Praise for DERANGED
“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.”
“A fascinating and exciting blend of misdirection, topsy-turvy, and violence.”
—Reed Farrel Coleman
“A dark and different serial killer novel that will haunt the reader long after the book is closed.”
“Los Angeles has seldom seen such grisly fun. It’s James Ellroy meets Alfred Hitchcock on the psychotic side of the street.”
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About the Author
His horror novel, The Caretaker of the Lorne Field, was short listed by the American Library Association for best horror novel of 2010, a Black Quill nominee for best dark genre book, and a Library Journal horror gem.
His Frankenstein retelling Monster was named by Booklist as one of the 10 best horror novels of the year, and by WBUR as one of the best novels of the year.
His mystery fiction is regularly published by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, has won Shamus and Derringer awards, and twice has won the Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice award.
Dave’s novels have been translated to German, French, Italian, Dutch, Lithuanian, and Thai. His novel Small Crimes has been made into a film starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Molly Parker, Gary Cole, Robert Forster, and Jacki Weaver, and can be seen on Netflix. His novels Outsourced and The Caretaker of Lorne Field are currently in development.
Read an Excerpt
The killer sat naked in front of the mirror and put in the cosmetic contact lenses to change his eyes from brown to blue. Nine months ago, he'd shaved his head, and since then used a razor each week to keep up his bald appearance. He now carefully attached a hairpiece to his scalp that made him look as if he had neatly trimmed sandy-brown hair. It was an expensive hairpiece, and the killer was pleased with the way it altered his appearance. After taking a moment to admire the hairpiece, he glued on a matching goatee. Earlier that morning he had shaved off his eyebrows, and he now glued on fake ones that were the same color as the hairpiece and goatee. He had other fake eyebrows that matched his natural hair color. Later when he removed his disguise, he would use those until his eyebrows grew back.
He put his face through a series of exaggerated contortions. According to his reflection, his fake hair held in place and looked natural. His entire adult life the killer had dressed casually. Chinos, either a button-down plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows or a polo shirt, and always running shoes. He couldn't remember the last time he wore a suit. But when he left later today he would complete his disguise with an elegant Versace pin-stripe, button-down tan shirt, a muted yellow tie, and a pair of calfskin Italian loafers that also matched the color of his fake hair. Finally, he would slip on fake glasses and a $14,000 Hublot watch that he had bought specifically for this occasion.
The killer got up and wandered over to the kitchen area, and used his Nespresso machine to brew a single serving of caramel-flavored coffee. Right now his target was in a Pilates class. He had plenty of time before he'd have to leave. As he sipped his coffee, he was amazed at how calm he felt. He had spent a year of planning and preparing — really two when you considered that he was forced to throw away a year's worth of plans because of that meddlesome Morris Brick. Now his vision was so close to coming to fruition that he could taste it. He smiled as he thought of how it tasted even sweeter than the caramel-flavored coffee.
The killer's mind drifted to thoughts of everything he had done since finalizing his plans six months ago. It was remarkable when he added it all up. Of course, he wasn't finished yet. There was still so much more to do, but if things worked out later that afternoon, tomorrow his masterpiece would be unveiled. People wouldn't see it in its entirety at once since it would take ten days to play out, but once completed it would be absolutely stunning. Breathtaking. The world would never forget it. Nor would the city of Los Angeles ever be the same.
Art of this magnitude didn't come cheap. You had to bleed for it, or in this case, have others bleed. So far the killer had had to take four lives. He didn't enjoy killing these people, but it was necessary and he had murdered them quietly without anyone noticing. Soon thousands more lives were going to be taken, and those deaths weren't going to be so quiet. He stood spellbound as he thought about how all these people were going to die, and how Morris Brick was going to be thrust into the center of the carnage.
A sensation below his waist caused him to glance downward, and he realized that these thoughts had given him an erection.
Parker spotted Natalie first as she waited alone at the outdoor table. The bull terrier let out several excited pig grunts and bulled his way forward, dragging Morris along. The dog scooted under the thick velvet rope that the restaurant used to mark off its outdoor café area, while Morris had to step over it and at the same time switch the leash to his other hand to keep from getting tangled up. Natalie watched with amusement. As always, she looked gorgeous. A petite, slender, dark-haired beauty who still made Morris feel weak in the knees with a smile, even after twenty-four years of marriage.
"Parker caught me off guard," Morris explained.
"He's good at that," Natalie admitted.
Natalie readied herself for the bull terrier's onslaught, grabbing Parker by his thick neck while the dog's rear end wiggled like crazy, his tail wagging at two hundred beats a minute, as he fought to lick Natalie's face. While this went on Morris snuck in a kiss of his own and took a seat adjacent to his wife. After a minute Parker calmed down enough to sit panting.
"He's happy to see you," Morris said.
"Nah, he's just trying to soften me up for some heavy-duty mooching."
Morris laughed at that. The dog could certainly mooch food with the best of them.
