Powered by DitDat

Now free through Kindle Unlimited
 

Second in the Chelsea Adams Series

Chelsea Adams has visions sent from God.

But they have no place in a courtroom.

As a juror for a murder trial, Chelsea must rely only on the evidence. And this circumstantial evidence is strong—Darren Welk killed his wife.

Or did he?

The trial is a nightmare for Chelsea. The other jurors belittle her Christian faith. As testimony unfolds, truth and secrets blur. Chelsea's visiting niece stumbles into peril surrounding the case, and Chelsea cannot protect her. God sends visions—frightening, vivid. But what do they mean? Even as Chelsea finds out, what can she do? She is helpless, and danger is closing in...

Masterfully crafted, Dread Champion is a novel in which appearances can deceive and the unknown can transform the meaning of known facts. One man's guilt or innocence is just a single link in a chain of hidden evil...and God uses the unlikeliest of people to accomplish His purposes.



"Compelling ... plenty of intrigue and false trails."
--Publishers Weekly


Prologue

Copyright 2002 by Brandilyn Collins
Used by permission of Zondervan


 

After twenty years of midnights among the dead, Victor Mendoza didn't spook easily.

The graveyard shift at the graveyard. His superstitious mother had shaken her head when he first took the job. Victor didn’t care. You want to talk fear, he’d told her, fear was the night he was four years old, clinging to his papa’s bony back as they scuttled like rats across the U.S. border.

“But the dead,” she’d said.

“They don’t scare me half as bad as the living.”

Brothers Memorial Cemetery was oddly shaped at its rear, one corner crooking like an arthritic finger around the edge of Darren Welk’s sprawling back yard. A single line of ancient grave stones formed that finger, some incongruous add-on years before the Salinas Valley sprang to life with ranches and crops. Victor didn’t typically patrol the crook; no need to. Whoever once tended those graves had long passed on. His job was to protect the graves of those whose loved ones still visited Brothers Memorial – folks whose money greened the cemetery and surrounding Valley. Rich folks like Darren Welk, whose parents were buried on the eastern hill.

But that night, something caught Victor Mendoza’s eye, and he ventured in for a look.

Chilly air wafted around Victor’s face as he stealthily drew near the edge of the crook, his breath puffing in a fog. A crescent moon slung itself against a hazy sky, stingy with its light. He hunched about three feet from the rusty barbwire fence running the perimeter of the cemetery, fingers curling and uncurling. His dark brown eyes widened as he realized what had caught his eye. A shadow. Grotesquely tall and skinny – a warped silhouette spilling across the entire driveway leading into the Welk’s garage. The aberration moved in steady rhythm, spindly arms stretching, pulling back, stretching, pulling back. Victor stopped breathing and tilted his head, listening. A vague sound rolled toward him, then sharpened into pattern. Crunch, hiss. Crunch, hiss. In beat with the shadow’s movement. Slowly, Victor’s eyes followed the shadow’s extremities to its bent shoulders, along its narrow torso, down a stick-figure leg. There it connected with a stocky man on the far side of the driveway, feet wide apart, shovel in his hands, digging. He extended his muscular arms, and the skinny silhouette arms slid across cement. Crunch. The shovel connected with ground. He arced the shovel back and to the side, shadow arms mocking. Hiss. Dirt and tiny rocks flowed off onto a growing pile. A large potted bush, similar to others already planted alongside the driveway, sat a few feet away. Victor’s eyes fell on a blazing lantern on the ground behind the man -- the cause of his shadow. The light illuminated the man’s trousers, haloing his back, fading into an umbra behind his head. But Victor Mendoza saw just enough of the features to recognize him. Anyone in the Valley would know this man.

Goosebumps popped down Victor’s arms. His neck warmed with sweat. A man with money to spare for gardeners planting a bush at 4:20 a.m. was odd enough, but it was more than that. Something about the man’s posture seemed depressed, heavy. Victor’s thoughts tangled, almost as if a disjointed consciousness from the figure flowed into his own. He forced himself to gaze, pay attention, record. One of the man’s feet was turned in slightly. Was that a shifting of weight or a half-stagger? Crunch. The man threw his weight behind the shovel, his shadow dancing. Hiss. He swung his arms, dirt sliding. He did not raise his head, his shoulders curved inward, neck bent.

Victor stepped back, and twigs crackled beneath his boot. The man’s head pulled up and hung there, adrift. Spiders crawled down Victor’s spine. He froze, willing the night to blanket him. Seconds ticked by. Finally the head lowered. Digging resumed.

Crunch. Hiss.

Victor Mendoza let out his breath and faded into darkness, creeping around ancient gravestones. He could not shake his uneasiness. When morning dawned hours later, his back muscles still twitched. As he crawled into a warm bed at 8:30 a.m., his work day over, the crunch, hiss still reverberated in his head.

Two days later Victor heard the news. Darren Welk’s fancy wife was missing.