Megan Keeler died years ago—or so everyone believes. In fact, she disappeared to escape from her sadistic husband, Glenn. When dismembered body parts were found near their home, Glenn was convicted of his wife’s murder. And Megan, terrified for her unborn child’s safety, never came forward with the truth…
Is More Terrifying
Since then, Megan has built a new life in Seattle for herself and her son, Josh. She’s never forgotten that she’s a fugitive, and Josh knows nothing about her past. But someone does. First, there are anonymous emails and threats, just as she learns that Glenn has been released from prison. Then the unthinkable happens: a masked man breaks into their home and abducts Josh…
To save her son, Megan must put herself at the mercy of a maniac. Is Glenn a cold-blooded killer determined to destroy her world piece by piece, or is the truth even more twisted? Megan thought she knew fear, but her nightmare is only beginning…
Praise for the Novels of Kevin O’Brien
“White knuckle action! …takes readers into the darkest corners of the human mind.” —Tess Gerritsen on One Last Scream
“Scary! Read this page turner with the lights on!” —Lisa Jackson on Watch Them Die
Glenview, Illinois—October 25, 1996
Her son was awfully quiet.
Ensconced on a park bench in the little playground,
Maggie divided her time between composing a
grocery list and watching her four-year-old, Mark, play
on the jungle gym.
BBQ Potato Chips, she scribbled down on the personalized
notepad with Ms. Margaret Farris printed
along the top of the page with the cheesy illustration of
a pumpkin patch. She had gotten the notepad from the
March of Dimes or the American Cancer Society or
one of those places that sent her junk mail. She always
felt a bit guilty for keeping her “personal gift” and
tossing out the rest of it. But not too guilty—she gave
to the United Way at the office.
Maggie worked part-time, selling ad space for the
Pioneer Press, a weekly newsmagazine for several
suburbs along the Chicago North Shore. She cherished
these Fridays off, spending the day with Mark. After
this, they’d go grocery shopping at Dominic’s. They
now had a tradition on Friday nights: she and Mark
would meet her husband, Ed, at the Glenview train station
and they’d go for dinner at The Willow Inn.
Sitting on that park bench, bundled in a pea coat,
with her light brown hair fluttering in the breeze, Maggie
had no idea this wouldn’t be one of their regular
Friday nights. They wouldn’t make it to the supermarket.
She added rice to the shopping list, and then K-Mart
Bars. That was what Mark called Special K Bars. Maggie
had gotten him to eat the healthy snacks, but still
couldn’t get him to call them by their correct name.
So—in the Farris household, they were K-Mart Bars.
And if somebody ate too many, they might get a
stomachache and need to take some Pencil Bismal—
Dressed in jeans, red tennis shoes, and his blue
Chicago Bears jacket with the orange C logo on the
back, he scurried over to the slide. The sun caught him
at a certain angle, and made his curly, dark brown hair
It was a beautiful, cool-crisp fall afternoon. The
trees were a riot of color, and fallen leaves danced
across the grass. The playground stood in the far corner
of a big playfield. Some shrubs near the monkey
bars provided a natural barrier to a gully alongside a
set of railroad tracks. It smelled like someone nearby
was burning leaves.
She watched Mark careen down the slide—without
making a sound. He played like some people studied—
quietly and focused. While watching TV or eating or
even lying in bed, he was a regular chatterbox. He even
talked to himself. But not right now. He was concentrating, and the task at hand was making his way down
Maggie had no complaints. The silence was lovely—
no traffic noise, just the occasional chirping from some
birds. She went back to her grocery list. Rollos & mini
Nestlé Crunch, she wrote. They needed something for
the trick-or-treaters, but who was she kidding? She’d
be dipping into both bags. Hell, she’d probably have to
buy another supply before Halloween. Better she give
out some candy that wasn’t so tempting—maybe Mike
& Ikes and Hot Tamales. No, she’d only eat those, too.
