Read 20 Takedown Twenty Online

Authors: Janet Evanovich

20 Takedown Twenty (7 page)

I stared down at him in complete disbelief.

“Hey!” I said, nudging him with my toe, not getting a response.

I took a closer look to make sure he was breathing. I felt for a pulse.

“Ice cream,” he murmured. “Chocolate.”

The skinny guy was coming around. He was drooling, his eyes were open, and his fingers were twitching. I didn’t want to zap him again, and I didn’t have a second set of cuffs, so I took the cuffs off Sunny and used them to cuff one of the skinny guy’s hands to the safe.

I dragged Sunny into the back stairwell, but I wasn’t going to get him through the window or down the stairs without some help. I leaned out the window to yell for Lula and saw her at the end of the street, running after the giraffe. I dialed her cellphone and was told to leave a message. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Stay calm, I told myself. Murdering Lula wouldn’t solve anything.

I was going to have to try to get Sunny down the inside staircase. I grabbed him under his armpits and backed my way down. I reached the second-floor landing and heard gunshots coming from the floor above me. Probably the skinny guy trying to get someone’s attention. I’d kicked his gun out of reach, but I hadn’t searched him.

Sunny opened his eyes. “Mom?”

“You bet,” I said. “Don’t worry. I’m going to take care of you.”

I dragged him across the landing to the edge of the stairs. I stepped back, lost my balance, and slid the rest of the way on
my back with Sunny on top of me. I shoved him off and lay there for a couple beats, trying to catch my breath, thinking the whole falling-down-stairs thing was getting old. In fact, I thought, I might not even be liking
of my job all that much. I heard men thundering down the stairs from the third-floor landing, and Sunny turned his head and focused on me.

Ignore the pain
, I thought.
Get up and run!

I had just hit Freeman Street when Sunny’s goons burst out the door and spilled into the alley. I rounded the corner and saw Lula standing by her Firebird on Fifteenth.

“Hey,” Lula called to me. “I saw Kevin!”

“Get in!” I yelled. “They’re after me.”

I reached the Firebird, grabbed at the door, and hurled myself into the car. “Go!” I told her.

Lula took off as a bullet zinged past us and shattered her side mirror.

“What the heck is the matter with those people?” she said, stomping on the gas pedal. “What did you do to get them so mad? Honestly, you have no way with people. And who’s gonna pay for my mirror? Do you know which one of those morons did this?”

I slouched in my seat and closed my eyes. “Remember how you were going to be there in a flash to help me?”

“Yeah, but then Kevin galloped up. He stopped right in front of me and looked at me. He’s got big brown eyes and movie star eyelashes that are about a foot long. And he talked to me and told me he appreciated that I was his friend.”

“He talked to you?”

“It was one of them telepathic conversations.” Lula looked at me. “You don’t look good. You got a hole tore in your jeans, and your knee is bleeding. What happened to you?”

“I fell down the stairs.”

“You gotta stop doing that,” Lula said.

“I’m thinking about getting a new job.”

“What would you do?”

“That’s the problem.”

Truth is, I was a college graduate with no skills. And after a bunch of years spent working as a bounty hunter I feared I was no longer especially smart.

“Where are we going now?” Lula asked.

“St. Francis Hospital. I think I broke my finger.”

Two hours later Lula and I straggled into the bonds office. The middle finger on my right hand was in a splint and taped to my index finger.

“What happened?” Connie wanted to know.

“Broke my finger,” I told her. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“She fell down the stairs,” Lula said. “Again.”

“You ran off and left me,” I said.

“Kevin came right up to me,” Lula said to Connie. “I swear I was just inches from him. I was standing in the alley waiting for Stephanie, and I was checking my text messages, and next thing I see Kevin has sneaked up and is looking down at me.
And he’s a lot bigger when he’s that close. You’d get a crick in your neck from looking up at him.”

