We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down

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by Simon Wood, James Langton

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Hayden Duke has the naive ambition to make some money and prove to his family that he can take care of himself, so he accepts a short-term contract working for his old college friend, Shane Fallon. All seems like a dream come true…until Shane kills himself. Right in front of Hayden.

Detective Santiago has seen it all before. Shane had narcotics in his system


Hayden Duke has the naive ambition to make some money and prove to his family that he can take care of himself, so he accepts a short-term contract working for his old college friend, Shane Fallon. All seems like a dream come true…until Shane kills himself. Right in front of Hayden.

Detective Santiago has seen it all before. Shane had narcotics in his system when he hanged himself, and the dope had to come from somewhere — like an old college buddy. Case closed. But only a week before Shane’s suicide, another employee from the same office walked straight into the ocean. Both men’s last words are the same — they’re sorry for what they’ve done. Just a coincidence, right?

Inspired by true events, We All Fall Down is a heart-racing classic from prolific thriller author Simon Wood.

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We All Fall Down
By Simon Wood
Dorchester Publishing Copyright © 2008 Simon Wood
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-6053-2

Chapter One The Saturday morning traffic was behaving itself, so Hayden would make good time from Fairfield to San Rafael. He hoped this weekend would be the start of something big. Marin Design Engineering only wanted someone on short contract, but if he impressed them, the contract might go from short to long. It wasn't an unusual occurrence for him. He'd built a solid reputation as a design engineering contractor over the last three years. He'd been twenty-five when he started contracting, which was a pretty bold move. But his rep hadn't gotten him the high-paying gig at Marin Design Engineering; his old college roommate had.

This gig would be a nice boost to his income. He'd been on contract at Macpherson Water since the beginning of the year and the plan was he'd work for Marin Design Engineering from home in the evening. It wasn't the first time he'd reaped the rewards of working double duty.

Hayden reached the limit of the radio station broadcasting out of Sacramento, and he switched to a San Francisco station. He caught the tail end of a song before the station went to the news. The discovery of Sundip Chaudhary's body was the lead story.

"The body of missing scientist Sundip Chaudhary was found late last night by a jogger on Muir Beach," the newsreader said.

At least they found him, Hayden thought. He shuddered at the thought of the condition of the guy's corpse.

The story had made a stir in the Bay Area. Chaudhary had walked into the ocean three days ago in an apparent suicide attempt. He hadn't left a note, but his car had been found on Stinson Beach with the keys in the ignition and the engine running.

Family and friends cited no problems in his professional and personal life that would warrant a suicide attempt. If it weren't for an anonymous eyewitness account of Chaudhary walking into the sea, foul play or an accident might have been suspected. Speculation centered on the possibility that the eyewitness had been involved in a fender bender with Chaudhary. Chaudhary's car exhibited fresh damage, and debris from a second vehicle was found on the beach. Speculation ended when it came to what had led Chaudhary to walk into the Pacific.

"The Marin County Sheriff's Department urges the eyewitness to come forward," the newsreader said.

Yeah, right, Hayden thought. No one would come forward if they feared any backlash.

Hayden pictured Chaudhary's body on the beach he knew well. Drowning. There were less painful ways of killing yourself. Hayden wondered if that had been Chaudhary's aim. The eyewitness had stated in the 911 call that Chaudhary had insinuated he'd committed an act so severe that he couldn't live with the guilt. The cops had yet to turn up anything to support the claim-or just weren't saying.

The whole subject left Hayden feeling queasy. His cell phone bursting into song provided the perfect reason to forget about Chaudhary's suicide.

"Where are you?" Shane Fallon asked.

"I just got on Highway 37, so I'm about half an hour out."

"I'm so glad you're coming aboard."

"Me too."

"It's going to be great catching up, man." Although college roommates, they'd lost touch over recent years. Work had taken them in different directions. Now it was bringing them back together. "This is going to be a great weekend. See you in thirty."

