Four To Score: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet EvanovichFour To Score: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich

Four To Score: A Stephanie Plum Novel

byJanet EvanovichAs told byJanet Evanovich

Mass Market Paperback | June 1, 1999

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A Featured Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club and a Main Selection of the Mystery Guild

Janet Evanovich, bestselling author of One for the Money, Two for the Dough, and Three to Get Deadly, scores big with Four to Score, her most thrilling Stephanie Plum adventure yet. Working for her bail bondsman cousin Vinnie, Stephanie is hot on the trail of revenge-seeking waitress Maxine Nowicki, whose crimes include bail jumping, theft, and extortion. Someone is terrifying Maxine's friends, and those who have seen her are turning up dead. Also on the hunt for Maxine is Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie's archenemy and rival bounty hunter. Stephanie's attitude never wavers-- even when aided by crazy Grandma Mazur, ex-hooker and wannabe bounty hunter Lula, and transvestite rock musician Sally Sweet-- and even when Stephanie makes an enemy whose deadly tactics escalate from threatening messages to firebombs. All of this pales in comparison, though, with an even greater danger Stephanie faces, when, homeless and broke, she and her hamster Rex move in with a vice cop Joe Morelli. RATED PG35 for licentious wit and libidinous cohabitation.

Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum books, including One for the Money and Sizzling Sixteen
Title:Four To Score: A Stephanie Plum NovelFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 6.76 × 4.23 × 0.92 inPublished:June 1, 1999Publisher:St. Martin's PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0312966970

