Joyce Barnhardt is my archenemy. I went all through
school with her, and she was a misery. And before the ink
was dry on my marriage license she was in bed with my
husband, who is now my ex-husband. Thank you, Joyce.
We could put a ad in the paper, Lula said. Thats how
I got my filing job here. Look at how good that turned
Connie and I did eye rolls.
Lula was about the worst file clerk ever. Lula kept her
job because no one else would tolerate Vinnie. The first
time Vinnie made a grab at Lula she clocked him on the
side of the head with a five-pound phone book and told
him shed staple his nuts to the wall if he didnt show respect.
And that was the end of sexual harassment in the
bail bonds office.
Connie read the names off the files on her desk. Lonnie
Johnson, Kevin Gallager, Leon James, Dooby Biagi,
Caroline Scarzolli, Melvin Pickle, Charles Chin, Bernard
Brown, Mary Lee Truk, Luis Queen, John Santos. These
are all current. You already have half of them. The rest
came in last night. Plus we have nine outstanding that
weve relegated to the temporarily lost cause file. Vinnies
writing a lot of bond these days. Probably taking risks he
shouldnt. The result is more than the normal FTAs.
When someone doesnt show up for a court appearance
we call them FTA. Failure to Appear. People fail to appear
for a bunch of reasons. Hookers and pushers can make
more money on the street than they can in jail so they only
show up in court when you finally stop bonding them out.
All other people just dont want to go to jail.
Connie gave me the new files, and it was like an elephant
was sitting on my chest. Lonnie Johnson was wanted for
armed robbery. Leon James was suspected of arson and attempted
murder. Kevin Gallager was wanted for grand
theft auto. Mary Lee Truk had inserted a carving knife into
her husbands left buttock during a domestic disturbance.
And Melvin Pickle was caught with his pants down in the
third row oft he multiplex.
Lula was looking over my shoulder, reading along with
Melvin Pickle sounds like fun, she said. I think we
should start with Melvin.
Maybe a bond enforcement agent wanted ad in t he paper
isnt such a bad idea, I said to Connie.
Yeah, Lula said, just be careful how you word it. You
probably want to fib a little. Like you dont want to say
were looking for some gun-happy lunatic to take down a
bunch of scumbags.
Ill keep that in mind when I write it up, Connie said.
Im going down the street, I told Lula. I need something
to make me happy. Well go to work when I get back.
You going to the drugstore? Lula wanted to know.
No. The bakery.
I wouldnt mind if you brought me back one of them
cream-filled doughnuts with the chocolate frosting, Lula
said. I need to get happy too.
At mid-morning the Garden State was heating up. Pavement
was steaming under a cloudless sky, petrochemical
plants were spewing to the north, and cars were emitting
hydrocarbons statewide. By mid-afternoon Id feel the
toxic stew catch in the back of my throat, and Id know it
was truly summer in Jersey. For me, the stew is part of the
Jersey experience. The stew has attitude. And it enhances
the pull of Point Pleasant. How can you completely appreciate
the Jersey shore if the air is safe to breathe in the interior
parts of the state?
I swung into the bakery and went straight to the
doughnut case. Marjorie Lando was behind the counter,
filling cannoli for a customer. Fine by me. I could wait my
turn. The bakery was always a soothing experience. My
heart rate slowed in the presence of massive quantities of
sugar and lard. My mind floated over the acres of cookies
and cakes and doughnuts and cream pies topped with
rainbow sprinkles, chocolate frosting, whipped cream, and
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