CHAPTER 14

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The house doctor stopped DeeDee from ripping the oxygen mask from her face when Mac and JC entered the room. DeeDee noticed that Clarence looked distinctly un-well. And Bianca was simply apoplectic. Whatever the young doc had shot into her veins was doing the trick, DeeDee realized. Her heart wasn't racing as much. She felt a little floaty and her breathing was deeper. More relaxed.

"What happened?" asked Mac, bending at her bedside.

"She had some sort of attack!" screamed Bianca. "Can't have her dying in this God-awful place."

DeeDee waved her off.

"That's quite enough, Bianca," Clarence attempted in feeble voice. DeeDee would have liked to get the doctor to check him out, but knew her husband would never forgive her if she overstepped. She could only watch and pray. JC's stricken face hovered in the background too. All this, DeeDee noticed as if in a dream. Misty and remote.

"Okay. Then let me tell you what we've got. Maybe you can corroborate," said Mac, sitting on the edge of the bed beside DeeDee.

"Is this truly necessary?" asked Clarence from his seat in one of the side chairs.

"Time's not our friend here," Mac replied.

DeeDee nodded. Mac's eyes were her lifeline to the here and now. Without them to latch on to, she knew she'd float away. That boy needs me. "It's quite alright, love," DeeDee said, turning her gaze on Clarence. Fifty years had brought them some measure of trust. "I'm not going to die on you here. Lord knows, you'd be fodder for all those forty-year-olds in no time!" She released a wicked cackle.

"You know best," he replied and leaned his head on the backrest. He closed his eyes, but DeeDee knew he was monitoring every word.

"The sister, Katrina, or Trixie as she likes to be called, says Dane came to her last night for money," Mac started slowly, quietly. DeeDee's brow crinkled. "She doesn't know where he went, but he never showed at midnight for the ride home."

"So...we need to know how he got from here to wherever," said DeeDee. "I had him at a party. Hotel room high up. Perhaps penthouse."

Mac waited. The room fell silent.

DeeDee, two pillows at her neck and the comforter to her chin, closed her eyes and drifted back. Dane Pritchett's face in profile. Eyes closed. Lips slightly parted. Small silver bubbles streaming from his nose and mouth. DeeDee felt herself watch the last bubble cling, then sail to the surface. The water was black, but the lapping surface appeared to shimmer with light. If DeeDee concentrated, she could make out bright orbs through the rippled surface. As the motion settled, she saw lights. Powerful bulbs.

"He's definitely inside somewhere," she whispered, not opening her eyes. No one moved. Almost as if no one was breathing. No one left alive in the room save her. She followed the image. The background was pixilated in shades of pewter, blue, purple and silvery-violet. Small squares like a watery mosaic. "A pool?"

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