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“No,” I answered back.

“Please say the password.”


“Okay.” There was a beeping sound. “Some other time.”

I took out a bottle of wine from the massive chilled collection and tossed back gulp after gulp, attempting to numb the aching pain in my chest. As soon as I finished the bottle, I slipped into the master suite and undressed, stepping into the pristine stone-walled shower.

As the warm water rushed over me, I shut my eyes and allowed myself to cry. I heard my phone ringing in the other room and knew it was Ben calling with more painful things to say, but I didn’t make a move to answer it.

I turned the water temperature to a much hotter setting, and I stood there until my skin was red and raw, until I could barely feel my fingertips.

When I couldn’t take anymore, I turned off the water and reached behind the hanging rack of shampoo bottles and grabbed my strawberry lotion. I smoothed it all over myself before changing into my pajamas and covering my tracks.

I tucked my lotion and body wash back into their hiding places, stuffed the empty wine bottle at the bottom of the trash can, and made sure the cameras in the kitchen were still running on the loop I’d wired them on during my last stay.

After making sure everything was in its rightful place, I walked into my favorite room in the entire condo, the private library.

The tenants owned at least five hundred books, and they updated their study every four months with the bestsellers and a fresh edition of the classics. As I ran my fingers across the book spines, I spotted something odd on the desk across the room. Something I hadn’t noticed when I cleaned the other day.

Normally, just like every other space in this house, the desk was completely bare. But today there were copies of The New Yorker, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal spread open. They weren’t recent editions, though. Their pages were yellowed and frayed from age, and a few headlines were highlighted in blue or circled in red. There was even a small notepad tucked beneath the papers, with neatly scribbled notes: How did no one put this together years ago? These can’t be misprints...They can’t all be misprints...

From the dates on the papers—1993, 1987, and 1975, I was pretty convinced my first ever assumption about the tenants who lived here was definitely correct. An elderly couple who shared a passion for literature, or perhaps an esteemed historian.

I left the papers as they were and walked to the library’s windows.

Pulling the curtains open, I watched as sheets of soft rain fell over the city, blanketing everything in sight. I pushed a sofa closer to the panes and crashed against the cushions, curling my body under a blanket.

So I could be sure to slip out unseen in the morning, I set my phone alarm for six thirty. Then I opened the brand new crossword booklet that was on the coffee table.

I flipped the cover over and read the title theme for all the puzzles inside:

Trespassing: Even the Smartest Criminals Get Caught


I worked on puzzle after puzzle until I couldn’t focus for another second. When I finally rolled over and started to drift to sleep, I caught the time on the clock above the bookshelves.

Ten minutes after midnight.

Happy Birthday to me...



New York (JFK)

My Brooklyn apartment was unit one of four in an aging brownstone nestled between two busy streets. The front door was warped from the slumlord’s lack of maintenance, the steps leading up to the building were cracked and uneven, and the windows were cheap and thin—letting in brutal drafts of cold wind during the winter months. Despite its many drawbacks, there was one amazing feature the brownstone offered: A large window in my bedroom and easy access to the black iron fire escape.

Carefully walking up the dilapidated stone steps, I jiggled the front door’s handle a few times and pushed hard on the wood to let myself inside. Then I rushed up four flights, kicking up dust with every step.

As soon as I opened the door, I was met with array of white and blue balloon bouquets and a “Happy Birthday, Gillian!” streamer strung high above the makeshift living room.

Smiling, I walked over to a massive silver gift box on the kitchen table and lifted its top. The handwritten card inside read:

Dear Gillian,

I need you to go through the gifts inside this box first. Then read the card that’s attached to the balloons by the sink.

Happy Birthday, and I love you!

—Your favorite (and best) roommate ever, Mer’

I set the card down and pulled the first item from the box—a short, red, one-shouldered Diane von Furstenberg dress that looked as if it would barely cover my thighs. Underneath it was a sparkling pair of silver Jimmy Choos. Four bottles of white wine stood at the bottom, and wedged in between them was a glittering charm bracelet with a plane and a New York taxi already attached.

I walked over to the sink and opened the larger card, but before I could read the first sentence, the sound of loud banging came through the walls.

Thump! Thump! THUMP!

“Oh god! Oh god!” Meredith called out. “Oh godddd! Yes! Yes! YESSSSS!”

Thump! Thump! THUMP!

“Hell yeah, babe.” A deep voice grunted. “Hell yeah...”

The sound of skin slapping against skin and wet lips colliding again and again filled our hallway. The wall that separated her bedroom from the kitchen shook repeatedly, and the flimsy floorboards creaked with every bump of the bed.

I set down my birthday card as the moans and wall knocks became damn near deafening. Taking a seat at the bar, I made myself a cup of coffee and opened my email account.