Janet Evanovich's World of Wrestling & Cheez Doodles
Hailed as “laugh-out-loud funny” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and “brilliantly evocative” by the Denver Post, Janet Evanovich is the #1 bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels-including Lean Mean Thirteen and Fearless Fourteen-as well as twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author. Since penning her first Stephanie Plum book, One For the Money, in 1994, she formed a family business, Evanovich, Inc., with her son, Peter (he handles all the finances), daughter, Alex (she designed her mom's website), and husband, Pete (who manages the business). Evanovich's interest in NASCAR® inspired her to launch another (literally) fast-paced series with the bestselling Metro Girl in 2004. She lives in New Hampshire and Florida.
“I DON’T KNOW why we gotta sit here baking in your car in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, in the middle of this crummy neighborhood,” Lula said. “It must be two hundred degrees in here. Why don’t we have the air conditioning on?”
“It’s broken,” I told her.
“Well, why don’t you have your window open?”
“It’s stuck closed.”
“Then why didn’t we take my car? My car’s got everything.”
“Your car is red and flashy. People notice it and remember it. This is the stealth car,” I said.
Lula shifted in her seat. “Stealth car, my big toe. This thing is a hunk of junk.”
This was true, but it was my hunk of junk, and due to a professional dry spell it was all I could afford. Lula and I work for my cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds office in Trenton, New Jersey. I’m a fugitive apprehension agent, and Lula is my sometimes partner.
We were currently parked on Stark Street, doing surveillance on a rooming house, hoping to catch Melvin Barrel coming or going. He’d been accused of possession with intent to sell, Vinnie bonded him out of jail, and Barrel hadn’t shown for his court date. Lula makes a wage as the office file clerk, but I only make money if I catch skips, so I was motivated to tough it out in my hellishly hot car, hoping for a shot at snagging Barrel.
“I worked this street when I was a ’ho,” Lula said, “but I was in a better section. This here block is for losers. No highclass ’ho would work this block. Darlene Gootch worked this block but it turned out she was killing people as a hobby.”
Lula was fanning herself with a crumpled fast food bag she’d found on the floor in the back of my car, and the smell of stale French fries and ketchup wafted out at me.
“You keep waving that bag around and we’re going to smell like we work the fry station at Cluck- in- a- Bucket,” I said to her.
“I hear you,” Lula said. “It’s making me hungry, and much as I like the aroma of food grease, I don’t want it stuck in my hair, on account of I just had my hair done. I picked out the piña colada conditioner so I’d smell like a tropical island.”
Lula’s hair was fire- engine red today and straightened to the texture of boar bristle. Her brown skin was slick with sweat. Her extra- voluptuous plus- size body was squeezed into a size 2 petite poison- green spandex skirt, and the acres of flesh that constituted her chest overflowed a brilliant yellow spaghetti- strap tank top. At 5'5" she’s a couple inches shorter than me. We’re about the same age, which puts us in the proximity of thirtysomething. And we’re both single.
My name is Stephanie Plum and I haven’t got Lula’s body volume or the attitude that goes with it. My attitude goes more toward survival mode. I have shoulder- length curly brown hair, blue eyes almost always enhanced by a swipe of black mascara, decent teeth, a cute nose in the middle of my face, and I can almost always button the top button on my jeans.
“Look at this fool coming at us, walking down the middle of the street,” Lula said. “What the heck is he doing?”
The fool was a skinny guy dressed in homie clothes. Baggy pants, wifebeater T-shirt, $700 basketball shoes. He was jogging more than walking, and every couple steps he’d look over his shoulder and scan the street. He spotted Lula and me, made a course correction, and ran straight for us. He reached my car, grabbed the driver’s side door handle and yanked, but nothing happened.
“What’s with that?” Lula asked.
“My door’s stuck,” I said. “It happens when it gets hot.”
NEW JERSEY WAS 40,000 FEET below me, obscured by cloud cover. Heaven was above me, beyond the thin skin of the plane. And hell was sitting four rows back. Okay, maybe hell was too strong. Maybe it was just purgatory.
My name is Stephanie Plum, and I work as a bail-bonds enforcer for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds in Trenton, New Jersey. I’d recently inherited airline vouchers from a dead guy and used them to take a once-in-a-lifetime Hawaiian vacation. Unfortunately, the vacation didn’t go as planned, and I’d been forced to leave Hawaii ahead of schedule, like a thief sneaking off in the dead of night. I’d abandoned two angry men in Honolulu, called my friend Lula, and asked her to pick me up at Newark Airport.
