Scream for Me

Scream for Me

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For her exciting debut in hardcover, New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose delivers a heart-stopping suspense novel that picks up where DIE FOR ME left off, with a detective determined to track down a brutal murderer.

Special Agent Daniel Vartanian has sworn to find the perpetrator of multiple killings that mimic a 13-year-old murder linked to a collection of photographs that belonged to his brother, Simon, the ruthless serial killer who met his demise in DIE FOR ME. Daniel is certain that someone even more depraved than his brother committed these crimes, and he's determined to bring the current murderer to justice and solve the mysterious crime from years ago.

With only a handful of images as a lead, Daniel's search will lead him back through the dark past of his own family, and into the realm of a mind more sinister than he could ever imagine. But his quest will also draw him to Alex Fallon, a beautiful nurse whose troubled past reflects his own. As Daniel becomes attached to Alex, he discovers that she is also the object of the obsessed murderer. Soon, he will not only be racing to discover the identity of this macabre criminal, but also to save the life of the woman he has begun to love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433247125
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date: 05/01/2008
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 12
Product dimensions: 7.03(w) x 6.02(h) x 1.98(d)

About the Author

Karen Rose is a RITA Award-winning author who fell in love with books from the time she learned to read. She started writing stories of her own when the characters in her head started talking and just wouldn't be silenced. A former chemical engineer and high-school chemistry and physics teacher, she lives in Florida with her husband of twenty years, their two children, and the family cat, Bella.

Tavia Gilbert is an actor, writer, singer, and audio documentary producer located in New England.She sings with an a cappella choir and leads the board of the acclaimed Add Verb Productions, a nationally touring non-profit theater company.She regularly narrates classic literature for Literary Companion, an educational audiobook company, and has narrated a number of titles for Blackstone Audio.

Read an Excerpt

Scream for Me
By Karen Rose
Grand Central Publishing Copyright © 2008 Karen Rose
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-50920-6

Chapter One Arcadia, Georgia, Present day Friday, January 26, 1:25 a.m.

He'd chosen her with care. Taken her with relish. Made her scream, long and loud.

Mack O'Brien shivered. It still gave him goose bumps. Still made his blood race and his nostrils flare as he remembered how she'd looked, sounded. Tasted. The taste of pure fear was like nothing else. This he knew. She'd been his first murder. She would not be his last.

He'd chosen her final resting place with equal care. He let her body roll off his back and drop to the soggy ground with a muted thud. He squatted next to her and arranged the rough brown blanket in which he'd wrapped her like a shroud, his anticipation growing. Sunday was the annual cross-county bicycle race. One hundred cyclists would be passing this way. He'd placed her so that she'd be visible from the road.

Soon she would be found. Soon they would hear of her demise.

They'll wonder. And they'll suspect each other. They'll all be afraid.

He stood, satisfied with his handiwork. He wanted them to be afraid. He wanted them to shake and tremble like girls. He wanted them to know the true taste of fear.

Because he knew that taste, just as he knew hunger and fury. That he knew all those flavors so intimately was their fault.

He looked down, nudged the brown blanket with his toe. She had paid. Soon, every one of them would suffer and they would pay. Soon they'd know he'd returned.

Hello, Dutton. Mack is back. And he wouldn't rest until he'd ruined them all.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Friday, January 26, 2:55 p.m.

"Ow. That hurt."

Alex Fallon glanced down at the pale, sullen teenage girl. "I suppose it does at that." Quickly Alex taped the IV needle in place. "Maybe you'll remember this the next time you're tempted to skip school, eat an entire hot fudge sundae, and end up in the ER. Vonnie, you have diabetes and denial won't change that. You have to follow-"

"My diet," Vonnie snarled. "I know already. Why can't everybody leave me alone?"

The words echoed in Alex's mind, as they always did. Gratitude to her family mixed with the sympathy for her patient, as it always did. "One of these days you're going to eat the wrong thing and end up ... downstairs."

Vonnie gave her best shot at belligerence. "So? What's downstairs anyway?"

"The morgue." Alex held the girl's startled gaze. "Unless that's what you want."

