A SECRET WORTH KILLING FOR…
In July 1970, actress Elaina Styles was slain in her rented Seattle mansion along with her husband and their son’s nanny. When the baby’s remains were found buried in a shallow grave close to a hippie commune, police moved in—only to find all its members already dead in a grisly mass suicide.
Now, decades later, a film about the murders is shooting at the mansion. On-set caterer Laurie Trotter ignores gossip that the production is cursed. But then people start dying…
As Laurie digs deep into what happened all those years ago, the truth emerges more twisted than any whispered rumor, as a legacy of brutal vengeance reaches its terrifying climax…
|Product dimensions:||4.15(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.50(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
KEVIN O’BRIEN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty suspense novels. Before his books landed him on the bestseller lists, he was a railroad inspector who wrote at night. He moved from the train tracks to become a full-time author in 1997 when his novel, Only Son, was picked up by Reader’s Digest and optioned for film. Since then, his books have been translated into fourteen languages. Born and raised in Chicago, O'Brien now lives in Seattle, where he is on the board of Seattle 7 Writers, a collective of bestselling, award-winning authors. He can be found online at KevinOBrienbooks.com/.
Read an Excerpt
No One Needs to Know
By Kevin O'Brien
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Kevin O'Brien
All rights reserved.
Wednesday, May 28, 10:51 P.M. Ellensburg, Washington
Laurie Trotter had a bad feeling about the man who stepped inside the restaurant just ten minutes before closing. There were no other customers in the place. The last one had left about five minutes ago.
The Superstar Diner off Interstate 90 was isolated—a Texaco station on the other side of the highway was its closest neighbor. Laurie hated working this "bare-bones staff" late-night shift. Somewhere along the line, the owner, Paul, had done a survey and determined their slowest evening for business was in the middle of the week, especially in the summer, when most of the students at Central Washington University had gone home. So from nine until closing on Wednesday nights, the menu was limited to grill food.
A trained chef, Laurie reluctantly emerged from her sanctuary in the kitchen to double as a waitress and short-order grill cook on those nights. The only other person working the shift was the dishwasher, Duncan, a sweet, nerdy eighteen-year-old with a puny build and a nervous manner. He always seemed overwhelmed, rushing around, bussing tables and washing dishes as if it were his first day on the job. Whenever he became flustered—which was often—he got tremors, which made him shake from the neck up like a bobble-head figure. If some creep were to wander into the diner and make trouble, poor Duncan could hardly come to Laurie's rescue.
In fact, it was sort of the other way around. A while back, a trio of jerks from Duncan's high school had come in. They'd sat down at the counter, where they could see him through the pass-through window while he'd toiled away in the kitchen. They'd started teasing him.
"Hey, retard, how many plates did you break today?"
"Shit, look at him shaking ..."
"When I grow up, Duncan, I want to have a real cool job like the one you have!"
Laurie had spotted Duncan, bent over the sink, trying to ignore them. All the while, his head trembled on his skinny neck.
Instead of handing menus to Duncan's tormentors, she'd just glared at them. "If you guys ever want to eat in here again, you'll shut the hell up right now," she'd growled. "I'm serious, knock it off."
And they'd clammed up.
Laurie had that kind of pull at the Superstar Diner. In the two years she'd been employed there, business had almost doubled. Thanks to her daily specials and the desserts she added to their menu, the once-foundering truck stop had become a popular dinner spot in Ellensburg—like one of those places profiled on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Plus, Laurie was well respected in town. A graduate of Central Washington U, she'd been married—too briefly—to the star player on their football team before he'd joined the army and been sent overseas. At least Brian Trotter had gotten to see his infant son, Joey, before dying a hero five months ago. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a Silver Star posthumously. They had a big ceremony at City Hall, and the event made the front page of the Daily Record. As Brian's widow and the mother of his child, twenty-six-year-old Laurie was revered around town. Sometimes that wasn't easy. The perfect widow wasn't exactly something she'd aspired to be.
