Before I Wake
and he saw none that she had removed. A book rested on the bedside table, near the edge.
    Nathan stepped to the bathroom door and turned on the light, studying the counter. A toothbrush, washcloth, makeup, hair dryer. No sign of a prescription bottle or pill case. Numerous towels were draped over the shower rod and the side of the tub to dry. She’d used the pool on Saturday? He could faintly smell chlorine.
    There was nothing visible that caused him concern.
    Lord, she just died?
    He didn’t like the feel of that answer, for it made him feel so small. She didn’t wake up. It brought back the vividness of the child’s prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. . . . Only he had always said it differently, I pray the Lord my soul to leave. A child’s fear of the bogeyman in the night, of going to sleep and never waking again.
    Death came suddenly; that was God’s business. But when death came with assistance; that was his business.
    * * *
    Who was she?
    Why had she come to town?
    Nathan needed answers to both questions. Two Chicago newspapers were on the table, one from Friday, another from Saturday. There were no signs of a laptop or briefcase, making him doubt she was here on business.
    Nathan pulled on latex gloves and picked up the trash can. She liked Diet Mountain Dew, granola bars, and had tossed away the last two bites of a bagel with cream cheese. A small empty sack from the Fine Chocolates Shop downtown confirmed she’d visited at least the downtown area since she had arrived in town.
    He moved to the dresser. He found a slim clutch billfold in the top drawer, picked it up, and opened the clasp. A single key with a rental car tag, a set of cards including a phone calling card, and a credit card. He found a driver’s license.
    Peggy Worth, 433 Greenbriar Drive, Waukegan, IL. She’d signed her license to be an organ donor.
    He looked toward the bed where she lay, a silent witness to his search. She was twenty-eight years old.
    She was so incredibly young to be dead.
    She was also staying at a hotel less than three hours from her own home. That struck him as odd.
    He counted the cash she was carrying. Three hundred and twelve dollars in small bills, mostly tens and twenties. It seemed a bit much, but it fit with a tourist. The billfold yielded a card for a hairdresser appointment, a slip from a dry cleaner, but no photos. Who was important in your life, Peggy? Who is wondering what has happened to you; why you are late to arrive or to call?
    * * *
    “This is unfortunate.”
    His deputy, Gray Sillman, head of the investigative division, joined him. Nathan offered the license. “I’m getting a mixed sense of this; I haven’t seen anything particularly alarming yet, but it just doesn’t feel right.”
    “Pretty lady.”
    Nathan nodded. “See if you can find a scanner in this hotel, enlarge the photo, and get a couple dozen copies made. Let’s get officers canvassing to find out who saw her before a guest who might have useful information checks out.”
    “I expect she’ll be remembered.” Sillman stepped out to make the arrangements.
    Nathan checked through her suitcase.
    The hotel manager returned. “Her name is Peggy Worth, and she registered with a Visa card.”
    “How many nights?”
    “Four. She checked in Thursday evening and was scheduled to leave Monday. There are room-service charges on her bill but no outgoing long-distance phone calls. Local calls wouldn’t show up.” The manager handed over the paperwork.
    “Thank you. The coroner is on the way. Would you arrange for him to come up through the service entrance?”
    “Already arranged. Do I need to move the guests who stay on this wing to different rooms?”
    Nathan closed the suitcase, not finding anything particularly helpful. “You might want to clear the two rooms on either side of this one as people will be coming and going for a few hours, possibly the rooms by the elevator as well. I’ll also be down

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