Last Light(7)

By: Dean Koontz



He would be either what he appeared to be or in some way a lesser man. She had nothing to lose. Except hope. Again.

She took his hand, and knew him for the monster that he was.





4


Taking the Drop


When a surfer came over the top of a wave, using its velocity to remain ahead of the curl, he was “taking the drop,” and ahead lay either a sweet ride or a wipeout, depending largely on his skill and on the steepness of the curved face of the wave, between its crest and trough. If the drop went wrong, rider and board could go into free fall down the face and either wipe out or recover just well enough to claim a tie with the ocean.

In a sense, Makani was taking the drop when she accepted Rainer’s hand, and the wave down which she plummeted in free fall was storm-dark and menacing and strange. In the few dreadful seconds that followed the touch, surging out of the darkness at the man’s core and into her mind were faces of women and men, of children, mouths open in silent screams, eyes wide with terror, plus treasured and well-remembered patterns of blood in the gallery of his memory, because blood was art to him, blood his passion, blood his money, too, and in his mind the images of spilling blood were confused with thick gouts of hundred-dollar bills gushing from the wounds of his victims, murder for money, murder for pleasure, murder for murder’s sake. She saw herself, too, an object of intense desire, imagined in multiple poses, naked and vulnerable and chillingly submissive. During this deluge of shocking images, she sensed as well that he was in some way like her, that by touch he discovered his victims and learned why he would profit by the killing of them.

The contact was far more intense than any she had previously experienced, as if she had grasped a cable through which surged a powerful current, so that she couldn’t easily let go. When she snatched her hand from his, the disconnection stung, produced a snapping-sizzling sound that arced within her head, by some route other than her ears.

His look of astonishment no doubt matched hers. But with a swiftness that suggested the mental reflexes of a perfect predator, his face was subtly reworked by cunning; and in his eyes—gray with green striations—the warmth of an enchanted would-be lover had given way to icy calculation.

He said, “I didn’t know there were others like me.”

She wasn’t like him in any way but one. She suffered with the psychic curse that was to this man a treasured gift. He had shaped himself into a nihilistic beast who believed all other lives were his to exploit, a creature with no morals and no limits.

Almost too late, Makani realized that he might not have seen into her as deeply as she had seen into him, that he might know nothing more of her than that she possessed a power similar to his. If she expressed loathing or fear, if she called him an abomination, he would at once be her enemy, and the calculation in his eyes would become venomous intent. If perhaps he thought she reveled in her wild talent, as he did, that she shared his contempt for ordinary humanity, she could buy time to think of some way to deal with—or escape—him.

He leaned back in the booth. “That’s why you rocked me so hard when I first saw you, aside from your obvious charms.”

Surveying the other customers, the busy waiters, Makani said, “Be careful what you say,” as if he and she were conspirators and never could be adversaries.

“Don’t worry about them,” he said. “I never have. Never will.”

“Be careful just the same,” she insisted, and she drained the last of her beer. Then she said what seemed to be something she would have said if indeed she had been a cold-blooded specimen like him. “No point in spooking the sheep. I need another round.”

No sooner had Makani spoken than their waitress appeared as if she had been commanded to attend them, and Rainer ordered two more bottles of Corona with fresh frosted glasses.

“When did the power first come to you?” he asked.

“I was sixteen. Two months after you saw me on the beach. How old were you when it happened?”

“Fourteen. Does anyone know?”

“Who would believe? Why would I tell? Have you told?”

“Hell, no. It’s like being an adult in a world of helpless children, except that if you pretend to be a child like them, you totally rule the playground.”

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