John Saul Brain Child: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780553265521

Brain Child: A Novel

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9780553265521: Brain Child: A Novel
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Alex Lonsdale was one of the most popular kids in La Paloma, California.  Until the horrifying car accident.  Until a brilliant doctor's medical miracle brought him back from the brink of death.  Now, Alex seems the same.  but in his eyes there is a blankness.  In his hear there is coldness.  If his parents, his friends, his girlfriend could see inside his brain, inside his dreams, they would be terrified.  One hundred years ago in La Paloma, a terrible deed was done.  A cry for vengeance pierced the night.  That evil still lives.  That vengeance still waits.  Waits for Alex Lonsdale.  Waits for the...Brainchild.

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About the Author:

John Saul’s first novel, Suffer the Children, was an immediate million-copy bestseller. His other bestselling suspense novels include Perfect Nightmare, Black Creek Crossing, and The Presence. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling serial thriller The Blackstone Chronicles, initially published in six installments but now available in one complete volume. Saul divides his time between Seattle and Hawaii.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE
 
La Paloma was the kind of town that absorbed change slowly. Tucked up in the hills above Palo Alto, it had grown slowly for more than a hundred years, yet its focus remained as it had always been, the tiny plaza of the old Spanish mission. Unlike most of the California missions, Mission La Paloma had never been converted to a museum or a historical monument, becoming, instead, the village hall, with its adjoining school now serving as a library.
 
Behind the mission there was a tiny cemetery, and beyond the cemetery was a collection of small rundown houses where the descendants of La Paloma’s Californio founders lived, still speaking Spanish among themselves, and eking out meager livings by serving the gringos who had taken over the lands of the old hacienda generations ago.
 
Two blocks from the plaza a smallish, roughly triangular piece of land dominated by an immense oak tree lay at the confluence of the main road through La Paloma and the side roads that wandered through the ravines into which the village had spread over the years. The patch of land had existed undisturbed because the original settlers, starting with the mission priests, had elected to leave the massive oak in place and route the roads away from it. And so it had remained. There were no sidewalks or curbings along La Palomas haphazardly meandering streets, and though the village that had grown up around the mission had eventually spilled over into this unnamed, unpopulated area, the plaza had remained the center of town.
 
Now the area surrounding the oak was known as the Square. And the huge oak under which generations of La Paloma children had grown up, had climbed on, hung swings from, carved their initials into, and generally abused beyond all reasonable horticultural endurance, was neatly fenced off, surrounded by a well-manicured lawn crisscrossed by concrete walks carefully planned to appear random. Discreet signs advised people to stay off the lawns, refrain from picnicking, deposit litter in cans prettily painted in adobe brown to conform to La Paloma’s Spanish heritage, and the tree itself had an ominous chain surrounding it, and a sign of its own, proclaiming it the largest and oldest oak in California, and forbidding it to be touched in any manner at all by anyone except an authorized representative of the La Paloma Parks Department. The fact that the Parks Department consisted only of two part-time gardeners was nowhere mentioned.
 
For now the computer people had finally discovered La Paloma.
 
At first, the thousands who had flocked to the area known as Silicon Valley had clustered on the flats around Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. But tiny, sleepy La Paloma, hidden away up in the hills, spreading out from the oak into the ravines, a beautiful retreat from the California sun, shaded by towering eucalyptus trees, and lush with undergrowth except up toward the tops of the hills where the pasturelands still remained, was too tempting to ignore for long.
 
The first to move to La Paloma were the upper echelons of the computer people. Determined to use their new wealth to preserve the town’s simple beauty, preserve it they had, spending large sums of their high-tech money to keep La Paloma a rustic retreat from the outside world.
 
Whether that preservation was a blessing or not depended on whom you talked to.
 
For the last remnants of the Californios, the influx of newcomers meant more jobs. For the merchants of the village, it meant more money. Both these groups suddenly found themselves earning a decent income rather than struggling for survival.
 
But for others, the preservation of La Paloma meant a radical change in their entire life-style. Ellen Lonsdale was one of these.
 
