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Warned that she might have trouble dating after her only sister is brutally murdered by her brother-in-law, who supposedly was executed for the crime, Elaines refuses to succumb to her paranoia, until she is unsettled by the advances of a man with eerily familiar mannerisms
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Andrew Neiderman is the author of numerous novels of suspense and terror, including The Dark and The Devil's Advocate -- which was published by Pocket Books, and was made into a major motion picture by Warner Bros. starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. Mr. Neiderman lives in Palm Springs, California, with his wife, Diane.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Sitting on the bed in what had once been Farah's room, Harry gazed around dumbly, his eyes glassy. Farah had taken most everything with her when she got married, and the room had been used as a guest room, but he had never stopped thinking of it as Farah's room. Memories of her lingered in these walls, in every nook and corner, her laughter caught and held forever and ever. All he had to do was look at the vanity table or the desk on which she used to do her homework and his reservoir of remembrances came rushing forward, now an exquisite torment.
Tomorrow, finally, he would get his revenge. Dirk Stoner would be executed, nearly four years after he had been convicted. Harry knew it was happening this soon only because Stoner had stopped the appeals.
"Mom's right, you know," he heard Elaine say and looked up at his younger daughter leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded, head down. "Attending his execution won't bring Farah back, Dad."
"Maybe it will bring me back," he said.
She looked up, their eyes meeting.
"You want to be a doctor, Elaine. Think of what's in here" -- he pressed his fist against his heart -- "as a cancer that tomorrow the state of California will cut out of me."
"Operations leave scars, Dad," she said.
Harry almost smiled. Elaine had always had a doctor's personality. She could cut to the jugular gracefully, perform the procedure, and retreat unscathed. "I have scars deeper than what I might get tomorrow," he said.
"We all have scars, Dad. They're not going away, ever." He saw the tears in her eyes and was silent for a moment.
For the first time since Farah's death, he seriously considered Elaine's reaction to all this. He had always thought about his own and Lil's sorrow, but what about Elaine's? She had suffered a great loss too.
"If you insist on going, I'll go with you tomorrow, Dad," she said.
"You don't have to do that, Elaine."
"I won't let you go alone, Dad," she insisted, "even though I hate the thought of looking at him one more time, even to watch him die, even by lethal injection."
"Yeah," Harry said. "From what I've been told, it will be just like looking at one of your patients at preop."
She nodded. "You're right, Dad. That's what it's like. Pancurium bromide to stop his breathing, potassium chloride for cardiac arrest, sodium pentothal to make him unconscious."
"Dr. Ross," he said nodding and contemplating her for a moment. Then he raised his eyebrows. "It should be Dr. Rosenberg, you know."
"That's our real name."
"I don't understand."
"My grandfather changed it to Ross to avoid the ethnic stigma and any possible inference that we were related to the notorious Rosenbergs. I always felt funny going to see my great-uncle Benny because he was my grandfather's brother, but his name was Ben Rosenberg and mine was Harry Ross. He always made fun of the change, too. 'So how is it with you, Mr. Ross?' he would ask me and smile."
Elaine laughed. "What other surprises do you have for me, Dad?"
"Nothing else," he said sadly and gazed at the floor again. "Nothing else."
"Don't go, Dad," she said after a moment.
"I have to go, Elaine."
"It will be a circus -- the media, demonstrators..."
"I have to go," he said again. "Thank God my parents didn't live to see any of this."
Lil's parents were still alive and remarkably healthy for people in their late eighties. They had attended only one of the trial sessions. They sat in the rear, listened, and then went home, too shaken by the details to return.
Now that the ordeal was truly coming to an end, Lil wanted Harry to put the matter to rest, to accept Farah's death, as she had finally accepted it.
Harry refused to accept it. His beautiful, talented daughter had been slaughtered, and even with Dirk Stoner's surprise legal capitulation, retribution had been slow in coming, as far as Harry was concerned. In more primitive times, when men were men, an eye for an eye would have been a quick and strong act of justice.
Immediate retribution was important. Why didn't our society see that? Time diminished the impact of the evil act, put it so far back in the memory that the horror was reduced to mere words and the victim drifted into a mere name, an old photo, a statistic.
But we are civilized men, he thought sarcastically. We house our criminals; we dissect their psyches and analyze their evil; we build entire professions, mechanisms, industries, around them as one great euphemistic expression. He concluded it was all only an attempt to deny the most basic truth about ourselves: we can be utterly vicious and cruel to each other to satisfy our own selfish needs.
