Hollow Man

Hollow Man

by Mark Pryor

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Overview

Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

“As sharp and slick as a switchblade—both excellent entertainment and an acute psychological portrait. Add Mark Pryor to your must-read list—I have.”

—LEE CHILD, #1 New York Times–bestselling author


Dominic is a prosecutor, a musician, and an Englishman living in Texas. He's also a psychopath.

His main goal is to hide his condition and lead a seemingly normal life in hopes to pay off his debts and become a full-time musician in Austin's  club scene. But on one lousy day his carefully-controlled world starts to shatter: he's demoted at work and accused of stealing a fellow musician's song. 

He also meets a beautiful woman in a lime green dress—perhaps the biggest threat to his safety of all. At her urging, Dominic hatches a plan to steal a van he knows will be filled with cash. He picks two friends as accomplices, insisting on no guns and no violence. But a security guard catches them in the act and simple theft turns into capital murder. 

Cracks start to show in the conspiracy and, with no allegiance to anyone but himself, Dominic has to decide whether to stick by his partners in crime, or let his true nature come out to play.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633880863
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Pages: 271
Sales rank: 498,351
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mark Pryor is the author of the Hugo Marston novels The Bookseller, The Crypt ThiefThe Blood Promise, The Button Man, and The Reluctant Matador. and the true crime book As She Lay Sleeping. A native of Hertfordshire, England, he is an assistant district attorney in Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Read an Excerpt

Hollow Man


By MARK PRYOR

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2015 Mark Pryor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63388-087-0



CHAPTER 1

CACTUS LAND


My parents' lawyer called with the news as I climbed out of my car, our conversation a hesitant hopscotch of words until we caught up to the slight delay that comes with international calls. His voice seemed thinned out by the distance between us, me in a downtown garage in Austin, Texas, him in his small village in England.

Or perhaps the quaver in his voice came from what he had to tell me. The news, of course, wasn't good. People don't make long-distance calls to strangers for anything but the bad, and so he cleared his plummy little throat and told me that my parents were dead. Killed yesterday, on the family farm.

"I'm frightfully sorry," he said.

I thought at first he must be joking, or mistaken. But English solicitors don't play cruel practical jokes, and they certainly don't make mistakes like this. Which meant that my mum and dad, both of them, were really dead and had been since yesterday. Dead when I went to bed last night, dead when I got up this morning, dead when I was deciding how many tacos I wanted for breakfast. I didn't know what to say, and when I tried to speak, nothing but a croaking came out, so I stayed silent.

"There was a big storm," he explained. "The next morning your parents went for a walk to see if there was any damage, trees blown over, that sort of thing. Your father stepped on a downed power line." My mum, he said, raced over to help without realizing what had happened, and reached for her husband's hand one last time.

"I'm sorry," he said again, "I'm sure this is quite a ..." He couldn't very well say shock, but it was the right word.

"Thank you for letting me know," I said. I closed my car door behind me and kept the phone to my ear.

"You're probably wondering about ... the farm, all the practical stuff."

I wasn't, of course. I was struggling to bring up a clear picture of my parents. It's a funny thing that when you've not seen people for a decade, even people you love and who love you, their faces seem to quiver in your mind, blurring in and out. I stood there in the garage, a block of sunlight creeping toward my toes, and I simply couldn't bring up a clear image of them.

But Craig Whitfield, Esquire, didn't know that. He was like so many English people of his generation and class: welcoming the busy necessities so they could blanket those awkward emotions that one was supposed to experience weakly, and express not at all.

"Not the best news there, either, I'm afraid," he was saying. "You see, farming isn't what it was twenty years ago. The new, open Europe has been good for everyone except farmers — can't compete, and the subsidies are a fraction of what they used to be. As a result, I'm afraid your father picked up a spot of debt along the way. More than a spot, quite frankly. The land is worth something, but some of the larger fields he'd already sold off and was leasing back."

"Oh, I didn't know that." I didn't know that because I hadn't spoken to my parents in many years.

"I'm the executor of the will, so I'll have more information in a week or so, once everything's tallied up."

"What about the funeral arrangements?"

"They didn't want one. You know them — they weren't religious in any way and didn't believe in making a fuss over the dead. They have identical wills, which say they want to be cremated and their ashes spread in the back meadow. No service, no memorial."

Just gone.

