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A strong hand pushed Jacqueline down as she sunk to her knees, weeping. She felt she was experiencing a terrifying nightmare. Soon, she would wake up, and this horrendous sense of terror and panic would end.
Blinded by floodlights, she felt the cold hard steel of the gun's barrel against her neck. "Please, please," Jacqueline sobbed. "Someone, please help us."
The color drained from her face as she lowered her eyes and stared at her shaking hands. Her thoughts were a jumble of pain and sorrow. She thought she heard her sister scream, but that was not possible. Jeri was dead. Unrelenting remorse washed over her. The death of her sister was Jacqueline's fault, and the burden of that fact weighed heavily on her. She heard Tony's crazed voice shouting as his spittle hit the back of her neck. When she opened her mouth to speak, no words formed on her lips as violent, uncontrollable tremors shook her body.
"You didn't listen to me!" He screamed. His shaking hand held the cold metal revolver against Jacqueline's head. "Are you listening to me now? She's a dead woman!" He shouted. His grip on the gun stiffened. His finger ready to squeeze the trigger.
A simple vacation shared by two
New memories silenced by old truths
Danger finds a new course, dark corners of fear
Eyes seek to understand and answers to appear
Jacqueline opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. She replayed the previous evening's events and wondered, yet again, how and why had she gotten into such a ridiculous situation?
She considered herself a relatively average person, attractive with a decent figure; she had good friends; and good health, so what if she disliked men. Of all the men she had met, most had been jerks. Her natural reaction in meeting any man these days was to build a wall of protection---a result of the lies and the hurt caused in past relationships. She sighed, followed by a tiresome groan. God, she actually gave it one more shot last night, which only reconfirmed her opinion. Men are jerks and liars.
She met him on LoveMatch.com. After corresponding with him for over a month, they had agreed to meet at an upscale, somewhat trendy restaurant on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale. His profile had been impressive. A master's degree in counseling, established writer for several popular magazines, and trained in martial arts. Jacqueline's vocation in journalism and her classes in martial arts seemed a definite plus. She had earned her brown belt and was looking forward to obtaining her black belt within the next year.
Jacqueline arrived a few minutes early, was seated, and waited for her "Mr. Right." Twenty minutes later, her "match" showed up, sat down, and introduced himself.
"Name's Henry," he said softly. "You must be Jacqueline."
His gaze made her skin crawl, and she was instantly uncomfortable. He was not the person pictured in his profile. Instead of being fifty and attractive, he was overweight, unkempt, and was closer to sixty. A haze of cigarette smoke seemed to enfold his space; the smell drifted across the table and assaulted her. A singed mustache, ten shades darker than his hair, hung just this side of lopsided, giving his face an unbalanced appearance.
At least he had hair, she thought in disgust. She should have bailed right then and there. He ordered two glasses of wine and, for the next half hour, talked non-stop about himself, making sure she understood how impressive he was while dropping super cheesy lines. Bored, Jacqueline decided it was time to leave when, with a wink and while moistening his lips, Henry pulled his chair closer to Jacqueline's. She could smell his putrid breath mingled with the scent of smoke and wine. He checked the neighboring tables on either side and then leaned closer.
"You know why they call me the whisperer?" He breathed in her ear.
Setting her glass of wine down gently while doing a quick survey for a path to an exit, she leaned back to put distance between them.
"No, Henry, I cannot imagine why."
"Because I can whisper what you need."
Jacqueline stared into Henry's inflamed eyes. Speechless, she had no clue how to respond.
"You know, darlin', these lips won't kiss themselves," he said as he belched.
"Ah, excuse me?" Jacqueline murmured feeling nauseated.
"Oh, yeah, I'm all for the ladies who want to express themselves." A drop of sweat trickled down his forehead. "Good God, you are a looker!" He said, putting his nicotine-stained hand on her knee. "Waiter, call me an ambulance. This here looker's beauty is killing me!"
She wanted to smack that twisted look right off his face and crush those meaty fingers. "Really?" While she strained to achieve her most charming smile, she stood slowly, backed away, and excused herself. "I need to use the powder room."
"Take your time, sugar; I'm right here."
She walked toward the restroom sign, passed the ladies' room, and strode through the kitchen. She exited the restaurant and moved quickly towards her car, simultaneously unlocking the car door with her remote. So intent was Jacqueline on leaving for home that she did not notice the figure following her. As she opened the car door, a hand came from behind, slammed it, and grabbed her wrist. She turned and faced a red, blustering Henry.
He pulled her away from the door then pushed her toward the back of the car. "Just where do you think you're going?" He stammered.
"I'm going home, Henry. Let go of my wrist and get out of my way." She screeched, trying to smack his hand away.
A figure appeared at the kitchen door of the restaurant. "Hey, lady. You okay? This guy bothering you?"
"Yes, he is, and no, I am not ok," Jacqueline hollered.
"You leave her alone. I've already called the police."
"Mind your own business." Henry snarled. He stared at the young man a moment longer, then turned his attention back to Jacqueline. "This little lady and I have business to discuss."
"Let go!" Jacqueline cried. She tried to twist her wrist out of Henry's grasp.
Whoop-whoop-whoop. Flashing red and blue lights appeared. A police car approached with a pulsing wail. The cruiser pulled up alongside Jacqueline's car. A depressed-looking police officer emerged. This call interrupted his first break in a ten-hour shift and a mouthwatering T-bone steak dinner. "Damn," he muttered under his breath as he stood. He adjusted his gun belt to a more comfortable position over his protruding midsection.
The officer tipped his hat towards Jacqueline then noted Henry holding Jacqueline's wrist. "Sir, I suggest you let go of the lady's wrist . . . now."