Maggie jotted down a few more candy candidates, then
scratched them out and scribbled: Halloween crap—
whatever’s on sale.
In the distance, she heard a train horn blaring. She
automatically looked up. Mark wasn’t on the slide
anymore. She glanced over toward the vacant monkey
bars—and then at the swing set. The empty swings
swayed in the breeze. The chains holding them squeaked
“Mark?” she called. Maggie sprung up from the
bench. Her notepad and pen fell to the ground. “Mark,
honey, where are you?” she yelled. Glancing around
the park, she had this awful feeling in the pit of her
stomach. She didn’t see him on the railroad tracks on
the other side of the bushes. And he wasn’t in the play-
field, either. How could he have just vanished?
She kept hoping to hear his laugh. Maybe he was
playing hide-and-seek with her. But all she heard was
the train horn, getting louder and louder. She anxiously
looked over toward the tracks again. There was still no
sign of him.
The street was on the other side of the playfield, and
she didn’t see any cars coming or going. No one could
have driven off with him. She’d only looked away for a
few moments. With a hand on her forehead, she wandered
around the small park, calling out his name.
Why in God’s name didn’t he answer her?
With a roar, the train sped by, drowning out her
cries. As it churned down the tracks, the noise sub-
sided—only to be replaced by the sound of her son’s
screams. Panic-stricken, all Maggie could think was
that the train had run over him—and severed his foot or
Maggie raced toward the tracks and broke through a
gap in the shrubs. Peering down at the gully that sloped
down from the railroad tracks, she spotted Mark.
“Honey?” she whispered.
Her little boy stood at the bottom of the ditch—amid
the thorny bushes and overgrown grass. He’d just pulled
something out of a black plastic garbage bag. Frozen,
he held it in his trembling hand, and kept shrieking. It
was a severed human arm.
He couldn’t seem to move or let go of the mangled
thing. And he couldn’t stop screaming.
Horrified, Maggie rushed down the gully to him.
She had to knock the severed arm out of his grasp. The
empty black plastic bag danced in the wind. Maggie
hugged her young son, but he kept screaming. His little
body shook in her embrace.
Maggie glanced down at the blue-white limb amid
the overgrown grass. The fingertips on the hand had
been cut off, and hundreds of ants were crawling all
The headline and subhead ran across the top of page
three of Saturday’s Chicago Tribune:
ANOTHER GRISLY DISCOVERY IN
‘GARBAGE BAG’ KILLING
Severed Arm Found Near Glenview Playground
Seated on a stool at the window counter of the Plaza
del Lago Starbucks in Wilmette, he paid no attention to
the traffic on Sheridan Road or the view of the lake. He
sipped his Grande Americano and pored over the news
article. He was a bit disappointed the story hadn’t
made the front page.
No photo accompanied the article, but there was a
map of the Chicago North Shore suburbs. It pinpointed
each location where a garbage bag containing a body
part was found. So far there were three sites on the
map, all within a few miles of each other.
The most recent find had been the right arm, which
he’d tossed in a ditch by some railroad tracks near a
playground in Glenview. He’d sealed the bag up pretty
well, but that was no guarantee raccoons or birds
wouldn’t get to it.
Fortunately, a four-year-old Glenview boy—the
news article didn’t give his name—found it first. The
news story indicated that his handiwork was still intact—
nothing gnawed away, no bite marks to mar the
clean, surgical cuts he’d made just below her shoulder.
He hadn’t been as lucky with the first find. Wood
creatures had discovered the left leg hours before a
group of schoolkids on a field trip stumbled upon it
along a forest trail in Glencoe’s Turnbull Woods on
Monday morning. The possums or raccoons had dragged
the garbage bag—along with the half-eaten limb—to
the path’s edge.
Another animal, a collie named Tippin, had unearthed
the left arm wrapped in a garbage bag by some
bushes at the edge of Tower Road Beach in Winnetka.
Bradley Reece, a retired English teacher, had been taking
Tippin on an unleashed run along the beach when
the dog had made the discovery late Thursday afternoon.
