Lina sat on the floor of her bedroom next to the stack of flattened cardboard boxes and roll of packing tape. She looked around the room as if looking at it for the last time: It was the definitive ‘girl’s room’, dressed in shades of pink, an abundance of ruffles and lace, and wall shelves lined with furry stuffed animals. Fit for a princess, the room stood in stark contrast to the modern and masculine décor of the rest of the condo. Army’s condo.
Excitement bubbled up through her body, creating a tingle of effervescent energy that Lina had never before felt. “I can’t believe this is really happening!” A delicious, near-hysterical smile covered her face as she set to the much-anticipated task at hand: boxing up her belongings for the short move to her new—her first!—apartment.
By the time Kerri and Wade arrived to help her, she had already boxed everything she intended to take with her. Closet cleared, dresser drawers emptied, bathroom sundries bagged, bed stripped and linens neatly boxed. She had debated on whether or not to pack her stuffed animals. She’d long since outgrown them, but they’d been faithful companions through some of the loneliest times of her childhood, especially during her teen years, after Kerri had married and moved away; those difficult years when it was just Lina and Army uncomfortably coexisting in the cold confines of his condo.
“You know you’re spoiled, don’t you?” Kerri told her sister, as she folded in the top flaps of a cardboard box.
Lina gently placed the last of her stuffed animals into a packing box. “I know. But you know he’d never let me move out otherwise, not without his being able to control everything. It’s a first step in getting him to let go, even if it’s just a baby step. And the apartment is really great; just wait ‘til you see it!”
Wade appeared in the doorway, back from another trip of hauling boxes down to the parking lot, and dressed in the same Superman tank top and skimpy nylon shorts—his signature off-duty attire. Sweat ran down his face and blue, gnarly veins bulged in his Popeye forearms like a 3-D road map.
“It’s fucking hot out there. Must be a hundred degrees.” He eyed the stacks of filled boxes still waiting to be moved. “Jesus Christ, you’ve got a lot of stuff.”
Kerri, dressed for the heat in a light cotton peasant blouse and terrycloth shorts, closed up another box. “According to the Carnation temperature sign we drove past coming over, it’s a hundred and three degrees outside.”
“Feels like it’s two hundred and three,” said Wade, picking up a box from one of the stacks.
“Not that one!” yelled Lina.
Wade dropped the box. “Okay. Geez…”
“I’ll take that one over myself,” explained Lina.
“Fine by me,” shrugged Wade. He stacked three other boxes and paused before picking them up. “The Bronco’s almost full. We’ll have to make more than one trip. We wouldn’t have to if Army would let us use his car, too.”
“Ha!” scoffed Kerri. “And risk scratching his precious Lincoln Continental Mark V? Not gonna happen.”
“That’s fine,” said Lina. “It’s close enough we can skate over.”
“Skate over? Are you crazy?” asked Kerri.
“It’s only a couple of blocks.”
“Do you know how hot it is out there?”
Lina thought for a moment…then sprang to her feet and ran to her bathroom, closing the door behind her.
Kerri and Wade looked at one another. “What was that all about?” asked Kerri.
“I guess she had to go…” replied Wade.
A few minutes later Lina emerged, dressed in a purple crocheted bikini and holding a tube of Bain de Soleil suntan oil in her hand.
Wade’s eyes bulged.
“What the hell are you up to?” asked Kerri.
Lina finished slathering on the oil and recapped the tube. “We can move some boxes and get a tan at the same time!”
Kerri laughed at the hair-brained plan, then stopped: “Wait. What do you mean ‘we’?”
Lina didn’t hear her. She was now bent over a box, digging through it, with her purple crocheted ass high in the air. Kerri looked over to her husband, who was unconsciously licking his lips, eyes popping from their sockets.
Kerri heaved a sigh of disgust. “Wade!”
“Here they are!” cried Lina. She tossed a pair of well-worn white leather roller skates over to Kerri, then fished out a second, newer pair: disco rollers with hot pink satin uppers and neon-green polyurethane wheels.
“I haven’t roller skated since I was ten,” said Kerri.
“C’mon. It’ll be fun,” begged Lina. “I don’t want to go by myself.”
Wade goaded his wife. “Don’t be such a stick in the mud, Kerri. Go with her.”
Kerri shot Wade a scowl.
“Roller skating’s like riding a bicycle; once you learn you never forget,” coaxed Lina, who was now at Kerri’s side loosening up the laces on the skates. “I’ll help you into them. And we can take my boombox to get us into the disco fever mood.”
Against her better judgement, Kerri threw in the towel. “Okay, you guys, I’ll do it.” With a panicked laugh, she added “What could possibly go wrong?”