“I don’t understand how a giraffe could be running loose in that neighborhood,” Connie said. “At the very least you’d think someone would have reported it to animal control. How is it eating? Where is it sleeping?”

“I don’t know where it’s sleeping, but there’s not a lot of leaves left on any of the trees for about a four-block chunk of real estate,” Lula said.

“So where did it come from?” Connie asked. “It’s not like a giraffe just wanders into town. You’d see him if he was walking down Route 1. People would notice. He’d be on the evening news.”

“Maybe Bella sent the giraffe as a distraction and it’s a magic giraffe that only me and Stephanie can see,” Lula said. “Probably Bella was the one who broke Stephanie’s finger, too.”

“Something to think about,” Connie said.

I hiked my messenger bag up onto my shoulder. “The only thing I’m thinking about is lunch. I’m going to Giovichinni’s.”

“I’ll go with you,” Lula said. “I could use some of their chicken salad.”

We walked the short distance and went straight to the deli counter in the back of the store. I ordered a turkey club, and Lula ordered a large container of chicken salad, a large container of potato salad, a medium container of coleslaw, and a large container of macaroni salad.

“That’s a lot of food,” I said to her. “I thought you were trying to lose weight?”

“Yeah, but I don’t have bread like you. The bread goes right to your belly. And I’m having a diet soda. Plus I got three heads of lettuce for Kevin.”

We were at the checkout with Loretta Giovichinni at the register when she looked past us, went pale, and made the sign of the cross.

“Holy Mother,” Loretta whispered.

I turned and saw Bella heading in my direction. Her eyes were small and glittery, and her narrow lips were pressed tight together. Lula threw a handful of money at Loretta and ran out of the store with her food. Loretta ignored the money and ducked down behind the counter.

“Shame to you,” Bella said to me. “I heard what you do to Sunny. You knock him out and throw him down the stairs. You go to hell. I make sure of it. I give you the eye to hell.”

I heard Loretta suck in air behind the counter, and somewhere farther back in the store something clattered to the floor.

“That seems extreme,” I said to Bella. “I was only trying to do my job, and I didn’t throw him down the stairs. He fell down the stairs on top of me.”

“Liar, liar, pants on fire,” Bella said.

She put her finger to her eye, pulled down her lower lid, and glared at me. “Ha!” she said. She turned on her heel and walked, head held high, out the door.

Loretta popped up from behind the counter. She looked
down at my turkey club and waved me through. “It’s on the house if you promise not to come back. That woman scares the crap out of me.”

“Could be worse,” I said. “At least I know the consequences of the curse.”

“You’re going to hell,” Loretta said. “How could it be worse?”


LULA POLISHED OFF the last of her macaroni salad and chucked her empty food containers into the trash.

“I’m all refreshed now,” she said. “I’m ready to go kick some more butt. What should we do next? You want to pick up the Sunny hunt?”

“No. I’m going to table Sunny until tonight.”

I was starting to get a grip on Sunny’s schedule. He spent the night with Rita and in the morning he went to the club to check on the previous night’s business. I thought my best shot at Sunny was to break in on him when he was sleeping. I just had to figure out how to get around the
home invasion shooting me dead

“Then how about we drive over so I can give Kevin his lettuce?” Lula said.

“I was thinking we should look for Ziggy Radiewski,” I told her. “He’s probably in the bar next to the hardware store on State Street. That’s his usual afternoon hangout.”

“Yeah, but I got this lettuce for Kevin, and I don’t want it to wilt.”

“I think we should let things chill out in that neighborhood. Put Kevin’s lettuce in the fridge and we’ll take it over tomorrow.”

“That don’t work for me,” Lula said.

“How about this, you can risk your life by going back to Sunny’s turf to feed Kevin, and I’ll pick up Ziggy.”

“That don’t work either,” Lula said. “You shouldn’t be driving with your injury.”

I looked at my finger. “It’s not a big deal.”

