I began my search by going to my bag and pulling out the small flashlight that I had used the night before. It can be helpful to perform searches with a flashlight, even when natural light or other artificial lighting is available. The narrow beam helps to focus one’s attention.
Some half-formed thought scratched at the back of my head. The thin, scratchy carpet of the hotel room, meanwhile, betrayed no secrets, being too hard and immovable to have been disturbed even by my frenzied advance across it. I knew I’d have to be more meticulous, have to check the door and the windows and the closet for some kind of insight into what had happened to me. Some sign of another person, some point of entry for whatever foul vermin had tried to make a meal of me.
The door was locked just as it had been the night before with the chain still on. There was no sign of insect leavings in the closet (and I got down on my hands and knees explicitly to check.) There were no hidden compartments in the walls, nothing under the bed, nothing lurking beneath the furniture. I will confess that part of me had expected to find some kind of monstrous creature underneath the uncomfortable loveseat that had come with the room, simultaneously scaled and hairy, spitting and hissing.
In my frustration, I put the flashlight back in the bag and threw open the curtains that blocked the sun from entering the room. I stood there for a few moments before I felt something crunch under my barefoot, cracking with the sound and texture of an insect’s carapace.
I looked down to find flakes of paint matching the ugly shade of the windowsill on the carpet. I cursed, loudly. That was how my assailant had gotten into the room. Despite the fact I was on the third story of the building, they’d found a way up and in, dragging the dried paint flakes with them when they’d climbed through the window. I was dealing with professionals, then, I realized. Someone with the tools and experience to… to…
The half-formed thought from earlier took full shape at that moment. I ran back to my bag, frantically tore it open, dumped its contents onto the ground, and swore once more.
The book was gone.