Home > Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)(16)

Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)(16)
Janet Evanovich

“He huffs and puffs around the floor a couple times a day. Doesn’t say much to anyone. Everything goes through Jim.”

“Bogart is big on image,” Doris said. “Everyone has to look happy when he’s on the floor. We get suited up in yellow because he thinks it’s a happy color. His slogan is ‘Happy ice cream made by happy people.’ ”

“Is everyone really happy?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “I’m happy.”

“Me too,” Tina said.

I looked at my watch. My break was over. I went back to my station and stared at the cups for two more hours. Every once in a while I had to straighten one. At precisely one o’clock the young woman came back and sent me to lunch. The break room was filled with second-shift lunch people. They were all brown baggers. Harry Bogart didn’t operate a cafeteria. There was free coffee and tea, and there were vending machines.

I went to my locker and called Lula.

“Where are you?” I asked her. “Did you get an office job?”

“I’m here with Connie. They said they didn’t have no office jobs available, and it don’t matter anyway because cheap-ass Bogart don’t give away free ice cream to his employees.”

“What’s going on at the bonds office? Am I missing anything?”

“We got cupcakes instead of donuts this morning. And a new copy of Star magazine came out. I didn’t get a chance to read it yet, but it got a guy on the cover that looks like one of the Property Brothers, but I think it might just be a look-alike. Imagine three guys out there lookin’ that good. And the real Property Brothers can even sing. You ever hear them sing?”

“No.”

“I think they should be on Live at Daryl’s House and then I could see my two favorite shows at one time.”

“I thought your favorite show was Naked and Afraid.”

“I got a lot of favorite shows. Mostly the common ingredient is hot men. Daryl got a real dope band, and the best part is Daryl’s hair. He’s got one of them blond flip-back things going. If I was white I’d want hair like Daryl. He’s like Farrah Fawcett only with a lot of testosterone.”

“Anything happening at the office besides cupcakes and the Star?”

“Vinnie came in, and he was on a rant over Eugene Winkle. How long you gonna be working at the ice cream fun factory? Vinnie’s not gonna be happy to hear you’re moonlighting.”

“I’ll go after Winkle tonight.”

“Are you nuts? The man is a bridge troll. How are you gonna bring him in?”

“Do you want to help?”

“No!”

I disconnected, pulled a couple dollars out of my pocket, and fed them into one of the vending machines in the break room. I got a packet of peanut butter crackers, a candy bar, and more coffee. I sat at a table with four women and introduced myself.

“I see you’re going for the high-protein vending machine diet,” one of the women said to me. “I’m Betty, and this is Miranda here to my right.”

“I didn’t pack a lunch,” I told them. “I thought there might be a cafeteria.”

“Honey, you’re working at the wrong ice cream factory,” Betty said. “That would be Mo Morris across town. He’s got a cafeteria, and his wife makes the sandwiches.”

“Yeah, and everyone gets free ice cream over there,” Miranda said.

I unwrapped my crackers. “So why are you all working here?”

“It’s impossible to get a job at the Morris plant,” Betty said. “No one ever leaves.”

“There’s not much turnover here either,” Miranda said. “Of course, there’s a human resources job open.”

“I noticed they still have the crime scene tape up,” I said. “It’s a little creepy. When I came in this morning the receptionist took me to see Mr. Bogart. Didn’t the human resources guy have an assistant?”

“Nope. It was just him,” Betty said. “This isn’t such a big operation. Evelyn has the office next to HR. She does the clerical work for everyone, including Arnold. He’s the deceased. Arnold Zigler.”

“Who’s Evelyn?” I asked.

The round-faced chubby woman sitting across from me raised her hand. “I’m Evelyn.”

“Oh, wow,” I said. “I’m sorry. You must have been friends with . . . Arnold.”

“He was a nice man,” Evelyn said. “Quiet. Kept to himself. Took his job seriously. I didn’t know him beyond work.” She pressed her lips together. “He hated Bogart Bars. He was allergic to nuts. Not so bad that they bothered him in the plant, but he couldn’t eat them.”

“What happened if he ate them?” I asked.

“Hives,” Evelyn said. “I never saw them firsthand. He kept Benadryl in his desk just in case.”

I didn’t know what to say. I guess it could have been an ironic coincidence, but it seemed especially nasty that he’d been covered with something that made him sick.

“Do you have any idea who killed him?” I asked.

Evelyn shook her head. “No.”

Everyone else had the same response.

“Terrible,” I said. “I heard the nuts came from here. It had to have been done by someone who works here and knew him. Remember Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who worked in a candy factory? Maybe there’s a serial killer at loose here.”

“So far only one person has been killed,” Betty said. “You need to kill a bunch of people to be a serial killer.”

“This could be the beginning,” I said. I looked around the table. “Do any of you know anyone who looks like a serial killer?”

“Marty,” Betty said. “He’s at the end of the line working the wrapper. He has shifty eyes. They look in different directions.”

“He told me about that once,” Evelyn said. “He has a glass eye. He poked his real eye out with a clam shucker. He said he’d been drinking.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Anybody got any weed?” Evelyn asked.

“I have some in my locker,” one of the other women said.

Evelyn perked up. “I’ll trade you for an egg salad sandwich.”

“Is it on sourdough?” the woman asked. “Do you have pickles?”

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