The problem with an undercover day job is that you're expected to work full shifts even though most of the useful information comes in during a prime two or three hours. While Deb covers the morning shift on her own, Paige reports for duty late in the afternoon and stays all night. So without even trying to, she gets her revenge for those mornings where Mike took a little too much pleasure in disrupting her sleep. Between the six of them, there still aren't enough household cars to spare one sitting in the bar parking lot all day. Which means lucky Mike gets to drop her off at the start of her shift and drag himself out of bed to bring her home at a little after two.
Tonight, the rowdy Friday night crowd did a number on the bar that took forever to repair, so it's pushing three in the morning when she finally slings her bag over her shoulder and heads to the parking lot. The truck is parked in its usual spot, and as she gets closer, she spots Mike snoozing against the steering wheel. She raps on the driver's side window and watches him startle and jump.
"Sorry," Paige grins as she buckles her seatbelt. "Want me to drive?"
Blinking the sleep out of his eyes, he shakes his head and blearily reaches to stroke his thumb along the side of her knee. "I got it. Long night?"
She shrugs. "Felt like it, but I didn't get shot at, so it couldn't have been that bad."
"That's the spirit."
Even as they pull out, he still isn't looking totally awake, and she's not sure how well he can see through eyes that aren't quite open the whole way. Wincing, Paige turns the air conditioning up as far as it will go and feels better as she instantly feels herself perk up at the cool air. Until that second, she hadn't noticed just how exhausted she was, but now that it's on her mind, it's all she can think about. Her head feels heavy, and she rests it against the cool window and lets her eyes ease closed.
She can feel Mike looking at her before his hand finds hers on the center console. "I'm sorry this is taking so long."
"It's the weirdest thing." She heaves an exaggerated sigh through her grin. "I've been working in that place for almost two whole weeks now, and not one person has told me all their deepest, darkest, gun-smuggling secrets."
Mike laughs. "Damn. People are so paranoid these days. Who do they think you are, some kind of federal agent or something?"
Jabbing a pointed elbow into his side, Paige relaxes into her seat and pops her feet up on the dashboard. Probably she's imagining things, but it sort of looks like they're swollen, which makes sense because they are absolutely throbbing because they haven't had a break since three that afternoon. But she knows if she rubs at them like she's aching to, Mike will get that stupidly guilty look on his face. Logically they both know that this is all part of her job, and she would damn well be doing it whether it was his case or not. But Mike can't get it out of his head that any complaints she has about her position should rest on his shoulders.
She's too tired to appreciate what a miracle it is that Mike gets them home safely, but she does appreciate the ride and kisses him to let him know.
"You should head up to bed," she suggests softly. "I need to get something to eat, but I'll be up soon."
He mumbles something in agreement and lets her grab him by the shoulders and lead him through the door.
Paige is expecting to walk into a sleeping house at this hour, but Charlie and Paul are up and poring over some paperwork at the kitchen table. After giving Mike an encouraging shove up the stairs, she heads their way. When she spots her, Charlie opens her arms and nods towards the tiny sliver left next to her on the bench. Paige slides in next to her, half on her lap, and rests her head against her shoulder.
"Hey workin' girl," Charlie whispers. "Tired?"
Her eyes are already closed, and it takes more effort than it should to nod and moan something affirmative, so that's a safe bet. Paul chuckles as Charlie tuts in sympathy.
"Was the place rocking tonight?"
Blindly fishing in her pocket, she snags the thick roll of bills she's made of the night's tips and drops it on the table with an audible thud.
Briggs sucks in a low whistle, impressed. "Well, shit. Looks like we're in the wrong business. You and me, Chuck. Let's retire to lives of leisure and let this one bring home the bacon."
"Don't," Paige snorts. "It's mostly ones and Johnny's been marking his tips with permanent marker so he can get them back the next day."
She pulls a bill out of the middle of the pile and smooths it out to show them. Sure enough, Abraham Lincoln gives them a one-eyed stare from the five dollar bill, the other eye covered with an inky eye patch. Somewhere in there, there are five or six other presidents sporting various enhancements, ranging from hoop earrings to teardrop tattoos.
"That little shit," Charlie hisses, outraged. "Don't give him a dime of that."
Shrugging, she plays with the rubber band around the pile, twisting it around her finger until it spins. Truthfully, she doesn't mind. Johnny's been sinking a lot of money into drinks that are either fake (if she made them) or end up poured out into a bucket she managed to hide behind the jukebox.
That's going to be a hard one to explain if any of the other employees find it.
Besides, she's sort of looking forward to watching him pay for something with that one bill with the cross between George Washington and Princess Diana on it.