ISBN - 13:9780312966973

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from good book! this is a fun read! #plumreview
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Always a good time I love this series. It has just the right amount of comedy, crime with a dash of romance. Love, love, love.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Won't be able to put it down This book had so many twists and turns concerning Stephanie and Joe that I couldn't help laughing out loud
Date published: 2017-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the book This book gets better and better. Love the chemistry between Ranger and Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli. The characters get more interesting and more hijinks as Stephanie tries to apprehend the bondees.
Date published: 2017-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesome Love the twists and turns in this book! And of course, joe morelli
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read this in one sitting I liked it so much.
Date published: 2017-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book Love the story. Mystery is great, characters are awesome. So witty. Such a fun book.
Date published: 2017-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it Love the reoccurring characters. The adventures. The whole package. Great read!
Date published: 2017-01-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Keeps getting better The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich are always a fun read. Each book is packed with humor, lovable characters, mystery, and a delicious romance. This fourth installment was not a disappointment. In fact, I liked this book better than the third. I found it more funny and the mystery case more interesting. Also, I definitely did not predict who the murderers/criminals were in the end. And....Morelli! *fans self* The romance was hotter than ever! Teasingly so! Cannot wait to see where everything goes in the following novels. This series is always an enjoyment and a quick read. Each novel goes along well with each other but I also find that in the beginning of each book, they do a quick 'catch up' of the characters and the story so far, that each book could also be fine as a standalone. Excited to read the next installment!
Date published: 2016-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fast paced, silly plot PLOT OR PREMISE: Stephanie Plum has settled in to her job as a bounty hunter, and so picking up a missing NJ girl who failed to appear after stealing her boyfriend's truck seems like a cakewalk. And there's a bonus -- the boyfriend is willing to give her money too to find her and get some supposed love letters back from her. Easy peasy. Except nothing is easy for Plum, ever. The missing girl wants to stay missing, and her mother and co-worker are helping. Even when somebody else is looking for the girl too, and willing to hurt people to get them to talk. . WHAT I LIKED: Plum has an extra helper in this case, a guy who's good with codes and clues. A flamboyant cross-dresser, he livens up the scene. And the relationship with Moretti leaps forward with the two cohabitating for awhile. I love the scenes where the women are talking about guns and what type of gun to carry, use, etc. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There are some baddies who are painfully obviously involved, which Plum misses for most of the book. And someone who is out to get her is obvious as well. Almost painful to watch. Oh, and one of my favorite characters. Ranger, has nothing to do for the entire book. More like an afterthought to include him. . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.
Date published: 2016-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Four to score I love this series! Stephanie, Lula, and Grandma Mazur never fail to make me laugh til my sides hurt!
Date published: 2015-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! So far every book has kept me from my everyday chores lol...looking forward to reading the whole series
Date published: 2014-09-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from For to score I just did not find this book worth buying, sorry because I usually enjoy this author. The end was abrupt I did not feel it was finished.
Date published: 2014-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from For to score Hold on to your sides as Stephanie Plum is back and funnier than ever! I can't read this without my sides hurting from laughing so hard!
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Four to Score This book is the perfect combination of romance, humor, and action. Can't wait to read more from this series!
Date published: 2014-01-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Stephanie Plum always gets her man...eventually America's favourite bounty hunter is back in Four to Score, and this time, the felon she's chasing after is a woman. Uh oh. The Stephanie Plum books are the kind of stories that leave me grinning from ear to ear. I get these people. Stephanie and her lovable, wacky friends just make sense to me. And I feel like they would understand me, too. That’s one of the great things about these books; I can relate. While the story itself was engaging, I thought the ending was a little rushed - it was basically all wrapped up in one chapter. The new character, Sally, was alright and there were some pretty big developments in the Steph/Morelli relationship,which were good to see. Those two really are perfect for each other. And it was really good to get deeper into that relationship and explore what it is that's keeping them apart. As always, looking forward to the next adventure with Stephanie Plum.
Date published: 2013-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Four To Score Witty and charming. Made me laugh out loud and kept me guessing.
Date published: 2013-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "I make lots of mistakes. I try hard not to make the same mistake more than three or four times." Mmmmm...Break me off a piece of that Morelli. I can't get enough of Evanovich's novels! I've read the four of them in five days, and am now moving onto number five. She has a wide collection of characters in this novel. She introduces Sally Sweet and male transvestite that couldn't be any more manly and womanly at the same time. If that makes any sense. And big things happen with Morelli in this novel. And his Grandma sees visions of their future. SO GOOD!!! And of course there is her trusty side kick who really knows how to have a friends back, especially if that means taserring an enemy three time. Love it. This novel kept my glued to it and I finished it under 24 hours and that includes going to work, socializing, and of course a little sleep. Does Evanovich know how to write a gripping novel? As Stephanie would say "Damn Skippy."
