After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 120

“Of course it doesn’t. Come on.” He started striding to the house, pulling Cassie along the path, the dog galloping ahead.

“So what does?”

“Good point.” That was the problem. Nothing about Allie Kramer’s disappearance and the murders of the other women and the damned text messages meant anything. At least not to him.

As they reached the porch, she said, “We’re not giving Carter my phone.”

“Why not?”

“It’ll just upset Jenna. Let’s . . . let’s wait. I’ll hand it over to the police when I go there this afternoon.”

He sent her a disbelieving glance.

“Swear to God,” she said, lifting a hand as if she were testifying on a Bible. At least for now she appeared less shaken. “Maybe before then, we’ll get a response.”

“Maybe,” he hedged, opening the door and feeling as if by answering the text, engaging with whoever was on the other end of the wireless connection, they were walking into a trap.

Leaning back in her chair, Nash squeezed her eyes shut, then whipped her head around, cracking her neck. After eight or nine hours at her desk all of her muscles were tight, a headache beginning to pound at the base of her skull. She felt a second’s relief before her muscles clenched again.

Her eyes burned from hours reading through files and notes, doing research on the computer, and just plain lack of sleep. In the early morning hours, once she and Double T were finished at the crime scene, she’d known she was too keyed up to go home and try to get a few more hours of shut-eye, so she’d driven directly to the office. The predawn hours had been quiet, the department nearly empty, so she’d taken the time to compare every detail of the murders of Holly Dennison in LA and Brandi Potts here, in Portland.

So many similarities.

So many loose ends.

With only the weakest of connections.

Her headache was starting to throb.

It didn’t help that over the last few hours the office had become a madhouse with officers, suspects, and witnesses coming and going, the shuffle of footsteps and buzz of conversation accompanying them. Telephones jangled or blipped out messages, a printer or fax machine was endlessly chunking out pages near the reception area, and from every direction the frenetic click of keyboards could be heard. Despite the soundproofing of the movable walls, the department as a whole was a cacophony of sounds, all of which, today, permeated the insulation to reverberate in Nash’s skull.

She found a bottle of ibuprofen and washed down two capsules with the dregs of her cold coffee. Her damned phone hadn’t stopped ringing since seven this morning and as the day had worn on and news of the latest homicide had hit the Internet, the phone calls had only gotten more frequent.

For her part, she was pushing the lab for immediate results, asking for a priority on Brandi Potts’s autopsy, wanting comparisons of the bullets found in each of the victims, needing to know if there were any fingerprints or DNA left on the masks. The ME had complied, the bullet that had buried deep in Brandi Potts already retrieved.

So far today Nash had been contacted by five different reporters, all of whom she’d referred to the Public Information Officer. A few tips were coming in as well, some about the shooting, and, of course, the usual Allie Kramer sightings.

If I had a dollar for every time someone thought they’d seen the missing actress, I’d be rich, she thought, and knew it would only get worse. As the release date of Dead Heat got closer, the number of calls from people who claimed to have caught a glimpse of the missing star had seemed to increase exponentially. The press had gotten wind of that little detail too, all of which had created some weird macabre buzz about the film.

Allie Kramer.

Her disappearance was at the heart of this, Nash was certain, she just didn’t know how. But a prime opportunity to question witnesses was at hand. Tomorrow night. The all-star bash for the movie’s premiere. People involved with the movie and the party had been flying up and down the coast. Los Angeles to Portland and back again. Nash had checked.

So it wasn’t as if Cassie Kramer were the only suspect, just the most visible at this point in time.

Nash stood and stretched, loosening her muscles, but her mind was still on the case. She could believe that Cassie might have been involved in the disappearance of her sister, they had a documented volatile relationship, but why kill the other women? Was she really that far around the bend? Is that why they were decorated with distorted visages of the women closest to Cassie? Did she have to mock their relationships by scribbling them on the back of the mask? Did she need to kill Jenna and Allie over and over again and use other women even slightly associated with them as her victims? What kind of psychosis was that?

It just didn’t quite fit. Not in Nash’s mind.

At first Nash had thought Brandi Potts had no connection to the other women and the filming of Dead Heat, but that wasn’t exactly true. As it turned out, when Potts’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Conger, was interviewed and asked, he’d said that Brandi had been an extra in the movie, in fact she’d been on the set the day that Lucinda Rinaldi had been shot, but, no, he didn’t think she knew either of the Kramer sisters. Of course he’d been broken up at the time, woken from a deep sleep, to find out that his live-in girlfriend wasn’t just not in their shared condo, but that she was dead, killed by an unknown assassin.

He, who worked for a day-trading company, had been devastated by the news and had seemed genuinely shell-shocked. He’d even called Nash this morning, just after seven, wanting information and offering any help, but when Nash had asked him questions on the phone, he hadn’t been able to come up with any new information to aid the investigation. According to Jeffrey, Brandi, who worked in a local bank in t

he trust department, didn’t have an enemy in the world. Originally from Seattle, she was sweet and kind and made friends easily. They’d been college sweethearts and Brandi had followed him to Portland when he’d taken a job in a trading company downtown. They’d had plans to marry, though he hadn’t yet gotten down on one knee and made it official. He had, though, put the ring she’d shown him in a local jewelry store on some kind of layaway plan and was making payments on it. He’d planned to propose at the first University of Washington home football game this fall, had hoped to get her sorority sisters on board, maybe pop the question while captured on the Jumbotron or whatever it was that filmed the game. He’d started choking up and had to end the conversation.

Jeffrey Albright Conger was a mess.

Or a very good actor.

Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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