The local high school boys were especially in awe of her—and it wasn't just due to her dead husband's heroics on the football and battlefields. Laurie was cute, with auburn hair and a buxom figure. Laurie thought she was a bit too buxom. She still hadn't completely shed the extra baby weight, and working in a kitchen didn't help.
At the moment, she would have welcomed a familiar face or two. These last few lonely minutes before closing were sometimes a bit unnerving. There was always the chance of a stranger wandering in there, a stranger who might want to cause trouble or rob the place.
Laurie wasn't usually this paranoid. But six nights ago, only thirty miles away at Paddy's Pantry off Highway 82 near Yakima, a waitress and a cook had been viciously beaten by a pair of armed robbers. It had occurred just minutes before closing.
The gunmen had emptied out the register, stealing close to seven hundred dollars. They'd also made the waitress, cook, and a busboy surrender their wallets. Laurie had followed the story closely. The waitress and cook resisted. She ended up with a black eye and a split lip; the cook spent three days in the hospital having his broken jaw wired. Their attackers were still at large. Paddy's Pantry had surveillance cameras. Blurry shots of the perpetrators were printed in the newspaper, and distributed to several restaurants in the area. The photos were plastered in the break room at the Superstar Diner. Laurie thought it was pretty ridiculous that they were expected to recognize the assailants from those fuzzy snapshots. Both men had medium builds and dark hair; one looked pale, and the other might have been Latino—that was all she had to go on. The descriptions from the waitress, cook, and busboy could have fit half the men who had walked into the Superstar Diner tonight.
"My Sharona" was churning over the jukebox, Laurie's selection. That thump, thump, thump rhythm always helped revive her at the end of a long day on her feet. "Walking on Sunshine" was another song selection that reenergized her near closing. Both tunes were probably brand new when Paul had last changed the jukebox selections.
Duncan had already brought in the sandwich board sign from the sidewalk by the entrance. He was mopping the kitchen floor—always his last chore for the night.
As she wiped down the counter with Windex and a sponge, Laurie prayed no last-minute customers would show up. In just a few minutes, she could lock the door and hang up the CLOSED sign. She was hoping to get out of there by 11:15.
She was about to pull the keys from the pocket of her waitress uniform when the man strutted through the doorway.
Laurie hadn't noticed a car pull into the parking lot. She couldn't help wondering if the guy had switched off his headlights as he'd approached the diner. But why would he do that? Was it because he didn't want anyone identifying his car later?
Laurie felt dread in the pit of her stomach. She put down the sponge, and nervously wiped her hands on her apron. She tried not to stare at the man: dark hair, pale complexion, medium build. She guessed he was about thirty. He looked unwashed with his five o'clock shadow and greasy, unkempt black hair. Still, he was sort of sexy in a strange, dangerous kind of way. Maybe it was the unabashed, flirtatious grin on his face as his dark eyes met hers. He seemed so smug. Any other time, she might have been amused, maybe even slightly intrigued despite herself—but not now.
Please, she thought, just order a Coke to go, take it, and get out of here. Hell, she wouldn't even charge him for it if that was all he wanted.
The camouflage-pattern army fatigue jacket he wore seemed too big for his frame. With a grunt, he plopped down on one of the middle stools. Then he began to slap his hands on the countertop, keeping time with "My Sharona."
Laurie worked up a smile and handed him the grill menu—which, thankfully, got him to stop pounding on the counter. "We're about ready to close," she said over the music. "But I can still fix you something to go."
He studied the menu and frowned. "What the hell is the Rita Moreno Burger?"
Laurie took a deep breath. "It's a ground chicken burger with hints of chili, lime, and cilantro, topped with guacamole, and served with beans and plantain fries." The description was plainly there on the menu. Still, she refrained from asking, Can't you read?
"Doesn't sound very Italian," he muttered.