"In thirty," Hayden said and hung up.

Hayden found the upscale gated community where Shane lived easily enough. He'd known his friend had done well for himself, but not this well. Shane lived in a modest house compared to the monster mansions at the higher end of the price scale, but even so, this was high living and it put Hayden's '50s- built ranch- style home to shame. If Shane's firm treated him this well, they could definitely afford to pay Hayden two hundred bucks an hour for grunt work. He pulled into Shane's driveway.

Hayden was removing his overnight bag from the passenger seat when Shane came out to greet him. Hayden put out his hand, and Shane gripped it before crushing him in a bear hug. Shane didn't have much in the way of brawn, but he was tall and possessed a lot of inherent strength.

"Damn, it's good to see you. I can't believe we've let three years pass without getting together."

"Neither can I."

Shane relieved Hayden of his bag and dropped it by the stairs in the hall. "We don't have to be at the Giants game until midday, so we've got a couple of hours until we leave. Do you want coffee or something?"

"Yeah, coffee would be good."

"C'mon through into the kitchen then."

Hayden followed Shane into a custom kitchen clad in marble and stainless steel. It was all very upwardly mobile. Hayden took a seat at the kitchen table, while Shane poured fresh grounds into the coffeemaker.

"You've done really well for yourself. I'm impressed," Hayden said, surveying his surroundings.

"What can I tell you? Nice things happen to nice people." Shane looked about him. "It's a long way from the dorms at Cal-State and that AMC Gremlin, God rest its soul."

"Amen," Hayden said and wondered what ever had become of that car-it had probably long since been consigned to the crusher.

"Marin Design Engineering treats you well, then?" Hayden said.

"They do." The coffeemaker stopped wheezing, and Shane grabbed the coffees and joined Hayden at the table. "And they'll treat you well too."

Hayden thought of the premium rate they were going to pay him for this short-term contract. "Any chance this'll turn into something longer term?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. MDE takes on specialist design-build projects. No one else can do what they do, so the margins are always high. And because every project is different, they hire a lot of folks on contract. You do okay on this one and I'm sure you'll get a recall."

"So who do I have to impress for future work?"

"Me," Shane answered. "I'm the project manager."

Who said cronyism was such a bad thing? Hayden thought. He raised his coffee mug for a toast, and they clinked mugs.

They spent the next couple of hours catching up and reminiscing before Shane drove them to AT&T Park. San Francisco traffic was thick, and parking was impossible, but MDE had splashed out on a corporate box that came with reserved parking. They entered the stadium through a private entrance. Hayden could get used to this kind of treatment.

They met with Shane's colleagues from MDE for a pre-game lunch in the hospitality suite. A gaunt-looking man wearing a blazer over dress slacks spotted Shane and Hayden approaching and got up from his seat.

"Shane, you made it," he said. "Is this Hayden?"

"Yes, Trevor. Meet Hayden Duke. Hayden, this is Trevor Bellis, Marin Design Engineering's CEO."

Hayden shook hands with Bellis. His grip was surprisingly strong for someone who looked half starved.

"A plea sure to meet you, Hayden. Please call me Trevor. I've heard a lot about you. You're a welcome addition to our team. We'll discuss business after the game. For now, enjoy yourself," Bellis said.

Shane introduced Hayden to the assembled group. They were a mix of MDE employees and contract staff. Most possessed either engineering or scientific backgrounds. They welcomed Hayden in a genuine manner, and he slipped easily into conversation with them. He could see himself working very well with these people.

Hayden noticed an unoccupied place at the table. "Who are we missing?" he asked Shane.

"Our guest of honor, James Lockhart. He's a consultant employed by the client to oversee the project. He's very well-regarded and has done a lot of work for the government and the private sector. If things need moving and shaking, he's the guy to do it."

"Who's the client?"

"I can't discuss that until you've signed up for the job."

