Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, has just taken refuge in the secluded town of Cainsville when she finds a dead woman—dressed to look like Olivia—in her car. When the body vanishes, she convinces herself it’s just another omen. But then she learns a troubled young woman with connections to Cainsville went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. With the help of her recent and unlikely ally, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia sets out to uncover the truth, but her efforts place her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces.
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2014 by Kelley Armstrong
The poppies were a bad sign. A death omen. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
We hadn’t planted them. When a gardener suggested it once, my mother had said, “They make opium from poppies,” in whis- pered horror, as if her society friends might jump to the conclusion we were running an opium den in our basement. I’d wanted to laugh and tell her they used a different subspecies for drugs. I hadn’t. Deep in my gut, I had not wanted poppies in our garden.
A silly superstition. Or so it seemed. But when I see omens and portents, they mean something.
It’d been three weeks since I’d left my family home, fleeing ahead of the media frenzy that erupted when I’d learned my real parents were notorious serial killers. While I worked on building a new life, I’d decided to come back to the empty house and grab a few things. I’d tossed my suitcases in the borrowed Buick and headed out back for a swim. I was walking toward the front of the house, raking my fingers through my wet hair, when I noticed a splash of red in the rock garden.
I reached down and rubbed a silky red petal. It felt real enough. I took out my phone, snapped a picture, and checked the result. Yep, I still saw poppies. Which meant they existed outside my head. Always a good sign.
Except for the part about poppies being a bad sign. I shook it off, turned the corner, and—
There was someone sitting in my driver’s seat.
I flashed to the poppies. A killer waiting to ambush me? Three weeks ago this would have been laughable. That was before I discovered the truth about my past.
Still, I couldn’t imagine an assassin waiting, in plain view, in my car. Nor would anyone sneak onto the estate to steal a fifteen-year-old Buick when a half-dozen antique sports cars were garaged around back.
The most likely explanation these days? A reporter getting creative.
I continued forward, circling around the car. I’d left the driver’s window down. A woman sat behind the wheel. The roof cast her face into deep shadow and all I could see were sunglasses and blond hair. Ash-blond, like my own. It even looked like my current cut—a few inches long, tousled-curly.
“Hey,” I said as I walked closer.
The woman didn’t respond. I grabbed the handle, yanked open the door, and—
She fell out. Toppled, as I jumped back with a yelp, thinking even as I did that I was making a fool of myself, that someone was snapping a picture of this very juvenile prank—
She had no eyes.
The woman hung out of the car, wig falling off, sunglasses, too. Beneath the sunglasses were blood-crusted pits.
I staggered back, my own eyes shutting fast.
I was hallucinating. I’d seen this twice before, first on a dead man and then on a woman in the hospital. Both times, it was nothing more than a hallucination, an omen with some meaning I couldn’t comprehend.
When I looked again, she’d be fine. I did, and—
Her eyes were still gone. Gouged out. Dried blood smeared down one cheek.
I’m not hallucinating. This time, I’m not hallucinating.
I bent to touch her neck. The skin was cold.
There’s a dead woman in my car. A dead woman dressed to look like me.
I raced to the house, fumbling with the lock. The door opened. I swung in, hit the security code, then slammed and locked it. I reset the alarms, fished my gun and cell from my bag, and made a call.
I paced the hall waiting for the sound of a car in the drive. As I passed the front room, I caught a movement through the drawn sheers. I nudged one aside and peeked out to see a dark shape by the gardens. A big black dog—exactly like one I’d seen early this morning, fifty miles away in Cainsville.
The hounds will come to Cainsville and when they do, you’ll wish you’d made a very different choice today.
That’s what Edgar Chandler said yesterday, before the police took him away, arrested for his involvement in two murders that had been pinned on my birth parents. Only a few people knew I’d rented an apartment in Cainsville, and he wasn’t one of them. After the media had swarmed, I’d taken refuge in that sleepy little village in the middle of nowhere.
A sleepy little village with disappearing gargoyles, vicious ravens and, as of this morning, gigantic black hounds.
A sleepy little village where no one seemed to find it the least bit strange that I could read omens and see portents.
I rubbed my arms. I didn’t want to see a connection between Chandler and Cainsville. I loved my new town. I loved the safety of it, the community of it, the way it had welcomed me and made me feel like I belonged.
I peeked out again. The dog was still there, and it was exactly as I remembered from this morning—a massive beast, over three feet tall, with shaggy black fur.
There was no way the dog could have followed me fifty miles. Yet what were the chances of seeing another just like it?
I took out my phone. As the camera clicked, the dog looked straight at me. Then it loped off across the lawn and disappeared through the trees.
A few minutes later, I caught the roar of a familiar engine and ran outside as a black Jag screeched to a stop. The door flew open. A man jumped out, ducking to avoid hitting his head.
Gabriel Walsh. Roughly thirty years old—I’ve never asked his age. At least six foot four—I’ve never measured him, either. A linebacker’s build, with wavy black hair, strong features, dark shades, and a custom-tailored suit, despite the fact it was Memorial Day and he wasn’t supposed to be working. He was, of course. Gabriel was always working.
When I first met my mother’s former appeal lawyer, I’d mistaken him for hired muscle. A thug in an expensive suit. Three weeks later, I still thought the analogy wasn’t a bad one.
He did have a reputation for ripping people apart, though usually only on witness stands. Usually.
Gabriel didn’t even look at my car—or the corpse spilling out of it. His gaze shot straight to me, lips tightening as he bore down. Limped down, I should say. He’d been shot in the leg yesterday. And no, I didn’t do it, as tempting as that could be sometimes.
“Where’s your cane?” I called. “I told you—”
“—to stay in the house. I only came out when I saw you drive up.” A grunt. A quick once-over. Then, “Are you all right?” His voice tinged with reluctance, as if he really hated to ask. Ah, Gabriel.
“I’m fine,” I said. “And no, I didn’t call the police.”