My mind held a picture of them now, a little fuzzy but safely created and tucked away, high on a shelf but visible for when I wanted to see it. My father thin and weathered, an unruly flop of hair his only departure from a life of order and logic. My mother just as wiry, a pretty lady when she made the effort, but a woman of the country, just as hardy and ready to work as her husband.

I struggled for something to say, wondering what I ought to say to a stuffy English solicitor bearing bad tidings. I didn't really know even though my mind was working overtime, processing all he'd told me, but I knew that I didn't want this call to end, not yet. It couldn't end because then I'd be left holding a phone in the gathering heat of a Texas summer morning, and everything would be the same as yesterday, except my parents would be dead. This moment, this call, it was too brief to herald the obliteration of the people who'd conceived, raised, and eventually exiled me.

But I had nothing to ask. I knew how they'd died, and I knew the farm would disappear into the debt hole they'd created; and with them and it gone, all connections were severed. Just a final "tally up" from Craig Whitfield, Esquire, probably no more than an e-mail letting me know precisely how worthless my inheritance was.

"Right," I said. "No funeral. That makes sense for them, I guess. Do I need to come over there for anything?"

"No," he said, a little too hurriedly. "I'll spread their ashes, it's what they wanted. I'll take care of all the paperwork, the legal mumbo-jumbo, and send you a copy of the wills. Like I said, I don't know that there'll be much — we'll have to have an estate sale to take care of the bills. There's a guitar, though, your dad's old one that he wanted you to have. You play?"

"I do. Prosecutor by day, musician by night."

"Splendid. You'll appreciate the guitar, then."

"Absolutely. Thanks again." I stood there in the shadows of the garage, the stale smell of urine and dust coming into focus as Mr. Whitfield's presence receded.

"Yes, you're very welcome." His voice softened, as if emotion was allowed after all, or a measure of sympathy anyway. "And my condolences, Dominic, it's all quite a shame."

Indeed. My parents had been electrocuted to death, and even though I'd not seen them in a long time, they'd finally abandoned me permanently, irrevocably, taking into oblivion with them the house I'd been born in, the fields I'd played in, and the woods I'd explored for my most formative years. So yes, at that moment I tended to agree with Craig Whitfield, Esquire, that it was all quite a shame.

* * *

I put the phone in my pocket and stared out into the sunlight, perched on the hood of my car, wondering whether to go home, go to England, or do what my parents would have done: carry on with a stiff upper lip. They'd done that after I left, got on with their lives while allowing for the occasional parental exploit, a Christmas or birthday card. Eventually, like the missives from a senile grandparent, the cards stopped arriving. I didn't mind as much as I ought to have, just because I knew what my parents were like and I knew that day would come. It wasn't born of callousness, either, just practicality. Logic. What would an estranged son want with a birthday card from someone he's not seen in years? Exiling me wasn't an act of callousness, either, though it's easy to see it that way, pitch it as one. As much as anything, it was a way of saving me from something I'd done, something that could have had much worse consequences than a new life in America.

It happened when I was sixteen years old, on a foggy morning in the English village of Weston, when I mistook the florid features of a local man for a rising pheasant and shot him in the face.

The man died the next day, and as usual I thought I could atone for my misdeed by writing a song. My family called me cold-blooded, and when I tried to explain some of the things the man had done, they wouldn't listen, they didn't care, as if death erased the man's own misdeeds. It wasn't the first time they'd failed to believe me, but it was the most serious, and the last. Instead of writing my song, I was shipped to wealthy and disinterested relatives in Texas. There, I lived out my youth in a military school where I hung on to my accent for dear life and carried a guitar everywhere I went. I stayed in Texas when I graduated and my most prized possession remained my guitar, but I quickly bought a gun and loved it enough to make my guitar sing with jealousy. It was a semiautomatic Smith & Wesson, sexy but not as beautiful as the antique Purdey shotguns I'd left behind in England. The shotguns. When I was on the phone with the lawyer, I'd wanted to ask for them, ask him what would become of them. But the thought seemed crass. Hell, maybe my father already sold them, after what happened.

In all other ways, and as I've done ever since I came to America and came to know myself, I donned the local camouflage and learned to fit in: I kicked my car door closed with a cowboy boot every day and strolled into work with a breakfast taco in each hand. After a few years, I thought I was free and clear of my tragic past but, as they say, accidents happen in threes.

