A fast-paced page-turner, the story takes place in interesting locations such as NYC's Manhattan and Queens, Beverly Hills, Paris, Saint-Tropez, and Rome.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.89(d)|
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Death Never Sleeps
By E. J. Simon
iUniverse, LLCCopyright © 2013 E. J. Simon
All rights reserved.
Whitestone, Queens, New York October 31, 2009 5:45 p.m.
Alex Nicholas had often wondered what the last moments of his life would feel like. Would it be a shortness of breath, a cold sweat, a stabbing pain near the heart? Or perhaps a tender piece of Smith & Wollensky's New York strip lodged in his trachea, refusing to go down. He was in a dangerous business, which might have been what led to this morbid fascination. More likely, Alex thought, it was the result of attending all those gloomy Greek Orthodox funerals as a kid.
Or was it that shadow of a person nearby, someone watching or following him that he had caught a glimpse of a few times over the past few days? He wasn't sure what it was, but something was wrong.
He sat in his den, admiring his sleek Apple laptop. Although it looked like the same computer owned by millions of people, it was far more powerful. Inside the polished aluminum case and underneath the smooth white keyboard were over a million dollars of state-of-the-art upgrades and enhancements sourced from diverse specialized companies located all over the world and combined together by an obscure but strangely talented computer genius who just happened to live across the street. The combination had resulted in a breakthrough, Alex knew, that would change everything.
For a full minute, Alex just stared at his image on the screen. Using his laptop, he had taken the photograph of himself, and now he thought carefully about which words he wanted to place at the bottom of the screenshot. Then it came to him, the phrase that he had read days ago and that had stuck in his mind ever since. He began to type, watching the words appear below his image: Life is a dream; death is waking up.
Alex laughed. That will get their attention, he thought. Someday, hopefully not anytime soon. Alex smiled at his mirror image. I can't wait to show this to Michael.
Alex often thought about his brother, Michael, the only remaining link to the family of his childhood. He wished they were closer, though there were plenty of reasons why they weren't. Alex suspected it was either the business he was in or the women he married. He knew Michael wasn't comfortable with either. But now that he had completed his secret project, Alex Nicholas was determined to get closer to the brother that he sorely missed. Alex decided he would call Michael later—as soon as he'd had something to eat.
Moving quickly now, he signed off and closed the laptop. Alex carried the computer into his master bedroom and entered the spacious walk-in closet, quietly closing the door behind him. Inside there was a row of custom-made wooden shelves, running from the ceiling down to the floor, each shelf jutting out at an angle, designed to hold and display two pairs of shoes. He removed the shoes sitting on the fourth shelf from the bottom and, gripping the polished teak, pushed it upward. The specially designed panel easily lifted up, revealing a hidden compartment. Alex placed his unique laptop snuggly into the empty cavity and returned the shelf to its original position.
As he headed down his stairway and out the front door, Alex thought about the amazing breakthrough that was contained inside his computer and lightened his step. He was no genius when it came to electronics, and he didn't understand how it worked—or even why it worked—only that it did.
And because it did, Alex knew now that he would live forever.
Whitestone, Queens, New York 6:00 p.m.
Despite the uneasy feeling that had plagued him over the past few weeks, tonight Alex had no complaints. He was almost feeling good.
Grimaldi's, an old Queens bar and restaurant, was buzzing despite the early dinner hour, an ominous sky, and the first snow falling outside. Frankie Valli's hit song "Sherry" played for the thousandth time on the jukebox.
Veal parmigiana sizzled on the plate, the cheese and rich, red tomato sauce bubbling, a work of old-fashioned Italian-American art. Alex was about to cut into his first slice, when Maria came over to his table.
"Alex, how are you? You've been a stranger the last few weeks."
Maria was one of the sexiest women Alex had ever known—tall, slim, long dark hair, and exotic Mediterranean looks. Her deep, smoky voice only added to her unique appeal. She was forty-eight years old but exuded the confidence of a good-looking woman who knows she doesn't need to conceal those years.
"I've been busy," Alex groaned. "Everybody owes me money. I'd be rich if people would pay their fuckin' debts." He had sold Grimaldi's to Maria twelve years earlier. She still enjoyed seeing him every time he came in.
