"A dark and different serial killer novel that will haunt the reader long after the book is closed." -John Lutz
"Los Angeles has seldom seen such grisly fun. It's James Ellroy meets Alfred Hitchcock on the psychotic side of the street." -Paul Levine
"One of the most compelling, thrilling, and truth be told, at times look-away-from-page-frightening serial killer novels I've read in a long, long time." -Vincent Zandri
Introducing L.A. investigator Morris Brick, a former homicide cop on the trail of a murderous psychopath who gives a terrifying new meaning to the word DERANGED . . .
They call him the Skull Cracker Killer. He drugs his victims. Breaks open their skulls with a hammer and chisel. The rest is inhuman.
Five years ago he terrorized New York City, claiming twelve victims before the killing stopped. Now he's racking up victims on a fresh hunting ground. Where former LAPD homicide detective Morris Brick is working as a consultant on a serial-killer film. Where a desperate mayor pleads with Brick to take on the case. And where the only way he can stop the next wave of murders is by outsmarting a madman-before he strikes again, this time much too close to home . . .
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.66(d)|
Read an Excerpt
A Morris Brick Thriller
By Jacob Stone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Dave Zeltserman
All rights reserved.
As usual, Henry Pollard made sure that he was so gentle that he could've been cleaning dust off a dragonfly's wing as he sponged the soap suds from his wife's ruined body. He tried not to think about how much Sheila had physically deteriorated, but at times he'd let his guard down and his thoughts would absently drift to the subject, and it would stun him. The accident happened five years ago, back when his wife was only thirty-three. A robust woman brimming with strength and good health, and at five feet six inches and one hundred and forty-five pounds, she certainly wasn't overweight, more buxom and full-figured. To Henry, she had been breathtakingly beautiful.
The accident had left Sheila paralyzed on her right side, with her body twisted in an unnatural way. It had also left her with a weakened heart and a damaged liver. Four months ago, she had shriveled down to just seventy-four pounds, but it was better now that she was voluntarily eating again and he no longer had to force-feed her. When he last weighed her three days ago, she was back up to eighty-three pounds. It was still an unhealthy weight for her, but at least it was better.
Once Henry finished rinsing the soap off of her, he wrapped a freshly laundered plush Egyptian cotton towel around her body and patted her dry. He grimaced as he studied her hair. It looked grimy to him. Felt so too. Before the accident her hair was a source of pride to both of them. Thick, long, and curly, and with a golden luster that so perfectly accentuated her round, apple-cheeked face. He had grown to hate washing her hair. Not because it forced him to accept how brittle and gray her once luxurious hair had become, but because every time he did so long strands of it fell out. Of course, she no longer had a round, apple-cheeked face either. Now her cheeks were sunken, the flesh badly desiccated.
He decided washing her hair could be put off for another day or two, and instead wetted a comb and ran it through her hair, untangling several stubborn knots. Sheila's left eye winced as he did this, but otherwise she sat stoically without uttering a sound. When Henry was done, he grimaced as he saw that the comb had pulled out many more long strands of his wife's hair. He turned his back to her so he could block her view and keep her from seeing all the hair she'd lost. After he had the comb cleaned out, he lifted her from her seat in the bathtub and carried her to the bedroom so he could dress her. Henry might've looked squat and doughy, almost like a badly formed lump of clay, but he had immensely powerful hands and arms, and he could've easily lifted Sheila even if she had weighed three times what she did. After he had clothed her in a yellow summer dress that was the same color her hair had once been, he put her in her wheelchair and rolled her to the kitchen.
"I've got a lot to do today, so I'm not cooking you up a breakfast," he said. "A smoothie will have to suffice."
Even with the paralysis on her right side, Sheila could talk, although with great difficulty, but she didn't bother saying anything. Only stared at him with a woodenness that made her look like some sort of gnarled gnomelike carving. Henry could tell, given her mood, that she wasn't going to be saying a word to him regardless, and so ignored whatever emotion lurked behind her glasslike eyes.
