THE ONLY WAY
A home provides more than comfort and shelter. It stores memories . . . and hides secrets. Divorcée Caitlin Stoller and her children recently moved into a charming old Tudor-style house in the coastal town of Echo, Washington. The place was a bargain, but as weeks pass, Caitlin starts receiving messages—first friendly, then unsettling, hinting at the property’s dark past . . .
YOU’LL STAY ALIVE
Caitlin’s teenage daughter, Lindsay, isn’t fitting in at school. To make matters worse, there are stories about local high school students who’ve disappeared without a trace—all star athletes, like Lindsay. Then there are the rumors that their new home is cursed. Caitlin doesn’t want to believe the whispers, but something strange is going on. Personal items go missing, and there are too many accidents . . .
IS IF HE NEVER FINDS YOU
The Watcher knows how to get inside the Stollers’ home—and inside their heads. The rumors are true . . . but the full horror is even worse. There’s no escaping the nightmare that started here long ago, and no place to hide from a killer who knows exactly how this story will end…
Praise for Kevin O’Brien’s You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone
“The suspense builds from page one and ends with a climax you won’t see coming.” —Suspense Magazine
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
Jonathan Yen was inspired by the Golden Age of Radio, and while the gold was gone by the time he got there, he's carried that inspiration through to commercial work, voice acting, and stage productions. From vintage Howard Fast science fiction to naturalist Paul Rosolie's true adventures in the Amazon, Jonathan loves to tell a good story.
Read an Excerpt
Deception Pass, Washington Saturday, May 21 — 1:57 A.M.
"Where are we going?" Sara Goldsmith asked with a tremor in her voice. She glanced in the rearview mirror.
The person — or thing — in the backseat of the Goldsmith family SUV didn't utter a word.
The silent passenger's face was hidden behind a clown mask. The mask was a strange pale peach shade, almost translucent — except for the wide scarlet grin, a blue-painted nose, and white stars that framed each eyehole. The stranger wore a black, hooded raincoat and brandished a gun in his — or her — black-gloved hand. Sara couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman. All she could really see was the clown face, leering back at her in the mirror.
A few drops of rain hit the windshield. The SUV's headlights pierced the mist hovering over the two-lane roadway. With the tall evergreens bordering both sides of the thoroughfare, it was almost like driving through an unlit tunnel.
At this time of night, traffic was light on Highway 20. Sara hadn't spotted many cars, not a single police car. But then it wasn't as if she could have flashed her headlights or signaled anyone for help. Her passenger in back seemed to study her every move.
Still, with more cars around, at least she might have hoped for some kind of intervention. Right now, she felt so lost and alone — and doomed.
She wondered if she'd ever see her son again.
Sara's window was open a crack. Her shoulder-length, ash-blond hair fluttered in the cool breeze. People were always surprised to hear she was forty-two — or maybe they were just being nice. In the last few months, stress, too much drinking, and not enough sleep had all taken their toll. She looked sallow, tired, and puffy. Her booze of choice was bourbon, specifically Jim Beam, because it was usually on sale at the Safeway in Echo.
With everything that had recently happened to her and her family, she'd come to rely on booze — and sometimes Valium — to put her to sleep every night. She usually didn't start self-medicating until after her thirteen-year-old son, Jarrett, had gone to bed.
Tonight Jarrett was staying over at his friend Jim Munchel's house, leaving her alone at home. Sara realized she'd never actually spent the night by herself in the house before. She blamed so many of her troubles — and even their recent tragedy — on the big, isolated, old Tudor at the edge of town. It had seemed so charming when she and Larry outbid another couple for the place seven months ago. That was before they knew the house had a disturbing history. That was before the creepy, anonymous phone calls, texts, and emails. That was before all the trouble began — the infidelity, the accidents, and the death from which she'd probably never recover. The house on Birch Place was cursed. At least that was what Bobby said. Bobby was obviously watching them and sending those cryptic, ominous messages. On the phone, Bobby's raspy, gender-indistinguishable voice reminded her of the demon in The Exorcist.