No, he would not accept it, but he couldn't get mad at Lil for trying to get him to do so. She had been and still was one of the prettiest women he had ever met. He always considered himself lucky to have found her and won her heart. He and Lil had become the most famous and successful real estate couple in the Valley. All the movie studio executives came to them to find homes. They were featured in regional magazines and on regional television shows, but the wedding of their local fame with their national renown was an uneasy marriage.
Harry was self-conscious about the way people now looked at him. He had become paranoid. He was the first to admit it. Since the trial and its aftermath, he questioned the motives of nearly every client. Were they really coming to them to find a decent place to live, or did they just want to go back to their friends and say, "Guess who we're using as real estate agents -- the Rosses. Yes, those Rosses!"
He and Lil had become "Those Rosses."
"Okay, Dad." Elaine said. "Good night." She gazed around the room for a moment and then left him.
He had such a feeling of emptiness.
Harry knew that Elaine felt he had favored Farah over her. He didn't think he had. Elaine was just a different kind of girl, more like Lil, cerebral, a reader, unafraid of being alone. Farah had been sociable, outgoing, more emotional, warmer, more dependent on him and his affection. Farah hadn't been subtle and complicated. There was never a question about what she wanted in life. She liked the recognition, the expensive cars and clothes, the adulation. She was admittedly and unashamedly vain. Her room had the big mirrors, the elaborate vanity table. She had bought all the workout tapes and moaned if she gained a pound.
Elaine was the class valedictorian, the writer, the deep thinker. She had a beautiful figure and Lil's naturally healthy complexion. Elaine was no four-eyed wallflower. She had boyfriends; she went to school dances and the prom, but she was far more career minded and independent and would, Harry believed, do what she had set out to do: become a doctor. He was very proud of her.
It was just that...just that he loved the sight of Farah waving from her convertible or rushing across the lawn to hug him or calling to him from her bedroom window or just stopping behind him in the living room and hugging him and then going on and on about her part in the school play.
Was she really dead? Could she be dead? When will I do what Lil and Elaine want me to do? he wondered. When will I accept it?
Maybe tomorrow, he thought. Maybe tomorrow.
Elaine stared out her window into the darkness. She couldn't stand this feeling of helplessness, this inability to say or do anything that would ease her father's pain.
Is this what it's going to be like for me when I'm a doctor and I confront terminally ill patients? she wondered.
And then she thought, Is my father ill? He wasn't half the man he had once been. His eyes were vacant much of the time. He looked lost, confused, almost brain-dead at times.
How she wished she had a medication, an anti-tragedy serum that she could simply inject into his arm to turn him back to the way he was. She laughed at how stupid that thought was, at how childish she could be, at how she could still fill her mind with little-girl fantasies. Sometimes that frightened her. It was as if admitting she was human would distract her from her destiny, would make her less of a doctor.
She gazed across the room at a doll Farah had given her years ago. Elaine had always wanted to be a doctor. Much of her make-believe had been built around that dream. She recalled examining that doll for Farah and deciding she had to put a Band-Aid on her leg. After carefully sterilizing the area, she had applied the bandage, and she and Farah had treated the doll like a patient in a hospital.
Everyone had thought it was cute.
The doll stared back at her with its glassy eyes seemingly full of sadness, two tiny pools of tears, matching her own.
Later she heard her parents talking softly, her mother still trying to get her father to change his mind about watching the execution. Elaine heard her soft sobs until they were both quiet. Neither would sleep tonight, she thought. How many sleepless nights had they both endured already?
Where do all your good dreams go when you don't sleep? she wondered.
Farah had believed there was a magical place for lost dreams, a place where they waited for happy dreamers.
She laughed at that and some of the other things her sister had said.
Then she closed her eyes and prayed she would wander into Farah's magical world tonight, especially tonight.
It was too nice a day for an execution. As if the state of California were a living person with an ego and a reputation, even this late in the day it provided bright sunshine, blue skies, warm breezes, and a clean, sparkling background for the myriad cameramen, satellite television feeds, and network anchors who filled the front yard of San Quentin.
"Look at this place," Elaine said as they parked their rental car. "Is this society sick or what?"
One of the reporters spotted them, and the group moved like one animal in their direction, microphones rising toward them like electronic antennae.
