The world was still going crazy over the Event, but that didn't mean I could stay home from work. I'm the overnight desk clerk at a local hotel, and good boy that I am, I reported for work at 11:00 PM, same as usual, in spite of the fact that I had only gotten a couple hours of sleep during the day. According to Maryann, a fellow desk clerk that I was relieving, nine of the people staying with us had their children disappear on them. As you can imagine, they all decided to check out early. The General Manager, a good guy, said that any guests who've lost children won't be charged for their stays.
Maryann also said that the Rooms Division Manager didn't come to work, because his wife (they've been married for about six months) was one of the women who miscarried.
According to Maryann, she spent most of her day contacting all the guests, or leaving them messages asking them to check in with the front desk. She left me a list of seven rooms whose occupants hadn't been heard from, and who thus might (or might not) be among the disappeared. If they were in fact disappearees, we wouldn't know for certain until it was time for them to check out. If their baggage was still in their rooms, then we could be pretty certain they were among the vanished.
There was also a much larger list of people who were due to check in, but hadn't, or hadn't yet. They might be among the disappeared, or they might have died or been injured in traffic accidents, or they might have gone down in one of the pilotless planes, or they might have been left stranded when the government shut down all the airports, or they might have decided to cancel their trips to Newport but not bothered to call and let us know (and who could blame them?).
I spent the first couple of hours the way I usually do, assembling the day's paperwork, going over the receipts from the hotel's restaurant, and entering figures into the computer. None of the people on my long list of no-shows checked in; there were thirty-five altogether. By two in the morning, I had finished all the usual tasks I had to finish. There was a war being waged in my brain between thoughts about the day's horrors and the need to sleep. In theory, of course, I was supposed to stay awake all night, but nobody at the hotel seemed to mind if I caught the occasional cat nap behind the half-closed door to my office. As long as I didn't try to sneak off to one of the hotel rooms and sack out there (as one of my predecessor had once done), I should be all right. I grabbed one of the towels from the hotel laundry, rested my head on it, closed my eyes, and let my mind drift off.
I came out of my cat nap around four in the morning, when the man from the Providence Journal showed up to leave papers for the guests. He had a lot of extras, of course, because a lot of people with reservations hadn't checked in. I was up-to-date on most of the stuff taking place around the world, but I still pounced on the newspaper.
Although Rhode Island is one of the most liberal states in the country, the state's major newspaper is owned by the same people who own the Dallas Morning News, and it shows. (Back when Congress was debating Bush's torture-legalization bill, the Providence Journal ran a revolting editorial in favor of the bill.) Below the headline BILLIONS VANISH was a brief story headlined "Left Behind series coming true?" with somebody from the series' publisher raising the possibility that the Event was actually the Rapture. The story noted that neither of the series' authors had disappeared during the Event. Perhaps not surprisingly, neither one had been willing to comment on anything.
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