Title: 13 Stolen Girls
Author: Gil Reavill
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Perfect for fans of Michael Connelly’s Bosch series, Gil Reavill’s gripping new Layla Remington thriller plunges readers beneath the glittering facade of Hollywood and into a terrifying underworld where beautiful women can
just . . . disappear.
Malibu is crumbling. A monster earthquake has just ripped apart some of the priciest real estate on the planet. In a bizarre twist, it has also exposed a grisly tableau buried for years beneath one particularly unstable hilltop: a steel barrel containing the mummified remains of Tarin Mistry, the beautiful starlet who went missing a decade ago. When Detective Investigator Layla Remington looks into that wretched metal coffin, she realizes she’s just landed the case of a lifetime.
But before Layla even strips off her latex gloves, a pair of hotshot LAPD detectives arrive on the scene and pull her off the investigation. Undeterred, Layla pursues her own line of inquiry, risking her badge and her life to track down Tarin’s murderer: from the rarified air of exclusive canyon communities to seedy sex clubs downtown, all the way to the secluded lair of one of Hollywood’s most powerful men. But while Tarin’s a cold case, her killer is poised to strike again–and, in Layla, this depraved sociopath has just found fresh prey.
The Corean master took a break from his emergency-service work on the Malibu earthquake. He went grocery shopping and returned with his purchases to the apartment building on Jane Street.
The hallway that led to 3C exhibited the kind of banal environment he preferred. The Sheetrock walls had a knockdown finish. The rug-makers had designed the durable frieze carpet not to show stains. Fluorescent lighting rendered everything in a nicely sick shade of lime-white. He relished such places in the same way that a chameleon favors a green leaf.
The triple locks on 3C’s cast-aluminum door seemed to be the only feature that set it apart from the forty-eight other apartments in the complex. The locks, plus the privacy/security film on the windows. And, yes, another oddity about 3C: the adjacent apartments, eight in all, had been left vacant. Because sound—weeping, moaning, screaming—travels.
Once inside, the Corean master set his groceries on the kitchen counter. Recently, he had resolved to treat his body better. No more of the sugar-and-fat junk food on which he had gorged in the past. The paper bag from the local Food Depot spilled over with produce, tomatoes, plums, Romaine lettuce. The bread was whole grain.
He felt a little impatient with himself, since he had often embarked on new healthy diets before, only to see the fruits and vegetables he bought rot in the refrigerator. This time would be different.
The apartment carried over the predictable decorating themes of the hall, with more white drywall, more industrial carpet, more innocuous lighting fixtures. The place barely looked lived in. Which made sense, since no one really did. Apartment 3C was just one of the Corean master’s many apartments scattered around the Valley suburbs of Reseda, Canoga Park and Woodland Hills, California, all communities that were just over the foothills from his Malibu ranch.
Building management, the Corean master thought, not for the first time, represented the perfect sideline for a man of his interests. He had his fingers in a lot of pies, but among his numerous business perks one of the most useful, he felt, was his ability to gain access to empty apartments all across the area’s heavily developed suburban landscape.
Partially visible through the open door of the first bedroom, his current slave was splayed out in a special rig of the master’s own devising. He had not only drawn the plans for it but had fabricated the device himself. The circular steel hoop had a radius of nine feet, suspended within a sturdy frame, which was anchor-bolted to the floor, wall and ceiling.
The master had fastened his unclothed, blindfolded and gagged submissive to the steel hoop by means of fur-lined leather cuffs and lightweight aluminum chains. The hoop rotated within the frame on industrial-strength ball bearings, providing all-direction access. In his magnificent, masterful generosity, he had allowed the slave to remain upright when he left for work and shopping, its arms secured at the ten and two o’clock positions, legs at seven and five.
Through his angled view of the bedroom, cut off and limited by the doorframe, the master saw that its thin, bony body had sagged a bit within the rig. One reason he liked this slave was that it had gone through some sort of auto accident and its skin was covered over with surgical scars.