Ellen had grown up in La Paloma, and when she had married, she had convinced her husband that La Paloma was the perfect place in which to settle: a small, quiet town where Marsh could set up his medical practice, and they could raise their family in the ideal environment that Ellen herself had been raised in. And Marsh, after spending many college vacations in La Paloma, had agreed.
 
During the first ten years after Ellen brought Marsh to La Paloma, her life had been ideal. And then the computer people began coming, and the village began to change. The changes were subtle at first; Ellen had barely noticed them until it was too late.
 
Now, as she steered her Volvo station wagon through the village traffic on a May afternoon, Ellen found herself reflecting on the fact that the Square and its tree seemed to symbolize all the changes both she and the town had gone through. If the truth were known, she thought, La Paloma would not seem as attractive as it looked.
 
There were, for example, the old houses—the large, rambling mansions built by the Californio overseers in the style of the once-grand hacienda up in the hills. These were finally being restored to their original splendor. But no one ever talked about the fact that often the splendor of the houses failed to alleviate the unhappiness within, and that, as often as not, the homes were sold almost as soon as the restorations were complete, because the families they housed were breaking up, victims of high-tech, high-tension lives.
 
And now, Ellen was afraid, the same thing might be about to happen to her and her family.
She passed the Square, drove up La Paloma Drive two blocks, and pulled into the parking lot of the Medical Center.
 
The Medical Center, like the fence around the Square and the chain around the tree, was something Ellen had never expected to see in La Paloma.
 
She had been wrong.
 
As La Paloma grew, so had Marsh’s practice, and his tiny office had finally become the La Paloma Medical Center, a small but completely equipped hospital. Ellen had long since stopped counting how many people were on staff, as she had also long since given up trying to keep books for Marsh as she had when they’d first married. Marsh, as well as being its director, owned fifty percent of its stock. The Lonsdales, like the village, had prospered. In two more weeks they would be moving out of their cottage on Santa Clara Avenue and into the big old house halfway up Hacienda Drive whose previous owners had filed for a divorce before even beginning the restorations they had planned.
 
Ellen half-suspected that one of the reasons she had wanted the house—and she had to admit she’d wanted it far more than Marsh or their son, Alex—was to give her something to do to keep her mind off the fact that her own marriage seemed to be failing, as so many in La Paloma seemed to be, not only among the newcomers but those of her childhood friends as well, unions that had started out with such high expectations, had seemed to flourish for a while, and now were ending for reasons that most of them didn’t really understand.
 
Valerie Benson, who had simply thrown her husband out one day, and announced to her friends that she no longer had the energy to put up with George’s bad habits, though she’d never really told anyone what those bad habits had been. Now she lived alone in the house George had helped her restore.
 
Martha Lewis, who still lived with her husband, even though the marriage seemed to have ended years ago. Marty’s husband, who had flown high with the computer people for a while as a sales manager, had finally descended into alcoholism. For Marty, life had become a struggle to make the monthly payments on the house she could no longer really afford.
 
Cynthia Evans, who, like Marty, still lived with her husband, but had long ago lost him to the eighteen-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule the Silicon Valley people thrived on, and got rich on. Cynthia had finally decided that if she couldn’t spend time with her husband, she could at least enjoy spending his money, and had convinced him to buy the old ruin at the top of Hacienda Drive and give her free rein to restore it as she saw fit.
 
And now, the Lonsdales too were involving themselves in one of the old houses. In the next two weeks, Ellen had to see to it that the floors were refinished, the replumbing and rewiring completed, and the interior of the house painted, activity that she hoped would take her mind off the fact that Marsh seemed to be working longer hours than ever before, and that, more and more, the two of them seemed to be disagreeing on practically everything. But maybe, just maybe, the new house would capture his interest, and they would be able to repair the marriage that, like so many others, had been damaged by the demands of too much to do in too little time.
 
As she slid the Volvo wagon in between a Mercedes and a BMW, and walked into the receiving room, she put a bright smile on her face and steeled herself to avoid a quarrel.
 
There had been too many recently, over too many things, and they had to stop. They were hurting her, they were hurting Marsh, and they were hurting Alex, who, at sixteen, was far more sensitive to his parents’ moods than Ellen would have thought possible. If she and Marsh quarreled now, Alex would sense it as soon as he came home that afternoon.
 

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