A Heritage of Death
She opened the door that connected to the kitchen to find both her dogs waiting, tails wagging, for her. While she hugged and pet them, she talked about her day.
“Ready for a walk?” she asked.
Strolling through the streets, Cici passed a few of her neighbors and waved. The heat stuck to her skin, coating her in sweat and an unwelcome, oppressive blanket.
She watched Mona frisk around, her plumed tail wagging. Rodolfo stayed close to her side, his pace sedate, his tongue already lolling. Poor boy. Recovering from near-death took time.
She leaned over and pet his ears.
“I’m so thankful you’re still with me,” she said. He turned his face up toward hers, brown eyes sharp, tongue sliding to the back of his mouth as his canine grin spread.
She walked toward the park at the end of the street, planning to let Rodolfo sit by the side of the cottonwoods while she and Mona attempted some fetch. Mona refused to drop the ball once she collected it, instead darting to and fro, and having a delightful doggy game of tag.
Not Cici’s favorite game but Mona lived for it. They transitioned into the park area and Cici grabbed the ball from her pocket.
She threw it just as a thick wave of dizziness slammed her, causing her to shut her eyes. A strange tugging sensation rippled over her, one she’d felt before. Cici shook her head, trying to force the vision out of her mind.
“No. I don’t like that,” she murmured. “Don’t do that to me, Aci. It’s awful.”
Her sister didn’t listen—not that Cici expected her to.
Cici continued to fight, but Anna Carmen tugged at her consciousness. Come. See. You don’t have much time.
“Aci?” Cici asked, her heart aching at the sound of her twin’s voice, even if it was just in her head—in this nightmare. She succumbed to her sister’s voice, desperate for a deeper, a stronger, connection to her twin.
But her sister was gone, and Cici was back in Grace’s head, how she knew this, she couldn’t say. Just that she knew she was Grace Bruin and she was scared.
Becky finally appeared. As soon as Cici, no she was Grace . . . .As soon as she, Grace received the text, she forwarded it to Becky. She snuck out of the police building, her heart hurting for Henry, for herself, but she couldn’t let her baby suffer.
“There were lights in the cabin. And an old SUV. I think.” Becky swallowed, eyes wide in the dark. “I think it’s the sheriff.”
Grace’s heart plummeted. “Take Isabel. Get out of here.”
“I can’t leave you here!”
“You don’t have a choice. Please, Becky. Please.”
“Where can I take her?” Becky asked. “There was a Taos police car here earlier. What if all the police are involved?”
“They might be.” Grace bit her lip, tugging Isabel tighter to her chest. “Go to Santa Fe. To Reverend Gurule. She’ll figure it out. What to tell Henry and everything. Yeah. Go to her.”
“No, Gracie. I’m not leaving you here.” Large tears tumbled down Becky’s cheeks. “I’m the one who wanted to look into this. I’m the reason you’re here.”
“We don’t have time to argue,” Grace said, her voice urgent. “He’ll come back soon. He checks in often.”
“Has he . . .” Becky gulped. “Has he hurt you?”
Grace held out her daughter again. “Save her for me,” she said, her throat clogged with emotion.
“I don’t have a car seat.”
“My car does. It’s out there, right? There’s a key under the driver’s side front tire. In one of those little magnetic boxes. Henry made me get one. He was worried about those stories—you know, babies dying in hot cars.”
“Okay.” Becky sniffled.
Grace pulled the sleeping baby closer to her and kissed her daughter’s soft, sweet face. “I love you,” she whispered.
“Grace . . .”
Grace turned her face away. Tears dripped from her quivering chin. “Go!”
Becky picked up the baby and clattered up the stairs. She turned once and looked back, her eyes wide with fear.
Grace almost called her back as the fear of darkness overwhelmed her.
What would he do to her once he realized the baby was gone? That someone else knew his secret?
Grace opened her mouth, about to plead with Becky to take her, too.
Becky disappeared. The wooden doors slammed.
And the wait for the inevitable pain began.