A reporter's juicy nightmare: Miami Citizen scribe Sherry Estabrook, investigating drugs in a local high school, meets 16-year- old Manuel Velo, who tells her he's iced 18 people (he thinks it's 18) for Mimi Lopez's mob. Of course it doesn't sound like a nightmare to Sherry and her sidekick Belinda McEvoy, who are dreaming of Pulitzers before Sherry can even set up the first taped interview with Manuel. But as Sherry- -still trying (courtesy of endless flashbacks) to use this story to get even with her unloving Boston father, Judge Estabrook--is running Manuel's sordid, matter-of-fact revelations through a lie-detector test, driving him around to revisit the scenes of his hits, and swallowing his tale of wanting to start a new life away from the mob, she's overlooking screamingly telltale signs: Manuel's lack of remorse for his crimes, his obsessive attraction to her, and incidentally her sometime lover Brazil's newfound devotion to his hardscrabble wife Jeanie, and Belinda's unlikely romance with Officer Eladio Alvarez. All guarantee that Sherry's life is about to go into a horrifying, lonely tailspin. After chapters and chapters of painful teasing--it's in this queasy-making middle section that first-novelist Wetlaufer really shines--Manuel tries to consolidate what he thinks is his romance with Sherry by executing two pesky neighbors who'd killed her cat, and the book promptly goes over the top with a whirlwind of threats, betrayals, counterplots, sleepless nights--and one final midnight meeting between Sherry and Manuel, whose heart-rending denouement is reassuringly predictable. Like Manuel, Wetlaufer goes for the jugular; there's more subtlety in a tabloid headline. A lot of people, even if they don't wait for the reported movie, are going to swallow this overripe fantasy at a sitting.