Plum Spooky. Copyright © 2008 by Evanovich, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sometimes you get up in the morning and you know it’s
going to be one of those days. No toothpaste left in the
tube, no toilet paper on the cardboard roll, hot water cuts
out halfway through your shower, and someone’s left a
monkey on your doorstep.
My name is Stephanie Plum, and I’m a bail bonds enforcement
agent for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. I live in
a one- bedroom, one- bath, unremarkable apartment in a
three- story brick box of a building on the outskirts of
Trenton, New Jersey. Usually I live alone with my hamster,
Rex, but at eight- thirty this morning, my roommate
list was enlarged to include Carl the Monkey. I opened
my door to go to work, and there he was. Small brown
monkey with long, curled tail, creepy little monkey fingers
and toes, crazy, bright monkey eyes, and he was on a
leash hooked to my doorknob. A note was attached to his
Hi! Remember me? I’m Carl and I belong to
Susan Stitch. Susan is on her honeymoon and
she knows you’ll take good care of me until
First, let me say that I’ve never wanted a monkey. Second,
I barely know Susan Stitch. Third, what the heck am I
supposed to do with the little bugger?
Twenty minutes later, I parked my Jeep Wrangler in front
of the bonds office on Hamilton Avenue. At one time, the
Wrangler had been red, but it had seen many lives before it
fell into my hands, and now it was far from primo and the
color was motley.
Carl followed me out of the car and into the office, hugging
my pants leg like a two- year- old. Connie, the office
manager who looked like a big Italian Betty Boop, peered
around her computer.
Lula, the office file clerk and wheelman, stood hands
on hips. “That better not be what I think it is,” Lula said,
eyeballing Carl. “I hate monkeys. You know I hate monkeys.”
“It’s Carl,” I told her. “Remember when we busted Susan
Stitch for failing to appear? And remember her monkey,
“Here he is.”
“What are you doing with him?”
“He was attached to my doorknob with a note. Susan
went on a honeymoon and left him with me.”
“She got a lot of nerve,” Lula said. “Where’s he go to the
bathroom? You ever think of that?”
I looked down at Carl. “Well?”
Carl blinked and shrugged. He looked at Lula and Connie,
curled his lips back and gave them a gummy monkey
“I don’t like the way he’s lookin’ at me,” Lula said. “It’s
creepy. What kind of monkey you got here anyway?”
Lula is a former ’ho, and she’s only moderately altered
her wardrobe to suit her new job. Lula somehow manages
to perform the miracle of squeezing her plus- size body
into petite- size clothes. Her hair was blond this week, her
skin was brown as always, her spandex tube dress was poison
green, and her shoes were four- inch, spike- heeled,
faux leopard Via Spigas. It came as no surprise that the
monkey was staring at Lula. Everyone stared at Lula.
I didn’t command that much attention in my jeans, girlcut
red T-shirt, gray sweatshirt, and inadequate swipe of
lash- lengthening mascara. Not only did I feel like a bran
muffin in a bakery case filled with eclairs, I was also the only
one not packing a gun. My eyes are blue, my hair is brown,
and my favorite word is cake. I was married for ten minutes
in another life, and I’m not inclined to repeat the mistake
anytime soon. There are a couple men in my life who tempt
me . . . just not with marriage.
One of those tempting men is Joe Morelli. He’s a Trenton
cop with bedroom eyes, and bedroom hands, and
everything else you’d want to find in your bedroom is top
of the line. He’s been my off- again, on- again boyfriend
for as long as I can remember, and last night he was onagain.
The second guy in my life is Carlos Manoso, aka Ranger.
Ranger’s been my mentor, my employer, my guardian angel,
and he’s gotten as intimate with me as a man can get, but
Ranger has never totally qualified as a boyfriend. Boyfriend
might suggest an occasional date, and I can’t see Ranger going
there. Ranger is the sort of guy who slips uninvited into
a girl’s dreams and desires and refuses to leave.
