L.A. detective Morris Brick has seen the face of evil. He has witnessed the grisly handiwork of a deranged sadist known as SCK-the Skull Cracker Killer. But Brick isn't the only one watching. A crazed lunatic's interest in the case has turned into a deadly obsession. This sicko vows to outdo SCK and reach new heights of macabre mayhem. The mounting body count is a personal challenge to Brick. But as he lays his trap, he can hardly imagine the evil he is about to face . . .
Praise for Deranged, the first Morris Brick thriller
"A fascinating and exciting blend of misdirection, topsy-turvy, and violence."
-Reed Farrel Coleman
"Grisly fun. It's James Ellroy meets Alfred Hitchcock on the psychotic side of the street."
"Compelling, thrilling, and frightening."-Vincent Zandri
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.66(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Seattle, the present
Griffin Bolling broke out laughing, partly from outrage, but mostly from the lunacy of what he was reading.
"What's so funny?"
Griffin looked up to see that the soft, feminine voice asking this question came from the slight redhead who had taken his latte order fifteen minutes earlier. At the time she had blushed a nice pink as she flirted with him, making sure he knew she was interested. In her petite, tiny way, she was cute, and with the way her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, she looked like a fresh-faced teenager even though she had to be in her early twenties. She must've left the cash register to bus tables so she could continue flirting with him. Now she stood off to his right with this funny, lopsided smile, hopeful that he would show the same interest in her that she obviously had in him.
"The latest insanity concerning Sheila Proops," Griffin said.
She stared at him blankly, not making a connection with that name. He smiled inwardly at her reaction. That was the thing with these Seattle slackers and hipsters. They were so insular. If it didn't have anything to do with their local scene, they had little interest.
"I'm reading about how they're not going to prosecute her for any of the Skull Cracker killings."
Her eyes scrunched up as she gave him more of a confused look. "That happened in Los Angeles?" she asked.
"And in New York five years before."
"But I thought they caught the psycho who did those murders?"
Griffin could've explained that the guy they arrested was Sheila Proops's husband, and while they had him dead to rights for the Los Angeles killings, anyone who'd been following the story carefully knew that Sheila had to be the one who killed the twelve people in New York. The problem the authorities had was the dumb slob husband took the blame for all the killings, and that they couldn't find enough evidence to charge Sheila. So she was going to skate on twelve murders that anyone with half a brain knew she had done. But Griffin didn't bother saying any of that to the girl. Instead, he smiled wickedly at her and told her that he thought she was cute as hell. "What time do you get off work?" he asked.
That caused her to blush even deeper than before, leaving her cheeks almost the same red as her hair. "Three o'clock." It was only 9:30 and a hint of impatience and disappointment showed in her eyes. She moved closer so she could tell him slyly, "But if I put on a good enough act that I'm coming down with something, maybe I'll be able to cut out earlier."
She winked at him as she faked a faint cough.
Griffin held out his hand to her. "Trent," he said. He'd been using the name Trent Regan since coming to Seattle nine months earlier.
"Zoe," the redhead said. Her small, slender right hand disappeared quickly into Griffin's. He couldn't help noticing how warm her flesh felt. A thought struck him. A thought so deep and profound that it startled him and had him almost laughing out loud.
"Is something wrong?" Zoe asked, concerned.
Griffin recovered quickly and flashed her a wolfish grin. "The feel of your skin took my breath away," he said.
That caused her to blush even deeper, her cheeks now blood red.
The manager of the coffeehouse, a heavyset thirty something dude with a buzz cut, neck tattoos, and a dozen face piercings, must've had the hots for this redhead given the way his voice sounded as he called out from behind the counter that he needed her to take over at the cash register. Zoe rolled her eyes to show her annoyance at the way her boss had intruded on their moment. Griffin shrugged in a what-are-you-gonna-do kind of gesture, and he watched as she reluctantly left him. Then he settled back in his chair and took a sip of his latte and thought more about the delicious idea he'd had. That he was going to kill Sheila Proops.
Ever since arriving in Seattle, he'd been drifting aimlessly, wallowing in a low-grade depression, his mood more often than not matching the weather of this dreary city. He worked day jobs here and there, and supplemented his income by ripping off the women he slept with, almost always tourists. There was no shortage of women coming to Seattle on vacation or for business who'd spot him in a coffeehouse, bar, or nightclub, and let him know that they wanted to hook up with him for the night. But he'd never really gotten much satisfaction from the sex part of it, and had badly fallen into a rut since coming here, not killing a single person. There just no longer seemed any point to it. But as he thought about snuffing out Sheila Proops's life, he felt inspired. Truly, the desire that had been absent for so many months once again burning deep inside him. He could feel his true self that had been missing for almost a year coming to the fore. The phoenix reborn.
