Read Cold Fire Online

Authors: Dean Koontz

Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction, #Thrillers

Cold Fire

BOOK: Cold Fire
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Table of Contents
“Solid, satisfying, hair-raising ... Koontz barely lets the reader come up for air between terrors.”

The
Washington Post
“An extraordinary piece of fiction with unforgettable characters. It will be a classic.”
-UPI
In Portland, he saved a young boy from a drunk driver. In Boston, he rescued a child from an underground explosion. In Houston, he disarmed a man who was trying to shoot his own wife. Reporter Holly Thorne was intrigued by this strange quiet savior named Jim Ironheart. She was even falling in love with him. But what power compelled an ordinary man to save twelve lives in three months? What visions haunted his dreams? And why did he whisper in his sleep:
There is an Enemy. It is coming. It’ll kill us all ... ?
COLD FIRE
“A unique spellbinding novel with depth, sensitivity, and personality.”

Boston Herald
Praise for
Cold Fire
“Irresistible.
Cold Fire
doesn’t disappoint”—
Newsweek
“A swift, psychospiritual adventure ... offers plenty of surging suspense and sentiment”—
Kirkus Reviews
“[Koontz’s] name has come to be recognized as a guarantee of a good, solid read.
Cold Fire
is his most enjoyable book to date.”—
The Times of London
“Unforgettable. A stunning showdown.”

Bowling
Green Sentinel-Tribune
“Koontz is an expert at creating believable characters.”

Detroit News and Free Press
“Koontz’s imagination is not only as big as the Ritz, it is also as wild as an unbroken stallion. Gripping.”

Los Angeles Times
“An exciting, well-conceived story ... filled with spectacular descriptive scenes ... creative and captivating.”

Lansing State Journal
“In
Cold Fire
Koontz shows off his style. Unforgettable.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Koontz strikes a chord in
Cold Fire,
latest of [his] string of darkly brilliant novels. You’ll revel in this adventure tale.”
-The Jackson Sun
“Compelling ... steadily building suspense that defies any attempt to put it down.”—
The
Macon Telegraph
“Fresh, hopeful ... a charm all its own ... that propels you willingly from page to page.”
-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A cool sizzler that’ll grab you from the start and won’t let go until you either finish it or are overcome by exhaustion. I thoroughly enjoyed it”—
Duncan (OK) Times
“Hard to put down. [Koontz’s] ability to breathe life into his characters and to weave a web of suspense has resulted in a book that will cause many sleepless nights.”

Lexington Herald-Ledger
“From its opening line to its thrilling climax, [Cold Fire] is a mesmerizing tale that grabs the reader and refuses to let go, a breathtaking experience.”—
Orange County Register
“Koontz can write characterization rings around [other popular novelists].”—
The Birmingham News
“Cold Fire
is a page-turner, and Koontz’s prose is as easy to take as lemonade on a hot summer day.”

The Flint (MI) Sunday Journal
“Suspenseful, entertaining ... vivid storytelling [that] offers the reader an unsettling insight into deep trauma and the aftereffects of unresolved sorrow.”
Sunday Cape Cod Times
“Koontz does it so well!”

The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
“The tight, quixotic storyline of Cold Fire is supported by deep characterization and a most developed sense of place and pace. He is the reader’s friend, in that he can always be counted upon to deliver.”—
Fear
“His prose mesmerizes ... gut-wrenching clarity. It’s in the descriptions of emotional states—from love to despair —that Koontz consistently hits the bull’s-eye, evoking reactions of ‘Yes! I know exactly how that feels!’”

Arkansas
Democrat
“Likable characters, thrilling plot, and nonstop suspense.”
—The Greenville (NC) Daily Reflector
“A stunner... things are never what they seem ... characters of extraordinary depth and sensitivity.”—
Californian
“Koontz adeptly builds tension, fully fleshing out his characters and establishing a mesmerizing plot. A galloping page-turner.”—
Chattanooga News-Free Press
“Well-written, hard to put down.”—
New Britain Herald
“Wonder-filled, powerful suspense.”