His shades swung toward the Buick. He started for it. If I’d been anyone else, he would have ordered me to stay back. Not because he wouldn’t want to upset a client—such considerations aren’t given space in Gabriel’s busy brain. He’d insist because otherwise that client might get in his way or do something stupid, like leave fingerprints. As of yesterday, though, I wasn’t just a client. He’d hired me as an investigative assistant, which damned well better mean I could be trusted near a potential crime scene.
I did hang back a few paces. Steeling myself for the sight. I didn’t want to flinch in front of him.
He reached the driver’s side. Stopped. Frowned. Lifted his shades. Lowered them. Looked at me.
“Did you . . . ?” He trailed off and shook his head. “Of course not.”
I rounded the car to where he stood by the open driver’s door. The body . . .
The body was gone.
“No,” I whispered. “I saw . . .” I swallowed. “I saw someone in the car, and when I opened the door, the body fell out. I wasn’t imagining it. I touched it.”
“I’m sure you did. The question is . . .”
He looked around and I moved closer, leaning into the open doorway.
“There’s no blood,” I said. “But the only injury I could see was her eyes. And she was cold, really cold. She hadn’t died recently.”
He nodded. I didn’t see any doubt in his expression, but my heart still pounded, my brain whirring to prove that I hadn’t imagined it. No, that I hadn’t hallucinated it.
“Poppies,” I said. “There are poppies in the rock garden. I saw them right before I found the body.”
I hurried around the garage with Gabriel limping after me. There were no poppies in the rock garden.
“I took a picture to make sure I wasn’t imagining them,” I said. “There were clearly—”
My photo showed the garden. With rocks. And ivy. And moss. And no poppies.
“They were there,” I said. “I swear—”
“Am I questioning that?”
“Then stop panicking.” “I’m not—”
“You are. You found a body, and you called me, and now it’s gone, and you’re panicking because you can’t prove it was there. I don’t doubt you saw something. We’ll figure out what it was.”
As I led Gabriel to the sitting room, his gaze flitted around, discreetly checking out the antiques, any one of which would pay the annual rent on my new apartment.
“Yes, this is what I walked away from,” I said. “I know how you feel about that.”
“I said nothing.”
“But you’re thinking something.” “Only that it’s a very nice house.”
Gabriel knows what it’s like to be poor, having been raised by a drug-addicted pickpocket mother who’d disappeared when he was fifteen, leaving him to survive on his own. A street kid who put himself through law school. So no, he was not impressed by the debutante who walked away from her Kenilworth mansion to work in a diner in Cainsville.
“Did you collect your things?” he asked.
“I did, including my laptop, so you can have your old one back. Don’t worry, though, I’ll pay rent for the full week.”
I smiled, but he only nodded. I walked to the love seat. My dad’s spot, where we used to sit together. As I sank into it, I began to relax.
Gabriel stopped beside my mother’s chair, a spindly antique. “That is not going to hold you,” I said.
“Does it hold anyone?”
“Barely. Lovely to look at, but hellishly uncomfortable to sit on.” He surveyed the others. They all seemed made for people about six
inches shorter than Gabriel.
I stood. “Take this.”
“Sit. Put your leg up. You’re supposed to keep it elevated.”
He grumbled but lowered himself onto the love seat and turned sideways to prop up his leg, proving it was hurting more than he’d let on.
I perched on my mother’s chair. “So apparently I hallucinated a dead body.”
“We don’t know that for sure.”
“Yeah, I think we do. Otherwise, someone left a corpse in my car while I went for a swim and then disposed of it while I was in the house waiting for you. Highly unlikely. The fact that she wore a wig to look like me only seems to seal the matter. It was an omen. A warning.” I paused. “I prefer poppies.”
A faint frown. “If it was indeed an apparition, would it not make more sense that you would see yourself dead in the car?”
“Maybe I see whatever my mind will accept.”
When he didn’t reply, I glanced over. He had his shades off as he stared at the wall, deep in thought. The first time I’d seen Gabriel without his sunglasses, I’d wished he’d put them back on. His eyes were an unnaturally pale blue. Empty eyes, I’d thought. I’d come to see that “empty” wasn’t quite the right word. More like iced over. Still startling, though, that pale blue ringed with dark. I’d been with him many times when he’d removed his shades in front of strangers, and no one else seemed bothered by his eyes. I wondered what they saw. And, if it was different for me, why?
“So you spotted the poppies and then the body,” he said after a moment. “That seems an overload of omens.”
He wasn’t asking. Just working it out for himself. I swore he was more comfortable with my “ability” than I was. His great-aunt Rose was a psychic in Cainsville, and he’d grown up accepting things like the second sight.
“Would it not seem that the poppies were a portent for the body?” he said. “Meaning the body itself was real?”
“I don’t think so. The eyes . . . Well, I told you about the eyes. What I didn’t mention is that I’ve seen that before. Twice in the past few weeks.” I explained and then said, “Both times it was a hallucination. Which seems to prove that this wasn’t real, either, and that I shouldn’t have called you—”
“No,” he said. “That is always the first thing you should do under such circumstances.” He said it as if his clients found corpses in cars all the time. “You came inside to call, and secured the house, correct?”
“Correct,” I said.
“Did you hear any noise from outside?”
I started to shake my head. Then I remembered the hound and pulled out my cell phone, certain I’d see a photo of our empty front gardens. I didn’t.
I passed him my phone. “What do you see?” He looked at the screen. “A dog.”
I exhaled in relief.
“Is that an omen?” he asked.
“I have no idea. But I saw that exact same dog in Cainsville this morning. I’m sure it was the same one. It’s huge.”
“And very distinctive.” He tapped the phone, frowning. “In Cainsville, you say?” He rose. “We should speak to Rose.”
Before we left, I reset the house alarm.
“You need one of those at your apartment,” Gabriel said. “I have a gun. And a cat.”