As Griffin imagined all the things he was going to do to Sheila Proops, he found himself growing rock-hard between his legs. He was going to take his time with her, that he knew for certain. And she was going to deserve every single torment that he inflicted on her. While he was able to kill thirty-nine people in the shadows without anyone suspecting it (well, really thirty-eight, since he wasn't even a teenager when he killed his first victim, and there were certainly some who suspected him for that one — but he was so young at the time, and he more than learned his lesson since then!), this twisted broad only murdered twelve people, but she had to do so in a way that screamed out for attention! Why? For the notoriety? Griffin's jaw clenched and his lips hardened to thin, bloodless lines as he thought about it. It was infuriating, it really was. Yeah, she deserved everything that he was going to do to her.
He was so caught up in his thoughts that he only half noticed the blond woman who placed a business card on his table before sashaying past him on her way out of the coffeehouse. He looked up to see the door closing behind her. A few seconds later he caught a glimpse of her through the front window. She turned briefly to look his way and give him an impish smile, and then she was gone. He remembered her from when he had first come into the place. Professionally attired in a gray skirt that fell past her knees, a white blouse, and high heels. She'd been sitting alone at a table diagonally across from him. While he hadn't taken the time to study her, he had the impression that she was roughly his age (thirty-two), very attractive, and had long, slender legs. She had been so tunnel-focused on her laptop that he didn't think she had noticed him.
He picked up her business card and read what she had scribbled on the back of it: My meeting lets up at 1. You don't have to wait until three — Claire
He smiled as he sniffed the card and picked up the lilac scent of her perfume. After so many months lost in the wilderness, he deserved a treat: A going-away present. But which was it going to be? The willowy blonde with the long, slender legs or the petite, fresh-faced redhead? Decisions, decisions. He would have to flip a coin.
Los Angeles, the present
Parker, an all-white bull terrier with the exception of a small black smudge on his left ear and a slightly larger smudge on his tail, lay on his side on the kitchen floor by Morris Brick's feet, one eye open, his ears perked up. Morris noted, between bites of oatmeal, that the dog did not look happy. He couldn't blame him. Three weeks ago Morris had switched to eating a healthier breakfast, which meant no bacon, sausage, or scrambled eggs to mooch. Morris used the big toe on his right foot to rub the dog's chest. Parker consented to halfheartedly thumping his tail once.
"You're going to hold a grudge, huh?" Morris said.
Parker's open eye shifted to peek at him, but otherwise no reaction. All at once he lifted his bullet-shaped head and his tail began thumping more enthusiastically.
"Buongiorno," Natalie announced cheerfully as she entered the kitchen. Parker's tail thumped against the floor more rapidly and he let out one of his pig-like grunts. Natalie gave Morris a quick kiss, then dropped to a knee so she could hug the dog around his thick neck.
"You'd never guess by the way he's acting now, but he's been sulking ever since we got back from his walk. B-a-c-o-n withdrawals."
"You gave him a can of his f-o-o-d?"
"That should be enough for him."
"You can be a cruel woman, Nat."
She smiled at that. "But just."
"No question. I've got more oatmeal warming on the stove. Would you like some? With a sliced banana and cinnamon?"
"That would be lovely."
Natalie kissed Parker on the snout and took a seat at the table while Morris got her breakfast.
"Grazie." Natalie flashed him a dazzling smile. After twenty-four years of marriage she could still bring a lump to his throat and make him weak in the knees. He was a lucky man, no question about it. His wife was still the same slender, dark-haired beauty he'd fallen in love with all those years ago, while he had always been a funny-looking guy with big ears, thick, long nose, spindly legs, and a short, compact body. The type of guy who should own a bull terrier. People had to wonder how they ever ended up together, but the answer was simple: He got lucky when she somehow also fell in love with him.
Morris finished his breakfast, his spoon scraping the bowl. He wondered briefly how the oatmeal would taste with crumbled-up bacon mixed in, but he forced the thought out of his mind. He smiled thinly, thinking how Parker must be sending him psychic messages.
"I'll get coffee started," he offered as he took his bowl and spoon to the sink.
"It's nice getting a later start today," Natalie said.
Morris nodded. It was almost ten and usually they were both out of the house by seven; Natalie, so she could see clients at her private office where she worked as a therapist, and Morris so he could run Morris Brick Investigations, more commonly known as MBI. But since Natalie had her eight o'clock and nine thirty appointments cancel on her, and since operations at MBI were running smoothly and Morris didn't have anything scheduled until one, they'd decided to take it easy this morning, which was a luxury for both of them.
Natalie waited until Morris brought the coffee to the table before commenting on how in nine days they would be jetting off to Rome. While it was ostensibly a statement, it was really a probing question: Was he as excited about their upcoming vacation as she was? Morris hesitated just enough before nodding to give away that he had concerns.
"This will be our first real vacation in years," Natalie said. "Two weeks in Italy. Rome, Sorrento, Florence, Venice, and Milan. This will be a dream for us, Morris. You'll love it as much as I will. I promise."
