Staring down into the yawning grave, investigative journalist Tess Alexander inhaled the dirty gray fog, then gave a long sigh that briefly briefly parted the mist in front of her before closing in again.
It made no sense: Rennie Matlock was finally getting her life together, finally shaking off the horrors of her earlier years and moving into a hopeful future where the past no longer chained and haunted her. The young woman's sudden and violent suicide gnawed at a corner of Tess's mind like a vile worm, leaving an inky trail of doubt behind.
A decade before, media pundits and mental health experts alike had somberly, head-shakingly declared that Rennie's act of plunging a letter-opener into her mother's neck was unfathomable and without motive. Here was a lovely, seemingly well-adjusted teenage girl from a prominent and wealthy San Francisco family, suddenly gone completely mad.
But Tess knew the dark truth that helped explain the inexplicable, and understood the roots of terror and hopelessness that had driven Rennie's fury. She knew too that the long and spinning years between then and now had brought the young woman a small measure of redemption, and that she was opening the door to a new life that perhaps even included extending herself a fragment of mercy, if not forgiveness.
Baffled by the abruptness of Rennie's anguished descent into an inescapable abyss of despair, Tess vowed to uncover the impetus behind her suicidal act.
She had no idea how potentially lethal that effort would be.