Lina and Kerri made it down the building’s elevator and safely through the lobby where they skated out the door and into the broiling Phoenix heat. An oiled up, bikini-clad Lina led the way; Kerri wobbled unsteadily behind her, while Wade brought up the rear, jogging after them with a boombox balanced on his shoulder. Lina cradled the box she’d told Wade to leave for her, a box whose contents she didn’t want to risk her father seeing.
As the three progressed the two short blocks along Central Avenue, the sight of a young and buxom platinum blonde in a purple string bikini on skates nearly stopped traffic and elicited a non-stop barrage of honking horns and wolf whistles from male drivers of every age, shape and marital status. And it was clear from the smile on Lina’s face that she enjoyed the attention. The hot disco beat blaring from the boombox Wade held only added to the bawdy spectacle, what with Lina’s hips swinging to and fro in suggestive sync with the music.
Wade, watching her from behind and wearing an obscene grin as he chuckled with amusement at his own private joke, said out loud to himself, “Yep, PT-109. Damn the torpedoes…”
A flashing ‘Don’t Walk’ signal at the corner of Camelback and Central brought the trio to a halt. As they waited for the traffic light to change, a patrol car pulled up in the far lane, stopping as the light changed red. When the “Walk” signal flashed, Lina stepped down from the curb and began to push off with her skate, only to feel a hand on her back—Wade’s. The next instant, she was flying through the intersection at breakneck speed—
“Full speed ahead!” shouted Wade.
Across the intersection, the patrol car in the far lane had crept into the crosswalk preparing to make a right-hand turn; it loomed ahead, large and unavoidable, right in Lina’s path. The officer at the wheel turned his head to the left for one last check before making his turn. In that split-second, his eyes met Lina’s. The last thing Lina saw before smashing into the police car’s front fender and flying onto its hood, where she hit her head so hard she knocked herself unconscious, was the startled look in the cop’s piercing blue eyes…
Officer Tampon’s eyes.
The box Lina had been carrying flew as well, high into the air, and landed hard on the roof of the patrol car, the impact of which burst open the box, releasing all of its precious contents, things Lina had been covertly buying; things like push-up underwire bras, thong underwear, black lace teddies, and sheer, see-through lingerie—half the inventory of her Victoria’s Secret catalog—all of which were now strewn far and wide for all to see, including Officer Tampon.
Kerri hobbled as fast as she could to her fallen sister. Wade sauntered across the intersection, snickering the whole way. Whether he just didn’t realize the seriousness of Lina’s accident, which he caused, or simply didn’t care, would be a matter of heated family debate for years to come.
Inside the patrol car, Officer Tampon, a.k.a., Officer Mario Cazzo, radioed for help: “Seven adam thirteen.”
“Seven adam thirteen, go ahead,” cleared the dispatcher.
“I’m involved in a possible nine sixty-two, car-pedestrian, at the corner of Central and Camelback.”
“Adam thirteen, are you hurt?” asked the dispatcher.
“No,” Cazzo cleared back. He leaned forward and peered through the windshield, past the scattered bras and panties adorning it, to the unmoving, nearly naked body sprawled across the hood of his squad car. “But I think the pedestrian might be.”
“Ten-four, adam thirteen. Fire is on the way. What is the ten-twenty of the pedestrian?”
“She’s on the hood of my car,” Cazzo replied, then added, for the entertainment of his fellow field units, “Wearing only a bikini and a pair of roller skates.”
A sudden cacophony broke out over the frequency as all the beat officers in district seven responded by madly clicking their mics.
“Seven bravo twenty-three responding…”
“Seven adam nineteen, I’ll be ten-seventeen as well…”
“Seven bravo twelve, en route…”
And so on, and so on—every available squad car within the district raced to the scene, in spite of the dispatcher’s repeated advisory that no further units were needed.
When Lina came to, she found herself face down on the warm steel of a car hood that vibrated from the engine idling beneath it. As she raised her dazed head, a pair of sheer lace panties slipped down from her hair and into her face. Through the lace, Lina saw well enough to see she was surrounded by a sea of police, paramedics, and onlookers. Somewhere in the crowd were Kerri, reasonably distraught, and Wade, still chuckling while proclaiming, to anyone who’d listen, his absolute innocence in the matter.
Standing directly in front of Lina, impossible to avoid (like his car), was Officer Tampon—er, Cazzo—looking both concerned and sexually aroused at the same time. The stallionesque Cazzo reached out, plucked the lacy panties from Lina’s face, and discreetly stuffed them into his pants’ pocket. Next, he leaned down and put his face close to Lina’s, nose to nose, and said with a wicked smile:
“I thought our date was next Saturday.”