Morris forced a smile and nodded. Nat was right, of course. Outside of a four-day trip upstate to wine country, they hadn't been on a vacation since they took Rachel to Yosemite National Park for a week when she was twelve. Nat was also being kind in not mentioning that this would make up for the honeymoon they'd never had. Back when they had married, he was a rookie on the force, busting his ass to make something of himself. A year later they had Rachel, and money became too scarce to go on any sort of extended vacation. After Morris was promoted to detective they started saving some money, but whenever they'd plan a big vacation he would get caught up in a case and they'd have to cancel their trip. In fact, they had this very same trip planned three years ago when the Hillside Cannibal case broke, and by the time Morris caught up to the twisted monster, Vincent Robusto, who murdered and ate the internal organs of his eleven victims, they were in no shape to go anywhere. Then, eighteen months ago, Morris retired from the force and started MBI, and with all the hours he was putting in to get his fledging firm off the ground, any sort of vacation seemed impossible. But now things were humming along nicely at MBI, and Natalie convinced him the place wouldn't collapse if he was gone for two weeks. That they could finally go on the trip that they'd been waiting twenty-four years to take.
"MBI will still be standing when we get back," Natalie said. "You'll be leaving it in good hands with Charlie Bogle. Now maybe if you'd picked Polk to run the place while you were gone, you'd have something to worry about!"
"I'm not really worried about MBI," Morris conceded. "More about leaving this little guy for two weeks. He's mad enough at me as it is for the current b-a-c-o-n situation."
"Parker will be fine. More than fine. Rachel will be spoiling him rotten. Like daughter, like dad."
"What are you talking about? I've been tough as nails with the little guy. I barely let him mooch anything from me these days."
"Ha! I bet you've been thinking of frying up b-a-co-n and crumbling it into your oatmeal just so you'd have an excuse to give him some each morning."
Morris made a harrumphing noise. "The thought never crossed my mind," he insisted. His expression softened. "And Nat, I really am looking forward to Italy."
"Good." She hesitated before adding, "And you'll be careful with the cases you take?"
"I promise. Nothing that will make me cancel this trip."
Allen Perlmutter had slipped the hostess twenty dollars to seat him at the table directly in front of Lawrence Getzler's. He waited until the waitress brought over Getzler's breakfast order before jumping up and taking the seat across from Getzler. The studio executive at first looked startled by the intrusion, then his eyes narrowed and he told Perlmutter to leave immediately or he would ask his waitress to call the police.
"A two-minute pitch, that's all I'm asking for," Perlmutter said, his words tumbling fast out of his mouth.
Getzler's expression had become as hard as stone. He signaled for his waitress.
"Come on, it will be worth your while, I promise." Perlmutter tried to smile and exude confidence, but that was a tough thing to do when you were covered in flop sweat and your shirt was soaked through. Jesus, he hoped he didn't smell as bad as he imagined he did. "You've got to admit, it takes chutzpah to do what I just did."
Getzler lowered his hand. "Sixty seconds," he said. He then looked away from Perlmutter so he could time him with a ridiculously expensive-looking watch.
"Thank you. I really appreciate it," Perlmutter blabbered out. All at once his mouth felt as dry as if he'd swallowed a handful of sawdust. Even though every second was precious, he reached back for the glass of water that he had left on his table, but a waitress had already cleared it away. Damn it! He eyed Getzler's water, but he knew it would be a fatal mistake if he asked if he could take a sip of it.
"Forty-five seconds," Getzler said.
"A Planet of the Apes reboot, but instead of apes, androids," Perlmutter croaked out, his voice now barely a rasp. From the way the film executive's eyes glazed, Perlmutter knew that idea wasn't going to fly. That was okay; he had treatments worked up for over a dozen ideas, all of them killers. Except now his mind was a blank. Nothing! The most important minute of his life and he couldn't think!
"A movie about being married to the Skull Cracker Killer," Perlmutter stumbled out.
That got Getzler's attention. He looked up from his watch to ask whether Perlmutter had the wife's permission for her story. "What's her name again?"
"Sheila Proops. Not yet, but I'm negotiating with her," Perlmutter lied. "I'll be wrapping things up with her soon."
From the way Getzler's eyes glazed completely there was no mistaking that the film executive thought Perlmutter was full of it, which he was. But Perlmutter had definitely seen a glint in Getzler's eyes. If he could make this deal happen, Getzler would be interested. Perlmutter was also aware enough to know that his time with Getzler was over. That it was time for him to get moving.
"Once I have her story rights under contract and a treatment written, I'll contact you again." Perlmutter winked at him. "I know where to find you."
Without saying another word, he placed one of his business cards on Getzler's table — a ritzy affair with raised gold lettering and calligraphy that he had spent big bucks on — and moved back to his table, somehow doing so without collapsing.
Excerpted from "Crazed"
Copyright © 2017 Jacob Stone.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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