TRIGGER HAPPY TWENTY-THREE: A STEPHANIE PLUM-INSPIRED NOVEL
When I got to work, I saw Lula sitting on the couch reading a gossip magazine. There were pictures of starved celebrities and royal family members on the cover, with the caption "The Skinny on Being Skinny" headlined across the top. Lula had a stormy look on her face as she angrily paged through the magazine.
"What happened? Why aren't you filing?" I questioned. Connie sighed in anticipation of Lula's response.
"Yeah, that won't happen. I filed all day yesterday and let me tell you, it is hard to bend down so much. My knees haven't hurt like that since I was a 'ho after a day of giving BJs. So I filed all day and got through a lot of the backlog. I even worked through my lunch. But did Vinnie appreciate what I did? Hell, no. Not only did he fail to give me no bonus, but he also didn't give me no raise. Dammit, I deserve a raise. I thought that was what was supposed to happen at a job review meeting. You are supposed to get raises. But I got bupkis. It is all bullshit." Lula continued muttering to herself about the unfairness of not getting more money.
I interrupted Lula's mutterings. "Are you interested in getting skips? I could use some back-up."
Lula instantly brightened. "You have your new car. It is a lucky car. You got a good deal on it, and it's in good condition. It don't even have no dents in it. I just know it's going to bring us luck. WHAM! Let's go get us some skips."
"If you go by the Minetti house, see if you can get some more muffins", asked Connie. "They were good. I had a potluck candle party with my family last night and I served the muffins for my contribution. They were a real hit. Oh, and by the way, I brought the candle order catalogue in so you could see if there are any candles you would like to order. I am close to winning the deluxe hostess package, so please feel free to order as many candles as you would like. They have candle holders and soaps, too." Short of a power outage, I tried to imagine a situation in which I would need a candle. Morelli and I aren't really the candlelight, champagne and roses types. We're more the beer and pizza type. And beer and pizza don't go with candlelight. They go with a rerun of Lethal Weapon on TV.
Promising Connie that we would go visit Minetti first, Lula and I took the catalogue with us and left the office. We went first to the Minetti residence. Mrs. Minetti answered the door, letting out the wonderful aroma of banana muffins baking. "Oh, good, you are here. I was just about to call you. Michael is upstairs in bed. He got in late last night, and hasn't gotten up yet. Would you like to go up to get him?" I nodded yes and, going into my purse, removed my cuffs and put them in my hoody front pocket. I also put my stun gun in my pocket. I don't like using a stun gun in front of witnesses – it is slightly illegal to use a stun gun in New Jersey – but it had been difficult to find Minetti and I didn't want to take the chance I would lose him.
Prepared for the takedown, Lula and I entered the house and followed Mrs. Minetti up the stairs. When we got to the top of the stairs, Mrs. Minetti pointed to Michael's bedroom door and stood to the side so we could go in. I knocked on the door, not hearing any response at all. I cautiously opened the door. There were dirty clothes on every surface of the furniture and the floors. Minetti was sprawled on the bed, face down, still in his clothes from the night before. Even his shoes. The room smelled of stale beer and his greasy hair held traces of vomit. Mrs. Minetti gasped at seeing the state of her son and then choked on the smell emanating from his room. I went in, breathing through my mouth so the smell wouldn't make me gag. Lula waited outside the room.
I shook Minetti's shoulder. There was no response. He was passed out cold. I put one of his arms behind his back and cuffed him, then attached the cuffs to his other arm. I shook Michael harder, trying to wake him up. I called his name a few times, slapped him on the face, and ultimately resorted to pouring a bit of cold water on his head. I was finally able to get him up – still dead drunk and on the verge of passing out, but awake enough to escort him down to the car and put him in the back seat. I made sure the child safety locks were engaged on the car and, leaving Lula to guard the now-passed out Michael, then went back into the Minetti house to thank Mrs. Minetti for her help in the capture. "He will now have to wait until he can talk to the judge and have his court date rescheduled. That shouldn't take too long. Once that happens, he can be rebonded out. Connie or Vinnie from the office can do that."
"My husband and I have agreed this has gone on too long. We won't be rebonding him out. He has made his bed and now he has to lie in it." I nodded my head. I could understand where she was coming from. She said "wait", ran inside the house again, and brought out another bag of banana-chocolate chip muffins and a banana cream pie. "For you", she said. She handed the bounty to me and said how much she appreciated me bringing her son back to jail. I thanked her. I was glad I was bringing Minetti in – I could use the money to build up my savings after buying the car – but I sure would miss all the baked goods.
Lula and I drove Minetti to the station, parking the car in a police-only parking lot next to the station. I put my Police Association Supporter sticker in the window and hoped for the best. With having a new car I knew the police would not recognize what I was driving, and as such I wasn't sure that my car wouldn't get towed. I asked Lula to stay at the car to look after it. Lula was happy with this arrangement. Her past experience as a 'ho has left her with a revulsion for police stations. She says she gets the heebie-jeebies just being near one and she avoids going in them whenever possible. I took my car keys with me when I went in the station just in case. It wouldn't be the first time I came out to find that Lula had taken off in my car while I was inside.
I half walked, half dragged Minetti to the docket officer. I was able to cuff Minetti to the bench before he passed out again. Presenting my Right to Apprehend papers to the docket officer, I got my body receipt. I returned to the car to see Lula frantically trying to hot-wire it. I got a banana-chocolate chip muffin out of the bag and handed it to her. If anybody looked like they needed happy food, it was Lula. And anything with chocolate in it was classed as happy food in my book.
