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Brother Odd
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Brother Odd

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Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, 2007
Charnel House, 2006
Bantam Dell Publishing Group, 2006
Series: Odd Thomas: Book 3
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre Tags: Ghosts
Psychic Abilities
Humorous Horror
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Synopsis

Loop me in, odd one. The words, spoken in the deep of night by a sleeping child, chill the young man watching over her. For this was a favorite phrase of Stormy Llewellyn, his lost love. In the haunted halls of the isolated monastery where he had sought peace, Odd Thomas is stalking spirits of an infinitely darker nature.

As he steadfastly journeys toward his mysterious destiny, Odd Thomas has established himself as one of the most beloved and unique fictional heroes of our time. Now, wielding all the power and magic of a master storyteller at the pinnacle of his craft, Dean Koontz follows Odd into a singular new world where he hopes to make a fresh beginning-but where he will meet an adversary as old and inexorable as time itself.


Excerpt

Chapter One

Embraced by stone, steeped in silence, i sat at the high window as the third day of the week surrendered to the fourth. The river of night rolled on, indifferent to the calendar.

I hoped to witness that magical moment when the snow began to fall in earnest. Earlier the sky had shed a few flakes, then nothing more. The pending storm would not be rushed.

The room was illuminated only by a fat candle in an amber glass on the corner desk. Each time a draft found the flame, melting light buttered the limestone walls and waves of fluid shadows oiled the corners.

Most nights, I find lamplight too bright. And when I’m writing, the only glow is the computer screen, dialed down to gray text on a navy-blue field.

Without a silvering of light, the window did not reflect my face. I had a clear view of the night beyond the panes.

Living in a monastery, even as a guest rather than as a monk, you have more opportunities than you might have elsewhere to see the world as it is, instead of through the shadow that you cast upon it.

St. Bartholomew’s Abbey was surrounded by the vastness of the Sierra Nevada, on the California side of the border. The primeval forests that clothed the rising slopes were themselves cloaked in darkness.

From this third-floor window, I could see only part of the deep front yard and the blacktop lane that cleaved it. Four low lampposts with bell-shaped caps focused light in round pale pools.

The guesthouse is in the northwest wing of the abbey. The ground floor features parlors. Private rooms occupy the higher and the highest floors.

As I watched in anticipation of the storm, a whiteness that was not snow drifted across the yard, out of darkness, into lamplight.

The abbey has one dog, a 110-pound German-shepherd mix, perhaps part Labrador retriever. He is entirely white and moves with the grace of fog. His name is Boo.

My name is Odd Thomas. My dysfunctional parents claim a mistake was made on the birth certificate, that Todd was the wanted name. Yet they have never called me Todd.

In twenty-one years, I have not considered changing to Todd. The bizarre course of my life suggests that Odd is more suited to me, whether it was conferred by my parents with intention or by fate.

Below, Boo stopped in the middle of the pavement and gazed along the lane as it dwindled and descended into darkness.

Mountains are not entirely slopes. Sometimes the rising land takes a rest. The abbey stands on a high meadow, facing north.

Judging by his pricked ears and lifted head, Boo perceived a visitor approaching. He held his tail low.

I could not discern the state of his hackles, but his tense posture suggested that they were raised.

From dusk the driveway lamps burn until dawn ascends. The monks of St. Bart’s believe that night visitors, no matter how seldom they come,must be welcomed with light.

The dog stood motionless for a while, then shifted his attention toward the lawn to the right of the blacktop. His head lowered. His ears flattened against his skull.

For a moment, I could not see the cause of Boo’s alarm. Then . . . into view came a shape as elusive as a night shadow floating across black water. The figure passed near enough to one of the lampposts to be briefly revealed.

Even in daylight, this was a visitor of whom only the dog and I could have been aware.

I see dead people, spirits of the departed who, each for his own reason, will not move on from this world. Some are drawn to me for justice, if they were murdered, or for comfort, or for companionship; others seek me out for motives that I cannot always understand.

This complicates my life. I am not asking for your sympathy. We all have our problems, and yours seem as important to you as mine seem to me.

Perhaps you have a ninety-minute commute every morning, on freeways clogged with traffic, your progress hampered by impatient and incompetent motorists, some of them angry specimens with middle fingers muscular from frequent use. Imagine, however, how much more stressful your morning might be if in the passenger seat was a young man with a ghastly ax wound in his head and if in the backseat an elderly woman, strangled by her husband, sat pop-eyed and purple-faced.

The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why. And an ax-chopped spirit will not bleed on your upholstery.