Abruptly, Vonnie's eyes filled with tears. "Some days it is."

"I know, honey." And she understood more than anyone outside her family imagined. "But you're going to have decide which it's going to be. Live or die."

"Alex?" Letta, their charge nurse, poked her head into the examination room. "You've got an urgent call on two. I can take over in here."

Alex squeezed Vonnie's shoulder. "I'm done for now." She gave Vonnie the eye. "I don't want to see you in here again." She handed the chart to Letta. "Who is it?"

"Nancy Barker from Fulton County Social Services down in Georgia."

Alex's heart sank. "That's where my stepsister lives."

Letta lifted her brows. "I didn't know you had a stepsister."

Technically Alex didn't, but the story was too long and her relationship with Bailey too convoluted. "I haven't seen her in a long time." Five years, in fact, when Bailey had shown up on Alex's Cincinnati doorstep higher than a kite. Alex had tried to get Bailey into rehab, but Bailey had disappeared, taking Alex's credit cards with her.

Letta's brow creased with concern. "I hope everything's okay."

Alex had been both expecting and dreading this call for years. "Yeah. Me, too."

It was one of those sad ironies, Alex thought as she hurried to the phone. Alex had been the one to attempt suicide all those years ago and Bailey was the one who'd ended up an addict. Family had made a huge difference. Alex had had Kim and Steve and Meredith to get her through. But Bailey's family ... Bailey had no one.

She picked up line two. "This is Alex Fallon."

"This is Nancy Barker. I'm with Fulton County Social Services."

Alex sighed. "Just tell me, is she alive?"

There was a long pause. "Who, Miss Fallon?"

Alex winced at the "Miss." She still wasn't used to not being "Mrs. Preville." Her cousin Meredith said it would be just a matter of time after her divorce, but a year had passed and Alex felt no closure. Perhaps it was because she and her ex still crossed paths several times a week. Right at this moment, as a matter of fact. Alex watched Dr. Richard Preville reach next to the phone for his own messages. Carefully not meeting her eyes, he bobbed an awkward nod. No, sharing shifts with her ex was not speeding her along the road to relationship recovery.

"Miss Fallon?" the woman prompted.

Alex wrenched her focus back. "Bailey. That is who you're calling about, isn't it?"

"Actually I'm calling about Hope."

"Hope." Alex repeated it blankly. "I don't understand. Hope what?"

"Hope Crighton, Bailey's daughter. Your niece."

Alex sat down, stunned. "I didn't know Bailey had a daughter." That poor child.

"Oh. Then you didn't know that you're listed as the emergency contact on all of Hope's registration forms at her preschool."

"No." Alex drew a bolstering breath. "Is Bailey dead, Ms. Barker?"

"I hope not, but we don't know where she is. She didn't show up for work this morning and one of her coworkers went to her house to check on her. The coworker found Hope curled up in a little ball in a closet."

Sick dread settled in Alex's gut, but she kept her voice calm. "And Bailey was gone."

"The last anyone saw her was last night when she picked Hope up from preschool."

Preschool. The child was old enough for preschool and Alex had no idea she'd even existed. Oh, Bailey, what have you done? "And Hope? Was she hurt?"

"Not physically, but she's scared. Very scared. She's not talking to anyone."

"Where is she?"

"Right now she's in emergency foster care." Nancy Barker sighed. "Well, if you're not going to take her, I'll line up a permanent foster family for her."

"I'll take her." The words were out of Alex's mouth before she even knew she planned to say them. But once said, she knew it was the right thing to do.

"You didn't even know she existed until five minutes ago," Barker protested.

"It doesn't matter. I'm her aunt. I'll take her." Like Kim took me. And saved my life. "I'll get there as soon as I can arrange leave from my job and buy a plane ticket."

Alex hung up, turned, and walked into Letta, whose brows were nearly off her forehead. Alex knew she'd been listening. "Well? Can I have the leave?"

Letta's eyes were filled with worry. "Do you have vacation saved up?"

"Six weeks. I haven't taken a day in more than three years." There hadn't been reason to. Richard never had time to go anywhere. He'd always been working.

