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Authors: Dean Koontz

Prodigal Son

BOOK: Prodigal Son
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Contents

TITLE PAGE

FIRST…

DEDICATION

CHAPTER 1 ROMBUK MONASTERY TIBET

CHAPTER 2 NEW ORLEANS

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER 41

CHAPTER 42

CHAPTER 43

CHAPTER 44

CHAPTER 45

CHAPTER 46

CHAPTER 47

CHAPTER 48

CHAPTER 49

CHAPTER 50

CHAPTER 51

CHAPTER 52

CHAPTER 53

CHAPTER 54

CHAPTER 55

CHAPTER 56

CHAPTER 57

CHAPTER 58

CHAPTER 59

CHAPTER 60

CHAPTER 61

CHAPTER 62

CHAPTER 63

CHAPTER 64

CHAPTER 65

CHAPTER 66

CHAPTER 67

CHAPTER 68

CHAPTER 69

CHAPTER 70

CHAPTER 71

CHAPTER 72

CHAPTER 73

CHAPTER 74

CHAPTER 75

CHAPTER 76

CHAPTER 77

CHAPTER 78

CHAPTER 79

CHAPTER 80

CHAPTER 81

CHAPTER 82

CHAPTER 83

CHAPTER 84

CHAPTER 85

CHAPTER 86

CHAPTER 87

CHAPTER 88

CHAPTER 89

CHAPTER 90

CHAPTER 91

CHAPTER 92

CHAPTER 93

CHAPTER 94

CHAPTER 95

CHAPTER 96

CHAPTER 97

PREVIEW FOR FRANKENSTEIN BOOK TWO CITY OF NIGHT

THE TAKING

VELOCITY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY DEAN KOONTZ

COPYRIGHT

FIRST…

Although I’m a chatty kind of guy, never before have I found it necessary to explain up front how a book came to be written. In the case of the series to be known as
Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein,
a few words of explanation seem necessary.

I wrote a script for a sixty-minute television-series pilot with this title. A producer and I made a deal for the pilot plus episodes to be broadcast on USA Network. Because he liked my script, Martin Scorsese—the legendary director—signed on as executive producer. A hot young director, also enamored of the script, signed on as well. At the request of USA Network, I wrote a two-hour version. On the basis of this script, a wonderful cast was assembled.

Then USA Network and the producer decided that major changes must be made. I had no interest in the show in its new form, and I withdrew from association with it. I wished them well—and turned to the task of realizing the original concept in book form. I hoped
both
versions would succeed in their different media.

Subsequently, Marty Scorsese also expressed the desire to exit the series. I am grateful to Marty for being so enthusiastic and insightful about the show we wanted to make. For a man of his accomplishments, he is refreshingly humble, the very definition of grace, and anchored to real-world values in a business where many are not.

I would also like to thank the late Philip K. Dick, great writer and nice man, who twenty-three years ago shared with me the story of asking for “something too exotic for the menu” in his favorite Chinese restaurant. I’ve finally found a novel in which the anecdote fits. The entrée that sent Phil fleeing makes Victor Frankenstein lick his lips.

For the power of man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what
they
please.

—C. S. L
EWIS
,
The Abolition of Man

ROMBUK MONASTERY TIBET

CHAPTER 1

DEUCALION SELDOM SLEPT
, but when he did, he dreamed. Every dream was a nightmare. None frightened him. He was the spawn of nightmares, after all; and he had been toughened by a life of terror.

During the afternoon, napping in his simple cell, he dreamed that a surgeon opened his abdomen to insert a mysterious, squirming mass. Awake but manacled to the surgical table, Deucalion could only endure the procedure.

After he had been sewn shut, he felt something crawling inside his body cavity, as though curious, exploring.

From behind his mask, the surgeon said, “A messenger approaches. Life changes with a letter.”

He woke from the dream and knew that it had been prophetic. He possessed no psychic power of a classic nature, but sometimes omens came in his sleep.

IN THESE MOUNTAINS OF TIBET
, a fiery sunset conjured a mirage of molten gold from the glaciers and the snowfields. A serrated blade of Himalayan peaks, with Everest at its hilt, cut the sky.

Far from civilization, this vast panorama soothed Deucalion. For several years, he had preferred to avoid people, except for Buddhist monks in this windswept rooftop of the world.