Date published: 2011-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another hit for Evanovich When Stephanie agrees to find a first time offender for skipping bail she expects it to be easy. Well, Stephanie should know by now that nothing comes easily for her. As she finds herself in yet another predicament, Stephanie will need the help of some old friends as well as some new ones to bring in her latest FTA. As she struggles to finds clues that will lead her to her missing woman, Stephanie finds herself completing against old foe. That’s right, Joyce Barnhardt, our most hated retailer is now a bounty hunter. Four to score will have you laughing out loud as always. Our favourite characters are back and ready for action. Lola and Grandma Mazur are as hilarious as always, Moreilli is as sexy as ever and Ranger is still a mystery that has you dying to discover. I find myself enthralled by both Moreilli and Ranger. Stephanie is a very lucky lady to have those two hunks in her life. I can’t wait to see which path Evanovich will explore in the future with those three. As much as I approve of Stephanie’s taste in men, it seems that she lacks common sense when it comes to food: Peanut butter and olive sandwhich? Can you say: EWWW!! Along with our favourite character a new player that goes by the name of Sally Sweet is introduced. Sally is a transvestite musician that finds the world of bounty hunting very interesting. Sally is a very interesting character that adds even more entertainment to our already very entertaining gang. I hope to see more of him in the future. As always the crew will have you staying up late and laughing by yourself.
Date published: 2011-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from YOU CAN NOT READ THIS WITHOUT LAUGHING OUT LOUD!!! The bounty hunter from hell is back!! In Four to Score, Stephanie Plum comes back in perfect form! She teams up with Lula, who we all know and love, and with a “new brief member”: Sally, a very fun straight transvestite! They’re all after a first-time offender, Maxine Nowicki. You would think because she’s a first-time offender and a woman, that she would be easy to “catch”… but no!! Anything wrong and bad that could happen, of course happens!!! And to top things off, they’re not the only ones running after Maxine; in this adventure, Stephanie gets some competition: the annoying Joyce, who you will hate as much as Stephanie does! But you will be laughing out loud through the whole adventure. One of the best parts though, is that we got to see more of sexy Morelli!! Mmm… I won’t get into the details, but it’s definitely hot and fun!! And of course Grandma Mazur is not to be missed. In the other hand, Ranger is a little bit absent; but that wasn’t a problem! You will also get to meet some new characters, all very special. So far, I find this book to be the funniest! … But then again, I thought the 3rd one was hilarious! It just gets better and funnier! YOU GO STEPHANIE !!
Date published: 2009-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of fun!! Stephanie Plum is at it again, pretending to be a bounty hunter. Her latest case is to find Maxine, who skipped out on bail after stealing her boyfriend's car. Stephanie soon learns that her arch enemy, the woman who she caught having sex with her ex-husband, is also trying to find Maxine. Stephanie soon learns that Maxine is leaving clues for her boyfriend in a sort of treasure hunt. Not being very good at puzzles, Stephanie enlists the help of a cross-dresser Sally Sweet. Of course, Grandma Mazur, Lula, Ranger, and Joe Morelli are always around to help or make fun of Stephanie in her quest to take down Maxine. As expected, this book was a lot of fun and had me laughing in certain parts. I was happy to finally see Stephanie and Joe get together, although I wish he would commit! They are obviously meant to be together. I'm sure there's more to come in the books ahead!
Date published: 2009-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from very funny!! Stephanie Plum is hot on the trail of a waitress(Maxine) who skipped bail for stealing her boyfriend's car. Maxine is out for revenge and sets up a treasure hunt for Stephanie and her ex to follow. Stephanie can't solve the clues and enlists the help of a transvestite musician. Also looking for Maxine is Stephanie's enemy, the woman she caught her husband with. Stephanie is always good for a chuckle. There is murder and mayhem aplenty. I especially loved the scene where she and Ranger go to pick up an elderly bond skipper and Stephanie gets plastered with egg. Way too funny!!
Date published: 2009-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Still a good series Another very entertaining Stephanie Plum novel. This time Stephanie is looking for Maxine, a waitress who has jumped bail. Along with Lula, Grandma and now their new friend, Sally Sweet, they go through the motions of trying to find Maxine. Some funny stuff Stephanie comes home and runs into a elderly neighbor who is complaining about the heat. > Next, the boyfriend of the skip got invited to dinner at Stephanie's parents house by Grandma Mazure. Steph tells her mom how creepy the guy is, then.... > This next scene is with my favourite gal, Lula. See, Joyce has been following Stephanie and after Steph tell Lula about it Lula decides to fix the problem. > In this next quote, Lula and Steph are talking to the guy who ate the dirty chicken from the kitchen floor. > This next scene isn't what I would call funny, but I include it because I love Ranger. I'd be happy to see Steph and Ranger hook up. I'd be happy to see a Stephanie sandwich with Joe on top and Ranger on the bottom. > In this book Stephanie gets help from Sally Sweet, a drag queen musician. Grandma is meeting him for the first time here. > Any sort of dialogue with Grandma Mazur and Lula is going to be good. > Those are just some of the hilarious moments that had me peeing my pants. I wish there was a bit more of Ranger though. I really like him.
Date published: 2008-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Help! I am completely addicted to the Plum Series....I have bags under my eyes from a lack of sleep! Once you start with One For the Money, I swear you can't stop. Evanovich is one hell of an amazing writer and storeyteller!
Date published: 2006-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Evanovich is Top! Four to Score alright! Evanovich Scores with this AWESOME novel ... a great addition to the Plus series! of which, ALL are great great great great READS!
Date published: 2002-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Four to Score This book was one of the greatest I've ever read... the whole Plum series is the best! I recommend books 1 through 8 to anyone looking for the greatest combination books ever!
Date published: 2002-08-06

