It should have been perfect, and maybe, for a while, it was. Although it's difficult to derive the appropriate scale on which to measure a life (How good a person was she? How happy?), it's easy to tell from conversations with friends: There were times in Marcy Hine's life when she felt just right, when the combination of endless possibilities led her to believe she knew exactly what she was doing. Whether she was skateboarding with a friend or drinking and bullshitting, Young Marcy seemed full of disdain for the gray dissatisfaction of daily existence and a surety that she could escape it. That she could live a meaningful life.

Of course, no one says this about her. No one wants to say anything about her to a reporter. Even if her family weren't Roman Catholic -- a religion whose tenets include the belief that suicide is a mortal sin from which a soul can never redeem itself -- her death is the kind of sad and final statement that brings to mind terrifying questions about the underpinnings of our lives. After all, her foundation was so solid, built on family, friends, financial security -- Marcy looked at all of that, more than many people ever have, and said goodbye.

On the afternoon of February 1, Jorge Hine left his Key Biscayne condominium to check on his daughter. The Puerto Rican banker had not heard from her since the previous evening. He telephoned her but got no answer. This was unusual. Marcy lived right down the road from the family compound and was in regular contact with her father and her mother Margo.

It was a short drive down Crandon Boulevard to the complex of modest -- at least by Key Biscayne standards -- apartments where the 26-year-old substitute teacher lived. Jorge helped support his daughter, who, after a stint in college, was struggling to find a career that suited her. Marcy, like many people her age, was trying to find a bull's-eye for the targetless trajectory of youthful exuberance.

Her friends were generally well-educated children of Miami's upper class. They varied from aspiring corporate climbers to artists. They're the girl who's rolling in the clubs at 3:00 a.m. Sunday and out with the family for dinner at Joe's Stone Crab hours later, or the guy who looks boho until he pulls up to the bar in a $30,000 Lexus.

William fits into the latter category. The twentysomething, who tries to make a living on the evanescent edges of Miami's art and music scene, describes the boldness Hine's group of friends shared as they confronted adult life: "It's sort of like, when you're first out of school facing the world, you're like, öI'm fucking going places. I don't know where, but I'm going places.'" While she plotted a palatable path, Marcy worked and spent time with friends and family.

Like most young people, maybe especially those with money to spend on Miami' s nightlife scene, Marcy and her friends also partied. "She was sort of into just going to laid-back bars and hanging out, but every once in a while, everybody would go out to the clubs and do the whole thing," William says. He won't elaborate on "the whole thing," but it's a fact that the Magic City's party scene is lubricated by more than alcohol.

Every year about 30,000 Americans take their own lives. Kim Fuller, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami, says Marcy's suicide had some exceptionally unusual aspects. The young woman had no past history of suicide attempts or threats. Her father told police that Marcy had once seen a psychiatrist and that she was taking the antidepressant drug Paxil to treat panic attacks, but neither fact made her any different from millions of other people.

Marcy committed suicide in a manner very unusual for women. "Men tend to use more lethal weapons than women, and women make far more attempts," Fuller says. "Women tend to cut their wrists or swallow pills, which take a lot of time. Men are more likely to jump off a building or shoot themselves.

"You usually associate hanging with a situation where other methods wouldn't be possible, like in a jail cell," she says.

If Marcy left a note, the police and medical examiner don't know about it. While Fuller admits it's difficult to guess motives, she says Marcy's chosen method of death may have been a kind of communication: "It's very dramatic. It makes me wonder about the communication aspect -- who she expected to come in and see this. It's indicative of someone so wanting to express the full measure of their despair to others."

The discovery of Marcy's body could not have unfolded more dreadfully.