Unscrewed(11)

By: Lois Greiman


“Get these assholes off me,” the lieutenant snarled.

“Shut the hell up!” ordered the officer in charge, but his eyes were beyond tired when he turned them back to Graystone. “What time did we arrive?”

“Nine twenty-eight, sir.”

“Who came?”

“Tebbet and Irons.”

The big man’s gaze swung sideways, probably to the two officers in question, who were standing out of my line of vision. “And?”

“Front door was open when we arrived, Captain Kindred.” The man who stepped forward to answer was short and squat, back straight, expression cranked tight, just starting to perspire. “We knocked. No one answered. House was quiet. I announced us. LAPD. Tebbet notified base of our intentions to enter said residence, then we went around back.” He swallowed. “The light was on in the hallway, as was the light in the kitchen. Unsure whether there were lights—”

“Get to the damned money shot,” growled the captain.

Irons nodded snappily. “The lieutenant was lying just to the left of where Tebbet is standing. He seemed unconscious.”

“Fucking hell.” Kindred ran his fingers through nappy hair cut short. “And the girl?”

All eyes turned toward something I couldn’t see. The captain took a step forward. The crowd parted like grains of sand, opening my view like a panoramic picture.

And then I saw her—sprawled on her back, half in the living room, half in the hall. She was barefoot. Her toenails shone bloodred against the hard marble tile and matched her long, tapered fingernails to perfection. A white satin bathrobe was belted at her waist. Her head was turned just so, her lips as red as her nails, her smooth ballerina’s neck flawless, flowing gracefully into her shoulders and half-exposed breasts. Her eyes were wide and staring, liquid amber, shocked and unblinking as she gazed through a sable net of glossy hair. It flowed like a blue-black river over the slick fabric of her robe and onto the blond basswood floor beneath.

She was extremely beautiful, I thought, and found myself sliding down the wall onto my near-naked ass, legs spread wide and head reeling.

Extremely beautiful and absolutely dead.





4

In my experience, “what the hell” is generally the most interesting decision.

—Eddie Friar, who had agreed to Chrissy’s brainstorms more times than most



I WAS RUNNING, running and falling. Crying and screaming. But I couldn’t get away. Death was squeezing my lungs, stealing my breath. I thrashed wildly, trying to break free.

“Mac? Mac.”

I heard my name through layers of cotton batting. I jerked, found I was free, sat up, and blinked. My heart was hammering at my ribs. It was dark all around me, but light streamed from some sort of opening. An apparition stood in the center of it.

“Mac.” The apparition rushed at me. A horse thundered along beside it. I scrunched back in terror. “Are you all right?”

I think I shook my head. My bumbling thoughts cleared a little. “Laney?” I guessed.

“What’s wrong with you?” Her palm felt cool against my forehead. “What happened?”

I blinked, tried to take a deep breath. The horse morphed into a dog the size of a Hummer. It licked my hand.

“Are you okay?” Laney pushed the hair back from my face. Her fingers felt soft against my cheek. The dog’s tongue was rough. Harlequin. His name was Harlequin. Where was I? “I tried to call you after you talked to Jeen.”

Jeen. Solberg. A few more facts filtered lethargically into my cranium.

“But you didn’t answer your phone. Or your cell. You must have let the battery run down again.”

“Battery,” I said. The filtering was pretty slow going. I can’t dance worth crap, and I’m like the anti-Christ in the kitchen, but I’m a world-class sleeper. I’m not quite such a champion at waking up, however.

“Mac, what happened? Are you high? Did Rivera drug you or something?”

“Rivera.” The filtering turned to a sudden flood: Shock on a dead girl’s face. Rage in Rivera’s eyes. “Laney.” I snapped my gaze to hers and grappled for her hand. “I think he killed her.”

“What?” The question came from the doorway. I jerked in that direction. Solberg jittered there, short, skinny, bespectacled. I hoped this wasn’t my bedroom, considering his presence.

“What are you talking about?” Laney was holding my hand between both of hers, squeezing gently. “What’s going on?”

“The senator was dating his ex.”

“Slow down.”

“Creepy.” I shivered. “And she was…” I felt breathless, shaky. “So beautiful. Like the statue of Madonna in Father Pat’s office. You remember?”

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