I didn’t get home that night until past eight. As I made myself a drink in the kitchen I could hear the droning and thumping noise from the basement of Cheryl running on her treadmill. She must have heard me because the noise stopped. A minute later I could hear her clumping up the stairs. Another minute and she joined me in the kitchen.
“Hi, Honey,” she said as she reached over to give me an overly wet kiss on my cheek. “I just finished three miles on the treadmill.”
Cheryl was wearing her workout leotards. It kind of firmed her up some, but even still her body over the last few years had lost most of it’s definition and was becoming shapeless. To be fair, she was forty-six, a good seven years older than me and twenty-one years older than Svetlana. Still, all the countless hours running on her treadmill and performing aerobics didn’t seem to stop her body from spreading and growing small unsightly bulges. As I looked at her, I noticed how puffy her face had become. Maybe the sheen of her sweat exaggerated the puffiness, I don’t know, but it almost seemed as if a layer of stucco had been applied. I took a sip of my martini, wished I had put in a little less Vermouth, and muttered something about how great she looked.
Cheryl put a sweaty hand on my drink hand—she was really sweating all over, dripping in it really—and twisted her body around to give me a slobbering kiss on my lips. All I could think of during it was how she smelled like sweat socks and how much that contrasted with Svetlana’s sweet jasmine scent. Even when Svetlana was sweaty after making love, she still smelled of jasmine.
“How’d the meeting with the Corrections Board go?” she asked.
She had a sweaty hand resting on my arm. I took a sip of my martini, using that as an excuse to disengage myself from her, and then took a few steps away.
“I think I sold four of the five members. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t matter. I’ve got the Governor and the State Senate behind me. The clinical trials are a go. Sometime in the next few weeks the first human test subject will be connected.”
I could tell Cheryl was both happy and a bit disappointed by the news. She knew once the clinical trials started she’d see even less of me. For a moment I felt sorry for her. And for a moment I even felt a pang of regret about how I now felt about her. But the regret was fleeting.
Cheryl warmed up some dinner that she had prepared for me earlier. Later, when we were in bed she was all over me. I tried to pretend I was sleeping but she wouldn’t give up and after a while I couldn’t ignore her. I tried my hardest to think of Svetlana and somehow got through it.
The next morning I received a call from Svetlana and we arranged to meet. When I saw her, her eyes and skin were flushed with excitement and it drove me crazy. It just made me feel weak in my knees. She gave me a long hard kiss, letting me taste her, letting me feel her warmth. Then she told me how we were going to get rid of my wife.
Her plan was for me to arrange a trip to Paris for me and my wife. I would explain to Cheryl that I wanted to squeeze the trip in before things got too crazy at work. We would first spend a long weekend at our summer home in the White Mountains and then fly to Paris. I knew Cheryl would be thrilled with the idea and I knew she’d tell her friends about it. At the last minute, while in the White Mountains, I would have to postpone my flight for a few days due to an emergency at work. I would insist that Cheryl still leave on her original flight and that I would catch up with her later. Of course I’d have to make sure she told her friends about the change in plans. Then I’d kill her and bury her. Svetlana would find a Russian look-alike for Cheryl. She wouldn’t have to look exactly like my wife, just enough to match Cheryl’s passport and for people on the flight to remember her. Later, she would disappear back to Russia. Svetlana would also arrange with her Russian contacts for a corpse to be found in a car crash along with Cheryl’s passport and suitcase.
As Svetlana told me her plan, her voice came out in a breathless whisper. I touched her cheek and felt a hotness from her skin. She was burning. Before I knew it I had her in my arms and could feel her body tremble and push into mine. I told her we would do it. It seemed like an eternity before we separated. She told me she’d need a photo of Cheryl, and I told her there was one on my company’s web site.
That night I told Cheryl about our trip to Paris and she burst out crying. She gave me a flurry of wet kisses and then told me how happy she was. Later that night, I overheard her calling her friends, telling them about how we were going to spend the weekend at our home in the White Mountains and then fly to Paris.
The next day I got a call from Svetlana letting me know that the look-alike was en route from Moscow. We arranged the final details of where and when she would be waiting for me with Cheryl’s look-alike. Then I hung up.
The rest of the week felt rather normal. I was surprised at how indifferent I was about what was going to happen. I was able to focus on work and really felt no nerves or anxiety. Thursday before leaving I modified a software module so that our weekend test would fail. I knew that sometime around Sunday morning I would get a panicked call from my assistant, Hanson.
Friday morning Cheryl and I headed off to the White Mountains. It was a beautiful fall day and Cheryl could barely contain her happiness. I felt oddly at peace. The whole ride up Cheryl rested against me.
The weekend went according to plan. Sunday morning I got a frantic phone call from Hanson that the weekend test had failed. I told Cheryl that I would have to book myself a later flight. I could tell she was disappointed, and she started to argue that she would postpone her flight so she could be with me, but I insisted that she fly out Sunday night as planned. I’d rather have her enjoying herself in Paris than sitting around waiting for me to fix a critical software bug. In the end she relented.
I had a few mildly anxious hours waiting for her to relay the bad news to her friends, but by four o’clock I heard her on the phone. After she put the phone back down, I walked over to her and gave her a kiss. My hands were resting on her shoulders and slid slowly up to her neck. Before she realized what was happening, I was choking the life out of her. I just stared at her indifferently and kept squeezing, putting all my muscle into it. There was something about the look in her eyes that got to me, though. And there was something about how blood-red her lips became, and her tongue, the way it just sort of thickened as it pushed through those lips. Something oddly familiar about it all …
Part 4 tomorrow