“Wow.” Cassie stared at the phone. “You think this is about your first child?”
“Yeah, I do.” Jenna nodded, then cleared her throat. “I don’t know of anything else that would make her feel so empowered.”
“It’s a threat,” Carter said, pissed. He walked to the window to stare into the night. “The woman’s a vulture.”
Cassie muttered, “Or worse.”
“She’ll be at the party tonight,” Jenna predicted. “Members of the press have been invited, you know, to create a buzz about the film.”
“As if there wasn’t enough of one. Since Allie’s been gone she and the movie have been in all the tabloids and on all the entertainment shows, the gossip columns. Everywhere.” She didn’t say it, but in some ways Allie’s disappearance was the best publicity Dead Heat could get. Even the homicides of people associated with the film fascinated the populace and even appealed to the more macabre of filmgoers, elevated the intrigue factor of the movie, created a buzz, trended on social websites. It was sick.
“I just wish . . . I wish Allie were here, too. I would tell her . . . everything.” Jenna’s tears began to fall again. “Oh, God, where is she? What happened to her?”
Carter was at her side in an instant, lifting her from the chair, holding her close.
Torn, hating witnessing her mother fall apart, Cassie said, “Mom, if you want me to stay—”
“No, no!” Jenna said emphatically as she pulled from Carter’s embrace. “Go.” She made a shooing motion. “Try and have a good time.”
“Oh, yeah. Right,” Cassie said dryly. “As if! Geez, Mom, I’m not going because I think it’ll be fun, and Trent didn’t want to go at all, but I might see someone there who knows something about Allie.”
“Wouldn’t they have said something by now?” Jenna said.
Cassie shook her head. “Not if they’re hiding something.”
Sighing, Jenna said, “I suppose anything’s possible. Listen, I didn’t mean to ruin the night. But I thought you’d want to know. About your half-sister.”
“I did. Or do.” A million questions about this mystery sibling skated through her head. Who was she? Where was she? Did she know about Jenna? What kind of family had adopted her? Were there other brothers and sisters? What had been her life?
Most importantly, what, if anything, did she have to do with the murders and Allie’s disappearance?
With Double T riding shotgun, Nash gunned her little car up the steep incline. Around narrow, hairpin corners that cut through the thick forest of the Cascade foothills. She drove as if the devil himself were on her tail, her fingers clamped around the steering wheel, her eyes focused on the twin beams of her headlights that knifed through the darkness and steady rain.
Even Double T, usually cool, was clutching the handhold and saying, “Sheeeit, Nash, this ain’t the Indy 500!”
She didn’t care. The sense of losing time, of sand slipping through the hourglass of this investigation caused her stomach to curl into a mother of a fist and her foot to tromp on the gas pedal. She couldn’t drive fast enough to the cabin where she’d hoped to find Belva Nelson.
Through a search of city, county, and state records, Jenkins had located the property listed under Belva Nelson’s father’s name, which Nash had double checked with Nelson’s niece, Sonja Watkins. At first Watkins had played dumb, but Nash had put the legal screws to her and when confronted with the fact that Watkins and her ex-con husband could be jailed for hampering an investigation, the woman folded. Reluctantly Watkins had admitted that her aunt had been holed up in the rustic property ever since learning of Holly Dennison’s death. Beyond confirming the address, and the number of Belva Nelson’s disposable cell, Watkins had offered up as little information as possible before clamming up.
There was more to the story, Nash was certain, but Sonja Watkins wasn’t talking.
Nash negotiated another sharp curve. God, this mountain road twisted like a sidewinder.
Why had the nurse, who had held her silence for over thirty years, suddenly felt threatened and the need to sneak into the hospital in some weird, retro uniform no less? What was that all about? Why not just have a regular face-to-face, or call? What was with all the high drama? It was as if the nurse had been playing some part in a kitschy Jenna Hughes film.