The Crimes Are Unthinkable
A serial killer is turning the Big Easy into his personal playground. The victims are killed in pairs—no connection, no apparent motive, no real clues. It’s a very sick game, and it’s only just begun.
The Fear Is Real
Abby Chastain left New Orleans long ago and for good reason. Now she’s back where she feels watched, as if the devil himself is scraping a fingernail along her spine. It doesn’t help that Detective Reuben Montoya is convinced she’s somehow the key to unlocking these horrible crimes—a mystery that has something to do with Our Lady of Virtues Mental Hospital, a decaying old asylum where unspeakable crimes were once committed, and a human predator may still wait.
The Truth Is Deadly
As more bodies are found in gruesome, staged scenarios, Montoya and Abby are in a desperate race to stop a killer whose terrifying crimes are bringing them ever nearer to a shocking revelation. For the past is never completely gone. Its sins must be avenged. And a twisted psychopath is getting close enough to make them…
Listen to an excerpt, courtesy of Brilliance Audio Books.
Twenty years earlier
Our Lady of Virtues Hospital
Near New Orleans, Louisiana
She felt his breath.
A presence that caused the hairs on the back of her neck to lift,
her skin to prickle, sweat to collect upon her spine.
Her heart thumped, and barely able to move, standing in the
darkness, she searched the shadowed corners of her room frantically. Through the open window she heard the reverberating songs
of the frogs in the nearby swamps and the rumble of a train upon faraway tracks.
But here, now, he was with her.
Go away, she tried to say, but held her tongue, hoping beyond
hope that he wouldn’t notice her standing near the window. On the
other side of the panes, security lamps illuminated the grounds with
pale, bluish light, and she realized belatedly that her body, shrouded
only by a sheer nightgown, was silhouetted in their eerie glow.
Of course he could see her, find her in the darkness.
He always did.
Throat dry, she stepped backward, placing a hand on the window
casing to steady herself. Maybe she had just imagined his presence.
Maybe she hadn’t heard the door open after all. Maybe she’d jumped
up from a drug-induced sleep too quickly. After all, it wasn’t late, only
eight in the evening.
Maybe she was safe in this room, her room, on the third floor.
She was reaching for the bedside light when she heard the soft
scrape of leather against hardwood.
Her throat closed on a silent scream.
Having adjusted to the half-light, her eyes took in the bed with its
mussed sheets, evidence of her fitful rest. Upon the dressing table
was the lamp and a bifold picture frame; one that held small portraits
of her two daughters. Across the small room was a fireplace. She
could see its decorative tile and cold grate and, above the mantle, a
bare spot, faded now where a mirror had once hung.
So where was he? She glanced to the tall windows. Beyond, the
October night was hot and sultry. In the panes she could see her wan
reflection: petite, small-boned frame; sad gold eyes; high cheekbones;
lustrous auburn hair pulled away from her face. And behind her . . .
was that a shadow creeping near?
Or her imagination?
That was the trouble. Sometimes he hid.
But he was always nearby. Always. She could feel him, hear his
soft, determined footsteps in the hallway, smell his scent—a mixture
of male musk and sweat—catch a glimpse of a quick, darting shadow
as he passed.
There was no getting away from him. Ever. Not even in the dead
of night. He received great satisfaction in surprising her, sneaking up
on her while she was sitting at her desk, leaning down behind her
when she was kneeling at her bedside. He was always ready to press
his face to the back of her neck, to reach around her and touch her
breasts, arousing her though she loathed him, pulling her tightly
against him so that she could feel his erection against her back. She
wasn’t safe when she was under the thin spray of the shower, nor
while sleeping beneath the covers of her small bed.
How ironic that they had placed her here . . . for her own safety.
“Go away,” she whispered, her head pounding, her thoughts disjointed. “Leave me alone!”
She blinked and tried to focus.
Where was he?
Nervously she trained her eyes on the one hiding place, the
closet. She licked her lips. The wooden door was ajar, just slightly,
enough that anyone inside could peer through the crack.
From the small sliver of darkness within the closet, something
seemed to glimmer. A reflection. Eyes?
Maybe he was inside. Waiting.
Gooseflesh broke out on her skin. She should call out to someone, but if she did, she would be restrained, medicated . . . or worse.
Stop it, Faith. Don’t get paranoid! But the glittering eyes in the
closet watched her. She felt them. Wrapping one arm around her
middle, the other folded over it, she scraped her nails on the skin of
Scratch, scratch, scratch.
But maybe this was all a bad dream. A nightmare. Wasn’t that what
the sisters had assured her in their soft whispers as they gently patted her hands and stared at her with compassionate, disbelieving
eyes? An ugly dream. Yes! A nightmare of vast, intense proportions.
Even the nurse had agreed with the nuns, telling her that what she’d
thought she’d seen wasn’t real. And the doctor, cold, clinical, with
the bedside manner of a stone monkey, had talked to her as if she
were a small, stupid child.
“There, there, Faith, no one is following you,” he’d said, wearing a
thin, patronizing smile. “No one is watching you. You know that.
You’re . . . you’re just confused. You’re safe here. Remember, this is
your home now.”