“Cook County Medical Examiner Dennis Gotlieb
has confirmed the severed leg and arms are from the
same unidentified female victim,” the article stated.
“The fingertips of both hands had been cut off. Gotlieb
indicated that the victim appears to have been killed
within the past two weeks.”
Nine days ago, to be exact, thought the man, hunched
over the counter with his newspaper. He’d strangled her
last Thursday. It was supposed to have been a night of
reconciliation, or at least she’d thought so. He’d surprised
her with a bottle of champagne and a carton of
Ben & Jerry’s strawberry. She never got to finish that
first glass of champagne.
Three garbage bags containing her remains were
still out there at various locations along the North
Shore. A cold snap in the weather had helped keep the
limbs relatively fresh. They hadn’t yet found the right
leg, her lower torso, and the upper torso. But they
He didn’t think they would ever find her head. He’d
buried it very carefully.
According to the news article, one of the detectives
on the scene at Tower Road Beach on Thursday had referred
to the discovery as part of the Garbage Bag
The man sitting in Starbucks hoped the moniker
caught on. He liked the sound of it.
“If I told you a secret—I mean, a really, majorly serious
secret—would you promise not to blab to anybody?”
Seventeen-year-old Candy Kruger couldn’t keep it
inside any longer. She had to talk to someone. She nervously
ran a hand through her light brown hair—styled
after Rachel in Friends. The sophisticated cut seemed
incongruous with her St. Regina High School uniform:
white Peter Pan–collar blouse, plaid kilt, and knee
Her best friend, Trish Scanlin, gazed at her from behind
a pair of slightly mannish glasses. She had frizzy
red hair, which today was pulled back and braided. She
blinked several times. “God, what is it?” she whispered.
“Candice and Patricia!” their biology teacher, Ms.
Trotter, admonished them. Maybe it was the photo of
President Clinton—right under the photo of Pope John
Paul II—by the blackboard, but Ms. Trotter always reminded
Candy of Hillary Clinton. Though a redhead,
she did her hair like the first lady—and she had that
same brainiac, no-nonsense demeanor. “Eyes on your
work, and put your gloves on, please,” Ms. Trotter said.
Candy automatically straightened up on her stool.
With a sigh, she slipped on the pair of latex gloves that
had been placed on the worktable in front of her. She
rolled her eyes at Trish, and then gazed down at the
wrinkly pink-grayish dead thing in a pan with a plastic
bag rolled up beside it. Candy’s lip curled. Part of the
umbilical cord was still attached to the fetal pig they
had to dissect for class. She and Trish had been working
with the unborn piglet for three days now, and
Candy still wasn’t used to it. Trish did most of the cutting.
They’d named the poor thing Boris, after their
drippy trig teacher who stunk from wearing too much
bargain-basement cologne. Their little Boris stunk as
well—from formaldehyde or whatever the solution
was preserving him.
According to Ms. Trotter, the insides of a pig were
similar to a human’s, and that was why this animal was
so ideal for dissection. And no fetal pigs were murdered
for this biology class—at least, not exactly. They
were the unborn piglets of sows butchered by the meat-
packing industry. They were extracted from the dead
That little bit of information didn’t make Candy feel
any better about cutting into the poor thing. And it had
her swearing off bacon—at least until the end of the semester.
She kept gazing at Boris and at the plastic bag in
which they stored him between classes. She thought
about cutting into him, and couldn’t help making a
connection to the latest discovery in the Garbage Bag
The day before, someone had found the woman’s
upper torso. It had been inside a black garbage bag at a
construction site—a half-finished new mansion in
Hubbard Woods, not far from the house they used in
Home Alone. Like anyone would want to live in that
new mansion now, no matter how pretty it was, even in
that ritzy cake-eater neighborhood.
According to the TV news, the torso had some distinct
“So—what’s the big secret?” Trish whispered. Hovering
over Boris, she held a suture in her gloved hand.