A waitress came over with menus. She was new here, otherwise she would've known better than to bring Morris a menu. He was a creature of habit. Ever since the actor Philip Stonehedge had turned him on to this Beverly Hills restaurant he had ordered only their fish tacos, and he did so again. Natalie took a menu and gave it a quick look before asking for an arugula and tomato salad. Morris asked the waitress to bring a roast beef and cheddar sandwich for Parker. "You can skip the bread, horseradish, lettuce and tomato. Just put the meat and cheese on a paper plate."
The waitress gave Parker a cautious look before asking whether the dog was friendly.
"He's a sweetheart," Natalie volunteered.
Morris concurred. "A bit of a clown, but a gentle soul."
This was mostly true, even though over the last year Parker had attacked two serial killers and bitten the arm of a hardened criminal who had pointed a gun at Morris during a jewelry store robbery. But as long as you weren't trying to kill Morris or others, the odds were good you wouldn't see that side of him.
The waitress patted the short, bristly fur that covered Parker's cement-hard head, and the dog's tail thumped against the terracotta-tiled patio. "I'll make sure to add some extra roast beef," she said with a wink. Morris waited until the waitress left before asking Natalie how her day was going.
"Busy." Natalie worked as a therapist and had her private office in downtown Los Angeles. "Before breaking for lunch I barely had time to catch my breath. But I have the luxury of not having to be back for another hour. Yourself? No new serial killer cases, hon?"
She said this mostly as a joke since Morris had sworn off those types of cases for his investigative firm, MBI, but some worry still showed in her eyes. Deep down inside she was afraid Morris would take on another of those cases, and she had good reason for this concern. The last serial killer case had left Morris battered and bruised, the one before that had brought a deranged killer to their door, and the very last one Morris had worked on while he was still an LAPD homicide detective almost killed him.
Her question also didn't come completely out of the blue. Natalie had serial killers on her mind because that night they were going to the Hollywood premiere of The Carver, a movie that was based loosely on a notorious serial killer Heath Dodd. Since Dodd's killing ground had been Miami, Morris wasn't involved in the investigation, but he had still been hired by the movie producers to consult on the film. Even with Morris's involvement in the movie, they probably would've skipped the premiere if Philip Stonehedge hadn't invited them to a private dinner party afterward.
"As far as I know Los Angeles is still serial killer free," Morris said. "If that changes, the LAPD will have to handle it without my help. Anyway, as you well know, MBI has gone almost a hundred percent corporate."
This was true. After the Malibu Butcher business, Morris had made a concerted effort for his firm to take on only corporate cases, most of which were either company fraud or employee background investigations, although they were currently knee-deep in a corporate espionage case that they were hoping to break soon.
"Almost a hundred percent?" Natalie asked. Parker, who had plopped down on the ground and was now lying on his side by Natalie's feet, let out one of his grunts to show that he also found the matter suspicious.
"We took on an unusual missing person investigation this morning," Morris said. "A guy up and vanished four months ago. No sign of him or his car since. His wife brought us the case. She's desperate."
"She needs closure."
"Nope. She needs the insurance money."
Natalie gave him a reproachful look. "Hon, dear, don't you think you're being a tad cynical?"
"Not at all. She's convinced her husband is dead, and she needs a death certificate before she can collect on his life insurance policy." Morris grimaced at the water spot on his fork as he held it up for a quick inspection. "I felt sorry for her. She really is in desperate straits and genuinely seems to have been mourning him. We're not quite taking it on as pro bono work, but close. MBI will only bill her if we find him or his body, and we'll be capping the bill off at five thousand."
Natalie bit her thumbnail. "Do you think she's right?"
"I don't know. She's convinced that they were happy enough together and he was content with his life. She's also adamant that if he were alive he'd be home with her now. Maybe that's true. Or maybe he decided to start over someplace else. We'll see."
The waitress appeared with their food. Parker got to his feet, his eyes fixed on the tray she carried. The paper plate she had brought held what looked like twice as much roast beef as would normally be used for a sandwich. Parker let out a few excited grunts as he waited for it to be placed on the patio surface. As soon as Morris let up on the leash, Parker attacked the food as if he hadn't eaten in days even though he'd had half a can of his food that morning.
Natalie patted Parker's side. "Our little guy is getting pudgy," she said.
"Nah, it's all muscle."
She gave Morris a funny look but didn't argue. As she ate her salad, she seemed to lose herself in her private thoughts. When she shivered, he asked her what was wrong.
Natalie looked at him as if she didn't understand what he was asking, then offered a wistful smile.
"I don't know. Just something in the air, I guess."
Morris glanced upward. Not a cloud in the sky. If a storm was coming, he couldn't see it.
Heather Brandley was fuming before she started her five-mile run, and whatever meditative value exercise was supposed to have was wasted on her. In fact, she was even angrier by the time she sprinted past her imaginary finish line, and had spent most of the thirty-six minutes and eighteen seconds that it took her to run a loop around West Hollywood fantasizing about gory and painful ways she could kill all of them. The objects of her ire? The producers, director, and casting agent for The Bumbleford Affair. The reason? Yesterday she had been brought in to read for the part of Tom Bumbleford's mother. The producers had already announced that Peter Shays, with his washboard abs and dreamy boyish looks, would be playing the lead, and since he was only a few years younger than her, Heather assumed she'd be playing the mother in flashback scenes. When they asked her to read with Peter, Heather was stunned.
