CHECKMATE

THE MARRIED MEN THINK THEY'RE ABOUT TO GET SCREWED BY BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMEN. THEY'RE RIGHT.

"She wanted me. I was sure of that," Sam says, recalling the day about two years ago that he met Cheri.

Her cart accidentally bumped into his at the local supermarket, and he struck up a conversation with the striking, long-legged redhead. They hit it off immediately, engaging in what Sam calls "sexual banter so hot" that it threatened to melt the contents of the nearby frozen-food lockers.

Sam says they joked and laughed as she smiled at him flirtatiously, cooing about his muscular chest and arms. She toyed briefly with his beard, saying that the bristles were "fun to play with." And when they parted, her fingertips brushed lightly over his hand, and she bid him goodbye with a husky "See ya around."

Little wonder, then, that Sam was pleasantly surprised when they ran into each other again later that week at the neighborhood video shop. Cheri was even more friendly than before, mentioning that "there weren't many handsome men around" like Sam. So after a brief chat, he invited her to dinner. She quickly accepted.

It was clear, Sam says, that the meal would likely involve a course after dessert.

"From the very beginning, I was positive we would have sex," he says. "There was only one problem."
Sam was married.
By his own admission, he had it all: an affectionate wife, Karen; two healthy, happy kids; a cherry-red Corvette; a big boat anchored on the San Diego docks; and four prize-winning horses that roamed the expansive back acreage of his rambling, Scottsdale home--complete domestic nirvana.

But he also had an incurable desire to fool around with women who looked like Cheri.

"I always did lose control when it came to hot redheads," Sam admits. "There was a certain type of babe who just made me want to do the wild thing."
An articulate, well-to-do businessman who has a master's degree from the University of Arizona, Sam says that although he had several brief affairs during his 15-year marriage, he managed to remain "generally faithful" to Karen by keeping his distance from that "certain type" of woman.

"I would never hire my type as a secretary," Sam says. "If I was on a business trip, I would make a point of never talking to a girl like that in a bar. I tried. I mean, I really tried to be good.

"But when it came to Cheri, I really couldn't resist. She was so beautiful. And so accessible."
He planned the scene of the seduction meticulously. They would eat at a posh, East Valley bistro and then he would suggest a late-evening trip to a Paradise Valley resort--where he had prepaid for a room and stocked it with caviar and a bottle of imported champagne.

The rendezvous began perfectly. Cheri, dressed in a skimpy outfit, blew kisses at him from across the table. She massaged his knee beneath the white tablecloth. She told him again how handsome and well-built he was.

"It was like something out of a dream," Sam says. "This was every man's fantasy."
But when Sam invited her back to the hotel, she suddenly turned cold. Conversation halted, and Cheri's hand pulled back from his leg. When he returned from a trip to the rest room, she had mysteriously disappeared.

"I thought maybe she had gotten sick," Sam says.
But she wasn't sick. She was just through working.
When Sam arrived home that night (to find his clothes in a heap on the front lawn), Karen explained that Cheri was actually an undercover private investigator, hired to find out if Karen's longtime suspicions about Sam's infidelities were rooted in fact.

He feebly tried to deny his amorous intentions toward Cheri. But when Karen turned on the living-room tape deck, he heard his own voice urging the young woman to spend the night with him. Cheri had secretly recorded the entire dinner.

Known as a "decoy," Cheri is a member of what local private investigators say is a small corps of perhaps a dozen Valley women who run "sting" operations against men suspected of cheating on their wives or their girlfriends. After interviewing the suspicious wife in detail, they dress and act like the man's "ideal woman"--and then go on a sexual fishing expedition, with themselves as bait.

To women like Karen, a decoy is a godsend, a quick and easy way to find out if their husbands are loyal life mates or duplicitous, philandering runabouts who should be dumped at the earliest possible opportunity. Karen praises Cheri as "someone who enabled me to finally get the truth after years of doubts."

"Decoys let women have some peace of mind," Karen says. "And if men are honest and true to their vows, then they have nothing to worry about. Those who aren't get what they deserve.

"It's just a little test."
But Sam and other men who have failed these marital pop quizzes naturally view decoys a bit differently. To them, the injection of undercover operatives into the marriage relationship is a new low in the battle of the sexes--a distrustful, cynical tactic that smacks of entrapment and that is, well . . . downright un-American.

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