Little black dots danced in front of my eyes. I sat down hard on the fake-leather couch and put my head between my legs.
"You okay?" Lula asked.
"Probably it's just low blood sugar," I said. Probably it's my job.
"It could be worse," Connie said. "It says here he wasn't armed. Just bring your gun along, and I'm sure you'll be fine."
"I can't believe they let him out on bail!"
"Go figure," Connie said. "Guess they didn't have any more room at the inn."
I looked up at Vinnie, who was still standing in the doorway to his private office. "You wrote bail on this maniac?"
"Hey, I'm not a judge. I'm a businessman. He didn't have any priors," Vinnie said. "And he has a good job working at the button factory. Homeowner."
"And now he's gone."
"Didn't show up for his court date," Connie said. "I called the button factory, and they said last they saw him was Wednesday."
"Have they heard from him at all? Did he call in sick?"
"No. Nothing. I called his home number and got his machine."
I glanced at the other two files. Lenny Dale, missing in action, charged with domestic violence. And Walter "Moon Man" Dunphy, wanted for drunk and disorderly and urinating in a public place.
I tucked the three folders into my shoulder bag and stood. "Page me if you hear anything on Ranger."
"Last chance," Vinnie said. "I swear I'll give his file to Joyce."
I took a doughnut from the box, gave the box over to Lula, and left. It was March and the snowstorm was having a hard time working itself up into anything serious. There was some slush on the street, and a layer of ice had accumulated on my windshield and my passenger-side windows. There was a large blurry object behind the window. I squinted through the ice. The blurry object was Joe Morelli.
Most women would have an orgasm on the spot to find Morelli sitting in their car. He had that effect. I'd known Morelli for most of my life, and I almost never had an on-the-spot orgasm, anymore. I needed at least four minutes.
He was wearing boots and jeans and a black fleece jacket. The tails of a red plaid flannel shirt hung under the jacket. Under the flannel shirt he wore a black T-shirt and a .40-caliber Glock. His eyes were the color of aged whiskey and his body was a testament to good Italian genes and hard work at the gym. He had a reputation for living fast, and the reputation was well deserved but dated. Morelli focused his energy on his job now.
I slid behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and cranked up the defroster. I was driving a six-year-old blue Honda Civic that was perfectly good transportation but didn't enhance my fantasy life. Hard to be Xena, Warrior Princess in a six-year-old Civic.
"So," I said to Morelli, "what's up?"
"You going after Ranger?"
"Nope. Not me. No siree. No way."
He raised his eyebrows.
"I'm not magic," I said. Sending me after Ranger would be like sending the chicken out to hunt down the fox.
Morelli was slouched against the door. "I need to talk to him."
"Are you investigating the fire?"
"No. This is something else."
"Something else that's related to the fire? Like the hole in Homer Ramos's head?"
Morelli grinned. "You ask a lot of questions."
"Yeah, but I'm not getting any answers. Why isn't Ranger answering his page? What's his involvement here?"
"He had a late-night meeting with Ramos. They were caught on a lobby security camera. The building is locked up at night, but Ramos had a key. He arrived first, waited ten minutes for Ranger, then opened the door for him. The two of them crossed the lobby and took the elevator to the third floor. Thirty-five minutes later Ranger left alone. And ten minutes after that, the fire alarm went off. Forty-eight hours' worth of tape has been run, and according to the tape no one else was in the building with Ranger and Ramos."
Copyright © 2000 Evanovich, Inc.. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher, St Martins Press
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