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Authors: Dean Koontz

Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction, #Thrillers

The Servants of Twilight (39 page)

BOOK: The Servants of Twilight
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Madigan asked twenty percent too much for the Jeep, but Charlie agreed to the price without hesitation, and the old man had trouble concealing his surprise.
“Well . . . fine! If you come back tomorrow with a cashier’s check—”
“I’d like to pay cash and take the Jeep tonight,” Charlie said.
“Cash?” Madigan said, startled. “Well . . . um . . . I guess that’d be okay. But the paperwork—”
“Do you still owe the bank anything, or do you have the pink slip?”
“Oh, it’s free and clear. I have the pink slip right here.”
“Then we can take care of the paperwork tonight.”
“You’ll have to have an emissions test run before you’ll be able to apply for registration in your name.”
“I know. I can handle that first thing in the morning.”
“But if there’s some problem—”
“You’re an honest man, Mr. Madigan. I’m sure you’ve sold me a first-rate machine.”
“Oh, it is! I’ve taken good care of her.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
“You’ll need to talk to your insurance agent—”
“I will. Meanwhile, I’m covered for twenty-four hours.”
The haste with which Charlie wanted to proceed, combined with the offer of cash on the spot, not only surprised Madigan but made him uneasy and somewhat suspicious. However, he was being paid eight or nine hundred more than he had expected to get, and that was enough to insure his cooperation.
Fifteen minutes later, they left in the Jeep wagon, and there was no way that Grace Spivey or the police could trace the sale to them if they didn’t bother to file an application for registration.
Though rain was still falling, though an occasional soft pulse of lightning backlit the clouds, the night seemed less threatening than it had before they’d made their deal with Madigan.
“Why did it have to be a Jeep?” Christine asked as they found the freeway and drove north on 101.
“Where we’re going,” Charlie said, “we’ll need fourwheel-drive.”
“Where’s that?”
“Eventually . . . the mountains.”
“Why?”
“I know a place where we can hide until Henry or the police find a way to stop Grace Spivey. I’m part owner of a cabin in the Sierras, up near Tahoe.”
“That’s so far away . . .”
“But it’s the perfect place. Remote. It’s a sort of timesharing arrangement with three other owners. Each of us has several weeks there every year, and when none of us is using it, we rent it out. It was supposed to be a ski chalet, but it’s hardly occupied during the worst of the winter because the road into it was never paved. It was planned to be the first of twenty chalets, and the county had promised to pave the road, but everything fell through after the first one was built. So now, there’s still just a one-lane dirt track that’s never plowed, and getting in there in the winter isn’t easy. Bad investment, as it turned out, but now maybe I’ll get my money’s worth.”
“We keep running, running . . . I’m not used to running away from problems.”
“But there’s nothing we can do here. It’s all up to Henry and my other men. We’ve just got to stay out of sight, stay alive. And no one will ever look for us up in the mountains.”
From the backseat, in a low voice filled with weariness and resignation, Joey said, “The witch will. She’ll come after us. She’ll find us. We can’t hide from the witch.”
47
 
As usual, Grace
could not sleep.
After leaving Santa Barbara and driving north for a while—ten of them in two white vans and one blue Oldsmobile—they had finally stopped at a motel in Soledad. They had lost the boy. Grace was certain he was still heading into the northern part of the state—she felt it in her bones—but she didn’t know
where
in the north. She had to stop and wait for news—or holy guidance.
Before they checked into the motel, she had tried to put herself into a trance, and Kyle had done everything he could to help her, but she hadn’t been able to break through the barrier between this world and the next. Something lay in her way, a wall she had never encountered before, a malignant and inhibiting force. She had been sure that Satan was there, in the back of the van, preventing her from entering the spirit realm. All her prayers had not been sufficient to dispel the devil and bring her close to God, as she had desired.
Defeated, they had stopped for the night at the motel and had taken dinner together in the coffee shop, most of them too weary and too scared to eat much or to talk. Then they had all gone to their separate rooms, like monks to cells, to pray and think and rest.
But sleep eluded Grace.
Her bed was firm and comfortable, but she was distracted by voices from the spirit realm. Even though she was not in a trance, they spoke to her from beyond, called out warnings that she could not quite understand, asked questions she could not quite discern. This was the first time since she had received the Gift that she was unable to commune with the spirit world, and she was both frustrated and afraid. She was afraid because she knew what this meant: The devil’s power on earth was increasing rapidly; the Beast’s confidence had grown to such an extent that he could now boldly interfere between Grace and her God.
Twilight was coming faster than expected.
The gates of Hell were swinging open.
Although she could no longer understand the spirit voices, although their cries were muffled and distorted, she detected an urgency in all of them, and she knew the abyss loomed ahead.
Maybe if she rested, got a little sleep, she would be stronger and better equipped to break through the barrier between this world and the next. But there was no rest. Not in these desperate times.
She had lost five pounds in the last few days, and her eyes stung from lack of sleep. She longed for sleep. But the incomprehensible spirit voices continued to assault her, a steady stream of them, a torrent, a flood of otherworldly messages. Their urgency infected her, pushed her to the brink of panic.
Time was running out. The boy was growing stronger.
Too little time to do all that was necessary.
Too little time. Maybe no time at all . . .
She was overwhelmed not only by voices but by visions, as well. As she lay in her bed, staring at the dark ceiling, the shadows abruptly came to life, and the folds of the night were transmuted into leathery black wings, and something hideous descended from the ceiling—
No!
—fell atop her, flapping and hissing, spitting in her face, something slimy and cold—
oh God, no, please!
—with breath that reeked of sulfur. She gagged and flailed and tried to cry out for help, but her voice failed her the way she had failed God. Her arms were pinned. She kicked. Her legs were pinned. She writhed. She bucked. Hard hands pawed at her. Pinched her. Struck her. An oily tongue lapped her face. She saw eyes of crimson fire glaring down at her, a grinning mouth full of viciously sharp teeth, a stoved-in nose, a nightmare visage that was partly human, partly porcine, partly like the face of a bat. She was finally able to speak but only in a whisper. She frantically called out some of the names of God, of saints, and those holy words had an effect on the shadow-demon; it shrank from her, and its eyes grew less bright, and the stench of its breath faded, and, mercifully, it rose from her, swooped up toward the ceiling, whirled away into a tenebrous corner of the room.
She sat up. Threw back the tangled covers. Scrambled to the edge of the bed. Reached for the nightstand lamp. Her hands were shaking. Her heart was hammering so hard that pain spread across her chest, and it seemed her breastbone would fracture. She finally switched on the bedside lamp. No demon crouched in the room.
She turned on the other lamps, went into the bathroom.
The demon wasn’t there, either.
But she knew it had been real, yes, terribly real, knew it wasn’t just imagination or lunacy. Oh, yes. She knew. She knew the truth. She knew the awful truth—
 
