Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum)

Plum Spooky: A Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers Novel
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No toothpaste left in the tube, no toilet paper on the cardboard roll, hot water cuts out halfway through your shower, and someone's left a monkey on your doorstep. I live in a one bedroom, one bath, unremarkable apartment, in a three-story brick box of a building on the outskirts of Trenton, New Jersey. Usually I live alone with my hamster, Rex, but at eight-thirty this morning my roommate list was enlarged to include Carl-the-Monkey. I opened my door to go to work and there he was.

Small brown monkey with long, curled tail, creepy little monkey fingers and toes, crazy bright monkey eyes, and he was on a leash hooked to my doorknob. A note was attached to his collar. First, let me say that I've never wanted a monkey. Second, I barely know Susan Stitch.

Third, what the heck am I supposed to do with the little bugger? At one time the Wrangler had been red, but it had many lives before it fell into my hands, and now it was a lot less than primo, and the color was motley. Carl followed me out of the car and into the office, hugging my pants leg like a two year old. Connie, the office manager, looked up from her computer, and Lula, who is office file clerk and wheelman, stood hands on hips.

Connie was wearing a short black pencil skirt and a black and white polka dot blouse with a wide scoop neck. Her black hair was teased high on her head, her eyes were heavily rimmed in black liner, and her lips were high shine fire engine red. Her boobs were smashed together in cleavage so tight you could wedge a quarter in there, turn Connie upside down and nothing would fall out.

Ordinarily Connie might be an eye-catcher, but she's kicked to the curb when Lula's in the room. Lula is a former 'ho and she's only moderately altered her wardrobe to suit her new job. Lula somehow manages to perform the miracle of squeezing her plus size body into petite size clothes. Her hair is blond this week, her skin is brown, her spandex tube dress is poison green, her shoes are four-inch spike heeled faux leopard Via Spigas. I'm wearing jeans, black and white Converse sneakers, a girl cut red t-shirt, a grey sweatshirt and an inadequate swipe of lash lengthening mascara.

Not only am I feeling like a bran muffin in a bakery case filled with eclairs, I'm also the only one not packing a gun. My eyes are blue, my hair is brown, and my favorite word is cake. I was married for ten minutes in another life, and I'm not inclined to repeat the mistake anytime soon. There are a couple men in my life who tempt me One of those tempting men is Joe Morelli.

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He's a Trenton cop with bedroom eyes, and bedroom hands and everything else good that you'd want to find in your bedroom. He's been my off-again, on-again boyfriend for as long as I can remember, and last night he was on-again.

Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum Between-The-Numbers Novels)

Ranger's been my mentor, my employer, my lover, my guardian angel, but probably has never totally qualified as a boyfriend. Boyfriend might suggest an occasional date, and I can't see Ranger going there. Ranger is the sort of guy who slips uninvited into a girl's dreams and desires and refuses to leave. You know I hate monkeys. And remember her monkey Carl?

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Susan went on a honeymoon and left him with me. You ever think of that? Munch is a big-ticket bond. If you don't drag his ass into court by the end of the month our bottom line won't be good. This is the way things work in the bail bonds business.

A guy gets accused of a crime and before he's released back into society the court demands a security deposit. If the accused doesn't show up for his court date, the court gets to keep the bondsman's money until someone like me hauls the accused back to jail. Vincent Plum is my ferret-faced cousin. He owns the bonds office on paper, but he's backed by his father-in-law, Harry the Hammer. If Vinnie writes too many bad bonds and the office runs in the red, Harry isn't happy. And you don't want a guy with a name like Harry the Hammer to be unhappy.

Martin Munch is a twenty-one year old genius with a doctorate in quantum physics. A security tape caught Munch lifting a one of a kind monster caesium vapor magneto meter from a lab at a research facility on the outskirts of Trenton. Munch was arrested and booked, but the magneto meter was never recovered. In a moment of insanity, Vinnie wrote a bond for Munch, and now Munch is in the wind with his contraption.

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Truth is, while I really need my commission from capturing Munch, I'm not all that excited about coming face to face with someone who would steal something called a magneto meter. His friends and family are probably horrified. I can't see them hiding him. He was employed at the research facility for six months, and he never socialized.

Before that he was a precocious student at Princeton, and was known as a loner. His neighbors tell me he sometimes had a male visitor late at night. The visitor drove a black Ferrari and had long black hair. Sometimes Munch would leave with him and not come back for several days. That's the whole enchilada. My eyes were all swollen, and I was sneezing and wheezing, and I felt like I had a fever.

I just stayed in my apartment, drinking medicinal whiskey and taking cold pills, and now I feel fine. What's this Munch look like? At five feet tall Munch looked more like fourteen than twenty-one. He had curly strawberry blond hair, and pale freckled skin. The photo was taken outdoors and Munch was squinting into the sun. He was wearing jeans and sneakers and a SpongeBob t-shirt, and it occurred to me that he probably shopped in the kid's department.

I imagine you have to be pretty secure in your manhood to pull that one off. I bet he's sitting home in his tighty-whities watching the weather channel.

Especially not that monkey. And I'm sitting in the back, so I can keep an eye on him. I don't want no monkey sneaking up behind me giving me monkey cooties. And the other, Denny Guzzi, robbed a convenience store and accidentally shot him self in the foot trying to make his get-a-way.

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Both idiots failed to show for their court appearance. Connie shoved the paperwork to the edge of the desk. I signed the contract and took the files that contained a photo, the arrest sheet and the bond agreement for each man. Only Romanian acrobats could get in the back of this. I guess the monkey's gotta ride in back, but I swear he makes a move on me, and I'm gonna shoot him. I slid behind the wheel, Lula wedged herself into the passenger side seat, and Carl hopped into the back. I adjusted my rear-view mirror, locked onto Carl, and I swear it looked to me like Carl was making faces at Lula and giving her the finger.