Morelli and I had done battle before with only short-lived victories on both sides. I suspected this would be another war, of sorts. And I figured I'd have to learn how to live with it. If I went head-on with Morelli, he could make my life as a bounty hunter difficult to impossible.
Not to say that I should be a total doormat. What was important was that I look like a doormat at appropriate moments. I decided this wasn't one of those moments and that my demeanor now should be angry and offended. This was an easy act to pull off, since it was true. I peeled out of the police lot, pretending to know where I was going when in fact I didn't. It was close to four, and I had no more stones to turn in the hunt for Mancuso, so I headed home, driving on autopilot, reviewing my progress.
I knew I should go see Spiro, but I couldn't muster a lot of joy over the project. I didn't share Grandma's enthusiasm for mortuaries. Actually, I thought death was just a bit creepy, and I thought Spiro was downright subterranean. Since I wasn't in all that good of a mood anyway, procrastination seemed like the way to go.
I parked behind my building and skipped the elevator in favor of the stairs since the morning's blueberry pancakes were still oozing over the top of my Levi's. I let myself into my apartment and almost stepped on an envelope that had been shoved under the door. It was a plain white business-size envelope with my name printed in silver paste-on letters. I opened the envelope, removed the single piece of white paper, and read the two-sentence message, which had also been formed from paste-ons.
"Take a vacation. It will be good for your health."
I didn't see any travel agency brochures stuck in the envelope, so I assumed this wasn't a cruise advertisement.
I considered the other option. Threat. Of course, if the threat was from Kenny, that meant he was still in Trenton. Even better, it meant I'd done something to get him worried. Beyond Kenny I couldn't imagine who would be threatening me. Maybe one of Kenny's friends. Maybe Morelli. Maybe my mother.
I said howdy to Rex, dumped my pocketbook and the envelope on the kitchen counter, and accessed my phone messages.
My cousin Kitty, who worked at the bank, called to say she was keeping her eye on Mancuso's account just like I'd asked, but there was no new activity.
My best friend since the day I was born, Mary Lou Molnar, who was now Mary Lou Stankovic, called to ask if I'd dropped off the face of the earth since she hadn't heard from me since God knows when.
And the last message was from Grandma Mazur.
"I hate these stupid machines," she said. "Always feel like a dang fool talking to nobody. I saw in the paper where there's gonna be a viewing for that gas station fellow tonight, and I could use a ride. Elsie Farnsworth said she'd take me, but I hate to go with her because she's got arthritis in her knees and sometimes her foot gets stuck on the gas pedal."
A viewing for Moogey Bues. That seemed worthwhile. I went across the hall to borrow the paper from Mr. Wolesky. Mr. Wolesky kept his TV going day and night, so it was always necessary to pound real loud on his door. Then he'd open it and tell you not to knock his door down. When he had a heart attack four years ago, he called the ambulance but refused to get wheeled out until after Jeopardy! was over.
Mr. Wolesky opened the door and glared out at me. "You don't have to knock the door down" he said. "I'm not deaf you know."
"I was wondering if I could borrow your paper."
"As long as you bring it right back. I need the TV section."
"I just wanted to check the viewings." I opened the paper to the obits and read down. Moogey Bues was at Stiva. Seven o'clock.
I thanked Mr. Wolesky and returned his paper.
I called Grandma and told her I'd pick her up at seven. I declined my mother's dinner invitation, promised her I wouldn't wear jeans to the viewing, disconnected, and, doing pancake damage control searched my refrigerator for fat-free food.
I was plowing through a salad when the phone rang.
"Yo!" Ranger said. "Bet you're eating salad for supper."
I stuck my tongue out and crossed my eyes at the handset. "You have anything to tell me about Mancuso?"
"Mancuso don't live here. He don't visit here. He don't do business here."
"Just out of morbid curiosity, if you were going to look for twenty-four missing caskets, where would you start?"
"Are these caskets empty or full?"
Oh shit, I'd forgotten to ask. I squeezed my eyes closed. Please God, let them be empty.
I hung up and dialed Eddie Gazarra.
"It's your nickel," Gazarra said.
"I want to know what Joe Morelli's working on."
"Good luck. Half the time Morelli's captain doesn't know what Morelli's working on."
"I know, but you hear things."
Heavy sigh. "I'll see what I can dig up." Morelli was vice, which meant he was in a different building, in a different part of Trenton than Eddie. Vice did a lot of work with DEA and Customs and kept pretty closemouthed about their projects. Still, there was bar talk and clerical gossip and talk among spouses.
I shucked my Levi's and did the panty hose-business suit bit. I slid my feet into heels, fluffed my hair up with some gel and hairspray, and swiped at my lashes with mascara. I stepped back and took a look. Not bad, but I didn't think Sharon Stone would drive off a bridge in a jealous rage.
"Look at that skirt," my mother said when she opened the door to me. "It's no wonder we have so much crime today what with these short skirts. How can you sit in a skirt like that? Everyone can see every thing."
"It's two inches above my knee. It's not that short." "I haven't got all day to stand here talking about skirts;" Grandma Mazur said. "I got to get to the funeral parlor. I gotta see how they laid this guy out. I hope they didn't smooth over those bullet holes too good."
"Don't get your hopes up," I told Grandma Mazur. "I think this will be closed coffin." Not only was Moogey shot, but he was also autopsied. I figured it would take all the king's horses and all the king's men to put Moogey Bues back together again.
"Closed coffin! Well, that would be darn disappointing. Word gets out that Stiva is having closed coffins and his attendance'll drop like a rock." She buttoned a cardigan sweater over her dress and tucked her pocketbook under her arm. "Didn't say anything in the paper about closed coffins."
"Come back after," my mother said. "I made chocolate pudding."
"You sure you don't want to go?" Grandma Mazur asked my mother.
"I didn't know Moogey Bues" my mother told her. "I've got better things to do than to go to a viewing of some perfect stranger."
"I wouldn't go either," Grandma Mazur said, "but I'm helping Stephanie with this here manhunt. Maybe Kenny Mancuso will show up, and Stephanie will need some extra muscle. I was watching television, and I saw how you stick your fingers in a person's eyes to slow them down."
"She's your responsibility," my mother said to me. "She sticks her finger in anybody's eye I'm holding you accountable."
Excerpted from TWO FOR THE DOUGH © Copyright 1996 by Janet Evanovich. Reprinted with permission by Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.