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Out of Range

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Santiago's cell provider didn't screen unwanted callers.

Last year, after a particularly bad blind date, she'd complained loudly in the bullpen about her date's incessant booty call texts and how useless her phone company was at blocking him. She'd resolved the situation herself by showing up at the guy's house to remind him that she carried a weapon.

Jake had filed the phone info away for future reference, sure that it would pay off one day.

That day came two weeks into his undercover assignment as his prospective captain, Leo introduced him to the Iannucci bosses. They loved snarky Jake the ex-cop, but they didn't trust him as far as they could spit. They wanted to put the fear of God in him. Remind him what would happen if he went back on his word and ratted them out.

His grin had flickered a bit. "You'd throw away the friendship bracelets I made?"

Sometime after midnight, Leo pushed him out of a town car into an alley in Brownsville, blood spilling down his chin and chest heaving. The world spun for a moment as Jake figured out which surface was wall and which was pavement. He took in a shuddering gasp of air, letting out a totally manly groan that didn't sound at all like a whimper - he was John McClane and not a kicked puppy, dammit.

Shallow breaths. Shallow breaths meant less kicked-puppy noises. Careful not to twist at the waist, he rolled onto his stomach so he could leverage his elbows to push off the ground rather than forcing his abs to contract over the swollen mass of pain that was his ribcage.

Gang territory in Brownsville shifted every week. He needed to get onto neutral turf before he developed a case of acute lead poisoning. On top of that, Leo would have somebody watching, making sure he didn't run to his cop buddies once the going got tough.

Game face on, Peralta. Make it look good.

Jake grit his teeth and got to his feet. He wiped his bloody chin on the sleeve of his black sweatshirt (such a badass move - but unsanitary). Schooling his face into a neutral mask, he braced one arm around his stomach, hobbled three blocks to the main road, and hailed a cab.

Back at his apartment, he dry swallowed a couple of Tylenol 4s and spent half an hour googling the difference between cracked and broken ribs. His chest was already an impressionist mural of bruises and half-formed boot prints. Jake was surprised - he didn't know his skin could turn that shade of cyan. He considered taking a selfie to save for Boyle (someone had to appreciate this work of art) but gave the idea up as it meant he'd have to stand again.

So there it was. Half past three in the morning and he couldn't find a position comfortable enough to fall asleep without stabbing pain in his side.

And he was bored out of his skull.

But, as he had cleverly noted months ago, Santiago's cell provider didn't screen unwanted callers. He knew she never silenced her phone; she wanted to be available at a moment's notice in case of emergency.

So long as Jake didn't identify himself, who was to say he couldn't have a little fun?

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sent: 3:36 am

Thank you for signing up for Cat Facts™! You will now receive daily facts about CATS! ω(=^・^=)ω

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sent: 3:37 am

To kick off your subscription, please enjoy our most popular cat facts. ~(=^‥^)ノ

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sent: 3:39 am

Cats make about 100 different sounds. Dogs only make about 10. (=^-ω-^=)

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sent: 3:42 am

The print on a cat’s nose has a unique ridged pattern, like a human fingerprint. (*✧×✧*)

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rcvd: 3:42 am

whAt the hrll.

Jake smirked at his phone. Huh, it took only four texts to wake Santiago from a dead sleep. His excellent deductive skills told him she was completely out of it or completely hammered, as sober Amy always minded her p's and q's. Better pretend to show mercy.

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sent: 3:45 am

<To cancel your subscription, please enter 'cancel'.>

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rcvd: 3:46 am

cancel.

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sent: 3:48 am

Command not recognized. Your subscription to Cat Facts™ has been extended to a <year>. Me-YOW!

He sent the text with a certain vindictive relish. His stomach muscles contracted lightly with suppressed laughter, sending ripples of fresh pain through his torso. Jake shut his eyes and forced his breathing to even out.

His phone pinged. The touchscreen flared to life with the arrival of a new text, the glow illuminating his dim apartment.

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rcvd: 3:49 am

CANCEL

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sent: 3:51 am

Command not recognized. Please prove to us that you are human by finishing the sentence: Your favorite animal is the _____.

His screen darkened. Would she take the bait?

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rcvd: 3:52 am

dog

The grin that spread across his face was far more genuine than any he'd offered the Iannucci's today. Oh, Amy. She never missed a good set-up.

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sent: 3:55 am

Incorrect. Your favorite animal is the <cat>. You will continue to receive thrilling Cat Facts™ every day. ฅ(*°ω°*ฅ)

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sent: 3:56 am
When cats are happy, they may squeeze their eyes shut.

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rcvd: 3:56 am

GO TO HELL

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rcvd: 3:57 am

I HAVE WORK IN THREE HOURS.

The laugh that escaped him on receiving the second text was explosive. Jagged lightning bolts of pain flashed across his chest, crawling along his ribs, igniting every nerve and thrusting inverted limbs deep into his muscles. It seared him from the inside and left him gasping for breath.

The glow from the new messages faded by the time he came back to himself. Jake pressed the case against his forehead. He knew it was stupid. But his partner was on the other end of the line. Even if he was annoying her, she was awake and responding to him.

Which meant he was a little less alone on a very dark night.

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sent: 4:02 am

If your cat is thrashing its tail, she is in a bad mood - time for you to keep your distance! <To cancel Cat Facts™ , please reply "mwjjjjf542hkbsmejkh24b">.

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rcvd: 4:04 am

mwjjjjf542hkbsmejkh24b

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sent: 4:06 am

You’ve gotta be kitten me! You'd like to cancel? Please prove to us that you are human by finishing the sentence: Your favorite animal is the _____.

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rcvd: 4:07 am

cat

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sent: 4:09 am

Incorrect. You told us your favorite animal is the <dog>. Enjoy your ongoing subscription to Cat Facts™!

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sent: 4:10 am
Cats cannot see what is directly under their noses. That is why they seem to lose tidbits on the floor. Aww! ฅ(´-ω-`)ฅ

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rcvd: 4:11 am

I WILL FIND YOU

Pursing his lips, Jake raised an eyebrow. Not likely. He'd texted her from the phone his handler had given him. She might find the PO Box registered to a fake name that his handler, Special Agent Marx, had set up. But she wouldn't find him. Still, the threat was classic Amy.

He glanced at the time stamp and huffed a shallow sigh. Maybe that was enough torment for the night? If he knew her schedule (and of course he did, he knew everything), she had to wake up at six to make the only breakfast she could manage to not burn (cold cereal), brush her teeth three times, get dressed, and stop at that little coffee shop before making it in to the precinct.

Alright. Time to relent.

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sent: 4:13 am

This concludes your introduction to the exciting world of Cat Facts™. Welcome to the service! Have a purr-fect day!

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rcvd: 4:14 am

DIE IN A FIRE

Jake clutched a pillow to his chest, letting its fluffy gentle pressure absorb the vibrations from his chuckles.

Goodnight, Amy.