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Winter Moon

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Winter Moon

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Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 1994
Headline Publishing Group, 1994
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
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Synopsis

In Los Angeles, a hot Hollywood director, high on PCP, turns a city street into a fiery apocalypse. Heroic LAPD officer Jac McGarvey is badly wounded and will not walk for months. His wife and his child are left to fend for themselves against both criminals that control an increasingly violent city and the dead director's cult of fanatic fans.

In a lonely corner of Montana, Eduardo Fernandez, the father of McGarvey's murdered partner, witnesses a strange nocturnal sight. The stand of pines outside his house suddenly glows with eerie amber light, and Fernandez senses a watcher in the winter woods. As the seasons change, the very creatures of the forest seem in league with a mysterious presence. Fernandez is caught up in a series of chilling incidents that escalate toward a confronation that could rob him of his sanity or his life--or both.

As events careen out of control, the McGarvey family is drawn to Fernandez's Montana ranch. In that isolated place they discover their destiny in a terrifying and fiercely suspenseful encounter with a hostile, utterly ruthless, and enigmatic enemy, from which neither the living nor the dead are safe.


Excerpt

Chapter One

Death was driving an emerald-green Lexus. It pulled off the street, passed the four self-service pumps, and stopped in one of the two full-service lanes.

Standing in front of the station, Jack McGarvey noticed the car but not the driver. Even under a bruised and swollen sky that hid the sun, the Lexus gleamed like a jewel, a sleek and lustrous machine. The windows were darkly tinted, so he couldn't have seen the driver clearly even if he had tried.

As a thirty-two-year-old cop with a wife, a child, and a big mortgage, Jack had no prospects of buying an expensive luxury car, but he didn't envy the owner of the Lexus. He often remembered his dad's admonition that envy was mental theft. If you coveted another man's possessions, Dad said, then you should be willing to take on his responsibilities, heartaches, and troubles along with his money.

He stared at the car for a moment, admiring it as he might a priceless painting at the Getty Museum or a first edition of a James M. Cain novel in a pristine dust jacket--with no strong desire to possess it, taking pleasure merely from the fact of its existence.

In a society that often seemed to be spinning toward anarchy, where ugliness and decay made new inroads every day, his spirits were lifted by any proof that the hands of men and women were capable of producing things of beauty and quality. The Lexus, of course, was an import, designed and manufactured on foreign shores; however, it was the entire human species that seemed damned, not just his countrymen, and evidence of standards and dedication was heartening regardless of where he found it.

An attendant in a gray uniform hurried out of the office and approached the gleaming car, and Jack gave his full attention, once more, to Hassam Arkadian.

"My station is an island of cleanliness in a filthy sea, an eye of sanity in a storm of madness," Arkadian said, speaking earnestly, unaware of sounding melodramatic.

He was slender, about forty, with dark hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. The creases in the legs of his gray cotton work pants were knife-sharp, and his matching work shirt and jacket were immaculate.

"I had the aluminum siding and the brick treated with a new sealant," he said, indicating the facade of the service station with a sweep of his arm. "Paint won't stick to it. Not even metallic paint. Wasn't cheap. But now when these gang kids or crazy-stupid taggers come around at night and spray their trash all over the walls, we scrub it off, scrub it right off the next morning."

With his meticulous grooming, singular intensity, and quick slender hands, Arkadian might have been a surgeon about to begin his workday in an operating theater. He was, instead, the owner-operator of the service station.

"Do you know," he said incredulously, "there are professors who have written books on the value of graffiti? The value of graffiti? The value?"

"They call it street art," said Luther Bryson, Jack's partner.

Arkadian gazed up disbelievingly at the towering black cop. "You think what these punks do is art?"

"Hey, no, not me," Luther said.

At six three and two hundred ten pounds, he was three inches taller than Jack and forty pounds heavier, with maybe eight inches and seventy pounds on Arkadian. Though he was a good partner and a good man, his granite face seemed incapable of the flexibility required for a smile. His deeply set eyes were unwaveringly forthright. My Malcolm X glare, he called it. With or without his uniform, Luther Bryson could intimidate anyone from the Pope to a purse snatcher.

He wasn't using the glare now, wasn't trying to intimidate Arkadian, was in complete agreement with him. "Not me. I'm just saying that's what the candy-ass crowd calls it. Street art."

The service-station owner said, "These are professors. Educated men and women. Doctors of art and literature. They have the benefit of an education my parents couldn't afford to give me, but they're stupid. There's no other word for it. Stupid, stupid, stupid." His expressive face revealed the frustration and anger that Jack encountered with increasing frequency in the City of Angels. "What fools do universities produce these days?"

