Sighing, he said, “The windows are electric. I just want to crack one. I need a smoke.”
“I’ve never heard of anyone dying from nicotine withdrawal, so quit stalling, okay? Where did you see Allie and when?”
“Two days ago. In Oregon City.” His fingers drummed against his leg and he looked antsy.
“In Oregon City?” The historic town was situated on the east side of the Willamette River, just under the falls and south of Portland by nearly twenty miles. Cassie had never heard Allie mention the town. “Why would she be there?”
“Why were you?”
“It’s a place where I thought I was less likely to be recognized, I guess. Certainly I would be less likely to run into paparazzi. And I heard they have a great little microbrewery overlooking the falls. So I drove down there and went in for a brewski.”
“And there she was?” Cassie didn’t bother hiding her incredulity.
“Not in the brewhouse, no. But I was in a booth by the window and I looked out, it was just about dusk, and I saw her walking along the promenade that runs above the river, right over the falls.”
“Fuckin’ A!” He threw up a hand in disgust that she didn’t blindly trust him. “You know where I’m talking about, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve been there,” she said, still processing his words. “As a teenager.” She remembered sneaking out with friends in the summer and taking the elevator that connected the lower part of the town to the upper, and then running down the stairs. The falls were a little farther upstream, past an old paper mill. They’d gone up there, too, balancing on the stone railing overlooking the falls. She could almost smell the spray, hear the thunder of water rushing over huge boulders and cliffs that made up the falls.
“So you talked to her?” She found that hard to believe.
“She was too far away and, as I said, I was inside. But I ran out of the place and took off after her.”
“She was gone. Disappeared.”
“You didn’t catch up to her? You didn’t speak to her? You didn’t even see her up close?”
He glowered into the night. “It was Allie.”
Cassie felt cheated. “Everyone thinks they catch sight of her. Here, there, in Portland, or in LA, or wherever. People call in, I know. Mom told me. I even thought I saw her a couple of times, but she was never close enough to talk to or to catch up with.” Disgusted and deflated, she added, “It’s probably just what people want to see, or a trick of light. You really think Allie, who’s been missing all this time, is going to just take a stroll along the riverfront in Oregon City? Does that make any sense?”
He leaned back against the seat. “I don’t know. Does anything?”
She stared through the window and through the foggy glass, watched as a man and a woman linked arm in arm, both wearing jeans and bundled in thick jackets, crossed against the light. He suddenly grabbed her hand with the swiftness of a striking snake, opening her fingers and plucking the key from her before she could even cry out.
“Hey!” Heart thudding, she scrabbled for the door handle as he jammed the key into the ignition. He switched on the electrical system without engaging the engine and rolled his window down a crack just as she got her door open. Then he clicked open the glove box and reached inside. As he did a large plastic bag fell out of the crammed compartment. The clear sack tumbled onto the floor at Cassie’s feet.
Cassie scooped it up and tried to make out the contents. “What’s this?” she asked, shaking the bag and seeing small makeup bottles, false eyelashes, and small prosthetics often used by makeup people to change an actor’s appearance.
He hesitated, then grinned sheepishly as he plucked the plastic bag from her fingers. “Sometimes I need a disguise.”
“Whatever.” Again the smile, one used to distract her. “I like to go incognito.”
“As a woman?”
“Or a very pretty man.” He shrugged, chuckling a bit, then stuffed the bag into the box, where he scrounged around and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. Then he slammed the box closed and locked it. “I told you. I just need a cigarette.”