He gave me a look.
“I cannot afford a security system, Gabriel. I suppose I could hock some things. I left most of my jewelry upstairs. I could go get it . . .”
“No, you’d be lucky to get a fraction of the value.”
I’m sure Gabriel had enough experience with pawnshops to know, though most of what he would have hocked as a youth wouldn’t have been his to begin with.
“You need a security system,” he said. “One of Don’s men installs excellent units at very reasonable prices.” He meant Don Gallagher, his primary client. Don headed the Satan’s Saints. It was not a heavy metal band.
“Uh-huh. A biker who installs security systems? Does he keep a ‘backup’ copy of the code?”
“Petty larceny is hardly profitable enough for the Saints to bother with—if they involved themselves in criminal activity, which they do not. Any system I buy from them would be both secure and afford- able.”
Having survived that fall off the back of a truck without a scratch. “I still can’t afford—”
“I’ll deduct it from your pay. Now, I seem to recall you saying once that your father had a garage full of cars?”
“Yes . . .”
“You should take one.” “I’m not—”
“Let’s take a look.”
He limped off, leaving me to follow.
Gabriel scanned the two rows of cars. His Jag might reach six figures, but he could have bought two of them for the price of any of these vintage sports models.
I stifled any twinge of guilt. Yes, Dad had inherited the Mills & Jones department store, but it’d been close to bankruptcy when he’d bought out the Mills family. He’d earned every penny to buy these vehicles, the same as Gabriel had for his.
“My dad loved fast cars,” I said as I walked over. “As does his daughter.”
Gabriel’s Jag had five hundred horses under the hood, but for him it was only a status symbol, a mobile business card that said, “I might be young, but I’m a fucking genius at what I do.”
“Which is your favorite?” he asked.
I opened my mouth to say that I didn’t have one, but he’d already noticed where my gaze slid. He walked behind the two-seater.
“A Maserati?” he said. “Not much trunk space.”
“You don’t buy a 1961 Maserati Spyder for trunk space.” “All right, then. Where are the keys?”
“Does your mother use these cars?”
“Does anyone else use them?”
“You need a vehicle, Olivia. The fact that your mother continues upkeep on these suggests she considers them yours, for your use, the same as your laptop or your clothing. I suspect if you checked the will, your father left them to you. If you feel the need to check with her, do that.”
“I don’t. But a waitress with a Maserati? That’s not who I want to be. Yes, I need a car, and once I’m working for you I’ll rent or lease something. Right now—”
“Whose vehicle is that?”
He cut in as if I’d stopped talking a few sentences ago. For him, I probably had—or at least I’d stopped saying anything worth listening to. I followed his finger to a decade-old VW diesel Jetta tucked behind the Rolls.
“That belonged to our former housekeeper,” I said. “She lived in and didn’t have her own car, so Dad bought her the Jetta.”
“No one drives it now?”
I shook my head. “She retired and our new housekeeper lives out.” “Then take that.” When I opened my mouth to protest, he said,
“Is it too ostentatious to drive in Cainsville?” “No, but—”
“Do you expect you’d find any leased or used car with lower insurance or better gas mileage?”
“Then it meets your standards and overrules your objections. We’ll pick it up later.”
He headed for the door. I looked at the VW. He was right. For now, this would be no worse than borrowing the Clarks’ Buick.
As I came up behind him, Gabriel said, “Catch,” and tossed his car keys over his shoulder. “Take the Jag. If you did indeed have a vision of yourself dead in that car, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel. I’ll follow you back to Cainsville and we’ll speak to Rose.”
“You don’t have to—”
“I have business there.”
When I still hesitated in the driveway, he waved at his car. “Take it. Go.”
I handed him the Clarks’ keys. “Thanks.”
I wanted to say thanks for more than letting me drive his car. Thanks for dropping everything and coming out here. Thanks for not making me feel like I’d panicked over a false alarm. But Gabriel doesn’t do well with gratitude. He prefers cash. So I settled for that simple “Thanks,” which he brushed off with a wave as he limped to the deathmobile.
Cainsville, Illinois, was an hour’s drive from Chicago, a perfectly rea- sonable commuting distance, which should have ensured the town became a bedroom community for the big city. While some residents did work in the city, it wasn’t easy. No train. No bus. Not even a local taxi service. Commuters had to drive, which started with a slow twenty-minute trek along a country road that took you in the opposite direction to Chicago but led to the nearest highway exit—“near” being a relative term. Even those who wouldn’t mind the commute would have trouble finding a house in Cainsville. Hemmed in by the highway, a river, and marshy ground, there was no room for expansion.
It was a small, insular community, still “fond of the old ways,” as the elders liked to say. Yet every modern convenience—including screamingly fast Internet service—was available to those who wanted it. A strange little town. And I adored it.
Driving back that afternoon, I took it all in, as if I’d been gone for weeks. The only road into town became Main Street, the commercial center of Cainsville . . . if you call a dozen shops and services a center. I would. Almost anything I could want was there, within a few minutes’ walk of my apartment. Life doesn’t get much more convenient than that.
Main Street looks as if it belongs in a small town preserved or restored for tourism. Except, without so much as a bed-and-breakfast, tourism wasn’t the point for Cainsville. That’s just how it looked— picture-perfect storefronts, mostly Renaissance Revival architecture. The street was as narrow as it must have been in the days of horses and buggies. In contrast, the sidewalks were wide, and prettied up with overflowing flowerpots, freshly painted benches, and ornate iron trash bins.
This was a town for ambling, as those sidewalks suggested. No one was in a hurry. No one was much inclined to take their car, either, not unless they were leaving town or had the misfortune to live too far from the grocery store. There were a couple dozen people out and about, and if some of them didn’t wave, it was only because they were too engrossed in conversation with a companion.