She'd once read that Mercedes McCambridge, the Oscar-winning actress who had dubbed for the demon-possessed Linda Blair, had drunk weird concoctions and choked herself with a scarf to get that gravelly, sinister voice. The demon's superior, all-knowing tone reeked of evil. Bobby sounded the exact same way, croaking at her over the phone.
The first call, which came two weeks after they'd moved in, was disturbing mostly because of that voice. "Are you all settled in?" it whispered. Then the line went dead. Sara tried to dismiss it as a wrong number.
The next call came two weeks later: "You won't have a happy time in that house, Sara."
"Who is this?" she demanded to know. Her phone screen showed UNKNOWN CALLER.
There was a long pause on the other end. "It's Bobby," the raspy-voiced stranger finally purred, "from down the block."
Sara heard a click on the other end. She tried star-six-nine, but a recording told her that the number dialed was unavailable. Sara asked her neighbors if they knew someone named Bobby. She asked a lot of people in Echo the same question. Everyone seemed to know someone named Bobby or Bob or Robert or Roberta. But nobody knew someone with a voice like that.
Bobby's calls became more frequent — and then came the emails, texts, and notes. Bobby never used obscene language or made threats. For Sara, it was almost as if she had a meddling, omniscient neighbor watching her and her family — an unwelcome anonymous friend who relished sharing bad news about things to come.
Bobby didn't have to sign the notes and emails. Sara always knew who they were from, like the piece of notebook paper folded up and stuck under the windshield wiper of the SUV. It was written in a child's scrawl:
When Sara asked her daughter if there was any basis in fact to the strange note, Michelle turned livid. "How can you even ask me that? Do you actually believe this stalker freak is telling the truth?" She and Larry went to the police, who increased patrols on Birch Place. But it didn't do any good. Sara changed her phone number and email server. But Bobby managed to track down her new contact information and got to her nevertheless.
"Jarrett's going to hurt himself on that skateboard someday ... said one email. When Sara tried to reply, she got the same notice as always: MAILER-DAEMON: UNABLE TO DELIVER.
Within a week, Jarrett wiped out on his skateboard. He got a concussion and a broken arm. He was in the hospital for two days.
It was obvious this person was watching their home. More than that, Bobby seemed to have gotten inside the house at times. He or she seemed to know everything about Sara — her quirks, habits, and vulnerabilities. Bobby knew what was going on with Larry and the kids even before Sara did.
One afternoon, coming home from a brief trip to the Safeway, Sara found a Post-it stuck to her bedroom dresser mirror. She immediately recognized the childlike handwriting:
Bobby told her about every dose of trouble that was coming her way — the accidents, Larry's philandering, and Michelle's drug problem. Sara couldn't help wondering if this gravelly-voiced phantom was making these things happen — or merely trying to warn her.
After all, how could one person cause all these horrible occurrences? Was it just bad luck? Or was it the house?
"Why don't you just move?" Bobby had asked more than once over the phone. "You should leave this place ..."
But for months, Larry refused to budge. He didn't think the house was cursed. He didn't believe in curses. Sara had a feeling he didn't even believe Bobby existed. He seemed to think she was making up this stalker person. She had to show him one of Bobby's emails before he started to believe her. But he still didn't take Bobby seriously. He maintained that they were having a bad patch — that was all. He wasn't about to be forced out of his own home. This Bobby person was probably part of some sort of elaborate real estate scam. At least, that was what he told the police when Sara insisted they make their fourth or fifth harassment report.
Ironically, Larry ended up being forced from his house.
Sara had kicked him out eight days ago. Never mind the humiliating circumstances. For the time being, he was staying at the Oak Harbor Best Western. He said he didn't want a divorce. He thought they should see a couples counselor, and if she wanted to unload the house, that was fine with him. In fact, he was all for it.
But Sara refused to have anything to do with Larry. She wouldn't agree to any of his suggestions — except selling the house. They needed to get out of there before something else happened.
With Jarrett spending the night with the Munchels, she'd considered getting a room at the Bayside Bed & Breakfast, the local inn. She didn't want to be alone in that awful house. But it didn't seem worth the peak-season, weekend rate of 190 bucks for just one night. Besides, except for a few minor accidents, nothing bad had actually happened inside the house.