"Then start out with vacation," Letta said. "I'll get somebody to cover your shifts. But, Alex, you know nothing about this child. Maybe she has a disability or special needs."

"I'll cope," Alex said. "She has no one, and she's family. I won't abandon her."

"Like her mother did." Letta tilted her head. "Like your mother did you."

Alex fought the wince, keeping her face impassive. Her past was only a few clicks away from anyone with Google. But Letta did mean well, so Alex made her lips curve. "I'll call you when I get down there and find out more. Thanks, Letta."

Arcadia, Georgia, Sunday, January 28, 4:05 p.m.

"Welcome back, Danny boy," Special Agent Daniel Vartanian murmured to himself as he got out of his car and surveyed the scene. He'd only been gone two weeks, but it had been an eventful two weeks. It was time to get back to work, back to his life. Which in Daniel's case meant the same thing. Work was his life, and death was his work.

Avenging death, that was. Not causing it. He thought of the past two weeks, of all the death, all the lives destroyed. It was enough to drive a man insane, if he let it. Daniel didn't intend to let it. He'd go back to his life, finding justice for one victim at a time. He'd make a difference. It was the only way he knew to ... atone.

The victim this day was a woman. She'd been found in a ditch on the side of the road, which was now lined with law enforcement vehicles of all shapes and functions.

The crime lab was already here, as was the ME. Daniel stopped at the edge of the road where someone had strung yellow crime scene tape and peered down into the ditch where the body lay, a tech from the ME's office crouched by her side. She'd been wrapped in a brown blanket that had been pulled away just enough to do the exam. Daniel could see she had dark hair and was perhaps five foot six. She was nude and her face was ... damaged. He'd lifted one leg over the tape when a voice stopped him.

"Stop, sir. This area is off limits."

Straddling the tape, Daniel looked over his shoulder to where a young, earnest-faced officer stood, one hand on his weapon. "I'm Special Agent Daniel Vartanian, Georgia Bureau of Investigation."

The man's eyes widened. "Vartanian? You mean-I mean-" He took a breath and straightened abruptly. "I'm sorry, sir. I was just surprised, that's all."

Daniel nodded, giving the young man a kind smile. "I understand." He didn't like it, but he did understand. The name Vartanian had gotten quite a bit of publicity in the week since his brother Simon's death, none of it good, all of it deserved. Simon Vartanian had taken seventeen lives in Philadelphia-two of those victims his own parents. The story had made every newspaper in the country. It would be a long time before the name Vartanian could be said without a wide-eyed response. "Where can I find the sheriff?"

The officer pointed about forty feet down the road. "That's Sheriff Corchran."

"Thanks, Officer." Daniel pulled his leg back over the tape and started walking again, conscious of the officer's eyes following him. In two minutes everyone here would know a Vartanian was on the scene. Daniel hoped he could keep the hubbub to a minimum. This wasn't about him or any other Vartanian, it was about that woman lying in the ditch wrapped in a brown blanket. She had family somewhere, people who would be missing her. People who would need justice and closure to get on with their lives.

Daniel had once thought justice and closure to be the same thing, that knowing a perpetrator had been caught and punished for his crimes closed the book on a painful chapter in the lives of the victims and their families. Now, hundreds of crimes, victims, and families later, he understood that every crime created a ripple effect, touched lives in ways that could never be measured. Simply knowing evil had been punished wasn't always enough to allow one to move on. Daniel knew all about that, too.

"Daniel." It was a surprised greeting from Ed Randall, head of the crime lab team. "I didn't know you were back."

"Just today." It was supposed to have been tomorrow, but having been away for two weeks, Daniel was next in the barrel for an assignment. When this call had come in, his boss had called him back in early. He stuck out his hand to the sheriff. "Sheriff Corchran, I'm Special Agent Vartanian, GBI. We'll provide any support you request."

The sheriff's eyes widened as he shook Daniel's hand. "Any relation to ...?"

God help me, yes. He made himself smile. "I'm afraid so."

Corchran studied him shrewdly. "You ready to be back?"