Idly, she flips through the paper mess on the table until the address of the bar jumps out at her from a form at the bottom. Mournfully, she stares up the stairs and imagines herself going to straight to her comfortable bed and curling up next to Mike, who's probably already there. But she knows better than anybody that that isn't going to happen until she's satisfied herself with whatever new information Charlie and Paul have on her case. "What's all this?" she asks wearily.
Charlie smiles in a way that makes her think she knows exactly what just played out in her head. "A good thing, we think. And, even better, word on the street is that Paul's going to make us a midnight snack while we look at it."
"That's a nasty rumor," Briggs grumbles as he gets up to do what she said.
"Macaroni and cheese," Paige requests because it cooks quickly and will satisfy the major craving for carbs she can feel building in herself.
"Ooh," Charlie adds. "The kind with the broccoli mixed in."
Paul rolls his eyes. "I watched you down half a pizza an hour ago."
With one hand, Charlie flips him off while the other hand is searching through the folders for something specific. As she's looking, there's a scuffle on the stairs that draws their attention to the landing, where Johnny and Jakes are weakly shoving at each other, too tired to fully commit to their usual bickering.
"Oh good," Dale deadpans. "We aren't being robbed. It's just these three jerks not giving a shit about who they wake up."
Paige scoffs. "You were all the way upstairs and we're practically whispering. What are you, the freaking princess and the pea?"
Eyes narrowed in on her, he scowls and nudges Johnny with his elbow. "Who's the blonde one again? She's never here anymore, I keep forgetting."
"Some crazy bartender that followed me home," Johnny grins. "Happens more than you'd think."
He bumps his hip into her shoulder until both her and Charlie slide down and make room. He holds out an empty hand, presumably for his tips, but she slaps him a high five instead.
"Come on," he groans, and Paige smiles. She claps her tips into his hand and leans forward so Charlie can reach past her and drive a fist into his arm.
"I'm not made of money," Johnny defends as he starts to sift through the cash, looking for his bills. "I can't be paying her ten bucks a night to make me rum and cokes without the rum."
Rolling her eyes, Charlie lets it drop and hands her a smeared print-out of a mugshot. "You see this guy before?"
It's hard to tell with the black eye and the slack, drunk expression on his face, but as she mentally sifts through the barrage of new faces she's encountered in the past two weeks, she comes up with a match. "He was there all night Monday. Haven't seen him since."
"I remember that guy," Johnny adds. "Dude was knocking them back for real faster than I could fake it."
"Must be a hobby of his. Smashed his car into a pole a couple hours ago. DUI. When the uniforms searched his car, they found this." On top of the paper already in her hand, Charlie drops another print out. A plain handgun with some scratches on the matte metal. Nothing fancy.
Paul sets her bowl of pasta on the table in front of her, before returning to the counter grab forks and a bowl for Charlie. "According to the conditions of our friend Donovan's parole, that's a big no no."
"Let me guess," Paige sighs. "No record of where he got it, and he's not talking."
Charlie nods. "Got it one."
She wracks her brain, running every retrievable second of Monday night over in her head. It's bad enough that one of the people she's been watching is running this operation without giving her anything to work with, but the fact that this deal went down right under nose grates on her. If someone had actually been shot with that gun…
"He came in around seven," she explains. "I didn't know how to make what he wanted, so Deb took care of him, but I brought him a couple of shots later. Left around 1:30, and paid with a credit card."
Briggs shakes his head. "He doesn't have a credit card."
"Someone should really tell that to the credit card he paid with." Thinking back again, she comes to the conclusion that yes, she did actually see the card in his hand. "He opened a tab," she says finally. "He would have had to run a card and let us scan his driver's license to attach to it."
"You're telling me there's a piece of paper in that place with his friggin' face on it?" Charlie asks. When Paige nods, she slaps the table. "Then we're in business."
"Good candidate for a plea deal," Johnny says through a mouthful of macaroni. He washes it down with a beer that he finally gets to actually drink and lets out a contented sigh.
"That's what we're thinking," Paul agrees. "Wave that paper in front of him so he knows we already have something, see what it gets us."
Paige winces. "Yeah, except I have no idea where that paper is. Deb takes closed tabs into the office at the end of the night and I never see them again."
But no one else seems the slightest bit concerned. Charlie waves her off. "You'll find it," she assures her. "You're good like that."
"Woah, someone thinks so." Johnny pokes her side and shoves a bill into her hand. "Who the hell is tipping you in hundreds?"
"Seriously?" She looks closer and realizes that he's right. Surprised, she turns it over in her hands like the zeros are going to fall off and make it look somewhat normal. It's a little unnerving that something like that didn't register when she picked it up, but it could have come in the middle of a rush, while she was trying to make other drinks. Still, she doesn't remember anyone ordering enough to justify it. "Huh."
