After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 26

“Yeah. Well, no one can,” she said aloud.

Jamming her car into reverse, she backed out. A silver Mercedes that had been hovering grabbed her spot, nearly hitting her in an effort to park near the café. Cassie restrained herself from flipping off the driver as she pulled out of the parking lot. Instead, she scrounged around and found a pair of dusty sunglasses in a side pocket of the car and slid them onto the bridge of her nose.

She prayed the gods of traffic would rain grace on the 405 heading north.

Otherwise, the drive would be a bitch.


Judging by the empty glasses, Holly was deep into her second mojito—or was it her third?—when Cassie arrived at The Sundowner. Half a block from the beach, the bar filled part of the basement of a trendy hotel in Santa Monica. Already the after-work crowd was starting to gather, people knotted in groups inside the darkened interior, standing room only, the noise of conversation escalating.

“Hey, I thought you were going to ditch me!” Holly accused as she spied Cassie wending her way through the tightly spaced bistro tables packed between a wall of booths and a long, glass-topped bar.

“I would have called or texted if I wasn’t going to show,” Cassie said. She eyed the table. A tiny copper-colored mug with a slice of lime perched on the rim sat on the table in front of the only empty seat. Obviously the drink was intended for her.

“A Moscow Mule,” Holly said, licking a bit of mint from her upper lip. Petite, with her hair spiked on end, the current color being jet black, she waved Cassie into her seat. Her makeup was perfect, full lips glossy, skin smooth, eye shadow glittering a bit. Holly had an impish charm about her and had, she’d admitted, played the character of Tinkerbell more times than she wanted to admit. She’d started her career at Disneyland and over the years gotten into acting, primarily commercials, before the roles had dried up and she’d been forced to turn her attention to set design. A true artist, she’d worked her way up through the ranks to eventually become the lead designer on Dead Heat.

“For me?” Cassie asked.


Cassie slid onto the padded bench.

“Basically it’s vodka and ginger beer and . . .” Holly’s neatly plucked eyebrows drew together as she thought, her gaze falling onto the drink again. “And, oh, yeah, lime. Duh!” She mock-slapped her forehead, then had another sip of her drink. “Thought you might like it.”

“I’ve had ’em before.” She glanced at Holly’s mojito. “Why aren’t you having one?”

“Vodka’s not my thing.” A forced shudder. “One too many martinis on New Year’s Eve a few years back.” She rolled her expressive eyes. “Man, was that a hangover? God. It seemed to last forever. I switched to gin and . . .” She lifted her glass, hoisting it in a toast. “Rum. Yum.”

Holly seemed to be already starting to feel the effects of her drinks. Her smile was a little off-center, some of her words slightly slurred. “So,” she said, eyeing Cassie, “what’re you doing back here anyway?”

“I live in LA.”

“But it’s been a while since you really lived in California,” she said. “Ever since you and Trent . . . you know.” She ducked her head into her shoulders and waggled it as if she couldn’t quite find the right word. “. . . split, I guess you’d say, you haven’t stuck around much.”

“I was busy.”

“Yeah . . .” Another long swallow. A quick check of her phone as over the noise of the bar it had pinged, indicating texts had come in.

Cassie wasn’t going to argue, nor explain her relationship or non-relationship with her husband to Holly Dennison or anyone else for that matter.

As if she hadn’t noticed Cassie’s discomfiture Holly said, “So, I was kind of surprised when I saw you at LAX. I didn’t even know you were out of the hospital.”

“I was just released.” A bit of a fib. Not exactly “released.”

Holly waved her hand as if flitting aside any excuse. “Anyway, I was waiting for my bag there in the claim area. Just got back from Phoenix visiting my mom. Talk about a trip. I swear she’s losing it. So I’m waiting and waiting for my damned bag, texting my boyfriend and out of the corner of my eye, I see you walking out the doors. I yelled and waved at you, made myself look like an idiot, but . . . I guess you didn’t hear me. I couldn’t just leave my bag on the carousel, y’know. It’s the only Louis Vuitton I’ll ever own.” She made a face. “Anyway, by the time I grabbed my bag and tried to catch up, I saw you getting into a taxi. And that was that.”

“I didn’t hear you.”

A waitress was serpentining through the tables and Holly, catching her eye, twirled her finger, signaling another round.

“Hey, no. I just started this,” Cassie said, and thought of all of the drugs she’d recently taken while in the hospital. How much was still in her bloodstream? Should she mix alcohol and God-only-knew what else?

Holly grinned. “Then you’d better catch up.”

The waitress, a willowy blonde in a white shirt and black skirt, appeared. “Two more?” she asked.

“I’m good,” Cassie assured her while Holly shot her a disgusted look.

Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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