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“Dakota,” he whispered.


“At Fogarty’s. Make him pay for Samantha, Candy. Bring him back here after you’ve killed him, and let us feed him to the cats. He hated the cats, and he’ll hate being part of them forever.”


JULIE’S TEMPER, not always easily controlled, was dangerously near the flashpoint. As lightning shocked the night outside and thunder again protested, she counseled herself about the necessity for diplomacy.


Nevertheless, she said, “You’ve known all these years that Candy is a vicious killer, and you’ve done nothing to alert anyone to the danger?”


“Why should I?” Fogarty asked.


“Haven’t you ever heard of social responsibility?”


“It’s a nice phrase, but meaningless.”


“People have been brutally murdered because you let that man—”


“People will always and forever be brutally murdered. History is full of brutal murder. Hitler murdered millions. Stalin, many millions more. Mao Tse-tung, more millions than anyone. They’re all considered monsters now, but they had their admirers in their time, didn’t they? And there’re people even now who’ll tell you Hitler and Stalin only did what they had to do, that Mao was just keeping the public order, disposing of ruffians. So many people admire those murderers who are bold about it and who cloak their bloodlust in noble causes like brotherhood and political reform and justice—and social responsibility. We’re all meat, just meat, and in our hearts we know it, so we secretly applaud the men bold enough to treat us as, what we are. Meat.”


By now she knew that he was a sociopath, with no conscience, no capacity for love, and no ability to empathize with other people. Not all of them were street hoodlums—or even high-class, high-tech thieves like Tom Rasmussen, who had tried to kill Bobby last week. Some got to be doctors—or lawyers, TV ministers, politicians. None of them could be reasoned with, for they had no normal human feelings.


He said, “Why should I tell anyone about Candy Pollard? I’m safe from him because his mother always called me God’s instrument, told her wretched spawn I was to be respected. It’s none of my business. He’s covered his mother’s murder to avoid having the police tramping through the house, told people she moved to a nice oceanside condo near San Diego. I don’t think anybody believes that crazy bitch would suddenly lighten up and become a beach bunny, but nobody questions it because nobody wants to get involved. Everybody feels it’s none of their business. Same with me. Whatever outrages Candy adds to the world’s pain are negligible. At least, given his peculiar psychology and physiology, his outrages will be more imaginative than most.


“Besides, when Candy was about eight, Roselle came to thank me for bringing her four into the world, and for keeping my own counsel, so that Satan was unaware of their blessed presence on earth. That’s exactly how she put it! And as a token of her appreciation, she gave me a suitcase full of money, enough to make early retirement possible. I couldn’t figure where she’d gotten it. The money that Deeter and Elizabeth piled up in the thirties had long ago dwindled away. So she told me a little bit about Candy’s ability, not much, but enough to explain that she’d never want for cash. That was the first time I realized there was a genetic boon tied to the genetic disaster.”


Fogarty raised his glass of bourbon in a toast that they did not return. “To God’s mysterious ways.”


LIKE THE ARCHANGEL come to declare the end of the world in the Book of the Apocalypse, Candy arrived just as the heavens sundered and the rain began to fall in earnest, although this was not black rain as would be the deluge of Armageddon, nor was it a storm of fire. Not yet. Not yet.


He materialized in the darkness between two widely spaced streetlamps, almost a block from the doctor’s house, to be sure that the soft trumpets that unfailingly announced his arrival would not be audible to anyone in Fogarty’s library. As he walked toward the house through the hammering rain, he believed that his power, provided by God, had now grown so enormous that nothing could prevent him from taking or achieving anything he desired.


“IN SIXTY-SIX, the twins were born, and physically they were as normal as Frank,” Fogarty said as rain suddenly splattered noisily against the window. “No fun in that. I couldn’t believe it, really. Three out of four of the kids, perfectly healthy. I’d been expecting all sorts of cute twists—harelips at the very least, misshapen skulls, cleft faces, withered limbs, or extra heads!”


Bobby took Julie’s hand. He needed the contact.


He wanted to get out of there. He felt burnt out. Hadn’t they heard enough?


But that was the problem: he didn’t know what was left to hear, or how much of it might be crucial to finding a way of dealing with the Pollards.