As if my life wasn’t enough in the toilet, I was now on the plane home, seated four rows ahead of a guy who looked like Sasquatch and was snoring like a bear in a cave. Good thing I wasn’t sitting next to him, because I surely would have strangled him in his sleep by now. I was wearing airline- distributed earphones pumped up to maximum volume, but they weren’t helping. The snoring had started somewhere over Denver and got really ugly over Kansas City. After several loud passenger comments suggesting someone take the initiative and smother the guy, flight attendants confiscated all the pillows and began passing out free alcoholic beverages. Three-quarters of the plane was now desperately drunk, and the remaining quarter was either underage or alternatively medicated. Two of the underage were screaming-crying, and I was pretty sure the kid behind me had pooped in his pants.
I was among the drunk. I was wondering how I was going to walk off the plane and navigate the terminal with any sort of dignity, and I was hoping my ride was waiting for me.
Sasquatch gave an extra loud snork, and I ground my teeth together. Just land this friggin’ plane, I thought. Land it in a cornfield, on a highway, in the ocean. Just get me out of here!
Lula pulled into my apartment building parking lot, and I thanked her for picking me up at the airport and bringing me home.
“No problemo,” she said, dropping me at the back door to the lobby. “There wasn’t nothing on television, and I’m between honeys, so it wasn’t like I was leaving anything good behind.”
I waved her off and trudged into my apartment building. I took the elevator to the second floor, dragged my luggage down the hall and into my apartment, and shuffled into my bedroom.
It was after midnight, and I was exhausted. My vacation in Hawaii had been unique, and the flight home had been hellish. Turbulence over the Pacific, a layover in L.A., and the snoring.
"I had a dream," Grandma said. "There was this big horse, and it could fly. It didn't have wings. It just could fly. And the horse flew over top of you, and started dropping road apples, and you were running around trying to get out of the way of the road apples. And the funny thing was you didn't have any clothes on except a red lace thong kind of underpants. Anyways, next thing a rhinoceros flew over you, and he was sort of hovering over top your head. And then I woke up. I got a feeling it means something."
"What?" I asked.
"I don't know, but it can't be good." And she disconnected.
So that's how my day started. And to tell you the truth the dream pretty much summed up my life.
My name is Stephanie Plum. I work as a bond enforcer for my cousin Vinnie's bail bonds office, and I live in an uninspired, low-rent, three-story, brick-faced chunk of an apartment building on the edge of Trenton, New Jersey. My second-floor apartment is furnished with my relatives' cast-offs. I'm average height. I have an okay shape. I'm pretty sure I'm averagely intelligent. And I know for sure I have a crummy job. My shoulder-length curly brown hair is inherited from the Italian side of the family, my blue eyes from the Hungarian side of the family, and I have an excellent nose that's a gift from God. Good thing he gave me the nose before he found out I wasn't the world's best Catholic.
It was early September and unseasonably hot. I had my hair up in a ponytail. I'd forgone makeup and opted for lip balm instead. And I was wearing a red stretchy tank top, jeans, and sneakers. Perfect clothes for running down bad guys or buying doughnuts. I parked my hunk-of- junk Ford Escort in front of Tasty Pastry Bakery on Hamilton Avenue and mentally counted out the money in my wallet. Definitely enough for two doughnuts. Not enough for three.
I parked the car and went into the bakery where Loretta Kucharski was behind the counter. Last year Loretta was vice president of a bank. When the bank went belly-up, Loretta got the job at Tasty Pastry. To my way of thinking it was definitely career advancement. I mean, who doesn't want to work in a bakery?
"What'll it be?" Loretta asked me. "Cannoli? Italian cookies? Doughnut?"
I bit into my lower lip. I wanted them all. "Definitely a Boston cream."
Loretta carefully placed a Boston cream in a small white bakery box. "And?"
"Jelly doughnut," I said. "No wait! Maple. No! Either Maple or pumpkin spice. Or maybe the chocolate glazed."
The door to the bakery opened, and an old woman who looked like an extra out of a low-budget mafia movie marched in. She was small and wiry and dressed in black. Plain black dress, black scarf on her steel- gray hair, sensible black shoes, dark stockings. Snapping dark eyes under bushy gray eyebrows. Mediterranean skin tone.
My Uncle Pip died and left me his lucky bottle. I suppose I’m fortunate because he left my Grandma Mazur his false teeth. So, I’ve got this bottle now, and I don’t exactly know what to do with it. It’s not like I have a mantel. My name is Stephanie Plum, and I live in a bare-bones apartment on the outer edge of Trenton, New Jersey. I share the apartment with my hamster Rex, and he doesn’t know what to do with the bottle either. The lucky bottle is the size and shape of a beer bottle. The glass is red, and it looks hand-blown. It’s not entirely ugly, especially if you like beer, but it’s also not exotically pretty. And so far it hasn’t been very lucky. I have the bottle sitting on my kitchen counter, between Rex’s hamster cage and the brown bear cookie jar that holds my gun.