He poured a glass of orange juice into the blender, then added a banana, half a container of yogurt, strawberries, a spoonful of honey, and a mix of vitamin and protein powder, and blended it all together. He took a swipe of it with his finger to make sure it tasted okay, then poured it into a plastic glass, stuck a straw in it, and placed it in a cup holder so Sheila could drink it. He then left his wife so he could gather what he was going to need for the day.
The chisel and hammer were new. He'd bought those two months ago at a hardware store in San Marcos, outside of San Diego, and, given the dark sunglasses he wore and the fake beard and mustache he had disguised himself with, it was doubtful the clerk would be able to provide an accurate description of him, assuming she even remembered him. That in itself was doubtful since she'd been in her early twenties, and Henry was mostly invisible to women of that age. He put the tools in a backpack that he'd had forever, wrapping them in rags and placing them on a change of clothing that he packed earlier, then threw in a roll of duct tape that had been lying around the house and a nine-inch long piece of iron pipe that he'd found near a construction site. The only other things he needed were his iPhone and a pocket knife, both of which were in his pants pocket, and a stand that he needed for his iPhone. He couldn't believe that he almost forgot the stand. That would've been disastrous. He found it in the guest bedroom closet and added it to the backpack, then left the backpack by the door leading to the garage. With all that done, he went back to the kitchen to check on his wife.
Sheila had barely made a dent in her smoothie. It would be a while before she'd finish it. Henry checked his watch. He had about twenty minutes before he had to leave, and grabbed an apple and settled down at the kitchen table. He took out his iPhone so he could look over his notes and the photos he had taken. In his mind, he played out what was going to be happening, and got so absorbed in his thoughts that he forgot about Sheila until she made a slurping noise indicating that she had finished her smoothie. Henry put his iPhone back in his pocket and wetted a paper towel so he could clean the remnants of the drink off her lips and chin.
"It's going to be a long time before I'm back," he said. "Probably not until nighttime. Should I put you back to bed or sit you in front of the TV?"
As he expected, she didn't answer him. Henry rolled her into the living room and placed her in front of the TV. He didn't bother asking her what she'd like to watch, and instead put on the History channel. Let her learn something.
Henry felt a tinge of guilt over how long he was going to be leaving her alone, but what else could he do? He certainly didn't want to arrange for an attendant. Better for the world to think that he had spent the day with her. Still, he was going to be worrying about her until he returned.
A stony resolve hardened Henry's face. Without giving Sheila as much as another glance, he grabbed his backpack and hurried into the garage. It was going to be a long day all right. After five long years, the Skull Cracker Killer was going to be making a reappearance. With a vengeance.CHAPTER 2
The killer chastised the two bodyguards for letting him inside the house.
"Just 'cause I'm dressed like a cop, you shouldn't let me walk in here without first checking my identification," the killer said. "Come on, fellas. We've got the Carver saying Lawrence Tungsten's going to be his next victim, and that maniac's already killed all eight other people he's promised to kill. You guys have got to be more on the ball here."
One of the bodyguards — a chunky man in his fifties with a shaved head — stood frowning with his arms crossed over his chest. The bodyguard closest to the killer — a kid in his twenties with a mullet — rolled his eyes and muttered, "Okay, okay."
The mulleted bodyguard took a deep breath, not bothering to hide his annoyance. "Let's see your identification," he said.
The killer smiled. He removed his fake police ID from his wallet and handed it over. Mullet gave it a cursory look before offering it back.
"That's it?" the killer asked incredulously. "You're not even going to call my precinct to make sure I've got a legitimate reason for being here? Or even to verify that I'm actually a cop? Damn it, fellas, this Carver is a depraved and relentless killer. You think it's beyond him to get a fake police ID? Or a fake patrolman's uniform? If you two jokers are planning to keep Tungsten alive, you better do better."
Shaved Head gritted his teeth. Mullet's cheeks turned bright red. He asked, "Okay, what's your precinct's phone number? I'll call them."
The killer made a face. "Forget it," he said. "If I was the Carver, you two would already be dead now, or at least as good as dead. Just hand me back my ID."