As I drove in, I looked for gargoyles. That had become a habit. I was too old for the annual May Day gargoyle hunt, where kids competed to see who’d found the most, but I still looked in hopes of spot- ting a new one, because in Cainsville not every gargoyle could be seen all the time.
I turned onto Rowan. My street. I pulled up across the road from my apartment building and Gabriel parked behind me, in front of his aunt’s tiny dollhouse Victorian. Rose’s car was gone. Gabriel didn’t suggest calling her cell to see when she’d be back. If he did, she’d rush home to help him.
Rose’s relationship with her grandnephew isn’t an easy one. Gabriel discourages emotional attachments the way most of us dis- courage door-to-door salesmen. They’re inconvenient, intrusive, and liable to end up saddling you with something you never wanted in the first place, at a cost far higher than you wish to pay.
If Gabriel is attached to anyone, it’s Rose. Yet when his mother left him, he didn’t tell her. When Rose found out, he ran until she stopped looking for him. That’s hard to understand, but there was something in Gabriel’s psyche, perhaps arising from his family’s con-artist past, that said you don’t take anything from those you care about. You took only from marks, and marks were always strangers. If Rose had learned that Seanna had abandoned him, she’d have looked after him, and he couldn’t accept that. Or maybe he just couldn’t believe she’d actually want to.
Gabriel stayed at my place for an hour, prowling the apartment, checking the windows, and engaging in stare-downs with the cat. Then he declared Rose wasn’t returning anytime soon and stumped off to speak to my landlord, Grace, about the security system before heading back to Chicago.
The next morning, I had the seven-to-three diner shift. My fellow weekday server, Susie, has a second job and we work around her schedule. Which means I have a mix of day and evening shifts that my body hasn’t quite adjusted to yet.
I don’t love my job. Oh hell, let’s be honest—I barely like it. But as impressive as a master’s degree from Yale might sound, it doesn’t qualify you for shit, especially when you have no work experience and you majored in Victorian literature.
If there was one thing I did like about my job, it was the people. The owner—an ex-con named Larry—was a dream boss. The regulars were mostly seniors—I swear half the town collects social security—and they’d embraced me like a runaway come home. Even finding out who my birth parents were hadn’t changed that.
This was my first shift back after Edgar Chandler’s arrest. Every- one had heard what happened and they were all so pleased, so very pleased. Which seems a little odd, but in Cainsville “a little odd” was the norm.
“Such an exciting adventure,” Ida Clark said when I brought her lunch. Ida and her husband, Walter, are probably in their seventies. It was their car I’d borrowed.
“A terribly exciting adventure, don’t you think?” she said to Walter, who nodded and said yes, terribly exciting.
“Liv was shot at,” said a voice from across the diner. “She watched a man die and had to hide in the basement while being stalked by a killer. I don’t think ‘exciting’ is the word you’re looking for.”
That was Patrick. The diner’s resident novelist. Also the only person under forty who’d dare speak to the town elders that way.
Ida glared at him. “It is exciting. She proved her parents are innocent.”
“For two out of eight murders,” I said.
“Still, that’s grounds for an appeal. But what exactly happened to that poor young couple? The newspapers weren’t very forthcoming. Did—”
“Good God, leave her alone,” Patrick said. “You’re monopolizing the only server and some of us require coffee.”
He raised his empty mug, and I seized the excuse to hurry off.
As I filled Patrick’s mug, he murmured, “Don’t tell them anything. I’m sure it’s a messy business, and we don’t want to tax their old hearts.”
There was no way Ida could have overheard, but she aimed a deadly scowl his way. He only smiled and lifted his mug in salute.
After the lunch rush passed, I brought fresh hot water for the Clarks. Several others had joined them, most notably Veronica, one of the elders I knew best, though I can’t say I knew any of them well, despite hours of chitchat. Mostly, they just wanted to talk about me, and if I swung the conversation their way, they’d deflect. “We’re old and bor- ing, dear,” they’d say. “Tell us about yourself.”
With Veronica, it was more of a two-way conversation, but only because she’d talk about the town and its traditions. An amateur historian. And, like all the elders, a professional busybody, though I say that in the nicest way. They don’t pry—they’re just endlessly curious.
Veronica had brought in a sheaf of papers. I only caught a glimpse of a dark-haired woman’s photo. When I filled their teacups, she said, “You’re in the city quite often, aren’t you, Olivia?”
“Oh, we shouldn’t bother her with this,” Ida said. “With what?” I asked.
“Posting notices for Ciara Conway,” Veronica said. “I’m sure the police are doing all they can, but every little bit extra helps.”
“Olivia hasn’t been around since Friday,” Ida reminded her. “With everything that was happening, I doubt she’s even heard one of our young women has gone missing.”
There were very few “young women” in Cainsville, and I’d met none named Ciara. When I said as much, Ida explained: “Her mother grew up here.” Meaning Ciara had likely come to visit her maternal grandparents, which in the eyes of the elders made her a local. That was Cainsville. Gabriel had never lived here, either, and they con- sidered him one of their own.
“When did she disappear?” I asked. “Saturday.”
I glanced at the papers. “So you’re . . . posting flyers? That’s certainly how it used to be done, but these days—”
“There are other methods,” Ida said. “We know. But the old ways are still useful.”
Veronica pushed the stack toward me. She said something else, but
I was too busy staring at the photo on the flyer.
Ciara Conway was the dead woman I’d seen in the car. “Liv?” Walter said.
“S-sorry.” I wrenched my gaze from the photo. “Sure, I’ll take some to the city. I’ll be there tomorrow, doing work for Gabriel. Just leave me a stack.”
I retreated as fast as I could. I took another table’s order, but after I’d finished, I stared at the words on my pad as if I’d written them in a foreign language.
“Olivia?” Ida said. “Are you all right, dear?”
I nodded. As I headed for the kitchen, Larry watched me, his wide face drawn with concern.
“Liv’s been investigating the deaths of young people,” Patrick said to the elders. “You don’t go shoving pictures of missing girls in her face.”
