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 out.
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 me.
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 meringue.
Excerpted from Twelve Sharp, copyright (c) 2006, Janet Ivanovich. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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