Home > Murder at Sunrise Lake

Murder at Sunrise Lake
Author: Christine Feehan

CHAPTER ONE

 


Mommy, Daddy’s doing the bad thing again.

The child’s voice very clearly said the words she’d said to her mother when she was four years old. When she was five. When she was seven.

Stella Harrison knew she was dreaming, but she still couldn’t fight her way to the surface. This was the fifth night in a row she’d had the dream, and the camera had widened the lens just a little more, as it had every night, so she saw additional pieces of the hideous nightmare she couldn’t stop. The man fishing. He wore denim bibbed overalls tucked into high olive-colored waders. A blue cap was pulled low over his eyes so she couldn’t see his face. There were boulders among the heavy reeds and plants that grew thick along the shore, creeping out into the lake. He’d made his way through the boulders to get out from under the shade of several trees.

She tried to warn him. Yelling. Calling out. Don’t cast. Don’t do it. Every night she saw his line go into the same spot. That little darker area that rippled in rings like a little round pool, so inviting. The fisherman always did the same exact thing, like a programmed robot. Stepping forward, casting, the lure hitting perfectly, sinking into the middle of that inky spot, dropping beneath the water into the depths below.

The camera switched then and she could see beneath the water. It should have been tranquil. Peaceful. Fish swimming. Not the man in the wet suit, waiting for that hook, waiting to tug and enter into some kind of terrible game with the fisherman above the surface. The fight for the fish became a real life-and-death battle, with the fisherman lured farther and farther from the safety of the shore and into the reeds and rocks— closer to the threat that lurked beneath the water.

The mythical fish appeared to be fighting. He seemed big, and well worth the exhausting battle. The fisherman paid less and less attention to his surroundings as he reeled the fish nearer to him and realized he was close to winning his prize.

Without warning, the killer beneath the water rose up right in front of the unsuspecting fisherman, slamming him backward so that his waders couldn’t find traction on the muddy floor of the lake. The fisherman hit his head hard on the boulder behind him and went down. Immediately the killer caught his legs and yanked hard, dragging him under the water and holding him there while the fisherman thrashed and fought, weak from the vicious blow to his head from the boulder.

Stella could only watch, horrified, as the killer calmly finished the scene by dragging the body to the surface for just a few moments so he could pull the bottom of the wader along a boulder. The killer then pulled the fisherman back into the water and tangled him in his own fishing line just below the waterline in the reeds and plants close to the shore. The killer calmly swam off as if nothing had happened.

The lens of the camera snapped shut and everything went black.

 

STELLA WOKE FIGHTING a tangle of sheets, sweat dripping, hair damp. She sat up abruptly, pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes. Rubbing, scrubbing her palms down her face over and over. Trying to erase the nightmare. Not again. It had been years. Years. She’d made a new life for herself. New friends. A place. A home.

Now the nightmare was back and recurring. This was the fifth time she’d had it. Five times in a row. It wasn’t like she lived in a big city. Usually if murder was happening, everyone would know, especially in a small town. But this killer was brilliant. He was absolutely brilliant and that was why he was going to get away with it— unless she brought attention to the murders. Even then, she wasn’t certain he would get caught.

She hadn’t realized she was rocking herself back and forth, trying to self-soothe. She forced herself to stop. She hadn’t done that in years either. All those terrible habits she had developed as a child, that came back as a teen, she’d managed to overcome. Now she found they were sneaking back into her life.

There was no going back to sleep even though it was still dark outside. She’d planned to sleep in. She had few days off even though the season was winding down. She owned the Sunrise Lake Resort and had for several years, turning it around from a dismal, failing business to one that not only made large profits but helped out the local businesses as well. She loved the resort, loved everything about it, even the hard work. Especially that. She thrived on solving problems, and those problems changed hourly, keeping her mind constantly active. She needed that, and first managing, and then owning, Sunrise Lake provided it.

When the owner had decided it was time to retire four years earlier, he sold the resort to her. They’d kept the transaction quiet and he continued to stay the first year as if he owned it. Over time, his visits became less and less frequent. She renovated the main house but kept a special cabin for him so he had a place whenever he came back.

The property was beautiful, high in the mountains surrounding a good portion of Sunrise Lake. Knightly, the nearest town, was located an hour’s drive below on a fairly winding highway. The town was small, but that just made the community close-knit.

Stella had made good friends there. She liked living in the backcountry. She felt grounded, connected, alive there. There were all kinds of things to do, from skiing to backpacking to climbing. She fit there. She wasn’t throwing it all away on a few nightmares. That would be so foolish. It was just that the nightmares were so vivid, and now they were recurring, becoming more detailed.

It wasn’t like there was even a body— yet. She shivered. There was going to be. She knew it. She just knew there would be. Somewhere, a fisherman was going to be murdered in the next two days. There would be no way to prove that he was murdered. She had to stop thinking about it or she was going to go insane.

She rolled out of bed and headed straight for her shower. She had overseen the renovations to the main house herself, paying particular attention to the bathroom and kitchen. She loved to cook, and more than anything, after a long day of work, she wanted to know she had plenty of hot water for showers and baths. Her spacious bathroom was a work of art.

The standalone tub was deep, and the shower larger. She liked space in her shower and lots of jets coming at her from all sides since she was often sore from the work she did, or from climbing, skiing, backpacking or any of the other outdoor activities she chose to do. Even dancing with her friends sometimes went on all night. Her shower was perfect for her.

She’d designed the renovations of the main house for two people, although she didn’t believe she would ever have a significant other in her life. She was too closed off. She didn’t share her past with anyone, not even her closest friends. She didn’t really date. The minute anyone started to get too close, she backed off.

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