"I think you're still rich. Someone must be paying up," Maria shot back. "And I don't think that sport coat is from Walmart."
Alex looked down at his custom-tailored navy sport jacket as though it was the first time he had seen it. "What? It's from the Korean tailor in Flushing. I don't think it even fits right."
Alex Nicholas ran one of the largest sports gambling and loan-sharking operations in the city. He had that outer-borough, tough-guy appeal that women like Maria found irresistible, despite the fact that his body was showing the toll of fifty-five years of too many fast women, marriages, double scotches, and evenings that stretched out to early mornings. There had been many times Maria and Alex had longed to go to bed together, but somehow, between the business, the scotches, and their spouses at any given time, it just never happened.
Maria sat down with her gin and tonic and joined Alex while he devoured his veal. She wore a tight, clingy black dress that showed just enough cleavage for him to enjoy the view. "Alex, you know if you'd stop complaining all the time, you might find your life's not so bad."
"Oh yeah, you think so? I'm supporting everyone I fuckin' know or ever met, including three wives—and I'm only married to one, and she goes to bed at nine o'clock," Alex replied with his mouth full.
"You love it and you know it, Alex," Maria said with a laugh and a sly smile. "People need you, and I think you like it that way."
"Hmm," was all Alex could muster while he continued to methodically work through his meal. Two Chivas Regals had begun to soothe his edgy nerves, and the veal parmigiana was having the same effect on his stomach. Maybe Maria wasn't too far off, and maybe life wasn't so bad.
"You know, your brother told me once that he thought you never really recovered from losing that girl Molly when you went away to college."
"Who knows? It might not have worked that well either. I was crazy, and she might have been too." Alex's face and expression turned reflective, almost sad. "I'm not sure I was ever cut out to be married. I'm never getting fuckin' married again, that's for sure."
"I was also surprised when he told me the story. I didn't even know you went to college, Alex."
"In my business, the dumber people think I am, the better. I don't exactly brag about it. I was only there three years. I played baseball and fooled around. After high school, I had an offer to sign a minor league contract with the Pirates, but, you know, my parents were Greek immigrants. My father was a furrier, had a shop on Fifth Avenue but wanted his kids to go to college and become bankers or whatever corporate shit. Anyway, it wasn't for me."
"So what happened?"
"I went to Miami and played ball until I blew out my knees. Then I came home, got my insurance broker's license, took bets on the side, and finally found the closest thing I could do to playing ball—I became a bookie. That's how it all began."
"Jesus, Alex, that's some story. I can't believe you never told me this before."
"Yeah, well, not everyone thinks it's such a great thing."
"It's funny how your brother went so corporate, working for a big company. You two are very different, aren't you?"
"I guess so. He heads up some big company in the city. I'm proud of him. My parents never lived to see him like this. They died when he was in his thirties or so. He's always traveling all over the world. I couldn't do what he does, even if I knew what it was that he does."
"Well, Alex, he couldn't do what you do, either. Plus, despite your son-of-a-bitch persona, everyone—or almost everyone—likes you."
"I don't really give a shit whether people like me or not. I don't think about stuff like that. I got other things to worry about."
"Look around, Alex. Half the guys in this place tonight are your friends, even the cops. How many people in your line of work get along well with cops?"
Alex looked around the restaurant, silently counting the number of police officers. "They're all big shots now—detectives, narcs, captains. I knew them when they were on the beat, in their uniforms. I treat people well. I play by certain rules. No drugs, no dealing. And I've never hurt anyone—not seriously anyway."
"You just scare the shit out of them." Maria giggled.
"Sometimes that's the only way I can get paid, you know?"
"What I know, Alex, is that underneath this tough guy is the nicest person I have ever known." Maria reached over the table and caressed his cheek.
He turned away, gave a sideways smirk, and with his best touch of sarcasm said, "Well, you don't know that many people."
Maria rolled her eyes.
"You know what? Maybe I'm feeling pretty good tonight." He was finally smiling.
Alex turned back to his dinner, and Maria signaled the server for another round of drinks. He felt a chill run through him as a cold draft swept through the restaurant. He looked up in time to see the front door closing and a young man wearing a bright blue Mets cap moving, hesitantly, toward the bar.
Whitestone, Queens, New York 6:10 p.m.
