After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 47

“Well, yeah. That would be so great.”

“Well . . . you know, Cassie, I’m booked solid.”

“It’s . . . it’s just a quick trim. Really. I don’t need a shampoo or color or anything.”

“Today?” Laura actually laughed. “Seriously?” And then, before Cassie could respond, “You’re here? In LA? But I thought . . .” She let the sentence trail.

“I thought that you were in a psych ward somewhere.” That’s what she was about to say. Of course. “I just got back into town and I won’t be here long.” Cassie forced her voice to sound cheerful. “I knew it was a long shot, a really long shot, but I thought I’d call. Allie raves about you.” Cassie crossed her fingers, knowing she was playing on Laura’s relationship with her sister, but she didn’t feel bad about using every possible trick in the book. Laura, as Allie’s hair and makeup person, was likely to know more about Allie’s inner feelings than anyone. Sitting for hours in a chair while the stylist tended to you created a sense of intimacy. Secrets were often shared.

“Have you heard from her?” Laura asked.

“No. I . . . we don’t know anything.”

A long sigh. “Look, I’m not joking. I’m scheduled for like eternity. Most of the time I’m on a set somewhere. I’d like to help you out, but everyone who works in my salon is crazy busy.”

Cassie hid her disappointment. “The truth is I’d like to talk to you. About Allie.”

“You said you hadn’t heard from her.”

“That’s right, but I was hoping you might know something.”

“Sorry. I don’t know what happened to her. It’s weird, y’know?” There was another pause, then Laura said, “Look, Cassie, tell ya what. I’ve got to run, but if anyone cancels with any of my hairdressers, they’re all spectacular, by the way, then I’ll text you, okay? We’ll work something out. Are you here for a while?”

“I was planning to leave in the morning.”

“You thought you could get in today? Just today?” Laura laughed again. “You don’t ask for much, do you? I’ll do what I can, but don’t hold your breath. As I said, on the off chance someone in the shop gets a cancellation, I’ll let you know. But you have to understand it’s really unlikely. Like probably not going to happen.” And then she was gone. Cassie stared at her phone and felt defeated. Laura wasn’t just Allie’s hair and makeup person, she had other big-name clients as well. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Cassie could speak to her alone. Not that it really mattered, she thought, staring out the windshield. Hadn’t Laura just said she didn’t know anything?

A text had come in while she was on the phone, from a private number she didn’t recognize:


What? She texted back:

Who is this? What do you mean?

She hit send before realizing someone had probably texted the wrong number.

Or not?

What did anything having to do with Santa Fe, New Mexico, have to do with her? And 07? Did something happen there in 2007? Or was the 07 part of another number? Had Allie had a movie out in that year? Been on location in Santa Fe . . . no, her career started after that.

“It’s nothing,” she warned herself. She didn’t even know the person who’d texted. Still, it bothered her, so when no one responded immediately to her text, she dialed the phone number, which she could tell from the first three digits had originated in Oregon. Maybe if she knew who’d called?

A recording stated: “You have reached the voice mail of Dr. Virginia Sherling. Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and I’ll get back to you.”

Dr. Sherling? Cassie’s own psychiatrist at Mercy Hospital? Why would she send a cryptic text? That couldn’t be right. But there was no way Cassie was going to leave a message back and risk talking to the doctor who would try to convince her to return to the hospital.

At the sound of the beep, Cassie disconnected.

Through the windshield she watched the older boy push the little girl into the water with enough force to send her sprawling. The girl screamed bloody murder, then got up and gave him a reciprocal shove while the nanny, caught up in her texting, looked up sharply. Scowling, the nanny reluctantly slid the phone into a huge bag then marched her charges out of the spurting fountain while they both cried and balked, blaming each other in true sibling fashion.

Like she and Allie had done.

Rather than take a melancholy trip down memory lane, Cassie finished her coffee, wadded up her empty bag and cup, then climbed out of her car in search of a trash can. The nanny was bundling the kids into their double stroller. The breeze had died, and in the distance Cassie heard the steady hum of traffic on the freeway. She thought she caught a whiff of smoke, but the nanny was long over her cigarette and halfway to her car.


She made her way to the garbage can the nanny had used that was positioned near the restrooms and a covered picnic area. Glancing around, she searched for the source of the scent. No one else was in the park except two people who were seated in a silver SUV, a Toyota with tinted windows, and parked several spaces away from her Honda. It must’ve pulled up when she was lost in thought, she decided, as she hadn’t noticed it pull in. She shot a look its way and noticed that the driver was a woman in sunglasses who, like Cassie, had been staring through the windshield observing the action, or now, lack thereof, in the park. The SUV’s windows were rolled down. Cassie caught a glimpse of the occupant in the passenger seat, a burly man whose hairy arm was stretched through the open window, a cigarette dangling from his fingers. His eyes, too, were shaded.

Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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