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Saint Odd

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Saint Odd

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Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantam Spectra, 2015
Series: Odd Thomas: Book 7
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
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Odd Thomas is back where it all started... because the time has come to finish it. Since he left his simple life in the small town of Pico Mundo, California, his journey has taken him to places strange and wonderful, mysterious and terrifying. Across the land, in the company of mortals and spirits alike, he has known kindness and cruelty, felt love and loss, saved lives and taken them--as he's borne witness to humanity's greatest good and darkest evil. Again and again, he has gone where he must and done what he had to do--for better or worse--with his courage and devotion sorely tested, and his soul forever changed. Every triumph has been hard won. Each sacrifice has taken its toll.

Now, whatever destiny drives him has finally steered his steps home, where those he cares for most surround him, the memory of his tragically lost true love haunts him, and one last challenge--vast and dreadful--awaits him. For Odd Thomas, born to serve a purpose far greater than himself, the wandering is done. Only the reckoning remains.



Alone in the vastness of the Mojave, at two o'clock in the morning, racing along at seventy miles per hour, I felt safe and believed that whatever terror might await me was yet many miles ahead. This would not be the first time in my strange life that safety proved to be an illusion.

I have a tendency to hope always for the best, even when I'm being strangled with a little girl's jump rope knotted around my neck by an angry, three-hundred-pound Samoan wrestler. In fact, I got out of that difficult situation alive, primarily by getting hold of his beloved porkpie hat, which he considered the source of his good luck. When I spun the hat like a Frisbee and he let go of the jump rope to try to snatch his chapeau from the air, I was able to pick up a croquet mallet and surprise him with a blow to the genitals, which was especially effective because he was wearing only a thong. Always hoping for the best has generally served me well.

Anyway, under a full moon, the desert was as eerie as a landscape on an alien planet. The great black serpent of highway undulated over a series of low rises and gentle downslopes, through sand flats that glowed faintly, as if radioactive, past sudden thrusting formations of rock threaded through in places with quartzite or something else that caught the Big Dog motorcycle's headlights and flared like veins of fire.

In spite of the big moon and the bike's three blazing eyes, the Mojave gathered darkness across its breadth. Half-revealed, gnarled shapes of mesquite and scatterings of other spiky plants bristled and seemed to leap forward as I flew past them, as if they were quick and hostile animals.

With its wide-swept fairing and saddlebags, the Big Dog Bulldog Bagger looked like it was made for suburban marrieds, but its fuel-injected, 111-cubic-inch V-twin motor offered all the speed anyone could want. When I had been on the interstate, before I had switched to this less-traveled state highway, a quick twist of the throttle shot me past whatever car or big rig was dawdling in front of me. Now I cruised at seventy, comfortable in the low deep-pocket seat, the rubber-mounted motor keeping the vibration to a minimum.

Although I wore goggles and a Head Trip carbon-fiber helmet that left my ears exposed, the shrieking wind and the Big Dog's throaty exhaust roar masked the sound of the Cadillac Escalade that, running dark, came up behind me and announced itself with a blast of the horn. The driver switched on the headlights, which flashed in my mirrors, so that I had to glance over my shoulder to see that he was no more than fifty feet behind me. The SUV was a frightening behemoth at that distance, at that speed.

Repeated blasts of the horn suggested the driver might be drunk or high on drugs, and either gripped by road rage or in the mood for a sick little game of chicken. When he tooted shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits, he held the last note too long, and I assured myself that anyone who indulged in such a cliché and then even lacked the timing to pull it off could not be a dangerous adversary.

Earlier, I had learned that the Big Dog's sweet spot was north of eighty miles an hour and that it was fully rideable at a hundred. I twisted the throttle, and the bike gobbled asphalt, leaving the Caddy behind. For the moment.

This wasn't the height of bug season in the Mojave, so I didn't have to eat any moths or hard-shelled beetles when I muttered unpleasantries. At that speed, however, because I sat tall and tense with my head above the low windshield, the warm night air chapped my lips and stung my cheeks as I bulleted into it.

Any responsible dermatologist would have chastised me for speeding barefaced through this arid wasteland. For many reasons, however, there was little chance that I would live to celebrate my twenty-third birthday, so looking prematurely aged two decades hence didn't worry me.

This time I heard the Escalade coming, shrieking like some malevolent machine out of a Transformers movie, running dark once more. Sooner than I hoped, the driver switched on the headlights, which flared in my mirrors and washed the pavement around me.