Luke Burnett knew he was a long way from his home in Greenville, South Carolina. Although Grimaldi's was just a local Queens neighborhood bar and restaurant, Luke didn't fit in. His blue jeans were too baggy for his tall but skinny frame. The Mets cap was too new. He felt like a redneck or, worse, a hillbilly. Luke looked around the bar. He was surrounded by tough-looking hefty guys, all seemingly in black leather jackets, talking, shouting, or arguing. They spoke English, yet their New York accents were foreign to Luke. No one was as thin or as slight as he was. Even the women looked tougher. This gritty, blue-collar section of Queens was nothing like Greenville.
Luke's mind was spinning in all directions. He was nervous and insecure, yet excited about the people he had met in New York and the turn his life had taken.
He thought about his last meeting yesterday with the mysterious man who had now become his employer. He recalled that when he asked this strange, dark man whom he had come to trust for the reason behind his assignment, he was told, "When you find the right woman, Luke, you'll do things, things you might not have done before. Someday, you'll understand what obsession means."
As he scanned the dining area, Luke recognized Alex Nicholas seated at a table twenty feet away, and a woman was sitting opposite him. Luke could only see her from the back, but his eyes caught a glimpse of her long black hair and well-formed bare shoulders. She worked out, he thought. Any other time, he would have just stared at those shoulders until someone gave him a dirty look or the guy with her hit him hard in the face.
He felt sick. Everything was moving too fast. His heart was racing, and he needed to sit down quickly to steady his shaking legs.
"What'll ya have, buddy?" asked the bartender. It sounded like an echo to Luke. He was facing away from the bar, taking in the room, stealing a quick glance at Alex's table in the process.
Luke checked his back right pants pocket and could feel the reassuring bulge of his wallet. For the first time I have real money, he thought. I've got a fucking job. He felt a rush of excitement, of energy, like a drug racing through his entire body.
He heard the bartender saying, "Hey, fella," then felt the room closing in on him and sensed faces turning his way. He didn't want to answer, didn't want anyone to hear his voice, his slow southern drawl. Luke looked around. In the periphery of his vision, he could see patrons going about their business, apparently oblivious to his presence. Maybe everyone wasn't watching him after all.
His cell phone was ringing. He opened it and placed it to his ear. The waiting bartender turned away, rolling his eyes. Luke whispered into the phone, "I'm here, at the bar."
"Is he there?" said the voice on the other end of the line.
"Yes, sir. He's having his supper," Luke said, glancing again at Alex and then quickly gazing off in the other direction.
"Luke, we call it dinner here but don't worry about that now. Just do your job. Then, you'll be able to take care of your obligations, and you won't have to worry anymore. Everyone will be proud of you. You'll have work, and you'll have money. Hey, then maybe we'll even find you a girl. I got one in mind for you; she'll even let you use her service elevator. Ha. You understand what I'm saying, Luke?"
"Not exactly. She lives in a high-class building, I guess."
"Oh, Christ. No, it's a type of sex. Never mind, kid. Just get your work done and call me when you're on your way home. I'll teach you everything you need to know."
Luke turned back to face the bar as he imagined having sex in an elevator. Then he caught the attention of the bartender and ordered a Budweiser.
The bartender took a long look at Luke and said, "I gotta see some ID."
Whitestone, Queens, New York 6:15 p.m.
Alex always enjoyed getting his brother on the phone, finding him wherever he was in the world and, however briefly, connecting with him. But tonight he had even more reason to find him.
Alex looked at his watch and then to Maria. "Speaking of Michael, I need to call him tonight before it gets too late. I think he's in Paris."
Alex followed Michael's pursuits and was proud of his brother's achievements. He admired his ability to navigate a world that Alex had only ever seen from the outside. At times, Alex even yearned to live Michael's life. He was certain the feeling wasn't mutual.
Alex was anxious to share his discovery with his brother, but he knew it couldn't be tonight, in front of Maria. In fact, he thought, it was something he had to do face-to-face so Michael could see it with his own eyes. But he could drop a hint, and tonight he would do just that. He had already set in motion a series of other messages to Michael; he knew he was teasing him, but he also needed to ensure that Michael would find Alex's secret should something occur before he had a chance to show it to him.
