I can’t begin to tell you what I really wanted to achieve by going to Cindy’s place that evening. The obvious goal was to spend time with her, enjoy her company, and probably make love with her. But to what end? Was I ready to become fully involved with her? Or was I using Cindy to keep Sarah’s place in my life warm? In other words: Was this about having a relationship with Cindy or just a sport boink?
As these questions bounced around the void that was my brain, I told myself: I’ll ask Cindy when she's last been intimate with Mike. If the answer was what I expected, I could take it to Sarah as proof that he couldn’t be trusted no matter what. While I was at it, maybe I could persuade Cindy to avoid Mike. What was the point in that? So she could concentrate on me? So she could free Mike to do right by Sarah? I don’t know. Had I reached some weird spot in life where if I couldn’t get his fiancée away from him, I’d take his mistress instead? Was this just some pathetic way to keep score in the heavyweight bout between Michael P. Munro and Solomon J. Quincannon?
Was it possible that I was falling for Cindy? Some part of me would have felt vastly relieved if that were the answer. I could surrender my guilt at Cindy’s front door and allow myself to become deeply and truly involved with her. But the nagging little voice of reality whispered to me from some dark corner of my mind: You still love Sarah. She’s still the one you truly want.
Why was I going to Cindy's?
Much as I hated to admit it, I was a typical American male in heat at the prospect of seeing a gorgeous, sexy, smart, willing woman. Our time together had been memorable to say the least. She was hotly attractive and . . . Mike’s. I wanted to woo a woman away from Mike, to best him in the ultimate man-to-man challenge. Even though he’d been caught with his you-know-what in the you-know-where, he was still Sarah’s first choice. So, pathetic as it was, maybe the real reason I was going to Cindy’s was an attempt to finish first.
At the end of my work day, hating my motives, I hopped onto the Lexington Avenue subway and headed downtown on the No. 4 train to the Union Square stop. Once back at street level, I headed west through the Village toward Cindy’s apartment on West 11th Street. I could have taken a different set of subways that would have dropped me off much closer, but then I would have forgone the soul-searching walk. This way, when I arrived on her doorstep, I would be in a fever-pitch of guilt and sexual-anticipation, which is the perfect state of mind for a confused Irish-Catholic kid like me.
As I reached the corner of West 11th and Greenwich Avenue, a taxi went by with a man in the back seat. Not an unusual occurrence, except that I would have sworn that the man was Mike Munro.
I leaned toward the street to get a better look, but the taxi had shot past me in traffic, and I couldn’t be absolutely sure it was Mike. The cab’s direction made me think it was leaving the general vicinity of Cindy’s. What else could Mike have been doing in this neighborhood? It was too early for his normal workday to be over, and I was pretty darn sure that he didn’t have any clients in the Village. Mike’s clients tended to be corporate biggies, and they would all be safely ensconced in their mid- and downtown offices right about now.
The taxi disappeared in the flow of traffic, and I stood for a long moment or two, watching it vanish. The distraction of seeing Mike — or thinking that I had seen Mike — kept me from running guilt trips for the next few minutes as I turned away and began walking toward Cindy’s. I was halfway down the block when the front door of Cindy’s building opened, and a man came out. He had shaggy hair and was wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses; he jogged down her stoop and then hustled past me. There was something vaguely familiar about the guy, and I wondered if I had seen him in the hallway or stairs of Cindy’s building. When I reached her stoop, it hit me where I’d seen him before: He was the “angry young man” in the Hot L Baltimore picture over her desk. I stopped at the bottom of the steps and looked at his retreating back. Had he been here to see Cindy? Was his presence the reason Mike had been departing the area? Or maybe Angry Young Man had himself arrived and departed post-Mike. Maybe he’d stopped by to drop off a script. Whatever his purpose, he was departing now.
