Disclaimer: BtVS and Angel belong to Joss Whedon, et al. Stephanie Plum characters belong to Janet Evanovich.
“Hey Stephanie” Connie said as I entered the office.
“It’s cold, it’s wet and I'm not making any progress on this case. I need a quick pick up. What do you have?” I peered hopefully at Connie over the desk. I like Connie. She works for my cousin Vinnie Plum at the bail bond shop.
Ranger came out of Vinnie's office while I was waiting. Ranger only takes big cases and he's hot. Black hair swept back in a pony tail and in his bounty hunting all black except for his earrings.
“Yo” Ranger nodded at me.
“Yo to you,” I replied.
“Here” Connie said, “this should be a quick pick up,” she held the file out to me. “It’s a hit and run. No, wait, its reckless driving. Uh both, Buffy Summers ran over some unknown guy and hit a parked car. The unknown guy is still unconscious. She has no priors except a few speeding tickets.”
I took the file. This didn't look too bad. The bounty wasn't big but it would keep me in hamster food and coffee until something better came along.
Connie continued, “She listed her job as a teacher and a Xander Harris put up money for the bond.”
“Was she packing?” I ask, though everyone in Jersey's packing from the pips to the seniors. My granny had a 45.
“She had a sword. Said she was a member of the some medieval weapons society. “ I stared down at the blonde women in the picture she looked like a well dressed New Yorker; pretty harmless.
Ranger had gone still and quiet beside me. “She from Sunnydale?” he asked. Ranger doesn't mince words.
Connie pulled the file back. “She lived in Sunnydale for a while. Why? Is she an old friend?”
“Vinnie” he called and then added to me, “You need to let this one go Stephanie. Summers is dangerous and works with the big players. Running that guy down wasn't an accident you don't want this one. I wouldn't take this one. You couldn’t pay me enough.”
Vinnie had come out in the middle of Ranger’s speech. He was opening and closing his mouth in shock like a fish. I’ve never known Ranger to say someone was too dangerous to go after.
“Vinnie,” he continued, “You should write this one off.” Ranger looked worried. “Send Harris a bill, write it off and don't go after her.”
“She’s a teacher, she doesn’t even have a criminal history,” Vinnie stuttered.
“She wasn't always,” he said darkly. “She’s here on business or on pleasure. You should pray that it's not business. If it is business pray harder that we never find out what she is doing here.”
“Why?” I asked. I suddenly had a sinking feeling about this one. “What’s her business like?”
“Messy,” Ranger said. “Really messy.”
“If it's that bad you should help Stephanie with the take-down.”
Ranger gave Vinnie a look like he’d asked him out on a date. “This one is bad news,” he said and left the office.
My cousin Vinnie, Vincent Plum is slime, the boil on the family's good name. He stared after Ranger briefly before turning to me. “You should start with her contacts,” his office door slammed shut. Connie and I looked at each other over the top of the Buffy Summers file.
Xander Harris's apartment was in a nice part of town. It was a penthouse in an expensive building with a doorman who rang for Harris while telling me that Harris hadn’t been in for days. I couldn't talk him into letting me look at Harris's apartment. I left my card but didn't feel too hopeful about a response. This whole thing was creeping me out. If Summers’ friends could afford an apartment like that why would they need someone to post bond?
I swung by Cluck in a Bucket on the way and got a couple of pieces of chicken, slaw and a coke. Later I was ready to hit the hospital. I whizzed my way onto the floor claiming to be a long lost cousin of the woman across the hall. The guy in the bed looked like a dork. The kind that you saw on television shows about comic book conventions. In my defense there was nothing on that night, my TV viewing usually doesn't drop that far down, so far down as to be watching comic book conventions that is. The guy on the bed had limp, light brown hair and chalky, white skin covered with bruises. His stuff didn't give any insight into the guy’s identity either; khaki pants and a t-shirt that said ‘Attack of the Clones’. He also had a Timex watch, something that was too tasteful for anyone in the burg to wear. I bribed the orderly, gave him my card and told him to call me if the John Doe hit by Buffy woke up. He said he would. Something felt off about the whole situation.
I called Morreli. “Ever heard of a Buffy Summers?” Morreli and I have a thing. It started when he decided to teach me choo-choo when I was six and he was eight.
“Never heard of her. Why?”
His mouth sounded full. “She's FTA,” FTA is failure to appear in bounty hunter ling, “How about Xander Harris?”
“Why?” Morreli sounded suspicious.
“This one feels off to me. She was in a hit and run, no priors and Harris posted bond. But Harris lives in a penthouse apartment and the doorman said he hasn’t been around in days. It just feels off to me. Can you find out anything?”
“Maybe she just got scared. Uptown socialite” he was chewing again.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Morreli growled suspiciously.
“Ranger said to leave her alone and told Vinnie to take a loss or send Harris a bill.”
“Ranger said... Stephanie,” Morreli sighed “I'll see what I can find.”
Morreli showed up at my door with a six pack, a pizza and a stack of papers. He looked worried. He couldn't find anything until he looked at juvenile records then things got scary. Neither Xander nor Buffy were ever charged with anything, but they'd been questioned more than a few times. The crimes ran from arson to murder. Morreli said the files contained some of the most shoddy and downright bad record keeping he’d ever seen in police work. “Then everything changes and they don't do anything that even appears illegal. Someone’s covering up for them, someone who’s either good enough to hack police records or so high up that he doesn’t need to hack the records.” Morreli looked grim. “Maybe you should let this one go.” He then he patted my hair and I threw him out on principle.
I called Ranger next.
“Go.” Ranger doesn't waste words.
“Tell me about Buffy Summers”
“No.” he said and hung up. Like I said Ranger doesn't waste words.
I tried Harris's number just for the heck of it.
“Hi. Stephanie Plum looking for Xander Harris.”
“I'm sorry,” the female voice said. “He is unavailable. Would you like to leave a message?”
Two days later I was at a standstill in the case with nothing but dead ends. No one knew anything about Summers, or if they did know anything they weren't talking. I consoled myself with a Bavarian cream donut on my way back to the office for a new, easy and unrelated pick up.
I was in the office dropping off the body receipt for the easy pickup when she walked in. Buffy Summers just walked in the door. There was a bruise on her face and she looked like she hadn't slept in days. A one eyed guy who moved like Ranger followed her.
“Hi, I'm Buffy Summers. I hear Stephanie Plum's been looking for me,” she smiled expectantly at Connie.
“I'm Stephanie,” I say still dumbfounded. An FTA does not just show up in the office and want to talk to the bonds officer.
“Buffy Summers,” she said holding out her hand, “And this is my friend Xander Harris”
“Hi” Xander says. His phone rings and he immediately answers it while adding, “Buffy, a lawyer will meet you at the police station.”
“Kay. If you need me before we get this straightened out just come break me out.”
“Not a problem,” Xander replies. “Ladies.” he gave a nod smiled at us and left the building.
I had a weird feeling that neither of them were joking in the slightest about breaking Buffy out of jail. “I'll just give you a ride to the police station I say feebly.
“Cool! you know I never met a bounty hunter before. What’s the job like?”
“It’s bad on cars” I fumbled for my keys. I'm back in the Buick again but that’s another, long story.
Buffy nods like this makes perfect sense to her. “My job's bad on shoes,” she confided.