Three to Get Deadly

By: Janet Evanovich

CHAPTER 1




It was January in Trenton. The sky was gun-metal gray, and the air sat dead cold on cars and sidewalks. Inside the offices of Vincent Plum, bail bond agent, the atmosphere was no less grim, and I was sweating not from heat but from panic.

“I can’t do this,” I said to my cousin, Vinnie. “I’ve never refused a case before, but I can’t pick this guy up. Give the paperwork to Ranger. Give it to Barnes.”

“I’m not giving this two-bit Failure to Appear to Ranger,” Vinnie said. “It’s the kind of penny-ante stuff you do. For chrissake, be a professional. You’re a bounty hunter. You’ve been a bounty hunter for five fucking months. What’s the big deal?”

“This is Uncle Mo!” I said. “I can’t apprehend Uncle Mo. Everyone will hate me. My mother will hate me. My best friend will hate me.”

Vinnie slumped his slim, boneless body into the chair behind his desk and rested his head on the padded leather back. “Mo jumped bail. That makes him a slimeball. That’s all that counts.”

I rolled my eyes so far into the top of my head I almost fell over backward.

Moses Bedemier, better known as Uncle Mo, started selling ice cream and penny candy on June 5, 1958, and has been at it ever since. His store is set on the edge of the burg, a comfy residential chunk of Trenton where houses and minds are proud to be narrow and hearts are generously wide open. I was born and raised in the burg and while my current apartment is approximately a mile outside the burg boundary I’m still tethered by an invisible umbilical. I’ve been hacking away at the damn thing for years but have never been able to completely sever it.

Moses Bedemier is a solid burg citizen. Over time, Mo and his linoleum have aged, so that both have some pieces chipped at the corners now, and the original colors have blurred from thirty-odd years under fluorescent lights. The yellow brick facade and overhead sheet metal sign advertising the store are dated and weatherbeaten. The chrome and Formica on the stools and countertop have lost their luster. And none of this matters, because in the burg Uncle Mo’s is as close as we come to a historic treasure.

And I, Stephanie Plum, 125 pounds, five feet, seven inches, brown-haired, blue-eyed bounty hunter at large, have just been assigned the task of hauling Uncle Mo’s revered ass off to jail.

“So what did he do?” I asked Vinnie. “Why was he arrested in the first place?”

“Got caught doing thirty-five in a twenty-five-mile-per-hour zone by Officer Picky…better known as Officer Benny Gaspick, fresh out of police academy and so wet behind the ears he doesn’t know enough to take Mo’s get-out-of-jail-free PBA card and forget the whole thing.”

“Bond isn’t required on a traffic ticket.”

Vinnie planted a pointy-toed patent leather shoe on the corner of his desk. Vinnie was a sexual lunatic, especially enamored with dark-skinned young men wearing nipple rings and pointy-breasted women who owned fourteenth-century torture tools. He was a bail bondsman, which meant he loaned people money to post the bond set by the court. The bond’s purpose was to make it economically unpleasant for the suspect to skip town. Once the bond was posted the incarcerated suspect was set free, enabling him to sleep in his own bed while awaiting trial. The price for using Vinnie’s service was fifteen percent of the bond and was nonrefundable no matter what the outcome of the charges. If the bailee failed to appear for his court appearance, the court kept Vinnie’s money. Not just the fifteen percent profit. The court kept the whole ball of wax, the entire bail bond amount. This never made Vinnie happy.

And that’s where I came in. I found the bailee, who was at that point officially a felon, and brought him back into the system. If I found the Failure to Appear, better known as an FTA, in a timely fashion, the court gave Vinnie his cash back. For this fugitive apprehension I received ten percent of the bond amount, and Vinnie was left with a five percent profit.

I’d originally taken the job out of desperation when I’d been laid off (through no fault of my own) as lingerie buyer for E. E. Martin. The alternative to unemployment had been overseeing the boxing machine at the tampon factory. A worthy task, but not something that got me orgasmic.

I wasn’t sure why I was still working for Vinnie. I suspected it had something to do with the title. Bounty hunter. It held a certain cachet. Even better, the job didn’t require panty hose.

Vinnie smiled his oily smile, enjoying the story he was telling me. “In his misplaced zeal to be Most Hated Cop of the Year, Gaspick delivers a little lecture to Mo on road safety, and while Gaspick is lecturing, Mo squirms in his seat, and Gaspick catches a glimpse of a forty-five stuck in Mo’s jacket pocket.”