"There's no filth," I shouted at her. "There was this guy I had to bring in and he was covered in Vaseline..."
"Lalalalalalala," Mrs. Apusenja sang.
Connie and I rolled our eyes.
Nonnie pulled her mother's hand away from her head. "Listen to these people," she said to her mother. "We need them to help us."
Mrs. Apusenja stopped singing and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Mrs. Apusenja is here because Singh's disappeared," Connie said.
"This is true," Mrs. Apusenja said. "We are very worried. He was an exemplary young man."
I skimmed the article. Samuel Singh's bond was up in a week. If Vinnie couldn't produce Singh in a week's time, he was going to look like an idiot.
"We think something terrible happened to him," Nonnie said. "He just disappeared. Poof."
The mother nodded in agreement. "Samuel has been staying with us while working in this country. My family is very close to Samuel Singh's family in India. It's a very good family. Nonnie and Samuel were to be married, in fact. She was to travel to India with Samuel to meet his mother and father. We have a ticket for the plane."
"How long has Samuel been gone?" Connie asked.
"Five days," Nonnie said. "He left for work and he never returned. We asked his employer and they said Samuel didn't show up that day. We came here because we saw the newspaper article, and we hoped Mr. Plum would be able to help us find Samuel."
"Have you checked Samuel's room to see if anything is missing?" I asked. "Clothes? Passport?"
"Everything seems to be there."
"Have you reported his disappearance to the police?"
"We have not. Do you think we should do that?"
"No," Connie said, voice just a tad too shrill, hitting Vinnie's cell phone number on her speed dial.
"We've got a situation here," Connie said to Vinnie. "Mrs. Apusenja is in the office. Samuel Singh has gone missing."
* * *
At two in the morning when the weather is ideal and the lights are all perfectly timed, it takes twenty minutes to drive from the police station to the bail bonds office. Today, at two in the afternoon, under an overcast sky, Vinnie made the run in twelve minutes.
Ranger, Vinnie's top gun, had ambled in a couple minutes earlier at Vinnie's request. He was dressed in his usual black. His dark brown hair was pulled back from his face and tied into a short ponytail at the nape of his neck. His short jacket, looked suspiciously like Kevlar and I knew from experience it hid a Glock. Ranger was always armed. And Ranger was always dangerous. His age was somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-five and his skin was the color of a mocha latte. The story goes that Ranger had been Special Forces before signing on with Vinnie to do bond enforcement. He had a lot of muscle and a skill level somewhere between Batman and Rambo.
A while ago Ranger and I spent the night together. We were in an uneasy alliance now, working as a team when necessary, avoiding contact or conversation that would lead to a repeat sexual encounter. At least I was avoiding a repeat encounter. Ranger was his usual silent mysterious self, his thoughts unknown, his attitude provocative.
He'd looked me over before taking a chair. "Vaseline?" he asked.
"I am thinking it must be something sexual," Mrs. Apusenja said. "No one has told me otherwise. I am thinking this one must be a slut."
"I am not a slut," I said. "I had to capture a guy who was all greased up and some of the gunk rubbed off on me." Yeesh.
The back door burst open and Vinnie came in like gangbusters, followed by Lula.
"Talk to me," Vinnie said to Connie.
"Not much to tell. You remember Mrs. Apusenja and her daughter Nonnie. Samuel Singh rented a room in the Apusenja house and they were at the photo session last week. They haven't seen him in five days."
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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