Had her parents lived, maybe her story would have turned out differently.

As for Sonja Watkins, her link was beauty school, where she’d met Laura and kept in touch. Sonja now wondered if she’d been used, if Laura had kept up the relationship because she knew that Belva was the nurse in attendance when she’d been born. She’d paid Belva to gaslight Cassie, but the plan had backfired. Seeing the old nurse hadn’t escalated Cassie’s mental illness; if anything it had caused Cassie to want to get better, to find Allie. Maybe Belva Nelson had left the earring on purpose, so that Cassie would know she wasn’t hallucinating. Nash had learned from talking to her niece that Belva had serious guilt over her complicity in the sham and also for having taken some kind of hush money way back when during the private adoption, though that was still, and might always be, unclear.

Laura had been in cahoots with Allie, though Allie insisted she had no part in the murders, that she was only trying to kill Laura that night, to end it all. And she had. She’d killed her half-sister. Nash would like nothing better to see the Hollywood princess wearing a prison jumpsuit for the rest of her life.


Nash put the brush back in its holder.

Allie Kramer herself had admitted that her disappearance was all a publicity stunt. Allie was now in custody, the death of Laura Merrick being investigated, reporters besieging the department. Somehow Allie had hidden in plain sight, with Brandon’s help. They’d set up sightings, and created the fake text messages, and had milked it for all it was worth.

Nash wasn’t really buying Allie’s innocent act.

She could have come forward at any time.

Despite the murders.

Of course, Laura Merrick had been behind Holly Dennison and Brandi Potts’s deaths. Airline records proved she was in each city at the time. The only crime she hadn’t committed was the abduction of Allie Kramer. As for the original shooting on the set of Dead Heat? The working theory was that Laura had lifted the key from the prop manager Ineesha Salinger’s purse, when she’d come in for a touch-up on her hair. Laura had slipped out and made a copy while Ineesha had waited for her color to process. The timing had been right. According to the prop manager, Laura had been gone “twenty minutes or so” and come back with a box lunch. There were two hardware stores between Laura’s shop and the café where Laura had ordered the croissants and brie. The LAPD was checking with the stores.

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It was all coming together.

Rumor had it that Allie had agreed to an exclusive interview with Whitney Stone for an undisclosed sum of money. Another rumor had it that she was planning an insanity plea.


By her own admission, Allie Kramer had disappeared to create a buzz surrounding herself before Dead Heat opened.

Looked like she got her wish.

Even if she did end up in jail.

Nash walked out of the little apartment and headed to her car. The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds, weak beams playing against the rain-washed streets. She glanced around the neighborhood and considered it briefly as a place where she might move since the sale on Edwina’s mansion was going through, but no, this area was too close to the case. She’d be forever thinking about Allie Kramer if she lived here and God, no, she didn’t want that.

Cassie drove up to the house she’d lived in as a teen, the home she’d so despised and wondered if she’d ever feel anything but hatred of the place. Though the rambling house with the broad porch had been her mother’s sanctuary, Cassie thought of it as nothing but evil.

Ten years ago a madman had terrorized them all when they’d lived here and now, again, the unthinkable had happened. She parked and climbed out of the car, the May sun weak, the grass green, crocus and azaleas in bloom. The door opened before she reached the top step and she saw her mother, ten pounds lighter than she had been a few months before, a few more strands of silver hair marring her once glossy black tresses.

“She’s inside?” Cassie asked, and Jenna nodded.

Allie Kramer had made bail. Of course she would have to go to trial for her part in the deaths of Holly Dennison, Brandi Potts, and Belva Nelson, though it was generally believed that she was not the shooter, had only been on the periphery of the homicides.

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