She stands and stretches, ready to take her empty bowl to the sink and head to bed. As she does, Mike enters the kitchen, rubbing his eyes and looking sleep-ruffled and muddled. His eyes rake over the paperwork on the table before moving to his housemates who are sitting around drinking beer and scarfing down macaroni and cheese at what must be close to four am.
"Does this happen every night?" he asks gruffly.
Jakes throws up his hands, pretending they just spilled some kind of secret. "Well, not anymore!"
The joke is lost on Mike who glances at Paige, confused.
"Come on," she says softly, taking his hand. "Let's get you to bed. I'll explain on the way."
Johnny wolf-whistles at them until they reach the second landing and disappear.
He's never getting any of his tips back again.
She hops in the shower for a few seconds and plaits her hair to deal with tomorrow. When she returns, Mike has settled against the headboard, definitely seeming more alert. He's poking suspiciously at the few inches of yarn that she's managed to knit into a sort-of-rectangle in an effort to prove her point.
"It kind of looks like a dead rat," he muses, moving over to free up her side of the bed. "A dead, purple rat."
Ignoring that, she deliberately sinks a knee into his gut as she takes the path of most resistance and scrambles over him to get to her side.
"Ow," he complains. "I'm just saying. Why the hell does is matter if you're good at knitting?"
"Not the point."
He rolls his eyes and rolls up on his side to switch the light off. "I'd find you in a pretzel on the floor tomorrow morning if I said you can't touch your nose to your elbow, huh?"
Their limbs tangle momentarily in the dark until they manage to sink into their normal resting places. Paige rests her head against his shoulder and hikes the covers up over her collarbone, capturing the bottom of the bedspread with her toes so it doesn't slip over her feet. In the hallway, the main light blinks off so the last of their roommates must be headed to bed. Now that she's letting herself feel it, the exhaustion from the day is building up behind her eyes. For the sake of her focus on the job, she should probably start sleeping in until at least noon.
Paige snorts. Mike would get a kick out of that.
"Tell me about your day," she orders.
Mike laughs and props his chin on her head while he gives her the highlight reel. He actually has a few days to draw from because she came and conked out straight away on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Jakes wasn't actually that far off. It's like she's not even living there anymore.
She realizes that Mike has trailed off and turns to look at his face, trying to glean whether or not he just asked a question that she's expected to answer. He looks thoughtful, but doesn't seem to be waiting on her.
"Why don't we ever sleep in my room?" he asks when she pokes at him.
"Because it smells like hair gel."
He blows out a long breath that ruffles her hair. "Like good hair gel, though."
A small, unimpressed noise starts in her throat that turns into a shriek when he rolls over on top of her.
"It's not bad," she admits, as he lowers his forehead down to hers.
Sunday afternoons run understandably slow at the bar, so it's just her and Deb there when they open. Probably things will pick up around six or so, but until then Deb is playing against herself at the pool table, and Paige is winding herself up into a yarn-fueled rage.
"Honey," Deb chuckles. "I say this fondly, but that thing you're stabbing at is ugly as sin."
"No, it's not." Though, she isn't quite sure how it ended up twice as wide at the top as it is at the bottom. "It's just a work in progress."
Deb props her cue against the table and comes over to inspect her work. "Is it supposed to have all those holes in it?"
Groaning, Paige rests her forehead on the bar and winces at the sticky feeling of almost dried alcohol against her skin. She should really wipe that down better before anyone else comes. Helpfully, Deb gently lifts her head up an inch or two off the wood and slides her knitting project underneath to act as a coaster before she drops it again. Paige snorts.
"Come on," Deb encourages, rubbing her shoulder. "I'll show you how to hustle anyone who gives you trouble out of all the money they didn't tip you."
She's been playing Johnny and Briggs for quarters and nights off as early as her first night at Graceland, so she only listens with half an ear to Deb's instruction. She's not amazing at pool by any means, but she can certainly get by. They've settled into a game and have each sunken about half their balls when Paige decides to make her move.
"I forgot to tell you," she starts casually, digging the cue ball out of the pocket after a scratch. "That Johnny kid? Here every night, kind of a pain in the ass but a harmless one?"
Deb snorts. "I'm familiar."
"He wanted to open a tab the other night but he wouldn't let me scan his license. He was afraid of where it might end up."
Deb lines up her shot and shakes her head. "He'll have to get over it. It's a little overkill, but we had a problem a while back with a customer claiming we let his information get out. Nearly took poor Alan for all he was worth."
Financial problems. Maybe she should be looking at the owner a little harder.
