Dr. Roderick Hanley, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, dies in a plane crash. His last words: "The boy! They'll find out about the boy! He'll find out about himself!" When Jim Stevens, an orphan and struggling writer, learns that he is the sole heir to the Hanley estate, he is sure he has at last found his biological father. But he's only half right. The true nature of his inheritanceand the truth about his conceptionwill crush him.
In New York City a group of Charismatics has been drawn togetherwithout invitation, simply showing up at a Murray Hill brownstonewith a sense of great purpose. Satan is coming, and they have been chosen to fight him.
Mr. Veilleur too has been drawn to the group, but he realizes it's not Satan who is coming. Satan would be a suitable au pair compared to the ancient evil that is in the process of being Reborn.
Tor is reissuing the third title in the Adversary Cycle, The Touch, in July 2009.
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By F. Paul Wilson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
Tuesday February 20, 1968 Monroe, Long Island
A form took shape out of the darkness, shadows merged, coalescing into an unholy shape. And it moved. In utter silence, the night became flesh and glided toward her.
Jim Stevens leaned back in his chair and stared at the paper in the typewriter. This wasn't going the way he wanted. He knew what he wanted to say but the words weren't capturing it. Almost as if he needed new words, a new language, to express himself.
He was tempted to pull one of those Hollywood scenes. Rip the paper out of the platen, ball it up, and toss it at the wastebasket. But in four straight years of writing every day, Jim had learned never to throw anything away. Somewhere in the mishmash of all the unpublished words he'd committed to paper might lurk a scene, an image, a turn of phrase that could prove valuable later on.
No shortage of unpublished material, unfortunately. Hundreds of pages. Two novels' worth neatly stacked in their cardboard boxes on the top shelf of the closet. He'd submitted them everywhere, to every publishing house in New York that did fiction, but no one was interested.
Not that he was completely unpublished. He glanced over to where The Tree, a modern ghost story, sat alone on the otherwise bare ego shelf in the bookcase. Doubleday had acquired that two years ago and published it last summer with the publicity bud get accorded most first novels: zero. What few reviews it received had been as indifferent as its sales and it sank without a trace. None of the paperback houses had picked it up.
The manuscript of a fourth novel sat in the far left corner of his desk, the Doubleday rejection letter resting atop it. He'd hoped the astonishing success of Rosemary's Baby would open doors for this one, but no dice.
Jim reached over and picked up the letter. It was from Tim Bradford, his editor on The Tree. Although he knew it by heart, he read it again.
Dear Jim —
Sorry, but I'm going to have to pass on Angelica. I like its style and I like the characters. But there's no market for the subject matter. No one will be interested in a modern day succubus. I'll repeat what I said over lunch last year: You've got talent, and you've got a good, maybe great future ahead of you as a novelist if you'll just drop this horror stuff. There's no future in horror fiction. If you've got to do weird stuff, try sci-fi. I know you're thinking of how Rosemary's Baby is still on the bestseller list, but it doesn't matter. The Levin book is an aberration. Horror is a dead end, killed by the A-bomb and Sputnik and other realities that are scary enough.
Maybe he's right, Jim thought, flipping the letter onto the desk and shaking off echoes of the crushing disappointment that had accompanied its arrival.
But what was he to do? This "weird stuff" was all he wanted to write. He'd read science fiction as a kid and had liked it, but he didn't want to write it. Hell, he wanted to scare people! He remembered the ripples of fear and jolts of shock he'd received from writers like Bloch and Bradbury and Matheson and Lovecraft when he'd read them in the fifties and early sixties. He wanted to leave his own readers gasping, to do to them what the masters had done to him.
He was determined to keep at it. There was an audience for his writing, he was sure of it. All it took was a publisher with the guts to go find it. Until then, he'd live with the rejection. He'd known it was an integral part of a writer's life when he started; what he hadn't known was how much it could hurt.
