TRIGGER HAPPY TWENTY-THREE: A STEPHANIE PLUM-INSPIRED NOVEL
I was also ready to have a good sleep. Thinking of the terrible sleep I had the night before, I unplugged my phone just in case. My sleep was deep and dreamless, as only the truly tired can have. The next morning, when I awoke, the room was dark. I did not look at the clock, but immediately rolled over and went back to sleep. About an hour later I woke again, but the room was still dark. I looked at the time, surprised to see that it was nine o'clock in the morning. I looked out the window. The window was completely dark, despite the fact that I had not drawn the curtains the night before. I walked over to the window and was able to see that the window had been spray painted overnight. It was completely black except for some orange lettering. Reading backwards, I was able to see that the word was "cunt".
Now, in my time I have been called a "bitch" and a "fucking asshole". I have been called a "witch", a "pussy", a "whore" and a "'ho". In my line of work, you sort of get used to it. I don't take those names personally. However, I draw the line at "cunt". That seems to be excessively rude and offensive. I hate being called a "cunt" and I was mad that someone would do this to me. And I was a little creeped out that someone had been up on my fire escape, able to look in on me as I was sleeping.
I quickly had a shower and got ready for the day. I made a big pot of coffee for the police officers coming to make out the vandalism report and I got banana bread out of the freezer to defrost, to give to the officers to go with their coffee. I made my bed and tidied up my apartment so my mother wouldn't be embarrassed when the police came traipsing through the place. Then I plugged in my phone and called the superintendent, Dillon, to come and look at the damage.
Dillon is a good guy. Despite my many apartment emergencies – I have as many of them as I have cars that blow up – Dillon is still nice to me. There is little that goes on in the building he doesn't know about, and he is prompt and efficient in fixing problems. Above all, he is a nice guy who will do almost anything for a six-pack of beer.
Dillon came up and knocked on my door. I offered him a cup of coffee and a piece of banana bread. As he was munching on the bread, he went into the bedroom and looked at the window. "I have to hand it to you. This is the first time you have had your window spray painted. You will need to file a police report so that I can claim the window cleaning on insurance." I figured as much.
I called the vandalism into the police station, explaining it wasn't an emergency but it would be helpful for them to send a uniform out as soon as possible. I had a busy day and did not want to waste time waiting for the police to show up. I didn't need to phone Morelli. I knew dispatch would call him as soon as they sent the request through to the uniforms. It didn't matter what happened. As soon as a call came in from my apartment, the bonds office or my cell phone, dispatch called the police station and then called Morelli. And usually a half dozen other people – other police officers, good Samaritans listening to the police band – also called Morelli. He always finds out when something goes wrong in my life, almost as soon as it has happened.
Sure enough, ten minutes later Morelli showed up at the door. "You have been doing some redecorating, I see", he said. He had his serious cop face on, and it looked like steam was coming out of his ears. Apparently he didn't like the "cunt" word either. Asking me what happened, I explained to him about the phone calls, and then told him about the window being spray painted. And I told him the really creepy part about how the vandal had been able to look into my apartment as I slept. As I finished my explanation, two uniforms showed up to make their report. I knew both of them. They were Carl Constanza and Big Dog. I went to school with Carl from the time we were in kindergarten on; Big Dog I met more recently. I have seen them many times in the past – they often were the first responders to one of my mishaps. Both were good guys. I offered everyone coffee and banana bread.
"I didn't know you could bake", Carl said.
"I can't. This is a gift from one of my skips' mothers. Every time I go to the house to see if I can pick up the skip the mother gives me banana bread and muffins."
"I wouldn't work too hard to find the skip", Big Dog said. "This banana bread is excellent."
"I don't want you staying here tonight", said Morelli. "You need to stay somewhere else until this blows over. I would have you sleep at my house, but with my parents and grandmother there I am currently sleeping on the couch. I can't help you this time. Perhaps you could sleep at your parents'?"
I agreed. I didn't want to sleep there either. I was too creeped out by the thought that someone had watched me sleep.
The phone rang. I let the answering machine take it. We could hear the caller as the message was recording. "Steph-an-nie", said the voice. "Did you like my surprise?" I raced to the phone and picked up. "Who are you?" I cried into the phone. The caller hung up and all I had for an answer was a dial tone.
"I don't suppose you want to change your number?" suggested Morelli.
"No, I don't suppose I do", I replied. Changing my number would be a logistical nightmare and would require me having to tell a vast number of people the change. It would also require me to reprint all my business cards. It would be something I would only do as a last resort.
"That graffiti shows this is getting personal", said Morelli. "Be careful, Cupcake. And call me if you need me." Morelli gave me a quick kiss and left the apartment.
I finished up with the police officers and left my cell number with Dillon for him to call when my window was once again clean. I put the remaining banana bread back in the freezer and put the last of the coffee in a travel mug to take with me to the office. Figuring that, since I would be at my parents for the next couple of days I could do my laundry at the same time, I put my dirty clothes in a laundry basket, balanced Rex's cage on top, and took the whole mess down to the car. I was all set for the day.
I went first to my parents. My grandmother was standing at the door, spying on the neighbours. She peered at my car, face brightening when she saw me get out. "I didn't recognize you. Is that a new car?" she asked.
"Yes", I said. "I just picked it up last night. Pretty sweet, huh? It hardly even has any rust. And I got it for a good deal. The previous owner had been given a company car and no longer needed this one."
"It looks like a great car. I hope this one doesn't get blown up." She called my mom out to look at my new car. We all went down to circle it.
"It doesn't have any dents or major scrapes yet, and there isn't much rust. This looks like a good one", my mom said. I thought so, too. I couldn't believe my luck.
"Is it okay if I do some laundry here?" I asked.
"No problem. If you leave it for me, I will do it for you today", my mom replied.
"That would be great, thanks. Also, would it be okay if I slept here for the next few days?" I asked.
"What is wrong? You never sleep over unless something is wrong. Did your apartment blow up again? And why aren't you staying with Joseph? I was wondering when I saw Rex's cage through the window", my mom asked.
"No, it is just that my apartment is having some paint removed, and I can't stay there while it is being done. Morelli currently has company and has no space for me to sleep there." I tried to answer as truthfully as possible without worrying my mother unduly.
"Is it lead paint? I bet it is lead paint that they are removing. That stuff is no good. I heard that it can kill your intelligence if you eat lead paint", said my grandmother.
"I don't know – maybe it's lead paint", I said. I didn't know if the paint had lead in it or not, and I was trying to imagine a situation in which I would be eating the paint. I couldn't.
I carried Rex's cage up the stairs into my old bedroom. This room basically hadn't changed since I lived at home. Except for new curtains and a new bedspread, the furniture, lamp, and wallpaper were all the same. Even my old high school diploma on the wall and pictures of my days as a high school baton twirler hadn't changed. It was comforting to return to the womb this way and it provided a sense of security that had been slowly eroding away with every harassing phone call I received.
I went downstairs to sort my laundry in the kitchen. My grandmother shooed me out of the room, saying she didn't have anything better to do and would sort my laundry for me. Since my chores were all being done by my mother and grandmother, I thanked them, said good-bye, got in my car and headed for work.