Shes got a point, I said to Connie.
No argument, Connie said.
Im underrealized, Lula said. I gotta lot of untapped potential. Yesterday my horoscope said I gotta expand my horizons.
You expand any more in that dress, and youll get yourself arrested, Connie said.
The bonds office is on Hamilton Avenue, a couple blocks from Saint Frances Hospital. Handy for bonding out guys whove been shot. Its a small storefront office sandwiched between a beauty parlor and a used bookstore. Theres an outer room with a scarred imitation leather couch, a couple folding chairs, Connies desk and computer, and a bank of files. Vinnies office is located in a room behind Connies desk.
When I started working for Vinnie he used his office to talk to his bookie and set up nooners with barnyard animals, but Vinnie has recently discovered the Internet, and now Vinnie uses his office to surf porn sites and online casinos. Behind the bank of file cabinets is a storeroom filled with the nuts and bolts of the bail bonds business. Confiscated televisions, DVD players, iPods, computers, a velvet painting of Elvis, a set of cookware, blenders, kids bikes, engagement rings, a tricked-out Hog, a bunch of George Foreman grills, and God knows what else. Vinnie had some guns and ammo back there too. Plus a box of cuffs that he got on eBay. Theres a small bathroom that Connie keeps spotless and a back door in case theres a need to sneak off. I hate to be a party pooper, Connie said, but were going to have to put the fashion show on hold because we have a problem. She slid a stack of folders across her desk at me. These are all unresolved skips. If we dont find some of these guys were going belly-up.
Heres the way bail bonds works. If youre accused of a crime and you dont want to sit and rot in jail while youre waiting for your trial to come up, you can give the court a wad of money. The court takes the money and lets you walk, and you get the money back when you show up on your trial date. If you dont have that money stashed under your mattress, a bail bondsman can give the court the money on your behalf. Hell charge you a percentage of the money, maybe ten percent, and hell keep that percentage whether youre proven guilty or not. If the accused shows up for court, the court gives the bail bondsman his money back. If the accused doesnt show up, the court keeps the money until the bondsman finds the accused and drags his sorry butt back to jail. So you see the problem, right? Too much money going out and not enough money going in, and Vinnie might have to refinance his house. Or worse, the insurance company that backs Vinnie could yank the plug.
Lula and I cant keep up with the skips, I said to Connie. There are too many of them.
Yeah, and Ill tell you the problem, Lula said. It used to be Ranger worked full time for you, but anymore hes got his own security business going, and hes not doing skip tracing. Its just Stephanie and me catching the bad guys these days.
It was true. Ranger had moved most of his business toward the security side and only went into tracking mode when something came in that was over my head. There are some who might argue everything is over my h ead, but for practical purposes weve had to ignore that argument.
I hate to say this, I told Connie, but you need to hire another bond enforcement person.
Its not that easy, Connie said. Remember when we had Joyce Barnhardt working here? That was a disaster. She screwed up all her busts doing her big bad bounty hunter routine. And then she stole everyones skips. Its not like shes a team player.
Excerpted from Twelve Sharp, copyright (c) 2006, Janet Ivanovich. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.
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