Plainview Daily Herald
Berkley titles by Dean Koontz
THE EYES OF DARKNESS
THE KEY TO MIDNIGHT
MR. MURDER
THE FUNHOUSE
DRAGON TEARS
SHADOWFIRES
HIDEAWAY
COLD FIRE
THE HOUSE OF THUNDER
THE VOICE OF THE NIGHT
THE BAD PLACE
THE SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT
MIDNIGHT
LIGHTNING
THE MASK
WATCHERS
TWILIGHT EYES
STRANGERS
DEMON SEED
PHANTOMS
WHISPERS
NIGHT CHILLS
DARKFALL
SHATTERED
THE VISION
THE FACE OF FEAR
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
COLD FIRE
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with Nkui, Inc.
Copyright © 1988 by Nkui, Inc.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form
without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in
violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-0-425-19958-9
BERKLEY®
Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

http://us.penguingroup.com

To Nick and Vicky Page,
who know how to be
good neighbors and friends
—if they would only
try.
&
Dick and Pat Karlan,
who are among the few
in “Hollywood”
who own their souls
—and always will.
My life is better for
having known you all.
Weirder, but better!
Part One
THE HERO, THE FRIEND
In the real world as
in dreams,
nothing is quite what it seems.
—THE BOOK OF COUNTED SORROWS
Life without meaning
cannot be borne.
We find a mission
to which we’re sworn

or answer the call
of Death’s dark horn.
Without a gleaning
of purpose in life,
we have no vision,
we live in strife,
—or let blood fall
on a suicide knife.
—THE BOOK OF COUNTED SORROWS
AUGUST 12
1
Even before the events in the supermarket, Jim Ironheart should have known trouble was coming. During the night he dreamed of being pursued across a field by a flock of large blackbirds that shrieked around him in a turbulent flapping of wings and tore at him with hooked beaks as precision-honed as surgical scalpels. When he woke and was unable to breathe, he shuffled onto the balcony in his pajama bottoms to get some fresh air. But at nine-thirty in the morning, the temperature, already ninety degrees, only contributed to the sense of suffocation with which he had awakened.
A long shower and a shave refreshed him.
The refrigerator contained only part of a moldering Sara Lee cake. It resembled a laboratory culture of some new, exquisitely virulent strain of botulinus. He could either starve or go out into the furnace heat.
The August day was so torrid that birds, beyond the boundaries of bad dreams, preferred the bowers of the trees to the sun-scorched open spaces of the southern California sky; they sat silently in their leafy shelters, chirruping rarely and without enthusiasm. Dogs padded cat-quick along sidewalks as hot as griddles. No man, woman or child paused to see if an egg would fry on the concrete, taking it as a matter of faith.
After eating a light breakfast at an umbrella-shaded table on the patio of a seaside cafe in Laguna Beach, he was enervated again and sheathed in a dew of perspiration. It was one of those rare occasions when the Pacific could not produce even a dependable mild breeze.
From there he went to the supermarket, which at first seemed to be a sanctuary. He was wearing only white cotton slacks and a blue T-shirt, so the air-conditioning and the chill currents rising off the refrigerated display cases were refreshing.
He was in the cookie department, comparing the ingredients in fudge macaroons to those in pineapple-coconut-almond bars, trying to decide which was the lesser dietary sin, when the fit hit him. On the scale of such things, it was not much of a fit—no convulsions, no violent muscle contractions, no sudden rivers of sweat, no speaking in strange tongues. He just abruptly turned to a woman shopper next to him and said, “Life line.”
She was about thirty, wearing shorts and a halter top, good-looking enough to have experienced a wearying array of come-ons from men, so perhaps she thought he was making a pass at her. She gave him a guarded look. “Excuse me?”
Flow with it, he told himself. Don’t be afraid.
He began to shudder, not because of the air-conditioning but because a series of inner chills swam through him, like a wriggling school of eels. All the strength went out of his hands, and he dropped the packages of cookies.
Embarrassed but unable to control himself, he repeated: “Life line.”
“I don’t understand,” the woman said.
Although this had happened to him nine times before, he said, “Neither do I.”
She clutched a box of vanilla wafers as though she might throw it in his face and run if she decided he was a walking headline (BERSERK MAN SHOOTS SIX IN SUPERMARKET). Nevertheless, she was enough of a good Samaritan to hang in for another exchange: “Are you all right?”
No doubt, he was pale. He felt as if all the blood had drained out of his face. He tried to put on a reassuring smile, knew it was a ghastly grimace, and said, “Gotta go.”
Turning away from his shopping cart, Jim walked out of the market, into the searing August heat. The forty-degree temperature change momentarily locked the breath in his lungs. The blacktop in the parking lot was tacky in places. Sun silvered the windshields of the cars and seemed to shatter into dazzling splinters against chrome bumpers and grilles.
He went to his Ford. It had air-conditioning, but even after he had driven across the lot and turned onto Crown Valley Parkway, the draft from the dashboard vents was refreshing only by comparison with the baking-oven atmosphere in the car. He put down his window.
Initially he did not know where he was going. Then he had a vague feeling that he should return home. Rapidly the feeling became a strong hunch, the hunch became a conviction, and the conviction became a compulsion. He absolutely had to get home.
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