Living in Trenton in July is like living inside a big pizza oven. Hot, airless,
Because I didn't want to miss any of the summer experience I had the sun roof open on my Honda CRX. My brown hair was pulled up into a wind snarled, curls-gone-to-frizz ponytail. The sun baked the top of my head, and sweat trickled under my black spandex sports bra. I was wearing matching spandex shorts and a sleeveless oversized Trenton Thunders baseball jersey. It was an excellent outfit except it gave me no place to stick my .38. Which meant I was going to have to borrow a gun to shoot my cousin, Vinnie.
I parked the CRX in front of Vinnie's store front bail bonds office, lunged out of the car, stalked across the sidewalk, and yanked the office door open. "Where is he? Where is that miserable little excuse for a human being?" "Uh oh," Lula said from behind the file cabinet. "Rhino alert."
Lula is a retired hooker who helps clean up the filing and sometimes rides shotgun for me when I do my fugitive apprehension thing. If people were cars, Lula would be a big, black '53 Packard with a high gloss chrome grill, oversized headlights, and a growl like a junk yard dog. Lots of muscle. Never fit in a compact space.
Connie Rosolli, the office manager, pushed back at her desk when I entered. Connie's domain was this one front room where friends and relatives of miscreants came to beg money. And to the rear, in an inner office, my cousin, Vinnie, slapped Mr. Johnson around and conversed with his bookie.
"Hey," Connie said, "I know what you're bummed about, and this wasn't my decision. Personally, if I were you, I'd kick your cousin's pervert ass around the block."
I pushed a clump of hair that had strayed from the ponytail back from my face. "Kicking isn't good enough. I think I'll shoot him."
"Go for it!" Lula said.
"Yeah," Connie agreed. "Shoot him."
Lula checked out my clothes. "You need a gun? I don't see no gun bulges in that spandex." She hiked up her T-shirt, and pulled a Chief's Special out of her cut-off denim shorts. "You could use mine. Just be careful, it sights high." "You don't want a little pea-shooter like that," Connie said, opening her desk drawer. "I've got a .45. You can make a nice big hole with a .45."
Lula went for her purse. "Hold on here. If that's what you want, let me give you the big stud. I've got a .44 magnum loaded up with hydroschocks. This baby'll do real damage, you know what I'm saying? You could drive a Volkswagen through the hole this sweetheart makes."
"I was sort of kidding about shooting him," I told them. "Too bad," Connie said.
Lula shoved her gun back in her shorts. "Yeah, that's damn disappointing."
"So where is he? Is he in?"
"Hey Vinnie!" Connie yelled. "Stephanie's here to see you!"
The door to the inner office opened and Vinnie poked his head out. "What?"
Vinnie was 5'7", looked like a weasel, thought like a weasel, smelled like a French whore and was once in love with a duck.
"You know what!" I said, hands fisted on hips. "Joyce Barnhardt, that's what. My grandma was at the beauty parlor and heard you hired Joyce to do skip tracing."
"So what's the big deal? I hired Joyce Barnhardt." "Joyce Barnhardt does make-overs at Macy's."
Copyright © 1998 by Evanovich, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of St. Martin's Press, Inc.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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