Hot Six(7)

By: Janet Evanovich

“If you’d shut up I’d find out!” he yelled back. “Yammer, yammer, yammer. That’s all you do.”

“I’ll give you yammer, yammer,” she said. And she smacked him on top of his shiny skull.

Dale wheeled around and clocked her square on the side of her head.

“Hey!” I said. “Stop that!”

“I’ll give you one, too,” Dale said, jumping at me, fist raised.

I put my hand out to ward him off, and he stood statue-still for a moment, frozen in the raised-fist position. His mouth opened, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he fell over stiff as a board and crashed to the floor.

I knelt beside him. “Mr. Dale?”

His wife toed him with Garfield. “Hunh,” she said. “Guess he had another one of them heart attacks.”

I put my hand to his neck and couldn’t find a pulse.

“Oh, jeez,” I said.

“Is he dead?”

“Well, I’m no expert …”

“He looks dead to me.”

“Call 911 and I’ll try CPR.” Actually I didn’t know CPR, but I’d seen it done on television, and I was willing to give it a shot.

“Honey,” Mrs. Dale said, “you bring that man back to life and I’ll hit you with the meat mallet until your head looks like a veal patty.” She bent over her husband. “Anyway, look at him. He’s dead as a doorknob. A body couldn’t get any deader.”

I was afraid she was right. Mr. Dale didn’t look good.

An elderly woman came to the open door. “What’s happening? Lenny have another one of them heart attacks?” She turned and yelled down the hall. “Roger, call 911. Lenny had another heart attack.”

Within seconds the room was filled with neighbors, commenting on Lenny’s condition and asking questions. How did it happen? And was it fast? And did Mrs. Dale want a turkey noodle casserole for the wake?

Sure, Mrs. Dale said, a casserole would be nice. And she wondered if Tootie Greenberg could make one of those poppyseed cakes like she did for Moses Schultz.

The EMS unit arrived, looked at Lenny, and agreed with the general consensus. Lenny Dale was as dead as a doorknob.

I quietly slipped out of the apartment and did a fast shuffle to the elevator. It wasn’t even noon, and already my day seemed too long and cluttered with dead people. I called Vinnie when I reached the lobby.

“Listen,” I said, “I found Dale, but he’s dead.”

“How long’s he been like that?”

“About twenty minutes.”

“Were there any witnesses?”

“His wife.”

“Shit,” Vinnie said, “it was self-defense, right?”

“I didn’t kill him!”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, it was a heart attack, and I guess I might have contributed a little … .”

“Where is he now?”

“He’s in his apartment. The EMS guys are there but there’s nothing they can do. He’s definitely dead.”

“Christ, couldn’t you have given him a heart attack after you got him to the police station? This is gonna be a big pain in the ass. You wouldn’t believe the paperwork on this kind of thing. I tell you what, see if you can get the EMS boys to drive Dale over to the courthouse.”

I felt my mouth drop open.

“Yeah, this’ll work,” Vinnie said. “Just get one of the guys at the desk to come out and take a look. Then he can give you a body receipt.”

“I’m not dragging some poor dead man off to the municipal building!”

“What’s the big deal? You think he’s in a rush to get embalmed? Tell yourself you’re doing something nice for him—you know, like a last ride.”

Ugh. I disconnected. Should have kept the whole box of doughnuts for myself. This was shaping up to be an eight-doughnut day. I looked at the little green diode blinking on my cell phone. Come on, Ranger, I thought. Call me.

I left the lobby and took to the road. Moon Man Dunphy was next on my list. The Mooner lives in the Burg, a couple blocks from my parents’ house. He shares a row house with two other guys who are just as crazy as Moon Man. Last I heard, he was working nights, restocking at the Shop & Bag. And at this time of the day I suspect he’s at home eating Cap’n Crunch, watching reruns of Star Trek.