No. Daniel kept his voice level. "Yes. If it's a problem, I can request someone else."

Corchran seemed to consider it and Daniel waited, keeping his temper carefully locked down. It wasn't right, wasn't fair, but being judged by his family's deeds was his reality. Finally Corchran shook his head. "No, you don't need to do that. We're good."

Daniel's temper settled and again he made himself smile. "Good. So can you tell me what happened? Who discovered the body and when?"

"Today was our annual Cycle Challenge and this road is part of the course. One of the cyclists noticed the blanket. He didn't want to lose the race, so he called 911 and kept cycling. I have him waiting at the finish line if you need to talk to him."

"I'll want to talk to him, yes. Did anyone else stop?"

"No, we got lucky," Ed Randall said. "We had an undisturbed scene when we got here and no crowd watching-they were all at the finish line."

"That doesn't happen very often. Who was first on the scene from your department, Sheriff?" Daniel asked.

"Larkin. He lifted only a corner of the blanket to see her face." Corchran's stony face flinched, a telling sign. "I immediately called you guys. We don't have the resources to investigate a scene like this."

Daniel acknowledged the final statement with a nod. He appreciated sheriffs like Corchran who were willing to bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. So many were territorial, viewing any GBI involvement as ... a swarm of locusts descending on their town. Yes, that's how the sheriff of Daniel's hometown had put it only two weeks ago. "We'll work with you in whatever capacity you choose, Sheriff."

"For now, take it all," Corchran said. "My department is at your disposal." His jaw squared. "We haven't had a murder in Arcadia in the ten years since I've been in office. We want to see whoever did that go away for a long time."

"We do, too." Daniel turned to Ed. "So what do you know?"

"She was killed somewhere else and dumped here. Her body was found wrapped in a brown blanket."

"Like a shroud," Daniel murmured and Ed nodded.

"Just like. The blanket appears to be new, it's some wool blend. Her face was beaten badly and there was bruising around her mouth. The ME can give you more on that. There's no sign of struggle down there and no footprints up or down the slope."

Daniel frowned and looked down into the ditch. It was a drainage ditch and the water ran down to the storm sewer about a hundred yards away. The sides were smooth mud. "Then he must have walked through the water to the storm sewer, then up to the road." He considered it a moment. "This bike race. Was it widely publicized?"

Corchran nodded. "This is a big fund-raiser for the local youth clubs, so the boosters put flyers in towns fifty miles away. Besides, we've had this race on the last Sunday in January for more than ten years. We get bikers from up north who want to ride where it's warmer. It's a pretty big deal."

"Then he wanted her to be found," Daniel said.

"Daniel." The ME techs came over the crime scene tape. One of them went straight to their rig and the other stopped next to Ed. "Good to see you back."

"Good to be back, Malcolm. What do you know?"

Malcolm Zuckerman stretched his back. "That it's going to be fun getting the body out of that ditch. The incline's steep and the mud's slick. Trey's gonna jerry-rig a crane."

"Malcolm," Daniel said with exaggerated patience. Malcolm was always complaining about his back or weather conditions or something. "What do you know about the victim?"

"Female, Caucasian, mid-twenties most likely. She's been dead about two days. Cause of death appears to be asphyxiation. Bruising on her buttocks and inner thighs indicates sexual assault. Her face has been beaten with a blunt object. Don't know what yet, but it caused significant damage to her facial structure. Nose, cheekbones, jaw are all broken." He frowned. "The beating of her face may have been postmortem."

Daniel lifted a brow. "So he wanted her to be found, but not identified."

"That's what I'm thinkin'. I'm betting we won't find her prints in the system. There is a pattern of bruises to the side of her mouth, could be from her assailant's fingers."

"He held his hand over her mouth until she smothered," Corchran muttered, his jaw clenched. "Then pounded her face to pulp. Sonofabitch."

"That's what it looks like," Malcolm said, sympathy in his voice, but a weariness in his eyes Daniel more than understood. Too many bodies, too many sonsofbitches. "We'll get more once the doc does the examination. You done with me, Danny?"

"Yeah. Call me when you do the autopsy. I want to be there."