I said no, I was fine, but Larry took the order pad from my hand and told me to go home and take it easy. The lunch rush was over. He’d handle the rest of my shift.
Any other time, I’d have protested. But I kept seeing that smiling girl on the photo as an eyeless corpse.
“I’ll walk you home,” Patrick said. “You look a little woozy.” “We were just heading that way,” Ida began. “We can—” “Got it.” Patrick smiled at Ida. “Rest your old bones.
If looks could kill, the one Ida aimed Patrick’s way would have drawn and quartered him. Which was far worse than the usual ones that only wished him a swift and relatively painless death. Olivia’s long strides consumed the sidewalk, leaving him jogging
to catch up. He wondered what was really bothering her. While he was certain her basement ordeal had been traumatic, resilience was in her blood. She should be over it by now.
When Olivia noticed he’d fallen behind, she slowed her pace. Together they passed through the tiny park and on to the walkway that led to her Rowan Street apartment.
“How’s Gabriel?” he said.
He hadn’t meant to ask. He would prefer not to, or if he did, he would like it to be a show of fake concern. He’d lived a very long time without taking any interest in his epil. Gabriel was different. Or perhaps Patrick was simply getting old. Soft.
“I heard he was injured in that business at the Evans house,” he continued.
“Shot in the leg.” The briefest pause. “He won’t use his cane. He’s going to make it worse.”
Patrick had to bite back a laugh at the way she said it. First she acknowledged he’d been shot, almost casually. Then she complained about the cane. Worried about Gabriel and loath to admit it.
After a few more steps, she asked, “What do you know about dogs? Symbolically, I mean. Folklore, occultism, whatever. From your writing research.”
“Any specific type of canine?” “Big black ones.”
He tried not to react. Fortunately, she was still walking with her gaze straight ahead.
“Mmm, it depends on the culture,” he said. “If you’re looking at the British Isles—”
“Probably.” “Black Shuck.”
Before he could explain, she nodded. “The Hound of the Baskervilles. I did my thesis on Conan Doyle. He based his book on the legend of the Black Shuck.”
“You didn’t need to ask me, then.”
She shrugged and looked uncomfortable. “It didn’t . . . It didn’t seem . . .”
It didn’t seem to fit. Because the Black Shuck was a portent of death, and she could interpret those instinctively. That was how her old blood manifested. If she’d seen a death omen, she wouldn’t have needed to consult him.
“Is there anything else in the lore?” she asked. “Besides the Black
“No,” he lied.
Patrick left Olivia at her building door. Grace was on the porch, and he knew better than to pass her. Before they parted, he tried to get Olivia to tell him why she was asking about the black dog. She wouldn’t.
Had she seen a cˆwn? That seemed most likely. She’d spotted one in
Chicago, and realized it was no ordinary pet—and no ordinary omen.
If she had truly seen a cˆwn, that meant . . . well, it meant trouble. For her. For Gabriel. For all of them.
My landlord, Grace, sat in her usual place—a folding chair on the front stoop. She looked like one of the town’s many gargoyles, a wizened imp scowling at the world, daring it to cause trouble.
I said a quick hello as I reached for the doorknob. “Scone?” she said.
“You were at work, weren’t you? Where’s my scone?”
No, not an imp. A troll. A gray-haired lump of a snaggletoothed beast, guarding her gate, one gnarled hand raised for the toll.
“I forgot,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’ll grab you two tomorrow. With coffee.”
Her beady eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong, girl?” “Nothing.”
“If you’re apologizing and offering me extras, something’s wrong.” “I’m just . . . off today.”
I opened the door and stepped through.
“Well, get some rest and eat something. You’re too pale. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Maybe I have, I thought as the door closed behind me.
When I swung into my apartment, TC was perched on the back of the sofa. I dropped my bag with a clunk and he only snarled a yawn, his yellow eyes narrowing as if I’d disturbed his rest. Then he hopped down and wound around my ankles, completely oblivious to the fact that I was racing to my bedroom.
“I’m changing it to DC,” I muttered. “Damn Cat.”
TC wasn’t a name, as I was quick to point out to anyone who asked. It was an acronym for “The Cat.” I refused to name him because I was not yet resigned to the possibility I might actually be stuck with him.
TC was a black cat, which should have given me all the ammunition I needed to get rid of him. Except in some parts of the world, including Cainsville, they’re considered good luck. And it wasn’t as if I’d “let” the beast into my home in the first place. He was a stray who’d zoomed in after a mouse and refused to leave.
The suitcases I’d brought from home sat in the corner, still packed. I tugged one onto its side, took out each piece, and stacked it. Then I lifted TC—protesting—off the second bag, pulled out my dresses and wrapped shoes, and made absolutely sure I hadn’t stuffed any other clothing in there. Then I looked at the piles surrounding me, searching for something specific, something I wasn’t seeing.
When I found that corpse in my car, I’d paid little attention to what she was wearing—not surprisingly, perhaps. Seeing those missing person posters brought it back, though. I’d noticed the corpse had been wearing a green shirt. I’d packed a green shirt. Now it was gone.
As I twisted, my gaze caught on the row of shoes. Four pairs. Trainers, heels, pumps, and boots. There was one missing. My Jimmy Choo green lace-up sandals. Completely impractical, but I loved them, and I was absolutely certain I’d packed them.
I took out my cell phone. Then I set it down. Picked it up. Set it down. Finally I gave in and hit speed dial.
The phone went straight to voice mail and I remembered why I wasn’t starting my new job with Gabriel today—because he had business at the courthouse.
“Sorry,” I said when his voice mail beeped. “It’s nothing import- ant. Talk to you later.”
