Disclaimer – I don’t own Buffy or any of BtVS character. They belong to Joss. I also don’t own any of the Stephanie Plum characters. They are the property of the wonderful Janet Evanovich. I don’t make any money from this, the only thing I get is the pleasure of writing.
Chapter 1 – Stephanie POV Author’s note- This first part is Stephanie’s POV, but all other chapters will be 3rd person.
Some days are better than others. That’s what everyone has told me. My name is Stephanie Plum, and I’m a bounty hunter. The only problem, I’m not a very good bounty hunter. I usually end up covered in garbage while the FTA, that’s Failure to Appear, is naked or covered with Vaseline or something equally disgusting. It seems like these things only happen to me.
Enough with the pity party. I have things to do. And one of those things is to go home and take a shower. My latest skip, Ray Bosca, a 75-year-old man, dumped his garbage can on me as I was yelling up to him in his apartment. Seems he didn’t think he should have to go court for shoplifting. He said he was old and should be exempt from things like that. Go figure. I’d come back later; right now I just wasn’t in the mood.
I drove back to my apartment trying to appreciate the beautiful spring day. Of course, it was hard to do considering I smelled like Chinese take-out. I picked a noodle out of my hair as I drove down the road.
My answering machine was blinking when I walked into my apartment. I ignored it and went and tapped on Rex’s cage. He stuck his face out of his soup can and twitched his whiskers at me. When he figured out I didn’t have any food, he disappeared back into the can. I am just not appreciated.
I took a quick shower, blew dry my hair, and gunked on several coats of mascara. It was more than I usually wore, but something told me I might need it today. After all, it was only 10:30 in the morning and I’d already had to take another shower.
My answering machine was still blinking at me, so I went over and pushed the button.
“Babe.” Came the sexy male voice that could always make me melt. “Call me.”
The sexy voice belonged to Ranger, aka Ricardo Carlos Manoso. Also known as Batman and the Wizard. Ranger and I had an odd relationship. Odd in the way that he doesn’t do relationships and in that I let him get away with that attitude while still allowing him to steal kisses and cop a feel whenever he wants to.
I know that makes me sound like a bad person, but have you ever seen Ranger? If you haven’t, you can’t understand. Ranger is a Cuban-American badass. He’s got the mocha latte skin and not an ounce of fat on his perfectly sculpted body. He dresses in black, always, drives expensive, shiny, new, black cars, always. He seems to have an endless supply. Which is good, considering my cars have a short life expectancy and so does any car Ranger loans me.
I picked up the phone and hit speed dial 1.
“Yo.” Came Ranger’s customary greeting.
“Yo, yourself.” I said. “What’s up?”
“You available to do a distraction tonight?” Ranger asked.
“When and where?” I asked.
“11 o’clock. I’ll send someone over with your clothes.”
“I have clothes.” I argued. “I don’t need your clothes.”
“Babe.” Ranger said, just the one word. God, that drove me nuts, but I also knew I wouldn’t win.
“Make sure the clothes are here in plenty of time for me to get ready.”
“Done. I’ll pick you up tonight at 10:30.” Then, Ranger disconnected.
I dropped the phone back in the cradle. Great, I had 12 hours until Ranger would be here. Actually, the clothes thing had me a little nervous. I did distractions for Ranger a lot, and I had the clothes for the job. If he was sending something over, it must be a classier place than we usually went. Usually, the target of a distraction was a skip hiding in some sleazy bar. My job was to get the guy to go outside with me so Ranger’s men could do the takedown without starting a brawl inside the bar. If we were going some place nicer, I had things to do. I needed a manicure and pedicure and possibly a wax job.
Okay, okay, you got me. I want to look good for Ranger. Yeah, I know. He doesn’t do relationships, but he would do me with partial consent, his words, not mine. I still haven’t figured out exactly what it means. I was withholding partial consent, but it was hard. My on-again, off-again relationship with Trenton cop Joe Morelli had been off for the last three months. He couldn’t deal with the fact I wouldn’t quit my job and become a burg housewife and couldn’t deal with the fact he was a major jerk about the whole job thing. I mean, he’s a cop. His job is dangerous, but you didn’t see me demanding he give it up.
But first, I had to go by the office and see if Connie had any skips for me. The rent still has to be paid.
I walked into the office and found Connie, the office manager, putting on another coat of candy apple red nail polish.
She closed the cap when she saw me and blew across her nails.
“Heard you had some trouble this morning.” She said, still blowing on her nails in an effort to get them to dry.
