Four to Score

Janet Evanovich, bestselling author of One for the Money, Two for the Dough, and Three to Get Deadly, scores big with Four to Score, her most thrilling Stephanie Plum adventure yet. Working for her bail bondsman cousin Vinnie, Stephanie is hot on the trail of revenge-seeking waitress Maxine Nowicki, whose crimes include bail jumping, theft, and extortion. Someone is terrifying Maxine's friends, and those who have seen her are turning up dead. Also on the hunt for Maxine is Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie's archenemy and rival bounty hunter. Stephanie's attitude never wavers—even when aided by crazy Grandma Mazur, ex-hooker and wannabe bounty hunter Lula, and transvestite rock musician Sally Sweet—and even when Stephanie makes an enemy whose deadly tactics escalate from treatening messages to firebombs. All of this pales in comparison, though, with and even greater danger Stephanie faces, when, homeless and broke, she and her hamster Rex move in with vice cop Joe Morelli.

Rated PG35 for lecentious wit and libidinous cohabitation.

LIVING IN TRENTON in July is like living inside a big pizza oven. Hot, airless, aromatic.

Because I didn't want to miss any of the summer experience I had the sunroof open on my Honda CRX. My brown hair was pulled up into a windsnarled, curls-gone-to-frizz ponytail. The sun baked the top of my head, and sweat trickled under my black spandex sports bra. I was wearing matching spandex shorts and a sleeveless oversized Trenton Thunders baseball jersey. It was an excellent outfit except it gave me no place to stick my .38. Which meant I was going to have to borrow a gun to shoot my cousin Vinnie.

I parked the CRX in front of Vinnie's storefront bail bonds office, lunged out of the car, stalked across the sidewalk, and yanked the office door open. "Where is he? Where is that miserable little excuse for a human being?"

"Uh oh," Lula said from behind the file cabinet. "Rhino alert."

Lula is a retired hooker who helps clean up the filing and sometimes rides shotgun for me when I do my fugitive apprehension thing. If people were cars, Lula would be a big, black '53 Packard with a high-gloss chrome grille, oversized headlights, and a growl like a junkyard dog. Lots of muscle. Never fit in a compact space.

Connie Rosolli, the office manager, pushed back at her desk when I entered. Connie's domain was this one front room where friends and relatives of miscreants came to beg money. And to the rear, in an inner office, my cousin Vinnie slapped Mr. Johnson around and conversed with his bookie.

"Hey," Connie said, "I know what you're bummed about, and this wasn't my decision. Personally, if I were you, I'd kick your cousin's pervert ass around the block."

I pushed a clump of hair that had strayed from the ponytail back from my face. "Kicking isn't good enough. I think I'll shoot him."

"Go for it!" Lula said.

"Yeah," Connie agreed. "Shoot him."

Lula checked out my clothes. "You need a gun? I don't see no gun bulges in that spandex." She hiked up her T-shirt and pulled a Chief's Special out of her cut-off denim shorts. "You could use mine. Just be careful; it sights high."

"You don't want a little peashooter like that," Connie said, opening her desk drawer. "I've got a forty-five. You can make a nice big hole with a forty-five."

Lula went for her purse. "Hold on here. If that's what you want, let me give you the big stud. I've got a forty-four magnum loaded up with hydroshocks. This baby'll do real damage, you see what I'm saying? You could drive a Volkswagen through the hole this sweetheart