Almost as an aside, Alex continued speaking while turning on his cell phone and waiting for the indication that he could begin dialing. "We're different. Same fuckin' parents and all, but he's more of a loner, more introverted. He loves books ... He's strange that way. Our whole family would be playing poker or whatever, and Michael would be in his room, reading."
Maria gave a sympathetic smile. "You know, Alex, that's not so odd. He's just different than you that way."
"It's not just that. Listen, I love him, but he's always stayed away from a lot of our family and even some of the friends we both grew up with. These people all ask me about him. 'How's Michael? Where's Michael?' I think some of them follow him through me. I tell them, 'Listen, I don't see him that often myself.' He's a good guy, but I've never been able to really figure him out."
Maria appeared puzzled. "But anytime I've been around him here, he's always very nice, very sociable. He couldn't be that introverted or a loner if he runs a major corporation."
Alex shrugged. He knew Maria was right, but for him, it didn't change the mystery of his brother's personality, a mystery that only those closest to Michael could see.
As Alex looked around the room, that uneasy feeling that someone was watching him returned, despite the otherwise secure sensation he had from being in the familiar confines of his regular hangout.
With his cell phone pressed tightly against his ear, he waited anxiously for Michael to answer. He wondered what the time difference was between Queens and Paris and then felt a flush of relief when he heard his brother's voice.
Excerpted from Death Never Sleeps by E. J. Simon. Copyright © 2013 E. J. Simon. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, LLC.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Death Never Sleeps is the first installment from the Michael Nicholas series by E J Simon. In the beginning, a reader is introduced to the rich and powerful bookie from Queens, New York, Alex Nicholas. He is involved in some illegal dealings that leads to his murder. He leaves behind a son, widow, two ex wives, numerous mistresses and a brother, Michael. Unlike his brother, Michael lives his life right with his beautiful wife, Samantha. Somehow, Michael reluctantly gets sucked into the mystery of who murdered Alex. As he starts to investigate what happened that led up to his brother's demise, he discovers a unique laptop belonging to Alex. When he logs into it, Alex appears onscreen. That is when the story gets quite wild and crazy that he would have never ever in his life predicted. I have mixed feelings about Death Never Sleeps. It is definitely not my normal read. I am not that big of a sci fi fan. But yet the mystery and suspense had kept my attention and kept me intrigued. What in the world could possibly happen next? I just could not help but to keep turning the pages to see. I wanted more, but yet still have that feeling this book is completely weird. The ending left off with such a huge cliffhanger. It can not end like that! So, here I am scrambling to get my hands on the next installment of the series. I keep back an forth of how I want to rate Death Never Sleeps. Between three and four stars. So, I am going with three and a half stars. I received this book from the author. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
Death Never Sleeps is an imaginative thriller that made for a really fun read. The story follows Michael Nicholas as he deals with the death of his bookie brother. Michael gets pulled into Alex’s shady business after his murder, in order to help keep his brother’s wife and associates (many who Michael knew growing up) safe. Basically he is trying to pay off a debt, but soon circumstances reveal that that is not his only issue. Alex has left him an intriguing piece of technology, and it appears that whoever killed Alex is now targeting more people, including Michael and his wife. I liked how the author used the AI technology in the story, it made for a really unique set of circumstances for Michael that helped make the story interesting. The story itself has a lot of great twists, and it was fun to see Michael become more and more adept at dealing with the shady world of his brother. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
What an amazing novel! "Death Never Sleeps" will definitely keep you awake because of all the twists and turns. This novel is chocked full of murder, backstabbing, and suspense. I found the book to be a little slow in the first twenty pages, but the story explodes after Alex comes back into the picture via his computer. E.J. Simon has an amazing concept for this book and leaves you wanting more. The idea of an artificial computer was brilliant, and absolutely original. I fell in love with all the characters, especially Michael. The book ends way too soon, and I am glad that there is going to be a sequel to this explosive series. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants something completely original and engaging.
