After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 6

This was all so wrong—her life, these days.

The little bit of metal in her hand cut into her flesh.

She closed her eyes and let her breath out slowly, calming herself, telling herself that she wasn’t losing her mind, that everything would be all right. She just had to check herself out of the hospital.

Tomorrow. You’ll leave this psych ward and Mercy Hospital forever. And you’ll find Allie . . . you will.

Unless she’s already dead.

“Oh, God,” Cassie whispered, cold to the bone as she opened her eyes to the sterile room.

She was alone.

Again.

So why did the rocker in the corner sway ever so slightly?

All in your mind, Cass. You know it. All in your damned mind.

CHAPTER 2

Whitney Stone had two things going for her, she thought as she drove through the spitting morning rain. Her first noticeable asset was her looks. She knew it. Everyone knew it. Her features were even, her eyes large and dark fringed, her heart-shaped face compared to the animated Snow White in that ancient Disney flick. Yeah, she looked great. But her second asset wasn’t something so obvious and that was her brain. She was smarter than anyone knew, because she downplayed it. Oh, she came off clever, even cunning and Lord knew people respected her dedication to her job, her doggedness, her ability to sniff out a story and track it down. In a good ol’ boys network, she was one of the few women who had blazed her trail, even if she’d had to do a little lying, a bit of sleeping around, and just a smidge of illegal phone taps and camera work. Otherwise she wouldn’t have made it as far as she had in the cutthroat business of journalism.

Whitney hadn’t only survived or made her way, she’d thrived. Because she’d been cagey and smart. Used her good looks and acting ability to her advantage. Had she slipped in and out of roles?

Of course.

But this . . . this was a little trickier.

She had to be careful because damn it, she wasn’t getting any younger. Now, she needed her career to take off, to go farther. Much farther. She needed to be catapulted onto the national stage and she had just the ticket: Allie Kramer.

Heading into town, she smiled at the thought as her SUV twisted through the Terwilliger curves on the freeway. Speeding past a moving van that was drifting into her lane, she blasted her horn and the idiot at the wheel yanked back, nearly overcorrecting and fishtailing through a final turn. Wasn’t that the same truck she’d followed, with a question printed on the back of the trailer? How’s my driving? Well, it was shitty, that’s what it was. If she had a second

to spare, she would ease off the gas, let the damned truck pass, then crawl up its backside and take a picture of the stupid question about the driving along with the number to call to report any infractions.

It would serve the moron right.

But she didn’t have time.

She never had enough.

Through her windshield, she caught a glimpse of the Willamette River and the city sprawled upon its wide banks. Bridges connecting the east side to the west were visible through the trees. High-rises had sprung up closer to the heart of the city and she noticed morning mist rising from the water as she spied the aerial tram that connected the waterfront campus of OHSU to the huge hospital built high in the West Hills. Oregon Health and Science University wasn’t too far from Mercy Hospital, where Cassie Kramer was currently a patient.

Again she smiled, thinking of Cassie in a mental ward.

A perfect place for her.

And one more juicy element in her story.

All in all Whitney liked Portland. It currently had a cool vibe ascribed to it, but, truth to tell she was sick to her back teeth of the gloomy weather and the constant traveling from PDX to LAX in Southern California.

It will be all worth it.

Soon.

She warmed inside at the thought, clicked on her blinker and edged her way toward an off ramp that would dump her near the Hawthorne Bridge with its metal grating and vertical lift, which allowed large ships to pass beneath it.

She was running late to a meeting with a source on the Eastbank Esplanade, a bicycle and pedestrian path on the east shore of the river. The source was supposed to have information on the rift between the missing Allie Kramer, her nutcase of a sister, Cassie, and their reclusive mother, Jenna Hughes. Whitney expected the guy to be a no-show, one more in a series of irritating dead ends, but she wouldn’t let an opportunity pass to gain more information, more insight into the Sisters Kramer and their famous mother.

Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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