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"Wait," he said quickly. "I'm with the FBI." His voice cracked slightly. "I really am."


44


Because he was a night person who had always preferred to sleep during the day, Thomas Shaddack was in his teak-paneled study, dressed in a gray sweat suit, working on an aspect of Moonhawk at a computer terminal, when Evan, his night servant, rang through to tell him that Loman Watkins was at the front door.


"Send him to the tower," Shaddack said.


"I'll join him shortly. " He seldom wore anything but sweat suits these days. He had more than twenty in the closet—ten black, ten gray, and a couple navy blue. They were more comfortable than other clothes, and by limiting his choices, he saved time that otherwise would be wasted coordinating each day's wardrobe, a task at which he was not skilled. Fashion was of no interest to him. Besides, he was gawky—big feet, lanky legs, knobby knees, long arms, bony shoulders—and too thin to look good even in finely tailored suits. Clothes either hung strangely on him or emphasized his thinness to such a degree that he appeared to be Death personified, an unfortunate image reinforced by his flour-white skin, nearly black hair, sharp features, and yellowish eyes.


He even wore sweat suits to New Wave board meetings. If you were a genius in your field, people expected you to be eccentric. And if your personal fortune was in the hundreds of millions, they accepted all eccentricities without comment.


His ultramodern, reinforced-concrete house at cliff's edge near the north point of the cove was another expression of his calculated nonconformity. The three stories were like three layers of a cake, though each layer was of a different size than the others—the largest on top, the smallest in the middle—and they were not concentric but misaligned, creating a profile that in daylight lent the house the appearance of an enormous piece of avant-garde sculpture. At night, its myriad windows aglow, it looked less like sculpture than like the star-traveling mothership of an invading alien force.


The tower was eccentricity piled on eccentricity, rising offcenter from the third level, soaring an additional forty feet into the air. It was not round but oval, not anything like a tower in which a princess might pine for a crusade-bound prince or in which a king might have his enemies imprisoned and tortured, but reminiscent of the conning tower of a submarine. The large, glass-walled room at the top could be reached by elevator or by stairs that spiraled around the inside of the tower wall, circling the metal core in which the elevator was housed.


Shaddack kept Watkins waiting for ten minutes, just for the hell of it, then chose to take the lift to meet him. The interior of the cab was paneled with burnished brass, so although the mechanism was slow, he seemed to be ascending inside a rifle cartridge.


He had added the tower to the architect's designs almost as an afterthought, but it had become his favorite part of the huge house. That high place offered endless vistas of calm (or wind-chopped), sun-spangled (or night-shrouded) sea to the west. To the east and south, he looked out and down on the whole town of Moonlight Cove; his sense of superiority was comfortably reinforced by that lofty perspective on the only other visible works of man. From that room, only four months ago, he had seen the moonhawk for the third time in his life, a sight that few men were privileged to see even once—which he took to be a sign that he was destined to become the most influential man ever to walk the earth.


The elevator stopped. The doors opened.


When Shaddack entered the dimly lighted room that encircled the elevator, Loman Watkins rose quickly from an armchair and respectfully said, "Good evening, sir."


"Please be seated, chief," he said graciously, even affably, but with a subtle note in his voice that reinforced their mutual understanding that it was Shaddack, not Watkins, who decided how formal or casual the meeting would be.


Shaddack was the only child of James Randolph Shaddack, a former circuit-court judge in Phoenix, now deceased. The family had not been wealthy, though solidly upper middle-class, and that position on the economic ladder, combined with the prestige of a judgeship, gave James considerable stature in his community. And power. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Tom had been fascinated by how his father, a political activist as well as a judge, had used that power not only to acquire material benefits but to control others. The control—the exercise of power for power's sake—was what had most appealed to James, and that was what had deeply excited his son, too, from an early age.


Now Tom Shaddack held power over Loman Watkins and Moonlight Cove by reason of his wealth, because he was the primary employer in town, because he gripped the reins of the political system, and because of the Moonhawk Project, named after the thrice-received vision. But his ability to manipulate them was more extensive than anything old James had enjoyed as a judge and canny politico. He possessed the power of life and death over them—literally. If an hour from now he decided they all must die, they would be dead before midnight. Furthermore he could condemn them to the grave with no more chance of being punished than a god risked when raining fire on his creations.


