The Little Brother

The Little Brother

by Bill Eidson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497605251
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 274
Sales rank: 1,217,074
File size: 676 KB

About the Author

Bill Eidson’s critically acclaimed thrillers are never too far from the sea, influenced by his growing up and living in New England. From the dive instructor in The Little Brother who slowly discovers his new housemate is a psychopath, to the ex-DEA agent in The Mayday hired to find two children everyone else believes were lost at sea, Eidson’s fast-paced novels involve ordinary people who cross courses with the violent among us all. Eidson’s books are not only page-turners, but his characters, both the heroic and the vicious, come fully to life.
 His novels have been favorably reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Herald, the Providence Journal, and Entertainment Weekly, and have received starred reviews in KirkusReviews and Publishers Weekly. He has received praise from authors such as Robert B. Parker and Peter Straub, and he has been compared to Elmore Leonard. The Boston Globe’s review of One Bad Thing said, “Eidson writes a tough, direct prose edged with irony, and he may well be a successor, at last, to the much-missed John D. MacDonald.” Three of Eidson’s books have been optioned for movies and translated for foreign rights. A Kirkus Reviews line about The Mayday sums it up for all of Eidson’s work: “Here’s crime fiction the way it’s supposed to be.” To learn more about Bill’s freelance writing and his books, go to www.billeidson.com.

Bill Eidson’s critically acclaimed thrillers are never too far from the sea, influenced by his growing up and living in New England. From the dive instructor in The Little Brother who slowly discovers his new housemate is a psychopath, to the ex-DEA agent in The Mayday hired to find two children everyone else believes were lost at sea, Eidson’s fast-paced novels involve ordinary people who cross courses with the violent among us all. Eidson’s books are not only page-turners, but his characters, both the heroic and the vicious, come fully to life.


His novels have been favorably reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Herald, the Providence Journal, and Entertainment Weekly, and have received starred reviews in KirkusReviews and Publishers Weekly. He has received praise from authors such as Robert B. Parker and Peter Straub, and he has been compared to Elmore Leonard. The Boston Globe’s review of One Bad Thing said, “Eidson writes a tough, direct prose edged with irony, and he may well be a successor, at last, to the much-missed John D. MacDonald.” Three of Eidson’s books have been optioned for movies and translated for foreign rights. A Kirkus Reviews line about The Mayday sums it up for all of Eidson’s work: “Here’s crime fiction the way it’s supposed to be.” To learn more about Bill’s freelance writing and his books, go to www.billeidson.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Little Brother


By Bill Eidson

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1990 Bill Eidson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-0525-1


CHAPTER 1

JUST BEFORE 4:30 he wedged the Thunderbird into a tight space in front of the South End apartment building. He sprang up the stairs, not tired at all, hungry to be in his own place. Stepping inside, he turned on the light and looked around, taking in all that was now his.

Same old place. But not the same old me.

It was the top-floor unit in a building where the rent was paid by mail. The rest of the tenants were a good deal older than he and Tony. The only contact they had ever had with anyone was the occasional rapping on the floorboards when Tony played the stereo too loud. The apartment had been renovated years ago, a haphazard job that had turned a large one-bedroom into a cluttered two. A huge wooden spool turned on end and stenciled BOSTON EDISON served as a coffee table. Across from the nonworking fireplace was a black velour sofa covered with imitation sheepskins. Underneath the bay window was a blond wood cabinet that housed the stereo, Tony's pride. Floor speakers stood waist high.

He walked over, flipped the power switch on, and stabbed the tape play button with a rigid forefinger. Hard-driving music filled the room. Quickly, he turned down the volume. No visitors tonight, he thought, shivering with pleasure. Soon, but not tonight.

He hurried back to the doorway of his new bedroom, but didn't go in. He inhaled the scent of after-shave lotion. Suddenly, the feel of his poorly fitting clothes became unbearable.

"I'll be right back," he whispered.

In the bathroom, he showered quickly. Steam billowed as he reached out of the shower for a bottle of hair color hidden in the towel closet. He looked at the label. It was the stuff advertised to change your hair color "so gradually no one will notice."

