"Christ," Vinnie said. "National print coverage on this. A week to go. And this sonovabitch goes missing. Why didn't he just come over to my house and feed me rat poison? It would have been an easier death."
"We think there might be foul play involved," Nonnie said.
Vinnie made a half-hearted effort to squash a grimace. "Yeah, right. Give me a refresher course on Samuel Singh. What was his normal routine?" Vinnie had the file in his hand, flipping pages, mumbling as he read. "It says here he worked at TriBro Tech. He was in the quality control department."
"During the week Samuel would be at work from seven-thirty to five. Every night he would stay home and watch television or spend time on his computer. Even on week-ends he would spend most of his time on the computer," Nonnie said.
"There is a word to call him," Mrs. Apusenja said. "I can never remember."
"Geek," Nonnie said, not looking all that happy about it.
"Yes! That's it. He was a computer geek."
"Did he have friends? Relatives in the area?" Vinnie asked.
"There were people at his work place that he spoke of but he didn't spend time with them socially."
"Did he have enemies? Debts?"
Nonnie shook her head, no. "He never spoke of debts or enemies."
"Drugs?" Vinnie asked.
"No. And he would drink alcohol only on special occasions."
"How about criminal activity? Was he involved with anyone shady?"
Ranger was impassive in his corner, watching the women. Nonnie was leaning forward in her chair, uncomfortable with the situation. Mama Apusenja had her lips pressed tight together, her hands still tightly clasped in her lap.
"Anything else?" Vinnie asked.
Nonnie fidgeted in her seat. Her eyes dropped to the purse in her lap. "My little dog," Nonnie finally said. "My little dog is missing." She opened her purse and extracted a photo. "His name is Boo because he is so white. Like a ghost. He disappeared the day after Samuel vanished. He was in the backyard, which is fenced, and he disappeared."
We all looked at the photo of Nonnie and Boo. Boo was a small Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix with black button eyes in a fluffy white face. Boo was a Cockapoo.
I felt something tug inside me for the dog. The black button eyes reminded me of my hamster, Rex. I remembered the times when I'd been worried about Rex, and I felt the same sharp stab of concern for the little dog.
"Do you get along okay with your neighbors?" Vinnie asked. "Have you asked any of them if they've seen the dog?"
"No one has seen Boo."
"We must leave now," Mrs. Apusenja said, glancing at her watch. "Nonnie needs to get back to work."
Vinnie saw them to the door and watched them cross the street to their car. "There they go," Vinnie said. "Hell's message bearers." He shook his head. "I was having such a good day. Everyone was saying how good I looked in the picture. Everyone was congratulating me because I was doing something about visa enforcement. Okay, so I took a few comments when I dragged a naked, greased up fat guy into the station, but I could handle that." He gave his head another shake. "This I can't handle. This has to get fixed. I can't afford to lose this guy. Either we find this guy, dead or alive, or we're all unemployed. If I can't enforce this visa bond after all the publicity, I'm going to have to change my name, move to Scottsdale, Arizona and sell used cars." Vinnie focused on Ranger. "You can find him, right?"
The corners of Ranger's mouth tipped up a fraction of an inch. This was the Ranger equivalent to a smile.
"I'm gonna take that as a yes," Vinnie said.
"I'll need help," Ranger told him. "And we'll need to work out the fee."
"Fine. Whatever. You can have Stephanie."
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."
- PW Starred Review
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