Again she smiled, thinking of Cassie in a mental ward.

A perfect place for her.

And one more juicy element in her story.

All in all Whitney liked Portland. It currently had a cool vibe ascribed to it, but, truth to tell she was sick to her back teeth of the gloomy weather and the constant traveling from PDX to LAX in Southern California.

It will be all worth it.


She warmed inside at the thought, clicked on her blinker and edged her way toward an off ramp that would dump her near the Hawthorne Bridge with its metal grating and vertical lift, which allowed large ships to pass beneath it.

She was running late to a meeting with a source on the Eastbank Esplanade, a bicycle and pedestrian path on the east shore of the river. The source was supposed to have information on the rift between the missing Allie Kramer, her nutcase of a sister, Cassie, and their reclusive mother, Jenna Hughes. Whitney expected the guy to be a no-show, one more in a series of irritating dead ends, but she wouldn’t let an opportunity pass to gain more information, more insight into the Sisters Kramer and their famous mother.

This was her chance, she thought, as she found one of the few remaining parking spaces, grabbed her microphone and cell, then dodged a speeding bicyclist to wait for the informant.

In the meantime, she made calls and did research, studied the skyline of the west side of the river, where skyscrapers rose against a backdrop of forested hills. After an hour, her irritation growing with each passing minute, she finally gave up. One more time a promising source had turned out to be a dud and she was stood up, once again.

She walked back to her car and flopped inside. As she twisted on the ignition, she decided that she would do whatever was necessary to nail this story and if she had to be . . . uh, creative? . . . so be it. She wasn’t above bending the truth a little, or even staging a little drama.

Within reason.

There were lines she wouldn’t cross, of course. She had her ethics. But she also had a story to tell, a story that promised her a new echelon of fame.

And she deserved it, by God.

Life hadn’t been fair to her, and this time she wasn’t going to let the brass ring slip through her fingers. Not when it was sooo close.

Licking her lips, she plotted her next move.

How far would she go to get what she wanted?

Again, her lips twitched.

Pretty damned far.

“But you’re not well, not strong enough to leave,” Dr. Sherling said to Cassie after breakfast. She was a kind woman, who never wore makeup, her white hair a cloud, her cheeks naturally rosy, her skin unlined though she had to be in her seventies. Slim and fit, Virginia Sherling had been a competitive skier in her day, according to the nurses’ gossip. Beneath her bright, toothy smile and soft-spoken, easygoing demeanor lay a will of iron. Cassie knew. She’d tested the psychiatrist several times during her stay here and had witnessed the color rise in the older woman’s face and her slight English accent become more pronounced. Now, however, upon walking into Cassie’s room and finding her packing, Dr. Sherling was calm. At least outwardly as she stood next to the rocker in the room.

“I’ll be okay,” Cassie assured her.

“Have you talked to your family? Your mother?”

Cassie threw her a glance. “Have you?” she asked, double-checking that her phone and charger were tucked inside with her clothes and makeup bag. Everything was where it should be. Except for the bottles of meds that were tucked into a side pocket. No need for those. She grabbed the three bottles, read the labels, then threw them all into a nearby trash can.

The doctor’s lips tightened. “You can’t just stop those,” she said. “You need to taper off. Seriously, Cassie, I strongly advise you wean yourself carefully.” She walked to the trash, scooped up all three bottles, and dropped them into Cassie’s open bag. “These are strong drugs.”


“Please. Be responsible.” The doctor’s eyes behind her glasses were serious and steady. “You don’t want to come back here on a stretcher.”

Cassie’s jaw tightened.

“Have you talked to your mother?” she asked again.

The answer was “no,” of course, and Cassie suspected Dr. Sherling knew it and was just making a point.