Read from the Book

CHAPTER ONE Living in Trenton in July is like living inside a big pizza oven. Hot, airless, aromatic. Because I didn't want to miss any of the summer experience I had the sun roof open on my Honda CRX. My brown hair was pulled up into a wind snarled, curls-gone-to-frizz ponytail. The sun baked the top of my head, and sweat trickled under my black spandex sports bra. I was wearing matching spandex shorts and a sleeveless oversized Trenton Thunders baseball jersey. It was an excellent outfit except it gave me no place to stick my .38. Which meant I was going to have to borrow a gun to shoot my cousin, Vinnie. I parked the CRX in front of Vinnie's store front bail bonds office, lunged out of the car, stalked across the sidewalk, and yanked the office door open. "Where is he? Where is that miserable little excuse for a human being?" "Uh oh," Lula said from behind the file cabinet. "Rhino alert." Lula is a retired hooker who helps clean up the filing and sometimes rides shotgun for me when I do my fugitive apprehension thing. If people were cars, Lula would be a big, black '53 Packard with a high gloss chrome grill, oversized headlights, and a growl like a junk yard dog. Lots of muscle. Never fit in a compact space. Connie Rosolli, the office manager, pushed back at her desk when I entered. Connie's domain was this one front room where friends and relatives of miscreants came to beg money. And to the rear, in an inner office, my cousin, Vinnie, slapped Mr. Johnson around and conversed with his bookie. "Hey," Connie said, "I know what you're bummed about, and this wasn't my decision. Personally, if I were you, I'd kick your cousin's pervert ass around the block." I pushed a clump of hair that had strayed from the ponytail back from my face. "Kicking isn't good enough. I think I'll shoot him." "Go for it!" Lula said. "Yeah," Connie agreed. "Shoot him." Lula checked out my clothes. "You need a gun? I don't see no gun bulges in that spandex." She hiked up her T-shirt, and pulled a Chief's Special out of her cut-off denim shorts. "You could use mine. Just be careful, it sights high." "You don't want a little pea-shooter like that," Connie said, opening her desk drawer. "I've got a .45. You can make a nice big hole with a .45." Lula went for her purse. "Hold on here. If that's what you want, let me give you the big stud. I've got a .44 magnum loaded up with hydroschocks. This baby'll do real damage, you know what I'm saying? You could drive a Volkswagen through the hole this sweetheart makes." "I was sort of kidding about shooting him," I told them. "Too bad," Connie said. Lula shoved her gun back in her shorts. "Yeah, that's damn disappointing." "So where is he? Is he in?" "Hey Vinnie!" Connie yelled. "Stephanie's here to see you!" The door to the inner office opened and Vinnie poked his head out. "What?" Vinnie was 5'7", looked like a weasel, thought like a weasel, smelled like a French whore and was once in love with a duck. "You know what!" I said, hands fisted on hips. "Joyce Barnhardt, that's what. My grandma was at the beauty parlor and heard you hired Joyce to do skip tracing." "So what's the big deal? I hired Joyce Barnhardt." "Joyce Barnhardt does make-overs at Macy's." "And you used to sell ladies panties." " That was entirely different. I blackmailed you into giving me this job." "Exactly," Vinnie said. "So what's your point?" "Fine!" I shouted. "Just keep her out of my way! I hate Joyce Barnhardt!" And everybody knew why. At the tender age of twenty-four, after less than a year of marriage, I'd caught Joyce bare-assed on my dining room table, playing hide-the-salami with my husband. It was the only time she'd ever done me a favor. We'd gone through school together where she'd spread rumors, told fibs, ruined friendships and peeked under the stall doors in the girls bathroom to see peoples underpants. She'd been a fat kid with a terrible overbite. The overbite had been minimalized by braces, and by the time Joyce was fifteen she'd trimmed down to look like Barbie on steroids. She had chemically enhanced red hair done up in big teased curls. Her nails were long and painted, her lips were high gloss, her eyes were rimmed in navy liquid liner, her lashes gunked-up with blue-black mascara. She was an inch shorter than me, five pounds heavier and had me beat by two cup sizes. She had three ex-husbands and no children. It was rumored she had sex with large dogs. Joyce and Vinnie were a match made in heaven. Too bad Vinnie was already married to a perfectly nice woman whose father happened to be Harry the Hammer. Harry's job description read "expediter", and Harry spent a lot of his time in the presence of men who wore Fedoras and long black overcoats. "Just do your job," Vinnie said. "Be a professional." He waved his hand at Connie. "Give her something. Give her that new skip we just got in." Connie took a manila folder from her desk top. "Maxine Nowicki. Charged with stealing her former boyfriend's car. Posted bond with us and failed to show for her court appearance." By securing a cash bond Nowicki had been free to leave the lock-up behind and return to society at large while awaiting trial. Now she'd failed to appear. Or in bounty-hunter speak, she was FTA. This lapse of judicial etiquette changed Nowicki's status to felon and had my cousin Vinnie worrying that the court might see fit to keep his bond money. As a bond enforcement officer I was expected to find Nowicki and bring her back into the system. For performing this service in a timely manner I'd get ten percent of her bond amount. Pretty good money since this sounded like a domestic dispute, and I didn't think Maxine Nowicki would be interested in blowing the back of my head off with a .45 hollow tip. I rifled through the paperwork which consisted of Nowicki's bond agreement, a photo, and a copy of the police report. "Know what I'd do?" Lula said. "I'd talk to the boyfriend. Anybody pissed off enough to