Malcolm shrugged. "Suit yourself. Doc Berg will probably start after Three-M."

"What's Three-M?" Corchran asked as Malcolm went back to the ME rig to wait.

"Morgue morning meeting," Daniel told him. "That means Dr. Berg will probably start the autopsy at nine-thirty or ten. You're welcome if you want to watch."

Corchran swallowed. "Thanks. I will if I can."

Corchran looked a little green and Daniel didn't blame him. It wasn't easy to watch the MEs do their thing. The sound of the bone saws still made Daniel queasy after years of autopsies. "That's fine. What else, Ed?"

"We got shots of all the area around the body and on both sides of the ditch," Ed said. "Video and still. We'll search this side of the ditch first so Malcolm won't destroy anything getting her out of here, then we'll set up the lights and search the rest." He waved at his team and they headed over the tape. Ed started to follow, then hesitated before drawing Daniel aside. "I'm sorry about your parents, Daniel," he said quietly. "I know there's nothing I can say. I just wanted you to know."


Excerpted from Scream for Me by Karen Rose Copyright © 2008 by Karen Rose . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

James Patterson

From the first rousing chapter to the last, SCREAM FOR ME is intense, complex, and unforgettable.

Lorenzo Carcaterra

Rose paints her characters with a flesh and blood brush, bringing life to their every word and gesture. SCREAM FOR ME loudly announces that there could well be a new thriller sheriff in town.

Allison Brennan

SCREAM FOR ME has everything a great suspense novel should have: cold chills, hot thrills, and characters that come alive.


A Conversation with Karen Rose

Die for Me, Scream for Me, and Kill for Me are each part of a trilogy that is unofficially called the Vartanian Trilogy. Would you explain how the trilogy came about, who is connected to the Vartanians, and what we're in store for in the trilogy's final book, Kill for Me (due February 2009)?

I didn’t start out to write a trilogy, but while writing Die for Me, a character named Daniel Vartanian came to life. A special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Daniel wasn’t in my original plan for the book –- he just appeared in a scene and a story started to build around him. At the end of Die for Me, Daniel comes to possess an envelope of photos that had belonged to his evil brother Simon. The photos depict women being victimized and their existence has haunted Daniel for years. Now that he has the photos, he vows to find each victim and help them get their justice.

Scream for Me is Daniel’s quest for that justice. It takes him back to his hometown of Dutton, Georgia, where he crosses paths with heroine Alex Fallon, whose past is intertwined with his own. A modern-day murderer has resurrected a thirteen-year-old crime that connects both to Simon and to the envelope of photos. As Daniel and Alex race to stop the killer, they begin to expose the sins of their small hometown.

Kill for Me is the story of Daniel’s sister, Susannah, whose secrets also run deep. The sins of Dutton continue to unfold as the Vartanians’ story draws to a close.

In your books, you bring people’s fears to life. What is your worst fear?

Snakes. Hate ‘em. Don’t like planes either, but I force myself to fly because I must. Snakes on a Plane? Let’s just say that is one movie I never intend to see! Seriously, I think my worst fear is being helpless in the face of danger -- being unable to protect those I love.

Each book in your trilogy is set in a fictional small town called Dutton, Georgia. What drew you to create all this evil in this small-town setting rather than a big city?

I’d set all of my other books in big cities, but I started thinking about small towns and the illusion of intimacy, that you truly know everyone. I wondered what it would be like to have committed a crime with others in a small town, then to have to meet your partners’ eyes over coffee, PTA meetings, the produce counter at the local market. You’d know what you’d all done -- and you’d be afraid they’d tell. A tentative, wary truce might develop in which you’d watch the others -- and you’d know they were watching you. Then I wondered what would happen if that wary truce were shattered. I thought about all the other town residents who lived their lives oblivious to the tension, to the crimes committed and Dutton, Georgia, was born.

What makes Daniel, the hero of Scream for Me, so vulnerable? Is he especially guarded due to his sordid family past? Alex, the heroine of this book, is also vulnerable due to family tragedy. How did you manage to open her up to love after all she’s been through?