"It's Puerto Rican," Laurie explained. "Rita Moreno is from Puerto Rico."
"Moreno sounds Italian to me," he grumbled.
Laurie just shrugged.
Paul, the owner, was a big movie fan. His collection of framed vintage movie posters and autographed film-star portraits decorated the walls of the Superstar Diner. Every item on the menu was named after a movie star—from the Crepes Suzanne Pleshette to the Lee J. Cobb Salad to the Spencer Tracy Steak. Laurie figured this clever concept was lost on most of the truckers who wandered in for a fast meal.
His eyes on the menu, the stranger let out a long sigh. "Okay, give me three of those, two Myrna Loy Soy Burgers, three of the Gary Cooper Classics, one with cheese, and two Jon Hamm and Egg Sandwiches." He slapped the menu down on the counter and smirked at her. "To go."
Oh, crap, Laurie thought, scribbling it all down. She'd be lucky to get out of there by 11:40 now.
"Regular french fries with each order, okay?" he grunted. "None of that plantain shit." He reached inside his fatigue jacket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and lit one up.
Laurie shook her head at him. "I'm sorry, but you can't smoke in here. It's against the law."
He drew in, and then deliberately blew smoke rings in her direction. "Know what else is against the law?" he asked. "Carrying a concealed weapon."
Laurie froze and stared at him. Was he hiding a gun inside that baggy fatigue jacket? For a second, she couldn't breathe.
"My Sharona" finally ended. She could hear Duncan in the kitchen, wringing out the mop. He had no idea what was going on. The sound of the kitchen door slamming made her flinch, and she realized he'd just stepped outside to empty the mop bucket.
Now she and this man were alone.
He took another long drag from his cigarette, and then he cracked a smile. "Hey, relax," he whispered. "I'm just having a little fun with you, Laurie, that's all."
For a second, it baffled her that he knew her name. Then she remembered the name tag on her waitress uniform. She wore the uniform only on Wednesday nights.
With a shaky hand, Laurie grabbed a saucer and set it on the counter in front of him. It wobbled and clanked against the linoleum. "No smoking," she said, hating the little tremor in her voice. "Put out your cigarette, please."
He drew in one last puff, stubbed out the cigarette, and then exhaled a cloud of smoke in her face.
Laurie glared at him. Her stomach was in knots. "I'm sorry, but with a big order like this so late at night, you'll have to pay in advance. I'll total it up ..." She started toward the cash register at the end of the counter. She remembered, in case she needed it, the button was there under the counter by the register—a silent alarm to the police department.
Suddenly, he grabbed her arm. "Listen, why don't you skip that for now and start cooking up the shit you're passing off as food, huh?" he said. "The sooner you get my order on the grill, the sooner you can wrap it up here and go home to your baby boy. Am I right, Laurie, or am I right?"
She automatically wrenched her arm away from his grasp. But she couldn't move. Staring at him, she felt as if her feet were cemented to the floor. She couldn't figure out how he knew about Joey.
He grinned. He could tell she was scared. That was the thing about him—it was as if he knew her every thought.
"Who are you?" she whispered.
Laurie barely got the question out when she heard the kitchen screen door slam again. It gave her another start. She turned to see if Duncan was coming back inside. But she couldn't spot him through the window. For a moment, she imagined someone following him into the kitchen—with a gun at his bobbling head.
Laurie stole a glance at the silent alarm, just a few feet away. She had to go for it—even if it meant a split lip and a black eye.
"Is someone smoking out there?" Duncan called.
She swiveled around, and was grateful to see him—alone—peering at her through the pass-through window.
"Go back to your mopping, Einstein," the stranger snarled. "Laurie and I are having a private conversation. Go on ..."
Duncan blinked at him, and his head started to shake.
"Loser," the man grumbled.
Behind the man, out the plate-glass window, Laurie noticed a pair of headlights coming up the road from the Interstate's off-ramp.
"Laurie, are you okay?" Duncan asked.