But she was looking at Candy.
Ms. Trotter was busy helping Barbie Ray, who was a
total moron, so Candy figured it was okay to talk. “You
know how yesterday they found a new section of that
woman who got murdered?” she said under her breath.
“And you know how my aunt supposedly killed herself?”
Trish scowled at her. “What do you mean, supposedly?”
“I mean, I don’t think she committed suicide,”
Candy admitted in a quiet voice. She kept her head
down, pretending to be focused on the fetal pig in front
of her. “I think she’s the one whose body parts they’re
finding all over the place.”
“You’re kidding!” Trish said, out loud.
Candy automatically glanced toward Ms. Trotter,
who glared at them. “Patricia, Candice? Is there something
you’d like to share with the rest of the class? And
does it have anything to do with the digestive system of
Their mouths open, both Candy and Trish quickly
shook their heads. Then they pretended to get back to
work on Boris. Candy stared at the internal organs of
the unborn thing. She thought of her Aunt Lisa—and
the section of torso found at that construction site.
Candy felt sick. She remembered how beautiful her
Aunt Lisa was. They weren’t too far apart in age. Lisa
was only twenty-five. She had wavy, shoulder-length
chestnut hair and big blue eyes with long, thick lashes.
Candy had seen her without makeup, and she was still
gorgeous. Candy had seen her naked, too. Her aunt had
taken her swimming at the country club pool a few
times over the summer, and Candy had snuck a curious
peek at her in the locker room. She felt clunky and pale
in her aunt’s naked presence. Lisa had long, tan, shapely
legs, a tiny waist, and petite perfect breasts. She seemed
flawless—until Candy glimpsed the purple-hued bruise
on Lisa’s lower back. She also had an ugly scar along
her left rib cage—a cluster of three angry-reddish marks,
each about the size of a nickel.
Lisa seemed to catch her staring, and she quickly
wrapped a towel around her. Earlier, while swimming,
Candy had wondered why her aunt—with her killer
body—would wear a modest one-piece swimsuit to the
pool. Now she knew. “God, Aunt Lisa, what happened?”
Candy asked. “It looks like you burned yourself,
and your back. . . .”
Her Aunt Lisa just shook her head, which Candy
took as a cue to shut the hell up. Outside, kids screamed,
giggled, and splashed in the pool. But in their little alcove
of the locker room, Candy just stared at her Aunt
Lisa for a moment.
Lisa let out a nervous laugh. “Oh, I’m such a klutz.
I—I had an accident with the barbecue, hon. That’s
what I get for messing around in your Uncle Glenn’s
territory. I fell—and suddenly there were hot coals and
me sprawled out all over the patio....” With a wave of
her hand, she seemed to dismiss the subject. “I’m so
embarrassed. I don’t even want to talk about it. You
know what I think? I think we should head to Old Orchard
and go shopping. Fall’s just around the corner,
hon, and you’ll need clothes for all the dates you’ll
Clutching the towel around her, Aunt Lisa retreated
toward the shower area. Candy frowned as she watched
her duck around the corner of the tiled room. She’d
known right then that story about the barbecue was
probably a lie.
Glenn was Candy’s uncle—her mom’s younger
brother and a big-shot surgeon. He and Lisa had been
married for a year. Lisa had a brother with cancer or
something, and he was always in and out of the hospital.
That was how Lisa had met Glenn—during one of
her hospital visits to her brother. She didn’t really have
any other family. As for girlfriends, the way Lisa explained
it she just grew apart from most of her friends
when she married Glenn. She became sort of a big sister
to Candy—a big sister with money, who took her
places and bought her stuff. Plus she was funny and
sweet, and a good listener. Candy confided in her. She
didn’t think there was anything she couldn’t tell her
And yet on that afternoon in the women’s changing
room by the country club pool, she’d realized there
were some things Lisa kept secret from her.
Candy wouldn’t put it together about the bruise and
the burn marks until after Aunt Lisa disappeared.
