Home > Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22)(10)

Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22)(10)
Janet Evanovich

Three girls were loitering in the hall when we left the lab.

“I can see why the ladies like him,” Lula said. “Besides being cute, he’s got a nice way about him.”

“Charismatic.”

“Yeah, that’s it. Charismatic. Gobbles sounds like he’s charismatic too. And I could tell you who isn’t charismatic. It’s that Dean Mintner. He don’t sound like no fun at all. And if you ask me, Professor Pooka is batshit crazy.”

“I’d like to talk to the girlfriend,” I said to Lula.

“How’re you going to find her?”

“The dean of students is going to help us.”

“Oh boy, that’s gonna be a treat. You sure you don’t want to go after Billy Bacon first? Get ourselves fortified with egg salad before talking to Mr. Cranky Pants again?”

“No. I want to get this wrapped up. If we can get one decent lead, this guy shouldn’t be hard to snag. He’s an amateur, and I’m sure the police confiscated his baseball bat. How hard can this be?”

•••

I looked in at Mintner and did a little finger wave. “Hi. Remember me?”

Mintner was behind his desk. He leaned forward and squinted at me. “Yes. Now what?”

“I was hoping you could help me find Mr. Globovic’s girlfriend, Julie Ruley.”

“Unfortunately I know this young woman,” Mintner said. “She’s trying to turn the school paper into the Enquirer. Everything is a crusade. It’s all so sensational. And she has tattoos.”

“Well, that’s a sin against nature right there,” Lula said.

“Exactly,” Mintner said. He focused on Lula. “Are you being sarcastic? Do you have tattoos?”

“I don’t have any tattoos on account of they don’t show up that good on my fabulous dark chocolate skin. And yeah, I’m being sarcastic as hell.”

Mintner mumbled something that I thought might have sounded like dumb bitch and turned to his computer. He typed in Julie Ruley, and moments later printed out her class schedule and dorm address.

“After classes she’s most likely at the newspaper office,” Mintner said. “I’m helping you because Globovic is a menace. He needs to be found and taken off the streets.”

“You bet your ass,” Lula said. “And we’re the ladies who are gonna do it.”

I took the printout and thanked Mintner. I picked up a campus map on the way out of the building and studied it. The newspaper office wasn’t listed, but I guessed it would be either in the journalism department or in the student center. According to Julie Ruley’s schedule she was currently in a twentieth-century literature class in the Steinart building. No doubt doing an in-depth comparison of James Joyce’s Ulysses with Harry Potter.

“She’s in class now,” I said to Lula. “Then she’s free for the afternoon. Since we don’t know what she looks like, beyond being Malibu Barbie with tattoos, I guess we should try the newspaper office after lunch.”

FOUR

K STREET IS in a sketchy part of town. Not nearly as bad as the blighted blocks of upper Stark, but bad enough that you want to keep your eyes open for big mutant rats and drugged-out old men. Mixed in with the rats and the dopers are decent citizens, illegal immigrants, human traffickers, and runaway kids. Billy Bacon fit somewhere between a decent citizen and a mutant rat. He was six foot three inches tall and weighed upwards of 250 pounds. How he’d managed to get down a chimney, even with the bacon grease, was a miracle. The fact that he’d made it half a block with his pockets jammed full of money and jewelry and his clothes soaked in bacon grease put him in the realm of folk hero on K Street. He was forty-three years old, single, and according to his bond agreement he lived with his mother, Eula.

“His mistake was using bacon grease,” Lula said. “First off, it’s a waste of good grease when there’s other things not so tasty. If he’d greased himself up with motor oil, the dogs wouldn’t have tracked him down. ’Course the grease was there for the taking on account of he worked the grill at Mike’s Burger Place on K and Main. They collect bacon grease by the barrel from their bacon burgers.”

Lula cruised down K Street and idled across from the three-story redbrick graffiti-riddled building where Billy and his mother lived. We’d been here before, looking for Billy, with no luck.

“Problem is, he’s a popular guy,” Lula said. “He fried up a good burger, and he was taking care of his momma. I knew his momma from years ago when she was a prime ’ho. Everybody knew she gave one of the best BJs around, but then she got some lip fungus on all her lips, if you know what I mean, and her business kind of fell apart. She was down to doing hand jobs and then she got the arthritis. I hear just about the only thing she can do with her hand now is lift a liquor bottle. Billy said he turned to stealing so he could afford the meds for his momma’s fungus. It’s kind of noble when you think about it.”

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