So Sara had resolved to brave it alone at home, treat herself to carryout chicken teriyaki from Chop-Chop Delight and The Sound of Music on DISH on Demand. She knew it was silly, but she wanted a movie event, one that would take up most of the night and help her forget her troubles for a while. She'd always loved The Sound of Music. Last year, she'd tried to make a movie night with it for the family. Michelle had been on her mobile device during most of the movie, Jarrett kept saying, "This movie is so gay," and Larry fell asleep about a third of the way through. Sara had ended up shutting off the movie and going to bed early.
She ate off a TV table and sat in Larry's recliner. No one else in the family ever used it. But Larry had no claim on it tonight — and possibly never again.
The baroness was just breaking up with Captain von Trapp when the house phone rang.
It was 10:07 according to the cable box in the TV console. The UNKNOWN CALLER hung up after three rings. Sara was almost certain it was Bobby. What telemarketer would call at this hour?
Bobby usually called Sara's mobile phone. But then, Bobby probably knew she was alone tonight.
Her heart racing, Sara glanced at the darkened windows of the family room. She couldn't see anything, just her own timid reflection. She had a feeling Bobby was seeing the exact same image — only from outside, somewhere in the dark.
Sara quickly closed the drapes. She double-checked the locks on the doors and first-floor windows. Minutes passed and the phone didn't ring again.
She told herself that the Unknown Caller could have been anybody.
Still, Sara wasn't able to concentrate on the movie after that. Every little sound inside and outside the house became cause for alarm. At least five times, she put the movie on pause to investigate some strange, new noise.
She decided a little Jim Beam would help her relax. But when she opened the kitchen cabinet, she found only one bottle there — about a third full. She could have sworn she'd bought an extra bottle yesterday for backup. Had she gone through it already? Had she gotten that bad about her alcohol consumption? Or was it possible Jarrett had stolen the bottle and taken it to his friend's house? It was just the kind of thing a thirteen-year-old might do. She could see him and his pals all trying to be cool, passing around her bottle of Jim Beam in someone's basement.
It was too late to go out for another bottle. She'd have to stretch out what she had. A carefully measured shot with some ice and a little water helped calm her nerves.
It was after midnight by the time Maria, the captain, and those von Trapp kids had finally fled the Nazis and were hiking over the Alps to a chorus of "Climb Every Mountain."
Sara convinced herself that the call earlier must have been a wrong number. But she was still feeling too edgy to sleep — too edgy and too sober. She poured herself another Jim Beam, straight this time. Then she switched channels to HGTV's House Hunters.
She was beginning to nod off when the phone rang, startling her.
She glared at the phone on the TV table and started to get mad. She'd had enough.
Snatching up the cordless, she clicked it on. "What?" she bellowed. "What do you want?"
It was nearly one in the morning. She didn't have to look at the caller ID screen on the cordless to know it read: UNKNOWN CALLER. She knew it was Bobby.
She could hear someone breathing on the other end of the line.
"Goddamn you!" she barked. "What the hell do you want?"
"Jarrett's asking for you, Sara," the caller said in that all-too-familiar crawly voice. "He's very badly hurt. He needs his mommy ..."
Horrified, Sara listened. She didn't remember a time when Bobby had ever lied to her. For a moment, she couldn't talk or breathe. "What happened?" she finally asked.
"He's going to die if he doesn't get some help."
Hunched forward in the recliner, she clutched the phone tighter. Tears filled her eyes.
"Are you listening to me, Sara?"
"You monster!" she cried. "What have you done to him?"
"Come meet me in front of the teriyaki place where you picked up your dinner earlier. Don't stop to call anyone. Just grab your keys, get in the car, and drive. Do you understand?"
"Where is he?" she asked, getting to her feet. "Is he there with you?"
"If you're not here in ten minutes, I'm going to let Jarrett die."
There was a click on the other end of the line.
With a shaky hand, Sara automatically dialed Jarrett's smartphone. She hoped against hope it was all a lie. But after three rings, Jarrett still hadn't picked up. In the middle of the fourth ring, she heard a click.
"Jarrett?" she asked anxiously. "Honey?"
