Hot Six(3)

By: Janet Evanovich


“Lubie likes the highlights,” Carol said. “Only he wants me to grow it longer. He says long hair is the style now.”

Personally, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in the fashion sense of a man who got his nickname by bragging about his sexual expertise with a grease gun. But hey, that’s just me. “So tell me again why you’re up here on the guardrail.”

“Because I’d rather die than go to jail.”

“I told you, you’re not going to jail. And if you do, it won’t be for very long.”

“A day is too long! An hour is too long! They make you take off all your clothes, and then they make you bend over so they can look for smuggled weapons. And you have to go to the bathroom in front of everyone. There’s no, you know, privacy. I saw a special on television.”

Okay, so now I understood a little bit better. I’d kill myself before I’d do any of those things, too.

“Maybe you won’t have to go to jail,” I said. “I know Brian Simon. I could talk to him. Maybe I could get him to drop the charges.”

Carol’s face brightened. “Really? Would you do that for me?”

“Sure. I can’t guarantee anything, but I can give it a shot.”

“And if he won’t drop the charges, I’ll still have a chance to kill myself.”

“Exactly.”





I PACKED CAROL and the brick off in her car, and then I drove over to the 7-Eleven for coffee and a box of glazed chocolate doughnuts. I figured I deserved the doughnuts, since I’d done such a good job of saving Carol’s life.

I took the doughnuts and coffee to Vinnie’s storefront office on Hamilton Avenue. I didn’t want to run the risk of eating all the doughnuts myself. And I was hoping Vinnie would have more work for me. As a bond enforcement agent I only get paid if I bring somebody in. And at the moment I was clean out of wayward bondees.

“Damn, skippy,” Lula said from behind the file cabinets. “Here come doughnuts walking through the door.”

At five feet five inches, weighing in at a little over two hundred pounds, Lula is something of a doughnut expert. She was in monochromatic mode this week, with hair, skin, and lip gloss all the color of cocoa. The skin color is permanent, but the hair changes weekly.

Lula does filing for Vinnie, and she helps me out when I need backup. Since I’m not the world’s best bounty hunter, and Lula isn’t the world’s best backup, it’s more often than not like the amateur-hour version of The Best of “Cops” Bloopers.

“Are those chocolate doughnuts?” Lula asked. “Connie and me were just thinking we needed some chocolate doughnuts, weren’t we, Connie?”

Connie Rosolli is Vinnie’s office manager. She was at her desk, in the middle of the room, examining her mustache in a mirror. “I’m thinking of having more electrolysis,” she said. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s a good thing,” Lula told her, helping herself to a doughnut. “Because you’re starting to look like Groucho Marx, again.”

I sipped my coffee and fingered through some files Connie had on her desk. “Anything new come in?”

The door to Vinnie’s inner office slammed open, and Vinnie stuck his head out. “Fuckin’ A, we got something new … and it’s all yours.”

Lula screwed her mouth up to the side. And Connie did a nose wrinkle.

I had a bad feeling in my stomach. Usually I had to beg for jobs and here Vinnie was, having saved something for me. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“It’s Ranger,” Connie said. “He’s in the wind. Won’t respond to his pager.”

“The schmuck didn’t show up for his court date yesterday,” Vinnie said. “He’s FTA.”

“FTA” is bounty-hunter-speak for “failure to appear.” Usually I’m happy to hear someone has failed to appear, because it means I get to earn money by coaxing them back into the system. In this case, there was no money to be had, because if Ranger didn’t want to be found, he wasn’t going to be found. End of discussion.

Ranger is a bounty hunter, like me. Only Ranger is good. He’s close to my age, give or take a few years; he’s Cuban-American; and I’m pretty sure he only kills bad guys. Two weeks ago some idiot rookie cop arrested Ranger on carrying concealed without a license. Every other cop in Trenton knows Ranger and knows he carries concealed, and they’re perfectly happy to have it that way. But no one told the new guy. So Ranger was busted and scheduled to go before the judge yesterday for a slap on the wrist. In the meantime, Vinnie sprung Ranger with a nice chunk of money, and now Vinnie was feeling lonely, high off the ground, out there on a limb all by himself. First Carol. Now Ranger. Not a good way to start a Tuesday.