Final Victim [Book 2 Fox River Valley Series]
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by Ann Nolder Heinz
Description: A family ravaged by greed, jealousy and hatred--can one member transcend her past and survive the ultimate evil? Dr. Abigail Potter has come home to take over her dying father's medical practice. When her estranged sister Rona Lee unexpectedly reappears, Abigail is brought face to face with the cunning ruthlessness and dark secrets that drove her away twelve years before. The struggle between the sisters turns ugly. Then Abigail discovers Rona Lee's butchered body and realizes she is the primary suspect. In a race against time, she must plumb Rona Lee's murky past to clear herself and stop the killer before she herself becomes the final victim.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2012 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: August 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [400 KB]
Reading time: 250-350 min.
The woman lifted the rock from the border of the flower bed, careful not to disturb the surrounding soil. She weighed it in her hand. Probably three or four pounds. The top surface fit comfortably in her hand; the underside bulged in a sharp ridge. Perfect.
She had done a lot of things in her life, but murder had not been one of them. She wondered how it would feel. Would she clutch at the last minute? Would she experience the erotic-like adrenaline rush that came whenever she acted on impulse? Would she feel any remorse afterward?
Given what she had overheard that morning, she doubted it.
They had assumed she was sleeping. Normally she would have been, and to this moment she wasn't sure what had wakened her. Her keen instinct for survival? Or something much more mundane--the rhythmic sound of their headboard thumping against the wall. She had waited for the muffled grunt that would tell her he was finished, reflecting bitterly that until the bitch came into their lives, she had not needed to hear that distinctive sound through a wall. When all was quiet, she burrowed her head back into the pillow.
It was no use. Sleep wouldn't come again. She threw back the sheet and luxuriated in the feel of the cool air moving from the open window across her naked body. Soon she heard sounds drifting across the patio from the kitchen. Water running. The beep of the microwave. The rasp of the toaster lever. The screen door sliding as they carried their breakfast out to the poolside umbrella table.
Their voices were pitched low, but the enhanced acoustics of pool water surrounded by concrete walls allowed her to hear every word. First the bitch's voice.
"When is your appointment with Fred Linden?"
"Good. I should be back from the beauty parlor by then. I'll go with you."
"Don't you trust me to do it?"
"Of course I do, darling. I just thought you might like a little moral support."
"I don't need babysitting on this, Carlie. I said I would take care of it, and I will."
She lay rigid, digesting what she had heard. He could have only one reason for consulting Fred Linden, who was his attorney. She couldn't allow it to happen. Ever resourceful, she had soon settled on her current plan.
Now she stood on the west side of the house, rock in hand as she listened to the cadenced splash of him working his way up and down the pool. They were alone, the bitch having left for her appointment twenty minutes before. An eight foot concrete-block wall secluded the back yard from prying eyes. The neighboring houses were all single-story ranches, their roof ridges visible above the wall but all windows hidden from view. Southern California's obsession with privacy suited her purpose perfectly.
She calculated he was about two-thirds of the way through his daily fifty-lap routine. She stood out of sight while she counted eight more laps. She wanted to catch him near the end when he was tired, but she couldn't risk waiting too long in case she had miscounted and he finished before she could act.
She heard him turn and head toward the shallow end. She hid the rock behind her back and glided across the patio to the deep end of the pool. By the time he started back, she was sitting on the edge of the pool with her bare legs dangling in the water, her bikini a common enough sight not to cause alarm. She watched his bronzed, well-muscled arms slice through the water, droplets flying like tiny prisms in the sunlight. He was still a handsome man at age fifty-six with graying blond hair, a broad-shouldered swimmer's build, and only a slight paunch. She had been proud to be seen with him, and although he had never said it in so many words, she knew he had felt the same about her. Then the bitch came into the picture, and everything changed.
He had made his choice. Now she must make hers.
As he came closer, she adjusted her position so he would touch and turn on her immediate right. She pulled her legs up and crouched over the edge of the pool, the rock poised but hidden by her body. Each beat of her heart was like a hammer blow to her chest. She would have only one chance. If she missed... She drove the thought from her mind, concentrating on the rise and fall of his left arm. The moment his fingertips brushed concrete, he would tuck under and push off into his next lap. Timing was everything.
The arm arced upward. His head lifted for the intake of air that would carry him through the turn. She struck just as his face reentered the water. The blow carried the force of her entire body, its fierce momentum causing her to lose her balance and tumble headfirst into the pool. The cold water jolted her like an electric current. To her horror, she felt his body pressing down on her. Had he dodged her blow? Was he holding her under in a fit of revenge?
She hadn't had time to take a breath before plunging into the water, and her lungs soon felt as if they were being sliced into tiny pieces. She flailed her arms in panic, pushing and shoving at the bulk that pinned her down. Slowly it floated away. She shot up to the surface and sucked in a blessed lungful of air. She hauled herself out of the pool, still panting and gasping. Only then did she look back. He was floating face down just beneath the surface about a foot from the edge of the pool. She couldn't see the damage to his head, but the surrounding water was pink.
She had done it!
She sat for a moment relishing her success and catching her breath. An inner voice soon urged her to move. There were things that needed to be done before the bitch returned.
First the rock, which had gone into the pool with her and now rested on the bottom. She hated the idea of going back in, but she knew she had no choice. She scooted away from the body and eased back into the water. The pool was only six feet deep, but she wasn't much of a swimmer, and it took three tries before she was able to paddle deep enough and hold her breath long enough to retrieve the rock.
She stood in the sun, running her fingers through her hair and waiting for the water to evaporate from her skin. His towel lay on a nearby deck chair, but she didn't dare disturb it. Things must appear as if he had been the only one in the pool that morning. When she was dry enough not to leave a telltale trail of damp footprints, she walked around to the west side of the house and replaced the rock in the stone border of the flowerbed. The arid air had already sucked most of the moisture from its surface, and it would soon be indistinguishable from any of its neighbors. Without evidence to the contrary, the police would assume he'd had a horrible accident while diving into the pool for his morning workout.
She hurried back into the house. She went to the laundry room, stripped off her bikini, and threw it in the drier on the hottest setting. She padded naked back to her room. By the time she had dried her hair, the tiny strips of her bikini were also dry. She tucked them into a dresser drawer and crawled back into bed. She was sound asleep when the screaming started.