Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22)(2) by Janet Evanovich

“Looks like you’ve got a jumper,” Morelli said.

“Vinnie bonded her out, and she went FTA,” I told him. “I was about to cuff her, and she ran for the ledge.”

“What’s her charge?”

“She cut off her boyfriend’s pecker,” Lula said.

This got a grimace out of Morelli and the uniform.

“Maybe you can talk to her,” I said to Morelli.

Morelli had gone from a bad kid to a petty officer in the Navy, and had become a really great cop. He’s smart. He’s compassionate. He believes in the law, the American dream, and the inherent goodness of human beings. If you break the law or step on the American dream, he’ll root you out like a wolverine going after a ground squirrel. He has a house, a dog, a toaster, and a level of maturity I suspect I haven’t yet obtained. The men in his family are drunks and womanizers and abusive. Morelli is none of those. He’s movie star handsome in a Jersey Italian kind of way, and he oozes testosterone. And from the first time he was able to put a sentence together he’s had a reputation for being able to talk a woman into doing anything. He got to peek at my cotton Tinker Bell underpants when I was a little kid, and he relieved me of the burden of my virginity when I was in high school. It seemed to me that sending Morelli up to the third floor to talk a woman off a ledge was a no-brainer.

“Is she armed?” Morelli asked me.

“I don’t think so.”

“No butcher knives? Paring knives? Box cutters?”

“Didn’t see any.”

He disappeared into the building, and a couple minutes later I saw him at the window. Ginny inched away from him, beyond his grasp. The fire guys moved the bounce bag over to accommodate her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I saw her smile. They talked a little longer, she nodded agreement, and inched back toward him. He reached out for her, and when she tried to take his hand she lost her balance, slipped off the ledge, and plummeted to the ground. She hit the bounce bag with a solid thud and didn’t move. The EMTs immediately converged on her.

Everyone watching took a sharp intake of air and went silent, focused on the EMTs. I felt Morelli move in behind me, his hand on my shoulder. And suddenly Ginny sat up.

“I’m okay!” Ginny said. “Wow, that was a rush. I bet I could be a stunt girl in the movies.”

Morelli motioned an EMT over to us.

“Is she going to be okay?” Morelli asked.

“She just had the air knocked out of her. We’ll transport her to St. Francis Hospital to get checked out and then she’ll be released.”

“She’s going to need a police escort,” Morelli said to the uniform who was still with us. “When she’s done at St. Francis she gets booked downtown.”

“Boy, for a minute there that was a heart stopper,” Lula said. “I don’t even want to hear anything go thud like that again. That made my stomach feel sick. I need a burger and fries. And then I’m going home on account of my favorite television shows are coming on.” Lula looked over at Morelli and looked back at me. “Do you need me to take you home or are you going with Officer Hottie?”

“I’ll take her home,” Morelli said.

Lula left, and I followed Morelli to his car. “How did you happen to turn up here?”

“Dumb luck. I had dinner with Anthony, and I was on my way home when I saw Lula’s Firebird parked half a block from a disaster scene. I thought chances were good you’d be involved.”

Anthony is Morelli’s brother. He’s married to a woman who keeps divorcing him and then remarrying him. Every time they get remarried she gets pregnant. I’ve lost count of how many kids Anthony has, but his house is bedlam.

“Thanks for helping out,” I said to Morelli.

“I wasn’t much help. I almost got your FTA killed.”

Morelli opened the door to his SUV and his dog, Bob, bounded out and almost knocked me over. Bob is a huge shaggy-haired orange dog that mostly resembles a golden retriever. I got a lot of dog kisses, Bob and I wrestled over who was going to sit in the front seat next to Morelli, and I won.

“Your house or mine?” Morelli asked.

“Yours. My television isn’t working. You have to drop me at the office first so I can get my car.”

•••

Morelli had inherited a nice little house from his Aunt Rose. It’s just over the line from my parents’ house in the Burg, and if you didn’t know the line existed you would think Morelli lived in the Burg. Houses are modest but neatly maintained. Cars are washed every Saturday. Flags are displayed on appropriate holidays. Veterans and cops are revered. Even if you belong to the mob you still appreciate and respect veterans and cops. Hardworking people live in these neighborhoods, and they look to the police to protect their hard-earned civil liberties and flat-screens. If prejudice exists it is kept behind closed doors. Out in public everyone qualifies equally for getting the finger.