"If he asks again, I'll handle it," Deb interrupts. "It's safe. It goes in that bin in the corner of the office, and the shredding company picks it up at the beginning of the week. Alan likes to have a record that we're taking that shit seriously."
"He really got burned, didn't he?"
"It was rough." She smiles taps Paige's forehead with her pool cue. "But it's all taken care of now. Don't you worry about a thing. Except how you're going to get that twelve ball of yours in the pocket without sinking the eight."
"That bin in the corner of the office" turns out to be mounted to the floor, with a thin slot to slide paper through and a top that requires a key to take off. Paige has picked more than a few locks in her day, but the time it would take to do it plus the time it would take to sort through and find the paper she's looking for is something she just doesn't have.
Cursing Alan for his paranoia and Business Records Management for their thoroughly protected boxes, she takes out her phone to snap a picture of the address stamped on the side of the bin. When she presses the button to bring it to life, the screen stays dark, and she almost swears aloud. She shoves the dead phone back in her pocket and keeps her eyes on the door as she steals a blank page off a notepad to jot down the address.
"You find it?" Deb asks when she rejoins her behind the bar.
Triumphantly, Paige holds up the dummy credit card that she kicked under the door earlier and hangs the key to the office back on the hook. "Yeah, thanks. It must have fallen out of my pocket when we were in there doing the beverage orders for next week. Did I miss anything good?"
"Had to toss our resident party animal out for the third time."
Her head automatically whips to face her, but she covers it with a stretch. "You mean Johnny?"
"The one and the same." She taps a glass out of her shaker and pours it into two half-prepared drinks. "Here."
Paige takes the drinks and adds a garnish to the edge, keeping silent in the hopes that Deb will go on and tell her what happened with Johnny.
"Take these over to that table in the corner." Deb nods towards a faraway table, where the regular Johnny's been keeping an eye on and a man that she doesn't think she's seen before are deep in conversation. "It's on the house. Damage control for the kid buzzing around him all night."
Ah. There it is.
She loads the glasses onto a tray and balances it on her arm as she approaches the table. They stop talking as she comes up behind them, but there's nothing they can do to keep her from seeing the wad of bills changing hands.
"Gentlemen," Paige smiles widely, setting the glasses on the table. "On us. Sorry for the trouble earlier."
The regular nods. "We'll take the check when these are gone."
It's clear that they aren't going to continue their conversation until she's long gone. She drops the tray behind the bar and reaches for her phone to text Mike, who should be in the parking lot by now, before remembering that it won't do any good.
Shit, shit, shit.
There are people waving for her attention, and she pretends to give them all of it when she's really running scenarios in her head, hoping to find one that ends in her being able to follow the two at the corner table without endangering her job here by leaving Deb alone in a rush.
Something clicks in the back of her mind, and she has to suppress a groan. It's probably not the best plan she could have come up with. In fact, it might not even be the best plan she has come up with already, but her thoughts are so jumbled that this is the only that sticks out clearly.
She closes her eyes, braces her body for what she's about to do, and lets herself drop.
The light seems so much brighter now that she's staring directly at the ceiling, and she tries not to close her eyes tighter. She can feel her clothes sticking to the dirty floor and can't help picturing the grime on the bottom of her shoes when she's done with a night at this place. She wants a shower, and she wants it now.
Deb is on her the second she goes down, Paige can feel her cool hands on her forehead and cheek. The crowd at the bar goes silent, and it's only when she hears someone asking if they should call an ambulance that she opens her eyes.
"No honey, stay down," Deb urges as Paige pretends to struggle up on her forearms. "Take it easy."
She sits up against the back of the bar and pretends to look suitably embarrassed. "I'm fine," she promises, feigning a self-conscious laugh. "I'm okay. I think it's just the heat."
It takes a while, but she finally manages to convince Deb that she'll be fine if she just heads home and gets some rest. Alan takes over the bar while Deb gets an arm under both of hers and leads her out into the parking lot. Over her shoulder, she checks back at the corner table and sighs in relief when she sees that her marks are still there.
"I don't want to see your face anywhere near here tomorrow," Deb says sternly, as she rips the passenger door to the truck open.
Mike scrambles and drops his book as Deb helps her into her seat.
"You," she snaps. "This piece of junk have air conditioning?"
He nods in confusion and turns it up all the way.
"Take her home, make sure she eats, keep her there until Tuesday," Deb orders before closing the door and setting off towards the bar.
"She's nice," Mike says, dumbstruck.
He turns towards Paige, a look of genuine concern on his face, and reaches to feel her forehead. She catches it in midair and leans across him to turn the key in the ignition.
"We need to tail a guy," she explains. Sort of.
"Of course we do."
"And tomorrow, we need to break into a shredding facility."
"Of course we- what?"