“Let’s go.” He started pulling on her arm a little too hard.

“Ouch!” She actually winced.



She started to answer, then said, “Nothing.” She didn’t want to go into it about the cat scratches.

“Come on.” He said the words through a taut smile, and his gaze, when she found it, drilled into hers as if he was sending her some unspoken message. What the hell was wrong with him?

“I need to talk to—”

“Rinko. I know. We will.” With an iron grip he ushered her to the front door and down the steps.

“We came all this way—”

“I know.” He marched her all the way to the car and she wanted to slap him, but obviously something was going on. “Get behind the wheel.”

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“For the love of God, Trent.” But when he opened the Honda’s door and released her, she slid inside and waited until he climbed into the passenger seat. “Are you going to tell me what the hell’s going on? Or have you just decided to be a moronic brute all of a sudden?”

“Start the engine.”

With an effort Cassie fought her natural inclination to argue and switched on the ignition. The motor sparked to life as she said, “Happy now?” sarcastically.

He didn’t answer, just rolled down his window. As soon as the glass lowered, from out of nowhere Steven Rinko’s head popped up, his face framed in the open space. He was crouched down beside the car, his body hidden from view of the hospital by the SUV.

Cassie physically started before she recognized him, his hair wet, rain running down his face. She turned her gaze on Trent. “How did you know?”

“He gave me the high sign in the reception area,” Trent said quickly, then turned to Rinko and said, “You sent a message to Cassie using Dr. Sherling’s phone, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” He said it as if it were common knowledge.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was you?” Cassie asked, but Trent held up a hand, cutting her off.

“The message was about a Hyundai Santa Fe? Right? The SUV?” Trent asked.

A curt nod. “Most customers are satisfied, some complain about the fuel gauge and sun visors, but overall they like the vehicle.”

Cassie tried not to be irritated with his review. “So this car—”

“The 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe is an SUV.”

“Yes.” She fought back her frustration and said more calmly, “I know. Why did you text the information to me? Is it because the car, er, SUV, wasn’t usually in the lot?” She knew he observed what vehicles parked near the hospital.

“The nurse drove it.” Blond hair plastered to his head, he stared through the open window at her as if she were a complete idiot.

“The nurse? The one who came into my room?” Cassie questioned. “With the white shoes and dress. And that blue cape. The one who lost the earring?”

“She drove the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe and parked it in the lot.” His gaze moved from Cassie’s face to Trent’s. “I saw her leave in it.”

He knew this? And didn’t say anything? Cassie couldn’t believe it. The car, idling, was beginning to warm, the windows fogging a little.

Trent asked, “What color was it?”

“Arctic white. Beige interior. Automatic transmission.” Without expression, Rinko repeated the information as if reading the data from an ad in the classified section. “V-6. Mag wheels.”

“Did you notice anything else about it? The license plate?” Trent asked.

Rinko nodded. “Oregon plates. Man on a bucking bronco.”

“That image was part of the plate?” Trent asked.

Rinko didn’t reply, just stared with that same faraway look that sometimes came over him. As far as Cassie knew, there was no image of a bronco rider on plates issued by the state. There had been different plates over the years, some decorative, but none Cassie remembered with images of a rodeo rider. Then again, it was possible that Rinko could be wrong. It could all be a figment of his imagination.

“How about the number?” Trent asked. “On the plate?”

Steven, who was getting soaked, shrugged. He was shivering in the cold, his lips turning blue, but he didn’t seem to notice.

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