“Good morning, Marley!”
Marley set the coffee carafe onto the coffee maker’s burner and turned to find Sergeant Garvey, holding an empty coffee cup in one hand and a clipboard in the other, all spruced up for the new workday and chipper as a cartoon squirrel. She stepped aside from the coffee maker to give him access. “Good morning, Sarge.”
Garvey set the clipboard down on the kitchenette’s counter then poured himself a cupful of decaf.
“Are you available this weekend?” he asked.
Marley eyed the clipboard and the attached overtime sign-up sheet. Some overtime would be nice, she thought; it would sure help with the costs of furnishing her new apartment.
“I’ll be busy moving on Saturday. But I’m totally free on Sunday,” she replied, before taking a sip of her coffee.
“Sunday’s perfect!” chirped Garvey. “My wife and I are having the bible study group over Sunday evening for a barbeque! I’ll get you the address before you leave today.”
Marley spit out her coffee.
“Are you okay?” asked Sergeant Garvey.
Marley grabbed for a paper napkin from the coffee station to clean her face. “Yes, fine,” she coughed. Hopelessly blindsided, her mind raced to find an excuse to decline his invitation, but while her tongue searched for the most tactful words of rejection, someone else found the words for her.
“That sounds like fun!” boomed a familiar voice behind them. “Marley and I can drive over together, right Marley?”
Startled by the intrusion, both Marley and Garvey jerked their heads around.
Agnes stood before them, barely recognizable with eyes shadowed cobalt blue, cheeks rouged, and lips painted bright red. Around her neck dangled a gold cross, brand new, ridiculously gaudy, and twice as big as Marley’s. The smile she wore was even bigger and gaudier than the cross and it was aimed, like Cupid’s arrow, at Sergeant Garvey.
Now it was Garvey who was at a loss for words.
Agnes batted a pair of fake, furry eyelashes at the stricken sergeant. “What time should we be there?”
“Just tell him you forgot you had plans for Sunday,” advised Inga. “He doesn’t have to know the how or why of it, just that you’re unable to make it.”
“Sure, but now I’ve got Agnes on my back. She’s cornered me twice in the breakroom today, going on and on about how excited she is and how she can’t wait until Sunday,” replied Marley. “She’s not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“Maybe you should go. You might end up having a good time. And, hey, free food,” said Dee. “Really, how bad can it be?”
“Just shut the hell up! Listen to me when I’m talking to you!”
The shouting immediately brought all conversations to a halt. Every eye in the room, including the sergeant’s, was focused on the source:
Agnes was at her desk, out of her chair and on her feet, shaking a fist at her phone as she shouted again at the caller on her line. “Say that again and, I swear, I will put you under arrest!” It was obvious the caller doubted her by the next unhinged words she screamed: “Oh, yes I can! I am a reserve deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and I have full police powers!”
From his desk, an alarmed Sergeant Garvey punched into Agnes’s line to monitor the call.
Whatever it was the caller said in response to Agnes’s threat of arrest, it wasn’t said in the spirit of cooperation. Agnes slammed a fist on her desk and exercised her power: “You have the right to remain silent! Whatever you say can and will be—stop laughing, and do not hang up on me!” Agnes ripped her headset off and slammed it down on her desk—“Fucker hung up on me!”—then grabbed her coffee cup and raged out of the room.
Sergeant Garvey visibly flinched and ducked behind his monitor as she stomped, like a stormtrooper, past his desk.
After watching Agnes’s dramatic exit, Marley leveled a look at her four cohorts: “Yeah, really, how bad can it be?”
The dust from Agnes’s outburst had yet to settle when another shout blasted out from across the room. Boomer, at the alarm board, stood up and called out, at the top of his tar-choked lungs, “I’ve got an officer on the line wants to talk to the Com Op fitting the following description!” He held up a notepad and bullhorned the specifics: “Bleached blonde hair, big brown eyes, five foot two, one hundred and forty pounds!”
The whole room erupted in laughter; several turned and pointed at Lina who was wishing she was dead. Lina sputtered in defense, “I don’t weigh a hundred and forty pounds!” which only drew more laugher. “And I’m five foot four!”
By now, even the gruff and grumpy Officer ‘Testy’ was laughing—so hard, in fact, Boomer could hardly enunciate his words. “What’s your extension, Lina?”
Lina threw her hands to her face to cover her embarrassment. “6-2-6-1,” she replied.
