In this psychological thriller, Jaishree Pelham, PTA member and elementary school teacher, returns home from DisneyWorld with her daughter, and finds her husband dead! The police immediately pin her as the only suspect. As she fights to prove her innocence, the police shock her with a new twist when they suggest that her daughter’s father is a man with an eight year old grudge and a motive to murder! Obsession, betrayal, greed, and jail plague Jaishree, until her ex lover proposes to help her. If she wants to stay out of prison, she has no choice to work with the smoldering, hard to resist man who could very well be her husband’s murderer!
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New Concepts Publishing
When Jaishree Pelham opened the front door to her home, a distinctly unpleasant odor assailed her nostrils.
It was an odor her brain almost instantaneously identified as decay. A mouse? It smelled too powerful for so small a creature. Had a cat or dog crept under the house and died?
She took two steps into the house, turning her head to the left, and then to the right. She dropped the bags by the front door, and automatically walked to the phone to check her messages. There were none, although someone had called several times and hung up. Her caller ID registered it as an anonymous call. Someone wanted to reach me so why didn’t they just leave one message with the number and stop calling?
Oh well, she thought. She really hadn’t wanted to return any phone calls. The trip to Disney World was fun and relaxing, the perfect end to an imperfect week.
She and her daughter, Kendra, spent more time than she wanted waiting for rides, but Kendra’s enthusiasm and plenty of snacks in line passed the time. The pair lounged by the pool, drinking smoothies, and enjoying the sunshine. At breakfast, Kendra giggled at the funny shapes of the extensive Danish selection and spelled out words by tearing pieces of the Danishes and arranging them on her plate. Rides and games swallowed up Sunday afternoon and evening. On Monday, they went back to Disney World for a few hours before packing up and heading to the airport.
As they entered the Port Manchester, Massachusetts city limits, Jaishree’s heart sank. She looked over at Kendra.
She clutched her new doll, her cheeks ruddy from the cold they’d encountered upon re-entering Massachusetts.
Kendra chattered nonstop during the thirty mile drive from the airport. “Thank you, Mommy,” the child finished a few blocks from home.
“You are very welcome, honey. We needed that, wouldn’t you say?”
Kendra bobbed her head. I needed that, Jaishree amended. She looked up at the house. Time felt frozen as her face. The wall of unconcession was still there, surrounding her house and her heart.
During the week she’d contemplated divorce. Once was enough. Moreover, her extended weekend gave her the extra time she needed to decide that she would not pursue an end to their marriage. Deep down she knew she left town in hopes that she could find a way to patch things up. That meant she’d have to initiate the talking. But she wanted to talk to him without laying her neck on the block. After seventy-two hours of contemplation, she knew how she would open the discussion so Ted would not have the upper hand.
“Can I show Sarah my new stuff?”
Kendra’s sudden question was a welcome hatchet chopping through her wooden thoughts.
“Of course.” It was a ritual. The sister-friend had to see all and feel all.
She called her neighbor Kate. “Kendra wants to come over for a while. Is that all right?”
“Sure. How was your trip?”
“Good. It was good.”
Kate picked up on her anxiousness to get off the line. “Have you two talked things out yet?”
“Okay, well, I’ll talk to you later.”
Jaishree set the receiver in the cradle and sighed.
The root of their fight was lost in the immaturity of not speaking to one another. Absence was good. The pain of silence was therapeutic. She hoped he’d ached terribly. Like a tortured man, he would be ready to talk.
Jaishree looked forward to forever capturing the lost look on his face when she announced she was home. The quiet house, typical when Ted was home alone, and Kendra’s visit next door would make it easy to begin.
The light was on in Ted’s office. She knocked, speaking his name softly. The door was open a crack. He didn’t answer so she inched in carefully, fearful of doing anything to ruin the first precious moments. “Ted?”
He was not at his desk. She thought she heard a murmur elsewhere. She went to their room even though Ted never lounged in their bedroom.
Ted’s car was parked in the driveway, covered with snow. Why it wasn’t in the garage was a mystery since Ted hated to clear his precious, custom painted Saab of snow. She smiled. Maybe he’d worried all weekend because she didn’t call. Maybe he forgot about everything, including his neat-nick rituals.
She went to their room. With each step, the horrible smell worsened. She placed her hand on the knob, and tightened her grip. The smell nearly knocked her down.
Jaishree took a moment to compose herself, and then opened the door. She gagged, then covered her nose.
What is that?
She cleared her throat, and then raised her head to look at Ted. He lay on the bed, asleep.
How can he sleep with that stink?
She was a little disappointed that he looked so serene, and then chided herself for having dispassionate thoughts about his feelings.
“Ted, I’m here.” The room could not have grown any stiller, but a density settled over her all at once, and with it, a copious chill.
She breathed through her nose, stifling the urge to run to the bathroom, and sat next to him on the bed. “Ted, I’m here. I’m home. Let’s talk, please.” She squeezed his hand.
Jaishree jumped up and turned on the light. A scream rose in her throat.
Ted’s face was a deep purple. In one horrifying second, she took in the mottled lips, the bruised look to his face. She pressed her fingers against his neck, her heart pounding. The blood rushed in her ears. She shook her head. Frantically, she found the vein in his upper arm then his wrist, jamming her finger against the quiescent arteries.
It was like half-baked clay. She slammed her ear against his chest. No heartbeat. She jerked up, watching and praying that his chest would rise and fall. She watched for a full minute, straining her eyes for any sign of life. Nothing happened.
Finally, she sat up, unable to absorb the truth but certain of it. She could feel her eyes glaze over while the lump rose in her throat. She slid away, immediately sinking into a chair as she stared at the body of her husband.
How did not occur to her. When or why escaped her. At first there was no feeling. Jaishree sat in the chair opposite the bed, empty and cold, her own death taking place. Then a single wail undid her, releasing boiling tears.