I’d just hung up when I had a call from Howard, my mother’s lawyer. He was checking in on me, which would have been very sweet if it hadn’t been a duty call on behalf of my mother. That might also have been sweet—of her—if she were the one actually calling. Still, I know better than to read too much into it. My mother doesn’t handle stress well. Hell, my mother doesn’t handle life well. Having the world find out her daughter’s birth parents were serial killers? Then having that daughter insist on investigating their crimes? That kind of stress could drive my mother to a heart attack . . . or so she seemed to think.
When our early calls had proven difficult, she’d turned them over to Howard. Once she’s ready to speak to me again, she’ll be ready to come home. For now, she’s hiding—in every way.
I told Howard to let her know I’d been to the house for my things and I’d borrowed the Jetta. If she wanted to talk about any of that, she could call. She didn’t.
Next I researched the case of Ciara Conway, what little “case” there was. As Veronica said, Ciara had been reported missing Saturday. As for when she’d actually disappeared, that was harder to say. Until a month ago, she’d been a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern student, living with her long-term boyfriend. Then she’d left him.
Neither her parents nor her ex could provide a list of friends she might have couch-surfed with, and I got the impression Ciara hadn’t actually “left” her boyfriend. I’d worked in shelters long enough to recognize the clues. Ciara had a problem—drugs or alcohol. Her parents and boyfriend had finally resorted to tough love. He kicked her out and told her to clean up. Her parents wouldn’t take her in. She found places to stay, while her loved ones made daily check-in calls, until last Wednesday, when she’d stopped answering. By Friday, her phone was out of service, the battery dead. Now her parents and boy- friend were racked with guilt, frantic with fear, and the police weren’t much help because they’d seen this scenario a hundred times and knew it was just a matter of time before Ciara came off her bender, borrowed a phone, and called for money.
She wouldn’t. Ciara Conway was dead. And the only people who knew that were me and her killer.
I was still searching when Gabriel called back. Street noise in the background meant he was hurrying—or hobbling—somewhere.
“I’m sorry I called,” I said. “I forgot you had a trial today.”
“No trial. I’m simply at the courthouse speaking to a few people about your mother’s new appeal, which we’ll discuss later. What is it?”
“Nothing urgent. Go ahead and do whatever—”
“I’m not doing anything right now except obtaining dinner.”
I told him about Ciara Conway, and my missing shirt and shoes.
“I didn’t see my shoes on her,” I said. “Hell, I could be mistaken about the shirt. And maybe the dead body only resembled Ciara—”
I inhaled. “Stop backpedaling, I know. The body was Ciara Con- way’s and she was wearing my shirt, which I know I’d packed. Still, I can’t see how anyone could dress her, stage her in that car, and take her away again.”
“How long were you in the pool?” “Maybe an hour.”
“And twenty minutes in the house afterward, waiting for me. The yard is private, with both a fence and greenery blocking the road and the neighbors. It’s risky, but not impossible. Without a body, there is little we can do, but I want to speak to Chandler.”
“If you found a dead body dressed to look like you, that isn’t a portent. It’s a threat. Edgar Chandler made a very clear one against you Sunday. Ergo, I’d like to speak to him. In the meantime, you need to talk to Pamela about omens.”
Excerpted from "Visions"
Copyright © 2015 Kelley Armstrong.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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
PRAISE FOR KELLEY ARMSTRONG'S OMENS
“One of the best new series debuts this year! With its compelling characters and completely original set up, OMENS delivers a powerful combination of suspenseful thrills and supernatural chills. I can't wait to read more!”
—Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Touch & Go
“Like the creepy, spooky town of Cainsville, Kelley Armstrong's OMENS lured me in. I was too busy, way too busy for this book, which, through a series of surprises and sleights of hand, had me conspiring for ways to get back to the gripping story, the colorfully bizarre cast of characters, and the clever, strong, smart heroine at its center. Don't pick this book up if you have anything else to do. It will grab you by the collar and won't let you up for air until it's good and ready. And once you’re done, you won't soon forget it.”
—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of In the Blood
“Cainsville might be a nice place to visit, but I'm too creeped out to live there. Luckily, Armstrong isn't, and her dispatches from this village filled with sinister secrets are going to be keeping her readers up well into the night.”
—Linwood Barclay, #1 international bestselling author
“Urban fantasy powerhouse Armstrong (the Otherworld series) begins the Cainsville series with a gripping thriller-paced novel featuring a young woman who learns that her wealthy parents adopted her after her biological parents were convicted of being serial killers. Mind control, gunplay, and double crosses will keep readers on edge to the last page.”
“Through first class writing and characters—including the town of Cainsville itself—that leap off the pages, Armstrong has penned a tale that I, for one, can’t wait to see continue.”
“Armstrong, author of the popular Otherworld series, excels at world-building, and this ‘reverse Cinderella story’ perfectly launches a new series chronicling the irresistibly odd and creepy Cainsville universe. Fantasy fans will be eager to make repeated visits.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While I am intrigued with the mystery of Cainsville, I really want to spend more time getting to know Gabriel Walsh, Olivia/Eden as well as Ricky and Patrick. I hope the later two are fleshed out more and suspect they will be. Certainly I am eager to read the third in this series as soon as it is offered. I do have one quibble though. For some reason which I do not understand, the POV of Liv switches from third person to first on occasion. I wondered if that was an editing mistake since there seems to be no reason for doing so. But it's not distracting and I do recommend this series. Start with Omens, though. Kelley Armstrong is one of my favorite writers and I was happy to buy a hardcover, autographed copy of the first book in a new series. I liked it, but it was not as absorbing as her early Otherworld novels. In fact I forgot about it and when Visions arrived on order from Amazon I had to go back and reread Omens to try to remember what it was all about. It read better the second time. All that is to say that Visions justifies Omens. It took Armstrong a while but she has created at least two characters who are complex, appealing, and somewhat unpredictable. And solid, intriguing characters are what she does best. She avoids the usual clichés of heroines who are thrust into paranormal worlds while wanting only to get back to being graphic designers, or lawyers or CEOs, but still kicking ass. Olivia is as strong and complex a character as Elena was and strong characters are the keystone of Kelley Armstrong's stories. I love Kelley Armstrong! This is one of her best books yet. I could not put the book down, and read it in one sitting.
