Unscrewed(7)

By: Lois Greiman


“‘Like a Virgin’?” The song title sailed from my lips on a glycogen wave. Rivera’s phone had been playing one of Madonna’s megahits.

I stood, spoon still loaded, glaring numbly at nothing.

Oh, yeah, I was all for talking things through, self-actualization, getting in touch with one’s inner child, and all that crap.

But what the hell did a virgin of any sort have to do with Lieutenant Jack Rivera? Wasn’t that particular song far more likely to herald a call from an old flame out of his sordid past than from the illustrious senator he hated like a father?

But maybe I was being overly suspicious. Maybe all the grim lieutenant’s calls were preceded by sexually suggestive songs that whispered breathily of being touched for the very first time.

Yeah. Sure. Made sense.

And maybe if Colin Farrell propositioned me with his crooning Irish accent and his soulful fuck-me eyes I’d tell him to take a hike. ’Cuz that’s just the way the world works.





3

It’s not as if I don’t like men, I just have more respect for my washing machine.

—Hannah Greene, Peter John McMullen’s first disenchanted wife



SOLBERG,” I SAID by way of greeting. I was gripping the phone in both hands, holding on like a sun-welted businessman reeling in a tiger shark.

“Babekins.”

The Geekster’s voice was as nasal as ever. I remembered to be strong, because even though he was a stunted little techno nerd with a retarded sense of humor and a laugh like a wild ass, he had a world of knowledge at his geeky fingertips.

“You busy?” I was trying to sound casual, but my mind was bouncing.

“I was just about to make Angel here some popcorn.”

“Elaine’s there?” Elaine, aka Angel, was my best friend. And it was my fault she’d hooked up with an electrodweeb. That knowledge can still bring tears to my eyes.

“Yeah. She’s a hell of a—Sorry, sweetums,” he told her, ineffectively covering the mouthpiece. “A heck of a Scrabble player. You wanna talk to her?”

“No.” Ignoring Laney’s presence gave me a chance to pretend she was touring the Louvre with Johnny Depp instead of being holed up with a vertically inadequate myope. “Listen, Solberg, I need a favor.”

“Shoot.”

It was just a turn of phrase. I reminded myself not to get excited. Taking a deep breath, I jumped in. “I need Rivera’s home address,” I said.

There was a pause, maybe the sound of some eye-popping. “Jesus! I mean, geez, Chrissy.” I could hear him shuffling his feet. They were size 12, huge for his five-foot-seven frame. I refused to contemplate what that meant in the dimensional scheme of things. “The grim lieutenant don’t exactly have me on his short list of friends now. If I—”

“Not the lieutenant,” I said. “The senator.”

There was silence for seven heartbeats. I counted them in my head, but they were almost drowned out by Madonna’s crooning lyrics. “Like a Virgin,” my ass!

“Senator Rivera?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“The grim lieutenant’s prestigious sire?”

“Yes.”

“Uh-huh.” He sounded ultra-controlled, as if he were on the edge of a precipice and didn’t want to make any false moves, lest he teeter into the yawning abyss. But I was already in the damned abyss, wasn’t I? And Madonna was down there with me, singing up a storm. “What’s going on, babekins?”

“A lot of unnatural shit, that’s what!” I snapped. There may have been a bit more vitriol in the statement than I had intended. But Solberg was as charming as a bald lab rat and he was dating Brainy Laney Butterfield, possibly the most beautiful woman in our stratosphere. What did that mean for the rest of the female population?

Growing up together, I had always fantasized that she and I would marry matching brain surgeons and take high tea with the queen at Buckingham Palace. But if the royal guard heard Solberg’s hee-hawing guffaw, they’d shoot him from the parapets and feed him to the Celts.

“Unnatural?” he repeated, but I wasn’t quite cruel enough to tell him there was nothing so aberrant as he and Laney existing in the same solar system.

“Get me the address,” I said instead, “and I won’t tell Laney what you did when I drove you home in your Porsche.”

I could feel his mind whirring on the other end of the phone line. He’d been as drunk as a frat boy when I’d dropped him off in his neo-riche neighborhood one hot summer night. If I said he’d danced the mambo with Shamu while wearing his boxers on his head, he’d believe me. And he doesn’t even wear boxers.

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