After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 12

She settled back on the pillows.

Breathe out.

She imagined the air flowing out of her lungs, taking the bad memories and her fears with it.


Drawing in fresh air, she cleared her mind.


Again, she pushed out the pain.

Slowly she opened her eyes. It’d been rash thinking to toss her meds out earlier this morning, but thankfully, the doc had saved her. She slid a glance at the overnight bag and the pocket, still zippered, where the plastic bottles were tucked.

Not now.

Not yet.

It’s only been a few hours and you were so sure you didn’t need them, that you would get along just fine without any medication. Already you’re tempted?

She turned her attention back to the TV. Just because she had the bottles of antianxiety meds and antidepressants in her bag didn’t mean she had to take them. They weren’t crutches, just helpmates, she reminded herself. Kind of like the therapist who’d been working with Lucinda as she learned to balance and walk again. Tiny little aides.

Oh, yeah, just like that Rolling Stones’ song Dad loves, “Mother’s Little Helper.” Weren’t those lyrics written about diazepam or some other tranquilizer half a century ago? There had been dozens of references in other songs as well, though they escaped her now.

Sighing, Cassie thought about Allie with her pixieish face and hair that shined between gold and red, thick tresses that curled and waved and caught the sun’s rays to look as if they were on fire. Her freckles were faint, her eyes bright and expressive. Though Allie’s coloring was more like their father’s, she was as photogenic and alive on film as her famous mother. Another irony, Cassie thought, as she had been told from the time that she could remember that she was the spitting image of Jenna Hughes. Cassie’s hair was lighter than Jenna’s, but her eyes were the same shade of green and her facial structure of high cheekbones, arched brows, and sharp chin were much the same. But it hadn’t helped.

The camera loved Allie. It caught her inner spark. That’s all there was to it. And Cassie? Not so much. Allie had shown up in LA, and with a little help from their father, who had once been a Hollywood producer, landed her first commercial. That success was followed quickly by a bit part on a nighttime drama. And that small part had been a stepping-stone to another, bigger role on television, and within the year, she had a contract for a movie, the script of which was altered for her, her role expanded. Voila! Allie Kramer, not her older sister, became the daughter who followed in their mother’s glittery footsteps.

Cassie had struggled on for a while, then finally had turned to writing. To her surprise she’d found that, as her English teacher at Falls Crossing High, Mrs. Crosby, had predicted, she had a knack for script writing.

Which was something.

And this . . . Allie’s disappearance . . . was one hell of a story. The disappearance of an ingenue who had taken Hollywood by storm? It was golden. So, okay, that was stretching it a little. Allie was far from a wide-eyed innocent, and she hadn’t wowed producers and directors all at once, had actually kind of crept in the back door her father had opened, but she had gained some fame and she’d narrowly escaped an assassin’s bullet.... Well, that was definitely stretching the truth, but who really knew? She had indeed disappeared without a trace. Somehow Allie had pulled off the impossible.

Or she’s really dead.

Cassie felt a sharp pang, one of real worry. However, she didn’t believe Allie was really gone. No. Her sister was alive. She had to be. There was no death scene at the end of her screenplay.

“You’re a true bitch,” she said to her reflection in the full-length mirror mounted on the wall near the bathroom. She was capitalizing already on her sister’s troubles. She’d been searching for a new idea for a screenplay and Allie’s story, as told by her older sister, was a gift. Though she’d pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind while she was in the hospital, her destiny now seemed clear.

And Allie was not dead. She just had to find her.

Grabbing up her phone, she felt a jab of guilt about not calling her mother, but pocketed the cell anyway and headed out again. She had work to do and for some reason she felt as if the clock was ticking, not just the seconds of her life, but the time to solve this mystery.

Solve a mystery? You?

“Oh, shut up!” she sputtered. She made certain the privacy sign was positioned over the door handle of her room, then double-checked to see that

the lock engaged.

Her next stop? Allie’s apartment, the one she’d leased during production of Dead Heat. The cops had already been through it, of course, but Cassie hadn’t been since the last time she’d seen her sister.

In her mind’s eye, she caught a glimpse of Allie as she’d last seen her. Small, scared, but angry enough to glare at her older sister. “This is all your fault,” she’d said, in a barely audible whisper. Her face had been devoid of makeup, tears streaming from her expressive eyes, wetting her lashes. She’d seemed, at that moment, so much younger than her years. “If something happens to me, Cassie, you’re to blame.” She dashed the teardrops from her face. “Remember that. Okay? You. And you alone. You’re the reason!”

Trent heard the familiar rumble of Shorty O’Donnell’s half-ton truck grinding its way down the lane. He turned, a carton of roof shingles balanced on one shoulder, and spied Shorty hunched over the wheel of his twenty-year-old pickup, the older man squinting through the windshield. Originally painted red and tan, the Chevy was now equipped with a faded green front panel and black tailgate, replacements for original parts that had been dented so badly they’d been scrapped long ago. New dents had appeared over the years.

Trent didn’t have to check his watch to know that Shorty was late.

Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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