Elaine thrust her arm through her father's, holding on tight. "They want their pound of flesh," she muttered.
The reporter who led the pack threw his question at them from six feet away, just to be first. "How do you feel today, Mr. Ross?" The mob gathered around them.
"Good. I feel good for the first time in years."
"What about those people demonstrating against the death penalty out there?" another reporter asked.
Harry gazed for a moment at the posters and signs and listened to the voice droning over the portable loudspeaker.
"I doubt that anyone out there has had a daughter brutally murdered. If anyone has, and still wants to grant the killer mercy, then that parent didn't love his child more than he loved his own life. People are killing their children a second time when they grant mercy to murderers," he added.
The cameras clicked. The reporters ate it up. Pens were writing as quickly as Harry spoke and gave them the valuable sound bites.
Harry and Elaine moved toward the entrance.
"Did you know that Philip Stoner is going to be in the room with you, Mr. Ross?"
Elaine kept them moving.
"Lending his son comfort," another reporter interjected.
"Will you speak to him, and if you do, what will you say?"
Harry spun on them.
"Dad," Elaine pleaded.
"What will, I say? I'll ask him what he did to raise such an animal," Harry said.
"You haven't had any conversations with Mr. Stoner since his son was convicted of murdering your daughter?" a young female reporter asked, shoving her microphone in his face. Harry gazed at her. She had eyes like Farah's. For a moment he imagined Farah there beside him instead of Elaine, looping her arm through his. Then he blinked back to reality.
"What in hell would I do that for? That man would spend twenty million dollars in a heartbeat if he could keep his son alive. I can't do anything to keep my daughter alive. I can only visit her grave."
"Soon Philip Stoner will be visiting his son's grave," someone in the rear of reporters' group declared.
Harry nodded. "And then finally, finally, Philip Stoner will understand what my life has been like since his creature killed my daughter," Harry said.
"Leave him alone!" Elaine shouted. "Don't you think this is hard enough for us?"
"What are your feelings today?" the young female reporter demanded, ignoring Elaine's plea.
"I feel you're all a bunch of animals," Elaine said and turned herself and Harry firmly away.
Harry saw the fury in his daughter's crimson face. She was pretty when she was angry, as pretty as Lil, he thought and felt a sudden pang of pride.
"Lucky you came along," Harry said, "to ride shotgun."
"I knew it would be like this. Horrific."
He nodded. "I'd walk through fire to see this, Elaine."
"I know," she said sadly.
It saddened him too that he had turned into a beast of revenge. But what about the early days? he thought to himself as if he were really two people now. He remembered Farah accompanying Dirk to his golf tournaments, flashing her beautiful smile, wearing those designer outfits that put her on the covers of sports, fashion, and entertainment magazines as well as on the society pages of big newspapers. What about their interviews on the talk shows?
What about the parties, the way Dirk's fame had rubbed off on them and helped his and Lil's real estate business, people wanting to meet them, their celebrity growing -- and then the waking up: Farah's discovery that Dirk was having one sleazy affair after another, his picture with other women in the rag magazines.
What an embarrassment for all of them, but especially for Farah.
Harry truly felt like a man on a roller coaster, shooting downward with her, crashing toward some dark tunnel, never anticipating the depth of their fall, a fall that had brought him here to an execution, an execution that Stoner himself had finally found inevitable. The day of retribution was upon him. His father's wealth and power wouldn't change that.
Would Harry put it all to rest after this? He lived with the fear that Lil might be right in believing that Dirk Stoner might continue his murderous rampage and kill him and subsequently Lil and Elaine as well.
Once in the observation room, Harry saw that, through the glass window, all the witnesses would have a clear view of Dirk Stoner when he was brought in for his execution.
Harry and Elaine took their seats right up front, trying not to look at anyone else. Harry saw the empty seat at the other end of the row and assumed it was being held for Dirk's father.
Philip Stoner was nearly eight years older than Harry. He was a tall, very slim man who reminded people of Henry Fonda. When he entered the witness room, he was somber, but to Harry he was disgustingly distinguished, even now.
He didn't look at Harry and Elaine. He sat with his eyes fixed on the ceiling. No one spoke. It was as if they had all gone underwater an...
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Book Description Pocket, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0671015613
Book Description Pocket, 1998. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0671015613
Book Description Pocket, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110671015613