The bodyguard cursed softly under his breath and proceeded to hand the killer back the ID when the killer surprised him by grabbing his wrist and jerking his body forward. Mullet yelped out in surprise, and his partner tensed, but didn't reach for his gun.
The killer said, "If I was the Carver I could've planted a knife in your heart before you realized what was happening." He nodded to the other one, "And you, great reflexes standing there like a dummy." Then to both of them, "Come on fellas, are you two begging to get yourselves and Tungsten killed?"
"Try that again!"
The killer made a face. "Forget it. You two are hopeless. Where's Tungsten now?"
Mullet muttered sullenly, "Upstairs in his study."
"And you two just left him alone up there? Really? Did you at least check that all the windows were locked and the curtains drawn?"
"Will you get off my back already!"
The killer shook his head, not bothering to hide his disgust, which appeared genuine and not manufactured. "Unbelievable. I'll tell you what. I'll go upstairs and check on him myself."
The killer took a step toward the staircase before stopping to stare with amazement at both bodyguards. "Really? You're going to let me go up there by myself? Are you two that incompetent? If you had any training, one of you would stand guard down here, the other would accompany me and make sure I'm not planning any funny business."
Mullet was seething while Shaved Head had tuned the killer out. Too chastened and angry to speak, Mullet started to lead the way upstairs, and the killer snorted out derisively, "They didn't teach you at your clown school not to turn your back on a possible suspect? Even if I were really a cop, I could still be the Carver."
Mullet froze for a second as he made sense of what the killer had just said, but before he could otherwise react, the killer had taken out a very sharp-looking hunting knife and ran the blade across the bodyguard's exposed throat. Blood spurted out as if the jugular had been sliced open. Before anything else could happen, Morris Brick, who'd been sitting off to the side with the director, let out a groan. He couldn't help himself. The director yelled, "Cut!"
The actors who played the killer and the second bodyguard stopped then to look at the director. The actor who played the bodyguard with the mullet and sliced throat had moments earlier crumpled to the floor. He got to his feet and gave the director a questioning look.
"Jerry," the actor with the mullet said, "I thought it went well?"
"You guys nailed it. Seriously, great stuff from all of you. And Aiden, wow, the way you made your cheeks blush red like that on cue, amazing. But I need to consult with Morris, so everyone, let's take a half hour."
The actors and crew dispersed, leaving Morris and the director named Jerry alone. Jerry said, "So talk to me, Morris. You groaned. What was that about?"
Morris showed a placid smile, and spread his hands out in front of him in an apologetic gesture. He said diplomatically, "This scene wasn't in the script you sent. Some of the exchanges between the Carver and those bodyguards caught me by surprise."
The truth was Morris found the scene, as well as much of the movie, utterly ridiculous. Before starting his fledging Morris Brick Investigations (MBI) ten months earlier, Morris had been a Los Angeles homicide detective for fourteen years, and was the lead investigator for three high-profile serial-killer cases, all of which he solved, and which earned him a celebrity status both in town and nationally. This was his second Hollywood consulting job, and both were good money, and his hope was that they'd provide exposure for the firm. The first movie wasn't that bad, at least if you squinted enough, but this one so far was showing almost no resemblance to reality, even though the producers who hired Morris claimed they wanted authenticity. What they really wanted was Morris Brick's name attached to the property.
This movie, The Carver, was based on the Heath Dodd killings that took place in Miami. Even though the consulting contract only required Morris to provide feedback on the script, spend two days on the set, and allow his name to be used in promoting the film, the first thing he'd done when he took the assignment was to spend a week researching the killings. After that, Morris flew to Miami so he could meet with the lead investigator and prosecutor, and later was able to arrange an interview with Dodd in prison — the only interview that Dodd had so far been willing to give. While Dodd was clever and superficially charismatic, he certainly wasn't glib. And while it was true that Dodd would announce to a Miami Herald reporter the names of his next victims, he would pick common names shared by dozens of people in the greater Miami area. Sometimes Dodd would only use a first initial. None of his victims were wealthy enough to hire private bodyguards, and the police were spread too thin to provide protection to all of the potential victims.
