Hot Six(13)

By: Janet Evanovich


I raised my eyebrows.

“Was an act of God,” Lula said, putting her red Firebird in gear and punching on the sound system, which could shake the fillings out of your teeth.

She took North Clinton to Lincoln and then Chambers. When she dropped me in my lot, there was no sign of Mitchell and Habib.

“You looking for someone?” she wanted to know.

“Two guys in a black Lincoln were following me earlier today, hoping I’d find Ranger for them. I don’t see them now.”

“Lot of people looking for Ranger.”

“Do you think he killed Homer Ramos?”

“I could see him killing Ramos, but I can’t see him burning down a building. And I can’t see him being stupid.”

“Like getting caught on a security camera.”

“Ranger had to know there were security cameras. That building’s owned by Alexander Ramos. And Ramos just don’t go around leaving the lid off the cookie jar. He had offices in that building. I know on account of I did a house call there once while I was working at my former profession.”

Lula’s former profession was being a ho’, so I didn’t ask for details on the house call.

I left Lula and swung through the double glass doors that led to the small lobby of my apartment building. I live on the second floor, and I had a choice of stairs or elevator. I chose the elevator today, having exhausted myself watching my car burn.

I let myself into my apartment, hung up my shoulder bag and jacket, and peeked in on my hamster, Rex. He was running on his wheel in his glass aquarium, his little feet a pink blur against the red plastic.

“Hey, Rex,” I said. “How’s things?”

He paused for a moment, whiskers twitching, eyes bright, waiting for food to drop from the sky. I gave him a raisin from the box in the refrigerator and told him about the car. He stuffed the raisin into his cheek and returned to his running. If it was me I’d have eaten the raisin right off and opted for a nap. I don’t understand this running-for-fun stuff. The only way I could really get into running would be if I was being chased by a serial mutilator.

I checked my message machine. One message. No words. Just breathing. I hoped it was Ranger’s breathing. I listened to it again. The breathing sounded normal. Not pervert breathing. Not head-cold breathing. Could have been telephone-solicitor breathing.

I had a couple hours before the chicken arrived, so I went across the hall and knocked on my neighbor’s door.

“What?” Mr. Wolesky yelled, above the roar of his TV.

“I was wondering if I could borrow your paper. I had an unfortunate mishap with my car, and I thought I’d check out the used-car section of the classifieds.”

“Again?”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

He handed me the paper. “If I was you, I’d be looking at army surplus. You should be driving a tank.”

I took the paper back to my apartment and read the car ads and the funnies. I was pondering my horoscope when the phone rang.

“Is your grandmother there?” my mother wanted to know.

“No.”

“She had some words with your father, and she went stomping up to her room. And then next thing I know she’s outside getting into a cab!”

“She probably went to visit one of her friends.”

“I tried Betty Szajak and Emma Getz but they haven’t seen her.”

My doorbell rang and my heart went dead in my chest. I looked out my peephole. It was Grandma Mazur.

“She’s here!” I whispered to my mother.

“Thank goodness,” my mother said.

“No. Not thank goodness. She has a suitcase!”

“Maybe she needs a vacation from your father.”

“She’s not living here!”

“Well, of course not … but maybe she could just visit with you for a day or two until things calm down.”

“No! No, no, no.”

The doorbell rang again.

“She’s ringing my doorbell,” I said to my mother. “What should I do?”

“For goodness’ sakes, let her in.”

“If I let her in, I’m doomed. It’s like inviting a vampire into your house. Once you invite them in, that’s it, you’re as good as dead!”