Tony noticed, he thought. That and a few other things. So what? Tell it to the fish.

Putting on a black terry-cloth robe that was hanging from the door, he picked up the aftershave scent again, mingled with the tang of perspiration. Padding quietly through the kitchen, he flicked the lights off and drew the shades on the bay window. In his old bedroom, he pulled the shade and turned on the overhead light.

A box spring and mattress lay along the far wall of the narrow room. The walls were bare except for the Grand Prix poster Tony had stuck on his wall with a thumbtack. "Have some art, for Christ's sake."

In the closet next to the bed, he pushed aside several neatly hung white shirts and pairs of pants to reveal a blue case sitting on the side shelf. He carried it close to his chest over to a caramel-colored writing desk with a mismatched wooden chair. After turning off the light, he shut the door and sat down, closing his eyes.

A tickle of anticipation ran up his spine. He stayed in the same position for a full minute, savoring the feeling.

He opened his eyes and unlatched the case. Light spilled out from a series of tiny bulbs around the mirror in the lid. His shadow appeared as a great hunched bird on the wall behind. Framed by his wet hair, which looked black in the meager light, his face appeared as stark as a vampire's.

Give the hair a little time, it'll look black at noon on a sunny day, he thought. He splashed on some after-shave, then massaged a thick blob of setting gel into his hair and drew it back into slick lines with a wide-toothed comb. The sweet scent of the gel competed with the lotion, filling the room. He rubbed bronzing cream into his face, neck, and arms, knowing that his two sessions at the tanning center the previous week were no competition with Tony's beach time.

Carefully, he wiped his hands clean. The cream wouldn't take effect for several hours, so he darkened his face with powder and brushed it smooth. In the corner of the makeup case was a stack of five contact lens cases. He took out the one marked with a green dot, leaned back into the chair, and dropped the soft contacts into his eyes. He kept his head back and blinked until his vision cleared. The room fell into darkness when he eased the lid of the case down. He sat back for several minutes and closed his eyes, ears tuned only to his own steady breathing.

He leaned forward and opened the case. In the mirror, a black- haired man took his measure with a direct, green-eyed stare. He gave a slow grin, his mouth lifting to one corner just so.

"You're back," he said.

* * *

It was just before sunup when he pulled the shade in the master bedroom. Wearing a pair of black bikini underwear taken from the chest of drawers, he crawled into the king-size bed. He burrowed his face in the pillow, happily unable to distinguish his own scent from that which was already there.

Groaning with heavy-eyed pleasure, he rolled onto his back, leaving a smudge of brown makeup on the gold pillowcase. He wasn't sure he would be able to sleep at all, he was so excited.

It was like that night with his brother.

Different, but the same. Even though Tony had been asleep when the ice pick had slid into his heart, he had wakened with that same look on his face, the one that said, "Not to me. Not from you."

CHAPTER 2

THE FIRST THING he did when he awoke that afternoon was look up the number for the small media representative firm where Tony worked. He wrote it down, then took a cassette from the blue case in his bedroom and slipped it into the tape deck. He kept the volume low and stopped the tape frequently to repeat a phrase aloud. It was a pleasure to use the speakers instead of the headphones, as he had been doing for the past few weeks, for fear that Tony might walk in. Now he made fast progress; his mimicry was near perfect.

Ostensibly as a joke, he had cajoled Tony into recording some of his exploits, saying he could sell the tape in the back of Penthouse, as an instructional aid on picking up women. He'd asked an occasional question to glean the information he needed, but it had been easy— Tony had gone for it completely. He was half drunk on four cans of beer, and always willing to give advice. "Confidence," he said. "That's what I've got, and that's what you need." Tony had filled both sides of the cassette.

Tony responded to a question about the women at work by discussing the secretary in detail. Karen was a good-looking woman in her early thirties who alternately flirted with and disapproved of him. As he often did with names, Tony shortened hers, calling her simply "Kare."

That type of information was useful to the man who was listening to the tape. He had recognized early on that most people judged how well they knew others by how well others knew them.