He closed his research books on Satanism and witchcraft and got up from the desk. Time for a break. Maybe a shave and a shower would help. He got some of his best ideas in the shower.
As he rose he heard the mail slot clank and detoured toward the front door. He turned on the hifi on his way through the living room. The Rolling Stones Now! spun on the turntable and "Down the Road Apiece" began to cook through the room. The furniture was all leftovers from when Carol's folks had owned the place, austere sofas, slimlegged chairs, asymmetrical tables, lots of plastic — the "modern look" from the fifties. When they got some money he promised to buy furniture designed for human beings. Or maybe a stereo instead. But all his records were mono. So maybe the furniture would be first.
He scooped the mail off the floor. Not much there except for his paycheck from the Monroe Express — a fair sum this week because the paper had finally paid him for his series of feature articles on the "God Is Dead" controversy.
Great. He could buy Carol dinner tonight.
Finally to the bathroom. "Hello, Wolfman," he said to the mirror.
With his dark brown hair hanging over his thick eyebrows, his bushy porkchop sideburns reaching almost to his jawline, and tufts of wiry hair springing from the collar of his undershirt, all framing a stubble that would have taken the average guy three days to grow, his old nickname from the Monroe High football team seemed as apt as ever. Of course, the hair on his palms had been the real clincher. Wolfman Stevens — the team's beast of burden, viciously ramming through the opponent's defensive line in play after play. Except for a few unfortunate accidents — to others — his football years had been good ones. Great ones.
He was adopting the new longhaired look. It hid his ears, which had always stuck out a little farther than he liked.
As he lathered up the heavy stubble on his face, he wished someone would invent a cream or something that would stop beard growth for a week or more. He'd pay just about anything for a product like that. Anything so he wouldn't have to go through this torturous ritual every day, sometimes twice a day.
He scraped the Gillette Blue Blade in various directions along his face and neck until they were reasonably smooth, then gave his palms a quick once-over. As he was reaching for the hot water knob in the shower, he heard a familiar voice from the direction of the living room.
"Jimmy? Are you here, Jimmy?"
The thick Georgia accent made it sound like, Jimmeh? Are you heah, Jimmeh?
"Yeah, Ma. I'm here."
"Just stopped by to make a delivery."
Jim met her in the kitchen where he found her placing a fresh apple pie on the counter.
"What's that awful music?" she said. "Dear me, it boggles the ears."
"The Stones, Ma."
"You'll be thirty in four years. Aren't you just a little old for that sort of thing?"
"Nah! Brian Jones and I are the same age. And I'm younger than Watts and Wyman."
"Who are they?"
He ducked into the living room and turned off the hifi. When he returned to the kitchen she'd taken off her heavy cloth coat and laid it across the back of one of the dinette chairs.
Emma Stevens was a short, trim, shapely woman in her late forties. Despite the faint touches of gray in her brown hair, she could still draw stares from much younger men. She wore a bit more makeup and tended to wear clothes that were a bit tighter than Jim liked to see on the woman he called Mother — like today's red sweater over gray wool slacks — but at heart he knew she was a homebody who seemed happiest when baking and cleaning her house. She was a bundle of energy who volunteered for all the charitable functions in town, no matter whether the beneficiary was Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow or the Monroe High School band.
"I had extra apples left over after I made Dad's pie, so I made one for you and Carol. Apple was always your favorite."
"Still is, Ma." He bent to kiss her on the cheek. "Thanks."
"I brought some Paladec too. For Carol. She's looking a bit poorly lately. Some vitamins every day will make her feel better."
"Carol's just fine, Ma."
"She doesn't look it. Looks peaked. I don't know what to contribute it to, do you?"
"'Attribute it to,' Ma. At."
"At? I don't know what to contribute it at? That doesn't sound right."
Jim bit his lip. "Well, at least we both agree on that."
