Home > Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)(4)

Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)(4)
Janet Evanovich

“They’re related?”

“Cousins.”

“And I guess they don’t like each other.”

“Not even a little. Lately bad things have been happening to Harry Bogart. Salmonella in the double chocolate. A bomb hoax that shut down production for an entire day. One of the freezers was down for the night, and literally a ton of ice cream melted. Bogart is sure it’s Mo Morris out to ruin him, but he can’t prove anything.”

“So he’s hired you.”

“His factory is old-school. No security cameras. No instant alerts when equipment goes down. Locks that can be opened with a nail file. I guess he’s never needed more. It’s not like he’s doing nuclear research.”

“You’re fixing all that.”

“Yes, but it takes time. It’s a big job. He needs new wiring. He has to approve the system design. I’d like to give him a couple men on foot patrol until we get everything up and running, but he refuses. He says ice cream is happiness and comfort, and his customers would turn to birthday cake and mac and cheese if they thought his ice cream was under siege.”

“He sounds like a nice man.”

“He’s ruthless and miserly. So far I haven’t seen evidence of nice.”

“He makes good ice cream.”

Ranger nodded. “So I’ve been told.”

“Do you think the dead guy could be Harry Bogart?”

“No. Wrong body type. Bogart is a big man.”

“Eats a lot of ice cream?”

“Eats a lot of everything.” Ranger turned into my parking lot. “I need someone to go inside the two ice cream factories and look around. Do you have time to moonlight for me?”

“What would I do?”

“I’d put you on the line to start. Most of the line workers are women, so you would blend in. All you’d have to do is keep your ears open and look around. I’m told everyone gets to take a pint of ice cream home with them at the end of the shift in Mo Morris’s plant.”

“Hard to pass that up.”

Ranger stopped in front of my apartment building’s back door. I made a move to get out of the car, and he pulled me to him and kissed me. The kiss was light and lingering, sending a clear message of checked passion. He released me and relaxed back into his seat.

“I’ll make the arrangements for you to start work at Bogart’s plant first and be back in touch,” Ranger said.

It took me a couple beats to get myself together. “Okay then,” I said. “Be careful driving home.”

“Babe,” Ranger said.

Morelli was on my couch watching television when I walked in. His big mostly golden retriever, Bob, was on the couch with him. There was a takeout pizza box on the coffee table.

Morelli looked up at me and grinned. “Have a good night?”

“Eddie Gazarra called you, didn’t he?”

“Cupcake, everyone called me, including your mother and the Trenton Times.”

“News travels fast.”

“Not every day someone gets dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts. Usually people in Trenton just get stabbed and shot.”

I squeezed between Morelli and Bob, flipped the lid up on the pizza box, and took a slice. “I thought you might have gotten the call on this one.”

“I just came off a double shift, so I was low in the rotation. Butch Zajak pulled it.”

“I can’t stop thinking about the dead man.”

“Yeah, me too. Eddie said he was dressed up like a Bogart Bar. I don’t suppose you have any.”

“No, but the freezer truck was filled with cartons of them. It was like the man in the truck was part of the Bogart Bar run.”

“All this talk about Bogart Bars is making me feel romantic,” Morelli said.

Here’s the deal with Morelli. Everything makes him feel romantic.

He wrapped an arm around me and nibbled at my neck. “I’m thinking after the pizza what I need is dessert. Like a Bogart Bar.”

“I don’t have good feelings about Bogart Bars right now.”

“Okay, how about a hot fudge sundae?”

“I guess that would be okay.”

“Do you have ice cream? Chocolate sauce?” Morelli asked.

“No.”

“Some of that whipped cream in a can?”

“No.”

“No problem. I can use my imagination.”

I was warming to the idea.

“And then you know what comes next,” Morelli said.

“What?”

“I get to be the sundae.”

Damn! I knew there’d be a catch.

THREE

MORELLI IS ALWAYS up at the crack of dawn on a workday. When he’s in his own house he usually has breakfast at home. When he’s in my apartment he more often than not grabs coffee and a breakfast sandwich on the road. I’m not exactly a domestic goddess. I keep the apartment clean and I manage to have the basic necessities on hand, like peanut butter, olives, and Froot Loops for me, and green food nuggets for my hamster, Rex. Rex lives in an aquarium on my kitchen counter. He’s the perfect roommate. He sleeps in a soup can, and he never complains.

The apartment was quiet when I opened my eyes. No warm body next to me. I live on the second floor of a tired three-story apartment building on the edge of Trenton. My windows face the parking lot at the back of the building, and the sound of car doors slamming and people talking drifted up to my bedroom. The day had started without me. Just as well. Memories of the night before were mixed. Some were good and some were awful.

An hour later I parked my ten-year-old Jeep Cherokee at the curb in front of the bail bonds office on Hamilton Avenue. I’d gotten the car on the cheap at Big Boomer’s Car Lot. It had survived a flood somewhere in the Midwest and was perfect if you didn’t count the electrical system and the slight scent of mold coming from the backseat.

Connie Rosolli, the office manager and guard dog, was at her desk. Connie is a couple years older than me. My ancestry is half Italian and half Hungarian, and hers is full-on Italian. Her Uncle Lou is mob and a good guy to know if you want someone whacked. Her hair is teased, her upper lip is waxed, her bottom drawer has a loaded Glock in it. She was wearing a scoop neck sweater that showed a lot of cleavage and a short black skirt that also showed a lot of stuff that was pretty much hidden under her desk. Her nail polish was a glossy mahogany that perfectly matched Lula’s skin tone.

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