If At First You Don’t Succeed
For two years, Justice Turnbull has paced his room at Halo Valley Security Hospital, planning to escape. Justice has a mission—one that began with a vicious murder two decades ago. And there are so many others who must be sent back to the hell that spawned them…
Laura Adderley didn’t plan to get pregnant by her soon-to-be ex-husband, though she’ll do anything to protect her baby. But now reporter Harrison Frost is asking questions about the mysterious group of women who live at Siren Song lodge. Harrison hasn’t figured out Laura’s connection to the story yet. But Justice knows. And he is coming…
Then Kill Again…
All her life, Laura has been able to sense approaching evil. But that won’t stop a psychopath bent on destroying her. Justice has been unleashed, and this time, there will be no place safe to hide…
Praise for Wicked Game
“Chilling… Swift pacing and an intriguing plot make this a first-rate supernatural thriller.” --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
I can smell her!
Another one whose scent betrays her!
Even inside my cell, I can smell her sickness. Her filth.
There have been others, too, while I’ve languished here.
Others who need to be avenged. Others who, with their
devil’s issue, must be driven back to the deadly fires from
which they were spawned!
Oh, sick women with your uncontrollable needs.
I am coming for you. . . .
Laura Adderley leaned a hand against the bathroom
stall, clutching the home pregnancy test in her other fist,
unable to look. She didn’t want this. Not when her marriage
was newly finished—a divorce she’d wanted as much
as her newly minted ex, maybe more. Byron had already
taken up residence with another woman, and he would undoubtedly
cheat on her as much as he’d cheated on Laura. It
didn’t matter. Their marriage had been ill-conceived from
the beginning; it had just taken Laura three years to recognize
Grabbing on to her courage, she slowly unfurled her fist,
staring down at the two glaring pink lines of the home pregnancy
She’d known it would be.
Squeezing her eyes closed, Laura inhaled a deep, calming
breath. She’d ignored the signs for as long as she could,
but there was no keeping her head in the sand any longer.
She was pregnant. With her ex-husband’s child. They’d
signed the papers that very week, though Byron had tried to
stall because he simply didn’t want to give Laura what she
wanted: freedom from lies and tyranny.
But now what?
Dr. Byron Adderley was an orthopedic surgeon at Ocean
Park Hospital, and she, Laura, was a floor nurse. They’d
moved to this smaller facility along the Oregon coast about
a year earlier, leaving one of Portland’s largest and most
prestigious hospitals for a slower-paced life. Laura hadn’t
wanted the move, had been adamantly against it. For reasons
she didn’t want to tell Byron, she wanted, needed, to stay
far, far away from Ocean Park and the surrounding hamlet
of Deception Bay.
But as if he’d somehow divined her secrets, he’d announced
he’d taken a position at the smaller hospital and
they were up and moving. Laura had been stunned. Had
told him she wasn’t going. Simply was not going. But in
the end he’d gotten his way, and though she’d dragged her
feet, she’d reluctantly made this move in the vain hope that
she could get her dying marriage off life support, though
she knew she no longer loved him, maybe never really had.
But with a new start, it was possible something could
change. Maybe her heart could be rewon. Maybe Byron
would want just her. Maybe everything would be . . . better.
Then he was discovered groping one of the Ocean Park
nurses in an empty hospital room. The hospital tried to chastise
Byron Adderley, but he wasn’t the kind of man to be
chastised. The nurse was summarily dismissed and the incident
swept under the hospital rugs . . . and Laura filed for divorce.
At first he’d argued with her. Not that he wanted her; it
just wasn’t his decision and so therefore it couldn’t be. She
didn’t listen and he changed tactics, humbly begging for a
second chance. Laura was suspicious of his motives, aware
he might be acting. But she looked down the road of her own
future; and it was decidedly bleak and lonely; and one night,
three months ago, he’d sworn that he loved her, that he would
never cheat on her again, that he would seek help for past
mistakes. She had wanted to believe him so much. Needed
to. Shut the clamoring voice in her head that warned her to
be smart, and one thing led to another and they ended up
making desperate love together. A second chance, maybe a
last chance that Laura had to take.
And then another nurse came forward, complaining that
Dr. Adderley had made inappropriate advances toward her.
