Unscrewed(8)

By: Lois Greiman


I can’t begin to tell you how sad it makes me to know that.

Still, for one elongated moment of silence I thought he might argue.

“Gonna take me a couple minutes,” he said instead, and excused himself.

I hadn’t even finished off my carton of Freaky Deaky when he called me back, rattled off an address, a warning about messing with powerful politicians, and a plea not to tell Laney anything that might alter her high opinion of him. But he didn’t have to worry. She’d seen his scrawny frame decked out in swim trunks and still hadn’t called the pound. Knowing that, there seemed little I could do to change the unpredictable tides of fate. “I’m a changed man, babe,” he whispered. “I wouldn’t do nothin’ to—”

I hung up on him and crumpled the scrap of address in my palm—3430 Tramonto Drive, Pacific Palisades. A ritzy part of town. Real estate there runs into the bazillions, and houses hang suspended over the bay like crystal chandeliers. It would take me nearly an hour to get there. Not that I was planning to spy on Rivera. That would be beneath me. Sophomoric and suspicious. If the lieutenant and I were ever hoping to get past the heavy breathing stage, I was going to have to learn to trust him. Trust, after all, is the cornerstone upon which all secure relationships must be constructed. The very bastion…

“‘Like a Virgin’!” I gritted, and tossed the empty ice-cream carton in the trash.

Ten minutes later I was chugging up the 210, systematically berating myself the whole way. From what I had heard, Rivera’s relationship with his father was prickly at best. I should give them a chance to work things out. On the other hand, I wasn’t intending to interfere. I was simply going to see if he was there.

Relatively comfortable with that justification, I followed my trusty MapQuest directions and turned onto the 405, then merged onto the I-10 and traipsed northwest along the Pacific Coast Highway. During daylight hours the spectacular view can take your breath away. At night it’s more likely to take your life. Fog was just beginning to creep in from the bay, flowing like tattered, gauzy sleeves toward the rugged bluffs.

My thoughts were just as threadbare, worn at the seams, frayed at the edges.

The fact that Rivera was willing to lend a hand when his father called was a good sign, I reminded myself. A sign of healing, perhaps. As a therapist and a friend, it would be wrong of me to resent his efforts. In fact, when next I spoke to him I would commend him for his attempt to mend familial fences and…

A police cruiser streaked up behind me, flashing lights cutting through the ragged mists, siren sounding eerie in the muffled night. I checked my speed. Seventy miles an hour in a sixty-five zone. Damn it to hell. I worked up a full head of steam as I crunched onto the shoulder of the road. Wasn’t like I was stealing old ladies’ life insurance policies or—

The cruiser zipped past, taking Sunset Boulevard and heading west.

I wilted with relief and gave myself a mental shake. There was no need to rush. Nothing to worry about. The wheeling lights had already disappeared by the time I turned onto Los Liones, but I could still hear the siren.

Or another siren. I glanced in my rearview mirror. The cop car behind me barely slowed for the turn, careened around me, then sped into the encroaching fog.

I scowled. Seemed like an awfully good neighborhood for such goings-on. But maybe some rising starlet was serving pretzels and Heinekens, incurring the rush.

It was difficult to see my directions even with my interior light on. I missed a turn, made a U-ey in a cul-de-sac, and took a right onto Tramonto Drive. An ambulance pulled in behind me.

Something balled up in my stomach. It might have been the Freaky Deaky, but Edy’s and I have a working relationship. I keep the company in business, and it doesn’t mess with my gastric system.

Up ahead, it looked like Christmas. Red and blue strobe lights were rotating in their plastic casings atop cop cars. A tall, rough stucco house was caught in the crisscross beams of the cruisers, the terra-cotta roof scalloped against a blue velvet sky, the front door open as if to invite all comers. Apparently, Senator Rivera lived in a hopping neighborhood.

An officer in blue stepped into my headlights, hand raised as he walked toward me.

I managed to brake before plowing him down like roadkill. My curiosity was roiling as I powered open my window. “What’s going on?” I asked, giving him a smile and a glimmer of cleavage.

He bent slightly at the waist, but he was either gay or distracted, because he barely noticed the display. I gave him a quick appraisal. Good-looking, young, attractive in a narrow, academic sort of way. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said, his voice amazingly devoid of emotion despite his age or lack thereof, “you’ll have to turn around here.”

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