Book Excerpt” THE 13TH VICTIM by Sherry Scarpaci
Prologue July 1996
Run, Run, Run.
Annie Garrett stumbled through the woods, slapping at tree branches that tugged her hair and scratched her face and arms. Her lungs burned; her heart jackhammered. Her chest felt as if it would explode. Annie’s body screamed in protest as she pushed it beyond the limits of its endurance. She had no idea how long she’d been running or in what direction—it didn’t matter. She was free.
But what about Heather?
Don’t think about her. It’s too late. There’s nothing you can—
Annie cried out as she tripped over a tree root, hitting the ground hard and scraping her knees and palms. She lay there, heart thudding, the wind knocked out of her. She tried to pull herself up, but after five days with no food and little water or sleep, she couldn’t make her arms and legs work.
Her vision blurred. She swallowed hard and tasted blood. Chest heaving, she rolled over and glanced around. Dark, so dark—no moon to light her way. He could be anywhere and she’d never see him. How close was he? How long had it been since she’d escaped that godforsaken house?
He had shown Heather and Annie his collection of scalpels and knives and the freezer and rows of jars that held his evil trophies. He had pointed at the two empty jars that had their names on them.
She squeezed her eyes shut as tears slid down her bloodied cheeks. An image sliced through her brain, sharp as the butcher knife he’d poised over Heather’s chest. Annie stifled a sob, remembering her friend screaming, crying, pleading for mercy from a monster that would show none.
That’s when Annie’d bolted.
Guilt tore at her heart because instead of grabbing one of the knives or scalpels and stabbing him, she’d left Heather there to die.
Oh, God, I’m sorry, Heather. Please forgive me. I’m just so damned scared.
A sound made Annie jerk her head to the left. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. She held her breath, listening, but couldn’t hear anything over her own roaring pulse.
Get up! Keep moving!
She wouldn’t end up like Heather and the others. She would survive. She drew a ragged breath, and the scent of rotting leaves and damp earth filled her lungs. Staggering to her feet, Annie willed herself to put one foot in front of the other.
Maybe she should find a place to hide—even for a little while, so she could rest. She could crawl beneath the branches of one of the evergreens. He wouldn’t find her there. She needed time to think, time to plan. Maybe she could find the road, flag down a passing motorist.
Annie screamed as his strong arm slid around her neck. He jerked her backward, lifting her feet off the ground.
“Please, no, no, no.” Sobbing, she struggled, but her arms felt heavy and useless.
He raised the knife.
An owl hooted overhead.
“Good-bye, sweet Annie,” he whispered in her ear.
The 13th Victim is Scarpaci’s second mystery novel and first in a series featuring Detective Kate Turner. It is also a Kindle Scout winner and a semi-finalist in the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards. Five Star published Scarpaci’s first mystery novel, Lullaby, in 2007, and Books in Motion released the audio version in 2009. She has also written non-fiction magazine and newspaper articles. Scarpaci makes her home in the greater Chicagoland area where she is currently at work on her next Kate Turner mystery.