Lockhart arrived shortly before the meal ended. His coming brought a subtle change in the mood at the table, but Hayden felt it as strongly as a weather shift. Lockhart introduced an air of formality. He was obviously the big man on campus, and Bellis looked distinctly nervous in the man's presence. Hayden guessed MDE had a lot riding on this project.

Hayden understood the change at the table. Lockhart didn't look as if he'd come out for a ball game. He'd chosen to power dress in a tailored suit and tie instead of something more casual. He looked like he expected to be called upon to give a press conference at any moment. During the small talk over lunch, he weighed and measured each answer before giving it. It was very disconcerting.

Game time arrived, and everyone went to their seats. Bellis kept Lockhart segregated from everyone else, which lightened the mood. While the others got wrapped up in the game, Bellis and Lockhart talked. Hayden cast glances their way. Bellis remained tense around the man. Hayden guessed things weren't as rosy at MDE as everyone liked to make out. Maybe it was good he was working a short contract with these people. The last thing he needed was to sign on for something longer term if they were having problems on the business front. In situations like that, the first people to go were the contract staff. He'd think long and hard on any future offers.

After the game, everyone said their good-byes. Bellis put a hand on Hayden's shoulder. "Let's get you on our team now." Bellis's smile had returned once Lockhart had left. "I've got some paperwork at our offices for you to sign."

Hayden and Shane followed Bellis's Audi A6 back to the MDE offices in Corte Madera. The building was set into the hills and was clearly visible from US-101, making it its own billboard. It was a squat, two-story structure with the second story being octagonal in shape. It smacked of '70s architecture, but that didn't make it any less desirable as a working environment.

Bellis beat them at a stop light and by the time Shane and Hayden arrived, he had the building unlocked and stood waiting for them in the foyer.

"Welcome to MDE," Bellis said.

Hayden failed to acknowledge the welcome. His focus was on an easel, which held a poster-size headshot of an East Indian man in his thirties. At the base of the image was the caption, Sundip Chaudhary, a friend lost but not forgotten.

"That's the guy they found this morning."

"Yes," Bellis said. "Very sad."

"Am I his replacement?" The thought of filling a dead man's shoes took the excitement out of the position.

"No," Shane said. "He worked here as an instrument engineer."

"Let's talk about this in the boardroom," Bellis said.

Bellis took Hayden and Shane up to the second floor. At the end of the conference table sat a roll of drawings, a flash drive and a file folder. Shane and Bellis took seats next to each other, and Hayden took one opposite.

"Sundip Chaudhary was a valued member of this company," Bellis said. "Sadly, he let the stress of his work get to him and he took his own life. None of us saw the signs. If we had, then ..." Bellis let the remainder of his sentence go unfinished.

"That's not what I heard on the news," Hayden said.

"Out of privacy and respect for Sundip's family, we kept the truth from the press," Bellis said.

There'd been no mention of who Chaudhary had worked for in any of the news reports. Hayden wondered who'd pulled those strings-Bellis or Lockhart?

"Is Sundip's death a problem for you?" Bellis asked.

"No," Hayden replied. "It was a just surprise. No one mentioned him at the ballpark today."

"The project that Sundip was a part of is highly confidential," Shane said. "Our client is on the verge of a major technological breakthrough. So much so, they haven't even filled us in on the full purpose of the design."

"Hence the need for privacy," Bellis said.

"And James Lockhart?" Hayden said.

"The client has invested a lot of capital, and James Lockhart is here to ensure they get what they want," Bellis said.

No wonder Bellis was so jumpy around Lockhart. There was probably a lot of ass covering going on. Chaudhary's death may have prompted the client to consider switching firms. Bellis wouldn't want to lose such a high-profile job.

"Obviously, none of what I've told you leaves this room," Bellis said.

It sounded like overkill to Hayden, but it wasn't his problem. "Of course," he said.

"We'd better deal with the red tape," Shane said.