His well ordered life is about to change. Michael Cross is a corporate CEO with a wonderful wife and a successful career. Then his brother, Alex, gets gunned down and he’s drawn into the underbelly of loan sharks and illegal betting. As Michael digs to discover his brothers murderer, he becomes involved in his brothers business, with all of the ugliness and danger it entails. A mysterious message has him wondering. Is his brother really dead? Has to be. He saw the body, saw him buried. The author took me for a spin into the question of life after death, both philosophical and technical. Other weird things happen and people are out to get him, even threatening the life of his wife. Now the race is on to solve the murder before everything he values is eliminated. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was Michael. His character rang true. The author shared his thoughts, which made his decisions and actions genuine and understandable. I could see where the allure of the dark side of business would captivate Michael. He’s bored with his uptight legal career. Kind of like an early mid life crisis. And keeping his brother distant in his life, trying to keep his brothers chosen life from tainting his, has left him feeling guilty. Things took an interesting turn when Michael started getting messages. Messages from his dead brother, Alex. The author had me very intrigued and I wondered if Alex was really dead. As the story developed, I wondered even more. And wished he were alive. His character was very prominent even though he was dead. Very good mystery there. From his brothers many ex wives to his right hand men, brothers Skinny and Fat Lester, a couple of characters more for show than for muscle, to the villains, of which there were some creepy ones, what you’d expect from the illegal side of money exchange, the characters were plenty and and entertaining, to say the least. One thing I felt was lacking was more about Michael’s wife, Sofia. I felt that she needed to play a more prominent role in the story. What I did read about her had me liking her mojo. I hope to read more about her in the next book. I zipped through this book quickly. The short chapters kept the pace flying. The characters were diverse and likeable, or not, and the suspense and mystery were developed well, keeping me interested and on my toes. I received this book for my honest review.
I am always up for a good mystery/thriller and this definitely did not disappoint. It was an up to date, more modern mystery that involved technology in quite an intriguing manner. We start with a character Alex, who only has one fear – death. I can totally relate to that topic, but what he does to calm that fear is beyond anything I could think of on my own and is definitely odd (and a little scary) in its own right. The main character, Alex’s brother Michael, gets sucked into a life quite different from his own but finds he enjoys it (and I have to admit, it does sounds kind of fun!) Everything about this book has you on edge from beginning to end. I have to admit, one of the better real mysteries/suspense stories I have read.
This is really good book. It got all kinds of twist and turns. I enjoy the fact that it has a mystery in the book. It got murders in it. It also have some adventures. How can a dead person give answers and help out his own brother from the grave. Is Michael's brother Alex alive or dead? You get swept up with this question and many more. Alex communication with his brother. Michael want to help solve the mystery of his older brother murder. Someone wants Michael and his whole family dead? Why does this person want to have them all dead. Why did this person want Alex dead? Alex seem to be communicate with his brother and talk to him like he is alive? Is life like that where you can be anywhere and communicate with family friends and still be alive only it you are in virtual world that could be conected to world before technology and world after technology.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone that loves an exciting murder mystery. The characters come alive from page one, the plot draws you in so fast with each turn of the page you’ll find yourself trying to figure out who or what could be next but the twists and turns keep coming and throw you off balance. What a fun read, I was unable to put it down! The descriptions of the locations are written so well you feel as though siting right next to the main characters. This book will make you think hard about the technology in your life and what the future may hold. I am looking forward to reading the next book. “I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.”
Alex Nicholas is a bookie in Queens, while his brother Michael is a straight lined CEO. When Alex is murdered his brother is called upon to settle his affairs. While searching for the money that Alex has hidden, Michael comes upon a special laptop. This laptop keeps Alex alive and teaches Michael what he needs to know to solve the mystery of Alex’s murder and how to keep himself alive. My Review: I found Death Never Sleeps to be a book that I could not put down. It is a fast read. While I wasn’t surprised that Alex was murdered, it is a hazard in his line of work, I was surprised how quickly and easily Michael stepped into the world that he had always stayed so far away from. My concern for Michael and has family kept me reading and hoping that all would turn out for the best and that everyone else in the story would be kept safe. Although I found it a little bit sci-fi, Alex being a part of the artificial intelligence world was interesting. The idea that a computer can feel and have conversation with humans had me thinking of the future and possibilities. It felt creepy to me at times, one brother deceased and the other alive yet still being able to have conversations and give guidance, but I enjoyed it all the same. I would have never guessed this was E.J. Simon’s first book. This is certainly an author I will keep my eyes open for. I highly recommend this book.
A unique thriller - a technology and psychological drama wrapped inside a traditional thriller. A fast-moving read,