get his girlfriend arrested for stealing his car is pissed off enough to snitch on her. Probably he's just waiting to tell someone where to go find her." It was my thought too. I read aloud from Nowicki's charge sheet. "Edward Kuntz. Single white male. Age 27. Residing at 17 Muffet Street. Says here he's a cook." * * * I parked in front of Kuntz's house and wondered about the man inside. The house was white clapboard with aqua trim around the windows and tangerine paint on the door. It was half of a well-cared-for duplex with a minuscule front yard. A three foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary dressed in pale blue and white had been planted on the perfectly clipped patch of lawn. A carved wood heart with red lettering and little white daisies had been hung on the neighboring door, proclaiming that the Glicks lived there. The Kuntz side was free of ornamentation. I followed the sidewalk to the porch which had been carpeted in green indoor-outdoor carpet and rang the Kuntz doorbell. The door opened and a sweaty, muscle-bulging, half-naked man looked out at me. "What?" "Eddie Kuntz?" "Yeah?" I passed him my business card. "Stephanie Plum. I'm a bond enforcement officer, and I'm looking for Maxine Nowicki. I was hoping you could help me." "You bet I can help you. She took my car. Can you believe it?" He jerked his stubbled chin toward the curb. "That's it right there. Lucky for her she didn't scratch it up. The cops picked her up driving through town in it, and they brought the car back to me." I glanced back at the car. A white Chevy Blazer. Freshly washed. I almost was tempted to steal it myself. "You were living together?" "Well, yeah, for awhile. About four months. And then we had this disagreement, and next thing I know, she's gone with my car. It wasn't that I wanted her arrested was just that I wanted my car back. That was why I called the police. I wanted my car." "Do you have any idea where she might be now?" "No. I tried to get in touch with her to sort of patch things up, but I couldn't find her. She quit her job at the diner and nobody's seen her. I stopped around her apartment a couple times, and there was never anybody home. I tried calling her mother. I called a couple of her girl friends. No one seems to know anything. I guess they could have been lying to me, but I don't think so." He winked at me. "Women don't lie to me, you know what I mean?" "No," I said. "I don't know what you mean." "Well, I don't like to brag, but I have a way with women." "Uh huh." Must be the pungent aroma they find so attractive. Or maybe the overdeveloped, steroid pumped muscles that made him look like he needed a bra. Or maybe it was the way he couldn't conduct a conversation without scratching his balls. "So what can I do for you?" Kuntz asked. Half an hour later I left with a list of Maxine's friends and relatives. I knew where Maxine banked, bought her booze, shopped for groceries, dry-cleaned her clothes and had her hair done. Kuntz promised to call me if he heard from Maxine, and I'd promised to reciprocate in kind if I turned up anything interesting. Of course, I'd had my fingers crossed when I'd made the promise. I suspected Eddie Kuntz's way with women was to make them run screaming in the opposite direction. He stood on the porch and watched me angle into my car. "Cute," he called. "I like when a chick drives a sporty little car." I sent him a smile that felt a lot like a grimace and peeled away from the curb. I'd gotten the CRX in February, sucked in by a shiny new paint job and an odometer that read 12,000 miles. Cherry condition, the owner had said. Hardly ever driven. And that was partly true. It was hardly ever driven with the odometer cable connected. Not that it mattered. The price had been right, and I looked good in the driver's seat. I'd recently developed a dime sized lesion on my exhaust pipe, but if I played Metallica loud enough I could hardly hear the muffler noise. I might have thought twice about buying the car if I'd known Eddie Kuntz thought it was cute. My first stop was the Silver Dollar Diner. Maxine had worked there for seven years and had listed no other source of income. The Silver Dollar was open twenty-four hours. It served good food in generous portions and was always packed with overweight people and penny pinching seniors. The families of fatties cleaned their plates, and the seniors took leftovers home in doggy bags ...butter pats, baskets of rolls, packets of sugar, half-eaten pieces of deep fried haddock, coleslaw, fruit cup, grease-logged french fries. A senior could eat for three days off one meal at the Silver Dollar. The Silver Dollar was in Hamilton Township on a stretch of road that was clogged with discount stores and small strip malls. It was almost noon and diner patrons were scarfing down burgers and BLTs. I introduced myself to the woman behind the register and asked about Maxine. "I can't believe she's in all this trouble," the woman said. "Maxine was responsible. Real dependable." She straightened a stack of menus. "And that business about the car!" She did some eye rolling. "Maxine drove it to work lots of times. He gave her the keys. And then all of a sudden she's arrested for stealing." She gave a grunt of disgust. "Men!" I stepped back to allow a couple to pay their bill. When they'd pocketed their complimentary mints, matchbooks and toothpicks and exited the diner I turned back to the cashier. "Maxine failed to show for her court appearance. Did she give any indication that she might be leaving town?" "She said she was going on vacation, and we all thought she was due. Been working here for seven years and never once took a vacation." "Has anyone heard from her since she's left?" "Not that I know of. Maybe Margie. Maxine and Margie always worked the same shift. Four to ten. If you want to talk to Margie you should come back around eight. We get real busy with the early bird specials at four, but then around