'Lean, Mean Thirteen' Book Excerpt

Chapter One

For the past five minutes I've been parked outside my cousin Vinnie's bail bonds office in my crapolla car, debating whether to continue on with my day, or to return to my apartment and crawl back into bed. My name is Stephanie Plum, and Sensible Stephanie wanted to go back to bed. Loco Stephanie was thinking she should get on with it.

I was about to do something I knew I shouldn't do. The signs were all there in front of me. Sick stomach. Feeling of impending disaster. Knowledge that it was illegal. And yet, I was going to forge ahead with the plan. Not that this was especially unusual. Truth is, I've been dealing with impending doom for as long as I can remember. Heck, when I was six years old I sprinkled sugar on my head, convinced myself it was pixie dust, wished myself invisible, and walked into the boy's bathroom at school. I mean you don't know the water's over your head until you jump in, right? The door to the bond's office opened, and Lula stuck her head out and yelled at me. "Are you gonna sit there all day, or what?"

Lula is a black woman with a Rubenesque body and a Vegas wardrobe that's four sizes too small. She was a former 'ho, currently working as a file clerk for the office and a wheelman for me... when the mood struck. Today she was wearing big fake-fur Sasquatch boots, and her ass was packed into poison green spandex pants. Her pink sweatshirt had LOVE GODDESS spelled out in sequins across her boobs.

My wardrobe runs a lot more casual than Lula's. I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved knit shirt from the Gap. My feet were stuffed into knock-off Ugg boots, and I was bundled into a big quilted jacket. I have naturally curly brown hair that looks okay when I wear it shoulder length. When it's short the best you can say is that it has energy. I'd swiped on some extra mascara today hoping to boost my bravado. I had a favor to perform that I suspected was going to come back to haunt me. I grabbed my bag, wrenched the driver side door open and angled myself out of the car. It was the end of February, and there was gloom as far as the eye could see. It was almost ten AM, but the streetlights were on, and visibility in the swirling snow was about six inches. A truck chugged past, throwing slush halfway up my leg, soaking my jeans, bringing out my trash mouth. Winter wonderland Jersey style.

Connie Rosolli looked around her computer at me when I walked into the office. Connie is Vinnie's office manager and his first line of defense against the stream of pissed off bondees, bookies, hookers, various bill collectors and stiffed smut peddlers hoping to reach Vinnie's inner sanctum. Connie was a couple years older than me, a couple pounds heavier, a couple inches shorter, a couple cups bigger, and her hair was a couple inches higher than mine. Connie was pretty in a kick ass, central Jersey, third generation Italian kind of way.

"I have three new skips," Connie said. "One of them is Simon Diggery again." Skips are people who fail to show for a court appearance after Vinnie has bonded them out of jail. Vinnie loses money when bondees fail to appear, so that's where I come in. I work for Vinnie as a fugitive apprehension agent, better known as bounty hunter, and my job is to find the skips and drag them back into the system.

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