Byron vehemently denied the charge, but Laura, who had
abilities that he didn’t understand—some she didn’t understand
herself—knew without a doubt that he was lying
through his miserable white teeth.
She let the divorce proceedings run their course, and
being Byron, he took up with another woman. This time
Laura didn’t look back. She was through with Byron
Adderley, and until today, she’d been determined to move
back to Portland and find employment far, far away from
Ocean Park and Deception Bay.
But now . . .
The door to the bathroom opened. “Laura?” Nurse Perez
“I’ll be out in a minute,” Laura said, flushing the toilet
and wrapping the telltale wand in toilet paper and shoving
it in her purse.
“We need help in the ER. We’ve got a head trauma coming
She heard the door close and let herself out of the bathroom.
Washing her hands, she looked hard at her reflection
in the mirror. Serious blue-gray eyes stared back at her; and
she could see the beginning of her own dishwater blond
hair reappearing at her hairline, the longer, darker tresses
trying to escape their ponytail and curl under her chin, a
strong chin, she’d been told, that, along with high cheekbones
and thick lashes, gave her a slightly aristocratic look,
something far from what she really was.
A familiar pressure built inside her head, and she mentally
pushed it back, visualizing a twenty-foot-high iron
gate to withstand the force coming at her. This was an automatic
response that clicked in almost unconsciously when
particularly strong, unwanted—bad—thoughts attacked
her. For years she thought everyone had this ability but then
slowly realized that it was unique to her alone. It was like
someone, or ones, was knocking at her brain, trying to get
inside, and she would push up a mental wall to keep them
out. But this time was different; there was more urgency
and determination. As if this someone were pounding a
metal hammer at her wall. At her brain.
Laura jerked to attention and glanced around, half expecting
to see who had spoken. But there was no one. Nary
a soul. And the voice had been decidedly male.
Her eyes widened; she watched the autonomic response
happen in the mirror as realization dawned, a realization
she wanted desperately to deny. He was back.
Shutting her lids tightly, she squeezed at her brain, holding
the wall firm until the hammering turned into a tinny,
little ping, ping, ping and was gone.
By the time she reached the ER, the ambulance was
screaming up the drive. It was 8:30 p.m. Late June, so it
was still light out, though she could see the shadows forming
beneath the gnarled branches of the scrub pine that
lined the asphalt. Red and white lights flashed in opposite
rotation and the woo-woo... woo-woo... woo-woo of the
shrieking siren seemed to vibrate the very air.
With a squeal of brakes the ambulance jumped to a halt.
EMTs leapt out and ran to the back of the vehicle. Doors
flew open, and a victim was rushed in on a gurney, head
surrounded by a white bandage that was dark red with
One of the residents sucked in a breath. “Jesus, it’s Conrad!”
“Conrad?” Laura repeated in shock, gazing down at one
of Ocean Park’s security guards: Conrad Weiser.
“What happened?” one of the trauma surgeons demanded.
“Attacked at Halo Valley,” the EMT responded. “He was
on the way there to pick up a patient, and one of the crazies
beat the hell out of him and escaped.”
“Halo Valley?” Laura repeated through lips that barely
“Yeah, the mental hospital,” Dylan, the EMT, clarified
“Let’s get him in here,” the trauma surgeon ordered as a
second victim on a gurney was off-loaded from the ambulance.
“You okay?” Dylan asked, frowning at Laura.
Bringing herself back to the present, Laura helped guide
the second wounded man’s gurney into the ER. He was
awake but his throat was wrapped and he clearly couldn’t
speak. His dark eyes glared at her, and Dylan said, almost
in an aside, giving her a second shock, “This is Dr. Maurice
Zellman from Halo Valley. He was stabbed in the throat.”
“Also by the escapee?” she asked.
“Looks like it.”
She watched as Zellman was hurriedly wheeled through
the double doors to the ER as well, and was unable to control
a full-body shivering that emanated from her very soul.
Halo Valley. The mental hospital for the criminally insane.
He was there.
Or, was that why he’d just tried to breach the wall in her
mind? He’d escaped!
And he was coming after her.
