Read After She's Gone Online

Authors: Lisa Jackson

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Crime, #Psychological, #Suspense, #Romance

After She's Gone

BOOK: After She's Gone
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Books by Lisa Jackson
 
Stand-Alones
SEE HOW SHE DIES
FINAL SCREAM
RUNNING SCARED
WHISPERS
TWICE KISSED
UNSPOKEN
MOST LIKELY TO DIE
WICKED GAME
WICKED LIES
SOMETHING WICKED
WICKED WAYS
SINISTER
WITHOUT MERCY
YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW
CLOSE TO HOME
AFTER SHE’S GONE
REVENGE
 
Anthony Paterno/Cahill Family Novels
IF SHE ONLY KNEW
ALMOST DEAD
 
Rick Bentz/Reuben Montoya Novels
HOT BLOODED
COLD BLOODED
SHIVER
ABSOLUTE FEAR
LOST SOULS
MALICE
DEVIOUS
NEVER DIE ALONE
 
Pierce Reed/Nikki Gillette Novels
THE NIGHT BEFORE
THE MORNING AFTER
TELL ME
 
Selena Alvarez/Regan Pescoli Novels
LEFT TO DIE
CHOSEN TO DIE
BORN TO DIE
AFRAID TO DIE
READY TO DIE
DESERVES TO DIE
 
