Home > Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)(12)

Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)(12)
Janet Evanovich

I left the building, got into the car, and Ranger silently drove out of the lot and headed for north Trenton.

“Do you have any new information on the Bogart Bar man?” I asked.

“Arnold Zigler. Forty-two years old. Divorced. No kids. A sister in Scranton. Parents are deceased. Most of his co-workers seemed to like him. He’d been with the company for ten years as head of human resources.”

“And the co-workers who didn’t like him?”

“Nothing serious. No death threats. Mostly indifference. I haven’t talked to any of them personally. This information has all come from Harry Bogart. You’ll have a chance to find out more tomorrow when you mingle.”

“I have to mingle?”

“Babe, I’m not putting you in there because you’re good at making ice cream.”

“I’m not sure I’m a good mingler.”

“How much am I paying you?”

“You don’t know?”

“It was a rhetorical question.”

It was past my bedtime, and I wasn’t in the best of moods. I wasn’t looking forward to being a snitch at the ice cream factory.

“Well, maybe I don’t even want this stupid job,” I said. “Maybe I’m doing this as a favor to you.”

Ranger stopped at a light and looked over at me.

“I don’t usually pay for favors, but if we’re going in that direction I wouldn’t mind turning this car around and taking you back to Rangeman for the night.”

Yikes. Tempting but at the same time frightening. And then there was Joe Morelli. And the Catholic Church. And my mother.

“Well?” he asked.

“I’m thinking.”

“Think faster, babe. The light just changed.”

“Ice cream factory.”

“It’s only a matter of time,” Ranger said.

I blew out a sigh. I knew this was true.

SEVEN

THE BOGART ICE Creamery was in a light industrial complex that had never developed beyond the ice cream plant. There were curbs and roads and empty lots, but no buildings other than Bogart’s. The employee parking area was deserted. Streetlamps dropped pools of white light onto the blacktop. The big two-story warehouse-type building was dark with the exception of exterior lighting on the six-bay loading dock, and lights were blazing inside the small guardhouse.

Ranger parked by the loading dock, and we left the car and approached the guardhouse. There were two men on duty. One was in a green Harry Bogart uniform, and the other was in Rangeman black fatigues. Ranger nodded to both men and continued on to the back door. He tapped a code into the door lock, we entered the factory, and Ranger threw the main light switch.

Lights flooded the building, and it looked to me like the entire manufacturing process was essentially in one huge two-story room. Conveyor belts and stainless steel tubes snaked around the room entering and exiting large stainless steel boxes that performed who-knows-what. Heavy-duty refrigerator-type double doors were built into a far wall. I imagined the doors opened to a freezer. A series of small offices lined the wall on the opposite side of the room. The offices all had large fixed-frame windows that looked out at the line workers.

“Has it been determined how Arnold Zigler got crammed into the back of the truck?” I asked Ranger.

“No. The truck was loaded Monday morning. Half the truck was filled with pints of assorted flavors. The other half was filled with Bogart Bars. It should have left in the early afternoon, but the driver got sick and couldn’t make his run, so the truck sat at the loading dock. It’s speculated that the driver was poisoned. He’s okay now, but he went down fast with food-poisoning symptoms. When the night guard made his first run at nine o’clock, someone took off with the truck.”

“Virgil?”

“Don’t know. Virgil is in the wind. Morelli will know more. He’ll have access to CSI reports. My job isn’t to solve the crime. My job is to make sure the crimes don’t continue.”

“Yes, but don’t you need to solve the crime to do this?”

“It’s not clear if this murder relates to the other crimes.” Ranger pointed at three pipes with valves and dials on the far wall. “The cream gets pumped out of tanker trucks into refrigerated silos on the outside of the building. The silos empty into the pipes you see on the wall, and the cream flows into the pasteurization vat. After pasteurization it gets pumped through a homogenizer and then through a plate cooler and finally into another vat to be further cooled for storage. After that it’s flash frozen to the consistency of soft-serve.”

“What about the different flavors? And how does it get to be a Bogart Bar?”

“For the most part the flavors are added during the first cooling process. Bogart Bars have their own line. I’ll walk you down to it. There’s also a line that packages the ice cream. You’ll see all that in action tomorrow.”

The Bogart Bar line stretched almost the length of the room. Even without the machines running, the process was pretty clear. The soft ice cream was extruded into molds, and the molds were moved into a stainless steel box with a dial on the outside.

“The freezer, right?” I said.

“Right. The ice cream is flash frozen into bars. The bars move through the system to the chocolate machine where they’re entirely encased in liquid chocolate. Excess chocolate drains off, the bars pass through the machine that covers them with nuts, and then they’re frozen again.”

I was standing next to the chocolate machine. “How does the chocolate get into this big contraption?” I asked Ranger.

“There’s a ladder on the other side. The machine is sealed while it’s running, but there’s a hatch on the top for adding ingredients. And the entire lid can come off for cleaning.”

“It seems to me that dunking someone in here would be at least a two-man job.”

Ranger nodded. “And it would be messy.”

“So maybe the dead man was chocolate coated somewhere else?”

“That would be my guess.”

“Like at a rival ice cream baron’s plant?”

“I haven’t seen Morris’s setup, but I doubt he would contaminate his own chocolate vat by dumping a dead man in it.”

“Good point. So maybe Harry Bogart didn’t need to scour his whole plant.”

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