Table of Contents
“BRILLIANT... A SPINE-TINGLING TALE... BOTH CHALLENGING AND ENTERTAINING.”
The Associated Press
A storm struck on the night Laura Shane was born, and there was a strangeness about the weather that people would remember for years. But even more mysterious was the blond-haired stranger who appeared out of nowhere—the man who saved Laura from a fatal delivery. Years later—another bolt of lightning—and the stranger returned, again to save Laura from tragedy. Was he the guardian angel he seemed? The devil in disguise? Or the master of a haunting destiny beyond time and space? Bestselling author Dean Koontz presents his most brilliantly thrilling novel of suspense. A thundering masterpiece of the imagination ...
“MR. KOONTZ QUICKLY GRABS THE READER’S ATTENTION... There are enough imaginative twists here, along with likable characters, to win him new fans and please old ones!”
The New York Times
“ROMANCE, ACTION, AND SUSPENSE... HOLDS THE READER THROUGH THE SHEER MOMENTUM.”
—The Washington Post
Coast-to-Coast Raves for Dean Koontz’s
“CRACKLES WITH EXCITEMENT FROM BEGINNING TO END ... IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT DOWN!”
The Orlando Sentinel
“KOONTZ BUILDS SUSPENSE WITH EACH PAGE ...
IS UNDOUBTEDLY HIS BEST BOOK YET!”—
Chattanooga News-Free Press
“A MASTER OF TERROR ... A PAGE-TURNING THRILLER. The twists and turns are titillating, exciting, and combined with surprises that make for a good read!”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“THOUGHT-PROVOKING FUN AND PULSE-POUNDING THRILLS!”
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A STRIKING THRILLER ... The excitement never flags, the suspense is almost unbearable, and the characters are unforgettable ...
IS ENTERTAINING. IT IS ALSO THOUGHT-PROVOKING, THRILLING, CHILLING, AND AFTER A HARROWING CLIMAX, COMPLETELY SATISFYING. DON’T MISS IT!”
Marlborough Enterprise/Hudson Daily Sun
SIZZLES. WOW! IT’S A MIX TO TINGLE ANY READER’S FANCY!”
—New York Daily News
“THIS IS THE BOOK OF SUSPENSE YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ... The delights, surprises, and skillful writing of a superstar author await you ... DON’T WAIT FOR A STORMY DAY!”
—Newport News Daily Press
“ROLLER-COASTER PERILS ... Mr. Koontz uses the details of our everyday lives as a backdrop for the uncanny.”
The New York Times
“FAST AND ENTERTAINING ... Koontz spins out Laura’s story with ease. She struggles, overcomes, and becomes the kind of heroine people love to root for!”
The Cincinnati Post
“A FASCINATING AND FINELY CRAFTED STORY that will add to the author’s reputation ... SUSPENSEFUL!”
The Nashville Banner
“TOP-DRAWER ACTION ... Dean Koontz has ‘arrived’ as a master.”—
The Dallas Morning News
—South Bend Tribune
“KOONTZ REALLY SHINES ...
is a book that will hold the reader entranced from word one to the final page. It is full of love and life, past and present.”
The Houston Home Journal
“FIRST RATE ... Those who appreciate good suspense fiction will enjoy
Science Fiction Chronicle
“HIS MOST INNOVATIVE AND COMPASSIONATE WORK ... This is one of those rare stories that will draw you deep into it. You’ll be amazed at the imagination Koontz has brought to his story and the serenity with which the characters salvage something from their ruined lives.”
Ocala (FL) Star-Banner
IS A THRILLER, THE CLASSIC CHASE WITH ANOTHER DIMENSION ... The story is always suspenseful. There are enough twists and turns to keep us reading!”—
West Coast Review of Books
“GRIPPING ... FAST ACTION, GOOD MYSTERY, STRONG CHARACTERIZATION!”
“INTRIGUING AND FILLED WITH SUSPENSE!”
The Grand Rapids Press
“THE SUSPENSE IS TAUT ... a page-turning thriller that will keep the reader on edge to the last paragraph.”—UPI
“BRILLIANT. The plot weaves several major ideas with wonderful results:
will appeal to the thinking reader ... it is both challenging and entertaining.”
—The Associated Press
“A FAST-PACED THRILLER with solid characters, well-choreographed action sequences, and some good plot twists.”—
San Francisco Chronicle
“GRIPPING, Koontz’s prose is clear and clean ... fast-paced and satisfying.”—
“A SUSPENSEFUL AND ENGROSSING PLOT ... his ending has a smashing chase scene. Start this one on a night when you can sleep late the next day; you won’t want to quit.”—
The Daily Oklahoman
“KOONTZ ALCHEMIZES [AN] EXTRAVAGANT PLOT INTO A SUSPENSEFUL AND TOUCHING BOOK.”
The Buffalo News
“KOONTZ BRILLIANTLY CREATES CHARACTERS WHO ARE BIG ENOUGH TO STAND THE INVENTION OF HIS PLOT ... he really shines as a storyteller.