"Peter, darling, how old are you?" she sputtered out, her ears burning a bright red.
"Well, luv, all of thirty-two years," he said in his trademark sheepish manner, an impish smile twisting his lips.
"This is a prank, right?" she asked the director. "You've got a hidden camera back there, right?"
"Why would you ask that?" the director said, pursing his lips as if he couldn't fathom her reason for asking him that question.
"Why? Because Peter is only six years younger than me! And you seriously want me to play his mom?"
"We want you to play his hot mom," one of the producers quipped.
Although she couldn't believe this was happening, Heather read her lines like a true professional, and under the circumstances, thought she gave a good reading. As humiliating as the experience was, a job was a job in this godforsaken business. But then to add insult to injury, her agent had called this morning to tell her that while everybody loved her, they'd decided to go in a different direction.
"Who got the part?"
"Sweetie, another call's coming in. I've got to go —"
"Nick, no you don't! If you don't tell me, we're through, I swear it!"
Her agent gave the same heavy sigh he always did whenever he was being forced to spell out bad news. "Stephanie Morrison."
Morrison was two years younger than her, a shade hotter, and two shades blonder. So this was how it was now going to be. When Heather broke into movies at age twenty, her first role was as the hot girlfriend. At twenty-six she started being cast as the "cute" friend. At thirty-two, all she could get were mom roles. Now at thirty-eight, she was too old to play the part of a thirty-two-year-old guy's mom, even if Peter Shays did look young for his age. Bastards!
As she always did, Heather ended her run two blocks from her condo, and after stumbling to a stop, she bent forward and held her knees so she could catch her breath.
Thanks to the anger that had been fueling her, she had pushed herself harder than usual, and a thin sheen of sweat covered her body. There hadn't been a day since she had turned thirty that she hadn't run five miles — even those days when she had to be on set at five a.m. All that running and Pilates and yoga in the hopes of keeping her body slender and toned, and now she'd probably only get grandmother roles! She decided then that she was going to bump her running up to seven miles daily and add an extra Pilates workout each week.
A block away was The Grassy Knoll, and as was her routine, she stopped in for a juice. Rico was working the counter. A pretty gay man with diamond stud earrings, a tight T-shirt and jeans that could've been painted on, and long eyelashes that were to die for. He gave her a long appreciative look up and down before leering at her wolfishly.
"You're looking so fine, girl. You make me almost want to be straight."
"Rico, darling, you're just too kind."
"Simply being honest, that's all, sweetie. The usual?"
As Rico fed kale, carrots, beets, fennel, celery, and jalapeno peppers into a juicer, he asked her about some of the Hollywood gossip he'd been hearing and told her how much prettier he found her than the other starlets in town. "None of them can make me hard like you do, sweetie."
By the time Heather left the store with a juice in hand, her mood had perked up. Rico, bless him, was always good for that.
At the end of the block was a small park across the street from her condo, and as part of her routine, Heather would always sit on the lone bench in the park and enjoy her juice. Today, though, there was someone already sitting there. A man, maybe the same age as Peter Shays. Nicely dressed in a Versace suit and wearing an attractive pair of Italian loafers. Good-looking also, with his sandy-brown hair and neatly trimmed goatee. She caught a glimpse of the Hublot watch on his wrist and had a good idea of how much it cost. So he had money also. She smiled as she thought of how he was the right age for her to play a different kind of mommy to, and besides, the bench was big enough for two. He was good-looking in a cute sort of way and presented himself well. She sat to his right and watched with amusement as he tried to act as if he were too absorbed with what he was reading on his cell phone to notice that she was there. As she finished up her juice, she slurped to get his attention. He looked up then with an exaggeratedly startled expression.
"Oh, hi," he said, blushing. "I didn't realize I had company." He held out a hand. "Jason," he said.
So cute. "Heather," she said as she took his hand.
He opened his eyes wide. "You're Heather Brandley! Wow! I'm such a huge fan. I love everything you've been in, especially The Day After Yesterday."
"You mean today," she said with a thin smile.
He blushed some more, and Heather thought again that he was cute. She also thought about how much she needed this type of an ego boost.
"I guess I was just being dense, but I never made that connection before with that movie title. I hope this doesn't look like I was stalking you, because this is really just an amazing coincidence, but I'm looking to make an independent film that you'd be so perfect for."
Her own smile faded fast. "You were stalking me," she said.
He began to give her a startled look as if he couldn't understand why she would accuse him of something like that, but then cut it off and instead grinned.
"You caught me red-handed," he admitted. "I know you live over there" — he nodded toward the condo complex across the street — "and I was hoping to catch you when you left home. I certainly didn't expect you to sit down next to me on this bench. It must be kismet."
Excerpted from "Malicious"
Copyright © 2018 Jacob Stone.
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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