"So!" she said, brushing imaginary crumbs off her hands and looking around the kitchen. Jim knew she was inspecting the counter-tops and the floors to see if Carol was still measuring up to the standards of spotlessness Ma had adhered to all of Jim's life. "How are things?"
"Fine, Ma. How about you and Dad?"
"Fine. Dad's at work."
"Were you writing when I came in?"
Not exactly the truth, but what the hell. Ma didn't consider freelance writing Real Work anyway. When Jim rode the night desk part time on the Monroe Express, that was Real Work because he got paid for it. He might sit there for hours, doing nothing more than twiddling his thumbs as he waited for something newsworthy to happen in the Incorporated Village of Monroe, Long Island, but Ma considered that Real Work. Hunching over a typewriter and dragging sentences kicking and screaming from his brain to put on paper was something else.
Jim waited patiently. Finally, she said it.
"No, Ma. There's no 'news.' Why do you keep bugging me about that?"
"Because it's a mother's parenteral obligation —"
"'Parental,' Ma. 'Parental.'"
"That's what I said: parenteral obligation to keep checking as to if and when she's going to become a grandmother."
"Believe me, Ma. When we know, you'll know. I promise."
"Okay." She smiled. "But remember, if Carol should drop by some day and say, 'Oh, by the way, I'm three months pregnant,' I'll never forgive you."
"Sure you will." He kissed her forehead. "Now, if you don't mind, I've got to —"
The doorbell rang.
"Are you expecting company?"
"No. Not even you."
Jim went to the front door and found the mailman standing on the step holding a letter.
"Special delivery, Jim. Almost forgot it."
Jim's heart began to race as he signed the return receipt.
Maybe they'd had a change of heart at Doubleday.
"Special delivery?" Ma was saying as Jim closed the door. "Who would —?"
His heart sank as he read the return address.
"It's from some law firm. In the city."
He tore it open and read the brief message. Twice. It still didn't make sense.
"Well?" Ma said, her fingers visibly twitching to get at the letter, her curiosity giving the word a second syllable: Wayell?
"I don't get it," Jim said. He handed her the letter. "It says I'm supposed to be present at the reading of Dr. Hanley's will next week. I'm listed as one of his heirs."
This was crazy. Dr. Roderick Hanley was one of the richest men in Monroe. Or had been until he died in that air crash last Sunday. He'd been a local celebrity of sorts. Moved here to the Village of Monroe — then truly little more than a village — shortly after World War Two and lived in one of the big mansions along the waterfront. A world-renowned geneticist who'd made a fortune from analytical lab procedures he'd developed and patented; a Nobel Prize winner for his work in genetics.
Jim knew all about Hanley because he'd been assigned the guy's obit for the Express. The doc's death had been big news in Monroe. Jim's research had revealed that the Hanley estate was worth something like ten million dollars.
But Jim had never even met the man. Why would he name him in his will?
In a dizzying flash of insight, it all suddenly became very clear to Jim.
"God, Ma, you don't think —?"
One look at her stricken face told him that she'd already come to the same conclusion.
"Aw, Ma, don't —"
"I have to go see your father ... uh, Jonah," she said quickly, handing the letter back to him and turning away.
She picked up her coat and slipped into it as she headed for the door.
"Hey, Ma, you know it doesn't matter. You know it won't change a thing."
She stopped at the door, her eyes glistening. She looked upset ... and frightened.
"That's what you've always said. Now we'll find out for sure, won't we?"
"Ma ..." He took a step toward her.
"I'll talk to you later, Jimmy."
And then she was out the door and hurrying down the walk toward her car. Jim stood and watched her until his rapid breaths fogged up the glass. He hated to see her upset.
When she was gone, he turned away and read the letter again.
No doubt about it. He was an heir to the Hanley estate. Wonder bloomed in him. Dr. Roderick Hanley — genius. His hand shook as it held the letter. The money that might be coming his way meant nothing compared to what the letter didn't — couldn't — say.