“What’s happening with Martin Munch?” Connie asked
me. “Vinnie’s in a rant over him. Munch is a big- ticket bond.
If you don’t drag his ass into court by the end of the month,
our bottom line won’t be good.”
This is the way things work in the bail bonds business. A
guy gets accused of a crime, and before he’s released back
into society, the court demands a security deposit. If the
accused doesn’t happen to have $50,000 under his mattress
to give to the court, he goes to a bail bonds agent and
that agent posts the bond for the accused for a fee. If the
accused doesn’t show up for his court date, the court gets
to keep the bondsman’s money until someone like me hauls
the accused back to jail.
My ferret- faced cousin Vinnie owns the bonds office on
paper, but he’s backed by his father- in- law, Harry the Hammer.
If Vinnie writes too many bad bonds and the office
runs in the red, Harry isn’t happy. And you don’t want a
guy with a name like Harry the Hammer to be unhappy.
“I’ve been looking for Munch all week,” I said to Connie.
“It’s like he’s dropped off the earth.”
Martin Munch is a twenty- four- year- old genius with a
doctorate in quantum physics. For what ever reason, Munch
went postal on his project manager, riding him like Man
O’War, breaking his nose with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee
mug, knocking him cold. Moments later, Munch was caught
on a security tape as he left the research lab cradling a oneof-
a-kind monster cesium vapor magnetometer. What ever
the heck that is!
Munch was arrested and booked, but the magnetometer
was never recovered. In a moment of insanity, Vinnie wrote
a bond for Munch, and now Munch is playing hard to get
with his contraption.
“This is a white- collar guy,” Connie said. “He hasn’t grown
up in a crime culture. His friends and family are probably
horrified. I can’t see them hiding him.”
“He hasn’t got a lot of friends and family,” I told her.
“From what I can determine, he has neighbors who have
never spoken to him, and the only family is a grandmother
in a retirement home in Cadmount. He was employed at
the research facility for two years, and he never socialized.
Before that, he was a student at Princeton, where he never
got his face out of a book.
“His neighbors tell me a couple months ago a guy started
visiting Munch. The guy was a little over six feet tall, with
an athletic build and expensive clothes. He drove a black
Ferrari and had shoulder- length black hair and pale, almost
white skin. Sometimes Munch would leave with him
and not come back for several days. That’s the whole enchilada.”
“Sounds like Dracula,” Lula said. “Was he wearing a
cape? Did he have fangs?”
“No one said anything about a cape or fangs.”
“Munch must have come in when I was out sick last
week,” Lula said. “I don’t remember him.”
“So what was it?” I asked her. “The flu?”
“I don’t know what it was. My eyes were all swollen, and
I was sneezing and wheezing, and I felt like I had a fever. I
just stayed in my apartment, drinking medicinal whiskey
and taking cold pills, and now I feel fine. What’s this Munch
I took his file from my Prada knockoff messenger bag and
showed Lula a photo.
“Good thing he’s a genius,” Lula said, “on account of he
don’t have much else going on.”
At five- feet- two- inches tall, Munch looked more like fourteen
than twenty- four. He was slim, with strawberry blond
hair and pale freckled skin. The photo was taken outdoors,
and Munch was squinting into the sun. He was wearing
jeans and sneakers and a SpongeBob T-shirt, and it occurred
to me that he probably shopped in the kids’ department.
I imagine you have to be pretty secure in your
manhood to pull that one off.
“I’m feeling hot today,” Lula said. “I bet I could find that
Munch. I bet he’s sitting home in his Underoos playing
with his whatchamacallit.”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt for us to check out his house one
more time,” I said. “He’s renting one of those little tiny row
houses on Crocker Street, down by the button factory.”
“What are you gonna do with the monkey?” Lula wanted
I looked over at Connie.
“Forget it,” Connie said. “I’m not babysitting a monkey.
Especially not that monkey.”