“It’s gonna be a big deal when everyone thinks you’re flippin’ them the bird and you get to be a victim of road rage,” Lula said. “You’re lucky you don’t get shot driving with that finger sticking up like that. I’ll make a deal. We do a real fast drive down Fifteenth Street, I leave Kevin’s lettuce sitting out for him, and then we go snatch Ziggy.”

Twenty minutes later Lula and I turned onto Fifteenth Street. She drove four blocks and tossed the lettuce onto the sidewalk at the corner of Fifteenth and Freeman.

“I got a plan,” Lula said. “The lettuce is bait. I figure if I keep leaving lettuce here Kevin’s gonna hang around the lettuce, and then I can trap him. I haven’t got all the details worked out yet, but I’m thinking I could use a big net.”


“Yeah, I’d need to get up real high and drop it over him. Like
from a helicopter. Or you know what would be really good? Spider-Man. You know how he shoots those webs out from his fingers? He could wrap webs around Kevin.”

“So all you have to do is get in touch with Spider-Man?”

“It’s a shame he don’t live here, right?”

“It’s a shame he doesn’t live

“Ranger’s pretty close,” Lula said, “except he can’t do the web throwing thing, and so far as I know he don’t wear spandex.”

Lula cut through downtown and turned onto State Street. The hardware store and Ginty’s Bar were on the outermost perimeter of the Burg. Ginty’s was a dark hole-in-the-wall-type dive that drew regulars from the shantytown row houses that lined Post Street, and ran parallel with State. Ziggy owned one of the row houses, but he lived in Ginty’s.

Lula parked in the small lot the bar shared with the hardware store, and we got out and walked to the bar’s front door.

“How many times have we pulled Ziggy out of here?” Lula asked. “Must be a dozen. I swear I think he just likes to ride in my Firebird.”

We stepped into the bar and took a moment to allow our eyes to adjust to the dark. The air was cold and damp, and the room smelled whiskey-soaked. There were three small round tables near the door, empty at this time of day. The highly polished mahogany bar stretched the length of the back of the room. Ziggy was one of three men at the bar.

“If he smells bad I’m putting him in the trunk,” Lula said. “Last time we took him in I had to have my car detailed.”

Ziggy was a fifty-six-year-old white male who was on a disability pension from the government and was working hard at destroying his liver. There was no Mrs. Ziggy, and no Rover or Kitty Ziggy. Just Ziggy in all his pickled glory.

The bartender waved to us and said something to Ziggy. Ziggy swiveled on his barstool and saluted us with his empty beer glass.

“Ladies,” Ziggy said. “Long time no see.”

“Are you ready to go for a ride?” I asked him.

“Barkeep,” Ziggy said. “One for the road.”

The bartender set a fresh beer in front of Ziggy, Ziggy chugged it, and fell off his barstool.

“You have this strange effect on men,” Lula said to me. “They’re always passing out on you. Guys get stuck with darts, and run into walls, and fall off barstools.”

I hooked my hands under Ziggy’s armpits. “Help me get him outside.”

“I’ll help you get him outside,” Lula said, “but he’s not going in my car. He just wet hisself.”

We carted Ziggy outside, and I called a cab.

“I can’t keep from thinking about Spider-Man,” Lula said. “God made cats and dogs and cows and humans, but he only made superheroes in comic books. What the heck was he thinking?”

“I guess he was counting on us to do the job.”

“You mean us personally? Because I’m a big woman, but I couldn’t stop no speeding train single-handed.”

“I was talking about human beings in general.”

“Probably we’re in a lot of trouble on that one, since most of the men I know can’t even keep their pants up, much less save the world.”

I waved the approaching cab to the curb and loaded Ziggy into the backseat.

“Follow us to the police station,” I said to Lula. “I’ll need a ride after I drop him off.”

The driver looked over the seatback at Ziggy. “He isn’t dead, is he?”

“He’s sleeping.”

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