Nevertheless, an entourage of the recently dead is disconcerting and generally not conducive to an upbeat mood.

The visitor on the lawn was not an ordinary ghost, maybe not a ghost at all. In addition to the lingering spirits of the dead, I see one other kind of supernatural entity. I call them bodachs.

They are ink-black, fluid in shape, with no more substance than shadows. Soundless, as big as an average man, they frequently slink like cats, low to the ground.

The one on the abbey lawn moved upright: black and featureless, yet suggestive of something half man, half wolf. Sleek, sinuous, and sinister.

The grass was not disturbed by its passage. Had it been crossing water, it would not have left a single ripple in its wake.

In the folklore of the British Isles, a bodach is a vile beast that slithers down chimneys at night and carries off children who misbehave. Rather like Inland Revenue agents.

What I see are neither bodachs nor tax collectors. They carry away neither misbehaving children nor adult miscreants. But I have seen them enter houses by chimneys–by keyholes, chinks in window frames, as protean as smoke–and I have no better name for them.

Their infrequent appearance is always reason for alarm. These creatures seem to be spiritual vampires with knowledge of the future. They are drawn to places where violence or fiery catastrophe is destined to erupt, as if they feed on human suffering.

Although he was a brave dog, with good reason to be brave, Boo shrank from the passing apparition. His black lips peeled back from his white fangs.

The phantom paused as if to taunt the dog. Bodachs seem to know that some animals can see them.

I don’t think they know that I can see them, too. If they did know, I believe that they would show me less mercy than mad mullahs show their victims when in a mood to behead and dismember.

At the sight of this one, my first impulse was to shrink from the window and seek communion with the dust bunnies under my bed. My second impulse was to pee.

Resisting both cowardice and the call of the bladder, I raced from my quarters into the hallway. The third floor of the guesthouse offers two small suites. The other currently had no occupant.

On the second floor, the glowering Russian was no doubt scowling in his sleep. The solid construction of the abbey would not translate my footfalls into his dreams.

The guesthouse has an enclosed spiral staircase, stone walls encircling granite steps. The treads alternate between black and white, making me think of harlequins and piano keys, and of a treacly old song by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Although stone stairs are unforgiving and the black-and-white pattern can be disorienting, I plunged toward the ground floor, risking damage to the granite if I fell and struck it with my head.

Sixteen months ago, I lost what was most precious to me and found my world in ruins; nevertheless, I am not usually reckless. I have less to live for than I once did, but my life still has purpose, and I struggle to find meaning in the days.

Leaving the stairs in the condition that I found them, I hurried across the main parlor, where only a night lamp with a beaded shade relieved the gloom. I pushed through a heavy oak door with a stained-glass window, and saw my breath plume before me in the winter night.

The guesthouse cloister surrounds a courtyard with a reflecting pool and a white marble statue of St. Bartholomew. He is arguably the least known of the twelve apostles. Here depicted, a solemn St. Bartholomew stands with his right hand over his heart, left arm extended. In his upturned palm is what appears to be a pumpkin but might be a related variety of squash.

The symbolic meaning of the squash eludes me.

At this time of year, the pool was drained, and no scent of wet limestone rose from it, as in warmer days. I detected, instead, the faintest smell of ozone, as after lightning in a spring rain, and wondered about it, but kept moving.

I followed the colonnade to the door of the guesthouse receiving room, went inside, crossed that shadowy chamber, and returned to the December night through the front door of the abbey.

Our white shepherd mix, Boo, standing on the driveway, as I had last seen him from my third-floor window, turned his head to look at me as I descended the broad front steps. His stare was clear and blue, with none of the eerie eyeshine common to animals at night.

Without benefit of stars or moon, most of the expansive yard receded into murk. If a bodach lurked out there, I could not see it.

“Boo, where’s it gone?” I whispered.

He didn’t answer. My life is strange but not so strange that it includes talking canines.

With wary purpose, however, the dog moved off the driveway, onto the yard. He headed east, past the formidable abbey, which appears almost to have been carved from a single great mass of rock, so tight are the mortar joints between its stones.

No wind ruffled the night, and darkness hung with folded wings.

Seared brown by winter, the trampled grass crunched underfoot. Boo moved with far greater stealth than I could manage.

Feeling watched, I looked up at the windows, but I didn’t see anyone, no light other than the faint flicker of the candle in my quarters, no pale face peering through a dark pane.

I had rushed out of the guest wing wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. December stropped its teeth on my bare arms.

We proceeded eastward alongside the church, w...

Copyright © 2006 by Dean Koontz


Reviews

Brother Odd

- pauljames
  (12/23/2013)

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