“Well, I don’t let monkeys ride in my car,” Lula said. “If
that monkey’s going with us, you’re gonna have to drive
your car. And I’m sitting in the back, so I can keep an eye
on him. I don’t want no monkey sneaking up behind me
giving me monkey cooties.”
“I’ve got two new skips,” Connie said to me. “One of
them, Gordo Bollo, ran over his ex- wife’s brand- new husband
with a pickup truck, twice. And the other, Denny
Guzzi, robbed a con ve nience store and accidentally shot
himself in the foot trying to make his getaway. Both idiots
failed to show for their court appearances.”
Connie shoved the paperwork to the edge of the desk.
I signed the contract and took the files that contained a
photo, the arrest sheet, and the bond agreement for each
“Shouldn’t be hard to tag Denny Guzzi,” Connie said.
“He’s got a big ban dage on his foot, and he can’t run.”
“Yeah, but he’s got a gun,” I said to Connie.
“This is Jersey,” Connie said. “Everyone’s got a gun . . .
We left the bonds office, and Lula stood looking at my car.
“I forgot you got this dumb Jeep,” Lula said. “I can’t get
in the back of this thing. Only Romanian acrobats could
get in the back of this. I guess the monkey’s gotta ride in
back, but I swear he makes a move on me, and I’m gonna
I slid behind the wheel, Lula wedged herself into the
passenger- side seat, and Carl hopped into the back. I adjusted
my rearview mirror, locked onto Carl, and I swear it
looked to me like Carl was making faces at Lula and giving
her the finger.
“What?” Lula said to me. “You got a strange look on
“It’s nothing,” I said. “I just thought Carl was . . . never
I drove across town, parked in front of Munch’s house
on Crocker Street, and we all piled out of the Jeep.
“This here’s a boring- ass house,” Lula said. “It looks like
every other house on the street. If I came home after having
two cosmopolitans, I wouldn’t know which house was
mine. Look at them. They’re all redbrick. They all have the
same stupid black door and black window trim. They don’t
even have no front yard. Just a stoop. And they all got the
same stupid stoop.”
I glanced at Lula. “Are you okay? That’s a lot of hostility
for a poor row house.”
“It’s the monkey. Monkeys give me the willies. And I
might have a headache from all that medicinal whiskey.”
I rang Munch’s doorbell and looked through sheers that
screened the front window. Beyond the sheers, the house
was dark and still.
“I bet he’s in there,” Lula said. “I bet he’s hiding under
the bed. I think we should go around to the back and look.”
There were fifteen row houses in all. All shared common
walls, and Munch’s was almost dead middle. We returned
to the Jeep, I rolled down the street, turned left at the corner
and took the alley that cut the block. I parked, and we
all got out and walked through Munch’s postage- stamp
backyard. The rear of the house was similar to the front. A
door and two windows. The door had a small swinging
trapdoor at the bottom for a pet, and Carl instantly scurried
I was dumbstruck. One minute, Carl was in the Jeep,
and then, in an instant, he was inside the house.
“Holy macaroni,” Lula said. “He’s fast!”
We looked in a window and saw Carl in the kitchen,
bouncing off counters, jumping up and down on the small
I pressed my nose to the glass. “I have to get him out.”
“Like hell you do,” Lula said. “This here’s your lucky day.
I say finders keepers.”
“What if Munch never returns? Carl will starve to
“I don’t think so,” Lula said. “He just opened the refrigerator.”
“There has to be a way to get in. Maybe Munch hid a
“Well, someone could accidentally break a window,”
Lula said. “And then someone else could crawl in and beat
the living crap out of the monkey.”
“No. We’re not breaking or beating.”
I rapped on the window, and Carl gave me the finger.
Lula sucked in some air. “That little fucker just flipped
us the bird.”
“It was probably accidental.”
Lula glared in at Carl. “Accident this!” she said to him,
middle finger extended.