Although he had not killed for a long time, he still harbored the capacity for homicidal fury. Here he strove always to suppress his darker urges, sought calm, and hoped to find true peace.

From an open stone balcony of the whitewashed monastery, as he gazed at the sun-splashed ice pack, he considered, not for the first time, that these two elements, fire and ice, defined his life.

At his side, an elderly monk, Nebo, asked, “Are you looking at the mountains—or beyond them, to what you left behind?”

Although Deucalion had learned to speak several Tibetan dialects during his lengthy sojourn here, he and the old monk often spoke English, for it afforded them privacy.

“I don’t miss much of that world. The sea. The sound of shore birds. A few friends. Cheez-Its.”

“Cheeses? We have cheese here.”

Deucalion smiled and pronounced the word more clearly than he’d done previously. “Cheez-Its are cheddar-flavored crackers. Here in this monastery we seek enlightenment, meaning, purpose…God. Yet often the humblest things of daily life, the small pleasures, seem to define existence for me. I’m afraid I’m a shallow student, Nebo.”

Pulling his wool robe closer about himself as wintry breezes bit, Nebo said, “To the contrary. Never have I had one less shallow than you. Just hearing about Cheez-Its, I myself am intrigued.”

A voluminous wool robe covered Deucalion’s scarred patchwork body, though even the harshest cold rarely bothered him.

The mandala-shaped Rombuk monastery—an architectural wonder of brick walls, soaring towers, and graceful roofs—clung precariously to a barren mountainside: imposing, majestic, hidden from the world. Waterfalls of steps spilled down the sides of the square towers, to the base of the main levels, granting access to interior courtyards.

Brilliant yellow, white, red, green, and blue prayer flags, representing the elements, flapped in the breeze. Carefully written sutras adorned the flags, so that each time the fabric waved in the wind, a prayer was symbolically sent in the direction of Heaven.

Despite Deucalion’s size and strange appearance, the monks had accepted him. He absorbed their teaching and filtered it through his singular experience. In time, they had come to him with philosophical questions, seeking his unique perspective.

They didn’t know who he was, but they understood intuitively that he was no normal man.

Deucalion stood for a long time without speaking. Nebo waited beside him. Time had little meaning in the clockless world of the monks, and after two hundred years of life, with perhaps more than that ahead of him, Deucalion often lived with no awareness of time.

Prayer wheels clicked, stirred by breezes. In a call to sunset prayer, one monk stood in the window of a high tower, blowing on a shell trumpet. Deep inside the monastery, chants began to resonate through the cold stone.

Deucalion stared down into the canyons full of purple twilight, east of the monastery. From some of Rombuk’s windows, one might fall more than a thousand feet to the rocks.

Out of that gloaming, a distant figure approached.

“A messenger,” he said. “The surgeon in the dream spoke truth.”

The old monk could not at first see the visitor. His eyes, the color of vinegar, seemed to have been faded by the unfiltered sun of extreme altitude. Then they widened. “We must meet him at the gates.”

SALAMANDERS OF TORCHLIGHT
crawled the ironbound beams of the main gate and the surrounding brick walls.

Just inside the gates, standing in the open-air outer ward, the messenger regarded Deucalion with awe. “Yeti,” he whispered, which was the name that the Sherpas had coined for the abominable snowman.

Words escaping him on plumes of frosted breath, Nebo said, “Is it custom now to precede a message with a rude remark?”

Having once been pursued like a beast, having lived two hundred years as the ultimate outsider, Deucalion was inoculated against all meanness. He was incapable of taking offense.

“Were I a yeti,” he said, speaking in the messenger’s language, “I might be as tall as this.” He stood six feet six. “I might be muscled this solidly. But I would be much hairier, don’t you think?”

“I…I suppose so.”

“A yeti never shaves.” Leaning close, as if imparting a secret, Deucalion said, “Under all that hair, a yeti has
very
sensitive skin. Pink, soft…quick to take a rash from a razor blade.”

Summoning courage, the messenger asked, “Then what are you?”

“Big Foot,” Deucalion said in English, and Nebo laughed, but the messenger did not understand.

Made nervous by the monk’s laughter, shivering not only because of the icy air, the young man held out a scuffed goatskin packet knotted tightly with a leather thong. “Here. Inside. For you.”

Deucalion curled one powerful finger around the leather thong, snapped it, and unfolded the goatskin wrapping to reveal an envelope inside, a wrinkled and stained letter long in transit.

