THE WOMAN’S silken locks swirled about her head and shoulders. A shimmery shade of platinum, surely not store-bought, the tresses glittered like diamonds in the beams cast by the night’s harvest moon. Gentle waves caressed her body as she undulated upon the cool water. Facedown.
Thirty feet below, a sleek white Genesis G90 lay wheels up, its roof buried in the soft sand, its windshield shattered.
At 2:43 a.m., the exact moment the luxury sedan crashed through the guardrail, few other vehicles had been making the twenty-mile trek across the lower Chesapeake Bay. While headlights pointing north toward Virginia’s Eastern Shore were now visible, the jagged gap in the bridge’s southbound span had yet to be discovered.
As the body bobbed in the rippling waters, a man in black jeans and a hooded sweatshirt stood on the beach two miles to the northeast, his feet so close to the water’s edge that the incoming tide sucked at his gator-skin Lucchese boots. Adjusting the sights on his night vision goggles, he watched as a CBBT transit vehicle, its yellow rooftop lights flashing, approached the crash site. Smiling to himself, the man turned and retreated toward the dunes.
Chapter 1: MARY, November 2019
MARY BRANSON SWIPED at the snooze icon on her cell, then pulled the pillow over her face. She knew darn well that she should get up now rather than wait until the obnoxious alarm sounded again, but she’d stayed up so late last night, she really, truly needed the nine extra minutes.
Jimmy shifted onto his side and pulled her close. “Don’t you have an appointment this morning?” he asked quietly, brushing his lips against her ear.
“But I’m so sleepy,” Mary whined.
“You should have come to bed earlier,” he chastised gently. “Why don’t you jump in the shower, and I’ll make your coffee.”
“If I have to,” she replied.
“You have to,” Jimmy said before sticking his tongue in her ear.
Swatting him away, she kicked off the covers and threw her tired legs over the side of the bed. “Dear God, please make it strong.”
“Your wish is my command,” he teased in a deep, echoing voice as he extricated his six-two frame from the jumble of sheets and blankets.
An hour later, Jimmy kissed Mary’s forehead and asked her to call him after she’d met with the gynecologist. He’d offered to go with her, but she’d resisted.
“You’ve never come with me before, so why now?”
“You’ve never had a hysterectomy before. I should know what’s involved.”
“I’ll tell you everything, don’t worry.”
SHIVERING NOW in the skimpy paper gown, Mary worried over the brochure detailing the procedure and its recovery time.
“Hi, Mary,” Dr. Rosen greeted as she elbowed into the exam room.
“Hey, doctor,” Mary replied.
Glancing up from her tablet, Dr. Rosen said, “So, I assume you’re here to schedule surgery? You and your husband have finalized the decision?”
“Alrighty, then. Let’s do a final pelvic exam, run a preg‐ nancy test, and get you on my schedule.”
An hour later, after booking the procedure for late the following week, Mary walked out into the crisp, cool morning and breathed a deep sigh of relief. There was a lot to do beforehand—stocking the fridge, cleaning the house, laundry and general errands—but she realized that the three or four weeks of downtime would give her the opportunity she’d been waiting for. With a mandate to rest, she’d be able to delve headfirst into her research on the novel she was planning to write. Although still in the early stages, she envisioned a mystery inspired by an actual event she witnessed years earlier.
Mary hadn’t told anyone, not the police, not even Seth, her boyfriend at the time, what she’d seen that night. For a year afterward, she’d watched and read every news report on the crash, but when the woman’s body was never recov‐ ered, she almost convinced herself she hadn’t witnessed anything.
She’d locked away those memories until several weeks ago when, upon opening the news app on her iPad, she read the story of a car that had plunged off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. There’d been no witnesses to the crash, but hours later, a woman’s body was found floating in the waters beneath the southbound span. While the death was initially ruled accidental—perhaps the woman had driven through the guardrail after falling asleep—an autopsy revealed an excessive dose of Haloperidol in her bloodstream. An antipsychotic with many adverse side effects, Haloperidol, or Haldol, worked as a depressant on the central nervous system, causing, among other symptoms, muscle rigidity, confusion, and blurred vision. When questioned, the woman’s husband denied that his wife had been prescribed Haldol, a claim her physician confirmed.
The article had sent shivers through Mary as she flashed back to the crash she herself had witnessed. Twenty years and thousands of miles separated the two, but her deep-seated guilt, long-suppressed, resurfaced as though she’d driven across that bridge only yesterday.
That’s what she’d been doing up so late last night. Rereading everything she could find on that long-ago, unsolved crash. She smiled now in anticipation of using her post-op downtime to focus on the mysteries surrounding both crashes, beginning with the victims. She’d finally settled on a story line for her first novel, and if all went according to plan, she hoped to have a bestseller on her hands when she was done.