Daniel’s family was dysfunctional, to put it mildly. You find out just how dysfunctional in Scream for Me and Kill for Me as more family secrets are revealed. Still, Daniel has a sense of decency and a solid moral compass. He lives in the dark shadow created by his dishonest, hypocritical father -- a judge on the take, and his evil serial-killer brother Simon, but there are positive influences in his life. He has been “adopted” by the Papadopoulos family, a close-knit caring group, and he’s made his family out of co-workers who share his decency and morality. Even though he has a twisted biological family, Daniel is surrounded by love and support. This makes him more open to what he feels for Alex Fallon the first time they meet. Were it not for the positive influences in his life, Daniel might have been too afraid or damaged to trust his own heart.

Alex has seen horrific things. She’s witnessed her own mother’s death and has tried to take her own life. But Alex has also been surrounded by a supportive family -- her aunt and uncle (now deceased), and her cousin Meredith. Alex is alone after a failed marriage, but she wants to be loved and doesn’t want to be alone any longer. This doesn’t mean she’s fearless to embarking on a relationship. She needs Daniel to achieve her greater goal -- finding her stepsister, Bailey. As they work to achieve common goals, Daniel is able to touch Alex in a way no one ever has before. He earns her trust, respect, and finally her heart.

So many people in Scream for Me have secrets, both the good guys and the bad. Do you have a secret you want to indulge us with?

Oh, my ;-) Well, I haven’t any secrets approaching the Scream for Me level! Okay, here’s one. I get addicted to TV series on DVD. Once I’m hooked, I can watch 4 or more hours at a time, usually sharing the show with my husband. Sometimes when I’m home alone I can’t wait to see what happened, so I sneak an episode or two and then sneak the DVD back into the box. When it’s time for the family to continue viewing where we left off, I pretend to be surprised at what happens! It’s sad to be a DVD addict!

What did you do before you became a full-time writer? Full-time writing is actually my fifth career! I’ve been a chemical engineer, a quality assurance engineer, a software developer, and a high school science and math teacher. Concurrent with all these careers, I would write every opportunity I got until I was fortunate enough to sell my first book in 2001. I’ve been blessed with great readers, whose support has made it possible for me to focus solely on my first love -- writing!

Your stories are so detailed and realistic. Do you do a lot of research for your novels? Do you have a particular anecdote to tell about researching for Scream for Me?

I do more research on some books than others. For example in Die for Me I had so many topics to research -- medieval torture tools and the Inquisition, ground penetrating radar, prosthetics, video game design and opera. Some of the topics I researched via books and the internet, but many of these I learned about through personal contacts. My sister-in-law, for example, is a former opera singer. My husband is a history teacher with a background in mental health and treating perpetrators of violent crime. My best friend’s husband is a doctor. I’m lucky to have talented, knowledgeable people all around me!

Scream for Me is a different kind of suspense -- centering more on the forensics and the nuances of law. I’ve built a network of experts over the years and they answer questions like -- how does the statute of limitations work and what kind of test would you run to determine the age of a hair?

I do have an anecdote to share regarding my research on Scream for Me -- this experience had a profound impact on me months later. One of my close friends is a doctor, who arranged a tour of the ME’s facility in his city. This was more than a year ago now, just when I was beginning to plot out Scream for Me. I hadn’t planned to see an autopsy -- hadn’t really wanted to. But the ME decided to show my doctor friend the autopsy viewing room and I got swept along in the front of the group. Before I knew it, I was in the viewing room, looking down at an autopsy in progress! I was so shocked. I remember my first thought being, “I didn’t know they used giant dolls to teach autopsies.” The other side of my brain scoffed, “This is no doll. It’s a dead body!” Still, I denied what my eyes witnessed. This argument within my mind went on for a few seconds, as I stared at the body on the table below. I was snapped out of what was almost a trance by another friend on the tour, when she smacked me on the back -- I had stopped breathing.

I was then struck by the power of the brain to deny what the eyes were seeing. My experience was very brief and I didn’t know the victim. I wondered what would happen had I known the victim. How much easier might it have been to remain in denial? And the character of Alex Fallon was born.

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