I left Lula at the Tasty Pastry while I took Blaster into the police station. This served two purposes. It kept Lula away from the station, an action for which Lula was deeply thankful, and it gave Lula half an hour to contemplate the pastry case to decide which doughnuts she wanted to eat, thereby saving half an hour of my time, an action for which I was deeply thankful. When I got back from the station, she was still salivating over the doughnuts. "Which ones are you buying?" I asked.
"I think I will have a blueberry fritter, a boston cream, and a carrot cake. What are you getting?"
I surreptitiously slid my finger between my waistband and my waist. It was hard to wedge my finger in. "Nothing, thanks. I'll just get a coffee."
We got in the car and headed for Hamilton Township. Driving to the house listed on the bond agreement, we found the house in an enclave of expensive homes. We drove up the circular driveway and were met at the door by a housekeeper.
I explained who Lula and I were, and why we were there. "I can't wake Ms. Kelvin", the housekeeper said. "She isn't feeling well today."
"Tell her to take some acetaminophen. We'll wait."
The housekeeper clearly didn't know what she was supposed to do. "It isn't a big deal getting rescheduled", I said. "However, it is a big deal avoiding court. I am sure she just forgot to go, but not going will make her look bad. I know you would not want Ms. Kelvin to look bad."
Those were the magic words, because the housekeeper invited us into the house and went upstairs to wake her employer. Several minutes later she came back down. "She will be down momentarily."
Half an hour later I was wishing I had brought my coffee in with me. We were still standing in the entry. I had talked to the housekeeper several times, and she assured me that Ms. Kelvin would be down momentarily. I was getting angrier and angrier the longer that I waited until, finally, I insisted that the housekeeper take us to see Ms. Kelvin. She refused. I started up the steps anyway, brushing off the housekeeper's attempts to restrain me. Lula followed behind us, eager to see what I would do.
"You can't do that!" said the housekeeper. "This is illegal entering."
"Actually, it isn't. A fugitive apprehension agent is legally entitled to enter any dwelling they are reasonably sure that the fugitive is hiding in. You have already told us she is here. We just have to find her now."
Many of the doors in the upper hall were closed. I opened each one, calling out Ms. Kelvin's name. About three-quarters of the way down the hall I opened the door to a bedroom to see a lump under the covers. I walked over to the bed. There was a woman lying there asleep, a beauty mask over her eyes. I pulled out my file. Yup, the woman was Vanessa Kelvin.
"Maria, I told you repeatedly that I don't want to be disturbed. I have a bad headache and, I don't care if it is God himself, I am not coming down there."
"Well, I'm not God, but I am here to make sure you come down." Vanessa was startled and yanked the eye mask off her head. "Now, we can do this two ways. You can refuse to come with us, in which case I am authorized to stun you, cuff and shackle you, and carry you physically to the station to reschedule." That wasn't technically true. Stunning under any circumstance is frowned upon. But hey! I was angry. And Vanessa didn't know about the no stun rule. Besides, it was a rule that I frequently broke. "If I do this, you will be going to the station in whatever you wore to bed."
"I sleep in the nude."
"Makes no difference to me. You wouldn't be the first person I have brought in buck naked. The other option is for you to get up and get dressed, at which point I will cuff and shackle you to take you to the station. It is your choice. Whatever you choose, you are going into the station with me today."
Vanessa looked resentful. "It was just a DUI charge. What is the big deal? It's not like I actually hit anything."
"This time. You did not hit anything this time."
Her lower lip went out. "My husband will have the charges dropped faster than you can blink your eye."
"That's good for you. That hasn't happened yet, however, and until it does you need to go to court to reschedule."
"This is ridiculous. I will have your badge for this."
"Go right ahead and try, Ms. Kelvin. You can make your complaint while you are at the station today. So what will it be? Going in buck naked or getting dressed?"
"I'll get dressed."
I checked out the adjoining bathroom and saw there was a large window that would be easy to escape from. "Lula, please wait out here and supervise Ms. Kelvin as she gets ready for the day. I will supervise while she gets ready in the bathroom."
"I'm not going to the bathroom while you are in there with me!"
"Then I guess you aren't going to the bathroom. I will turn my back if that makes you feel any better."
"Too bad." While Lula watched Vanessa, I sorted through her closet for some suitable clothes. Bermuda shorts, a fitted t-shirt, and sandals. When I started going through her drawers looking for underwear, Vanessa started screeching at me, flying at me from the bed, a naked ball of rage. I batted her off and continued looking, finding a bag of weed and an empty mickey of Jack. "What's the big deal?" I asked. "It's just alcohol and pot. Even if I could charge you, which I cannot, the penalty for possession is fairly minor."
"You don't understand. My husband is a prominent lawyer in Trenton. That is why I didn't go to court in the first place. He will kill me if he finds out I have been arrested."
"Well, by not going to court you are now a wanted fugitive, and I think he will have a greater problem with that. That would be hard to explain to all his lawyering friends. Now, come on. I am sure you want to get your rescheduling over with." I held out her housecoat to her and followed her to the bathroom. We compromised – she could use the facilities in private as long as I could leave the door open with a view of the window. I then sat on the side of the tub while she took the longest shower in history, dried and styled her hair, and did her makeup. Then, when she could not stall any longer, she got dressed and ready to go.
"I am supposed to bring fugitives into the station cuffed and shackled. I trust you, however, and I will refrain from doing either of those things. Just know that, if you escape, I will hunt you down. To hunt you down, I will need to talk with your husband."
"Please don't speak to my husband. I'm begging you."