He rushed to the phone to call Carol. She'd be as excited as he was. After all these years, after all the searching — he had to tell her now!
"When am I going home?"
Carol Stevens looked down at the old man who'd spoken. Calvin Dodd, 72-year-old Caucasian male. Transient cerebral ischemia.
He looked a lot better than a week ago when he'd been admitted through the emergency room. Back then he'd sported a seven-week growth of beard and had been dressed in a frayed, food-encrusted bathrobe that smelled of old urine. Now he lay in a clean bed and wore a starched hospital gown; he was clean shaven — by the nurses — and smelled of Keri Lotion.
Carol didn't have the heart to tell him the truth.
"You'll be out of here as soon as we can get you out, Mr. Dodd, I promise you."
That didn't answer the old fellow's question, but at least it wasn't a lie.
"What's the holdup?"
"We're trying to find some help for you."
Just then Bobby from food service strolled in and picked up Mr. Dodd's breakfast tray. He gave Carol the up-and-down with his eyes and winked.
"Lookin' good!" he said with a smile.
He was all of twenty, desperately trying to grow sideburns, but came on to anything in a skirt, even an "older woman," as he'd once referred to her.
Carol smiled and jerked a thumb over her shoulder toward the door. "Beat it, Bobby."
"Like your hair," he said, and was gone.
Carol smoothed her long, sandy blond hair. She'd been wearing it in a gentle flip for a couple of years but had been letting it grow lately. She had the slim figure and oval face to carry off the long-and-straight look, but wondered if it was worth the trouble. Such a bother at times to keep it smooth and tangle free.
Mr. Dodd was pulling at the Posey belt that held him in his bed. It was self-releasing but no one had told him about that.
"If you really want to help me, you can get this thing offa me."
"Sorry, Mr. Dodd. Doctor's orders. He's afraid you'll get out of bed and fall again."
"I never fell! Who tol' you that crock?"
According to his chart, Mr. Dodd had crawled over his bed's guardrails three times and tried to walk. Each time he'd fallen after one or two steps. But Carol didn't correct him. In her brief time here at Monroe Community Hospital she'd learned not to argue with patients, especially the older ones. In Mr. Dodd's case she was sure he truly did not remember falling.
"Anyway, I don't have the authority to discontinue your restraints."
"And where's my family?" he said, already onto another subject. "Haven't you been lettin' 'em up to see me?"
Carol's heart broke for the old man. "I ... I'll check on that for you, okay?"
She turned and started for the door.
"You'd think at least one of my girls'd come an' see me more than once or twice in the whole time I been here."
"I'm sure they'll be in soon. I'll stop by tomorrow."
Carol stepped into the hall and sagged against the wall. She hadn't expected a bed of roses when she'd taken the position in the hospital's social services department, but in no way had she been prepared for the daily heartaches she encountered.
She wondered if she was cut out for this sort of work. One thing they never taught her in all the courses she'd taken toward her MSW was how to distance yourself emotionally from the client. She'd either have to learn how to do that, and do it automatically, or risk becoming a basket case.
She'd learn. Not many jobs like this around. Decent pay and good benefits. She and Jim didn't need much to live on — after all, she'd inherited the house from her parents and it was free and clear — but until his writing career clicked, she'd have to bring home the bacon, as it were. But sometimes ...
A passing nurse gave her a questioning look. Carol put on a smile and straightened.
Just tired, that's all. She hadn't been sleeping well the past few nights ... restless ... vaguely remembered dreams. Bad dreams.
I can handle it.
She headed for the tiny social services office on the first floor.
As Carol entered, Kay Allen looked up from the clutter of case reports on her desk. A beefy brunette in her forties who fidgeted every time her cigarette break neared, Kay was head of the department, a veteran of nearly twenty years at Monroe Community Hospital.
Excerpted from Reborn by F. Paul Wilson. Copyright © 2005 F. Paul Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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