Bellis opened the file folder and removed a sheaf of papers and put them before Hayden. "This is a nondisclosure agreement. Should you divulge any project details to anyone outside of Marin Design Engineering, the firm will take severe legal action against you. The financial penalties we would seek are significant. In addition, our client would be entitled to take separate action."

Bellis's tone sounded like a threat, albeit dressed up in legalese. Hayden didn't like being pushed around, regardless of how politely it was done.

"We've all had to sign it," Shane said. "It's standard practice in this kind of situation."

"I would recommend you read the document before signing it," Bellis said. "You're welcome to run it by your attorney, but we are short on time."

Hayden had the urge to walk away. He liked to keep business informal and friendly. This was beginning to get a little too serious for his liking. But it was easy work for excellent money. In a couple of weeks, it wouldn't matter. Hayden scanned the twelve-page document. It was pretty much as Bellis had described. If he disclosed any part of his work, MDE would sue-and sue big. The document claimed MDE would seek ten million in damages. Hayden wasn't sure how much was legal bluffing, but it was enough to ensure he kept his mouth shut. He finished reading the document and decided the job was still worth doing despite the overlitigious contract. Bellis held out a pen, and Hayden signed.

With that out of the way, Bellis and Shane spent a half hour going through the marked-up plans with him before handing them to him along with the flash drive containing the drawings he was to correct. It was all straightforward enough, and the meeting broke up. Everyone shook hands and smiled, but the hard sell with the nondisclosure agreement had soured Hayden's mood. The enthusiasm he'd brought with him this morning wouldn't be making the return drive.

Bellis made small talk as he saw Shane and Hayden out. Lockhart's presence in the foyer ended the small talk. He stood before Chaudhary's image on the easel in deep contemplation. He seemingly failed to register anyone's presence in the room with him for a moment.

"A great shame. Sundip was a very talented young man. We should have done more for him," he reflected. "What's going on here?"

"James, this is Hayden Duke. He's joining the team," Bellis said.

Lockhart shook Hayden's hand. "Good to have you aboard. I look forward to working with you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend."

Lockhart couldn't have made his point any clearer. It was time for them to leave.

"Thanks for making the trip, Hayden. We'll talk next week," Bellis said, before ushering Shane and him out the door.

"Lock the door, Trevor," Lockhart said. "I don't want to be disturbed."

Bellis did as he was told, and Lockhart led the way to Bellis's office. He let Bellis sit while he perched himself on the window ledge. He took in the panoramic view and watched Shane reverse out from his parking spot and drive away.

"Do you know anything about this Hayden Duke?" Lockhart asked.

"Not much. He's a friend of Shane's. Why?"

"I noticed him eyeballing us at the game."

"What do you want?" Bellis asked.

"Watch your tone, Trevor. Just remember who you're speaking to."

Bellis said nothing. Instead he fidgeted in his seat.

"I came here to make sure we're all on the same page about Chaudhary."

"I got the message."

"Did you? I wasn't sure."

"I got it."

Lockhart glanced out the window. Beckerman was out there somewhere watching his back, visible yet invisible. He'd chosen to keep Beckerman out of sight today. He had a habit of agitating situations. Lockhart didn't want things agitated. Today, he wanted calm. More specifically, he wanted Bellis calm.

"You say that, Trevor, but I feel you have questions. If you have them, ask them."

"Sundip's death."


"It's convenient."

"Convenient, how?"

"He'd expressed doubts about the project."

"Did he mention his doubts to you?"

"Only that we'd been lied to. He said the products we're designing weren't for the purpose we were told. He wanted to speak to you, and now he's dead. Did he speak to you?"

Lockhart came away from the window and settled into a chair opposite Bellis. Bellis stiffened and looked cornered. "I met with him. I thought I had set his mind at rest."


Excerpted from We All Fall Down by Simon Wood Copyright © 2008 by Simon Wood. 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.

