Last Light(4)

By: Dean Koontz



Robert, who insisted on being Lopaka, had once been angered that a coworker had received an unearned promotion. He wished ardently that he could think of a way to frame the man for some transgression that would get him fired.

Janice’s envy would pass. She loved Makani no less than Makani loved her. Neither of them would hurt the other or rejoice in the other’s misery. Likewise, Robert was too morally centered to act upon his unworthy desire.

If Makani had been able to read entire minds or at least to see a wider spectrum of a person’s thoughts, her strange talent might have been more tolerable. When the touch occurred, if the person was not in the grip of a bitter resentment or a hateful coveting, or a most violent urge, Makani received no psychic input. She was attuned solely to vile and intensely felt emotions and desires that people would never willingly reveal. She was made aware of only the most low-minded, most mean-spirited, wickedest secret or unexpressed craving. As a consequence, she found it increasingly difficult to remain always aware that the glimpse she was given into the other’s heart was not the sum of the person, not even indicative of the true self, but only a minuscule fraction of his or her real nature.

To spare herself the repeated traumas that might eventually have made her cynical, that might have led to a distrust of those she loved the most, she had self-exiled from glorious Oahu just after her twentieth birthday.

She had made friends here on the mainland; but she wasn’t as close to them as she might have been. She engineered relationships that were more formal than usual in casual Southern California, less touchy-feely. Inevitably, she spent more time alone than she would have liked to.

Taking a lover involved more emotional risk, a greater chance of heartbreak, for her than for people who were not burdened with her paranormal talent. In moments of the greatest intimacy, when she succumbed to passion, she seemed more psychically receptive than usual, and if her partner harbored excessive animosity toward anyone or hid from the world a repugnant desire, he might disclose it in his rapture.

She had no intention of taking Rainer Sparks into her bed this day. Perhaps never. But so far she liked him. The mere possibility of shared intimacy, of affection and friendship that might grow into love, had lifted her spirits as much as had the hours riding waves. So she dawdled now, winding through the streets of the peninsula point, afraid that the prospect of a normal relationship would be snatched from her if she dared to reach for it.

Finally she parked in the public lot near the pier. She pulled on a light long-sleeve wrap that matched her boardshorts and stood beside her car for a minute or two, listening to the liquid booming of the breakers pounding the shore, the sound of eternity declaring itself—and therefore the voice of hope.

She walked to Sharkin’, the restaurant, where Rainer waited in a booth. How handsome he was. And how he seemed to adore her when he saw her approaching.





3


Inside the Beautiful Man


Suspended from the ceiling were life-size sharks that were not plastic replicas, but real specimens preserved by a taxidermist, as sinuous as they would have been when swimming, as if searching now for yet another meal. On the walls hung colorful custom surfboards and photographs of local surfing celebrities dating from the 1930s to the present. Slabs of koa for tabletops, red and lustrous and sensuously figured. Dick Dale and the Deltones, the Beach Boys, the Ventures, Santo & Johnny, the Chantays, Jan and Dean for nostalgic background music. Slices of lime garnishing the beer glasses. It might have seemed too theme-restaurant in style if the details hadn’t been right and real, and if the owners hadn’t been lifelong surfers.

After a long drink of ice-cold beer, while Rainer scanned the familiar menu, Makani said, “What do you do when you’re not watching girls on the beach?”

“I’ve been known to paddle out and take some waves myself.”

“I didn’t see you on the ride today.”

“You wouldn’t have, not as into it as you were.”

“I was into it,” she admitted.

“I suspect you’re always into it. I’ve never seen such concentration.” He put the menu aside. “So where’d you first learn to surf?”

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