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And so she put the soap and washcloth she had used in the shower into her shoulder bag. She would take the towel, too, though she imagined that her DNA was all over the bedsheets. Nevertheless, after she was dressed she ran a second washcloth over everything she could recall handling in the bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room, hoping to expunge her prints. She wiped down the glasses, the minibar, and the bottles—all those empty bottles. The remote to the entertainment system. Then, because much of the night before was a blur with yawning black holes in between, she ran the washcloth over everything she was even likely to have touched. The hotel room's doorknobs and closet handles, its hangers, the footboard to the bed. That beautiful headboard, too.

When she was done, she picked up all the pieces of the bottle she could find. She gazed for a moment at the jagged edge of the bottle's shoulder. Could this thing have really cut open Alex Sokolov's neck with the thoroughness of an autopsy scalpel? She had no idea. Then she took it, too, rolling it up in the towel.

She pulled aside the drapes and blinked at the sun and the flat blue water a few blocks distant. Though their room was only on the fifth floor, the lobby was as tall and cavernous as a casino, and they had had an unobstructed view of the azure sea.

She told herself that when she was safely back in the United States—assuming she made it back there—she would talk to a lawyer. One step at a time. The important thing right now was to get back to her own hotel, make up a man from the night before if anyone asked, and be in the lobby at eleven fifteen. She had a feeling that she wasn't going to breathe easy until the plane lifted off the runway. No, she knew in her heart that she wasn't going to relax even then.
At least not completely. Of all the horrible things she had done when she was drunk, nothing topped leaving behind a body that had bled out in the bed beside her.

And, much to her dismay, she was doing this sober.

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She left the "Do Not Disturb" sign dangling by its elegant gold braid around the hotel room doorknob to keep Alex's body undiscovered for as long as possible, and stood for a moment trying to remember where the h ell the elevator was. The hotel was massive, with corridors that seemed to snake in all directions. Finally she started off, walking quickly down empty hallways, and eventually she found the elevator bank. The lift seemed to take forever to arrive,
but she reassured herself that time was just passing slowly because she was nervous. No, not nervous: she was terrified. She calmed herself by thinking how she could still tell someone at the front desk what had happened and tell them—insist—that she had done nothing wrong. After all, at this point, she had done nothing irrevocable: she was simply getting into the elevator (which was empty, too, a good omen). But then she was crossing the magnificent lobby with its palm trees and oriental carpets and opulent Moorish canopies (and, yes, security cameras), her face hidden behind her sunglasses and the scarf that she'd bought before leaving the Dubai airport yesterday, and then she was passing the row of stores inside the hotel. The shop for Christian Louboutin shoes. The one that sold nothing but Hermès scarves. A rather elegant arts and trinkets boutique. She remembered now, the images a fog, that she had
ventured into all three of them. It was after dinner, on her way to the elevator. When she was waiting for Alex to return from his meeting. In one of the stores she had seen a leopard-print scarf—luminous, black and yellow swirls of spots, gold beading along the borders— that she had longed for but knew she couldn't afford.

And now she walked ever faster, risking eye contact with no one, ignoring the concierge and the bellmen and the greeters offering tea, and then she was back outside in the world of blistering desert heat and the hotel's line of fountains around twin reflecting pools. She almost climbed into a cab, but then stopped herself. Why give
anyone additional proof that she had ever been at this hotel since, it seemed now, she had made her choice? She was outside. She was leaving. And with every step she took the idea of turning around grew more problematic—if not impossible—because every step took her from perceived innocence to perceived guilt. She was corroborating the allegations that this Miranda person was sure to make.

She checked her watch: she guessed she was a ten-minute walk from her own hotel, which would give her perhaps fifteen minutes to change into her uniform and get downstairs to the lobby. Maybe even twenty, because obviously they wouldn't leave without her. She started to text Megan that she was on her way, but then stopped herself. Texts left a trail. For a moment, she took comfort in the fact that Megan hadn't texted her, but then she was hit hard by a revelation: she disappeared in foreign cities, even here in the Middle East, with such disturbing frequency that Megan, the person
she had flown with most often over the years, didn't seem at all worried by her absence.

God, she was a mess. An absolute mess.

And yet she moved forward because like the planes on which she lived so much of her life, that was the only direction that allowed for survival. Think shark. She turned right, down the great oval of the hotel's driveway. She gazed one last time at the palms and the fountains and the long line of town cars with their bulletproof glass windows, and started toward the airline's less opulent accommodations. She sighed. She had made her choice—just one more bad choice in a life riddled with them—and there was no turning back.


This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
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