The first one came with that pull of a trigger and exiled me to Texas. The second one was a slower kind of disaster that hid itself inside a normal Thursday, a day that started out like any other. A slow-burn disaster that, step by step, twisted my future out of trajectory. Not as quickly as the blast of a gun but in a way that, much later, made me think I should have seen it coming.

A car passed me, adding its fumes to the rancid air in the garage, and I wanted out of there. Not to go home, I didn't need to spend the day in maudlin reverie. Nor was I needed in England. I'd do what I could to honor my parents and behave the way they'd hope for, the way they'd behave and expect me to. I'd go to work.

I opened the front door and retrieved my 9mm from the glove compartment and tucked it into its cloth bag. A second wave of oil and piss hit me, and I held my breath while I locked my gun and guitar in the trunk, as I did every day. This garage was for county employees only, but defendants at the neighboring courthouse used it without compunction, which should have surprised no one, but seemed to. As a result, I threw furtive looks over my shoulder as I stashed the guitar case and felt that daily twinge of hope it'd be there when I finished work. I'd asked to have cameras put up in the garage (I had a thing for cameras and surveillance, having won some of my biggest trials because critical moments were caught on tape), but neither the county nor the city wanted to pay for them.

They went everywhere with me, the gun and the guitar, everywhere except the office. Even though I prosecuted murderers and rapists for a living, my boss had seen fit to ban us from packing heat while at work. Our offices were in the same building as the courts, so he was right that the place was stuffed to the gills with cops and sheriffs but, for an Englishman living in Texas, not being allowed to carry my sidearm was a grave disappointment.

I took the stairs to exit the parking deck, having learned my lesson about the unreliable lift on two separate occasions. To my right sat a small park, a hollow of dead grass and bare earth with a surrounding ribbon of sidewalk that guided men and women in suits toward the criminal courthouse. Sitting catty-corner to the courts, the park was littered with the unmoving bodies of the homeless, a dozen or more lying still in the gathering heat. It was the first of July, and soon these men, and a few women, would rise like zombies to begin the daily ritual of plodding across the worn, brown grass to their favorite tree to bag space for the day. As the sun rose and normal people sought shelter in air-conditioned offices and malls, these people shuffled their packs and ragged bodies, creeping in tiny circles like the shadows of a sundial in their attempts to stay cool.

I stood in the shade of the parking lot and watched, something I often did. Had always done. My best friend back home had once come across me — I think I was about nine years old — sitting in a tree in the school playground. My back to the trunk, legs dangling as I watched my classmates roam around beneath me. He'd likened me to a leopard, alert, solitary, a cat of prey sitting high on my branch while the world passed by.

A chorus of voices drew my attention to a row of colorful media trucks that lined the curb around the courthouse plaza, their engines humming in anticipation of action, antennas spiking from their roofs and wires spilling from their sides. The reporters, called talent for no reason I could figure out, were getting ready for the morning's live broadcast, coiffing their hair and powdering their noses. A quick scan showed they were all male.

I moved toward the news vans, and when I got close, I spotted Patrick Stephens. He'd covered my last murder trial and given me some airtime when the jury came back with a guilty verdict. I liked him more than the other reporters who, with their serious faces and fake importance, were like car salesmen always looking for an angle. Not Patrick. He was like a friendly Irishman who'd buy you pints at the pub and expect nothing in return except a joke or two. He was red-haired, roly-poly, twinkly-eyed, and the only person I knew who looked ten pounds lighter on camera.

"Hey, it's Dominic, the musical British prosecutor," he said. "You look frowny, what's wrong?"

"You know, the usual. Shitty news arrives early in the morning just so it can screw up your whole day."

"That's why we have a morning show," he grinned. "Care to unload on a friend?"

"When I find one, I will." My smile was supposed to be friendly, to show I was joking, but I expect it looked as insincere as it felt. "Also, I'm a musician, not musical. And I'm English, not British. How would you like me to call you Canadian?"

"Just fine. I'm from Ottawa."

"I feel like I should know that. Eh?"

"Hilarious. But I've been in Texas ten years, so don't sweat it." He interrupted a stroke of his comb to look over at the growing crowd.

"Why are you chaps here?" I asked.

"Covering the Wilbert trial," he said. "Closing arguments today. Should be good."

"Yeah, any time a kid gets stabbed it's awesome."

The Wilbert trial. The man looked like a librarian but had stabbed his ex-girlfriend thirty-six times with a knife he took from her kitchen. When her five-year-old ran screaming to his momma's side, Wilbert stabbed him four times. Momma died at the scene, but the boy lived, which, if nothing else, seemed like poor planning. Leaving a witness, and all.

