Allie breezed through the glass doors with a smile for the bellman. The elevators were
off a small lobby to the right. There was an adjacent restaurant. Dishes clattered,
accompanied by snatches of muted conversation. Laughter. She wanted to laugh. She
wanted to have something to laugh about.
The food probably smelled delicious, but right now it made her sick. Or maybe it
wasn't the food smells.
She almost jumped out of her skin when the elevator door slid open. She half
expected Marc to step off, even though it was the middle of a workday. Odds were that
he was out doing whatever it was he did.
The elevator’s climb to the fourth floor was too quick. The hallway where it deposited
her, plain vanilla, pretty much like every other hallway in every hotel she’d ever been in.
Gray walls with some kind of textured wallpaper. Utilitarian carpet with enough pattern to
hide stains. She saw a housekeeping cart at the end of the hall. No one in sight. Her
heart beat like a kettle drum, echoing in her ears.
Marc’s room number was 411, close to the end of the hallway. It wasn’t too late to
As she neared the room, she heard the elevator doors open. She felt lightheaded
and held on to the wall for support. Not that the young couple who got off noticed
anything but each other. The guy playfully hooked an arm around the girl’s neck,
pulling her closer as they walked toward their room. He slipped a key into the card
reader. Honeymooners? An afternoon tryst? Either way, she envied them.
Once they were inside, she took a deep breath and knocked on the door to Marc’s
room. Her heart was a jack hammer in her ears. She wasn’t sure she could hear if he
She knocked again, louder this time. Waited. Silence.
She almost turned and walked away, but instead chided herself for cowardice. There
might be something in that room that would tell her the truth, one way or the other. Still,
he could be in there taking a nap. He could be inside, listening. Waiting for her. He
could be holding a knotted silk scarf.
She pulled the card key out of her pocket and slipped it in the card reader. She was
so sure he’d changed the locks that it took her a minute to realize that the light on the
reader flashed green. She had expected sirens or something. By the time she reached
for the door handle, it changed back to red.
She inserted the key again and turned the handle, pushing the door open an inch. No
shout. No gunshot. She pushed it the rest of the way open.
Empty. Bathroom door open. No Marc.
Quickly, Allie stepped inside and closed the door. It was done. If he found her now,
there was no way she could talk her way out of it.
The room was tidy. Orderly. Functional. Probably pretty, but she wasn’t there to
appraise the decor. She felt an overwhelming sense of urgency now. He could come
back at any moment.
There was a suitcase right inside the closet door and clothes she recognized hanging
above it. His jacket, the shirt he’d worn the day they went to Cocoa. Nothing but an iron
on the shelf above. She pulled out the suitcase and snapped open the locks. It
sounded as loud as cannon fire to her ears. The suitcase was empty. She closed it and
put it back like she’d found it.
Across the room was an armoire with drawers in the bottom. She crossed to it and
opened the top. A television. She opened the first drawer. No list of victims. No bloody
knives. Only underwear and socks. She closed the drawer and opened the next.
Shirts. Shorts. Frustration overrode her fear as she closed it and checked the bottom
drawer. More shorts. A couple of sweatshirts. She pushed the drawer closed. She
knew she should get out. If he showed up now, he could have her arrested. Wouldn’t
that be ironic?
The room had two queen-sized beds with a nightstand between them. She opened
the nightstand drawer. A package of cheese crackers. Two novels. She’d read them
both. She could tell him that one wasn’t worth his time. She felt a giggle bubble up, an
indication that she was nearing hysteria. She gave herself a mental slap.
The beds were flush to the floor, so there couldn’t be anything under them.
Okay. That was it. There was nothing here. Time to go.
As she headed back toward the door, she caught a glint of silver out of the corner of
her eye. It was a case in the back corner of the closet. She missed it before because it
was wedged behind the ironing board. She reached in and pulled it out. This was it.
She knew it with a terrifying certainty. Hurrying, she carried it over to the bed. Each
latch had a combination lock. Definitely not toiletries. She tried the catches. Locked.
She almost cried out in frustration. Okay. What did she know about him? He’d told
her his birthday that day in Cocoa. April fourteenth. She tried it on the left side lock.
The metal catch popped open. Heartened, she tried it on the right side. Nothing. She
chewed her lip as she tried to remember. Then it came to her. He was two years older
She dialed in 1-9-7-3. The lock popped open. Her hands were shaking so badly, she
almost couldn’t open the case. When she did, she wished she hadn’t. It was all there.
Newspaper clippings from the Miami paper. A clipped article from the Fort Lauderdale
paper. Vero Beach. Cape Canaveral. Under them were stacks of currency, all twenties
from the looks of it. Under that was a gun. As she reached in and pulled it out, she
heard a click as the lock on the hotel room door released. There was nowhere to hide.
The door swung inward.