Steam rose from the jungle floor. The earth smelled damp though the tropical sun beat mercilessly through a canopy of thick leaves. Her lungs burned, her calf muscles ached, and she swallowed back the fear that drove her higher and higher through the hills of the island. Over her own labored breathing, she heard the surf pounding the shore far below the cliffs, but still she ran, ears straining for sounds of the man in pursuit.
Help me, God please. Her legs were scratched from the vines and brambles and her sandaled feet tripped over the exposed roots and rocks. She scrambled up the overgrown trail, hoping that at the ridge, high above the sea, there would be a place to hide, a fork in the path that would at least give her a way to escape.
“¡Pare¡” a deep voice commanded. “Stop¡”
He was close, much too close¡
“¡Dama¡ ¡Por favor¡ ¡Pare¡”
Panic ripped through her as the path broke free of the dense foliage and she found herself on the rocky cliffs. The sun was bright, nearly blinding as it reflected off the water. Staying near the shadows of the forest, she headed upward still, to the north, away from the town.
Terror, stark and deep, propelled her forward. Sweat streamed down her face and her breathing was loud – too loud. Heart thundering, she saw the grimy bricks of the old mission, its cross long disappeared, the walls beginning to crumble. Though deserted for years, the mission held her only hope. There was still a chance that someone was there, a tourist or local who could help her.
She started up the final hill. Biting her lip against the urge to cry out, she ran along the trail that rimmed the cliffs. Pebbles fell, dislodged by her feet to mingle with the angry white foam that swirled far below, pounding the rocky shore.
Just a few more yards.
Unless no one is there.
Unless the man chasing her already had someone there.
Behind her the man was scrambling up the trail, closing the distance. Hurry¡ Hurry¡ Hurry¡
Tears stung her eyes, but still she ran, hearing loud breathing, hoping that he didn’t have a gun.
“Stop¡” he yelled again. So close. So damned close.
A huge hand touched her shoulder and her footing gave way. Her ankle twisted and she cried out. Falling, she tried to clutch the tufts of dried grass and sharp rocks, but her fingers found only air. Her body pitched over the edge of the cliffs, soaring high above the rocky beach.
She tried to scream just as the blackness engulfed her.