When he felt he could repeat Tony's sleepy yet resonant voice perfectly, he erased the tape and dialed the number.

"Boylston Advertising Sales," a woman's voice answered. "Can I help you?"

"You could, but so far you haven't," he said. "When are you going to drop that loser, Kare?"

"Tony? Is that you?"

"You forgot me already? I saw you yesterday." He chewed on his lower lip. That was stupid. What if Tony hadn't?

"Yes, well, don't talk about Donny that way. What I said that time at lunch, I didn't mean to have it thrown in my face."

"You wouldn't have said it if it weren't true."

She gave a short laugh. "Maybe so. Even more reason not to throw it at me. Anyway, I was just about to call you for Jerry. Are you sick or what? Your voice sounds kind of funny."

"I've got a cold coming on."

"You better think up something better than that. Did you just forget all your appointments? We expected you in this morning, and when you didn't show, we figured you went directly to the agencies. A Mr. Piedmont from Johnson & Cleary just phoned wanting to know why you stood them up for your three o'clock. Jerry took the call."

"Uh-oh," he said, grinning.

She caught the tone. "It's not funny, he's furious."

"Hey, that rhymes, kind of. Anyway, put him on. See if he can give me rabies over the phone."

She was silent for a moment. Then, "Oh, Jesus. Just when he thought you were going to work out."

"I've been working out for two years too long," he said. "So save the lecture, okay?"

"Listen, stop that and be nice," she whispered fiercely. "He's been good to you. Why such a wise guy, anyway? You got a new job or what?"

"A whole new life," he said. "You wouldn't believe it. It's a shame you don't get to be part of it."

"This is getting tired," she said, coldly. "Jerry's here now. I'll put you through."

"Good-bye, Kare," he said, cheerfully.

"Uh-huh."

The phone clicked, and he was kept on hold for almost a minute. Karen had surprised him. He'd thought she'd be more upset. She was probably in Jerry's office now, bleating out their conversation. He considered hanging up. But they would just call him back, so it was better to deliver the message when he was ready.

They would have been getting this call sooner or later, he mused, even if he hadn't killed Tony. More than once Tony'd said that he was on the verge of starting his own rep firm, that the time spent working under Jerry was just good experience.

Finally the connection went through and a raspy voice said, "You better be calling from the hospital, telling me both legs are broken and all your fingers too. Not going to your appointments, not even calling. How long you been doing this? Is this just the first time we found out?"

"Manners, Jerry, manners. Is that the way to answer the phone?"

"What's going on with you?"

"Good news."

"What?"

"A big career change. More money, more fun. Fact is, I was just wasting my potential working for you. Guy offered me a new opportunity and I had to take it."

"Who?"

"You don't know him."

"If it's Haskins, have the balls to tell me now."

"Like I said, you don't know him. Relax, Jerry, I'm out of the whole space-sales thing. Moving back to New York, closer to my family." His lips twitched. "You know how it is. I got to thinking, I'm going to die someday, and looking back and seeing all the ad space I sold just doesn't seem to cut it."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I'm quitting."

"Just like that? No notice, just don't show up for your appointments, then cancel out two years with a phone call?"

"That just about covers it. Just do the direct deposit with the last two checks, okay? I figure that's what I got coming, including vacation."

"Screw you."

His voice took on a sharper edge. "What's that mean? You sending the checks or no?" "It means screw you," Jerry said distinctly. "Goddamn it, Tony, people quit jobs every day.

It doesn't have to be like this. Of course I'm going to send you your checks. I do what I say. I thought you were like that, too. Yeah, a wise ass who chases skirts up and down Newbury Street, but I thought still you knew the right thing to do. I put in too much time with you, too much effort, for you to just quit with no notice."

"I'm crying," he answered. "But send the checks anyway." Then some of Tony's regret began to seep into his consciousness and in a confidential tone, he added. "Honest, Jerry, I had to take this position. No choice. Besides, you're old enough, you ought to know. People are never what you think." He hung up.

* * *

Several hours later, he put on Tony's clothes: a tan linen suit, a blue shirt with button-down collar, a burgundy tie with navy stripes, and black shoes with leather tassels. He slipped on the heavy gold watch he had admired for so long.