It was Monday morning, halfway through June, and Lula was in my apartment doing a pity pick-up because my hunk of junk car was dead, and I needed a ride to work.
“Hunh,” Lula said. “What’s that red bottle on your counter.”
“It’s my magic bottle.”
“Oh yeah, what’s so magic about it? It don’t look too lucky to me. Looks like one of them designer beer bottles only it’s got a fancy glass stopper in it.”
“It’s my inheritance from Uncle Pip.”
“I remember Uncle Pip,” Lula said. “He was older than dirt, right? Had a big carbuncle on his forehead. He was the one wandered out of the senior complex a couple weeks ago during that thunder storm, pissed on a downed electric wire, and electrocuted himself.”
“Yep. That was Uncle Pip.”
I’m a bond enforcement agent, working for my cousin Vinnie, and Lula is the office file clerk, wheelman, and fashion maven. Lula likes the challenge of fitting her plus size body into a size 8 poison green spandex miniskirt and leopard print top, and somehow it all comes together for Lula. Lula’s skin is milk chocolate, her hair this week is fire engine red, and her attitude is pure Jersey.
I’m a couple inches taller than Lula and where her body is overly voluptuous, mine is more 34B. My idea of fashion is a girl cut stretchy t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. My skin is nowhere near chocolate, my shoulder-length, naturally curly hair is plain ol’ brown and often pulled back into a ponytail, my eyes are blue, and I’m still trying to find my attitude.
I hung my purse on my shoulder and pushed Lula to the door. “We need to move. Connie called ten minutes ago, and she sounded frantic.”
“What’s with that?” Lula said. “Last time Connie was frantic was never.”
Connie Rosolli is the bail bonds office manager. My heritage is half Italian and half Hungarian. Connie is Italian through and through. Connie is a couple years older than I am, has more hair than I do, and a consistently better manicure. Her desk is strategically placed in front of Vinnie’s door, the better to slow down stiffed bookies, process servers, hookers with obviously active herpes, and a stream of perverted degenerates with quick rich schemes hatched while under the influence of who-knows-what.
In my mind, my kitchen is filled with crackers and cheese, roast chicken leftovers, farm fresh eggs, and coffee beans ready to grind. The reality is that I keep my Smith & Wesson in the cookie jar, Oreos in the microwave, a jar of peanut butter and hamster food in the over-the-counter cupboard, and I have beer and olives in the refrigerator. I used to have a birthday cake in the freezer for emergencies, but I ate it.
Truth is, I would dearly love to be a domestic goddess, but the birthday cake keeps getting eaten. I mean you buy it, and you eat it right? And then where are you? No birthday cake. Ditto cheese and crackers and eggs and the roast chicken leftovers (which were from my mother). The coffee beans are light years away. I don't own a grinder. I guess I could buy two birthday cakes, but I'm afraid I'd eat both.
My name is Stephanie Plum and in my defense I'd like to say that I have bread and milk on my shopping list, and I don't have any communicable diseases. I'm five feet seven inches. My hair is brown and shoulder length and naturally curly. My eyes are blue. My teeth are mostly straight. My manicure was pretty good three days ago, and my shape is okay.
I work as a bond enforcement agent for my cousin Vinnie, and today I was standing in Loretta Rizzi's kitchen, thinking not only was Loretta ahead of me in the kitchen-needs-a-makeover race, but she made me look like a piker in The Loose Cannon Club.
It was eight in the morning, and Loretta was wearing a long pink flannel nightgown and holding a gun to her head.
"I'm gonna shoot myself," Loretta said. "Not that it would matter to you, because you get your money dead or alive, right?"
"Technically, that's true," I told her. "But dead is a pain in the tuchus. There's paperwork."
A lot of the people Vinnie bonds out are from my Chambersburg neighborhood in Trenton, New Jersey. Loretta Rizzi was one of those people. I went to school with Loretta. She's a year older than me, and she left high school early to have a baby. Now she was wanted for armed robbery, and she was about to blow her brains out.
Vinnie had posted Loretta's bond, and Loretta had failed to show for her court appearance, so I was dispatched to drag her back to jail. And as luck would have it, I walked in at a bad moment and interrupted her suicide.
"I just wanted a drink," Loretta said.
"Yeah, but you held up a liquor store. Most people would have gone to a bar."
"I didn't have any money, and it was hot, and I needed a Tom Collins." A tear rolled down Loretta's cheek. "I've been on the edge lately," she said.
Loretta is a half a head shorter than me. She has curly black hair and a body kept toned by hefting serving trays for catered affairs at the firehouse. She hasn't changed much since high school. A few crinkle lines around her eyes. A little harder set to her mouth. She's Italian-American and related to half the Burg, including my off and on boyfriend Joe Morelli.
From: FINGER LICKIN' FIFTEEN, by Janet Evanovich, (c) 2009 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.
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