Tears burned her eyes and she scratched more anxiously, her
short fingernails running over the smooth skin of her forearm, encountering scabs. Home? This monstrous place? She closed her eyes,
grabbed the headboard of the bed to steady herself.
Was she really as sick as they said? Did she really see people who
weren’t there? That’s what they’d told her, time and time again, to
the point that she was no longer certain what was real and what was
not. Maybe that was the plot against her, to make her believe she was
as crazy as they insisted she was.
She heard a footstep and looked up quickly.
The hairs on the backs of her arms rose.
She began to shake as she saw the door crack open a bit more.
“Sweet Jesus.” Trembling, she backed up, her gaze fixed on the
closet, her fingers scraping her forearm like mad. The door creaked
open in slow motion. “Go away!” she whispered, her stomach knotting as full-blown terror took root.
A weapon! You need a weapon!
Anxiously, she looked around the near-dark room with its bed
bolted to the floor.
Get your letter opener! Now!
She took one step toward the desk before she remembered that
Sister Madeline had taken the letter opener away from her.
The lamp on the night table!
But it, too, was screwed down.
She pressed the switch.
No great wash of light. Frantically, she hit the switch again. Over
Click! Click! Click! Click!
She looked up and saw him then. A tall man, looming in front of
the door to the hallway. It was too dark to see his features but she
knew his wicked smile was in place, his eyes glinting with an evil
He was Satan Incarnate. And there was no way to escape from
him. There never was.
“Please don’t,” she begged, her voice sounding pathetic and weak
as she backed up, her legs quivering.
“Please don’t what?”
Don’t touch me... don’t place your fingers anywhere on my
body... don’t tell me I’m beautiful... don’t kiss me . . .
“Leave now,” she insisted. Dear God, was there no weapon, nothing to stop him?
“Leave now or what?”
“Or I’ll scream and call the guards.”
“The guards,” he repeated in that low, amused, nearly hypnotic
voice. “Here?” He clucked his tongue as if she were a disobedient
child. “You’ve tried that before.”
She knew for certain that her plight was futile. She would submit
to him again.
As she always did.
“Did the guards believe you the last time?”
Of course they hadn’t. Why would they? The two scrawny, pimply-
faced boys hadn’t hidden the fact they considered her mad. At least
that’s what they’d insinuated, though they’d used fancier words . . .
Or had they said anything at all? Maybe not. Maybe they’d just
stared at her with their pitying, yet hungry, eyes. Hadn’t one of them
told her she was sexy? The other one cupping one cheek of her buttocks ...or...or had that all been a horrid, vivid nightmare?
Scratch, scratch, scratch. She felt her nails break the skin.
Humiliation washed over her. She inched backward, away from
her tormentor. What was happening to her was her own fault. She’d
sinned somehow, brought this upon herself. She was the one who
was evil. She had instigated God’s wrath. She alone could atone. “Go
away,” she whispered again, clawing more frantically at her arm.
“Faith, don’t,” he warned, his voice horrifyingly soothing. “Mutilating yourself won’t change anything. I’m here to help you. You
Help her? No . . . no, no, no!
She wanted to crumble onto the floor, to shed her guilt, to get
away from the itching.
Fight! an inner voice ordered her. Don’t let him force you into
doing things that you know are wrong! You have will. You can’t let
him do this to you.
But it was already too late.
Close to her now, he clucked his tongue again and she saw its
pointy, wet, pink tip flicking against the back of his teeth.
In a rough whisper, he said, “Uh-oh, Faith, I think you’ve been a
naughty girl again.”
“No.” She was whimpering. There it was . . . that horrid bit of excitement building inside her.
“Oh, Faith, don’t you know it’s a sin to lie?”
She glanced to the wall where the crucifix of Jesus was nailed into
the plaster. Did it move? Blinking, she imagined Jesus staring at her,
his eyes kind but silently reprimanding in the semidarkness.
No, Faith. That can’t be. Get a grip, for God’s sake.
It’s a painted image, that’s all.
Breathing rapidly, she dragged her gaze from Christ’s tortured
face to the fireplace . . . cold now, devoid of both ashes and the mirror above it, now an empty space, the outline visible against the rosebud wallpaper. They said she broke the mirror in a fit of rage, that
she’d cut herself. That her own image had caused her to panic.
But he’d done it, hadn’t he? This devil whose sole intent was to
torture her? Hadn’t she witnessed the act? She’d tried to refuse him,
and he’d crashed his fist into the looking glass. Mirrored shards
sprayed, hitting her, then crashed to the floor like glittery, deadly
That’s what had happened.
Or not? Now, feeling the blood beneath her nails, she wondered.
What’s happening to me?
She stared at her bloodied hands. Her fingernails, once manicured and polished, were broken, her palms scratched, and farther
up, upon her wrists, healed deep gashes. Had she done that to herself? In her mind’s eye she saw her hands wrapped around a shard of
glass and the blood dripping from her fingers . . .
Because you were going to kill him ...trying to protect yourself!
She closed her eyes and let out a long, mewling cry. It was true.
She didn’t know what to believe any longer. Truth and lies blended,
fact and fiction fused, her life, once so ordinary, so predictable, was
fragmented. Frayed. At her own hands.