Tony stared back at him from the huge mirror over the black dresser. The bronzing cream had darkened his skin, but not quite enough. He rubbed on more makeup. As for the hair, the black wig he had bought the week before would do the trick for tonight.

He worked on the voice again. "Looking good, Tony. No punkers or B.U. girls tonight. Pumping some convention lady it is." He held his gaze, smiled, then turned out the lights. Outside, the summer mugginess covered him like a sweat-soaked blanket. He considered going back for an even lighter suit but decided against it. They kept the rooms air-conditioned at the Westin.

He left the building and turned right onto Columbus Avenue. Many of the buildings along the street were gutted and boarded up, although here and there he noticed real-estate signs. Tony would be good at selling real estate, he thought. More money in that.

Moving at an easy pace, he took the time to savor being Tony. The clothes were comfortable and fit well. Most people looked away if he looked at them directly. And when a tough-looking black youth stared back at him defiantly, he didn't feel even a tickle of the fear that normally would have twisted his stomach into a sour ball. Tony had that confidence, that arrogance, wherever he went. People recognized it; in particular, women recognized it.

A block ahead, a derelict sat on the steps of an abandoned building, babbling an angry litany. He rocked back and forth, clutching his knees. At the end of each breath he would rear back and yell an unintelligible word, then start over.

The man dressed as Tony found himself matching every fourth step with the bum's punctuating yell. When he got closer, he stared directly at the old man, willing him to look away.

But interest flickered in the man's milky eyes. Stained teeth flashed between his fast-moving lips. Drool had formed twin streaks of yellow down his beard, and at a distance of six feet the urine smell was overpowering. As his babbling wound up to another conclusion, he took a deep breath and screamed, "Liar!"

Tony faltered. Or rather, the man wearing his clothes faltered. He reached for a jagged-edged brick by his right foot. The derelict reacted immediately, scuttling back up the stairs, bellowing, "Go 'way, go 'way. I didn't do nothin'."

Tony immediately settled back into place. He grinned and made a show of pulling his sock up instead of touching the brick. He turned his back on the man and continued down the street; he even laughed when the old man began to yell after him from a safe distance.

Turning left up West Newton Street, he noticed the urban transformation was more complete. If he decided to take Tony into something more lucrative, like real estate, he would want a new apartment, maybe in Back Bay or on Beacon Hill. But for now, everything was just fine. So much potential.

Ten minutes later, he was riding up the escalator in Copley Place. The feeling of being watched and admired only increased as he walked into the lounge. "Dewar's on the rocks," he told the bartender. He sat back in a tall gray-and-chrome swivel chair and checked out the four waitresses. All wore the same uniform: a tight green dress with a slit cut up to midthigh on the right leg. The material was supposed to look like silk, but he was sure it was polyester. All the better, he thought.

One of the waitresses looked great: tall, early twenties, with bright blond hair that hung halfway down her back. When she raised the drink tray over her head, the thin material hugged tight under her breasts just like his hand would do. She looked over and caught him watching. He smiled calmly. So did she.

Just a day in the life, he thought, watching her take an order from two older men in business suits. She leaned back, hip cocked, one smoothly muscled leg exposed. On her way back to the bar, one of the men said something to the other and they laughed. She looked at him, at Tony, rolling her eyes. He shook his head; couple of old losers.

He checked his watch. 9:00 p.m. Waiting for her to get off would take too long. He decided to try to connect with somebody else first. If nobody good showed, he could go away and come back an hour before the lounge closed. An hour should be plenty of time with her, he thought, the way she's looking for it. He sipped his drink and considered the other women in the bar.

Most were already with men. Lots of name tags on lapels, a convention crowd. The men dressed in conservative suits, a few with bright yellow or red power ties, practically glowing in the dark. He closed his eyes. It was the women he could hear, chattering, light sounds over the rumbling voices of the men. With Tony inside him now, it was hard to imagine the excruciating pain women's voices had been able to deliver in the past.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Little Brother by Bill Eidson. Copyright © 1990 Bill Eidson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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