Plum Lucky

By: Janet Evanovich

ONE



My mother and grandmother raised me to be a good girl, and I have no problem with the girl part. I like men, malls, and carbs. Not necessarily in that order. The good part has been spotty. I don’t steal cars or sniff glue, but I’ve had a lot of impure thoughts. And I’ve acted on a bunch of them. Not limited to, but including, snooping through a guy’s closet in search of his underwear. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a majorly hot experience, but this was no ordinary guy, and I couldn’t find any underwear.

My mother and my Grandma Mazur are really good. They pray every day and go to church regularly. I have good intentions, but religion, for me, is like tennis. I play an excellent mental game, and in my mind’s eye I look terrific in the little white skirt, but the reality is I never actually get onto the court.

It’s usually when I’m in the shower that I think of things spiritual and mystical and wonder about the unknown. Like, is there life after death? And just what, exactly, is collagen? And suppose Wonder Woman actually exists. If she was discreet, you might not know, right?

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and when I was in the shower this morning, my thoughts were about luck. How does it work? Why are some people flat-out lucky and others not so lucky? Virgil said fortune favors the bold. Okay, so I read that on the stall door in the ladies’ room of the multiplex last week, and I don’t personally know Virgil, but I like his thinking. Still, there has to be something else going on besides being bold. Things we can’t comprehend.

My name is Stephanie Plum, and I try to leave the incomprehensible in the shower. Life is tough enough without walking around all day wondering why God invented cellulite. I’m a skip tracer for my cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds agency in Trenton, New Jersey, and I spend my day hunting felons who are hiding in attics. It was a little after nine A.M. and I was on the sidewalk in front of the bonds office with my sidekick, Lula.

“You’re a holiday shirker,” Lula said. “Every time a holiday comes up, you don’t do your part. Here it is St. Patrick’s Day and you don’t have no green on you. You’re lucky there’s no holiday police because they’d haul your boney behind off to the shirker’s dungeon.”

“I don’t own anything green.” Okay, an olive drab T-shirt, but it was dirty.

“I own lots of green. I look good in it,” Lula said. “But then, I look good in all colors. Maybe not brown on account of it blends with my skin tone. Brown’s too much of a good thing on me.”

Lula’s borderline too much of a good thing in lots of ways. It isn’t exactly that Lula is fat; it’s more that she’s too short for her weight and her clothes are too small for the volume of flesh she carries. Her attitude is Jersey times ten, and today her hair was candy-apple red. She was packed into shamrock-green animal-print stretch pants, a matching green sequin-encrusted stretchy top, and spike-heeled dark green suede ankle boots. Lula was a hooker before she took the job at the bonds office, and I was guessing this outfit was left over from the St. Patrick’s Day fantasy collection.

Truth is, I sometimes feel a little boring and incredibly pale when I’m with Lula. I’m of Hungarian and Italian descent, and my complexion is more Eastern European than Mediterranean. I have shoulder-length, unexceptional, curly brown hair, blue eyes, and a nice nose that I inherited from the Mazur side of the family. I was in my usual jeans and sneakers and long-sleeved T-shirt that carried the Rangers hockey team logo. The temperature was in the fifties, and Lula and I were bundled into hooded sweatshirts. Lula’s sweatshirt said KISS ME I’M PRETENDING I’M IRISH, and mine was gray with a small chocolate ice cream stain on the cuff.

Lula and I were on our way to get a Lucky Clucky Shake at Cluck-in-a-Bucket, and Lula was rooting through her purse, trying to find her car keys.

“I know I got those keys in here somewhere,” Lula said, pulling stuff out of her purse, piling everything onto the hood of her car. Gum, lip balm, stun gun, cell phone, a forty-caliber nickel-plated Glock, Tic Tacs, a can of Mace, a personal-mood candle, a flashlight, handcuffs, a screwdriver, nail polish, the pearl-handled Derringer she got as a Valentine’s Day present from her honey, Tank, a musical bottle opener, a roll of toilet paper, Rolaids …

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