Are You Sure?
It (almost) never pays to meddle in affairs of the heart…
(a very short story by D.J. Lutz, copyright January)
Phyllis couldn’t believe her best friend Sandy was dating a stalker. Even more amazing was the fact that Sandy knew that this loser was a stalker and that he had once stalked her. Worse yet, a few weeks ago the police had even stopped by their favorite restaurant, Winkler’s Pub, asking if anyone knew about the man. He apparently was a “person of interest” in several recent disappearances. And yet, Sandy was going on a second date. As she was finishing her dinner, Phyllis asked one more time, “Are you sure?”
“I’m a big girl, I know what I’m doing, Phyl.”
“Well, I hope he doesn’t get too obsessive with you. He wouldn’t stop calling me for weeks after our first and only date. I wish you better luck.”
“I’ll make you a promise, girl. If he starts anything, I’ll just leave him in the lobby. Without a code or an escort, he won’t be able to even get in the elevator.” Sandy signed the check for both of them, a perk of living in the condos upstairs.
“Taser?” Phyllis was obviously worried about her friend.
“Got it. It’s the super-sized model my brother Tom built.”
“Alright, then. But I expect you to stop by when you get back.”
“Oh, I plan on it. Have no fear about that.”
The girls lived in the Cosmopolitan, one of the newest, high-rise condo buildings in the city. Every door in the place had a number pad, opening only by pressing the right code. It was a very safe residence for two young girls, fresh out of college, starting their careers. Sandy and Phyllis both lived on the 22nd floor, in adjoining condos. They often sat on their balconies, conversing across the void over freshly brewed espresso, enjoying the sunset.
Phyllis still had an uneasy feeling about the whole situation. The guy was creepy, almost threatening. The whole ruckus about the police and everything, it was too much for her to deal with. Phyllis had met him in the pub, allowing him to share her table for dinner once. Then he started showing up two or three times a day, hoping to run across her. If it weren’t for Bud, the cook, throwing the guy out once, he would probably still be there, sitting at the corner stool, nursing a cup of coffee, asking everyone that walked in if they had seen her. Creepy.
Now Sandy was going out with him. A few days ago, she had seen him in the lobby, being hustled out by the doorman. She intercepted, saying that she was there to meet him for a cup of coffee. They went down the street to the Daily Grind and spent an hour or so chatting. What Sandy failed to mention was that the entire conversation was about Phyllis. He even showed her several surveillance photos of Phyllis, taken from what must have been a long distance. Sandy kept a cool head though, seeing the man becoming more and more agitated as time went on. That’s when she decided to ignore her own usual advice and meddle in the affairs of the heart. She hatched a plan, asking the man for a second date. He readily accepted.
Phyllis went back upstairs. She did not want to be around when he showed up for the date. Sandy waited in the lobby, sitting in one of the fine leather chairs by the grand piano. At seven, the man walked in, motioning to her when the doorman blocked his way.
“It’s alright, he’s here to take me on a date!”
“Very good, ma’am. Make sure you use the front entrance when you return. The construction work is still in progress on the West side of the building. That entrance is closed for another week.”
“Good safety tip, thanks!” Turning to her date, she said “Shall we?”
The date was awkward. They had gone to a comedy club, but Sandy was having trouble finding anything funny tonight. “That’s what I get for asking a psycho out on a date,” she thought. She knew that the man was only buying time trying to gain entrance to the upper floors of the Cosmo. When Sandy noticed that he was carrying a small revolver in a shoulder holster tucked away under his sports jacket, she decided to go ahead with the second phase of “the plan.” Walking back from the club, Sandy asked him if he would like to go up to the condo for a drink. She was hardly surprised when he tightened his grip on her arm, happily accepting her offer.
Sandy pressed her code into the keypad and walked into her living room. She turned around to invite her date in, only to be somewhat surprised to see that he was already in mid-step, walking into the foyer. Did this man have no manners?
“This is a very nice place you have here.”
“Thanks. It’s okay, I guess. Kinda lonely, really. If it weren’t for my friend, I mean…our friend Phyllis, next door, I would go stir crazy sometimes.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize that Phyllis lived so close. We used to date, you know.”
Time to spring the trap…
“She had mentioned that once, when we were sitting out on our balconies one morning. Those balconies are so close, we just love sharing coffee and cream every morning. I swear, I’ve been tempted more than once to just hop the little brick wall and sit with her…”
“Really? That must be so nice, having a neighbor so close.”
“It is…” Sandy puttered around the kitchen for a minute, trying to look like was looking for something. With a feigned look of resignation on her face, she said “Oh, my. I’m afraid I’ll need to run across the hall and get another bottle of wine. I seem to be dry at the moment. Excuse me for just a minute, will you? I’ll just borrow a bottle of something from my neighbor.” Sandy smiled, her hand slowly reaching into her purse, ready to grab the taser in case his response was less than positive.
“Of course. I’ll wait right here until you return, my sweet.”
“Are you sure? I’ll be swift.”
“I don’t mind at all. Looking forward to it, really.” His voice trailed off. He was already ignoring Sandy, looking at the drapes in front of the sliding glass door that led to the balcony.
Sandy went out into the hallway. She counted to twenty, then went back into her place, empty handed.
“Hello. Hello? Are you still here? Hello? ”
Sandy’s condo was empty. She immediately noticed the chilly night breeze, coming in from the open, sliding glass door. Sandy quickly turned around and went back into the hallway. She walked down towards Phyllis’ door, arriving just as her best friend was opening her door.
“Sandy, thank goodness. I heard sirens downstairs and thought he may have got you!”
“Nope. I will need to speak to the police though. Shall we?” Sandy motioned to the elevators. She went on to explain how they had gone to the comedy club and then returned to her place for drinks.
“I went across the hall to borrow a bottle of wine, then I remembered that no one lived there. By the time I got back, my date was gone. He apparently decided to get some fresh air on the balcony.”
“But Sandy, the construction crews haven’t put the balconies back in place yet…”
Sandy smiled. “Are you sure?”
And the trap had shut…