Takedown Twenty_ A Stephanie Plum Novel - Janet Evanovich

ONE

IT WAS LATE at night and Lula and I had been staking out Salvatore Sunucchi, better known as Uncle Sunny, when Lula spotted Jimmy Spit. Spit had his prehistoric Cadillac Eldorado parked on the fringe of the Trenton public housing projects, half a block from Sunucchi’s apartment, and he had the trunk lid up.

“Hold on here,” Lula said. “Jimmy’s open for business, and it looks to me like he got a trunk full of handbags. I might need one of them. A girl can never have too many handbags.”

Minutes later, Lula was examining a purple Brahmin bag studded with what Spit claimed were Swarovski crystals. “Are you sure this is a authentic Brahmin bag?” Lula asked Spit. “I don’t want no cheap-ass imitation.”

“I have it on good authority these are the real deal,” Spit said. “And just for you I’m only charging ten bucks. How could you go wrong?”

Lula slung the bag over her shoulder to take it for a test drive, and a giraffe loped past us. It continued on down the road, turning at Sixteenth Street and disappearing into the darkness.

“I didn’t see that,” Lula said.

“I didn’t see that neither,” Spit said. “You want to buy this handbag or what?”

“That was a giraffe,” I said. “It turned the corner at Sixteenth Street.”

“Probably goin’ the 7-Eleven,” Spit said. “Get a Slurpee.”

A black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows and a satellite dish attached to the roof sped past us and hooked a left at Sixteenth. There was the sound of tires screeching to a stop, then gunfire and an ungodly shriek.

“Not only didn’t I see that giraffe,” Spit said, “but I also didn’t see that car or hear that shit happening.”

He grabbed the ten dollars from Lula, slammed the trunk lid shut, and took off.

“They better not have hurt that giraffe,” Lula said. “I don’t go with that stuff.”

I looked over at her. “I thought you didn’t see the giraffe.”

“I was afraid it might have been the ’shrooms on my pizza last night what was making me see things. I mean it’s not every day you see a giraffe running down the street.”

My name is Stephanie Plum, and I work as a bond enforcement officer for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. Lula is the office file clerk, but more often than not she’s my wheelman. Lula is a couple inches shorter than I am, a bunch of pounds bigger, and her skin is a lot darker. She’s a former streetwalker who gave up her corner but kept her wardrobe. She favors neon colors and animal prints, and she fearlessly tests the limits of spandex. Today her brown hair was streaked with shocking pink to match a tank top that barely contained the bounty God had bestowed on her. The tank top stopped a couple inches above her skintight, stretchy black skirt, and the skirt ended a couple inches below her ass. I’d look like an idiot if I dressed like Lula, but the whole neon pink and spandex thing worked for her.

“I gotta go see if the giraffe’s okay,” Lula said. “Those guys in the Escalade might have been big game poachers.”

“This is Trenton, New Jersey!”

Lula was hands on hips. “So was that a giraffe, or what? You don’t think it’s big game?”

Since Lula was driving we pretty much went where Lula wanted to go, so we jumped into her red Firebird and followed the giraffe.

There was no Escalade or giraffe in sight when we turned the corner at Sixteenth, but a guy was lying facedown in the middle of the road, and he wasn’t moving.

“That don’t look good,” Lula said, “but