After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 78

“Cass? If you want me to help, you have to confide in me.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask for your help. You showed up on my doorstep. Remember?”



She might have said more but the lift of one eyebrow, silently accusing her of not acknowledging that she might want his help, no matter how hard she protested, caused her to rethink her position. Knowing she was probably making a mistake of immense proportions, she nevertheless told him about her dream in the hospital, about the nurse from an earlier era telling her that her sister was alive. But she kept the part about the reasons she’d checked herself in, the hallucinations and blackouts to herself. She saw no reason to muddle the issue. At least not yet.

He didn’t remark, just kept right on eating while he listened. When he was finished, he pushed his plate aside.

“You think the nurse was real,” he said.

“Rinko said he saw her.”

“Rinko?” Trent repeated, his eyes narrowing. “The kid at the hospital with all the car stats?”

“And sports statistics,” she said, fishing into a side pocket of her purse again. “You know him?”

“I met him. When I came to the hospital looking for you. He said you didn’t want to talk to me.”

“I didn’t. I told him so.”

“He conveyed the message very succinctly.”

She figured as much and changed the topic of conversation before it turned too personal. She’d spent enough time feeling the pain of the breakup, or trying to trust Trent and believe that he hadn’t fallen in love with and taken Allie to bed. That still had the power to make her stomach churn. Nor did she want to consider the fate of their marriage. Doomed? Or repairable? She wasn’t even sure what she wanted, so she decided it was best not to go there. Not on this trip. Not again. So she said, “Rinko’s nearly a genius, but he’s got issues. Severe issues, I gather, though I don’t know what they are. Otherwise he wouldn’t be in Mercy Hospital indefinitely. But, if you ask him a question about any team in the nineteenth or twentieth or twenty-first century, he’s got names, numbers, and RBIs or TDs or goals or three-pointers or assists or . . . whatever. I think it’s impossible to trip him up.” She found the little earring in the side pocket of her purse and set it on the table between them.

“What’s this?”

“An earring. Like the one the nurse was wearing the night she came into the room or appeared or whatever you want to call it. But ghosts don’t leave jewelry behind, nor do people in nightmares.”

He picked up the bauble and examined it.

Cassie felt bands around her lungs tighten. Would he believe her? Or write her off as a mental case, a conspiracy theorist, or worse? She explained about her research on the earring and he listened, all the while studying the tiny cross and frowning, the wheels in his mind turning.

“You’d better keep it,” he finally said, then picked up the tab and paid for both their meals over her protests. “Don’t worry, you don’t owe me anything,” he added as he handed the bored-looking waitress his credit card.

Cassie stopped fighting him and when he offered to drive, she handed over the keys. Despite the jolt of caffeine from her Coke, she was exhausted, the ongoing nights of restless sleep having finally caught up with her. She’d thought she’d be on edge the whole time with Trent in the car, nervous around him, the anxiety keeping her awake, but as the miles of California had disappeared under the Honda’s wheels so had her wariness. The idea of maneuvering the car through the winding turns of the mountains in Southern Oregon then onto the long, monotonous stretch of freeway to Portland and beyond wasn’t something she looked forward to. Yep, let him drive.

After finding a blanket tucked under her bag in the backseat, she drew it around her body and curled up against the passenger window. Her eyes at half-mast, she observed Trent in the muted lights from the dash.

Did she trust him?

No. Well, at least not completely.

Was she still angry with him?

Yes, but not as violently so. Of course the jury was still out on her emotions and she had the right to change her mind.

Time will tell, she thought. As he drove steadily, keeping the Honda just above the speed limit, she drifted off somewhere near the Oregon border. Her sleep was never deep. At some level she was aware of the sounds of the journey; the radio stations fading in and out, the steady whine of the engine and outside the rumble of trucks passing, or the rush of the wind. All in all, though, she let slumber envelop her. Though she was loath to admit it, the fact that Trent was driving gave her a sense of security, no matter how false it might be.

She was vaguely aware of another filling station, lights along the overhang bright enough to rouse her a bit, the sounds of the pump being activated, the rush of fuel into the tank. Her eyes fluttered open, but she closed them quickly, then rotated her neck before slumber caught up with her again.

Only when the car began to bounce a little, the ride becoming rougher, did she start to surface. “Where are we?” she said around a yawn, stretching her arms as she peered through the windshield. Beams from the headlights splashed upon a rutted lane guarded by fence posts. Raindrops drizzled down the glass, the wipers rhythmically scraping water from the windshield.



Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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