She’d been missing for almost three weeks now.
They figured she’d drowned herself. The police had
discovered Lisa’s teal-colored Honda Civic parked on a
remote bridge in Iowa—of all places. She must have
driven half a day to get there. Inside the car, they found
a quart of bourbon, a bottle of Valium, her purse, and a
note that simply read:
To the People Left Who Care About Me—
Though it was obvious the Mississippi had swallowed
up Lisa’s body, Candy’s Uncle Glenn reported
his wife missing. He seemed to be the only person who
refused to believe Lisa had killed herself.
Candy had missed a few days of school in the wake
of Aunt Lisa’s suicide. Devastated, she was left wondering
why Aunt Lisa had taken her own life—until
she overheard her parents talking a week later.
Trying to catch up on the schoolwork she’d missed,
Candy often tried different spots in the house to study
so she wouldn’t get too bored. That night, it was at the
top of the back stairs—just above the kitchen. Her parents
didn’t know she was there. Her mother was cooking
dinner. Candy could hear ice rattling in glasses and
“I think Glenn’s feeling so guilty right now, and
that’s why he’s in denial,” her mother was saying.
“He’s just sore that Lisa beat him to it,” Candy’s father
grunted. “We should have done something, Audrey.
What with the way your brother beat that poor
girl—and all those secret trips to the hospital to patch
her up—I really thought the son of a bitch would end
up killing her.”
Sitting at the top of the stairs with a highlighter and
a copy of Beowulf, Candy remembered the three
nickel-size burn marks on her Aunt Lisa’s rib cage and
the ugly bruise on her lower back. Lisa had given that
vague explanation about tripping and knocking over
the barbecue on the patio. She’d said the barbecue was
Uncle Glenn’s territory. But in all the times Candy had
been at their house, she’d never seen Uncle Glenn cook
a single thing—be it on the barbecue, the range, or the
toaster oven. Aunt Lisa had always done the cooking,
while Uncle Glenn sat back with his fancy imported
beer from Germany and a fat cigar from Cuba. Candy
remembered how he’d puff on that cigar, and it would
glow at the end—making an orange-ashy circle about
the size of a nickel.
Candy suddenly stood up. Her copy of Beowulf fell
off her lap and toppled down the stairs. She managed
to compose herself and hurried down the steps to retrieve
it. Clutching the book to her chest, she passed
through the kitchen without looking at her parents. She
just kept walking—toward her father’s study in the
front of the house. Her mom called to her that dinner
would be ready in ten minutes. “Okay!” she answered,
curling up on the leather sofa in the paneled study.
She didn’t tell her parents what she’d overheard—
and she didn’t tell them about the bruise and burn
marks that no one else had seen.
Candy had never suspected her aunt was being
abused. Now certain things made sense. There had always
been something about her uncle she didn’t like.
He was generous, and gave her the best Christmas and
birthday presents. But by the time she hit high school,
Candy realized he always talked down to her, like she
was stupid or something. And he could be so tactless,
too. She never forgot the time he started counting the
zits on her face—and said maybe she needed a good
dermatologist. She went to bed crying that night. But
he talked the same way to her mom and Aunt Lisa—always
so critical. He acted like his shit didn’t stink—
and everyone else’s did.
As much as she didn’t like Glenn, she had adored
his new wife.
Sometimes, Lisa had to postpone their gal-pal dates,
and she gave only a vague explanation as to why. Then
she wouldn’t be available for days. Now Candy wondered
if the absences were because Lisa had been
recovering from another round with Glenn. Candy remembered
pitching a fit on her last birthday, because
late that morning, Lisa had called trying to cancel their
lunch plans. She’d managed to talk her aunt into keeping
their date at Hackney’s. Sitting at a window table,
Candy had been so excited about the grown-up girls’
lunch that she hadn’t really noticed Aunt Lisa wasn’t
quite herself. She didn’t say much, and when she did,
she talked kind of funny, slurring her words. Lisa had
ordered soup, and barely ate it. Candy thought her
patty melt was to die for, and tried to get Aunt Lisa to
take a bite. She practically had to shove it in Lisa’s face
to get her to taste it.