—but what she
didn’t
know was how she had gotten from the bathroom to the floor at the foot of the queen-size bed, where she next found herself. Apparently she had passed out in the bathroom and had crawled to the bed. But she couldn’t remember anything. When she came to, she was naked, on her belly, weeping softly, clawing at the carpet.
Shocked, embarrassed, confused, she found her pajamas and pulled them on—and became aware of the serpent under the bed. Hissing. It was the most wicked sound she had ever heard. It slithered out from beneath the bed, big as a boa constrictor, but with the supremely evil head of a rattlesnake, the multifaceted eyes of an insect, and venomdripping fangs as big as hooked fingers.
Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, this one spoke: “Your God cannot protect you anymore. Your God has abandoned you.”
She shook her head frantically:
No, no, no, no!
With a sickening sinuosity, it coiled itself. Its head reared up. Its jaws fell open. It struck, biting her in the neck—
—and then, without knowing how she had come to be there, she found herself sitting, some time later, on a stool in front of the dresser mirror, staring into her own bloodshot, watery eyes. She shivered. Her eyes, even the flat reflection of them, contained something she didn’t want to see, so she looked elsewhere in the mirror, at the reflection of her age-wrinkled throat, where she expected to find the mark of the serpent. There was no wound. Impossible. The mirror must be lying. She put one hand to her throat. She could not feel a wound, either. And she had no pain. The serpent hadn’t bitten her, after all. Yet she remembered so clearly . . .
She noticed an ashtray in front of her. It was overflowing with cigarette butts. She was holding a smouldering cigarette in her right hand. She must have been sitting here an hour or more, smoking constantly, staring into the mirror—yet she couldn’t remember any of it. What was happening to her?
She stubbed out the cigarette she’d been holding and looked into the mirror again, and she was shocked. She seemed to
see
herself for the first time in years. She saw that her hair was wild, frizzy, tangled, unwashed. She saw how sunken her eyes were, ringed with crepe-like flesh that had an unhealthy purplish tint. Her teeth, my God, they looked as if they hadn’t been brushed in a couple of weeks; they were yellow, caked with plaque! In addition to banishing sleep, the Gift had driven many other things out of her life; she was aware of that. However, until now, she hadn’t been so painfully aware that the Gift—the visions, the trances, the communications with spirits—had caused her to
completely
neglect personal hygiene. Her pajamas were spotted with food and cigarette ashes. She raised her hands and looked at them with amazement. Her fingernails were too long, chipped, dirty. There were traces of dirt in her knuckles.
She had always valued cleanliness, neatness.
What would her Albert say if he could see her now?
For one devastating moment, she wondered if her daughter had been correct in having her hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation. She wondered if she was not a visionary after all, not a genuine religious leader, but simply a disturbed old woman, senile, plagued by bizarre hallucinations and delusions, deranged. Was the Scavello boy really the Antichrist? Or just an innocent child? Was Twilight actually coming? Or was her fear of the devil only a foolish old woman’s demented fantasy? She was suddenly, guttwistingly sure that her “holy mission” was, in fact, merely the crusade of a pitiful schizophrenic.
No. She shook her head violently.
No!
These despicable doubts were planted by Satan.
This was her Gethsemane. Jesus had endured an agony of doubt in the Garden of Gethsemane, near the brook of Kedron.
Her
Gethsemane was in a more humble location: a nondescript motel in Soledad, California. But it was every bit as important a turning point for her as Jesus’s experience in the garden had been for Him.
She was being tested. She must hold on to her faith in both God and herself. She opened her eyes. Looked in the mirror again. She still saw madness in her eyes.
No!
BOOK: The Servants of Twilight
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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