Smokin' Seventeen:A Stephanie Plum Novel(5)

By: Janet Evanovich

“A girl needs breakfast,” she said, clicking the seat belt together. “Besides, I just come off a diet, and I gotta get my strength back.” She laid a paper napkin out on her lap and picked a piece of chicken out of the bucket. “Who we lookin’ for?”

“Merlin Brown.”

“Been there, done that,” Lula said. “We dragged him back to jail last year on that shoplifting charge. He was a real pain in the behind. He didn’t want to go. What’s he done now?”

“Armed robbery.”

“Good for him. Least he’s setting his sights higher. Who else you got?”

“Ziggy Glitch.” I handed her his file. “He’s seventy-two and wanted for assault. I thought we’d look for him first.”

Lula thumbed through the papers. “He lives in the Burg. Kreiner Street. And it says here he’s a biter. I hate them biters.”

The Burg is a chunk of Trenton attached to Hamilton Avenue, Liberty Street, Broad, and Chambersburg Street. Houses are small, streets are narrow, televisions are large. I was born and raised in the Burg, and my parents still live there.

I turned off Hamilton, passed St. Francis Hospital, and hit Kreiner.

“What’s Ziggy’s history?” I asked Lula.

“It says here he’s retired from working at the button factory. Never married as far as I can see. Has a sister who signed the bond agreement. She lives in New Brunswick. This looks like his first arrest. Probably he didn’t take his meds and got wacky and hit some other old geezer with his cane.” Lula leaned forward, counting off houses. “It’s the brick house with the red door. The one with black curtains hanging in all the windows. What’s with that?”

Ziggy lived in a narrow two-story house that had two feet of lawn and a small front porch. It looked like every other house on the block with the exception of the black curtains. We got out of the car, rang the doorbell and waited. No answer.

“I bet he’s in there,” Lula said. “Where else would he be? He don’t work, and there’s no bingo at this time of the morning.”

I rang the bell again, we heard some shuffling inside the house, and the door opened a crack.

“Yes?” the pale face on the other side of the crack asked.

From what I could see he fit the description of Ziggy Glitch. Thinning gray hair, bony at 5′10″.

“I represent your bail bond agent,” I said. “You missed a court date and you need to reschedule.”

“Come back after dark.” And he slammed the door shut and locked it.

“Good going,” Lula said to me. “I don’t know why you use that lame-ass line. It never works. Everybody knows you’re gonna drag their keister off to jail. And if they wanted to be in jail they would have kept their stupid court date in the first place.”

“Hey!” I yelled at Ziggy. “Come back here and open this door, or we’re going to kick it open.”

“I’m not kicking no door in my Via Spigas,” Lula said.

“Great. I’ll kick it open all by myself.”

We both knew this was baloney. Kicking down a door wasn’t on my list of skills mastered.

“I’m going to the car,” Lula said. “I got a bucket of chicken there with my name on it.”

I followed Lula to the car and drove us the short distance to my parents’ house. The Burg is a tight-knit community that runs on gossip and pot roast. Ever since my Grandpa Mazur rode the gravy train to heaven, my Grandma Mazur has lived with my mom and dad. Grandma Mazur knows everything about everyone. And I was betting she knew Ziggy Glitch.


I PARKED IN my parents’ driveway. “Here’s hoping Grandma knows Ziggy and can get him to cooperate.”

Lula stowed her chicken bucket on the floor. “I love your granny. I want to be just like her when I grow up.”

Grandma Mazur was at the front door, waiting for us, driven by some maternal instinct sensing the approach of offspring. She’s sharp-eyed and slack-skinned, and her steel gray hair is cut short and set into curls. She was wearing a silky lavender-and-white warm-up suit and white tennis shoes.

“What a nice surprise,” she said. “I got a coffee cake on the table.”