printed copy

The Next To Die

Kevin O'Brien

ISBN 9780786028900
Publish Date 5/3/2011
Format Paperback
Categories Pinnacle, Thriller/Suspense

Everyone Has Something To Hide...

The virile, all-American husband. The brainy golden girl. The happily-wed bi-coastal couple.

Someone Is Watching...

Someone who has uncovered their darkest secrets. Someone who is hell-bent on making them pay for their sins...

No One Suspects The Truth...

Now there is no escaping the shadowy jury that watches their every move. Infiltrates every part of their lives. Stalking. Judging. Condemning. Punishment will be swift...severe...final...death.

"...surprisingly engaging..." —Publishers Weekly

"Fast-paced...powerful...full of surprises..." —Detroit Free Press

Prologue

Without having to wait, Jim Gelder scored a cozy window table in one of Portland's swankiest restaurants that Thursday night. If only the maitre d' had sat Jim somewhere else, the 32-year-old salesman from Seattle might not have met such a gruesome death.

Jim was good-looking, and he kept in great shape. He still weighed the same as he had in college: 170 lbs., perfect for his six-foot frame. His hair was usually slicked back with gel that made the straw-color appear a shade darker. He had blue eyes, a strong jaw, and the kind of self-assured smile that drew people to him.

He felt lucky that Thursday night. His waitress was cute and friendly, a redhead in her early twenties. Amid the white tablecloths, candlelight, and polished silverware, she seemed like the only wait-person there without a snooty attitude. She even flirted a little when she delivered his Tangueray and tonic. Jim had never been unfaithful to his wife, but he wasn't opposed to some innocent flirting—especially during lonely business trips like this one.

He poured on the charm every time the waitress returned to his table. After the meal, when she came by with his decaf, she brushed her hip against his shoulder. "You've been my favorite customer tonight—just thought you should know. Be right back with your check."

Smiling, Jim watched her retreat toward the kitchen, Just then, someone strode into the restaurant. Nearly everybody noticed him, but they didn't gawk; this was much too ritzy a place for the late dinner crowd to fuss over a movie star.

Tony Katz seemed smaller in person, not quite as brawny as he appeared on the screen, but every bit as handsome. Women just loved his wavy, chestnut-colored hair and those sleepy, sexy aquamarine eyes. Jim had heard that Tony Katz was in Portland, shooting a new movie.

He tried not to stare as the maitre d' led Tony to a table next to his. Tony threw him a smile. Jim kept his cool and smiled back. Very nonchalant.

The maitre d' left a menu at the place-setting across from the film star. Jim hoped he'd get to see Tony's wife, Linda Zane, a model, whose appearance in a Victoria's Secret catalogue last year was still etched in his brain. But Tony was joined by a balding, middle-aged man who must have been parking the car. He staggered up to the table, all out of breath, then plopped down in the chair. He wore a suit and tie. In contrast, Tony Katz had on a black turtle neck and jeans. He looked annoyed with the guy. "I'm having one drink with you, Benny, that's all," he grumbled.

"Okay, okay." The man took off his glasses and wiped them with the napkin. "Now where were we?"

"I believe I was calling you a scum-sucking weasel," Tony Katz said.

Jim couldn't stifle a laugh, and this caught Tony's eye. The movie star smiled at him again. "Excuse me," he said to Jim. "Can I ask you something?"

Dumbstruck, Jim nodded. Tony Katz was actually talking to him.

"If you were a serious actor, what would you think of an agent who wanted you to star in a crappy movie sequel instead of a Tennessee Williams revival on Broadway?"

Jim shrugged. "I'd say he was a scum-sucking weasel."

"Benny, I think I love this guy." Tony gave Jim an appreciative grin.

Benny studiously ignored Jim and glanced at his menu. The waitress approached their table and told Tony how much she absolutely adored his latest movie. Tony politely thanked her and ordered a mineral water. His agent ordered scotch. For the next few minutes, the two of them argued quietly. Jim made it a point not to stare.

"Excuse me again, what's your name?"

Jim blinked at Tony Katz. "Who me?"

"Tone, please," his agent whispered. "Listen to me for a sec—"

"I'm talking to my buddy here," Tony said. Then he smiled at Jim. "I didn't get your name."

"Um, I'm Jim Gelder."

"Mind if I join you, Jim?"

"Oh, now really, Tone," his agent was saying. "Don't be this way—"

But Tony Katz switched chairs and sat down across from Jim. He toasted him with this mineral water. "Thanks, Jim. I owe you."

Dazed, Jim laughed. "God, my wife isn't going to believe this."

Tony glanced over his shoulder at his agent friend. "Bye, Benny. I'm with my buddy, Jim, here. Take the car. I don't need it. Adios."

Benny pleaded, but Tony Katz ignored him. He was too busy asking Jim where he was from, what he did for a living, and if he had any kids. To Jim's utter surprise, even after the agent defeatedly stomped out of the restaurant, Tony remained at the table. It was as if he genuinely cared. "No kids, huh?" Tony said, finishing his drink. "Me neither. Linda and I are thinking about adopting. But there's a lot to consider, y'know?"

Jim nodded emphatically.

"I mean, look at how everyone's staring at us. It's life in a fish bowl, and that's no way to raise a kid. Plus there are some real nut-cases out there. Lately, I've been getting these strange phone calls—on my private line, no less. Death threats, real nasty stuff. Makes me think twice about bringing a kid into this world." He shrugged and sat back. "Anyway, it's nothing to dump on you. So—what are your plans for the night?"

"I don't really have any plans," Jim said.

"Great. Because I'd like to buy you a drink for being such a good sport. Only not here. It's too stuffy here. I know a place you might like."

The place was called Vogue Vertigo, at least that was where Tony told the driver to go once they climbed into the taxi. They settled back, and Tony slung his arm around Jim's shoulder—like they were old pals. Jim was still in a stupor over this instant bond with the movie star. "I think you'll dig Vogue Vertigo," Tony said. "I hear this straight crowd is starting to take over. But that's mostly on weekends. I don't think we'll have to put up with them tonight. We'll see."

About Kevin O'Brien:

Before his thrillers landed him on the New York Times bestseller list, Kevin O’Brien was a railroad inspector who wrote novels at night. He moved from the train tracks to writing full-time in 1997, when his novel, Only Son, was picked up by Readers Digest and optioned for film, thanks to interest from Tom Hanks. Since then, five of his novels have been USA Today and New York Times bestsellers and his books have been published in into fourteen languages. O’Brien’s 17th novel, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, will be released by Kensington Publishing in August 2016. Born and raised in Chicago, he now lives in Seattle, where he is on the board of Seattle 7 Writers (www.seattle7writers.org), a collective of bestselling, award-winning authors that includes Garth Stein, Maria Semple, Jess Walters, Tim Robbins, Erik Larson, Terry Brooks, Erica Bauermeister, Susan Wiggs, Jennie Shortridge and Elizabeth George. Please visit Kevin online at KevinOBrienBooks.com.

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