Burt often reminded his wife that the legal profession was the only thread of civilization that prevented the West from collapsing. That’s why he was staying at his colleague Chuck Bergstrom’s lakeside place. He needed to write briefs while his wife and children visited her parents. Concentration on legal realities was everything.
But the woman he met while running at the lake that morning wasn’t real, he told himself. This sort of thing didn’t just happen, or if it did, being propositioned by this stranger was a fluke. In a strange bedroom and a unique occasion like this, detail and observation also spelled survival.
Her name was Sharon Connery, and she was a TV producer or something. Coincidental that she turned her ankle when she was running ahead of him. Only natural for him to help her to her chalet near the Bergstroms’. Then it had been a race to see who got naked first before he dove into her opening body.
Later, lying in her sauna and considering the god-like experience of his first infidelity, he heard the front door slam. A car drives off.
Sharon had driven out of his life as suddenly as she entered it. Frantic to know who his lover was, he headed downtown to the general store.
“Passed a chalet-style house on the lake this morning,” Burt offered. “Think the Connerys live there.”
“Nice place,” the clerk answered. “Payin’ for those cigarettes too?”
“Might like to buy a place like that.”
The wizened counterman raised his eyebrows. “Might be for sale. Not sayin’ it is, but as it’s been empty since spring….”
“Where are the Connerys?”
“Murder-suicide. Seems to happen often nowadays. You want to pay for that paper in your hand?”
He regularly looked at the photo of Sharon he’d swiped from her home. The woman with the cascade of brunette hair and small, upright breasts, the one with the tinkling laughter at his inane jokes had disappeared. It had been an impetuous afternoon like no other in his life. Had he made love to a dead woman, or a ghost?
Summer was a memory now as autumn laid its pall over Manhattan. He was at 59th St. and Lexington debating whether to look for highball glasses at Bloomingdales or return to the office. It was a rainy, glistening Tuesday. Traffic was snarled in a jumble of red tail lights and honking horns that stretched across the intersection.
Then he glimpsed her in the window of a downtown bus. Simultaneously, the woman he knew as the late Sharon Connery saw him and wiped the condensation from the glass.
He stood open-mouthed as she pursed her lips in a silent kiss. She wiggled her fingers. She ran her tongue around her lips in a lascivious gesture. Slowly, the bus fought its way through the field of yellow cabs like a buffalo shaking off a pack of jackals. His vision of Sharon receded down Lex as she blew him a final kiss.
He spent the balance of the afternoon drafting a brief that would allow his client to declare bankruptcy, dissolve a sixty million dollar pension fund, and register new operations in the Cayman Islands. He knew he could hamstring the government plaintiff with postponements and drag the case on for years, but he had no spirit for the contest. He only thought of Sharon.
She called a few minutes before five. “Burt, what a coincidence.”
“Sharon, I have to see you.” He kept his voice low so his secretary wouldn’t hear.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m leaving soon.”
“Just once. I need to say something….”
“Alright,” she said hesitantly and gave him an address in Greenwich Village. He left without saying goodnight to his secretary. Half an hour later, he opened the unlocked door to the apartment. “Sharon? Are you…?”
“Over here,” she said. He saw her in the twilight, dressed in black. Hands and face were wraiths floating in the dim room.
He reached eagerly for her breasts. Snakelike, her hand slapped his cheek. “No! That’s over. One time only. You said you came to say something.”
Burt stepped back, shocked. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but there’s a tombstone up in Putnam County with your name and your husband’s. You’re dead.”
“Get out of here! You make love to a woman—once, badly—and think you possess her? Not likely, you scary android.”
Burt sprang forward, and his fist connected neatly with her chin. He had never hit anyone, never traded punches on the playground, but his fist moved without conscious direction. Sharon’s brown hair whipped across her face. Her neck snapped backward with a click of the bones. There was a second deeper thud as the back of her head struck the brick fireplace.
“You shouldn’t have said that,” he explained to her body. “There are rules of life you have to observe. Life isn’t a game. It’s not an adventure. You’ve got to learn that.”
Behind him, he heard a sound. His colleague Chuck Bergstrom stood in the doorway shaking his head. “What’ve you done, Burt?”
“I don’t understand. You and Sharon?”
We’ve known each other for years. It’s why I got that place at the lake.”
“A sometime affair. She and her husband, well, she called me that night she found her husband in bed with a hitchhiker. She needed a friend, so I helped her arrange the ‘murder-suicide.’” He sighed. “Then you spotted her on that bus today.”
“You were here all the time.”
“You insisted on coming. We thought we’d have a giggle later.”
“There’s going to be a lot of explaining to do,” Burt said.
“For you, Burt. For the record, I haven’t seen my summer neighbor since her funeral. You? Well, you’ve just committed murder. But you’re a helluva good lawyer. You’ll figure something out.”