“The usual.” I replied, and it was the truth. Damn, I think I need a new job.
“Got some new skips for you.” Connie said and handed me three files. “One of these guys should probably go to Ranger, but his plate is full right now. He’s been hired to track down a serial killer.”
My eyes widened. “A serial killer? Here, in Trenton?” How had I not heard about this? “Wait a minute.” I said. “The cops hired Ranger to track this guy?”
“Not the cops.” Connie said. “Father of one of the victims. When he found out his daughter wasn’t the first and the cops were clueless, he hired RangeMan. And the killings aren’t all in Trenton. There have been 5 women and 3 men killed in 2 months all across the state. The cops are trying to keep it quiet. They don’t want to start a panic.”
“How do they know it’s the same person?”
“The way they were killed.” Connie replied with a shudder. “They were all found in the back alley of nightclubs with their throats slashed, drained of blood.”
I felt myself pale a little bit at that. What a horrible way to die.
I looked at the first file, Mooner, again. At least he’s easy money, although it would take a few hours. I always had to watch some TV marathon with him first.
The second file didn’t look too bad. Sabrina Nester, wanted for FTA on a possession charge. Claimed the wacky tobackky was medicinal. The file said she was 42 and had cataracts. Her picture showed her wearing very thick glasses.
Then, I glanced at the third file. This was not good. This guy was bad news. Anthony “Bulldog” Bensky. His picture explained the nickname. I won’t go into detail. He had a police record five pages long and he was only 23. Suspected of being involved in a gang and wanted for attempted murder. They think the murder was supposed to be his final initiation. The only problem, his victim had lived and picked him out of a line up as her attacker.
Still, the money from this one would really help my bank account.
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up about the same time Connie began to fan herself and stare over my shoulder. I didn’t look behind me. I knew who was there.
“Babe.” Ranger said, putting a hand on my neck and looking at the file in my hand. “This guy is bad news.”
“I know.” I said, glancing at him. “But, it’s the job.”
“I can give this to one of my men.” Ranger offered.
I shook my head. “No, that’s alright. I’ve got this one.” I probably should have passed this off to Ranger, but I really needed the money.
“Can I talk to you outside?” It was more of a command than a question.
The moment we got outside, he had me up against the wall.
“Be careful.” Ranger said.
I took a moment to wonder what he was talking about. Be careful with him, or the FTA? Because I could think of many, many things to do with Ranger, and none of them involved being careful.
“The FTA, Babe.” Ranger’s ESP was working perfectly.
I commanded myself not to blush, but it happened anyway. Ranger’s eyes darkened and he leaned in for a kiss.
I was going to tell him to stop. No, I really was. But then, his mouth was on mine and any protests just evaporated. The only thing I was thinking about was how good he tasted and how I loved the way his lips felt on mine.
Ranger broke the kiss and a small whimper escaped me before I could stop it. I looked into Ranger’s eyes and they were filled with lust. Oh boy, I’d better stop this now, before it goes too far.
Ranger started to reach for me again, but this time I scooted sideways out of his reach.
“What did you want to talk to me about?” I asked when his eyes narrowed and he started toward me.
“I want to talk to you about tonight.” He said, pushing his lust aside and putting his blank face on.
“What about it?” I asked.
“I’m going to give you a chance to back out.” Ranger said.
“Why would I back out?”
Ranger took a moment to consider his words. “This isn’t an average distraction. In fact, now that I think about it, I wouldn’t call it a distraction at all.”
“Then what would you call it?” I asked, narrowing my eyes and starting to get a little pissed.
He let out a his version of sigh, just the slightest hint of breath escaping from his mouth.
I blinked. Fishing? Then it hit me. “You want to use me as bait to find a serial killer?” I was amazed at how calm I sounded.
“Want to? No.” Ranger answered. “That’s why I’m giving you the chance to back out.”
“If I back out, where does that leave you?”
“I can call in favor from Jeanne Ellen.”
Nothing he could have said could have convinced me any faster not to back out. I didn’t want that barracuda Jeanne Ellen anywhere around Ranger.
Jeanne Ellen Burrows is the female version of Ranger. She’s everything I’m not. She’s skilled, she’s beautiful, she’s a kick ass bounty hunter, and I hate her. Rumor has it she and Ranger used to be an item.
“I’m in.” I told him.
“You sure?” he asked, searching my face.
“I’m sure.” I spoke with a lot more confidence than I felt.
Ranger seemed satisfied with that. “See you at 10:30.”
I stood against the wall and watched him drive away.