There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up
forever. Joseph Morelli did this to me --- not forever, but
Morelli and I were both born and raised in a blue-collar chunk of
Trenton called the burg. Houses were attached and narrow. Yards
were small. Cars were American. The people were mostly Italian
descent, with enough Hungarians and Germans thrown into offset
inbreeding. It was a good place to buy calzone or play the numbers.
And. if you had to live in Trenton anyway, it was an okay place to
raise a family.
When I was a kid I didn't ordinarily play with Joseph Morelli. He
lived two blocks over and was two years older. "Stay away from
those Morelli boys," my mother had warned me. "They're wild. I hear
stories about the things they do to girls when they get them
"What kind of things?" I'd eagerly asked.
"You don't want to know," my mother had answered. "Terrible things.
Things that aren't nice."
From that point on, I viewed Joseph Morelli with a combination of
terror and prurient curiosity that bordered on awe. Two weeks
later, at the age of six, with quaking knees and a squishy stomach,
I followed Morelli into his father's garage on the promise of
learning a new game.
The Morelli garage hunkered detached and snubbed at teh edge of
their lot. It was a sorry affair, lit by a single shaft of light
filtering through a grime-coated window. Its air was stagnant,
smelling of corner must, discarded tires, and jugs of used motor
oil. Never destined to house the Morelli cars, the garage served
other purposes. Old man Morelli used the garage to take his belt to
his sons, his sons used the garage to take their hands to
themselves, and Joseph Morelli took me, Stephanie Plum, to the
garage to play train.
"What's the name of this game?" I'd asked Joseph Morelli.
"Choo-choo," he'd said, down on his hands and knees, crawling
between my legs, his head trapped under my short pink skirt.
"You're the tunnel, and I'm the train."
I suppose this tells you something about my personality. That I'm
not especially good at taking advice. Or that I was born with an
overload of curiosity. Or maybe it's about rebellion or boredom or
fate. At any rate, it was a one-shot deal and darn disappointing,
since I'd only gotten to be the tunnel, and I'd really wanted to be
Ten years later, Joe Morelli was still living two blocks over. He'd
grown up big and bad, with eyes like black fire one minute and
melt-in-your-mouth chocolate the next. He had an eagle tattooed on
his chest, a tight-assed, narrow-hipped swagger, and a reputation
for having fast hands and clever fingers.
My best friend, Mary Lou Molnar, said she heard Morelli had a
tongue like a lizard.
"Holy cow," I'd answered, "what's that supposed to mean?"
"Just don't let him get you alone or you'll find out. Once he gets
you alone...that's it. You're done for."
I hadn't seen much of Morelli since the train episode. I supposed
he'd enlarged his repertoire of sexual exploitations. I opened my
eyes wide and leaned closer to Mary Lou, hoping for the worst. "You
aren't taking about rape, are you?"
"I'm talking about lust! If he wants you, you're doomed. The guy is
Aside from being fingered at the age of six by you-know-who, I was
untouched. I was saving myself for marriage, or at least for
college. "I'm a virgin," I said, as if this was news. "I'm sure he
doesn't mess with virgins."
"He specializes in virgins! The brush of his fingertips turns
virgins into slobbering mush."
Two weeks later, Joe Morelli came into the bakery where I worked
every day after school, Tasty Pastry, on Hamilton. He bought a
chocolate-chip cannoli, told me he'd joined the navy, and charmed
the pants off of me four minutes after closing, on the floor of
Tasty Pastry, behind the case filled with chocolate eclairs.
The next time I saw him, I was three years older. I was on my way
to the mall, driving my father's Buick when I spotted Morelli
standing in front of Giovichinni"s Meat Market. I gunned the big
V-8 engine, jumped the curb, and clipped Morelli from behind,
bouncing him off the front right fender. I stopped the car and got
out to asses the damage. "Anything broken?"
He was sprawled on the pavement, looking up my skirt. "My
"Good," I said. Then I turned on my heel, got into the Buick, and
drove to the mall.
I attribute the incident to temporary insanity, and in my own
defense, I'd like to say I haven't run over anyone
Excerpted from ONE FOR THE MONEY © Copyright 1994 by Janet
Evanovich. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.
Inc. All rights reserved.