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.
How did she know that Allie Kramer was alive and okay?
Sonja Watkins wasn’t saying. If Belva Nelson’s niece had known any more, which Nash wholeheartedly believed, Ms. Watkins was keeping it to herself. Watkins had even mentioned she might not talk to the police any further except with an attorney present.
Which probably meant she was guilty of some bigger crime.
Nash intended to find out just what that was, after she talked to the retired nurse, the very nurse who, Nash had learned, had been in attendance at St. Mary’s Hospital when Jenna Hughes had delivered her first baby.
“Hey! Take it easy. She’s not goin’ anywhere,” Double T warned as her little Ford slid a bit and the forest grew more dense.
“You don’t know that. She might already be running like a damned rabbit!”
“She picked a great place for it. This is like the ends of the earth.”
Nash almost smiled. Almost. Instead she adjusted t
he defroster as the windows were starting to cloud. Outside, it was dark as pitch, a wind blowing harshly, tree branches swaying in a wild macabre dance as they were caught in the glare of the Focus’s headlights. Not another car was on the skinny ribbon of asphalt that threatened to turn to gravel around each new bend.
“Jesus,” Double T said. “When she decided to hide, she wasn’t kidding around.”
“She was scared.”
“Don’t blame her. But up here in the middle of nowhere? This is better than the city?” Snorting in disgust, he clung to the handhold. “Don’t think so.”
“We’re almost there.”
What did the nurse know about Allie Kramer’s disappearance? About the homicides?
Whoever was behind the murders hadn’t killed people randomly, then placed weird masks over their faces. No way. The killer had picked people associated with the film. Nash didn’t believe the choice of Holly Dennison and Brandi Potts as victims had been coincidental. Did Belva Nelson know why?
Nash frowned. The pieces of the puzzle were finally starting to fit together, but there were still huge holes that Nash didn’t understand.
She hoped Belva Nelson could fill in the gaps.
In the meantime Nash had instructed Jenkins to cross-check any information on the birth of Jenna Nash’s secret child with everyone associated with Dead Heat, on the off-chance that Jenna’s first-born was somehow associated with the movie. It seemed far-fetched, as the connection to Jenna Hughes alone would explain the masks, at least to a deranged mind. So why bother using people connected to the movie as victims? And, in Potts’s case, an obscure connection. Not many people knew that Brandi Potts was an extra on the film. Only those close to the production of Dead Heat, those in the inner circle, would even know Potts existed.
A rush of adrenaline shot through Nash. Someone connected with the movie had to have had a personal vendetta against Allie Kramer. Cassie Kramer? Brandon McNary? Some other person who had become Allie’s enemy? Or the missing star of Dead Heat herself? Just how diabolical was Allie Kramer? Her beauty was only surpassed by her intelligence, which, according to IQ tests, was off the charts.
So many questions.