Oregon Novels
DEEP FREEZE
FATAL BURN
 
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
LISA JACKSON
 
AFTER SHE’S GONE
 
 
KENSINGTON BOOKS
www.kensingtonbooks.com
 
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Prologue
 
Portland, Oregon
January
 
H
e watched.
Carefully.
Paying attention to every detail as the rain sheeted from the night-dark sky and streetlights reflected on the wet pavement.
Two women were running, faster and faster, and he smiled as the first passed into the lamp’s pool of illumination. Her face was twisted in terror, her beautiful features distorted by fear.
Just as they should be.
Good. Very good.
The slower woman was a few steps behind and constantly looking over her shoulder, as if she were expecting something or someone with murderous intent to be hunting her down.
Just as he’d planned.
Come on, come on, keep running.
As if they heard him, the women raced forward.
Perfect.
His throat tightened and his fists balled in nervous anticipation.
Just a few more steps!
Gasping, the slower woman paused, one hand splayed over her chest as she leaned over to catch her breath beneath the streetlamp. Rain poured down from the heavens. Her hair was wet, falling in dripping ringlets around her face, her white jacket soaked through. Again she glanced furtively behind her, past the empty sidewalks and storefronts of this forgotten part of the city. God, she was beautiful, as was the first one, each a fine female specimen that he’d picked precisely for this moment.
His heart was pumping wildly, anticipation and adrenaline firing his blood as an anticipatory grin twisted his lips.
Good. This is
so
good.
Silently he watched as from the corner of his eye, the first woman raced past him just as he’d hoped. Eyes focused ahead, she was seemingly oblivious to his presence, but in his heart he knew she realized he was there, observing her every movement, catching each little nuance of fear. He saw determination and horror in the tense lines of her face, heard it in her quick, shallow breaths and the frenzied pounding of her footsteps as she flew past.
And then she was gone.
Safely down the street.
He forced his full attention to the second woman, the target. She twisted her neck, turned to look his way, as if she felt him near, as if she divined him lurking in the deep umbra surrounding the street.
His heart missed a beat.
Don’t see me. Do not! Do not look at me!
Her expression, at this distance, was a little blurry, but he sensed that she was scared to death. Terrified. Exactly what he wanted.
Feel it. Experience the sheer terror of knowing you’re being stalked, that you are about to die.
Her lower lip trembled.
Yes! Finally.
Satisfaction warmed his blood.
As if she heard a sound, she stiffened, her head snapping to stare down the darkened alley.
That’s it. Come on. Come on!
Her eyes widened and suddenly she started running again, this time in a sheer panic. She slipped, lost a high heel, and she kicked off the other, never missing a step, her bare feet still slapping the wet pavement frantically.
Now!
He shifted slightly, giving himself a better view, making sure that he didn’t miss a thing.
Perfect.
She was running right on target.
At that moment a dark figure stepped from a shadowed doorway to stand right in front of the woman.
Screaming, she veered a bit, slipped, and nearly lost her balance, only to keep on running, angling away from the man.
Too late!
The assassin raised his gun.
Blam! Blam! Blam!
Three shots rang out, echoing along the empty street, fire spitting from the gun’s muzzle.
She stumbled and reeled, her face a mask of fear as she twisted and fell onto the pavement. Her eyes rolled upward, blood trickling from the corner of her mouth. Another spreading red stain bloomed darkly through her white jacket.
Perfect,
he thought, satisfied at last as he viewed her unmoving body.
Finally, after years of planning, he’d pulled it off.
Shondie Kent looked dead.
As she lay in the street he waited, focusing on the body, noticing how it neither twitched nor moved in any way.
Exquisite.
From years of experience he counted silently.
Five, four, three, two, one.
Still no movement, the “corpse” in place, the street empty, rain and a bit of fog visible. The camera had zoomed in on the open mouth, glazed eyes, and dark blood on the white blouse.
Satisfied that the shot was flawless, he yelled, “Cut!” and punched the air from his director’s chair. He felt ridiculously triumphant that the death scene had finally worked. Man, what a relief! They’d shot the scene over and over the day before, never getting the action and ambience to meld to his satisfaction. Something had always been missing. But today after several failed attempts, finally everything had worked like clockwork, the actors and crew were spot-on, the energy on the set was right for this, the climax to the end of the scene. “That’s it!” he yelled, then added under his breath, “Thank God,” because truth to tell, the scene had been a bitch.
As he climbed out of his chair, the lights came up and the darkened Portland street was suddenly illuminated, its asphalt still shining from the mist provided by the sprinklers used to simulate the gloomy Northwest rain. The quiet that had been the set was replaced by a cacophony of voices and sounds. Crew members were spurred into action, hustling to break down the facades and get them moving so that the street could be reopened. In the bright lights, the sidewalks and storefronts appeared less ominous than they had.
Sig Masters, the actor who played the assassin, tore off his ski mask and headed off set for a smoke. The fake rain pouring from hidden, overhead sprinklers was turned off, only a bit of drizzle remaining as the lines emptied. Everyone was going about their business, already breaking down the pieces of the set that had been added to the cordoned-off street, everyone but Lucinda Rinaldi, the body double who still lay unmoving on the pavement.
Dean Arnette, the director of
Dead Heat
, a movie he already believed would become a blockbuster once it was released, smiled to himself. The script was cutting-edge, moody, the dialogue razor-sharp, the emotions raw, and his star, Allie Kramer, was rapidly becoming a household name. Her on-screen portrayals were mesmerizing and her offscreen life the stuff of tabloid fodder. She had a famous mother, a tragic, complicated past, an intense love life, and a hint of the bad-girl image she didn’t try to erase. It all kept her fans guessing and her public interested. Allie Kramer had no trouble trending on the Internet.
More perfection.
A sense of relief ran through him as he absently reached into the empty pocket of his shirt for a nonexistent pack of cigarettes. God, he still missed smoking every damned day, especially after sex, a meal, or like now, a satisfying final take on a particularly difficult movie.
“Something’s wrong,” his assistant whispered as Arnette climbed down from his director’s chair.
“The scene was perfect.”
“I know . . . but . . .”
“But what?” He didn’t bother hiding his irritation. Beatrice Little was always finding something wrong. Barely five-two, she couldn’t weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet and wasn’t quite thirty. Still, she took “anal-retentive” to a new level. She was shaking her head, a dark ponytail fanning the back of her T-shirt with the movement.
“It’s Lucinda.”
Arnette figured if he was satisfied, the whole damned film crew should be, including Little Bea as she was often called. “What about her?” Arnette glanced at the still unmoving actress. “She was great.”
“I know, but—”
“Hey!” a sharp female voice cut in. “That’s it. Let’s go,” Sybil Jones, one of the associate producers, yelled in Lucinda’s direction. She clapped twice. When Sybil didn’t get a response, she rolled her expressive eyes beneath the brim of her cap as she turned to Arnette. “Maybe you should talk to her, Dean. She’s not paying attention to me. Big surprise.”
Lucinda, B-list on a good day, was always working to be noticed, hoping to overachieve her way up the stardom ladder, even though in this film she was used only as a body double. No matter how small the role, though, Lucinda was known for staying in character long after a scene had wrapped. “Come on,” he said, walking briskly in her direction. “That’s it, Lucy!”
Still she didn’t so much as turn her head toward him. His skin crawled a bit. There was something off about her and it bothered him, a niggling worry that burrowed deep in his brain. This production had been a bitch from the get-go. The stars were always at each other, there was that sibling rivalry crap on the set between the Kramer girls and now they were here, reshooting this scene at the very last minute. “Hey! Time to get a move on,” he said, and then a little more loudly, “Come on, Lucinda, that was great. It’s a wrap!”
Still she didn’t flinch, her eyes staring upward, even when one of the booms was moved, swinging only a foot from her face.
His stomach knotted.
As he reached her side he noticed that the bloodstain on her coat was far more than the bag of red dye would release.
Oh, crap!
“Lucinda?” he said, bending down on a knee, his heart beginning to drum. “Hey.” Anxiety mounting, he stared into eyes fixed on the middle distance. What the hell?
“Lucinda, come on, it’s over,” he said, and leaned closer, hoping to feel her breath against his face or see her blink, silently wishing this was her ploy.
No movement. None.
Shit!
He touched her neck, felt no pulse, and his fears escalated.
Sybil and Beatrice had followed him across the street. He looked up, over his shoulder, to meet Sybil’s eyes, which were still guarded by her baseball cap. “Get the medic,” he ordered, “and get him now.”
She nodded sharply, didn’t wait for another command, then turned and started yelling for help. “We need a medic,” she yelled, turning back. “ASAP! Where the hell’s Jimmy?”
“Oh, Jesus,” Bea whispered as Dean turned back to the woman lying on the street. His fingertips pressed a little harder, hoping to find even the faintest tremor of a pulse.
“Oh, God,” another female voice choked out. He looked up to spy Holly Dennison, a set designer, for Christ’s sake. Hand clapped over her mouth, she was backing up. Her huge eyes were round with sheer horror. “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.”
He ignored her; turned back to the actress lying on the wet street. What the hell had happened? No one was supposed to get hurt on the set of
Dead Heat.
Other movie-set tragedies slid through his mind as he heard the sound of footsteps and conversation buzzing around him. “For fuck’s sake, someone call nine-one-one!”
“On their way,” the producer said as the medic, talking rapidly into a cell phone and carrying a bag, finally hurried to Lucinda’s side.
“Back off,” the man, all of twenty-two, nearly shouted.
Gratefully Arnette gave up his post, climbing to his feet and stepping backward, knowing in his heart that it was too late. The harsh klieg lights illuminated her beautiful, motionless face. And just like Shondie Kent, the character she’d been so feverishly portraying, it appeared Lucinda Rinaldi was dead.
BOOK: After She's Gone
11.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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