Ms. Armstrong wrote another page turner. Her story was able to get me truly invested in the characters. I can't wait for the next installment!
it is easy to become addicted to this series. clever plotting and tightly written.
The Cainsville series continues. We learn so much more about the lawyer. We finally understand his feelings and the motives behind what he does and why. Excellent character development. We also receive a totally different view of the village. Olivia’s knowledge about herself and her sightings are growing. She is becoming and forming into a different being. There is a lot of angst involved. She is being protected, however, and some may not like the decisions she will make. There in lies the crux of her safety. I like where this is going so far. I am left hanging though. . . looking forward to the next book with anticipation. Hopefully she is a fast writer.
This book is a real good read, after reading the first book Omens. I can't wait for the next one!
After discovering that she could not only read but also understand omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones is not surprised that she finds herself comfortable in the small town of Cainsville, as this town is far from ordinary. Even though Olivia cannot place her finger on why this town is so different, she can sense from the elders that she is wanted here. After finding out her parents are convicted serial killers there are two things on Olivia’s mind; the first is to work with her parents' lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, to drop two charges of murder because they had already found that they were not committed by her parents. The second thing Olivia wants to do is to get back to a somewhat normal life on her own. This was the first time Olivia was truly on her own and she wanted to prove to herself more than anyone that she could make it without help. However, when Olivia finds the body of a dead girl in her car dressed to look like her things change quickly. There are a few possible reasons why the victim is dressed like Olivia - either someone is threatening her or warning her of her own impending death. Of course the first thing she does is call Gabriel, but when he makes it to the house the body has vanished; was this another omen Olivia just saw in her head or is someone playing with her? Well so much for living that normal life she wanted as Olivia throws herself into researching the identity of this murdered girl and what it has to do with her own life. On top of that Gabriel begins to become overly obsessive about her safety, her ex-fiancé James insists on reconciliation, and a certain handsome young man named Ricky Gallagher is constantly catching her eye. Whether finding this body was an omen or a warning planted by someone, Olivia knows there she has little time to find out how all of this relates to her before someone may try to kill her. Even though I have not read the first book in this series, Omens, I had no trouble getting into this story. The writing of Armstrong is raw enough to keep the book intense but also subtle enough to let the reader know the intricate details of the characters. It was brilliant in my mind to include small chapters from some of the other characters' points of view as the author gave me enough insight to relate to each of these characters yet still held something back to keep them intriguing as well. That is a tough balance to accomplish but Armstrong does this amazingly well in addition to creating a strong character in Olivia. As soon as I started the first page there was no putting this book down - I stayed up late reading just to see where the story was going and what dangers would be coming next. After reading this book I definitely will take some time to pick up the first one as well. Quill says: A gripping story that will have the reader wishing for their own foresight just to know what’s going to happen next.
What a difference a few weeks make…Omens may have introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones and Gabriel Walsh to the world, but Visions shows them in an entirely new light. Gone are the innocent socialite in the midst of discovering a crazy new world pulled from her own nightmares, and the cold-hearted, unfeeling thug of a lawyer who has attached himself to her side, intent on taking her for a ride. In their place we find a confident young woman who is more than ready to take the world by the balls and an “onion” of a man who gets even more complex as Olivia persistently begins to peel his layers back. While working on her parents’ case in an effort to prove them innocent of a series of grizzly murders, Olivia begins to discover more about her past, her birth parents, and the people and community that she has become to think of as ‘home’. She discovers that she has a talent for investigation and the tenacity to unravel spider webs of lies, half-truths, and misdirection. In the process of focusing on others, she inadvertently discovers herself and realizes that she likes what she finds. For his part, as Gabriel re-enters his quest to prove his client innocent, he does so with the single-mindedness of a thoroughbred race horse – head down, blinders on, eye on the prize. The funny thing about blinders however is the inability to see what is coming at your side. Working with Olivia on the case starts as a means-to-an-end for the defence lawyer with the dubious reputation. He never even considers the impact that one spoiled socialite could possibly have on his life until the new working arrangement becomes both a blessing and a curse for someone with so many dark secrets of his own. The partnership gets off to a false start or two, but eventually they come to develop a tentative trust and respect for one another. Their relationship is a fragile thing that can either be irrevocably destroyed by mishandling or strengthened and grown over time to blossom into a beautiful new organism. Only time will tell if Gabriel will continue to be his own worst enemy. While both characters work on their own issues other secondary characters begin to become fleshed out as well, adding depth and further complications to the mix. Every answer leads to a new question (or ten) as this first-class mystery series continues to grow and that is the true beauty of Cainsville. The suspense/mystery is the main storyline here, opening author Kelley Armstrong to an entirely new audience, while the paranormal elements are strong enough to keep current fans happily engaged at the same time. As a series, Cainsville reminds me of the early Sookie Stackhouse books written by best selling author Charlaine Harris, but I believe that it may be even better. The ‘whodunit’ mystery of the serial killings is realistic enough to be a real-life case, while the paranormal elements add complexity without piling on the camp. The balance of mystery/paranormal/romance elements is just right – so right in fact that I can easily see Cainsville becoming Armstrong’s second series to be converted for the screen. While I wait for that to happen however I’ll happily keep reading.
$12.99 for a nookbooks? Are you kidding me?