Closer than fifty feet.

The SUV was obviously souped. This wasn't an ordinary mama-takes-baby-to-the-playground Caddy. The engine sounded as if it had come out of General Motors by way of Boeing. If he intended to run me down and paste me to the Caddy's grille--and evidently he did--I wouldn't be able to outrace whatever customized engine made him king of the road.

Having tricked up his vehicle with alternate, multi-tonal horns programmed with pieces of familiar tunes, he now taunted me with the high-volume song-title notes of Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On."

The Big Dog boasted a six-speed transmission. The extra gear and the right-side drive pulley allowed better balance and greater control than would the average touring bike. The fat 250-millimeter rear tire gave me a sense of stability and the thirty-four-degree neck rake inspired the confidence to stunt a little even though I was approaching triple-digit speeds.

Now he serenaded me with the first seven notes of the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie." And then again.

My one advantage might be maneuverability. I slid lower in the seat, so that the arc of the windshield sent the wind over my helmet, and I made more aggressive use of the three-lane highway, executing wide serpentine movements from shoulder to shoulder. I was low to the ground, and the Escalade had a much higher center of gravity than the Big Dog; if the driver tried to stay on my tail, he might roll the SUV.

Supposing he was smart, he should realize that by not mimicking me, by continuing arrow-straight, he could rapidly gain ground as I serpentined. And with easy calculation, he could intersect me as I swooped from side to side of the road.

The third blast of "Louie Louie" assured me that either he wasn't smart or he was so wasted that he might follow me into a pit of fire before he realized what he had done. Yet another programmed horn blared several notes, but I didn't recognize the tune, though into my mind came the image of that all-but-forgotten rocker Boy George.

When brakes caterwauled, I glanced back to see the Escalade listing, its tires smoking, as the driver pulled the wheel hard to the right to avoid going off the north side of the pavement. Carving one S after another down the straightaway, I cornered out of the current curve, grateful for the Big Dog's justly praised Balance Drive, and swooped into the next. With another squeal, the Caddy's tires laid a skin of hot rubber on the blacktop as the driver pulled hard to the left. The vehicle nearly skidded off the south shoulder of the roadway, listing again but, as previously, righting itself well before it tipped over.

Resorting to his basic horn, the driver made no attempt at a tune this time, but let out blast after blast as if he thought he could sweep me off the bike with sound waves.

Recounting this, I might convey the impression that I remained calm and collected throughout the pursuit, but in fact I feared that, at any moment, I would regret not having worn an adult diaper.

In spite of whatever drugs or beverages had pushed the SUV driver's crazy button and filled him with murderous rage, he retained just enough reason to realize that if he continued to follow my lead, he would roll the SUV. Arrowing down the center of the three lanes, he regained the ground that he'd lost, intending to intersect my bike between connecting curves of my flatland slalom.

The Big Dog Bulldog Bagger wasn't meant to be a dirt bike. The diet that made it happy consisted of concrete and blacktop, and it wanted to be admired for its sleek aerodynamic lines and custom paint job and abundant chrome, not for its ruggedness and ability to slam through wild landscapes with aplomb.

Nevertheless, I went off-road. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but it is also the grandmother of desperation. The highway was raised about two feet above the land through which it passed, and I left the shoulder at such speed that the bike was airborne for a moment before returning to the earth with a jolt that briefly lifted my butt off the seat and made my feet dance on the floorboards.

Hereabouts, the desert wasn't a softscape of sand dunes and dead lakes of powdery silt, which was a good thing, because crossing ground like that, the Big Dog would have wallowed to a halt within a hundred yards. The land was mostly hard-packed by thousands of years of fierce sun and scouring winds, the igneous rocks rich with feldspar, treeless but in some places hospitable to purple sage and mesquite and scraggly plants less easily identified.

Jacked up on oversize tires, more suited to going overland than was my bike, the four-wheel-drive Escalade came off the highway in my wake. I intended to find a break in the land or an overhanging escarpment deep enough to conceal me, or a sudden spine of rock, anything I could use to get out of sight of my lunatic pursuer. After that, I would switch off my headlights, slow down significantly, travel by moonlight, and try as quickly as possible to put one turn in the land after another between me and him. Eventually I might find a place in which to shelter, shut off the bike, listen, and wait.

Copyright © 2015 by Dean Koontz


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