at each other.  When I heard that you were fasting, I knew that you at least felt some remorse, Jax tells her.  Lana looks down the floor, and cups her hands in front of her.  Only you could take out a police captain in a detention room, Jax says chuckling, and Lana looks up at him with a hint of a smile.  Jax suddenly gasps in pain at the prompting of his broken ribs.  Lana looks back down at the floor.  Lana.  She looks up at him.  I just wanted to say I’m sorry for letting you down.  Thanks for coming to see me, Jax says, and then presses the remote for the TV with his left hand, and turns up the volume on CNBC.

Lana turns around and goes to walk out - right into Jax’s mother.  Who slaps her hard.  You monster.  Take a seat, Lana.  Jax’s father commands, as he blocks the door.  Look at what you’ve done.  Lana sits with her head down and feels Bettina hug her.  I am so sorry.  They aren’t supposed to here.  I don’t know what happened.  Bettina whispers.  Speak to my son, his father commands.  This isn’t cool, sir.  Simon says.  Shut up, Simon.  His mother snaps.  I want to hear an explanation from Lana Radley - the polite, respectful, devout Catholic girl who tried to kill my son.  Did you know that he had an engagement ring in his pocket?

Lana squeezes Bettina’s wrist painfully hard, and Bettina looks up at her.  Lana lets go of her hand and speaks in a deep low husky voice as she looks at the floor.  The chinaman don’t care.  I was in my foxhole in Vietnam, deep in the jungle.  It was so dark that we couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us.  But I could hear them out in front of us, crawling up on me.  If I fired my rifle, I’d get a few of them, but then they’d know where I was and grenade me.  So I’d listen, and when one got real close, I’d reach over and grab him and finish him off.  I did it again and again that night.  Come daylight, we found the ones who cowered in their foxholes with their throats slit.  The chinaman don’t care.  She gets up from her seat and walks toward the door.  Jax’s father draws back so she doesn’t touch him. Bettina rushes after her.

***

Uncle, it was the funniest thing I have ever seen, the look on their faces.  She completely sold it.  Simon said that she was possessed.  What do you know about exorcisms?  He asked Jon.  I had to run out of the room to keep from laughing.  If I hadn’t caught her wink to Bettina, I would have been as terrified as the rest of them.  Her uncle laughs for a long time.  What did Lana say?  That King David pretended to be a madman to get out of the Philistine capital when he was young.  I really really like this Lana Radley, Sam’s uncle states.  Should I tell Jax and the others?  Maybe you should ask Lana what she wants.  What happened to Mike and Toni?  One of Toni’s coworkers had a meltdown on the job, and threatened Toni, who saw the evil coming and got it on tape.  The agent was actually committed to a mental facility.  Mike sat through all the interviews with her and brought her home.  He told me that he thought that Jax’s parents would stay and eat at the restaurant and wait for them to show if he didn’t call, not get up and leave to go back to the hospital.

How’s Jax?  I want to buy his house, uncle, and use it as a base of operations. Everyone is used to seeing the drive filled with cars and people coming and going at all hours.