Connie's been with Vinnie since he first started the business. She's stuck it out this long because she puts up with nothing and on exceptionally bad days she helps herself to combat pay from the petty cash.
She did a face scrunch when she saw I had a file in my hand. "You aren't actually going out after Eddie DeChooch, are you?"
"I'm hoping he's dead."
Lula was slouched on the faux leather couch that had been shoved against a wall and served as the holding pen for bondees and their unfortunate relatives. Lula and the couch were almost identical shades of brown with the exception of Lula's hair which happened to be cherry red today.
I always feel sort of anemic when I stand next to Lula. I'm a third generation American of Italian-Hungarian heritage. I have my mother's pale skin and blue eyes and good metabolism which allows me to eat birthday cake and still (almost always) button the top snap on my Levi's. From my father's side of the family I've inherited a lot of unmanageable brown hair and a penchant for Italian hand gestures. On my own, on a good day with a ton of mascara and four-inch heels, I can attract some attention. Next to Lula I'm wallpaper.
"I'd offer to help drag his behind back to jail," Lula said. "You could probably use the help of a plus-size woman like me. But too bad I don't like when they're dead. Dead creeps me out."
"Well, I don't actually know if he's dead," I said.
"Good enough for me," Lula said. "Sign me up. If he's alive I get to kick some sorry-ass butt, and if he's dead ... I'm outta there."
Lula talks tough, but the truth is we're both pretty wimpy when it comes to actual butt kicking. Lula was a ho in a former life and is now doing filing for Vinnie. Lula was as good at ho'ing as she is at filing ... and she's not much good at filing.
"Maybe we should wear vests," I said.
Lula took her purse from a bottom file drawer. "Suit yourself, but I'm not wearing no Kevlar vest. We don't got one big enough and besides it'd ruin my fashion statement."
I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and didn't have much of a fashion statement to make so I took a vest from the back room.
"Hold on," Lula said when we got to the curb, "what's this?"
"I bought a new car."
"Well dang, girl, you did good. This here's an excellent car."
It was a black Honda CR-V and the payments were killing me. I'd had to make a choice between eating and looking cool and looking cool had won out. Well hell, there's a price for everything, right?
"Where we going?" Lula asked, settling in next to me. "Where's this dude live?"
"We're going to the Burg. Eddie DeChooch lives three blocks from my parents' house."
"He really dating your grandma?"
"She ran into him at a viewing two weeks ago at Stiva's Funeral Home and they went out for pizza after."
"Think they did the nasty?"
I almost ran the car up on the sidewalk. "No! Yuck!"
"Just asking," Lula said.
DeChooch lives in a small brick duplex. Seventy-something Angela Marguchi and her ninety-something mother live in one half of the house and DeChooch lives in the other. I parked in front of the DeChooch half and Lula and I walked to the door. I was wearing the vest and Lula was wearing a stretchy animal-print top and yellow stretch pants. Lula is a big woman and tends to test the limits of Lycra.
"You go ahead and see if he's dead," Lula said. "And then if it turns out he's not dead you let me know and I'll come kick his ass."
"Hunh," she said, lower lip stuck out. "You think I couldn't kick his ass?"
"You might want to stand to the side of the door," I said. "Just in case."
"Good idea," Lula said, stepping aside, "I'm not afraid or anything, but I'd hate to get blood stains on this top."
From Seven Up (A Stephanie Plum Adventure), by Janet Evanovich. © June 19, 2001 , St. Martin's Press used by permission.
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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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