“Of course, when Roselle brought me that suitcase full of money, I began to learn that the children were all freaks, mentally if not physically. And seven years ago, when Frank killed her, he came to me, as if I owed him something—understanding, shelter. He told me more about them than I wanted to know, too much. For the next two years, he’d periodically return here, just appear like a ghost that wanted to haunt me instead of a place. But he finally understood there was nothing for him here, and for five years he stayed out of my life. Until today, tonight.”


In his wingback chair, Frank moved. He shifted his body and tipped his head from the right to the left. Otherwise, he was no more alert than he had been since they had entered the room. The old man had said that Frank had come around a few times and had been talkative, but it couldn’t be proved by his behavior during the past hour or so.


Julie, who was the closest to Frank, frowned and leaned toward him, peering at the right side of his head.


“Oh, my God.”


She spoke those three words in a bleak tone of voice that was as effective a refrigerant as anything used in an air conditioner.


With a chill skittering up his spine, Bobby slid along the sofa, crowding her against the other end, and looked past her at the side of Frank’s head. Wished he had not. Tried to look away. Couldn’t.


When Frank’s head had been tilted to his right, almost lying against his shoulder, they had not been able to see that temple. After leaving Bobby at the office, still out of control, traveling against his will, Frank evidently had returned to one of those craters where the engineered insects shat out their diamonds. His flesh was lumpy all the way along his temple to his jaw, and in some places the rough gemstones that were the cause of the lumpiness poked through, gleaming, intimately melded with his tissue. For whatever reason, he had scooped up a handful to bring with him, but when reconstituting himself he had made a mistake.


Bobby wondered what treasures might be buried in the soft gray matter within Frank’s skull.


“I saw that too,” Fogarty said. “And look at the palm of his right hand.”


Although Julie protested, Bobby pinched the sleeve of Frank’s jacket and pulled until he twisted the man’s arm off the chair and revealed his palm. He had found the partial roach that had once been welded into his own shoe. At least it appeared to be the same one. It was sprouting from the meaty part of Frank’s hand, carapace gleaming, dead eyes staring up toward Frank’s index finger.


CANDY CIRCLED the house in the rain, passing a black cat on a windowsill. It turned its head to glance at him, then put its face to the windowpane again.


At the rear of the house, he stepped quietly onto the porch and tried the back door. It was locked.


Vague blue light pulsed from his hand as he gripped the knob. The lock slipped, the door opened, and he stepped inside.


JULIE HAD heard and seen enough, too much.


Eager to get away from Frank, she rose from the sofa and walked to the desk, where she considered her unfinished bourbon. But that was no answer. She was dreadfully tired, struggling to repress her grief for Thomas, striving even harder to make some sense out of the grotesque family history that Fogarty had revealed to them. She did not need the complication of any more bourbon, appealing as it might look there in the glass.


She said to the old man, “So what hope do we have of dealing with Candy?”


“None.”


“There must be a way.”


“No.”


“There must be.”


“Why?”


“Because he can’t be allowed to win.”


Fogarty smiled. “Why not?”


“Because he’s the bad guy, dammit! And we’re the good guys. Not perfect, maybe, not without flaws, but we’re the good guys, all right. And that’s why we have to win, because if we don’t, then the whole game is meaningless.”


Fogarty leaned back in his chair. “My point exactly. It is all meaningless. We’re not good, and we’re not bad, we’re just meat. We don’t have souls, there’s no hope of transcendence for a slab of meat, you wouldn’t expect a hamburger to go to Heaven after someone ate it.”


She had never hated anyone as much as she hated Fogarty at that moment, partly because he was so smug and hateful, but partly because she recognized, in his arguments, something perilously close to the things she had said to Bobby in the motel, after she had learned about Thomas’s death. She had said there was no point in having dreams, that they never came true, that death was always there watching even if you were lucky enough to grasp your personal brass ring. And loathing life, just because it led sooner or later to death ... well, that was the same as saying people were nothing but meat.


“We have just pleasure and pain,” the old physician said,. “so it doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong, who wins or loses.”


“What’s his weakness?” she demanded angrily.