eight it starts to slack off." I thanked the woman and went back to my CRX. My next stop would be Nowicki's apartment. According to Kuntz, Nowicki had lived with him for four months but had never gotten around to moving out of her place. The apartment was a quarter mile from the diner, and Nowicki had stated on her bond agreement that she'd resided there for six years. All previous addresses were local. Maxine Nowicki was Trenton clear to the roots of her bleached blonde hair. The apartment was in a complex of two story, blocky red brick buildings anchored in islands of parched grass, arranged around macadam parking lots. Nowicki was on the second floor with a first floor entrance. Inside private stairwell. Not good for window snooping. All second floor apartments had small balconies on the back side, but I'd need a ladder to get to the balcony. Probably a woman climbing up a ladder would look suspicious. I decided to go with the obvious and knock on the door. If no one answered I'd ask the super to let me in. Many times the super was cooperative in this way, especially if he was confused as to the authenticity of my fake badge. There were two front doors side-by-side. One was for upstairs and one was for downstairs. The name under the upstairs doorbell read, Nowicki. The name under the downstairs doorbell read, Pease. I rang the upstairs doorbell and the downstairs door opened and an elderly woman looked out at me. "She isn't home." "Are you Mrs. Pease?" I asked. "Yes." "Are you sure Maxine isn't home?" "Well, I guess I'd know. You can hear everything in this cheapskate apartment. If she was home I'd hear her TV. I'd hear her walking around. And besides, she'd stop in to tell me she was home and collect her mail." Ah hah! The woman was collecting Maxine's mail. Maybe she also had Maxine's key. "Yes, but suppose she came home late one night and didn't want to wake you?" I said. "And then suppose she had a stroke?" "I never thought of that." "She could be upstairs right now, gasping her last breath of air." The woman rolled her eyes upward, as if she could see through walls. "Hmmm." "Do you have a key?" "Well, yes... " "And what about her plants? Have you been watering her plants?" "She didn't ask me to water her plants." "Maybe we should go take a look. Make sure everything is okay." "Are you a friend of Maxine's?" I held two fingers up side-by-side. "Like this." "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to check. I'll be right back with the key. I've got it in the kitchen." Okay, so I fibbed a little. But it wasn't such a bad fib because it was for a good cause. And besides, she could be dead in her bed. And her plants could be dying of thirst. "Here it is," Mrs. Pease said, brandishing the key. She turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. "Hell-oo-o," she called in her warbling old ladies voice. "Anybody home?" No one answered, so we crept up the stairs. We stood in the little entrance area and looked into the living room-dining room. "Not much of a housekeeper," Mrs. Pease said. Housekeeping had nothing to do with it. The apartment had been trashed. It wasn't a fight because nothing was smashed. And it wasn't clutter from a last minute scurry to leave. Cushions were pulled off the couch and flung onto the floor. Cupboard doors were open. Drawers were pulled from the hutch and turned upside down, contents spilled out. I did a quick walk-through and saw more of the same in the bedroom and bath. Someone had been looking for something. Money? Drugs? If it was robbery it had been very specific because the TV and VCR were untouched. "Someone has ransacked this apartment," I said to Mrs. Pease. "I'm surprised you didn't hear the drawers being flung around." rd"If I was home I would have heard it. It must have been when I was out to Bingo. I go to Bingo every Wednesday and Friday. I don't get home until eleven. Do you think we should report this to the police?" "It wouldn't serve much purpose right now." Except to notify the police that I'd been in Maxine's apartment sort of illegally. "We don't know if anything's been taken. Probably we should wait for Maxine to come home and let her call the police." We didn't see any plants to water, so we tippytoed back down the stairs and locked the door. I gave Mrs. Pease my card and asked her to call me if she should see or hear anything suspicious. She studied the card. "A bounty hunter," she said, her voice showing surprise. "A woman's got to do what a woman's got to do," I said. She looked up and nodded in agreement. "I suppose that's true." I squinted into the lot. "According to my information Maxine owns an '84 Fairlane. I don't see it here." "She took off in it," Mrs. Pease said. "Wasn't much of a car. Always something or other broken on it, but she loaded it up with her suitcase and took off." "Did she say where she was going?" "On vacation." "That was it?" "Yep," Mrs. Pease said, "that was it. Usually Maxine's real talkative, but she wasn't saying anything this time. She was in a hurry, and she wasn't saying anything." Nowicki's mother lived on Howser Street. She'd posted the bond and had put her house up as collateral. At first glance this seemed like a safe investment for my cousin Vinnie. Truth was, getting a person kicked out of his or her house was a chore and did nothing to endear a bail bondsman to the community. I got out my street map and found Howser. It was in north Trenton, so I retraced my route and discovered Mrs. Nowicki lived two blocks from Eddie Kuntz. Same neighborhood of well-kept houses. Except for the Nowicki house. The Nowicki house was single family, and it was a wreck. Peeling paint, crumbling roof shingles, saggy front porch, front yard more dirt than grass. I picked my way over rotting porch steps and knocked on the door. The woman who answered was faded glory in a bathrobe. It was getting to be mid-afternoon, but Mrs. Nowicki looked like she'd just rolled out of bed. She was a sixty