One for the Money, p.24Part #1 of Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
"Yeah. Big motherfucking Jamaican posse. Greedy, nasty beggars.
“So I'm going down the road to whack Louis, I see you sitting there, and I get a plan. The plan is that I execute Sal and Louis Striker style. Then I leave some high-quality H spilled in the boat and on the barrel so the cops figure out the operation and shut it down. Now no one's left to talk about me behind my back, and I'm too risky for Striker to use for a while. And the beauty of it is that Sal and Louis get pinned on Ramirez, thanks to you. I'm sure when you made your statement to the cops you told them all about Ramirez buzzing by you at the gas station.”
“I still don't understand why you're here, holding me at gunpoint.”
“I can't take a chance on Ramirez talking to the cops and maybe they come to the conclusion he's really as dumb as he looks. Or maybe he tells them I borrowed his car, and they believe him. So I'm going to have you put a bullet in him. Then there's no Benito, no Sal, no Louis.”
“What about Stephanie?”
“There's not going to be any Stephanie, either.” He had the phone base shoved into his slacks. He plugged it into my bedroom wall jack and dialed. “My man,” he said when the connection was made. “I've got a girl here wants attention.”
Something was said at the other end.
“Stephanie Plum,” Jimmy answered. “She's at home, waiting for you. And Benito, make sure no one sees you. Maybe you better come up the fire escape.”
The conversation was severed and the phone discarded.
“Is this what happened to Carmen?” I asked.
“Christ, Carmen was a mercy killing. I don't know how she ever made it home. By the time we heard about it she'd already called Morelli.”
He leaned back against the wall. “Now we wait.”
“What happens when Ramirez gets here?”
“I turn my back while he does his thing, then I shoot him with your gun. By the time the police show up, you'll both have bled to death, and there'll be no more loose ends.”
He was deadly serious. He was going to watch while Ramirez raped and tortured me, and then he was going to make sure I was mortally injured.
The room swam in front of me. My legs wobbled, and I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed. I dropped my head between my knees and waited for the fog to clear. A vision of Lula's battered body flashed into my mind, feeding my terror.
The dizziness faded, but my heart pounded hard enough to rock my body. Take a chance, I thought. Do something! Don't just sit here and wait for Ramirez.
“You okay?” Alpha said to me. “You don't look good.”
I kept my head down. “I'm going to be sick.”
“You need to go to the can?”
My head was still between my knees. I shook it, no. “Just give me a minute to catch my breath.”
Nearby, Rex ran in his cage. I couldn't bear to look over, knowing it might be the last time I'd see him. Funny how a person can get so attached to a little creature like that. A lump formed in my throat at the thought of Rex being orphaned, and the message came back to me. Do something! Do something!
I said a short prayer, gritted my teeth, and bucked forward, lunging at Alpha, catching him off guard, nailing him in the gut with a head butt.
Alpha let out a woof! of air, and the gun discharged over my head, shattering my window. If I'd had any cool at all I would have followed up with a good hard kick to the crotch, but I was operating on thoughtless energy, with adrenaline pumping into my system at warp speed. I was in fight-or-flight mode, and flight was the hands-down choice.
I scrambled away from him, through the open bedroom door, into the living room. I was almost to the front hall when I heard another crack from his gun, and an electric stab of heat shot down my left leg. I yelped in pain and surprise, whirling off balance, into the kitchen. I grabbed my shoulder bag off the counter with two hands and searched for my .38. Alpha moved into the kitchen doorway. He aimed his gun and steadied it. “Sorry,” he said. “There's no other way.”
My leg was on fire and my heart was banging in my chest. My nose was running and tears blurred my vision. I had both hands on the little Smith and Wesson, still in my pocketbook. I blinked the tears away and fired.
Stephanie Plum 1 - One for the Money
RAIN PATTERED GENTLY ON MY LIVING ROOM window, competing with the sound of Rex running in his wheel. It had been four days since I'd been shot, and the pain was down to an annoying but manageable ache.
The mental healing would be slower. I still had night terrors, still found it difficult to be alone in my apartment. After shooting Jimmy Alpha, I'd crawled to the phone and called the police before I'd passed out. They'd arrived in time to catch Ramirez halfway up my fire escape. Then they'd trundled him off to jail and me off to the hospital. Fortunately, I'd fared better than Alpha. He was dead. I was alive.
Ten thousand dollars had been deposited in my bank account. Not a cent of it had been spent yet. I was slowed down by seventeen stitches in my butt. When the stitches came out I figured I'd do something irresponsible like fly to Martinique for the weekend. Or maybe I'd get a tattoo or dye my hair red.
I jumped at the sound of someone knocking on my door. It was almost seven p.m., and I wasn't expecting company. I cautiously made my way to the foyer and looked out the peephole. I gasped at the sight of Joe Morelli in sports coat and jeans, clean shaven, hair freshly trimmed. He stared directly at the peephole. His smile was smug. He knew I was looking at him, wondering if it would be wise to open the door. He waved, and I was reminded of a time two weeks earlier when our positions had been reversed.
I unlocked the two dead bolts but left the chain in place. I cracked the door. “Yes?”
“Take the chain off,” Morelli said.
“Because I brought you a pizza, and if I tip it on end to give it to you the cheese will slide off.”
“Is it a Pino's pizza?”
“Of course it's a Pino's pizza.”
I shifted my weight to ease my left leg. “Why are you bringing me pizza?”
“I don't know. I just felt like it. Are you going to open the door or what?”
“I haven't decided.”
This brought a slow, evil smile. “Are you afraid of me?”
“Uh . . . yes.”
The smile stayed fixed in place. “You should be. You locked me in a refrigerator truck with three dead people. Sooner or later, I'm going to get you for it.”