Arkadian had labored to make his operation special. Bracketing the property were wedge-shaped brick planters in which grew queen palms, azaleas laden with clusters of red flowers, and impatiens in pinks and purples. There was no grime, no litter. The portico covering the pumps was supported by brick columns, and the whole station had a quaint colonial appearance.

In any age, the station would have seemed misplaced in Los Angeles. Freshly painted and clean, it was doubly out of place in the grunge that had been spreading like a malignancy through the city during the nineties.

"Come on, come look, look," Arkadian said, and headed toward the south end of the building.

"Poor guy's gonna blow out an artery in the brain over this," Luther said.

"Somebody should tell him it's not fashionable to give a damn these days," Jack said.

A low and menacing rumble of thunder rolled through the distended sky.

Looking at the dark clouds, Luther said, "Weatherman predicted it wouldn't rain today."

"Maybe it wasn't thunder. Maybe somebody finally blew up city hall."

"You think? Well, if the place was full of politicians," Luther said, "we should take the rest of the day off, find a bar, do some celebrating."

"Come on, officers," Arkadian called to them. He had reached the south corner of the building, near where they had parked their patrol car. "Look at this, I want you to see this, I want you to see my bathrooms."

"His bathrooms?" Luther said.

Jack laughed. "Hell, you got anything better to do?"

"A lot safer than chasing bad guys," Luther said, following Arkadian.

Jack glanced at the Lexus again. Nice machine. Zero to sixty in how many seconds? Eight? Seven? Must handle like a dream.

The driver had gotten out of the car and was standing beside it. Jack noticed little about the guy, only that he was wearing a loose-fitting, double-breasted Armani suit.

The Lexus, on the other hand, had wire wheels and chrome guards around the wheel wells. Reflections of storm clouds moved slowly across its windshield and made mysterious smoky patterns in the depths of its jewel-green finish.

Sighing, Jack followed Luther past the two open bays of the repair garage. The first stall was empty, but a gray BMW was on the hydraulic lift in the second space. A young Asian man in mechanic's coveralls was at work on the car. Tools and supplies were neatly racked along the walls, floor to ceiling, and the two bays looked cleaner than the average kitchen in a four-star restaurant.

At the corner of the building stood a pair of soft-drink vending machines. They purred and clinked as if formulating and bottling the beverages within their own guts.

Around the corner were the men's and women's rest rooms, where Arkadian had opened both doors. "Take a look, go ahead--I want you to see my bathrooms."

Both small rooms had white ceramic-tile floors and walls, white commodes, white swing-top waste cans, white sinks, gleaming chrome fixtures, and large mirrors above the sinks.

"Spotless," Arkadian said, talking fast, running his sentences together in his quiet anger. "No streaks on the mirrors, no stains in the sinks, we check them after every customer uses them, disinfect them every day, you could eat off those floors and it would be as safe as eating off the plates from your own mother's kitchen."

Looking at Jack over Arkadian's head, Luther smiled and said, "I think I'll have a steak and baked potato. What about you?"

"Just a salad," Jack said. "I'm trying to lose a few pounds."

Even if he had been listening to them, Mr. Arkadian couldn't have been joked out of his bleak mood. He jangled a ring of keys.

"I keep them locked, give the keys only to customers. City inspector stops around, he tells me a new rule says these are public facilities, so you've got to let them open for the public, whether they buy anything at your place or not."

He jangled the keys again, harder, more angrily, then harder still. Neither Jack nor Luther tried to comment above the strident ring and rattle.

"Let them fine me. I'll pay the fine. When these are unlocked, the drunks and junkie bums who live in alleys and parks, they use my bathrooms, urinate on the floor, vomit in the sinks. You wouldn't believe the mess they make, disgusting, things I'd be embarrassed to talk about."

Arkadian was actually blushing at the thought of what he could have told them. He waved the jangling keys in the air in front of each open door, and he reminded Jack of nothing so much as a voodoo priest casting a spell--in this case, to ward off the riffraff who would despoil his rest rooms. His face was as mottled and turbulent as the stormy sky.

"Let me tell you something. Hassam Arkadian works sixty and seventy hours a week, Hassam Arkadian employs eight people full time, and Hassam Arkadian pays half of what he earns in taxes, but Hassam Arkadian is not going to spend his life cleaning up vomit because a bunch of stupid bureaucrats have more compassion for some lazy-drunken-psycho-junkie bums than they have for people who are trying their damnedest to lead decent lives."

He finished his speech in a rush, breathless. Stopped jangling the keys. Sighed. He closed the doors and locked them.

Jack felt useless. He could see that Luther was uncomfortable too. Sometimes a cop couldn't do much more for a victim than nod in ...

Copyright © 1994 by Dean Koontz


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Winter Moon

- pauljames
  (1/7/2018)

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