"You know what I mean." He poked me in the chest with his comb. "And don't act all high and mighty — we both make money from other people's tragedies."

"Except I do something positive about them, whereas you guys turn them into gossip."

"I'll remember that next time you ask for some airtime."

"Touché." I looked toward the courthouse but the main entrance was out of view. The building was U-shaped, the left wing being the jail, the right wing housing the admin buildings, and the entrance at the end of a walkway that ran between them. The protestors filled the walkway that led to the main doors. "So, not here to report on the protest?"

"We'll cover it," he said. "Your office rarely seeks the death penalty, so this lot doesn't usually come out."

"Well, have fun. I have a boss waiting for me."

Before I could move off, a chorus of shouts exploded from the courthouse entrance. We couldn't see what was happening, but the shouting got louder and several deputies dropped their cigarettes and started running toward the noise. The reporters finished patting their noses in double-time, and the cameramen hoisted their equipment onto their shoulders and headed into battle.

By the time I got there a line of brown-shirted sheriff 's deputies had blocked the passageway to the front doors. Behind them, eight more deputies knelt on the wriggling bodies of four men. The TV cameras were trained on the melee but it wasn't the subdued protestors that had their attention.

The glass front of the courthouse, including its two enormous doors, dripped red, the crimson liquid pooling on the sidewalk and creeping out toward the crowd. On the ground, a dozen Mason jars lay cracked or broken, glinting on the white concrete like busted teeth lying amid unfurling tongues of red.

I walked up to the line of officers, aiming for one I recognized from the courtroom. I covertly checked the tag on his chest.

"Hey, Bateman, what the hell's going on?"

"Protestors," he said.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Hollow Man by MARK PRYOR. Copyright © 2015 Mark Pryor. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
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.

Table of Contents

Contents

Chapter One | Cactus Land, 9,
Chapter Two | The Prickly Pear, 21,
Chapter Three | Shape without Form, 31,
Chapter Four | The Twinkle of a Fading Star, 45,
Chapter Five | Eyes I Dare Not Meet, 53,
Chapter Six | Here Are the Stone Images, 59,
Chapter Seven | Our Dried Voices, 65,
Chapter Eight | Those Who Have Crossed, 73,
Chapter Nine | A Tree Swinging, 83,
Chapter Ten | The Tumid River, 87,
Chapter Eleven | Of Meeting Places, 97,
Chapter Twelve | Trembling with Tenderness, 103,
Chapter Thirteen | Over Broken Glass, 109,
Chapter Fourteen | From Prayers to Broken Stone, 117,
Chapter Fifteen | Lips That Would Kiss, 135,
Chapter Sixteen | Filled with Straw, 139,
Chapter Seventeen | The Stuffed Men, 145,
Chapter Eighteen | In Our Dry Cellar, 151,
Chapter Nineteen | Shade without Color, 155,
Chapter Twenty | Gesture without Motion, 159,
Chapter Twenty-One | In the Wind's Singing, 165,
Chapter Twenty-Two | On a Broken Column, 173,
Chapter Twenty-Three | With Direct Eyes, 181,
Chapter Twenty-Four | Distant and More Solemn, 189,
Chapter Twenty-Five | Behaving as the Wind, 197,
Chapter Twenty-Six | This Is the Way the World Ends, 203,
Chapter Twenty-Seven | Deliberate Disguises, 209,
Chapter Twenty-Eight | Death's Twilight Kingdom, 219,
Chapter Twenty-Nine | We Whisper Together, 227,
Chapter Thirty | In This Hollow Valley, 233,
Chapter Thirty-One | Of Empty Men, 237,
Chapter Thirty-Two | Falls the Shadow, 245,
Chapter Thirty-Three | Wind in Dry Grass, 253,
Chapter Thirty-Four | Not with a Bang but with a Whimper, 261,
Acknowledgments, 269,
About the Author, 271,

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Hollow Man 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is just after 1 AM and I just finished this book. It will definitely keep the reader interested.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was recommended by the critic of Ellery Queen Magazine. I'd never heard of Mr Pryor's previous series, but after reading this elegantly constructed book, looks like I'm going to! The protagonist is a psychopath. He comes across as both endearing and chilling. A lovely read about a robbery gone wrong.