“But not tonight?”
“No,” he said. “Not tonight.”
I closed the door, slid the chain free, and opened the door to him.
He put the white pizza box and a six-pack on the kitchen counter and turned to me. “Looks like you're walking a little slow. How are you feeling?”
“Okay. Fortunately, Alpha's bullet tore through some fat and did most of its damage to the wall in the hallway.”
His smile had faded. “How are you really feeling?”
I'm not sure what it is about Morelli, but he never fails to strip my defenses. Even when I'm on guard, being watchful, Morelli can piss me off, turn me on, make me question my judgment, and, in general, provoke inconvenient emotions. Concern pinched the corners of his eyes, and there was a seriousness to his mouth that belied the casual tone of his question.
I bit down hard on my lip, but the tears came anyway, silently spilling down my cheeks.
Morelli gathered me into his arms and held me close He rested his cheek against the top of my head and pressed a kiss into my hair.
We stood like that for a long time, and if it hadn't been for the pain in my butt I might have fallen asleep, finally comforted and at peace, feeling safe in Morelli's arms.
“If I ask you a serious question,” Morelli murmured against my ear, “will you give me an honest answer?”
“Do you remember that time in my father's garage?”
“And when we went at it in the bakery . . .”
“Why did you do it? Are my powers of persuasion really that strong?”
I tipped my head back to look at him. “I suspect it had more to do with curiosity and rebellion on my part.” Not to mention hormones on the rampage.
“So you're willing to share some of the responsibility?”
The smile had returned to his mouth. “And, if I made love to you here in the kitchen . . . how much of the blame would you be willing to assume?”
“Jesus, Morelli, I've got seventeen stitches in my ass!”
He sighed. “Do you think we could be friends after all these years?”
This from the person who had tossed my keys into a Dumpster. “I suppose it's possible. We wouldn't have to sign a pact and seal it in blood, would we?”
“No, but we could belch over beer.”
“My kind of contract.”
“Good. Now that we have that settled, there's a ballgame I'd like to see, and you have my television.”
“Men always have ulterior motives,” I said, carting the pizza into the living room.
Morelli followed with the beer. “How do you manage this sitting business?”
“I have a rubber doughnut. If you make any cracks about it, I'll gas you.”
He shrugged out of his jacket and shoulder holster, hung them on the doorknob to my bedroom door, buzzed the TV on, and searched for his channel. “I got some reports for you,” he said. “Are you up to it?”
“A half hour ago I might have said no, but now that I have this pizza I'm up to anything.”
“It's not the pizza, darlin'. It's my masculine presence.”
I raised an eyebrow.
Morelli ignored the eyebrow. “First of all, the medical examiner said you were due for the Robin Hood sharpshooter award. You got Alpha with five rounds to the heart, all within an inch of each other. Pretty amazing, considering you also shot the shit out of your pocketbook.”
We both chugged some beer, since neither of us was sure yet how we felt about me killing a man. Pride seemed out of place. Sorrow didn't quite fit. There was definitely regret.
“Do you think it could have ended any other way?” I asked.
“No.” Morelli said. “He would have killed you if you hadn't killed him first.”
This was true. Jimmy Alpha would have killed me. There was no doubt in my mind.
Morelli leaned forward to see the pitch. Howard Barker struck out. “Shit,” Morelli said. He turned his attention back to me. “Now for the good part. I had a recorder attached to the utility pole on the far side of your parking lot. I was using it for back-up when I wasn't around. I could check it at the end of the day and catch up if I'd missed anything. The damn thing was still working when Jimmy dropped in on you. Recorded the whole conversation, the shooting and everything, clear as a bell.”
“Sometimes I'm so slick I scare myself,” Morelli said.
“Slick enough not to be locked up in jail.”
He selected a piece of pizza, losing some green pepper and onion slices in the process, scooping them back on with his fingers. “I've been cleared of all charges and reinstated in the department, pay retroactive. The gun was in the barrel with Carmen. It had been refrigerated all this time, so the prints were clear, and forensics found traces of blood on it. DNA hasn't come back yet, but preliminary lab tests suggest the blood is Ziggy's, proving Ziggy was armed when I shot him. Apparently, the gun jammed when Ziggy fired at me, just as I'd suspected. When Ziggy hit the floor, the gun fell out of his hand, and Louis picked it up and took it with him. Then Louis must have decided to get rid of it.”
I took a deep breath and asked the question that had been uppermost in my mind for the last three days. “What about Ramirez?”
“Ramirez is being held without bail pending psychiatric evaluation. Now that Alpha is out of the picture, several very creditable women have come forward to testify against Ramirez.”
The sense of relief was almost painful.
“What are your plans?” Morelli asked. “You going to keep working for Vinnie?”
“I'm not sure.” I ate some pizza. “Probably,” I said. “Almost definitely probably.”
“Just to clear the air,” Morelli said. “I'm sorry I wrote that poem about you on the stadium wall when we were in high school.”
I felt my heart stutter. “On the stadium wall?”
Color rose to Morelli's cheekbones. “I thought you knew.”
“I knew about Mario's Sub Shop!”
“Are you telling me you wrote a poem about me on the stadium wall? A poem detailing what transpired behind the éclair case?”
“Would it help any if I told you the poem was flattering?”
I wanted to smack him, but he was on his feet and moving before I could get out of my rubber tube.
“It was years ago,” he said, dancing away from me. “Shit, Stephanie, it's unattractive to hold a grudge.”
“You are scum, Morelli. Scum.”
“Probably,” Morelli said, “but I give good . . . pizza.”
Table of Contents
Stephanie Plum 1 - One for the Money
Janet Evanovich, One for the Money
(Series: Stephanie Plum # 1)
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich / Mystery & Detective / Humor / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes