Plum Spooky

By: Janet Evanovich

ONE





Sometimes you get up in the morning and you know it’s going to be one of those days. No toothpaste left in the tube, no toilet paper on the cardboard roll, hot water cuts out halfway through your shower, and someone’s left a monkey on your doorstep.

My name is Stephanie Plum, and I’m a bail bonds enforcement agent for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. I live in a one-bedroom, one-bath, unremarkable apartment in a three-story brick box of a building on the outskirts of Trenton, New Jersey. Usually I live alone with my hamster, Rex, but at eight-thirty this morning, my roommate list was enlarged to include Carl the Monkey. I opened my door to go to work, and there he was. Small brown monkey with long, curled tail, creepy little monkey fingers and toes, crazy, bright monkey eyes, and he was on a leash hooked to my doorknob. A note was attached to his collar.



HI! REMEMBER ME? I’M CARL AND I BELONG TO SUSAN STITCH. SUSAN IS ON HER HONEYMOON AND SHE KNOWS YOU’LL TAKE GOOD CARE OF ME UNTIL SHE RETURNS.





First, let me say that I’ve never wanted a monkey. Second, I barely know Susan Stitch. Third, what the heck am I supposed to do with the little bugger?

Twenty minutes later, I parked my Jeep Wrangler in front of the bonds office on Hamilton Avenue. At one time, the Wrangler had been red, but it had seen many lives before it fell into my hands, and now it was far from primo and the color was motley.

Carl followed me out of the car and into the office, hugging my pants leg like a two-year-old. Connie Rosolli, the office manager, peered around her computer. Connie had a lot of big Jersey hair, a freshly waxed upper lip, and breasts no amount of money could buy.

Lula stopped her filing and stood hands on hips. “That better not be what I think it is,” Lula said, eyeballing Carl. “I hate monkeys. You know I hate monkeys.”

“It’s Carl,” I told her. “Remember when we busted Susan Stitch for failing to appear? And remember her monkey, Carl?”

“Yeah?”

“Here he is.”

“What are you doing with him?”

“He was attached to my doorknob with a note. Susan went on a honeymoon and left him with me.”

“She got a lot of nerve,” Lula said. “Where’s he go to the bathroom? You ever think of that?”

I looked down at Carl. “Well?”

Carl blinked and shrugged. He looked at Lula and Connie, curled his lips back, and gave them a gummy monkey smile.

“I don’t like the way he’s lookin’ at me,” Lula said. “It’s creepy. What kind of monkey you got here anyway?”

Lula is a former ’ho, and she’s only moderately altered her wardrobe to suit her new job. Lula somehow manages to perform the miracle of squeezing her plus-size body into petite-size clothes. Her hair was blond this week, her skin was brown as always, her spandex tube dress was poison green, and her shoes were four-inch, spike-heeled, faux leopard Via Spigas. It came as no surprise that the monkey was staring at Lula. Everyone stared at Lula.

I didn’t command that much attention in my jeans, girl-cut red T-shirt, gray sweatshirt, and inadequate swipe of lash-lengthening mascara. Not only did I feel like a bran muffin in a bakery case filled with eclairs, I was also the only one not packing a gun. My eyes are blue, my hair is brown, and my favorite word is cake. I was married for ten minutes in another life, and I’m not inclined to repeat the mistake anytime soon. There are a couple men in my life who tempt me . . . just not with marriage.

One of those tempting men is Joe Morelli. He’s a Trenton cop with bedroom eyes, and bedroom hands, and everything else you’d want to find in your bedroom is top of the line. He’s been my off-again, on-again boyfriend for as long as I can remember, and last night he was on-again.

The second guy in my life is Carlos Manoso, aka Ranger. Ranger’s been my mentor, my employer, my guardian angel, and he’s gotten as intimate with me as a man can get, but Ranger has never totally qualified as a boyfriend. Boyfriend might suggest an occasional date, and I can’t see Ranger going there. Ranger is the sort of guy who slips uninvited into a girl’s dreams and desires and refuses to leave.

“What’s happening with Martin Munch?” Connie asked me. “Vinnie’s in a rant over him. Munch is a big-ticket bond. If you don’t drag his ass into court by the end of the month, our bottom line won’t be good.”