When her pregnant sister vanishes in Mexico, a young woman sets out to prove her brother-in-law is a killer.
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“I think he’s going to kill me.”
A frantic phone call from her estranged sister sends Jesse Peña rushing home to Brownsville, Texas, only to find that Alicia –seven months pregnant– has vanished. Jesse is convinced her brother-in-law, Marcus Vega, is a killer but getting the police to listen isn’t easy, especially when Marcus announces that Jesse and her sister are borderline schizophrenic.
Detective Michael Cisneros is reluctant to believe Jesse's allegation. After all, Marcus Vega is a prominent citizen with a tight alibi, and this isn’t the first time she’s charged him with murder. When Michael is accused of allowing a personal relationship with her to cloud his judgment, he is forced to accept what Jesse cannot--Marcus Vega is innocent. Jesse’s refusal to give up will risk more than her life, it will test her sanity as well.
The needle wavered at sixty-five miles per hour. The engine gunned and the car shuddered seconds before the tires left the pavement. Metal crunched against metal, sparks igniting across the highway. Jesse squeezed her eyes shut and braced for the impact. Her body bucked against the backseat as the car rolled, the seatbelt strap pinning her against the vinyl and cutting into her neck. Glass shattered against her skull as the car tumbled to a stop in a shallow ravine. Jesse struggled with her seatbelt, fighting to unclasp the latch. The burning odor of gasoline stung her eyes.
Outside a shadowed figure stepped forward and crouched beside her door.
“You should have left it alone,” the voice said.
Even through her petrified fear she heard the unmistakable scrape of a match. The figure took a step back and tossed the tiny stick into the car.
Her scream woke her.
Jesse bolted up on the sofa, her arms flailing, fighting the restraints of the chenille blanket tangled around her. The soft glow of light from the laptop on the coffee table caught her attention and it took her a moment to realize it had been a dream. She wasn’t that helpless child anymore. She wasn’t trapped in a burning car with her parents. She was at home, in her apartment where she’d lived for the past five years.
She shoved the blanket off and pressed the heel of her hands to her eyes to push back the burning tears. She was safe. She was fine. She was alive. She tried to repeat the mantra but the images from her nightmare continued to play in her head.
After giving herself a moment to steady her pulse she slapped the computer closed and staggered into the kitchen. She didn’t need to look at the clock above the sink to know what time it was. Three o’clock in the morning. Same freaking time every night for the last two weeks. With a frustrated sigh she yanked open the refrigerator and grabbed a water bottle. She took a long drink, the cold liquid soothing the rawness of her throat. Outside lightening flashed, followed by the sonic boom of thunder. She jolted, her heart slamming against her breastbone like a sledgehammer. The dream flashed in her mind. The car tumbling across the highway. Her mother’s terrified screams. The explosion that turned her parent’s flesh to bones and ash.
Jesse closed her eyes and held her breath, counting against the thump of her pulse. After the accident the doctors had told her she’d lead a normal life; that her injuries, though life threatening at one time, wouldn’t keep her from doing whatever she wanted to do. She slowly exhaled and slid a look at the orange pill bottle on the window sill. They just didn’t say anything about her mind debilitating her.
She took another pull from the bottle, her gaze shifting to the blinking light on the old answering machine buried under a newspaper. The calls she’d ignored earlier. She mentally ran through a list of possible callers–her boss at the paper, a student from her computer research class wanting her notes again, or her friend Amy dying to tell her about her latest date. Most days she enjoyed living vicariously through Amy’s erotic encounters, since Jesse hadn’t had a serious relationship in over three years but, thanks to her nightmare, she was no longer in the mood.
“Whoever you are can wait.” She finished the bottle and tossed it in the recycle bin before leaving the room.
After a hot shower, where she stood for half an hour to let the beating spray massage the tension in her muscles, she poured herself a glass of wine then pressed play on the answering machine. A soft rustling sounded before a voice came on the line.
“Jesse. Are you there? Pick up. I know you must hate me and I’m sorry. You were right. I should have believed you. I’m so sorry I didn’t listen. Please, pick up the phone. Mierda. Where are you? I need you. Ay, dios mio, I don't know what to do. Please Jesse, you have to help me. I think he’s going to kill me.”