The only lights in the tower room were concealed in a recess under the immense windows, which extended from the ceiling to within ten inches of the floor. The hidden lamps ringed the chamber, subtly illuminating the plush carpet but casting no glare on the huge panes. Nevertheless, if the night had been clear, Shaddack would have flicked the switch next to the elevator button, plunging the room into near darkness, so his ghostly reflection and those of the starkly modern furnishings would not fall on the glass between him and his view of the world over which he held dominion. He left the lights on, however, because some milky fog still churned past glass walls, and little could be seen now that the horned moon had found the horizon.


Barefoot, Shaddack crossed the charcoal-gray carpet. He settled into a second armchair, facing Loman Watkins across a low, white-marble cocktail table.


The policeman was forty-four, less than three years older than Shaddack, but he was Shaddack's complete physical opposite: five-ten, a hundred and eighty pounds, large-boned, broad in the shoulders and chest, thick-necked. His face was broad, too, as open and guileless as Shaddack's was closed and cunning. His blue eyes met Shaddack's yellow-brown gaze, held it only for a moment, then lowered to stare at his strong hands, which were clasped so rigidly in his lap that the sharp knuckles seemed in danger of piercing the taut skin. His darkly tanned scalp showed through brush-cut brown hair.


Watkins's obvious subservience pleased Shaddack, but he was even more gratified by the chief's fear, which was evident in the tremors that the man was struggling—with some success—to repress and in the haunted expression that deepened the color of his eyes. Because of the Moonhawk Project, because of what had been done to him, Loman Watkins was in many ways superior to most men, but he was also now and forever in Shaddack's thrall as surely as a laboratory mouse, clamped down and attached to electrodes, was at the mercy of the scientist who conducted experiments on him. In a manner of speaking, Shaddack was Watkins's maker, and he possessed, in Watkins's eyes, the position and power of a god.


Leaning back in his chair, folding his pale, long-fingered hands on his chest, Shaddack felt his manhood swelling, hardening. He was not aroused by Loman Watkins, because he had no tendency whatsoever toward homosexuality; he was aroused not by anything in Watkins's physical appearance but by the awareness of the tremendous authority he wielded over the man. Power aroused Shaddack more fully and easily than sexual stimuli. Even as an adolescent, when he saw pictures of na*ed women in erotic magazines, he was turned on not by the sight of bared breasts, not by the curve of a female bottom or the elegant line of long legs, but by the thought of dominating such women, totally controlling them, holding their very lives in his hands. If a woman looked at him with undisguised fear, he found her infinitely more appealing than if she regarded him with desire. And since he reacted more strongly to terror than to lust, his arousal was not dependent upon the sex or age or physical attractiveness of the person who trembled in his presence.


Enjoying the policeman's submissiveness, Shaddack said, "You've got Booker?"


"No, sir."


"Why not?"


"He wasn't at Cove Lodge when Sholnick got there."


"He's got to be found."


"We'll find him."


"And converted. Not just to prevent him from telling anyone what he's seen … but to give us one of our own inside the Bureau. That'd be a coup. His being here could turn out to be an incredible plus for the project."


"Well, whether Booker's a plus or not, there's worse than him. Regressives attacked some of the guests at the lodge. Quinn himself was either carried off, killed, and left where we haven't found him yet … or he was one of the regressives himself and is off now … doing whatever they do after a kill, maybe baying at the goddamn moon."


With growing dismay and agitation, Shaddack listened to the report.


Perched on the edge of his chair, Watkins finished, blinked, and said, "These regressives scare the hell out of me."


"They're disturbing," Shaddack agreed.


On the night of September fourth, they had cornered a regressive, Jordan Coombs, in the movie theater on main street. Coombs had been a maintenance man at New Wave. That night, however, he had been more ape than man, although actually neither, but something so strange and savage that no single word could describe him. The term "regressive" was only adequate, Shaddack had discovered, if you never came face to face with one of the beasts. Because once you'd seen one close up, "regressive" insufficiently conveyed the horror of the thing, and in fact all words failed. Their attempt to take Coombs alive had failed, too, for he had proved too aggressive and powerful to be subdued; to save themselves, they'd had to blow his head off.


Now Watkins said, "They're more than disturbing. Much more than just that. They're …. psychotic."