Olivia and Gabriel have successfully solved a murder case together. They're a good team and Olivia slowly starts to trust Gabriel, but he isn't off the hook yet. Gabriel makes mistakes and they aren't always easy to forgive. Olivia needs to decide if she can handle the way his past formed his character. If she wants to keep working with Gabriel they have to find a way to deal with his issues. They don't have much time to form an agreement though, as Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, someone who recently disappeared. There's no initial connection between Olivia and the woman, why was the body left for her to find? Olivia isn't safe, even not in Cainsville. There's something going on in the town she doesn't know the details of. She needs the information to discover the truth before it's too late. Someone is after her and again she doesn't get her questions answered. Will she and Gabriel be able to find out enough before it's too late? Will Olivia's romantic life be a benefit or a burden in this case, how can she keep herself away from harm when she doesn't know her enemy? Visions is a great gripping story filled with action, omens and mystery. I loved reading about Olivia's adventures again. She and Gabriel are slowly forming a friendship, but their bond isn't an uncomplicated one. Gabriel doesn't always consult Olivia when he makes decisions that concern her and that isn't a good plan. She can stand her ground and their communication, or lack thereof, kept fascinating me and it made such good reading that I couldn't put their story down. Kelley Armstrong kept me on the edge of my seat once more and I was impressed by the skillful way she makes her main characters interact with one another. Cainsville is a fantastic creepy series filled with surprising twists and turns and plenty of dark and evil plotting. I love Kelley Armstrong's descriptions of Cainsville and its strange inhabitants and I enjoyed finding out more about them. Her stories are a true experience, there's so much to see, feel and suspect. The Cainsville books are true gems, they are captivating, entertaining, spellbinding and thrilling. I'm addicted to this series and can't praise it enough.
In Omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones finds out she is adopted and discovers that her birth parents were famous serial killers. Visions starts off immediately where Omens ends. Olivia went home to her mother’s to grab some clothing and while she was there someone leaves a dead body in her car, dressed in her clothes and made up to look like her. Then the body disappears and she investigates who the dead girl is and starts to find out some rather unsettling things about her new home -the town of Cainsville. This was such a fantastic book, even better than the first which I thought would be hard to beat. Olivia’s relationship to MC club member Ricky steams up the pages, but her friendship with Gabriel intensifies in a different way. Both of these men become important to Olivia, but their relationship with Olivia becomes important to the elderly residents of Cainsville. The relationship triangle of Ricky, Olivia and Gabriel was really interesting and even though Ricky was hot and nice I still found myself wishing for a friends to lovers arc to start up between Olivia and Gabriel. Additionally, we find out some insights into the goings on in Cainsville, which at first seemed to be harmless, but as the investigation becomes more dangerous those elderly folks remind us again that appearances can be deceiving. The paranormal gets amped up in this series and I was held captive as more and more was revealed. I am such a big fan of Kelley Armstrongs that I have to again wonder why I never picked up the first book. Maybe I just needed the time to be right, and I am happy that that time is now and there are five books for me to enjoy!
Sorry, this is posted later than intended. This is book two in The Cainsville Series. It needs to be read in order. The first book is Omens. To be honest, the first book in the series felt like it could have been a non-supernatural thriller. I'm glad that the second installment, has turned the direction I had hoped. Armstrong pulls her series back to where it should be. A perfect balance of a real world with supernatural inhabitants. Throughout this story, some secrets are revealed, some truths discovered, and yet, more secrets remain hidden. More players in the Fae game are revealed. And another whopper ending. Definitely, glad I gave this series a second chance.
This series is definately worth your time and money.
Visions is fast-paced and well written. I really enjoyed getting to know more about the secrets of Cainsville and find out more of the main characters backstories. I thought this book moved along much faster than the first one and I look forward to the rest of the series!
The book focuses more on the characters, but it feels like the author neglected the plot a bit. Would have liked a little more focus on the plot. Over all an okay book.
4 stars--VISIONS is the second storyline in Kelley Armstrong’s contemporary adult, paranormal Cainsville mystery/suspense series. Told from alternating first person (Olivia) POV and close third person, VISIONS is the continuing story of Olivia Taylor-Jones aka Eden Larsen-a twenty four year old woman whose biological parents-Todd and Pamela Larsen- were accused of multiple murders and they sit in prison awaiting the truth. Discovering she was adopted and not knowing the truth behind her early years, Olivia finds refuge in the small town of Cainsville where mysterious omens, visions and portents of doom focus their power and intensity at Olivia Taylor-Jones. The people of Cainsville are just as perplexing with their secrets, double speak and touch of magic-everyone in Cainsville is connected and everything happens for a reason. In the first instalment OMENS, Olivia sets out to prove her biological parents are innocent of the charges but VISIONS takes an abrupt turn and the spotlight no longer focuses on proving the Larsen’s innocence but on Olivia’s visions and their connection to the town and people of Cainsville. Using specific animals, speech patterns and language referencing the mythological HUNT, Kelley weaves a tale from long ago and adds contemporary settings and suspense filled action. Kelley Armstrong pulls from Celtic lore, the myths and tales of fabled legends and supernatural magic. In Cainsville, the town is not that far removed from the old ways, and our heroine will learn she has a deeper connection to Cainsville than just a place to escape. The secondary characters all play a role in Olivia’s life. From the café regulars we learn a little more about the people of Cainsville-their history and their connections to one another. When one of their own goes missing, the population of Cainsville appears to be more concerned with Olivia’s research and reaction than with the whereabouts of a young woman whose history is questionable and not without some interesting facts. There is the potential for a love triangle developing as Kelley brings back biker dude/business student Ricky who captures Olivia’s heart but there is also the underlying sexual tension between Olivia and Gabriel-her mother’s former lawyer and the person in whom Olivia will come to depend upon for direction and comfort. Gabriel’s character development was colorful, revealing and not without some heartbreaking realizations. Olivia’s relationship with Ricky brings to question, his connection to Cainsville when the elders push Olivia towards someone else. Because Kelley Armstrong is not known for her sexual or romantic storylines, the sexual imagery is light; mostly implied but the tension is high. Kelley Armstrong forte is the paranormal storyline. With colorful and interesting characters, she cleverly weaves an intense and wondrous series where the past meets the present; where fables become real; where Celtic magic is at the heart of a town where everyone knows your name.