... will hold the reader entranced from word one to the final page.”
—Rochdale (GA) Citizen
“KOONTZ IS ONE OF OUR FINEST AND MOST VERSATILE SUSPENSE WRITERS.
gives ample illustration of his mastery.”—
The Macon Telegraph & News
Berkley titles by Dean Koontz
THE EYES OF DARKNESS
THE KEY TO MIDNIGHT
THE HOUSE OF THUNDER
THE VOICE OF THE NIGHT
THE BAD PLACE
THE SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT
THE FACE OF FEAR
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.
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with
Copyright © 1988 by Nkui, Inc.
All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without
permission. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via
the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the
publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only
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electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.
Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-0-425-19203-0
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 and the “B” design
are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To Joan Benford, who lives in the memories of all who knew her.
The wailing of the newborn infant is mingled with the dirge for the dead.
I’m not afraid to die.
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
1) a small gravity railroad ... with steep inclines that produce sudden, speedy plunges for thrill-seeking passengers.
—THE RANDOM HOUSE DICTIONARY
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
A CANDLE IN THE WIND1
A storm struck on the night Laura Shane was born, and there was a strangeness about the weather that people would remember for years.
Wednesday, January 12, 1955, was frigid, gray, and somber. At twilight thick, fluffy snowflakes spiraled out of the low sky, and the people of Denver huddled in expectation of a Rocky Mountain blizzard. By ten o’clock that night, a bitterly cold gale blew in from the west, howling out of the mountain passes and shrieking down those rugged, wooded slopes. The snowflakes grew smaller, until they were as fine as sand, and they sounded as abrasive as sand, too, when the wind blew them across the windows of Dr. Paul Markwell’s book-lined study.
Markwell slumped in the chair behind his desk, drinking Scotch to keep warm. The persistent chill that troubled him was not caused by a winter draft but by an internal frigidity of the mind and heart.
In the four years since his only child, Lenny, had died of polio, Markwell’s drinking had gotten steadily worse. Now, though on call for emergencies at County Medical, he picked up the bottle and poured more Chivas Regal.
In the enlightened year of 1955, children were being inoculated with Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine, and the day was near when no child would be paralyzed or die from poliomyelitis. But Lenny had been afflicted in 1951, a year before Salk tested the vaccine. The boy’s respiratory muscles had been paralyzed, too, and the case had been complicated by bronchopneumonia. Lenny never had a chance.
From the mountains to the west, a low rumble echoed across the winter night, but at first Markwell thought nothing of it. He was so involved with his own enduring, bile-black grief that sometimes he was only subliminally aware of events that transpired around him.
A photograph of Lenny stood on his desk. Even after four years he was tortured by his son’s smiling face. He should have put the photo away but instead left it in view because unceasing self-flagellation was his method of attempting to atone for his guilt.
None of Paul Markwell’s colleagues was aware of his drinking problem. He never appeared to be drunk. The errors he made in the treatment of some patients had resulted in complications that might have arisen naturally and were not attributed to malpractice. But
knew that he had blundered, and self-loathing only induced him to drink more.
The rumbling came again. This time he recognized the thunder, but he still did not wonder about it.
The phone rang. The Scotch had left him numb and slow to react, so he did not pick up the receiver until the third ring. “Hello?”
“Dr. Markwell? Henry Yamatta.” Yamatta, an intern at County Medical, sounded nervous. “One of your patients, Janet Shane, was just brought in by her husband. She’s in labor. Fact is, they were delayed by the storm, so she was well along when they got here.”
Markwell drank Scotch while he listened. Then, pleased to hear that his voice was not slurred, he asked, “She still in first stage?”
“Yes, but her labor pains are intense and unusually protracted for this point in the process. There’s blood-tinged vaginal mucus—”
“That’s to be expected.”
Impatiently Yamatta said, “No, no. This isn’t ordinary show.”
or blood-tainted vaginal mucus, was a reliable sign that labor was impending. However Yamatta had said Mrs. Shane was already well into labor. Markwell had blundered by suggesting that the intern was reporting ordinary show.
Yamatta said, “Not enough blood for hemorrhage, but something’s wrong. Uterine inertia, obstruction of the pelvis, systemic disease—”
“I’d have noticed any physiological irregularity that would’ve made pregnancy dangerous,” Markwell said sharply. But he knew that he might
have noticed ... if he had been drunk. “Dr. Carlson’s on duty tonight. If something goes wrong before I get there, he—”
“We’ve just had four accident victims brought in, two in bad shape. Carlson’s hands are full. We need you, Dr. Markwell.”
“I’m on my way. Twenty minutes.”
Markwell hung up, finished his Scotch, and took a peppermint lozenge from his pocket. Since becoming a heavy drinker, he always carried mints. As he unwrapped the lozenge and popped it into his mouth, he left the study and went along the hall to the foyer closet.