“None I can see.” Fogarty seemed pleased by the hopeless-ness of their position. If he had been practicing medicine in the early 1940s, he had to be nearing eighty, though he looked younger. He was acutely aware of how little time remained to him, and was no doubt resentful of anyone younger; and given his cold perspective on life, their deaths at Candy Pollard’s hands would entertain him. “No weaknesses at all.”


Bobby disagreed, or tried to. “Some might say that his weakness is his mind, his screwed-up psychology.”


Fogarty shook his head. “And I’d argue that he’s made a strength of his screwed-up psychology. He’s used this business about being the instrument of God’s vengeance to armor himself very effectively from depression and self-doubt and anything else that might trip him up.”


In the wingback chair, Frank abruptly sat up straighter, shook himself as if to cast off his mental confusion the way a dog might shake water from its sodden coat after coming in from the rain. He said, “Where ... Why do I ... Is it ... is it... is it ... ?”


“Is it what, Frank?” Bobby asked.


“Is it happening?” Frank said. His eyes seemed slowly to be clearing. “Is it finally happening?”


“Is what finally happening, Frank?”


His voice was hoarse. “Death. Is it finally happening? Is it?”


CANDY HAD crept quietly through the house, into the hallway that led to the library. As he moved toward the open door on the left, he heard voices. When he recognized one of them as Frank’s, he could barely contain himself.


According to Violet, Frank was crippled. His control of his telekinetic talent had always been erratic, which is why Candy had enjoyed some hope of one day catching him and finishing him before he could travel to a place of safety. Perhaps the moment of triumph had arrived.


When he reached the door, he found himself looking at the woman’s back. He could not see her face, but he was sure that it would be the same one that had been suffused in a beatific glow in Thomas’s mind.


Beyond her he glimpsed Frank, and saw Frank’s eyes widen at the sight of him. If the mother-killer had been too mentally confused to teleport out of Candy’s reach, as Violet had claimed, he was now casting off that confusion. He looked as if he might pop out of there long before Candy could lay a hand on him.


Candy had intended to throw the library into a turmoil by sending a wave of energy through the doorway ahead of him, setting the books on fire and shattering the lamps, with the purpose of panicking and distracting the Dakotas and Doc Fogarty, giving him a chance to go straight for Frank. But now he was forced to change his plans by the sight of his brother trembling on the edge of dematerialization.


He entered the room in a rush and seized the woman from behind, curling his right arm around her neck and jerking her head back, so she—and the two men—would understand at once that he could snap her neck in an instant, whenever he chose. Even so, she slashed backward with one foot, scraping the heel of her shoe down his shin, stomping on his foot, all of which hurt like hell; it was some martial-art move, and he could tell by the way she tried to counterbalance his grip and stance that she had a lot of training in such things. So he jerked her head back again, even harder, and flexed his biceps, which pinched her windpipe, hurting her enough to make her realize that resistance was suicidal.


Fogarty watched from his chair, alarmed but not sufficiently to rise to his feet, and the husband came off the sofa with a gun in his hand, Mr. Quick-Draw Artist, but Candy was not concerned about either of them. His attention was on Frank, who had risen from his chair and appeared about to blink out of there, off to Punaluu and Kyoto and a score of other places.


“Don’t do it, Frank!” he said sharply. “Don’t run away. It’s time we settled, time you paid for what you did to our mother. You come to the house, accept God’s punishment, and end it now, tonight. I’m going there with this bitch. She tried to help you, I guess, so maybe you won’t want to see her suffer.”


The husband was going to do something crazy; seeing Julie in Candy’s grip had clearly unhinged him. He was searching for a shot, a way to get Candy without getting her, and he might even risk firing at Candy’s head, though Candy was half crouching behind the woman. Time to get out of there.


“Come to the house,” he told Frank. “You come into the kitchen, let me end it for you, and I’ll let her go. I swear on our mother’s name, I’ll let her go. But if you don’t come in fifteen minutes, I’ll put this bitch on the table, and I’ll have my dinner, Frank. You want me to feed on her after she tried to help you, Frank?”


Candy thought he heard a gunshot just as he got out of there. In any event, it had been too late. He rematerialized in the kitchen of the house on Pacific Hill Road, with Julie Dakota still locked in the crook of his arm.

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