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67

Fleeced

Regan walked past the Paisley Hotel and hesitated. Shed have loved to go inside and say hello to her mother and all the people she knew. Shed only gotten a chance to see them at the opening-night cocktail party, which seemed like weeks ago.

Id 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. Claras looking for you.

Regans 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 theyd 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 shed 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 Nats 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. Wendys towels! she bellowed as she dropped the first one on the counter and pulled out the second one. And its such a shame. Theyre 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, Its such a pity. Theyre 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 Nats. I told him on Thursday hed 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. Ive been so excited today that during my break I went out the back door for a smoke. Ive 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 Wendys towels, I ran to get a laundry bag so I could throw the whole thing in there and carry it upstairs.

Clara, Regan said, youre amazing.

Thank you, Regan. But Regan

Yes, Clara.

Im 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 Nats murder.


| Fleeced | c