Hot Six(5)

By: Janet Evanovich


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.”

“Ten minutes is a long time. Give him three more to ride the elevator or take the stairs. Why didn’t the alarm go off sooner, if Ranger started the fire?”

“No smoke detector in the office where Ramos was found. The door was closed, and the smoke detector was in the hall.”

“Ranger isn’t stupid. He wouldn’t let himself get caught on videotape if he was going to kill someone.”

“It was a hidden camera.” Morelli eyed my doughnut. “You going to eat that?”

I broke the doughnut in half and gave him a piece. I popped the other into my mouth. “Was an accelerant used?”

“Small amount of lighter fluid.”

“You think Ranger did it?”

“Hard to say with Ranger.”

“Connie said Ramos was shot.”

“Nine millimeter.”

“So you think Ranger is hiding from the police?”

“Allen Barnes is the primary on the homicide investigation. Everything he’s got so far leads to Ranger. If he brought Ranger in for questioning, he could probably hold him for a while based on priors, like the carrying charge. No matter how you look at it, sitting in a cell isn’t in Ranger’s best interest right now. And if Barnes has Ranger nailed as his number one suspect, there’s a good chance Alexander Ramos has reached the same conclusion. If Ramos thought Ranger blew Homer away, Ramos wouldn’t wait for justice to be served by the court.”

The doughnut was sitting in a big lump in my throat. “Or maybe Ramos has already gotten to Ranger … .”