Before I Wake
little cloudy but that could be the time until the body was found. You called for the transport?”
    “Yes.”
    “I’ll do the autopsy this afternoon and put a rush on the toxicology.” Walsh stepped back. “To die in your sleep the reflex to breathe has to be suppressed or blocked, and in someone this young—something massive has to go wrong to make that happen by natural causes. When we move the body, let’s keep it simple. Wrap the sheets over her and put the entirety in the body bag. Send the blankets over as well.”
    “I appreciate the expedite.” Nathan stepped out to the hall as he heard a stretcher being maneuvered from the elevator. “They are here now.”
    Rae was no longer with the group by the elevator; she was farther down the hall talking with an elderly lady watching what was happening. Nathan headed her way. Rae nodded and closed her pad, thanked the lady. Rae came to join him.
    “You’ve been busy.”
    “I’m not trying to step on your investigation. It just felt really strange just standing here not doing anything.”
    Nathan raised a hand to pause her words. “You’re fine, Rae. I appreciate the note you sent to me. What else do you know?”
    “Everything I’m sure of is in the note.”
    “I’m the kind of guy that likes to hear the less-than-certain maybes too.” He scanned the top page of her notes and saw a neat orderliness. He could either encourage her away from talking with guests, or he could trust Bruce’s judgment that she was a good cop and knew how to do a field interview that didn’t suggest the answers by the questions she asked. “Keep taking notes. As soon as I get things organized here, I’m buying you a cup of coffee and I want to read that notepad.”
    “Thanks, Nathan. If I’m not here or in the lobby downstairs, I’ll be in my room—” she pointed—“that one —3723.”
    Five doors down. “I shouldn’t be long; I’ve got an interview to do downstairs. If for some reason I get delayed and you need to leave the hotel, would you mention it to an officer?”
    “Sure.”
    He paused long enough to smile at her. “For what it’s worth, this kind of thing doesn’t happen often in my town.”
    “It’s a quiet town; I’ve been assured of that many times.”
    His words were getting echoed by others . . . it was a bit disconcerting. Nathan went to interview the maid who had found the lady.

7
    Nathan tapped on Rae Gabriella’s hotel-room door forty minutes after their brief hallway conversation. He heard the chain slip off and Rae opened the door holding a phone in her hand. “Come in, Nathan. I’m almost done.” She turned away from the door and back into the room. “Is there any indication of what kind of chemical it is in the vat, Frank?”
    Nathan hesitated before stepping into the room, not sure he wanted to eavesdrop on her conversation. Rae had changed from her dress to jeans and a sweatshirt. Her hotel room was neat, the bed made, a well-read newspaper folded back together on the table, and a cup of coffee cooling on the desk.
    She paged through a thick book on the desk, pausing to spell out a chemical name. “That’s closer. Does it have a phosphorus base?”
    It sounded very much like a work conversation, and Nathan wondered again what Rae had specialized in while with the FBI.
    The bouquet of roses he had sent dominated the hotel dresser. Nathan walked over, pleased with it. The roses were two days away from perfection as they opened, the blooms perfectly formed. Beside the roses rested a pair of earrings and her sunglasses.
    Nathan studied the three photos set out on the dresser. Rae Gabriella had at least a couple men in her life who qualified for framed photos. They looked to be roughly Rae’s age. He noticed, because life went smoother when he noticed the details. The mere fact she’d taken the time to set out the photos in a hotel room told him they were more than casual relationships.
    “Maybe drain it to glass flasks? I don’t

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