"I know they're psychotic," Shaddack said impatiently. "I've named their condition myself metamorphic-related psychosis."


"They enjoy killing."


Thomas Shaddack frowned. He had not foreseen the problem of the regressives, and he refused to believe that they constituted more than a minor anomaly in the otherwise beneficial conversion of the people of Moonlight Cove. "Yes, all right, they enjoy killing, and in their regressed state they're designed for it, but we've only a few of them to identify and eliminate. Statistically, they're an insignificant percentage of those we've put through the Change."


"Maybe not so insignificant," Watkins said hesitantly, unable to meet Shaddack's eyes, a reluctant bearer of bad tidings. "Judging by all the bloody wreckage lately, I'd guess that among those nineteen hundred converted as of this morning, there were fifty or sixty of these regressives out there."


"Ridiculous!"


To admit regressives existed in large numbers, Shaddack would have to consider the possibility that his research was flawed, that he had rushed his discoveries out of the laboratory and into the field with too little consideration of the potential for disaster, and that his enthusiastic application of the Moonhawk Project's revolutionary discoveries to the people of Moonlight Cove was a tragic mistake. He could admit nothing of the sort.


He had yearned all his life for the nth degree of power that was now nearly within his reach, and he was psychologically incapable of retreating from the course he had set. Since puberty he had denied himself certain pleasures because, had he acted upon those needs, he would have been hunted down by the law and made to pay a heavy price. All those years of denial had created a tremendous internal pressure that he desperately needed to relieve. He had sublimated his antisocial desires in his work, focused his energies into socially acceptable endeavors—which had, ironically, resulted in discoveries that would make him immune to authority and therefore free to indulge his long-suppressed urges without fear of censure or punishment.


Besides, not just psychologically but also in practical terms, he had gone too far to turn back. He had brought something revolutionary into the world. Because of him, nineteen hundred New People walked the earth, as different from other men and women as Cro-Magnons had been different from their more primitive Neanderthal ancestors. He did not have the ability to undo what he had done any more than other scientists and technicians could uninvent the wheel or atomic bomb.


Watkins shook his head. "I'm sorry … but I don't think it's ridiculous at all. Fifty or sixty regressives. Or more. Maybe a lot more."


"You'll need proof to convince me of that. You'll have to name them for me. Are you any closer to identifying even one of them—other than Quinn?"


"Alex and Sharon Foster, I think. And maybe even your own man, Tucker."


"Impossible."


Watkins described what he had found at the Foster place—and the cries he had heard in the distant woods.


Reluctantly Shaddack considered the possibility that Tucker was one of those degenerates. He was disturbed by the likelihood that his control among his inner circle was not as absolute as he had thought. If he could not be sure of those men closest to him, how could he be certain of his ability to control the masses? "Maybe the Fosters are regressives, though I doubt it's true of Tucker. But even if Tucker's one of them, that means you've found four. Not fifty or sixty. Just four. Who're all these others you imagine are out there?"


Loman Watkins stared at the fog, which pressed in ever-changing patterns against the glass walls of the tower room. "Sir, I'm afraid it isn't easy. I mean … think about it. If the state or federal authorities learned what you've done, if they could understand what you've done and really believe it, and if then they wanted to prevent us from bringing the Change to everyone beyond Moonlight Cove, they'd have one hell of a time stopping us, wouldn't they? After all, those of us who've been converted … we walk undetected among ordinary people. We seem like them, no different, unchanged."


"So?"


"Well … that's the same problem we have with the regressives. They're New People like us, but the thing that makes them different from us, the rottenness in them, is impossible to see; they're as indistinguishable from us as we are from the unchanged population of Old People."


Shaddack's iron erection had softened. Impatient with Watkins's negativism, he rose from his armchair and moved to the nearest of the big windows. Standing with his hands fisted in the pockets of his sweat-suit jacket, he stared at the vague reflection of his own long, lupine face, which was ghostlike in its transparency. He met his own gaze, as well, then quickly looked through the reflection of his eye sockets and past the glass into the darkness beyond, where vagrant sea breezes worked the loom of night to bring forth a fragile fabric of fog. He kept his back to Watkins, for he did not want the man to see that he was concerned, and he avoided the glass-caught image of his own eyes because he did not want to admit to himself that his concern might be marbled with veins of fear.

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