"Then don't try to escape." I loaded her into the backseat, waiting until she had put her seatbelt on.
"How is your hangover?" I asked.
"Bad. I would kill for a coffee."
"I'll drive through the coffee shop for you." I ordered a coffee each for Lula and Vanessa, and drove Lula to the bonds office. "Lula, would you mind asking Connie to come to the precinct to rebond out Vanessa? I don't think Vanessa will want to hang around the precinct longer than she has to, am I right?"
"Anything you can do to get me out of there fast would be appreciated. I don't want to take the chance that Gareth or any of his friends recognize me."
I dropped Lula off at the office and drove to the precinct. Escorting Vanessa into the docking area, I apologized and cuffed her to the bench. Then, getting my paperwork filled out, I left the precinct and walked outside.
I met Morelli as I walked to my car. "Hey, Cupcake, how are you doing? Do you have time for lunch?"
"A very short one. Drive through or sandwich shop short. I have brought two skips in today, and I have three more to go."
"Good for you. Who did you bring in?"
"A DUI and a thief. So where are we going?"
"How about Barry's Burgers?" We got in my car and, when I nodded my head to his suggestion of burger joint and started my car, he said "who do you have left?"
"A husband and wife team of human traffickers and an unlawful solemnization of weddings."
"Really? Unlawful solemnization of weddings? That's a new one."
"I have never heard of it before either. But just imagine. You finally get up the nerve to get married only to find out later that you were never married."
"I can see how that would be upsetting." We went through the drive through and each ordered a burger. Morelli ordered fries with his and a coke. I just ordered a water with mine.
Sitting with our lunch with the windows down in the car, I asked "so, what is new with you?"
"Not much. Work is same old, same old. Grandma Bella is still on the warpath for you. Angie and Anthony are expecting another in December. Mario and Theresa have split." Mario and Anthony were Joe's brothers. "How is your family?"
"Good. I suspect Valerie is pregnant again, although she has not admitted it yet. Grandma Mazur and Mom are still after me to get back together with you. Rex is good. Still hamster-y. Running on his wheel and going nowhere. Nothing really has changed."
"Dating Ranger yet?" It was like Morelli had a need to pull the band-aid off. Every time I spoke to him he asked me whether I was going out with Ranger yet. He was always pleased when I said no. I don't know if that made him hold out hope that we would get back together. I hoped not. But one thing is for sure, and that is that I would have to tell him soon. Trenton isn't that big a community, and now that Ranger and I were dating, someone would be sure to see us and get the news back to Morelli.
"We are spending a lot of time together", I said ambiguously. He looked at me for a minute, and I guess he then decided he didn't want to know any more. "How's Bob?"
"He has discovered a girl dog down the street and doesn't seem to realize that he has been neutered. Every time I let him out in the backyard he tunnels beneath the fence, and then beneath the neighbour's fence in order to get to the girl dog. She has not been spayed, so I guess that is the draw. I have never been as happy as I have been that he was neutered however. It has been just about impossible to keep him in the backyard. It doesn't seem to matter how often I fill the holes, he just digs more."
"He should have been named Randy instead of Bob." Morelli laughed.
"Unfortunately, I need to be getting back", I said. "It's been nice seeing you." I drove back to the station and dropped Joe off, then returned to the bonds office to pick up Lula for an afternoon of skip chasing.
Lula and I decided to go after Aphrodite Akuna first. We drove to her house and knocked on her doors. No one answered. We looked in her windows and could not see anything. No dirty dishes in the sink, no clean dishes on the drainage tray, no wrinkles in the toss pillows, nothing out of place anywhere. "What does that tell you?" asked Lula.
"That she is unnaturally neat and tidy."
"Or that she isn't staying there."
"Maybe. But we know she was in the area the other day. We just have to wait her out. She'll have to come out of hiding at some point soon. We just have to be there when she sticks her little head up."
"Yeah, then WHAM! That's how we get her done."
We went and knocked on the neighbours' doors, but only one lady was home, and she hadn't seen Aphrodite for a few days. "I think she is in Newark attending a conference on performing marriage rites. She said she would be away for a few days and that she was going to be leaving tomorrow, I think. I wasn't really listening to what she had to say. It was early in the morning and I am not a morning person." I empathized. I also was not a morning person. Of course, I'm not much of an afternoon person or an evening person either. And forget being a night owl. In matter of fact, the only time I was awake was when I had a coffee in my hand.
I thanked her for the information. "Do you know when she is scheduled to return?"
"Yes, she is supposed to come home late on Sunday. That one I am sure of. She said she has to go to work on Monday."
Lula and I walked back to the car. "Assuming the neighbour was telling the truth, there is no point in staking out Aphrodite's house. I think we should continue to do drive-bys over the next few days to see what we can see and in the interests of dotting our 'i's' and crossing our 't's', we should perhaps check her work, but otherwise we should wait until she shows up at work on Monday."
We got back in the car and went through a drive-through for a coffee shop. Lula ordered a large coffee and three doughnuts. I ordered a medium coffee.
We drove to the human traffickers to see if we could see anything. Although we waited over two hours sipping our coffees, the house was quiet. There were no sounds of dogs barking, no curtains twitching, no vehicular traffic.
Not wanting to be late for my training session with Ranger, we gave up the surveillance. I drove Lula back to the office. "All in all, not a bad day", I said. "Two more skips brought in, the creation of a game plan for catching Aphrodite, and only the two human traffickers still hanging in the wind."
"WHAM! That's how we get it done", said Lula.