Smokin' Seventeen:A Stephanie Plum Novel(4)

By: Janet Evanovich

Everyone stood silent. Lula was right. This wasn’t the way things were done in Trenton.

I turned to Morelli. “Did you catch this case?”

“Yep,” he said. “Lucky me.” His eyes dropped to my chest, and he leaned close, his lips brushing my ear. “You’re looking sexy today. I like this red shirt you’re wearing.”

I appreciated the compliment, but truth is Morelli thinks everything I wear is sexy. Morelli has testosterone oozing out of every pore.

“I’m going back to the bus,” Connie said. “I have new cases to process.”

“Where’s the bus goin’ next?” Lula asked. “I gotta get some chicken to settle my nerves, and then I might stop in to do some filing or something.”

“The bus is staying here,” Vinnie said. “I’m supposed to meet with the contractor this morning and go over some plans.”

“That’s a bad idea,” Lula said. “There’s probably all kinds of nasty juju leakin’ out of that decayin’ carcass. You hang around and you could catch something.”

Mooner went white. “Dude.”

Morelli wrapped an arm around me and moved me to my car. “I’ll buy you dinner tonight if you promise to wear this red top.”

“And if I don’t wear the red top?”

“I’ll buy you dinner anyway.” He opened the passenger-side door, removed the bakery box, and looked inside. “This isn’t your usual selection. You never get blueberry.”

“Loretta was in a hurry. It was a free sample, sort of.”

Morelli took the blueberry for a test drive, and I ate the Boston cream.

“Do you think Lou’s leaking bad juju?” I asked him.

“No more than he leaked it when he was alive.” Morelli finished off his doughnut and kissed me. “Mmm,” he said. “You taste like chocolate. I have to go back to the station to do paperwork now, but I’ll pick you up at five thirty.”


MOONER’D RECENTLY REDECORATED the interior of his motor home, and now the walls and ceiling were upholstered in faux black velvet. The furniture was upholstered in black velour. The floor was black shag, and the countertop was black Formica. Mooner said it was like coming home to the womb, but I thought it was more like working inside the Death Star. Vinnie had commandeered the rear bedroom as his office, and Connie had her computer on the dinette table. A heavy-duty electrical cord, serving as power source, ran like an umbilical cord from the bus to the used bookstore next to the office. Vinnie had worked out an arrangement with the owner, Maggie Mason, for electric.

Lighting was dim to nonexistent, so I felt my way to the couch and inspected it closely before sitting down. Mooner was a good guy, but housekeeping wasn’t a priority for him. Last time I was in his motor home I sat on a brownie that was camouflaged against the black velour.

“What’s new?” I asked Connie. “Any interesting cases come in?”

Connie passed two files to me. “Ziggy Glitch and Merlin Brown. Both failed to appear for court. Brown is a repeat. Armed robbery. Glitch is assault. Glitch is seventy-two years old. The police report says he’s a biter.”

Connie is a couple years older than me and a lot more voluptuous. Connie has bigger hair, bigger boobs, is a better shot, and has major cajones. She’s also related to half the mob in Trenton.

“Do you think Lou Dugan was a mob job?” I asked Connie.

“Usually there’s dinner table talk when someone’s eliminated, but I haven’t heard anything on this one,” she said. “I think most people thought Dugan was in trouble and hiding somewhere.”

I stuffed the files into my tote bag and called Lula on my cell phone.

“What?” Lula said.

“Are you coming back here?”

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“I’m headed out. I’m on the hunt for two new FTAs.”

“Well I guess I should be on the hunt with you,” Lula said. “You probably don’t even got your gun. What if you gotta shoot someone? What then?”

“We don’t shoot people,” I told her.

“The hell.”

Ten minutes later I picked Lula up in the parking lot of Cluck-in-a-Bucket. She had her purse slung over her shoulder, a bucket of chicken tucked under her arm, and her hand wrapped around a liter bottle of soda.