Carl turned and mooned Lula, although it wasn’t much
of a moon since he wasn’t wearing clothes to begin with.
“Oh yeah?” Lula said. “You want to see a moon? I got a
moon to show you.”
“No!” I said to Lula. “No more moons. Bad enough I just
looked at a monkey butt. I don’t want your butt burned
into my ret i nas.”
“Hunh,” Lula said. “Lotta people paid good money to
see that butt.”
Carl drank some milk out of a carton and put it back into
the refrigerator. He opened the crisper drawer and pawed
around in it but didn’t find anything he wanted. He closed
the refrigerator, scratched his stomach, and looked around.
“Let me in,” I said to him. “Open the door.”
“Yeah, right,” Lula said. “As if his little pea brain could
Carl gave Lula the finger again. And then Carl threw the
deadbolt, opened the door, and stuck his tongue out at Lula.
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand,” Lula said, “it’s a showoff
I did a fast walk- through of the house. Not much to see.
Two small bedrooms, living room, single bath, small eat- in
kitchen. These houses were built by the button factory after
the war to entice cheap labor, and the button factory didn’t
waste money on frills. The houses had been sold many
times over since then and were now occupied by an odd assortment
of se nior citizens, newly marrieds, and crazies.
Seemed to me, Munch fit into the crazy category.
There were no clothes in the closet, no toiletries in the
bathroom, no computer anywhere. Munch had cleared out,
leaving a carton of milk, some sprouted onions, and a halfempty
box of Rice Krispies behind.
“It’s the strangest thing,” Lula said. “I got this sudden
craving for coffee cake. Do you smell cinnamon? It’s like
it’s mixed up with Christmas trees and oranges.”
I’d noticed the scent. And I was afraid I recognized it.
“How about you?” I asked Carl. “Do you smell cinnamon?”
Carl did another shrug and scratched his butt.
“Now all I can think of is cinnamon buns,” Lula said. “I
got buns on the brain. We gotta go find some. Or maybe a
doughnut. I wouldn’t mind a dozen doughnuts. I need a
bakery. I got cravings.”
Everyone vacated the kitchen, I locked the back door,
and we all piled into the Jeep. I found my way to Hamilton
and stopped at Tasty Pastry.
“What kind of doughnut do you want?” I asked Lula.
“Any kind. I want a Boston Cream, a strawberry jelly, a
chocolate- glazed, one of them with the white icing and
pretty colorful sprinkles, and a blueberry. No, wait. I don’t
want the blueberry. I want a vanilla cream and a cinnamon
“That’s a lot of doughnuts.”
“I’m a big girl,” Lula said. “I got big appetites. I feel like
I could eat a million doughnuts.”
“How about you?” I asked Carl. “Do you need a doughnut?”
Carl vigorously shook his head yes and jumped up and
down in his seat and made excited monkey noises.
“It’s creepy that this monkey knows what we’re saying,”
Lula said. “It’s just not right. It’s like he’s a alien monkey or
“Sometimes Morelli’s dog, Bob, knows what I’m saying.
He knows walk, and come and meatball.”
“Yeah, Tank knows some words, too, but not as many as
this monkey,” Lula said. “Of course, that’s ’cause Tank’s the
big, strong, silent type.”
Tank is Lula’s fiancé, and his name says it all. He’s
Ranger’s right- hand man, second in command at Ranger’s
security firm Rangeman, and he’s the guy Ranger trusts to
guard his back. To say that Tank is the big, strong, silent
type is a gross understatement on all accounts.
Fifteen minutes later, we were in the Jeep and we’d eaten
all the doughnuts.
“I feel a lot better,” Lula said. “Now what?”
I looked down at my shirt. It had powdered sugar and a
big glob of jelly on it. “I’m going home to change my shirt.”
“That don’t sound real interesting,” Lula said. “You could
drop me at the office. I might have to take a nap.”
