The Guise of Another

“Set against the backdrop of a brutal Minnesota winter,
The Life We Bury
is much more than a satisfying, suspenseful novel…. This story kept me turning the pages, and it touched my heart. The characters are as real as my next-door neighbors, the story compelling, and the writing superb.”


“A solid and thoughtful tale of a young man used to taking on burdens beyond his years—none more dangerous than championing a bitter old man convicted of a horrific crime.”


“Thriller fans should keep their eyes on Eskens; he's a comer.”


“[A] masterful debut.”


“An intelligent and compelling story with characters that will capture you from the start…. This debut novel never lets the reader off the edge of the seat—the mark of a great story.”


“Compulsively suspenseful.”


“Eskens delivers interesting puzzles, clever problem-solving, and plenty of stay-up-all-night-reading suspense.”


“Eskens's first-person narration grabs the reader and never relinquishes its hold.”



The Life We Bury

Published 2015 by Seventh Street Books®, an imprint of Prometheus Books

The Guise of Another
. Copyright © 2015 by Allen Eskens. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or conveyed via the Internet or a website without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Cover image © Dirk Wüstenhagen / Media Bakery
Cover design by Jacqueline Nasso Cooke

This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, products, locales, and events portrayed in this novel either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Inquiries should be addressed to
Seventh Street Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, New York 14228
VOICE: 716–691–0133
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:

Eskens, Allen, 1963-

The guise of another / by Allen Eskens.

        pages ; cm

ISBN 978-1-63388-076-4 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-1-63388-077-1 (ebook)

I. Title.

PS3605.S49G85 2015


Printed in the United States of America

That night, there were a few things that the man knew to a religious certainty. He knew that he'd soon be having sex with the woman sitting in the passenger seat of his Lexus. He knew that neither his wife nor the woman's husband yet suspected their infidelities. And he knew that any whisper of guilt he may have felt would soon be silenced by the tumult of their act.

There were other things, however, that the man did not know. He didn't know where or how they would be having sex. He didn't know whether his feelings for this woman reached beyond the carnal pull of her body. And he didn't know that their recklessness that night would trigger a chain of events that would ripple far beyond their self-absorbed little world.

For six months now they'd been acting like mindless teenagers, pushing one another to limits neither had ever experienced, getting bolder with each passing week. Their trysts were all about variety and risk, finding the precipice and pressing everything to the point of catastrophe. If she'd wanted tried-and-true, staring at the same ceiling fan until it was over, she wouldn't have been cheating on her husband. If he'd wanted a menu of only three positions, he could've been at home with his wife. Ordinary was what they were running from.

As they prowled the near-empty streets of Minneapolis—in that part of the city where the glass and granite walls of downtown melded into the paint and mortar of the warehouse district—the woman became restless.

It was time.

She removed her seatbelt and leaned over and unbuckled his. Then, with a practiced grace, she started to undo the cinch of his pants. He must have looked disappointed, because she paused, mid-zip, and
said, “You'll like this.” Thinking that he knew what she had in mind, he drove in the direction of Third Street, a lightly traveled one-way that became a four-lane highway, nearly desolate at that late hour.

She leaned into his ear and whispered, “Move your seat all the way back.” The tease of her perfume—the way it mingled with the scent of the new leather seats—made his breath grow shallow. The seat motor whirred, moving him back until his fingertips barely held the steering wheel. She slid her dress up and eased onto his lap, sliding a knee on either side of his thighs. He smiled as she took over.

Neither saw the rotation of the city shooting by in an ever-increasing blur of streetlights and shadows. At a place where opposing lanes were separated by a concrete median barely as high as a man's knee, the woman let herself go. She rocked on top of him, teeth gritted, hands clenched as the pleasure surged through her body.

Had she known that those sensations would be the last thing she would ever feel originating from below her L-4 vertebra, she would have paid far greater attention. Later, after she'd been fitted for her wheelchair and he for his cane, they would denounce each other with a fierce enmity reserved for blood feuds. She would say that he lost control in the heat of his passion, jerking the car sharply to the left. He would swear that her butt cheek caught the steering wheel, catapulting them over the divider. Those who heard their stories—or read the salacious details in the newspaper—would hate them both.

The crash ruptured the calm fabric of the night. And in the span of a single gasp, the northbound Lexus hurtled over the median and into the opposing lane, slamming nose-first into an oncoming Porsche Panamera.

The driver of the Porsche, a guy known to the world as James Erkel Putnam, went for his brake, barely touching the pedal before the grill of his car kissed the steel frame of the Lexus. The cacophony of screaming metal could be heard for miles as the two cars spun counterclockwise, intertwined in a grisly pas de deux, the Lexus leading the dance.

That night, James Erkel Putnam—a man who walked in daylight but lived in shadows, a man who thought he had all the time in the world to seek forgiveness for his many sins—never stood a chance.

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