year old woman wearing the ravages of booze and disenchantment with life. Her doughy face showed traces of make-up not removed before calling it a night. Her voice had the rasp of two packs a day, and her breath was hundred proof. "Mrs. Nowicki?" "Yeah," she said. "I'm looking for Maxine." "You a friend of Maxy's?" I gave her my card. "I'm with the Plum Agency. Maxine missed her court date. I'm trying to find her, so we can get her rescheduled." Mrs. Nowicki raised a crayoned brown eyebrow. "I wasn't born yesterday, honey. You're a bounty hunter, and you're out to get my little girl." "Do you know where she is?" "Wouldn't tell you if I did. She'll get found when she wants to." "You put your house up as security against the bond. If Maxine doesn't come forward you could loose your house." "Oh yeah, that'd be a tragedy," she said, rummaging in the pocket of her chenille robe, coming up with a pack of Kools. "Architectural Digest keeps wanting to do a spread, but I can't find the time." She stuck a cigarette in her mouth and lit up. She sucked hard and squinted at me through the smoke haze. "I owe five years back taxes. You want this house you're gonna hafta take a number and get in line." Sometimes bail jumpers are simply at home, trying to pretend their life isn't in the toilet, hoping the whole mess will go away if they ignore the order to appear in court. I'd originally thought Maxine would be one of these people. She wasn't a career criminal, and the charges weren't serious. She really had no reason to skip out. Now I wasn't so sure. I was getting an uncomfortable feeling about Maxine. Her apartment had been trashed, and her mother had me thinking maybe Maxine didn't want to be found right now. I slunk back to my car and decided my deductive reasoning would be vastly improved if I ate a donut. So I cut across town to Hamilton and parked in front of Tasty Pastry Bakery. I'd worked part-time at Tasty Pastry when I was in high school. It hadn't changed much since then. Same green and white linoleum floor. Same sparkling clean display cases filled with Italian cookies, chocolate chip cannolli, biscotti, napoleons, fresh bread and coffee cakes. Same happy smell of fried sweet dough and cinnamon. Lennie Smulenski and Anthony Zuck bake the goodies in the back room in big steel ovens and troughs of hot oil. Clouds of flour and sugar sift onto table surfaces and slip under foot. And lard is transferred daily from commercial sized vats directly to local butts. I choose two Boston cremes and pocketed some napkins. When I came out I found Joe Morelli lounging against my car. I'd known Morelli all of my life. First when he was a lecherous little kid, then as a dangerous teen. And finally as the guy who at age eighteen, sweet-talked me out of my underwear, laid me down on the floor behind the eclair case one day after work and relieved me of my virginity. Morelli was a cop now, and the only way he'd get back into my pants would be at gun point. He worked vice, and he looked like he knew a lot about it first hand. He was wearing washed out Levis and a navy t-shirt. His hair needed cutting, and his body was perfect. Lean and hard-muscled with the best ass in Trenton ... maybe the world. Buns you wanted to sink your teeth into. Not that I intended to nibble on Morelli. He had an annoying habit of periodically popping up in my life, frustrating the hell out of me and then walking off into the sunset. I couldn't do much about the popping up or the walking off. I could do something about the frustrating. From here on out, Morelli was erotica non-grata. Look but don't touch, that was my motto. And he could keep his tongue to himself, thank you. Morelli grinned by way of hello. "You're not going to eat both those doughnuts all by yourself, are you?" "That was the plan. What are you doing here?" "Drove by. Saw your car. Thought you'd need some help with those Boston Cremes." "How do you know they're Boston Cremes?" "You always get Boston Cremes." Last time I saw Morelli was back in February. One minute we were in a clinch on my couch with his hand half-way up my thigh, and then next thing I knew, his pager went off, and he was gone. Not to be seen for five months. And now here he was ...sniffing at my doughnuts. "Long time, no see," I said. "I've been undercover." Yeah, right. "Okay," he said. "I could have called." "I thought maybe you were dead." The smile tightened. "Wishful thinking?" "You're scum, Morelli." He blew out a sigh. "You're not going to share those doughnuts, are you?" I got into my car, slammed the door, squealed out of the lot and headed for home. By the time I got to my apartment I'd eaten both the doughnuts, and I was feeling much better. And I was thinking about Nowicki. She was five years older than Kuntz. High school graduate. Twice married. No children. Her file photo showed me a blowzy blonde with big Jersey hair, lots of make-up and a slim frame. She was squinting into the sun and smiling, wearing four inch heels, tight black stretch pants and a loose flowing sweater with sleeves pushed up to her elbows and a v-neck deep enough to show cleavage. I half expected to find writing on the back of the picture ...if you want a good time, call Maxine Nowicki. Probably she'd done exactly what she'd said. Probably she'd stressed out and gone on vacation. Probably I shouldn't exert myself because she'd come home any day now. And what about her apartment? The apartment was bothersome. The apartment told me Maxine had bigger problems than a simple auto theft charge. Best not to think about the apartment. The apartment only muddied the waters, and had nothing to do with my job. My job was simple. Find Maxine. Bring her in. I locked the CRX and crossed the lot. Mr. Landowsky stepped out the building's back door as I approached. Mr. Landowsky was eighty-two and somehow his chest had shrunk over the years, and now he was forced to hike his pants up under his armpits. "Oi," he said. "This