I parked my Jeep in the lot behind my apartment building,
and Carl and I crossed the lot and pushed through
the building’s rear entrance. We took the elevator to the
second floor, and Carl waited patiently while I opened my
“So,” I said to him, “do you miss Susan?”
“You do a lot of shrugging,” I told him.
He studied me for a moment and gave me the finger.
Okay, so it wasn’t a shrug. And giving and getting the finger
is a way of life in Jersey. Still, getting the finger from a
monkey isn’t normal even by Jersey standards.
My apartment consists of a small entrance foyer with
hooks on the wall for coats and hats and handbags. The
kitchen and living room open off the foyer, a dining area is
tucked into an extension of the living room, and at the
other end is a short hallway leading to my bedroom and
bathroom. My décor is mostly what ever was discarded by
relatives. This is okay by me because Aunt Betty’s chair,
Grandma Mazur’s dining room set, and my cousin Tootie’s
coffee table are comfortable. They come to me infused
with family history, and they give off a kind of gentle energy
that my life is sometimes lacking. Not to mention, I
can’t afford anything else.
I hung my tote on one of the hooks in the foyer and stared
down at a pair of scruffy men’s boots that had been kicked
off and left in the middle of the floor. I was pretty sure I recognized
the boots, plus the battered leather backpack that
had been dumped on Tootie’s coffee table.
I walked into the living room and stared down at the
backpack. I blew out a sigh and rolled my eyes. Why me? I
thought. Isn’t it enough that I have a monkey? Do I really
need one more complication?
“Diesel?” I yelled.
I moved to the bedroom, and there he was, sprawled on
my bed. Over six feet of gorgeous, hard- muscled, slightly
tanned male. His eyes were brown and assessing, his hair
was sandy blond, thick, and unruly. His eyebrows were
fierce. Hard to tell his age. Young enough to be lots of
trouble. Old enough to know what he was doing. He was
wearing new gray sweatsocks, tattered jeans, and a faded
T-shirt that advertised a dive shop in the Caicos.
He rolled onto his back and smiled up at me when I
came into the room.
“Hey,” he said.
I pointed stiff- armed to the door. “Out!”
“What, no kiss hello?”
“Get a grip.”
He patted the bed next to him.
“No way,” I said.
Of course I was afraid. He made the Big Bad Wolf look
like chump change.
“How do you always manage to smell like Christmas?” I
“I don’t know. It’s just one of those things.” The smile
widened, showing perfect white teeth, and crinkle lines
appeared around his eyes. “It’s part of my appeal,” he said.
“You were in Martin Munch’s house earlier today, weren’t
“Yeah. You came in the back door, and I went out the front.
I would have hung around, but I was following someone.”
“I lost him.”
“Hard to believe.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to roll around on the bed
“Rain check,” I told him.
Here’s the thing with Diesel. I’d be crazy not to want to
take him for a test drive, but I’ve already got two men in
my life, and that’s actually one too many. Truth is, I’m a good
Catholic girl. The faith has always been elusive, but the guilt
is intractable. I’m not comfortable having simultaneous intimate
relationships . . . even if it’s only for a glorious ten
minutes. And Diesel isn’t a normal guy. At least that’s his
If Diesel is to be believed, there are people living
among us with abilities beyond normal. They look just like
anyone else, and most hold normal jobs and live relatively
normal lives. They’re called Unmentionables, and some
are more unmentionable than others. From what I’ve
seen, Diesel is about as unmentionable as a guy could get.
Diesel travels the world tracking Unmentionables who’ve
gone to the dark side, and then he pulls the power plug. I
don’t know how he accomplishes this. I’m not even sure
I believe any of it. All I know is, one minute he’s here, and
then he’s gone. And when he leaves, the barometric pressure
Diesel stood and stretched, and when he stretched,
there was a tantalizing flash of skin exposed between shirt
and low- riding jeans. It was enough to make my eyes glaze
over and my mouth go dry. I struggled to replace the
image with thoughts of Morelli naked, but I was only partially
“I’m hungry,” Diesel said. “What time is it? Is it lunch -
time?” He looked at his watch. “It’s after noon in Greenland.
