Smokin' Seventeen:A Stephanie Plum Novel(10)

By: Janet Evanovich

“Hell no,” Lula said. “We’re not getting you no teeth. You already gave me a hickey. That’s as far as I’m goin’ with this whole creepy vampire thing.”

We wrapped Ziggy in the quilt from his bed, carried him to my car, and loaded him into the backseat. Ten minutes from the police station he started to thrash around in his quilt.

“What’s going on back there?” I asked Ziggy.

“I’m restless,” Ziggy said. “I got restless leg syndrome. And I’m hungry. I need some blood.”

“Pull over,” Lula said to me. “I’m gettin’ out.”

“For the love of Pete, he’s in a quilt, he’s toothless, and he’s handcuffed!” I said to Lula. “And besides, he’s not a vampire.”

“How do you know he’s not a vampire?”

“I don’t believe in vampires.”

“Yeah, me either, but how can you be sure? And anyways, he freaks me out no matter what the heck he is.”


BY THE TIME we dropped Ziggy off at the police station and made a makeup run for hickey cover-up, it was almost noon.

“Where are we going for lunch?” Lula wanted to know.

“I thought I’d stop at Giovichinni’s.”

Giovichinni’s Deli was on Hamilton, not far from the bonds office. It was a family enterprise, and it was second only to the funeral home for feeding the Burg gossip mill. It carried a full line of deli meats and cheeses, homemade coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, and baked beans. It also had Italian specialty items, and it served as the local grocery with all the usual staples found in a convenience store.

“I love Giovichinni’s,” Lula said. “I could get a roast beef sandwich with beans and potato salad. And they got the best pickles, too.”

Five minutes later Lula and I were at the deli counter ordering sandwiches from Gina Giovichinni.

Gina was the youngest of the three Giovichinni girls. She’s been married to Stanley Lorenzo for ten years, but everyone still calls her Gina Giovichinni.

“I heard they found Lou Dugan,” Gina said to me. “Were you there when they dug him up?”

“No, but I got there soon after.”

“Me, too,” Lula said. “His hand was reachin’ up outta the grave. It was like he’d been buried alive.”

Gina gasped. “Omigod. Is that true? Was he buried alive? Supposedly he was involved in some big deal that went bad.”

“Must have gone real bad,” Lula said. “They planted him under the garbage cans.”

“What kind of deal?” I asked Gina.

“I don’t know. One of the girls who danced at the club was here getting an antipasto platter last week, and she said Lou was real nervous just before he disappeared, talking about losing a bunch of money, making travel plans.”

“Where was he going?”

“She didn’t say.”

• • •

Lula and I took our sandwiches back to my car, and I drove the short distance to the bonds office. Mooner’s bus was still parked at the end of the block, the medical examiner’s truck was still on the scene, a bunch of men huddled on the sidewalk, and a state crime scene van was parked on the sidewalk just beyond the men. The yellow crime scene tape blocked off the entire construction site, and two men wearing CSI jackets were working at the excavation area.

“Life sure is strange,” Lula said. “One day everything is going along normal as can be, and then next thing you know your place of business is firebombed and Mr. Titty gets buried there.” She thought about it for a couple beats. “I suppose for us that is normal.”

A disturbing thought, and not far from the truth. Maybe my mother is right. Maybe it’s time to stop stun-gunning men who think they’re vampires, get married, and settle down.

“I could learn to cook,” I said.

“Sure you could,” Lula said. “You could cook the crap out of shit. What are you talkin’ about?”

“It was just a thought that popped into my head.”

“It should pop back out ’cause now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve seen you cook and it wasn’t pretty.”