Five years had passed.
She allowed herself a few minutes of grieving still, but that was all. This was her life now. She cleared her throat. Took another sip of wine. Told herself that things were better, the pain lessening, maybe eventually it would even be tolerable. Finally she opened her eyes to the incredible windows with their spectacular view over trees and rooftops to the winking lights of the city below.
So this was how the other half lived. Or was it the other one percent these days? Didn’t matter. She didn’t like it. Some of the perks were nice, of course, like the in-home gym that was handy for daily workouts, and this soaking tub with its multiple jets to massage out her muscles, tense from a twelve-hour day, but really, who needed all the luxury?
Not Rhonda Nash.
At least not anymore.
Not with the road she’d traveled.
Absurdly, wealth seemed banal to her now; well, the trappings of the very rich at least. Money had failed her. There just wasn’t enough to protect the innocent, to fight illness and death and expect to win. That, she knew now, was a fool’s game.
She would live here for now, but only until she could sell the place and every shiny, expensive thing within its walls. Hopefully this new buyer would take the albatross from her neck. After everything she’d inherited was sold, she planned to move to somewhere a lot more cozy, a lot more homey with a lot less square footage and no amazing city view. Maybe she’d get a cat. Or a dog. Or chickens. More and more people in Portland were keeping chickens these days. Whatever. She smiled a little . . . maybe she should get the chickens now and let them roam over Edwina’s five thousand square feet of opulence, scratching and clucking, pooping and shedding feathers all over the imported rugs.
Edwina’s ultramodern home had been cut into the hillside, a wall of windows three stories high with a panorama of downtown Portland and several of the bridges that crossed the Willamette. She could also see much farther east to Mount Hood rising out of the Cascades. Now, she stared through the glass. The lights of the city winked in the rain and Hood was invisible in the darkness, but not far from the mountain’s peak, in its shadow, was Falls Crossing, the town where Allie and Cassie Kramer had spent their teenage years, where their mother still lived.
And now ex-sheriff effin’ Shane Carter himself wanted an audience. That should prove interesting. Did Cassie have a confession to make and needed dear old stepdad and her estranged hubby to accompany her? Were they her little entourage of bodyguards? The woman, after all, was a mental case.
Not fair, her mind taunted as she sipped from her glass. Ironically one of the neighboring properties, located just on the other side of the slope, was Mercy Hospital.
It was fun
ny how tangled lives could become, how so many could brush against you only to disappear with the dawn. Again, she felt the pull on her heartstrings when she thought about loss, but she wouldn’t allow her mind to dwell in the painful hole that had once been her life. Instead, as always, she turned her attention to her work, always her work.
When the Kramer case had first landed on her desk, Nash had wondered about Cassie Kramer admitting herself to the hospital to be placed in psychiatric care. What had forced her through the locked doors of Mercy Hospital on the heels of her sister’s disappearance and Lucinda Rinaldi’s near homicide? Nash had questioned if surrendering to psychiatric care had been a ploy, a slyly planned move that would ultimately be integral in her defense: insanity over guilt.
Something wasn’t right with the Sisters Kramer; she knew it.
But she didn’t know if Allie Kramer was dead or alive. That was a problem, a serious problem. Allie, and maybe Cassie, too, could be part of some intricate publicity stunt gone bad, or worse yet the victim of kidnapping or homicide.
So where’s the body?
Where’s the crime scene?
Why was Holly Dennison killed, her body left where it could be found, a bizarre mask placed over her face?
Where the hell is frickin’ Allie Kramer?
Her ruminations brought more questions than answers, and her thoughts switched to the movie that was about to be released. Allie Kramer, Lucinda Rinaldi, and Holly Dennison were all a part of Dead Heat, which was to be released soon. A party to celebrate its opening was going to be held in the Hotel Danvers here in Portland. Everyone associated, at least those who could attend, would be in town, which might aid her in her investigation. She liked to talk to witnesses in person, face-to-face without relying on telephone calls or another cop’s notes and instincts.
Warm water lapped over her, foamy bubbles hissing lightly as they disintegrated. The wine helped ease the day’s tensions and frustrations from her muscles and bones. But her mind was spinning with half-baked theories and questions for Cassie Kramer.
There were more angles to consider as well.
Tomorrow, Nash thought, and finished her wine. Then she slid lower in the tub and stared upward through the surface of the water to look through the disappearing bubbles to the chandelier suspended overhead. The fixture dangled from the twenty-foot ceiling. She wondered, not for the first time, if the chandelier would ever fall and crash into the tub, maybe even kill her. Who, if anyone, would care? With no answer she held her breath as long as she could, silently counting off the seconds, trying to stay under as long as possible, fixating on the soft lights glowing overhead.
Her lungs began to ache.
Longer. Just a little longer.
She remained submerged.
How is Cassie Kramer involved in her sister’s death?
Where was she when the bullets in the prop gun were exchanged?
She heard her heart beating in her ears under the water.