I choose two Boston cremes and pocketed some napkins. When I came out I found Joe Morelli lounging against my car. I'd known Morelli all of my life. First when he was a lecherous little kid, then as a dangerous teen. And finally as the guy who at age eighteen, sweet-talked me out of my underwear, laid me down on the floor behind the eclair case one day after work and relieved me of my virginity. Morelli was a cop now, and the only way he'd get back into my pants would be at gun point. He worked vice, and he looked like he knew a lot about it first hand. He was wearing washed out Levis and a navy t-shirt. His hair needed cutting, and his body was perfect. Lean and hard-muscled with the best ass in Trenton ... maybe the world. Buns you wanted to sink your teeth into. Not that I intended to nibble on Morelli. He had an annoying habit of periodically popping up in my life, frustrating the hell out of me and then walking off into the sunset. I couldn't do much about the popping up or the walking off. I could do something about the frustrating. From here on out, Morelli was erotica non-grata. Look but don't touch, that was my motto. And he could keep his tongue to himself, thank you.
Morelli grinned by way of hello. "You're not going to eat both those doughnuts all by yourself, are you?"
"That was the plan. What are you doing here?"
"Drove by. Saw your car. Thought you'd need some help with those Boston Cremes."
"How do you know they're Boston Cremes?"
"You always get Boston Cremes."
Last time I saw Morelli was back in February. One minute we were in a clinch on my couch with his hand half-way up my thigh, and then next thing I knew, his pager went off, and he was gone. Not to be seen for five months. And now here he was ...sniffing at my doughnuts.
"Long time, no see," I said.
"I've been undercover."
"Okay," he said. "I could have called."
"I thought maybe you were dead."
The smile tightened. "Wishful thinking?"
"You're scum, Morelli."
He blew out a sigh. "You're not going to share those doughnuts, are you?"
I got into my car, slammed the door, squealed out of the lot and headed for home. By the time I got to my apartment I'd eaten both the doughnuts, and I was feeling much better. And I was thinking about Nowicki. She was five years older than Kuntz. High school graduate. Twice married. No children. Her file photo showed me a blowzy blonde with big Jersey hair, lots of make-up and a slim frame. She was squinting into the sun and smiling, wearing four inch heels, tight black stretch pants and a loose flowing sweater with sleeves pushed up to her elbows and a v-neck deep enough to show cleavage. I half expected to find writing on the back of the picture ...if you want a good time, call Maxine Nowicki.
Probably she'd done exactly what she'd said. Probably she'd stressed out and gone on vacation. Probably I shouldn't exert myself because she'd come home any day now.
And what about her apartment? The apartment was bothersome. The apartment told me Maxine had bigger problems than a simple auto theft charge. Best not to think about the apartment. The apartment only muddied the waters, and had nothing to do with my job. My job was simple. Find Maxine. Bring her in. I locked the CRX and crossed the lot. Mr. Landowsky stepped out the building's back door as I approached. Mr. Landowsky was eighty-two and somehow his chest had shrunk over the years, and now he was forced to hike his pants up under his armpits.
Copyright © 1998 by Evanovich, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of St. Martin's Press, Inc.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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