Pushing her doubts aside, she drove on toward the studio. The flow of traffic was smooth, cars flying past her though she was five miles above the speed limit. A glance at the rearview convinced her that no silver Toyota was following her. A larger black SUV was a few cars behind, but so what? Even if it was the guy who’d flagrantly run a red light or two, it wasn’t that unusual and the boxy SUV hadn’t been lurking near the park; she would have noticed. The important thing now was that it seemed Whitney Stone had given up trying to interview her.

But she’d be back.

No doubt about it.


The woman was relentless.

Cassie relaxed a little, her hands loosening their death grip on the steering wheel.

Whitney Stone had jangled her, ramped up her already escalated case of nerves. But at least for the time being, she’d given the reporter the slip.

Angling her Honda onto Interstate 5, she flicked her gaze to her rearview and saw no signs that anyone had her in their sights. Again, no silver Toyota and the black SUV she’d seen several times behind her hung back.

It’s nothing. Just your imagination. Whitney Stone sent your case of nerves into overdrive.

A slew of traffic turned off at Burbank, but as she wound her way through the streets, she still didn’t notice anyone lagging behind and tailing her. Still, she made a few extra turns and doubled back on her route, just to be sure that the reporter or the Suburban weren’t following.

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Telling herself she was more paranoid than even Dr. Sherling suspected, she finally drove up to the offices of Galactic West Productions, which was located in an inauspicious office building shaded by a line of tall palms.

A white Mercedes was pulling out of a parking spot on the street and she slid her Honda in behind it, parked, and was inside the familiar building within two minutes. She took the stairs to the third floor and walked through seamless glass doors to a reception area. Then she was stopped cold, blocked entry to the private offices by a receptionist who was barely five feet tall and not a day over twenty. The girl’s smooth complexion, youthful innocence, and bright smile belied the fact that she was an immovable object. Obviously she regarded her job of obstructing passage to the inner sanctum of Galactic West as gospel, as if God Himself had assigned her the task of stopping anyone from entering. Maybe she, too, believed Dean Arnette was omnipotent, a god to all of Hollywood and beyond.

Cassie even tried the “But-I’m-Allie-Kramer’s-sister” card, to no avail.

“If you don’t have an appointment, then I’m sorry,” the girl said without a hint of remorse in her huge blue eyes. “You’ll have to make one, an appointment, I mean, if I can even get you in to see him. Mr. Arnette is a very busy man.”

When Cassie said she’d be satisfied talking with Beatrice Little or Sybil Jones, the producers who worked with Arnette on the film, she was met with the same implacable resistance and a wide, orthodonti-cally improved smile. “They’re not in and even if they were, you’d need an appointment. If you leave your number, I’ll have someone call you.” For the moment, Cassie felt as if she had no options. She glanced at the door she knew led to the private offices and even considered bolting around the receptionist’s massive desk, but decided she’d rather not deal with someone from the building’s security staff, or the police hauling her outside. At least not yet. No reason to give Whitney Stone more grist for her gossip mill. The simple fact was Cassie already had a history of mental issues and the cops in Oregon were already looking at her closely in conjunction with her sister’s disappearance. It just didn’t make sense to draw attention to herself by causing trouble or in any way encouraging Detective Nash to move Cassie from “a person of interest” to her “A #1 suspect.”

Still, she was irritated. She left her name and number, which seemed redundant. Dean Arnette, Little Bea, Sybil Jones, and just about everyone else in the production company already had her personal information. Not that it mattered, though. She knew as well as the big-eyed receptionist that no one was going to call her as no one had bothered returning her personal voice messages or texts to date.

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