I looked at the photo attached to Briggs' file. Briggs didn't look so bad. In his forties, narrow-faced and balding, Caucasian. Job description was listed as self-employed computer programmer.
I gave a sigh of resignation and stuffed the folder into my shoulder bag. "I'll go talk to him."
"Probably he just forgot," Connie said. "Probably this is a piece of cake."
I gave her my yeah, right look and left. It was Monday morning and traffic was humming past Vinnie's store front office. The October sky was as blue as sky gets in New Jersey, and the air felt crisp and lacking hydrocarbons. It was nice for a change, but it kind of took all the sport out of breathing.
A new red Firebird slid to curbside behind my '53 Buick. Lula got out of the car and stood hands on hips, shaking her head. "Girl, you still driving that pimp mobile?"
Lula did filing for Vinnie and knew all about pimp mobiles first hand since in a former life she'd been a 'ho. She's what is gently referred to as a big woman, weighing in at a little over 200 pounds, standing five-foot-five, looking like most of her weight's muscle. This week her hair was dyed orange and came off very autumn with her dark brown skin.
"This is a classic car," I told Lula. Like we both knew I really gave a fig about classic cars. I was driving The Beast because my Honda had caught fire and burned to a cinder, and I didn't have any money to replace it. So here I was, borrowing my Uncle Sandor's gas guzzling behemoth ...again.
"Problem is, you aren't living up to your earning potential," Lula said. "We only got chicken shit cases these days. What you need is to have a serial killer or a homicidal rapist jump bail. Those boys are worth something."
"Yeah, I'd sure like to get a case like that." Big fib. If Vinnie ever gave me a homicidal rapist to chase down I'd quit and get a job selling shoes.
Lula marched into the office, and I slid behind the wheel and reread the Briggs file. Randy Briggs had given the same address for home and work. Cloverleaf Apartments on Grand Avenue. It wasn't far from the office. Maybe a mile. I pulled into traffic, made an illegal U-turn at the intersection, and followed Hamilton to Grand.
The Cloverleaf Apartments building was two blocks down Grand. It was red brick faced and strictly utilitarian. Three stories. A front and a back entrance. Small lot to the rear. No ornamentation. Aluminum-framed windows that were popular in the fifties and looked cheesy now.
I parked in the lot and walked into the small lobby. There was an elevator to one side and stairs to the other. The elevator looked claustrophobic and unreliable, so I took the stairs to the second floor. Briggs was 2B. I stood outside his door for a moment, listening. Nothing drifted out. No television. No talking. I pressed the doorbell and stood to the side, so I wasn't visible through the security peep hole.
Randy Briggs opened his door and stuck his head out. "Yeah?"
He looked exactly like his photo, with sandy blond hair that was neatly combed, cut short. He was unbearded, unblemished. Dressed in clean khakis and a button-down shirt. Just like I'd expected from his file ...except he was only three feet tall. Randy Briggs was vertically challenged.
"Oh shit," I said, looking down at him.
"What's the matter?" he said. "You never see a short person before?"
"Only on television."
"Guess this is your lucky day."
I handed him my business card. "I represent Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. You've missed your court date, and we'd appreciate it if you'd reschedule."
Reprinted from HIGH FIVE by Janet Evanovich, a St Martin's Press publication, by permission of St Martin's Press. © 1999 by Janet Evanovich.
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