Oh, God, no! Not now! She thought of the baby and her
heart nearly stopped. Fear crawled up her spine and nestled
in her brain. No, no, no!
Blindly, pushing back that horrid snaking fear, she
turned to one of the other nurses. “Who did this?” she
“Don’t you wish we could ask Zellman and find out?”
Nurse Carlita Solano answered flatly. “Some nut job, for
Please, God, don’t let it be him.
But she knew it was. Justice Turnbull had escaped the
walls of Halo Valley Security Hospital, and he was free to
take up his murdering ways.
Laura watched the doors behind the injured doctor
slowly close with a soft hiss and wondered how this had
The day had started out like many others.
Dr. Maurice Zellman, one of Halo Valley Security Hospital’s
premier psychiatrists ...maybe the premier psychiatrist,
if you’d asked him... had begun his morning with a
piece of dry wheat toast, a soft-boiled egg, and a slice of
cantaloupe before driving to the hospital and arriving punctually
at 7:15 a.m. He had several consults before lunch,
called his wife, Patricia, at noon and learned that their
sixteen-year-old son, Brandt, had gotten in some kind of
trouble at school and was facing detention for the rest of
the week. With a snort of disgust, Zellman told Patricia that
Brandt would be facing some serious punishment from his
father as well, and then, ruffled, he visited a number of his
patients in their rooms—cells, really, though no one referred
to them as such—throughout the rest of the afternoon,
his mind on other things.
By six o’clock he was finished with work, except that he
hadn’t yet visited with his most notorious patient: Justice
Turnbull, a psychotic killer who had tried to kill his own
mother and had proven to be obsessed with murdering the
group of women who lived together in a lodge called Siren
Song along the Oregon coast. These women were whispered
about by the locals as members of a cult dubbed the
Colony and were reclusive, brooding, and odd. What Justice’s
personal beef was with them remained a mystery, one
Zellman had sought to crack in the over two years of Justice’s
incarceration but hadn’t quite managed yet. Justice
was also responsible for several other murders and was an
odd bird by anyone’s definition.
No one at Halo Valley knew what to make of him, and
they certainly didn’t know how to treat him. The other doctors
just didn’t have it, as far as Zellman was concerned.
They were adequate, in their way, whereas he, Maurice Zellman,
was extraordinary. He actually cured patients instead
of resorting to mere behavioral modifications.
And Justice . . . well . . . Maurice had made significant
progress with him. Significant. Yes, the man was still obsessed
with the Siren Song women, but that was because
Justice was apparently related to them in some way. At least
he thought he was, though that had yet to be proven. Maybe
the women were a cult; maybe they weren’t. They were certainly
paranoically reclusive and, in appearance, looked as
if they came from another century. Zellman was inclined to
think they should be left alone to their own devices. Every
one found a way to live in this world and there was no right
way or wrong way, although getting Justice to see that point
was a work in progress. For reasons of his own, Justice
Turnbull seemed determined to snuff them all out.
But... there had been progress, Zellman reminded
himself with a mental pat on the back. Initially, when Justice
had first been incarcerated at Halo Valley, he’d bellowed
long and loud that he would kill them all and their
devil’s issue! The staff hadn’t known whom he meant, at
first, but he made it clear that he wanted to wipe out all the
ssissterrss at Siren Song. With the help of time and antipsychotics,
he’d all but recanted this mission. He still was
agitated about them; he couldn’t completely disguise it
when Zellman would mention the women of the lodge, just
to see. But Justice wasn’t nearly as single-minded as he had
been at first. Was he cured? No. Would he ever be? In Justice
Turnbull’s case, unlikely, though Dr. Maurice Zellman
was definitely the man for the job if there was a chance.
And Maurice understood Justice was tortured by
demons of his own making, which didn’t matter to his colleagues
one whit. They had locked the man away for the
next few decades with no chance of getting released. Paranoid
schizophrenic. Sociopath. Psychopath. Homicidal maniac...
Justice Turnbull might be a little of all, but he was
still a patient in need of care.
With a glance at his watch, Zellman noted the time: 6:45
p.m. He had a surprise for Justice, one Justice had been
asking for and Zellman had finally been able to put together,
though not without much resistance. With a satisfied
smile on his face, he headed for Justice’s room. It was
at the end of the hall by design as no one wanted to visit
him. In fact, no one ever did, outside of hospital personnel.
