Regan walked past the Paisley Hotel and hesitated. She’d have loved to go inside and say hello to her mother and all the people she knew. She’d only gotten a chance to see them at the opening-night cocktail party, which seemed like weeks ago.
I’d better not take the time, Regan thought. I should really get back.
She hailed a cab, and fifteen minutes later was at the club.
“Miss Reilly,” the guard greeted her. “Clara’s looking for you.”
Regan’s heart skipped a beat. “Where is she?”
“In the parlor.”
Regan hurried up the steps. Clara was by the fireplace, shining up the pokers and shovels that were strictly for show. Ever since they’d been smoked out thanks to a faulty flue, fake logs were the order of the day.
When Clara saw Regan, her eyes bugged out and she dropped the shovel she’d been working on. The din could be heard across the park. “Regan!” she exclaimed as she leaned down to pick it up.
“Are you all right?”
“I need to talk to you in private,” Clara whispered.
They went up to Nat’s apartment without running into anyone. Shutting the door behind them, Clara ran down the hall to the kitchen. “Look what I found!” she cried.
Sitting on the floor of the kitchen was a black trash-can liner. Clara yanked it open and pulled out a damp towel. “Wendy’s towels!” she bellowed as she dropped the first one on the counter and pulled out the second one. “And it’s such a shame. They’re all smelly from sitting in this bag.”
“Where did you find them?” Regan asked quickly.
“In the Dumpster out back.”
“I thought you told me the Dumpster was emptied on Fridays.”
“It is! Whoever left these must have dropped them in there after the garbageman left yesterday!”
“So that could have been last night or early this morning.”
“Uh-huh,” Clara nodded, and then, almost as if she were operating on automatic pilot, said, “It’s such a pity. They’re ruined. They stink and a couple of the sheep appliqu'es are gone. What good are the towels without them? And this trash-can liner must be Nat’s. I told him on Thursday he’d better buy more, there was only one left. Look!” She opened the cabinet and triumphantly pulled out an empty box with a picture of a garbage can on it. “All gone!”
“Clara,” Regan said incredulously. “Did you go through the Dumpster?”
Clara looked guilty. “I’ve been so excited today that during my break I went out the back door for a smoke. I’ve quit at least ten times! Anyway, one of the waiters came out to throw some garbage away, and when he flipped open the Dumpster, I could see the peach color peaking through a rip in the bag.”
“So you reached into the Dumpster?”
“You told me to be discreet, so I waited until he went back inside. When I saw it was Wendy’s towels, I ran to get a laundry bag so I could throw the whole thing in there and carry it upstairs.”
“Clara,” Regan said, “you’re amazing.”
“Thank you, Regan. But Regan…”
“I’m a little scared.”
Regan and Clara both stared at the soggy towels that Nat and Wendy had cherished. Towels that had most likely been used to cover up Nat’s murder.