There was no answer. Had it gone to his voice mail? She couldn't tell.
Then she heard a sigh on the other end — and that raspy voice: "Jarrett can't come to the phone, Sara. I already told you that. Now you only have nine minutes to get here. I'm not even sure Jarrett will live that long. He's lost a lot of blood."
Then the line went dead.
Sara dropped the cordless onto the seat of Larry's recliner and ran to grab her purse off the kitchen counter. Frantically searching for her keys, she headed for the side door that faced the detached garage. At last she found the keys. She stepped outside and shut the door behind her. It locked automatically.
The garage's door was just a couple of steps away. In her rattled state, Sara couldn't get the key in the lock. Tears streamed down her face. All she could think about was her son, stabbed or shot by this maniac. Was her boy still alive?
She finally got the key in the lock and opened the door. Stepping into the darkened garage, she blindly reached over and flicked on the light switch.
She tried the switch next to it. Still nothing.
But the electricity was working. Their second refrigerator was humming — over
by the kids' bicycles. She couldn't see it in the blackness, but she could hear it.
Was someone else in the garage with her?
Sara saw the outline of the SUV. She pressed the Unlock button on her key fob. The vehicle's emergency lights flashed for a second, and the interior light went on.
Making her way around the front of the SUV, Sara opened the driver's door. She reached inside for the remote on the sun visor and then pressed the button to open the garage door. There was a click. The garage light went on, and the motor overhead started up.
Sara was about to jump inside the car, but she hesitated. She'd meant to check if anyone was hiding inside the SUV.
But she was too late.
A shadowy figure popped up in the backseat.
Sara gasped. A hooded clown face grinned at her. She could see the gun in the stranger's gloved hand. It was pointed at her.
Over the mechanics of the garage door opening, Sara heard that all-too-familiar gravelly voice behind the clown mask: "Get in and drive, Sara, and maybe we'll reach Jarrett in time to save him."
Her heart racing, she climbed behind the wheel and started up the car. She looked into the rearview mirror and tried to stop shaking. "We're not going anywhere until you tell me what's happened to my son."
"My partner got a little carried away and shot him."
Sara let out a feeble cry and covered her mouth with her hand.
"You didn't think I worked alone, did you?" Bobby asked behind the mask. "Jarrett's in a safe place. He seems stable for now —"
"But you just said he might not last even ten minutes," she cut in.
"Ten minutes or ten hours, who knows? As I said, he's lost some blood, and he's asking for you. My partner is texting me updates on Jarrett's condition. The sooner we reach them, the sooner you can get your son to a hospital. Now, let's go before the garage door closes on us. We're wasting time sitting here, Sara ..."
That had been nearly an hour ago.
So many times when Bobby had telephoned in the last few months, Sara had asked, "Who are you? Why are you doing this?"
She'd never gotten an answer.
During their journey tonight, she asked those same questions — over and over again. But her passenger didn't respond. Sara still wondered if Bobby was behind everything that had happened — or just the gleeful harbinger of horrible news.
As they drove by a sign for Deception Pass, Bobby took a phone out from the pocket of that dark raincoat and checked it. "Jarrett's lost consciousness, but his breathing is steady."
Sara tightened her grip on the steering wheel. They were headed for the bridge. Was Jarrett somewhere on the mainland?
Excerpted from "Hide Your Fear"
Copyright © 2017 Kevin O'Brien.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Couldn't put this one down! So many twists and turns!
Excellent plot twists. Well written and relatable charactors!
Another great book by Kevin O'Brien!
I have read everything this very talented author has written. This one falls short of his usually fantastic books. Seemed to drag on and on and stalker was way to obvious. Sorry!!!!
Compared to some of his other books this one was only semi decent. It wasnt too suspensful and lacked action. It was sort of weird. Not giving away details of this book..but why do most villians of his have to be female? They arent as scary. If you enjoy scary, well written, edge of your seat authors try these ones... Lisa Jackson, Brenda Novak, Lisa Gardner, Karen Rose,Tami Hoag, and Karin Slaughter. You will NOT be let down. Unless you get this book free or discounted, skip it.