Meet the Author

Anthony Award–winning author of a dozen books as well as over 150 published stories and articles, Simon Wood is an ex–race car driver, a licensed pilot, an animal rescuer, an endurance cyclist, and an occasional private investigator. Having dealt with dyslexia from an early age, Wood has been met with rave reviews for his previous publications, including Working Stiffs, We All Fall Down, Paying the Piper, Dragged into Darkness, Asking for Trouble, and The Fall Guy, among numerous others published under his horror pseudonym, Simon Janus. Originally from the UK, Wood moved to the US in ’98 to share his world with his American wife, Julie — and a longhaired dachshund and four cats.

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We All Fall Down 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the King Kong Thriller of Thriller books which I highly recommend. It's a Must read, Gotta Have It Book. It's 100% heart pounding and fast paced. Simply can't peel your eyes off of the book and keeps you constantly turning the pages to find out what happens next. Fully loaded with lots of adrenalin. Warning: Buckle your seatbelt because you're in for a wild crazy thriller ride. Once you start reading this brilliant masterpiece, you'll be hooked on Simon Wood's books guaranteed. He'll leave you hungry for more, so I suggest you get all of his books because he is the higher end, excellent quality and the style of writing is like savoring the best smooth dark chocolate ever. I'm extremely looking forward to expecting more great books coming from him. Can't wait, can't wait. Gotta have more. :D
Guest More than 1 year ago
i have been a fan of simon wood's books since day one, so i was very excited to get my hands on this one. his first two were great, but i have to say that 'we all fall down' is my favorite so far. his style of writing captivates the reader from page one and it is hard to put it down once you start reading! i felt i was almost rude to those around me because i couldn't tear myself away from the book--i had to know what happened next. i don't want to give away the ending of the book, but what i particularly like about this book is that the mystery part is very straightforward. the storyline is intriguing, but not too messy and complicated as some writers tend to make them. it had all of the right twists and turns, and it resolved in a way that left me satisfied and wanting more. simon also does a really good job of explaining things without going over the reader's head. in particular those parts about molecular biology, which i know nothing about, were explained just enough that i understood their importance without feeling dumbed down or being lost in the terminology. i highly reccomend this book to anyone who likes a good murder mystery/thriller. i can't wait for the next simon wood book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very fast paced thriller that keeps moving you right along. It is difficult to lay it down once started. There are many twists and turns that keep you wondering what happens next. The only unbelievable part is how the hero is able to stay alive with all the various problems he encounters. He just happens by accident to remain alive too many times to be realistic but the story is very interesting and involved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While this book is not as good as "Paying the Piper" or "Accidents Waiting to Happen", it is a good book. Worth your while to read. I haven't read a bad book by this author. He keeps you glued to the book, so don't start his books until you have some time in your life carved out!
MrsNAK More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by this author and I look forward to reading more of his work. The plot unfolds clue by clue as it does for the characters, giving you the feeling you were right there with them. Mr. Wood gives you just enough to make you want to read on without giving away the ending. Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really exciting action packed twists and turns................little disappointed in the ending though............
glorGM More than 1 year ago
This was a very slow reading book. Did not hold interest. Boring!
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
