NIGHT – MANHATTAN: CENTRAL PARK WEST
MARISSA CARVAJAL WOKE UP SOAKED IN BLOOD. Her head was pounding, her throat was raw, and she was still drunk even as she slowly regained consciousness directly into a hangover. It was impossible to think or feel anything except for the pain in her skull, but she gradually became aware that everything was wet: the sheets, the pillows, her naked body.
She forced her eyes open. The bedroom was almost pitch black, with a tiny sliver of light seeping from a thin crack between a door and its frame. Marissa didn't know where she was. Didn't know how she had gotten there. There was a vague, quick flash of memory: She had climbed into a taxi with a man. A tall man with a chiseled chin and sandy hair. But that was all she remembered. Was that earlier this evening? Or earlier this week? She was too drunk to locate the memory accurately.
She rolled over, twisting in a puddle in the middle of the bed. With a start, she realized the wetness had awakened her. She pulled her hand up and looked at it in the thin shaft of light from the crack at the door―her hand, her entire arm, was covered in blood. She glanced down at her breasts and stomach and the sheets―everything was soaked in glistening blood.
Marissa gasped―the chiseled-chin man from the taxi was on his back next to her, naked, his eyes open and unblinking, blood covering his chest, throat, arms, and face.
Marissa staggered to her feet and backed away from the bed, whispering, “Oh my God . . . oh my God. Please, God, no. . . .”
She left bloody footprints on the carpet as she backed toward the light. She was panicked. Where was she? She knew that she had never been here before. She pushed through a door into the bathroom and locked it behind her as if that would keep her safe from the horror of the dead man.
She was gasping, panting for breath. Marissa caught her reflection in the mirror: she was bloody from head to foot. She stepped toward the door, considering returning to the bedroom, then turned back toward the mirror and glimpsed the marble shower stall in the reflection. She turned on the water, and as soon as it was hot, stepped inside and washed herself clean. As the water coursed over her, she wondered if she and the man had had sex, but she couldn't remember. After soaping―Marissa recognized the citrus-piney scent of Penhaligon soap, very expensive but wonderful―and rinsing off twice, she turned off the water, pushed open the glass shower door, grabbed a thick, Egyptian-cotton towel, and dried off. She dropped the used towel in a hamper to one side of the bathroom, wrapped herself in a dry towel, and walked back into the bedroom. Only as she crossed the room did it occur to her that the dead man could not have cared less if she was naked.
Marissa had left the bathroom door wide open, allowing light from the bathroom to spill into the bedroom. She was relieved: her dress was draped over a leather chair in front of a large, high-def TV. Her bra and panties were on the floor. She had another brief flash of memory: She was kissing the chiseled-chin man as they staggered drunkenly toward the bed. He pulled her clothes off, dropping them randomly on the floor and the chair in a path from the door to the bed. There was a quick cut in her memory: She was naked on the bed, and the man stood by the bedside, took off his clothes, tossed them at a chair near the window, and lay down beside her. She snapped out of the memory and checked: his clothes were in a heap over the chair. The blood hadn't splattered to that side of the very large room. She dressed rapidly, found her heels on the floor inside the bedroom door, stepped into them, glanced around the room to make certain she was leaving nothing behind, and walked out.
She went down a hallway, through an enormous living room toward what she guessed was the front door. She paused to glance through the wall-to-wall windows of the living room. The apartment was probably on a floor in the twenties, with a spectacular eastward view over Central Park. Marissa saw the entrance to the park's 86th Street Transverse only two or three blocks north on Central Park West. One of those grand, pre-war buildings with twenty-four-hour doormen. And a security camera in the lobby. Maybe even one in the elevator. She turned back toward the bedroom. Oh my God, did I kill him? I couldn't have . . . could I? Why did I kill him? Why? And how, how could I do that . . . God, please no, please. . . .
But she was alone in the apartment with a murdered man. She was hit with a wave of nausea as she realized that she would certainly appear guilty to the police. She was breathing hard as if she'd just run a marathon, trying to figure out what to do next.
You have to get out, she told herself. Now.
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