“Sending him over,” said Boomer as he punched in the numbers on his phone.
Lina’s phone immediately began to ring and she, for a split second, considered not answering it, but failure to do so would be grounds for discipline, or worse, termination. With a sigh of exasperation, she punched the flashing button on her console.
“Yeah, hi. Are you the Com Op whose locker is number thirty-two?”
“Yes…” answered Lina. Suspicious, she asked: “How do you know my locker number?”
“A little birdie told me,” he teased. “I slipped a note in it last week. Did you get it?”
Lina remembered the note. At the time, she thought it was creepy. She still thought it was creepy.
“Yes,” she said. “I got your note…who are you?”
Faye, Marley, Dee, and Inga were suddenly all ears, all wanting to know, just as much as Lina, the identity of her secret admirer.
“Officer Cazzo, badge number 1921,” replied the caller.
“Have we met?” asked Lina, still suspicious.
“Not in so many words,” he replied, “but we did make eye contact two days ago when I was down in Communications dropping off a report.”
“You’re the one who left the note in my locker?” Lina asked, her stomach growing queasy from the revelation.
The officer only chuckled.
Faye and the others were now peppering Lina with questions: Who is he? What’s his name? Tell us!
Lina scribbled onto a dispatch card and held it up to her eavesdropping coworkers. The card read ‘Officer Tampon’, eliciting squeals of excitement from the others, who were by now salivating.
“Reel him in!” shrieked Faye.
Lina muted her mic tube. “Shhhhhh!!!”
Officer Cazzo continued talking in her ear: “So I thought it was time we met. Do you mind if I ask you your name?”
“Lina. Lina Jones.”
“Lina. That’s nice; I like that. So, Lina, I thought maybe we could get together sometime; maybe grab some dinner or something. How about this Saturday?”
“This Saturday? Oh, sorry; I can’t. I’m moving on Saturday,” she replied, unsure if she was happy or sad to have a legitimate excuse for declining his invitation.
“Oh,” he said, disappointed. “Well, then…how about the Saturday after that?”
“A week from Saturday?” she asked. Lina had no convenient excuse to offer. “Um, sure, okay,” she said.
Faye was bouncing up and down in her seat, nearly foaming at the mouth.
“Okay, it’s a date then. See you a week from Saturday. What time should I pick you up?”
“Oh, uh…is eight o’clock too late?”
The rest of the conversation lasted only long enough for Cazzo to get Lina’s address, then he abruptly ended it: “Gotta go. Ciao.”
“Ciao,” said Lina, somewhat stunned, as she punched the release button on her phone.
“That’s the way to reel him in!” congratulated Faye.
The growing queasiness in Lina’s stomach was now roiling nausea. “Oh, god, what have I done?” she moaned. She snatched her purse and fled to the restroom.
Fast on her heels, Faye found Lina in the restroom, her head buried in her hands.
“What’s wrong?” asked Faye.
Lina burst out, panic on her face. “I can’t go out with him, Faye!”
“Why not? What’s the matter?”
“He’s so much older…” she began.
“And probably very experienced…”
“Men his age usually are,” said Faye. “He’s not going to care if you’re a little green in the dating department,” she added, trying to console her friend.
“No, you don’t understand!” cried Lina.
“Understand what?” asked Faye.
Lina’s panic exposed an underlying fear: “I’ve never…I haven’t…”
“Haven’t what?” prodded Faye.
“I’m a virgin!”
Faye wrapped a sisterly arm around Lina. “Okay, listen, it’s just your first date with him; nothing has to happen if you don’t want it to. You call the shots. On the first date, he shouldn’t have any expectations of you, unless he’s an asshole. If things start to heat up and you’re not comfortable with it, just tell him to slow down. Like I said, as long as he’s not an asshole, he’ll respect your wishes.”
“And if he is an asshole?”
“Then enjoy your free dinner and, afterwards, kick him to the curb. But…if he’s not an asshole, he could very well be your ‘happily ever after’.”
“And what if he finds out I’m still a virgin? Won’t he be turned off?”
Faye laughed. “Are you kidding? If anything, he’ll be thrilled.”
Lina took a deep breath to calm herself. “Thanks,” she said, “I feel a little better now; it’s just a date, like you said.”
As the two exited the restroom, panic again overtook Lina.
“Now what?” asked Faye.
“Oh, my god! I have no idea what I’m going to wear!”