Last Light(31)

By: Dean Koontz



“That was gnarly,” Makani said.

“It gnarled,” Pogo agreed.

Bob didn’t like being left behind in the laundry room.

“You’re wet, Bobby,” Makani explained, “and you’ve done your part already. You’ve been a good, good, good boy, Mommy’s best boy ever, little Bobby baby.”

As the Labrador wiggled his butt, delighting in the praise, Pogo assured him that they would be back soon.

“You drive, O’Brien,” Pogo said. “You look more reputable. No cop would ever pull you over—except to ask for a date.”

As they drove away from the house, he entered Rainer Sparks’s street address into the vehicle’s navigator. Earlier in the day, they had gone online and, in public records, discovered that he was a property owner.

Killing for money, Sparks had done well for himself. The house was large, in a good neighborhood.

They assumed that he lived alone, that he didn’t have a wife and kids, especially since the bride of Frankenstein had been dead for many years. Their assumption proved true.

In Sparks’s garage, they had to do the gnarly thing again, get him out of the SUV without dropping him and leaving the corpse with an inexplicable injury. He was still a big dude, but he didn’t look so formidable anymore.

Pogo said, “It’s almost as if he’s…fourteen again.”

Getting Sparks upstairs, stripping him naked, drawing a hot bath for him, and sliding him into the bathtub would be something they would remember for the rest of their lives.

“It was a bonding experience,” Makani said.

“Something to tell our grandkids.”

“If we ever get married.”

“If we ever do.”

“If we ever even go to bed together.”

“If we ever do.”

She said, “Don’t you come on to me until I’m ready.”

“I was just sayin’.”

From Oliver Watkins’s cottage, they’d brought a Bakelite radio, a yellow-and-red Fada, from the Art Deco period, which Ollie had restored as a conversation piece. After wiping his prints off the Fada with a towel, Pogo plugged it in, switched it on, set it on the edge of the tub, and pushed it into the water.

They placed the contents of Sparks’s many coat pockets on the dresser in his bedroom, but left all his clothes in his laundry room, where the garments would probably dry out before anyone found his corpse.

On the way out of the house, they wiped down everything they could remember touching.

“This worries me,” Makani said.

“What—you think we missed something?”

“No. What worries me is we’re so good at this.”

“It was self-defense. That’s no crime.”

“It feels like a crime.”

“Nah. It’s more like a Batman thing.”

They walked seven blocks to a tavern, where they drank one beer each. Then Pogo called Uber, and they were driven to Laguna by Pedro Alvarez, a most pleasant young man who might have been a tad naïve, as he seemed to believe their pretend inebriation was real.

Bob the Labrador was ecstatic to see them.

“I’m quashed,” Makani said.

“I’m totally thrashed,” Pogo agreed.

They slept in separate guest rooms. He dreamed of her. The next morning, he wanted to ask if she had dreamed of him, but he held his tongue.

He cut up two frankfurters and added them to Bob’s morning kibble. They dressed for a walk in the Village, and they took the Frisbee for the dog park.

Sparks’s body wasn’t found for three days.

On his computer, police discovered a large collection of photos of murdered men, women, and children, with Sparks’s detailed account of how he had felt as he’d taken the life from each of them.

The authorities weren’t disposed to spend public funds to investigate whether the accident with the antique radio was in fact an accident. The coroner allowed the possibility of suicide.

For Makani and Pogo and Bob, order returned to their world, at least for a while. As bizarre and frightening as it had been, the affair seemed to be the start of a beautiful friendship, if not something even better.

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