heat! I can't breathe. Somebody should do something." I assumed he was talking about God. "That weatherman on the morning news. He should be shot. How can I go out in weather like this? And then when it gets so hot they keep the supermarkets too cold. Hot, cold. Hot, cold. It gives me the runs." I was glad I owned a gun because when I got as old as Mr. Landowsky I was going to eat a bullet. The first time I got the runs in the supermarket, that was it. BANG! It would all be over. I took the elevator to the second floor and let myself into my apartment. One bedroom, one bath, living room-dining room, uninspired but adequate kitchen, small foyer with a strip of pegs for hanging coats and hats and gun belts. My hamster, Rex, was running on his wheel when I came in. I told him about my day and apologized for not saving him some doughnut. He looked disappointed at the doughnut part, so I rooted around in my refrigerator and came up with a few grapes. Rex took the grapes and disappeared into his soup can. Life is pretty simple when you're a hamster. I moseyed back into the kitchen and checked my phone messages. "Stephanie, this is your mother. Don't forget about dinner. I have a nice roast chicken." Saturday night and I was having chicken dinner with my parents. And it wasn't the first time. It was a weekly occurrence. I had no life. I dragged myself into the bedroom, flopped onto the bed and watched the minute hand creep around the dial on my wrist watch until it was time to go to my parents. My parents eat dinner at 6:00. Not a minute sooner or later. That's the way it is. Dinner at 6:00 or your life is ruined. * * * My parents live in a narrow duplex on a narrow lot on a narrow street in a residential part of Trenton called the burg. When I arrived my mother was waiting at the door. "What is this outfit you're wearing?" she asked. "You have no clothes on. How is this to dress?" "This is a Thunder's baseball jersey," I told her. "I'm supporting local sports." My Grandma Mazur peeked from behind my mother. Grandma Mazur moved in with my parents shortly after my Grandfather went heavenward to dine with Elvis. Grandma figures she's of an age to be beyond convention. My father thinks she's of an age to be beyond life. "I need one of those jersey's," Grandma said. "Bet I'd have men following me down the block if I was dressed up like that." "Stiva the undertaker," my father murmured from the living room, head buried in the paper. " ...with his tape measure." Grandma linked her arm in mine. "I've got a treat for you today. Just wait 'til you see what I've cooked up." In the living room the paper was lowered, and my father's eyebrows raised. My mother made the sign of the cross. "Maybe you should tell me," I said to Grandma. "I was gonna keep it as a surprise, but I suppose I could let you in on it. Being that he'll be here any minute now." There was dead silence in the house. "I invited your boyfriend over for dinner," Grandma said. "I don't have a boyfriend!" "Well you do now. I arranged everything." I spun on my heel and headed for the door. "I'm leaving." "You can't do that!" Grandma yelled. "He'll be real disappointed. We had a nice long talk. And he said he didn't mind that you shoot people for a living." "I don't shoot people for a living. I almost never shoot people." I thunked my head against the wall. "I hate fix-ups. Fix-ups are always awful." "Can't be any more awful than that bozo you married," Grandma said. "Only one way to go after that fiasco." She was right. My short lived marriage had been a fiasco. There was a knock on the door, and we swiveled our heads to look down the hall. "Eddie Kuntz!" I gasped. "Yep," Grandma said. "That's his name. He called up here looking for you, and so I invited him to dinner." "Hey," Eddie said through the screen. He was wearing a gray short-sleeved shirt open half-way down his chest, pleated slacks and Gucci loafers, no socks. He had a bottle of red wine in his hand. "Hello," we said in unison. "Can I come in?" "Sure you can come in," Grandma said. "I guess we don't leave handsome men standing at the door." He handed the wine to Grandma and winked. "Here you go, cutie." Grandma giggled. "Aren't you the one." "I almost never shoot people," I said. "Almost never." "Me too," he said. "I hate unnecessary violence." I took a step backward. "Excuse me I need to help in the kitchen." My mother hurried after me. "Don't even think about it!" "What?" "You know what. You were going to sneak out the back door." "He's not my type." My mother started filling serving dishes with food from the stove. Mashed potatoes, green beans, red cabbage. "What's wrong with him?" "He's got too many buttons open on his shirt." "He could turn out to be a nice person," my mother said. "You should give him a chance. What would it take? And what about supper? I have this nice chicken that will go to waste. What will you eat for supper if you don't eat here?" "He called grandma cutie!" My mother had been slicing up the chicken. She took a drumstick and dropped it on the floor. She kicked it around a little, picked it up and put it on the edge of the plate. "There," she said, "we'll give him this drumstick." "Deal." "And I have banana cream pie for desert," she added to seal the bargain. "So you want to make sure you stay to the end." Be still my heart. Copyright © 1998 by Evanovich, Inc.

From Our Editors

New Jersey’s favourite pistol-packing bounty hunter is back and this time she’s on the trail of a waitress who’s skipped bail. Stephanie Plum gets a little help from 73-year-old Grandma Mazur, an ex-hooker, a transvestite and the sexy Joe Morelli. All the murder, the firebombs and Stephanie’s arch-rival make this one assignment Stephanie will have to stay on her toes survive in Four to Score.

Editorial Reviews

"Stephanie Plum is back, smart-mouthed, swaggering, and saucy as ever...Top-notch fun." -Booklist (starred review)

"A winner." -Glamour

"A Plum choice." -USA Today