The return address was in New Orleans. The name was that of an old and trusted friend, Ben Jonas.

Still glancing surreptitiously and nervously at the ravaged half of Deucalion’s face, the messenger evidently decided that the company of a yeti would be preferable to a return trip in darkness through the bitter-cold mountain pass. “May I have shelter for the night?”

“Anyone who comes to these gates,” Nebo assured him, “may have whatever he needs. If we had them, I would even give you Cheez-Its.”

From the outer ward, they ascended the stone ramp through the inner gate. Two young monks with lanterns arrived as if in answer to a telepathic summons to escort the messenger to guest quarters.

In the candlelit reception hall, in an alcove that smelled of sandalwood and incense, Deucalion read the letter. Ben’s handwritten words conveyed a momentous message in neatly penned blue ink.

With the letter came a clipping from a newspaper, the
New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The headline and the text mattered less to Deucalion than the photograph that accompanied them.

Although nightmares could not frighten him, though he had long ago ceased to fear any man, his hand shook. The brittle clipping made a crisp, scurrying-insect sound in his trembling fingers.

“Bad news?” asked Nebo. “Has someone died?”

“Worse. Someone is still
alive.
” Deucalion stared in disbelief at the photograph, which felt colder than ice. “I must leave Rombuk.”

This statement clearly saddened Nebo. “I had taken comfort for some time that you would be the one to say the prayers at my death.”

“You’re too full of piss to die anytime soon,” Deucalion said. “As preserved as a pickle in vinegar. Besides, I am perhaps the last one on Earth to whom God would listen.”

“Or perhaps the first,” said Nebo with an enigmatic but knowing smile. “All right. If you intend to walk again in the world beyond these mountains, first allow me to give you a gift.”

LIKE WAXY STALAGMITES
, yellow candles rose from golden holders, softly brightening the room. Gracing the walls were painted mandalas, geometric designs enclosed in a circle, representing the cosmos.

Reclining in a chair padded with thin red silk cushions, Deucalion stared at a ceiling of carved and painted lotus blossoms.

Nebo sat at an angle to him, leaning over him, studying his face with the attention of a scholar deciphering intricate sutra scrolls.

During his decades in carnivals, Deucalion had been accepted by carnies as though nothing about him was remarkable. They, too, were all outsiders by choice or by necessity.

He’d made a good living working the freak shows, which were called ten-in-ones because they offered ten exhibits under one tent.

On his small stage, he had sat in profile, the handsome side of his face turned to the sawdust aisle along which the marks traveled from act to act, from fat lady to rubber man. When they gathered before him, puzzling over why he was included in such a show, he turned to reveal the ruined side of his face.

Grown men gasped and shuddered. Women fainted, though fewer as the decades passed. Only adults eighteen and older were admitted, because children, seeing him, might be traumatized for life.

Face fully revealed, he had stood and removed his shirt to show them his body to the waist. The keloid scars, the enduring welts from primitive metal sutures, the strange excrescences…

Now beside Nebo stood a tray that held an array of thin steel needles and tiny vials of inks in many colors. With nimble skill, the monk tattooed Deucalion’s face.

“This is my gift to you, a pattern of protection.” Nebo leaned over to inspect his work, then began an even more intricate tracing in dark blues, blacks, greens.

Deucalion did not wince, nor would he have cried out at the stings of a thousand wasps. “Are you creating a puzzle on my face?”

“The puzzle
is
your face.” The monk smiled down at his work and at the uneven canvas on which he imprinted his rich designs.

Dripping color, dripping blood, needles pricked, gleamed, and clicked together when, at times, Nebo used two at once.

“With this much pattern, I should offer something for the pain. The monastery has opium, though we do not often condone its use.”

“I don’t fear pain,” Deucalion said. “Life is an ocean of pain.”

“Life outside of here, perhaps.”

“Even here we bring our memories with us.”

The old monk selected a vial of crimson ink, adding to the pattern, disguising grotesque concavities and broken planes, creating an illusion of normalcy under the decorative motifs.

The work continued in heavy silence until Nebo said, “This will serve as a diversion for the curious eye. Of course, not even such a detailed pattern will conceal everything.”

Deucalion reached up to touch the stinging tattoo that covered the surface of the cracked-mirror scar tissue. “I’ll live by night and by distraction, as so often I have before.”

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