Kill the Next One from Argentina’s Federico Axat is fast becoming an international sensation. He’s being compared to Stephen King, Hitchcock, and Christopher Nolan. With more twists than a double helix, this gripping, fast-paced read won’t let you put it down until the very last page.
Ted has it all: a beautiful wife, two daughters, a high-paying job. But after he is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour he finds himself with a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. That’s when the doorbell rings.
Ted finds himself entwined in a suicidal daisy chain that will hook you from the start. Get ready for a rollercoaster of suspense that will leave you gasping for more.
Ted McKay was about to put a bullet through his brain when the doorbell rang. Insistently.
He paused. He couldn’t press the trigger when he had someone waiting at the front door.
Leave, whoever you are.
Again, the doorbell. Then a man’s voice.
“Open up! I know you can hear me!”
The voice reached him in his study with amazing clarity. It was so clear that for an instant Ted wondered if he had really heard it.
He looked around, as if to find something in the empty study that might prove that someone had really shouted. He saw his account books, the Monet reproduction, the desk, and finally the letter in which he had explained it all to Holly.
“Please open up!”
Ted still held the Browning inches from his head; its weight was beginning to tire his arm. His plan wouldn’t work if the guy at the door heard him shoot and called the police. Holly was at Disney World with the girls, and he didn’t want her to get this news so far from home. No way.
The bell stopped ringing. Now, pounding at the door.
“Come on! I won’t leave till you let me in!”
The pistol began to shake. Ted lowered his arm, rested the gun in his lap. He ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair and again cursed the stranger. Somebody selling magazines? Door-to-door salesmen weren’t welcome in this neighborhood, especially not when they acted as obnoxious as this guy.
For a few seconds the shouts and the knocking stopped. Ted began to raise the gun back to his temple, slowly, very slowly.
He was just starting to think the guy must have gotten tired and taken off when a renewed barrage of shouts and banging proved him wrong. But Ted wasn’t going to open the door—not him. He’d wait. Sooner or later the asshole would have to give up, wouldn’t he?
Then his eye was drawn to something lying on the desk: a piece of paper folded double, like the note he’d left for Holly, except this one didn’t have his wife’s name written on it. Had he been so dumb that he’d forgotten to toss a draft of his note? While the guy at the door continued shouting, he consoled himself with the thought that some good, at least, had come from the unexpected interruption. He unfolded the note and read.
What he saw there chilled his blood. It was his own handwriting. But he had no memory of writing these words.
Open the door
It’s your only way out
Had he written it in a context he couldn’t recall? While playing some game with Cindy or Nadine, maybe? He could find no explanation for the note—not in this crazy situation, with a crazy guy about to pound the front door down. But of course there must have been some rational explanation.
Kid yourself all you want.
The Browning in his right hand weighed a ton.
“Open up now, Ted!”
He jerked his head up, alert. Had he just heard his own name? Ted had never been close with his neighbors, but he thought he could at least recognize their voices. This guy didn’t sound like any of them. He stood up and left the pistol on the desk. He knew he’d have no choice but to see what it was all about. Thinking it over for a second, he decided it wasn’t the end of the world. He’d get rid of the asshole, whoever he was, and get back to his study and end his life, once and for all. He’d been planning this for weeks, and he wasn’t going to back out at the last moment because of some jerk selling magazines or some such crap.
He stood up with determination. A small jar sat on the corner of the desk, filled with old pens, paper clips, half-used erasers—all sorts of junk. Ted quickly upended the jar and found the key he had dropped inside it just two minutes earlier. Picking it up, he looked it over quizzically, an object he had thought he’d never see again. By now he was supposed to be sprawled back across his recliner, with gunshot residue on his fingers, floating toward the light.
When you’ve decided to take your own life—it doesn’t matter whether you have any doubts about your decision—those final minutes will test your will. Ted had just learned this lesson, and he loathed the idea of having to go through it all over again.
He went to the door to his study feeling truly annoyed, put the key in the lock, turned it, and opened the door. He felt another twinge at seeing the note he had taped to the front of the door, just above eye level. It was a warning for Holly. “Honey, I left a copy of the key to the study on top of the fridge. Don’t let the kids in. I love you.” It seemed cruel, but Ted had thought it all through. He didn’t want one of his girls to find him lying behind the desk with a hole through his head. On the other hand, dying in his study made perfect sense. He had seriously weighed the pros and cons of jumping in the river or traveling far away and throwing himself under the wheels of a train somewhere, but he knew the uncertainty would be harder on them. Especially on Holly. She would need to see him with her own eyes, need to be sure. Need to feel…the impact . She was young and beautiful and could make a new life for herself. She’d move on.
A salvo of knocking.
“Coming!” Ted yelled.
The knocking stopped.
Open the door. It’s your only way out.
He could see the stranger’s silhouette through the tall, narrow window beside the door. He crossed the living room with slow, almost defiant steps. Once more he examined everything, much as he had studied the key a few moments ago. He saw the immense flat-screen TV, the table with seats for fifteen guests, the porcelain vases. In his own way, he had taken his leave of all these worldly objects. And yet here he was again, good old Teddy, wandering through his own house like a ghost.
He stopped short. Could this be his own version of “the light”?
For a second he felt a wild urge to run back to his study and check whether his body lay sprawled behind the desk. He reached out and ran his fingers over the back of the sofa. He felt the leather, smooth and cool to his touch, too real to be a figment of his imagination, he thought. But how could he be certain?
He threw the door open. As soon as he saw the young man at the threshold, he knew how he’d survived as a door-to-door salesman despite his bad manners. He was maybe twenty-five, impeccably dressed in white trousers, a snakeskin belt, and a polo shirt with bright, colorful horizontal stripes. He looked more like a golfer than a salesman, but the beat-up leather briefcase in his right hand clashed with his preppy clothes. His hair was blond and shoulder-length, his eyes were sky blue, and his smile was rakish. Ted could easily see Holly, or any of the women in the neighborhood, buying whatever junk the guy had to offer.
“Whatever it is, I’m not interested,” Ted said.
The smile grew broader.
“Oh, I’m afraid I’m not here to sell you anything,” the guy said, as if the very idea were beyond ridiculous.
Ted glanced over the stranger’s shoulder. No car was parked along the curb out front, or anywhere along Sullivan Boulevard. It wasn’t as hot out as it had been lately, but walking any distance under the afternoon sun should have left some traces on this shameless dude’s face. Besides, why park so far away?
“Don’t be scared,” the young man said, as if he could read Ted’s mind. “My partner dropped me off in front here. Not to raise suspicions in the neighborhood.”
The mention of an accomplice didn’t faze Ted. Getting killed in a robbery would be even more dignified than shooting himself.
“I’m busy. I need you to go.”
Ted started to close the door but the man reached in and stopped him. It wasn’t necessarily a hostile move. He had an imploring gleam in his eye.
“My name is Justin Lynch, Mr. McKay. If you’ll just…”
“How do you know my name?”
“If you’ll just let me come in and talk to you for ten minutes, I’ll explain everything.”
There was a moment of suspense. Ted had no intention of letting the guy in—that much was clear. But he had to admit to feeling kind of curious about why he was there. In the end, reason won.
“Sorry. This isn’t a good time.”
“You’re wrong. It’s the per—”
Ted slammed the door. Lynch’s last words reached him, muffled by the door, but perfectly audible. “It’s the perfect time.” Ted remained facing the door, listening, as if he knew there’d be more to follow.
And so there was. Lynch spoke even louder to make himself heard.
“I know what you’re about to do with the nine millimeter you left in your study. I’ll promise you one thing: I won’t try to talk you out of it.”
Ted opened the door.