Hayden Duke gets a late night email from his workfriend Shane. Shane tells Hayden that he is providing a password protected file that Hayden should guard. Hayden wants to know what the mystery is and calls Shane who tells Hayden to forget everything and just erase the email. As Shane sounds incredibly distraught, Hayden decides to go over to see him. Shane acts like a crazy man, ripping his apartment up and cutting Hayden. Hayden follows Shane out of the apartment and witnesses Shane committing suicide. Shane is the second person in a week at Hayden's company (MDE) to commit suicide and Hayden thinks that the file he received has something to do with it. Not too soon after Hayden will barely miss getting killed as just about everyone at MDE will be blown up in an explosion at the company. Hayden shares what he knows with Shane's sister Rebecca and the two decide to work together and investigate his death. The bad guys start monitoring Hayden and Rebecca to try to find out what they know and to decide if they too need to be eliminated. This is the fourth Simon Wood novel I have read and it is by far the weakest. Right from the start, Hayden should have gone to the police and possibly everything might have been solved. Instead he decides to work on his own and of course he is the number one suspect of the police (like most of Wood's books). Then again both the police and the FBI are not portrayed as being very bright so maybe they couldn't have solved it. The bad guys always seem to make stupid mistakes and Hayden and Rebecca use their own stupidity to get themselves into a lot of dangerous situations. Neither Hayden or Rebecca are very "deep" or likable and the reader almost wants them to get done in by their own stupidity.
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
Hayden Duke is delighted to be starting his new job at Marin Design Engineering, and even happier to be there at the behest of the man who was his best buddy in college, who he hadn’t seen in three years. Now 28 years old, he is a successful design engineering contractor, but the chance to work under his friend on a very high level government project seems the best of all possible worlds. But his first day of work doesn’t start out promisingly: The body of a Marin Design worker has just been discovered, an apparent suicide. According to a witness, his last words were “I have done a terrible thing, and I can’t be forgiven. I must pay for it. This is the only way.” Within one week, Hayden’s former best friend, Shane, is also dead, also a suicide, his last words: “I’m sorry, Hayden, but you don’t understand what they’ve done. What I’ve done. It’s terrible. I’m going to hurt you and so many others, but I have to do it.” Hayden has no idea what Shane is talking about, but fears, one must feel with reason, that his own life may be in danger. When he returns home, he finds that the house has been ransacked, and among things his computer has been stolen. The only possible clue Hayden has is that on the night he killed himself, Shane had sent him an e-mail attachment, password protected, exhorting him not to read it but to store it and keep it safe. The reader is thrust headlong into this suspenseful tale, much as Hayden is thrust into a situation fraught with peril as he and Shane’s sister, Rebecca, try to discover what has led to these two deaths, and others that soon follow. The action becomes fast and furious and one just has to hang on for the ride. A terrific read, and recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Predictable as far a figuring out the outcome but I enjoyef it anyway
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Read it all in one sitting bc it was so good!! vs
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Good enough to spend you time on
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Guest More than 1 year ago
We All Fall Down is a great summer read! I read it in 2 days because I couldn't put it down. Get your own copy. You won't regret it!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Design engineering contractor Hayden Duke is pleased to have been hired by Marin Design Engineering for a short term project. He hopes that his work will impress the firm¿s bosses so they would hire him for a full time position. Before he was selected, another contractor walked into the ocean and drowned. The witnesses who called 911 heard the man mumble he did a horrible thing and must pay the price. --- The person who hired Hayden is his friend Shane Fallon who is glad to have his pal on board. A couple of days after Hayden starts working Shane sends him an email with an attachment that he cannot open. Hayden calls Shane, who warns him to delete it. Hayden goes to Shane¿s house only to find a hallucinating man who is locked inside his apartment seeking electronic bugs. He kills himself and the autopsy reveals a bruise on his hand like the man who committed suicide in the ocean. Shane¿s sister Rebecca and Hayden believe there is more to his apparent suicide and it is linked in some manner to the project. When the project is completed, everyone associated with it except Hayden and Rebecca die in an arson fire. Trying to stay alive and elude police and fire officials¿ suspicions, the pair seek the truth, which may prove deadly for them. --- WE ALL FALL DOWN is an exciting enthralling thriller that focuses on two characters, Hayden and Rebecca, who obstinately and perhaps foolishly are determined to learn what is going on. They refuse to quit their amateur sleuthing although each step especially false leads they take opens up additional cans of worms and exponentially increases the danger to them. Simon Wood provides a dynamite suspense story as the audience is beguiled into anticipating what next. --- Harriet Klausner