He ambled out of the bedroom and into the kitchen,
where Carl was sitting on the counter, staring into Rex’s
“What’s with the monkey?” Diesel asked, his head in the
Diesel gathered up some cold cuts and sliced cheese
and turned to me. “You don’t strike me as especially maternal.”
“I have my moments.” Admittedly not very many, but
probably they’re just waiting for the right time to pop out.
Diesel found bread and made himself a sandwich. “He
got a name?”
Diesel flipped Carl a slice of bread and Carl caught it
and ate it.
“Are you a monkey man?” I asked Diesel.
“I can take ’em or leave ’em.”
Carl shot Diesel the finger, and Diesel gave a bark of
laughter. Diesel ate some sandwich and looked my way.
“You two must get along great. You taught him that, right?”
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“You never just visit.”
Diesel got a Bud Light from the fridge, chugged it, and
wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I’m looking
for a guy who has been known to hang with your friend
“Does this guy drive a black Ferrari and have long black
“Yes. Have you seen him?”
I shook my head. “No. I’ve talked to Munch’s neighbors,
and apparently he was Munch’s only visitor. Munch didn’t
have much of a social life.”
“What kind of leads do you have?” Diesel asked.
“The usual. Nothing. And you?”
“I tracked my man to Munch’s house but missed him by
minutes. I’ve been trying to tag him for over a year. He can
sense my approach, and he moves on before I get too close.”
“He’s afraid of you.”
“No. He’s enjoying the game.”
“Gerwulf Grimoire,” Diesel said.
“Wow, that’s a really bad name.”
“This is a really bad guy. And he wields a lot of power.
Somehow he connected with Munch, and now they’re
palling around together with Munch’s magnetometer.”
“Why was What’s-his- name in Munch’s house?” I asked
“Gerwulf Grimoire, but he goes by Wulf. I suppose
he went back to get something. Or maybe he was playing
with me. The house was clean when I got there. I followed
Wulf’s breadcrumbs to Broad Street, and then they disappeared.”
“Cosmic debris. Hard to explain.”
“Do I leave cosmic debris?”
“Everyone leaves it. Some people leave more than others.
Wulf and I leave a lot because we’re dense. We both
carry high energy.”
“Tell me about it,” Diesel said. “You should walk in my
shoes.” He crossed to the foyer, took my bag off its hook,
and stuck his hand in.
“Hey!” I said. “What are you doing?”
“I want to read your case file on Munch.”
“How do you know it’s in there?”
“I know. Just like I know you’re wearing a pink lace
thong, and you think I’m hot.”
“How? What?” I said.
“Lucky guess,” Diesel said, pulling the file out of my bag,
scanning the pages.
“I do not think you’re hot.”
“That’s a big fib,” Diesel said.
“I can save you some time,” I told him. “There isn’t anything
in Munch’s file. Only a grandmother.”
“Then let’s talk to the grandmother.”
“I’ve already talked to her.”
Diesel shoved his feet into his boots and laced up. “Let’s
talk to her again.”
I changed my shirt, and we headed out.
“Your car or mine?” I asked him when we got to the lot.
“What are you driving?”
“The Jeep that used to be red.”
“I like it,” Diesel said.
“What are you driving?”
I looked over at the black Harley. No room for Carl, and
it would wreck my hair. “Probably it’s easier to follow cosmic
dust when you’re on a bike,” I said.
Diesel settled himself into the Jeep’s passenger- side seat
and grinned at me. “You don’t really think there’s cosmic
dust, do you?”
I plugged the key into the ignition. “Of course not. Cosmic
dust would be . . . ridiculous.”
Diesel hooked an arm around my neck, pulled me to
him, and kissed me on the top of my head. “This is going to
be fun,” he said.