My mother was at the bathroom door, wrapped in a towel, waiting. "What the hell were you doing?" she yelled. "You scared the crap out of me. Dammit. Can't I even relax in the tub?"
Grandma Mazur and I were speechless, standing rooted to the spot, our mouths open, our eyes wide. My mom never cursed. My mom was the practical, calming influence on the family. My mom went to church. My mom never said crap.
"It's the change," Grandma said.
"It is not the change," my mother shouted. "I am not menopausal. I just want a half hour alone. Is that too much to ask? A crappy half hour!"
"You were in there for an hour and a half," Grandma said. "I thought you might have had a heart attack. You wouldn't answer me."
"I was listening to music. I didn't hear you. I had the headset on."
"I can see that now," Grandma said. "Maybe I should try that sometime."
My mother leaned forward and took a closer look at my shirt. "What on earth do you have all over you? It's in your hair and on your shirt and you have big grease stains on your jeans. It looks like ...Vaseline."
"I was in the middle of a capture when Grandma called."
"My mother did an eye roll. "I don't want to know the details. Not ever. And you should be sure to pre-treat when you get home or you're never going to get that stuff out."
* * *
Ten minutes later I was pushing through the front door to Vinnie's office. Connie Rosolli, Vinnie's office manager and guard dog, was behind her desk, newspaper in hand. Connie was a couple years older than me, an inch or two shorter and had me by three cup sizes. She was wearing a blood red v-neck sweater that showed a lot of cleavage. Her nails and her lips matched the sweater.
There were two women occupying the chairs in front of Connie's desk. Both women were dark skinned and wearing traditional Indian dress. The older woman was a size up from Lula. Lula is packed solid, like a giant bratwurst. The woman sitting across from Connie was loose flab with rolls of fat cascading between the halter top and the long skirt of her sari. Her black hair was tied in a knot low on her neck and shot with gray. The younger woman was slim and I guessed slightly younger than me. Late twenties, maybe. They both were perched on the edge of their seats, hands tightly clasped in their laps.
"We've got trouble," Connie said to me. There's an article in the paper today about Vinnie."
"It's not another duck incident, is it?" I asked.
"It's about the visa bond Vinnie wrote for Samuel Singh. Singh is here on a three month work visa and Vinnie wrote a bond insuring Singh would leave when his visa was up. A visa bond is a new thing so the paper's making a big deal about it."
Connie handed me the paper and I looked at the photo accompanying the feature. Two slim, shifty looking men with slicked back black hair, smiling. Singh was from India, his complexion darker, his frame smaller than Vinnie's. Both men looked like they regularly conned old ladies out of their life savings. Two Indian women stood in the background, behind Vinnie and Singh. The women in the photo were the women sitting in front of Connie.
"This is Mrs. Apusenja and her daughter Nonnie," Connie said. "Mrs. Apusenja rented a room to Samuel Singh."
Mrs. Apusenja and her daughter were starring at me, not sure what to do or say about the globs of goo in my hair and gunked into my clothes.
"And this is Stephanie Plum," Connie told the Apusenjas. "She's one of our bond enforcement agents. She's not usually this ...slimey." Connie squinted at me. "What the hell have you got all over you?"
"Vaseline. Balog was covered with it. I had to wrestle him down."
"This looks sexual to me," Mrs. Apusenja said. "I am a moral women. I do not want to become involved with this." She clapped her hands to her head. "Look at me. I have my ears covered. I am not hearing this filth."
From To the Nines by Janet Evanovich. Copyright Janet Evanovich 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher St. Martin's Press.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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