Candy noticed her aunt’s eyes watering up as she
chewed. She let out a whimper, and finally spit out the
food into her napkin. The glob of half-eaten food was
full of blood. Candy gasped when she saw it.
Lisa quickly sipped some water. When she put the
glass down again, Candy noticed the water had just the
slightest pink tinge to it. “The inside of your mouth is
bleeding,” Candy whispered.
Lisa nodded. “I had a rough morning at the dentist,”
she said in her slurred speech. She started to cry. “I
should have told you earlier, but I didn’t want to spoil
your birthday lunch. And now I have. I’m so sorry,
They didn’t stay long after that. Candy had the rest
of her sandwich wrapped to go. While Lisa drove her
back home in the teal-colored Honda Civic, they were
uncharacteristically quiet. The sun streamed through
the windshield, and in the harsh light, Candy noticed
her aunt was wearing a lot of makeup, mostly foundation.
But it didn’t completely conceal the bruise on her
Candy recalled carefully kissing her good-bye on
the cheek. Yet she’d never allowed herself to wonder
what might have really happened to her. She’d believed
Lisa’s story about the dentist—as if any dentist in his
right mind would send a patient home with a mouth
full of blood.
It all started to make sense the night Candy heard
her parents talking in the kitchen. Lisa’s brother had
died only two weeks before she jumped off that tall
bridge in Iowa. Maybe his death had pushed her over
the edge. But certainly giving her an extra nudge was
an asshole of a husband who abused her.
Just the same, Candy wondered why Aunt Lisa hadn’t
told her how she was suffering. If Candy had known,
she would have insisted her parents do something—or
she might have called the police herself. She might
have been able to help her. Candy missed her Aunt
Lisa, and yet she couldn’t help feeling angry and resentful
Then something happened, and she realized her aunt
might not have killed herself after all: the upper torso
of a woman was found in a garbage bag at that construction
site in Hubbard Woods.
Candy stared down at the fetal pig in the dissecting
pan—and at the rolled-up plastic bag beside it. She
kept thinking of her Aunt Lisa.
“What are you talking about?” Trish asked in a hushed
voice. She squinted at Candy. “Your aunt jumped off
a bridge and drowned herself. It was in all the newspapers
and on TV....”
Candy shot a cautious glance at Ms. Trotter, who
was helping another student. She leaned in close to her
friend. “They never found her body,” she whispered.
“My uncle used to beat her up. Last summer when we
were changing clothes at the pool, I saw the bruises on
her—and these burn marks on her side. I didn’t know
what it was—until I overheard my parents talking
about how he abused her. My Uncle Glenn, I’m pretty
sure he used his cigar on her....”
Grimacing, Trish put down the suture. “God, that’s
awful,” she said under her breath. “So he burned her?”
Tears filled Candy’s eyes and she nodded. “I think
he killed her. The torso they found yesterday, the newspaper
said there were marks on it—three burn marks
on her side.”
Trish heard R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as
We Know It” playing on the other side of the bedroom
door. She knocked, and then pushed the door open.
Her twenty-two-year-old sister, Mary Ellen, who
had graduated from college last year, was sitting on the
beige shag-carpeted floor in her pajamas. She had the
boom box beside her, and several CDs—some in their
cases, some not. Her auburn hair was pulled back in a
ponytail. She frowned at her. “Trish, do you mind? I’m
busy here! I’m making a mixtape for Greg....”
Trish hesitated in the doorway. She glanced over her
shoulder to make sure her parents weren’t within
earshot. “Listen,” she said, biting her lip. “If I told you
a secret—I mean, a really, really serious secret—would
you promise not to tell anybody?”
Trish’s sister reached over and switched off the
boom box, silencing R.E.M. in mid-song. She stared at
her. “What are you talking about?”