We drove back to the office, bringing in the remaining muffins for Connie as well as my body receipt. Connie wrote me a cheque. I kept the banana cream pie for dinner. "It's too bad that we won't be getting any more baked goods", Connie said. "That Mrs. Minetti can sure bake".
"WHAM! We got one person brought in. I told you your new car would bring us luck. Who do you want to bring in now?" Lula questioned.
"How about Brodie? Tomorrow we can go to Point Pleasant to look for Paulo."
I ran down to the deli and got a turkey club sandwich for Connie; a Rueben sandwich, a family-sized tub of macaroni salad and another of potato salad for Lula; and, a corned beef sandwich and a pickle for me. I also bought a big bag of kettle chips for all of us to share, and two waters for Connie and I and a diet soft drink for Lula. "I can eat all this," Lula said, "because I am having a diet drink. I won't be having all that sugar. That means I won't get fat." I didn't have the heart to tell her that eating a meal large enough to feed a family of four would probably negate the calories saved through drinking a diet soda.
After lunch, Lula and I went after Brodie. A lot of skip chasing is done over the phone and internet, before we actually physically go to the location where the skip is. It had been a few days since we had performed a search for him though, so we had to start our search all over again. The first thing I did was phone his work, to talk to the airline company that he flies with. When I got through to his superior, however, I found out that Brodie was on a leave of absence. "He was flying a lot of hours, and his temper just started to get worse and worse. He was especially taking it out on the female staff. Throwing the coffee was just one example of how unpredictable he was becoming. He was always a bit hot-headed, you know, but it was getting out of hand. So we gave him a leave of absence to give him some time to pull himself together. We set up appointments for him to visit the company psychologist. It was either that or fire him. And his union would not like it if we fired him."
"Did he mention whether he had any plans? Like was he hanging around Trenton, or was he taking any trips?" I asked.
"He didn't mention a trip. And even if he was taking a trip, it would have to be a very short one. He is seeing the psychologist twice per week."
After getting the contact information for the psychologist, I thanked the supervisor and got off the phone. I then called Dr. Fineman, the psychologist. He was in a session with a patient, so I left a message asking him to call me back. I did not expect much information from him due to patient confidentiality, but I wanted to try anyway.
"No help on the phone lines." I told Lula about Brodie's forced leave of absence. "Do you want to saddle up, so that we can see if we can find Brodie at home?" I questioned Lula.
"Sure. They say he's got an anger management problem? Bring him on. I can out-temper his ass. There ain't nobody who can get the better of me."
We got in the car and drove to Brodie's house. We parked a couple of houses down the street. I didn't want Brodie to figure out the car I was driving in case we were unsuccessful in picking him up. If he knew my car, it would make my job more difficult the next time around.
We waited for a few minutes, taking the temperature of the neighbourhood. It was quiet. All the children were in school, and all the adults were at work. We looked at Brodie's house. It was well maintained. Brodie had finished planting the flowers and he had painted his front door since we were there last. It looked like he was in the process of painting the shutters.
His car was missing from the driveway. It was doubtful that Brodie was home.
We walked up to his front door anyway, waiting on the front porch as we rang the doorbell. There was no sound in the house. Lula left me to look in the windows while I waited, but neither of us were able to see any sign of life. We gave up, and sat in the car to wait for Brodie to return.
Midway through a game of Twenty Questions I got a return call from Dr. Fineman. I explained that I was calling about Pete Brodie, and that I was representing his bail bonds office.
"I'm always happy to cooperate, but I'm not sure how much I can help. Patient confidentiality restricts me from sharing too much", he said.
"I understand about confidentiality. I need to find him, however. He has missed his court date and needs to go in to reschedule." I paused. "Do you know where I can find him?"
"I don't know where he is right at this moment. I do know that he is working on facing situations that have made him angry in the past, so you may find him challenging himself by attempting a different behaviour in a similar situation."
"Do you think that he will be successful?" I asked.
"Yes, I think there is a good probability that he will be successful. He has found a focus over the last couple of days that is helping him overcome his anger. He is making great strides in therapy. I anticipate that he will be back at work soon."
"How often does he go to therapy?"
"He comes twice per week, on Mondays and Thursdays", he said. I got off the phone and relayed the conversation to Lula.
After we finished our game of Twenty Questions, we became bored. "I have to tinkle", said Lula, "and I wouldn't mind a coffee. And a doughnut. Wouldn't a coffee and doughnut be good while we wait here for this guy to show up? Isn't there a coffee shop around here somewhere?" I knew there was – that was the shop in which Brodie had thrown the coffee. We left our post in front of Brodie's house and drove to the coffee shop. We headed inside, walking straight to the back to the ladies' room. When we were finished, we walked up to the front to join the line waiting to be served. After scanning the menu boards and selecting what I was going to order, I looked at the other patrons in the shop. Two people in front of me was Brodie, money in hand as he waited to be served. I pointed Brodie out to Lula and quietly transferred my cuffs and stun gun to my pocket. We walked up behind Brodie and I snagged a wrist and snapped on a cuff. "Bond enforcement", I said in his ear, and I went to snag his second wrist. Brodie looked back at me, yanked himself out of my grasp, and threw his money into my face. Out of surprise I jumped back and blinked my eyes. As soon as the money hit the ground all the patrons bent down to pick it up. It resembled a feeding frenzy at the zoo.