I turned away from his diminishing figure and treaded tentatively up the first few steps, thinking, you should stop now. You haven’t done anything massively foolish yet, you haven’t said anything idiotic, and you can stop using Cindy in your stupid competition with Mike. Turn around, go back down the steps, catch the subway back, and collect some barbecued chicken for dinner at the place on your corner. Get your fingers all sticky with barbecue sauce, use a lot of napkins, and drink a couple of bottles of beer. That’s what you should do right now.
Then the door of Cindy’s building opened as a gray-haired woman came out. I didn’t really pay attention to her — the door was swinging closed, and years of training kicked in. When you’ve lived in Manhattan as long as I have and can guarantee that you’ll get into a building by jumping through a door left open by someone, you jump through it.
I rushed through the outer door and caught the inner, electronically locked door before it swung shut and locked me out. Propping it open with my right foot, I leaned over and pressed the button below Cindy’s mailbox — my willingness to surprise a woman stopped at her foyer. Knocking, unannounced, on her apartment door was a little too much. Especially since she may have been dealing with not one but two gentlemen callers in the very recent past. I waited. There was no voice on the intercom, no buzzer to let me inside. Reflexively, I glanced out at the street, thinking of the cab and Mike. Thinking of Angry Young Man. Could Cindy have left the apartment already? Had the actor missed her, as I seemed to have? This is why you’re supposed to call before you drop in on someone, I thought. But if I had called, and Mike was there, would she have told me to come over? Doubtful.
I pressed the button again and waited. Nothing. I exhaled slowly and considered jogging down the stoop to the sidewalk and going uptown for my barbecued dinner. Instead, I stepped through the inner door and went to her apartment. Her door was open an inch, something of a rarity in Manhattan apartment buildings where people tend to triple lock themselves inside. I pushed the door open a tiny bit more, stuck my face close to the opening and called softly, “Cindy?”
There was no answer.
“Cindy?” This time a little louder.
All quiet inside. If you’ve made the mistake, as I had, of overindulging in horror movies as a youth, you know that it was never, ever a good idea to go through an open door. The thought crossed my mind that it might be a very bad idea to go into Cindy’s apartment. But I had to go. Had to. I pushed the door wide open and stepped inside.
The blinds were up on her windows, and I could see out onto the common gardens of the apartments that formed the courtyard beyond her building. I took a step further inside and started to call her name one last time, stopping before I finished. My stomach felt as if it were dropping out of my body. I froze to the spot with panic.
A pair of bare feet was visible at the foot of the bed, well-manicured feet with bright red nail polish on the toes.
I forced a deep breath into my lungs and took a step forward. Cindy was lying on the floor, mouth open, unseeing eyes looking toward the ceiling, the blonde hair on the left side of her head matted in blood.
My breathing was coming fast in short, hard gasps. I knelt on the floor next to her and leaned over until my ear was just over her mouth and listened for breathing. There was none. I placed my head on her chest — realizing as I did that her shirt was unbuttoned, revealing the curves of her breasts almost to the nipples — and heard no heartbeat. I shifted on my knees so that I was closer to Cindy’s head and laid my right hand gently under her neck and tilted her jaw back with my left. I pulled her lower lip down and stared into her mouth. There was blood from what looked like a cut on her lip, but nothing obstructed her airway. I pinched her nose closed, covered her mouth with my lips, and blew air into her. I inhaled deeply and blew more air into her mouth. After a couple more repetitions, I sat up, put my hands firmly on her chest and pushed down hard with short, quick jabbing pushes. As I took my hands off her, I saw blood stains on her blouse and on my hands. I must have gotten some of the blood from her head on me. There was no time to waste worrying about that. I leaned over and did more breathing for her, then sat up and tried to pump her heart into action.
After a minute of this, I stopped and looked around the apartment for her phone. I noticed some blonde hairs hanging on the splintered edge of her desk just above where she was lying. But there was no phone, so I kept scanning the place. Over by the bed, a phone sat on a small table. I scooped it up and dialed 9-1-1.
“I have an emergency,” I said giving the 9-1-1 operator the address. “I’m in the apartment of Cindy Christensen here — I think she may be dead. Send help quickly, please.”
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