Jerry said, "I know, I know, that scene's new, and none of that actually happened, but I felt the film needed some jazzing up there, and given Dodd's hubris, the scene feels truthful to me, at least to the spirit of things."
"Now that I've had a chance to think it over, you've got my blessing," Morris said.
Jerry seemed satisfied by that, but still, he raised an eyebrow. "You're not just trying to humor me, are you? After all, I distinctly heard you groan."
"It was more me thinking out loud. But maybe if you cut that last piece of dialogue, the one where the Carver all but tells them he's the Carver, and instead leave it simply with him cutting the bodyguard's throat the moment the bodyguard turns his back to him —"
"Morris, babe, I don't know. I really like those lines. I don't want to lose them."
Morris kept his placid smile intact. "Keep them. You've got my blessing, Jerry."CHAPTER 3
Henry rang the doorbell three minutes early. A valuable lesson he had learned as a young boy was that people appreciated punctuality. When the realtor, Corey Freeman, answered the door he looked surprised.
"Leslie Gorman?" Corey asked.
"You seem surprised," Henry said, smiling in his pleasant manner. He really did have a naturally pleasant smile and gentle eyes that would usually put people at ease, and they did the trick here, at least enough so that Corey stepped aside allowing Henry to step past him into the house. The front entrance was mostly obscured by a fence and flowering bushes, but the less time he could be seen by someone passing by, the better. With only a slight hesitation, Corey closed the door.
"It's my name that confused you, isn't it?" Henry said with a wink. "Leslie? And also my voice. At least my phone voice. I've been told at times I sound like a woman over the phone." He chuckled good-naturedly. "I can't hear it myself, but that's what I've been told. I'm sorry if you're disappointed."
Corey laughed at that. "No siree, very glad to meet you, Mr. Gorman." He held out his hand, which Henry warmly took.
"Leslie," he corrected.
"Leslie," Corey agreed. His smile faltered as he gave Henry a quick, surreptitious look up and down, most likely attempting to appraise Henry's net worth based on his inexpensive and worn clothing. Of course, he couldn't have known that Henry wore what he did because he planned to dispose of the clothing later. "You said over the phone that you currently live a fair distance west of Los Angeles?"
"Simi Valley," Henry said, which was true.
"I see." Corey cleared his throat and in as diplomatic a voice as he could muster said, "Venice is a far more expensive community. I'm afraid you might be in for a shock when you see what you get for your money here. I, um, just want to prepare you."
"Not to worry. I did my research before calling you."
Corey acknowledged that with a nod, but he still wasn't convinced. "You're really paying for location and the Venice experience. But it's hard to beat this area." He hesitated before adding, "The banks are getting stricter these days. You're going to need ten percent for the down payment."
Henry showed a smile that would've made the Cheshire Cat envious, and his eyes twinkled with a gentle charm. "My wife and I came into a good deal of money a few years back. We have more than enough to pay cash for this house and a half dozen more like it," he said, which was also true.
Excerpted from Deranged by Jacob Stone. Copyright © 2017 Dave Zeltserman. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book, hungry family, great book ,take out for dinner, great book, family misses me, need I say more??
DERANGED introduces the reader to LA investigator Morris Brick. Brick is a former homicide cop. His investigations practice is hired by local law enforcement to track down a vicious serial killer. The Skull Cracker Killer drugs his victims, breaks open their skulls with a hammer, and scoops out the brains with a chisel. The victim is alive during most of this. The killer claimed 12 victims before disappearing 5 years ago. Now he's back ..... This is a well-written crime book. The killer and his wife are what I would call the Odd Couple. Brick has a wife and daughter and is a straight-shooter. He loves what he does, although it is a little tiring to keep hunting down serial killers. But he believes in justice. I absolutely adored Parker, the family dog who loves to go to work with Brick. There is a huge twist about half way through that will totally catch the reader off guard. The book is told in the voice of different characters. I enjoyed this one and look forward to see what Brick will be doing in the future. Many thanks to the author / Kensington Books -Lyrical Underground / Netgalley for the advanced copy of this novel. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.