...Mo had bound the package to the roof of the car by lacing what looked like clothesline through the windows. He changed lanes and the lumpy object swung side to side under the ropes.
"He don't watch out, he's gonna lose that sucker," Lula said. She beeped her horn at him. "Pull over, Peckernose!" She gave the Firebird some gas and tapped Mo's rear bumper.
I was braced against the dash, and began chanting under my breath. Holy Mary, mother of God...please don't let me die on Route 1 with my hair looking like this.
Lula gave Mo's bumper another whack. The impact snapped my head and caused Mo to fishtail out of control. He swerved in front of us, a cord snapped loose and a garbage bag whipped off and sailed over our car.
Lula moved in one last time, but before she could make contact the second cord broke, another garbage bag flew away and a body catapulted off Mo's roof and onto the hood of Lula's Firebird, landing with a loud WUMP!
"EEEEEEEEEEH!" Lula and I screamed in unison.
The body bounced once on the hood, and then smacked into the windshield and stuck like a squashed bug, staring at us, mouth agape, eyes unseeing.
"I got a body stuck to my windshield!" Lula yelled. "I can't drive like this! I can't get my wipers to work. How am I supposed to drive with a dead guy on my wipers?"
The car rocked from lane to lane; the body vaulted off the hood, did a half flip and landed faceup at the side of the road. Lula stomped on the brake and skidded to a stop on the shoulder. We sat there for a moment, hands to our hearts, unable to talk. We turned and looked out the back window.
"Dang," Lula said.
I thought that summed it up.
We looked at each other and did a double grimmace. Lula put the Firebird in reverse and cautiously inched back, staying to the shoulder, out of the traffic lane. She stopped and parked a couple feet from the body. We got out of the car and crept closer.
"At least he's got his clothes on," Lula said.
"Is it Harp?"
"That would be my guess. Hard to tell with that big hole where his nose used to be."
The drizzle had turned to a driving rain. I pushed wet hair out of my eyes and blinked at Lula. "We should call the police."
"Yeah," Lula said. "That's a good idea. You call the police, and I'll cover the body. I got a blanket in the back."
I ran back to the car and retrieved my pocketbook. I rummaged around some, found my cell phone, flipped it open and punched the on button. A dim light flashed a low battery message and cut off.
"No juice," I said to Lula. "I must have left the phone on last night. We'll have to flag someone down."
A dozen cars zoomed past us, spraying water.
"Plan two?" Lula asked.
"We drive to the nearest exit and call the police."
"You gonna leave the body all by itself?"
"I suppose one of us should stay."
"That would be you," Lula said.
An eighteen-wheeler roared by, almost sideswiping us.
"Ditch staying," I told her.
Lula cut her eyes back to Harp. "We could take him with us. We could ram him into the trunk. And then we could drive him to a funeral parlor or something. You know, do a drop-off."
"That would be altering the scene of a crime."
"Altering, hell. This dead motherf___ fell out of the sky onto the hood of my car! And anyway, he could get run over by a truck if he stays here."
She had a point. Elliot Harp had been in transit when he bounced off the Firebird. And he wouldn't look good with tire tracks across his chest.
"Okay," I said. "We'll take him with us."
We looked down at Elliot. Both of us swallowing hard.
"Guess you should put him in the trunk," Lula said.
"You don't expect me to do it, do you? I'm not touching no dead man. I've still got the creeps from Leroy Watkins."
"He's big. I can't get him in the trunk by myself."
"This whole thing is giving me the runs," Lula said. "I vote we pretend this never happened, and we get our butts out of here."
"It won't be so bad," I said to her, making an effort at convincing myself. "How about your blanket? We could wrap him in the blanket. Then we could pick him up without actually touching him."
"I suppose that would be all right," Lula said. "We could give it a try."
I spread the blanket on the ground beside Elliot Harp, took a deep breath, hooked my fingers around his belt and rolled him onto the blanket. I jumped back, squeezed my eyes closed tight and exhaled. No matter how much violent death I saw, i would never get used to it.
"I'm gonna definitely have the runs, Lula said. "I can feel it coming on."
"Forget about the runs and help me with this body!"
Lula grabbed hold of the head of the blanket, and I grabbed hold of the foot end. Harp had full rigor and wouldn't bend, so we put him in the trunk headfirst with his legs sticking out. We carefully closed the lid on Harp's knees and secured the lid with a piece of rope Lula had in her trunk.
"Hold on," Lula said, pulling a red flowered scarf from her coat pocket, tying the scarf on Harp's foot like a flag. "Don't want to get a ticket. I hear the police are real picky about having things sticking out of your trunk."
Especially dead guys.
Excerpted from THREE TO GET DEADLY © Copyright 2001 by Janet Evanovich. Reprinted with permission by St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.