She watched the vehicle turn into the lot. To her utter relief, she saw it was a police car. "Everything's fine, Duncan," she said evenly. "The gentleman's just leaving ..."
The man fiddled with a salt shaker. He looked so smug. He didn't seem to catch on that a patrolman was just outside the restaurant.
Duncan retreated from the pass-through window. A moment later, Laurie heard the bucket clanking as he put it away.
"I have no idea how you know me," Laurie said to the stranger. Her heart was racing. "But you're acting like a total creep. Now it's past closing time, and I don't have to put up with you. Do you understand me? You need to leave—now."
In response, he unscrewed the top of the salt shaker, and slowly poured out the salt. A little white mound formed on the counter.
Laurie nodded toward the window in back of him. "You're going to have a tough time explaining that little trick to the state trooper out there."
The man glanced over his shoulder, and then turned toward her again, stone-faced. "If he's a friend of yours, he might be interested to hear how much you whored around while your hero-husband got shot at in Afghanistan. I could give him an earful, sweetie. You have everybody in this town thinking you're somebody special, the sweet war widow ..." He stood up. "But you're just a fraud."
Dumbfounded, she stood there with her mouth open. It wasn't true. He didn't know what he was talking about. She wanted to say as much, she wanted to scream it at him. But a grain of truth in his tirade kept her mute.
He sauntered toward the exit, slipping out just as the state patrolman opened the door to come inside. "Thanks, pal," he muttered to the cop.
The husky, baby-faced patrolman scowled at him. Then he seemed to shrug it off. "Is it too late for a cup of caffeinated to go?" he asked, lumbering toward the counter.
Laurie listened to an engine start up outside. Through the window she watched an old, beat-up silver minivan pull out of the lot. This time his headlights were on. She thought she saw someone with him in the front passenger seat.
She had a pretty good idea who it was.
"Is it too late to get a cup of coffee to go?" the patrolman asked again.
Rattled, Laurie gaped at him, and quickly nodded, "Sure thing, coming right up." She headed for the coffee station. She hadn't switched it off yet. "It's on the house," she said, reaching for a Styrofoam cup. Her hand was shaking a little. "You want a large?"
"Sure, thanks," the cop replied. He squinted at the white mound of salt on the counter—and the cigarette stubbed out on the saucer. "What's this?"
"Oh, that's nothing," Laurie said, pouring coffee into the large container. She set the container and a lid in front of him, and started to clean up the stranger's mess. "Did you need cream or sugar with that?"
"Black's fine," the policeman said.
Laurie wanted to tell the cop what had just happened, but she couldn't. Right now, she couldn't tell anyone.
She stole another look out the side window—at the access road. The minivan's front beams and taillights disappeared in the darkness.
But she didn't feel any relief. The dread was still rooted in the pit of her stomach.
She knew it wasn't over. The silver minivan would be back.
Tonight was just the beginning.CHAPTER 2
Wednesday, 11:12 P.M.
The code to set the alarm was *72. The keypad was on the kitchen wall by a pair of saloon doors to the dining area. Once she set the alarm, Laurie had sixty seconds to leave through the front exit and lock it—or the damn thing would go off. As usual, Duncan waited for her outside, because the whole business of having to get out of there within a minute flustered him. Tonight he had the state patrolman keeping him company. After what had happened at Paddy's Pantry six nights ago, the cop said he'd stay until she'd closed up—just to be safe.
Laurie knew her last customer of the night had nothing to do with the armed robbery at Paddy's Pantry. He'd had no intention of robbing the diner tonight.
No, he'd come there for her.
But she couldn't admit that to the cop—or to Duncan. For them, she tried her damnedest to act as if nothing was wrong. Yet all the while she felt as if her whole world was about to crumble. She couldn't breathe right. She just wanted to get home and make sure Joey was safe.
Excerpted from No One Needs to Know by Kevin O'Brien. Copyright © 2015 Kevin O'Brien. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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