He was considered weird by the other inmates, which was
saying a lot, as they were criminally insane themselves,
every last one. But every group had a pecking order, and
Halo Valley Security Hospital was no exception. As one of
the hospital’s leading physicians treating some of the most
notorious patients—killers, sadists, rapists, to name a few—
Maurice Zellman was intimately aware of how mentally
unstable and deranged the men and women were on this
side of the hospital, the side that housed those convicted of
serious crimes. They might be excused from regular prison
by reason of insanity, but it didn’t mean they weren’t the
worst kind of criminals. That was why they were housed on
Side B, as this sterile section of the hospital was euphemistically
called. Side B. The side for the irredeemable.
Connected to Side A, where the mentally ill without criminal
tendencies were lodged, by a skyway, surrounded by a
tall chain-link fence and razor wire, which were partially
hidden by a laurel hedge, all the better to make everyone
think the hospital was a warm and cozy place. In truth, Side
B was little more than a prison for the criminally insane.
Dr. Zellman was high in the pecking order of the specialists
on Side B. He understood the criminal mind in a
way that both fascinated and horrified the less imaginative
doctors. Well, that was their problem, wasn’t it? he thought
with a sniff. Dr. Maurice Zellman did his job. And he did it
very, very well.
With a tightening of his lips, he picked up his pace. He
was running late, and checking on Turnbull was going to
make him later still, but he really had no choice as Justice
was his patient and was patently feared by the rest of the
staff. This fact half amused Zellman, who’d worked with
the strange man ever since he’d been brought to Side B, because
Justice was really no more frightening than any other
psychotic. He was just a little more directionally motivated,
focused on women, specifically these Colony women.
Just as Zellman reached Justice’s room, the door flew
open and Bill Merkely, one of the guards, practically leapt
into the hall. Merkely didn’t immediately see Zellman, as he
was looking back into Justice’s room. “So, long, schizo!” he
yelled harshly, his beefy face red. He yanked the door shut
and checked the automatic lock as Zellman cleared his
throat behind him. Merkely jumped as if prodded with a
hot poker, his already red face turning magenta. “Fucker
told me I was going to die!” he cried as an excuse.
“You can’t listen to him.”
“I don’t. But he sure as hell predicts a whole lot of shit!”
“What were you doing in his room?”
“Picking up his tray. But I had to leave it in there. Hope
the food rots!”
He stomped off toward the guards’ station, which divided
Halo Valley Security Hospital’s Side B from Side A,
the gentler section, which housed patients who weren’t
considered a serious threat to society. Zellman thought of
Side A as an Alzheimer’s wing, though he would never say
so aloud as they considered themselves to be a helluva lot
more than institutional caretakers. He shook his head at the
lot of them. Perception. So many people just didn’t get it.
He had a key to Justice’s room himself, and he cautiously
unlocked the door. Justice had never attacked him;
he’d never attacked anyone since he’d been brought to the
hospital, but the man had a history, oh, yes, indeedy he did.
Now the patient stood on the far side of the room, disengaged
from whatever little drama had occurred between
him and Merkely. Justice was tall, dusty blond, and slim, almost
skinny, but hard and tough as rawhide. He didn’t
make eye contact as Zellman entered, but he flicked a look
toward the meal tray, which had been untouched except for
“That man is afraid of me,” Justice said, now in his sibilant
voice. Always a faint hiss to his words. An affectation,
“Yes, he is.”
“He always leaves the tray.”
Zellman had a clipboard with a pen attached shoved
under one arm. There were cameras in Justice’s one-room
cell, tracking his every move. Zellman didn’t need to watch
reams of film to remind himself of the content of each of
their meetings. He wrote himself copious notes and typed
up reports, which he suspected no one ever read. They all
wanted to forget Justice Turnbull and his strangeness.
When first brought to Halo Valley, he’d referred to the
women he sought to harm as “Sister,” in his hissing way.
“Sssiissterrrs ...,” he would rasp. “Have to kill them all!”
he’d warned. But a lot of that dramatic act had disappeared