The telephone was ringing when Brenda Allegro unlocked the door of her apartment. She sighed and dropped the bag of groceries into a handy chair as she ran to answer it.
A woman’s voice said, “Is this Brenda?” The voice was familiar. Something about it made her feel uneasy.
“Yes, who’s this?”
“You remember me, Brenda dear. It’s Mavis O’Grady.”
Brenda almost dropped he telephone. “Oh–are you in town, Mavis?”
“Yes, I’m in town. I followed you all the way from Nebraska.”
Brenda took a deep breath. “You must know that Dave isn’t with me, Mavis. I haven’t seen him in nearly a year.”
“Am I supposed to believe that? You stole my husband and he’s with you now! I’ve found you at last and I’m not–“
Brenda hung up the receiver. Her hands were shaking. She noticed the apartment door was still open, and she hurried to close it, as if fearing the voice on the telephone would suddenly materialize in the hallway outside.
Brenda had met Dave O’Grady in Omaha. She’d barely known, at least in her conscious mind, that a Mavis O’Grady existed. Dave was a handsome salesman who was fun to be with, and when he told her he was separated from his wife she was too quick to believe him.
When Mavis found out about Brenda she took it hard. Her method of attack was a barrage of letters and calls to Brenda’s apartment, friends and employer. Dave promised to leave his wife and run away with her and Brenda trusted him. They did start out together but a week later he was gone.
All he left was a note on the pillow of a St. Louis hotel: “Sorry it didn’t work out. Good luck and love, Dave.” It was the sort of note he might have left a casual friend, and she began to realize that was all she’d ever been to him.
Brenda decided to remain in St. Louis rather than face the anguish and embarrassment of returning home. It had been difficult at first, but now she rarely thought of Dave O’Grady. She never thought of Dave O’Grady’s wife.
But now Mavis had found her, somehow.
The second call came at nine that evening. “I’ve come for my husband, Brenda. I know he’s with you.”
“He’s not with me! He hasn’t been with me for nearly a year. Mavis, please stop calling me.” She didn’t want this woman from yesterday’s life. She didn’t want the reminder of a love that had died. “He’s in New York.”
“His employer there says he went back to St. Louis. I know he’s with you. I’m coming over.”
“If you come I’ll call the police!” she said and hung up for the second time.
Brenda thought of calling friends, but decided against it. Mavis had never attempted physical violence, and there was no reason to fear her now. She went to the window and stared down at the evening traffic. A bus driver in his blue jacket and peaked cap stood at the stop across the street, and a bunch of kids loitered in front of the pizza parlor. But there was no sign of Mavis.
She decided that despite all the wild phone calls there was little chance Mavis would appear. She made herself some coffee and turned on the TV. It was twenty minutes later when her door buzzer sounded. “Who’s there?” she asked through the door, reluctant to unlock it.
“Brenda, it’s Mavis!” The voice was muffled.
“Go away or I’ll call the police.”
“Let me in. I’m hurt.”
Reluctantly Brenda unlocked the door but kept the chain on. Mavis O’Grady was sagging against it seemingly in pain. “What is it, Mavis? What’s the matter with you?”
She slid to the floor and Brenda quickly undid the chain. Bending over the fallen woman, she saw the blood for the first time, oozing from a wound in the woman’s back.
Only then did she realize that Mavis O’Grady was dead.