When the other members of her family are murdered by hit man while she is on vacation in Europe, Ella finds her own life in terrible danger and returns home, torn by grief and driven to exact revenge.
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Kevin Wignall is the author of three novels, For the Dogs, People Die, and Among the Dead, and a number of acclaimed short stories. His work has inspired musicians and other artists, and both Who Is Conrad Hirst? and For the Dogs have been optioned for film. Visit the author at www.kevinwignall.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Seventeen-year-old boys die in car crashes, they die of meningitis, rare forms of cancer, suicide. Mostly, they don't die at all. They pass through the age, shedding awkwardness and anger and self-loathing on the way.
Ben Hatto was a seventeen-year-old close to bursting with anger. He was angry with his parents for stifling just about every plan he'd had for the summer ahead, angry with his sister, too, for spending the second successive summer traveling with someone from college, angry with school and life and everything else.
There was no teen awkwardness about him, but he made up for it in self-loathing, centered at the moment on his hopeless infatuation with Alice Shaw, a girl completely out of his league, who thought of him as a friend if she thought of him at all. And today someone had asked him outright if he had a crush on her, and that's where he was now, one feeble panicky denial away from total social humiliation.
He lay on his bed as the light faded, head propped up on a pillow, headphones with metal pounding, holding the world at bay. He'd eaten early, pasta. His parents had probably just finished their own dinner downstairs, hardly aware that he was even in the house with them.
His eyes were closed and he was thinking how he'd just have to ignore Alice completely through the final couple of weeks. If one person suspected something, so would others and he'd become a laughing stock. So he'd play it cool with her, and over the summer he'd get his act together and then maybe it wouldn't seem so ridiculous that he liked someone that beautiful. Maybe.
It was something he could believe in for as long as he lay there, that he could be good-looking enough, cool enough, interesting enough for someone like her, that he could speak to her and say what he wanted to say, what he felt, and not the mess of words that actually came out. Lying there he could be everything he needed to be.
The trouble came when he left the security of his room, the posters, music, books, as though his personality was locked up in those familiar surroundings. He just wished for once that he could walk out of there, leave the house and not have everything fall apart, to be able to express himself, to be cool.
A track ended, and in the two-second digital hush he heard his door open. He kept his eyes closed, let the next track explode into his ears, wanting whoever it was just to go away. Then for one hopeful moment he imagined it being someone other than his parents -- it was crazy, but if she were to come there, she might get to know him for who he really was, and then things might be different.
He opened his eyes. It wasn't one of his parents. It took him another second or two to take in the man standing there. Ben didn't know who it was and couldn't work out the expression on the stranger's face, either, one of regret, or like someone about to break bad news.
Their eyes met. Confused, Ben reached up to take off the headphones. The stranger lifted his arm swiftly at the same time, and the headphones were still in place, the music still pounding, when Ben felt something hit him hard on the head.
That was the last thing he felt, because Ben Hatto had just become a statistic in a subgroup almost entirely his own, seventeen-year-old boys killed in their own homes by professional hit men.
The killer made his way back down the stairs, bypassing the kitchen where Pamela Hatto lay on the floor in front of the open dishwasher, her blood speckled across the freshly rinsed dishes she'd been stacking.
He passed through the hallway, stepping carefully over the pool of Mark Hatto's blood that had crept and expanded across the tile floor in the few minutes since he'd shot him. He eased the front door shut behind him, got back in his car, and drove away.
The house he left was silent, the only noise the faint tinny racket of Ben's headphones, a false life sign, like the lights that were on here and there around the place. From the outside that's how it looked, like nothing was wrong, an affluent family home at peace on a summer's evening.
That affluence was visible too in the distance between the Hattos' house and those of their neighbors, the growing number of lights isolated from each other in the lightly wooded garden landscape. This wealth was private, unobtrusive, the kind that would leave the deaths unnoticed for the night, the dead undisturbed.
But an earth tremor had taken place here, and however slowly, the shock waves would ripple out from the epicenter of the Hatto household, undermining the stability of people's lives at ever greater distances.
A few hundred yards away their immediate neighbors were going about their own business, oblivious of the ghoulish adrenaline rush that would sweep them all up in the next twenty-four hours as the legion of TV crews, journalists and photographers would make this quiet neighborhood its own.
Further off, but still less than two miles away, the Shaw family was enjoying a barbecue with friends. Alice was there; happy, a little drunk on red wine, unaware that her feelings for Ben Hatto, confused as they were, would soon take on a lifelong significance, a mantle of sadness and regret and lost opportunity.
Five miles away in the nearest town, the CID unit had no idea they were about to have their first murder case in two years. Nor could they yet know who'd been living among them, or that within twenty-four hours they'd be announcing to the media that Mark Hatto's business affairs had been "complex," a shorthand way of telling the public not to worry, that this guy had brought it upon himself.
And thousands of miles away, in a small town in Italy, the place where the true force of the tremor would be measured, a daughter, a sister, someone the police would need to contact to break the tragic news. And too late, it would be the detective who turned off Ben Hatto's music who realized that perhaps the boy's sister was also in danger.
He'd stand there dwelling on the pointlessness of it, the fact that the kid clearly hadn't disturbed anyone, that the killer had known he was there, sought him out. And he alone would realize that this feud was total and that Ella Hatto, wherever she was, if she was still alive, was perhaps in as much danger as if she'd been in this house herself.
Copyright © 2004 by Kevin Wignall
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Descripción Simon & Schuster, 2004. paperback. Estado de conservación: New. 2004 NY: Simon & Schuster Advance reading copy, mint, new/unread in pictorial wraps. Nº de ref. de la librería WIGFORT16
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