Now it made no sound. He wondered if it might have fallen into an exhausted sleep.
He looked more closely.
Something was wrong.
Disliking the cheap orange ball gags sold in sex shops, the Corean master had painstakingly fashioned one himself, using an ivory death’s-head originally intended as a custom shift knob for a manual automobile transmission. It wasn’t real ivory, of course, just plastic, but it looked fierce and served its purpose.
Usually he would hear the thin wheeze of ball-gag-obstructed breath from his slave. He heard nothing.
A squeeze of fear nearly took his own breath away. Something had happened while he was gone. He hated not being in control. Stress stressed him out.
So, okay. No need to get upset. Just breathe. Of all the activities in the world, what worked to soothe him most? Why, the same thrill available right there, with the slave behind door number one. They were headed together toward the Ultimate Consumation.
Eat, shower, gear up, then stride in and wake it up with a good, furious twirl of the hoop. Rotate it long enough, fast enough, and it lost all sense of direction, of time, all sense of itself, really. There was no danger that it would lose its lunch, since he hadn’t fed it for days.
The master removed his T-shirt as he strode down the hall. He would put on his bulldog harness and his U.S. Marines jockstrap. He wanted the slave to see him in his full Corean regalia when it woke up. But as he passed the bedroom the sagging posture of the slave struck him once again.
Now real panic seized him.
He entered the bedroom, crossed to the hoop and grabbed the slave by the jaw, pulling its head upward. But his hand jerked away as if he had touched a hot stove.
The skin was cold and clammy, the body limp. The slave was gone.
The Corean master’s stunned surprise was immediately overwhelmed by rage. She had cheated him, the little bitch! The horror of what had happened stalled out his mind. She had gained the upper hand. Somehow, the slave had proved the master.
He had been so careful, so meticulous. What had gone wrong?
He reached out a trembling hand, extending two fingers, middle and fore, to feel her neck for a pulse. Nothing. It was really true.
“Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!” he barked.
Though he could hardly think, he slowly grasped what had happened. She had worked her head up through the restraints. It must have been an agonizing process. The head harness was cinched tight. But somehow she had gotten it so that one leather strap circled her neck.
Then the girl had strangled herself.
Strangled herself. He should never have left the bitch alone.
The Corean master considered himself something of an anatomical expert. He understood that normally it was a physical impossibility for a human being to self-asphyxiate. Yes, one can hang oneself, that happened all the time. That was gravity doing the job. But it wasn’t what had occurred here. There was plenty of give in the restraint strap. It was sized for a head and hung loosely around the throat.
This creature, this rancid little whore, this bound-and-gagged swindler had accomplished an unachievable feat. She had pushed her windpipe against the strap and held it there long enough to die.
It was an act of defiance.
The Corean master tried to remember her name, her real name, not her slave name. Marjorie? MaryAnn? Something with an “M.”
An ugly, weak feeling took over his groin, familiar in his youth but since then exiled from his life by sheer determination. He felt his member shrivel. She had robbed him of his manhood.
After he went to the toilet and vomited, he returned to the kitchen. He intentionally avoided glancing into the first bedroom as he passed. Let her rot. He opened the refrigerator and took out one of the peach wine coolers that he so loved.
He was back to square one. He would have to start again. Again, again, again. So many do-overs!
The Corean master made a promise to himself. He would find the perfect one. He would finally accomplish what he had been put on earth to do.
He would create his masterpiece.
Barnes and Noble: B&N
Gil Reavill is a journalist, screenwriter, and playwright. Widely featured in magazines, Reavill is the author of a crime novel, Thirteen Hollywood Apes, nominated for a Thriller Award from International Thriller Writers. He has written two works of crime non-fiction: Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers, and the Meeting That Unmasked the Mob, and Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the 2006 film Dirty, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. He lives in New York with his wife, the author Jean Zimmerman, and their daughter.