Do you dare step through the red door?
Spencer Grant had no idea what drew him to the bar with the red door. He thought he would just sit down, have a slow beer or two, and talk to a stranger. He couldn't know that it would lead to a narrow escape from a bungalow targeted by a SWAT team. Or that it would leave him a wanted man. Now he is on the run from mysterious and ruthless men. He is in love with a woman he knows next to nothing about. And he is hiding from a past he can't fully remember. On his trail is a shadowy security agency that answers to no one--including the U.S. government--and a man who considers himself a compassionate Angel of Death. But worst of all, Spencer Grant is on a collision course with inner demons he thought he'd buried years ago--inner demons that could destroy him if his enemies don't first.
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July 31, 2000
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Excerpt from Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz
With the woman on his mind and a deep uneasiness in his heart, Spencer Grant drove through the glistening night, searching for the red door. The vigilant dog sat silently beside him. Rain ticked on the roof of the truck.
Without thunder or lightning, without wind, the storm had come in from the Pacific at the end of a somber February twilight. More than a drizzle but less than a downpour, it sluiced all the energy out of the city. Los Angeles and environs became a metropolis without sharp edges, urgency, or spirit. Buildings blurred into one another, traffic flowed sluggishly, and streets deliquesced into gray mists.
In Santa Monica, with the beaches and the black ocean to his right, Spencer stopped at a traffic light.
Rocky, a mixed breed not quite as large as a Labrador, studied the road ahead with interest. When they were in the truck-a Ford Explorer-Rocky sometimes peered out the side windows at the passing scene, though he was more interested in what lay before them.
Even when he was riding in the cargo area behind the front seats, the mutt rarely glanced out the rear window. He was skittish about watching the scenery recede. Maybe the motion made him dizzy in a way that oncoming scenery did not.
Or perhaps Rocky associated the dwindling highway behind them with the past. He had good reason not to dwell on the past.
So did Spencer.
Waiting for the traffic signal, he raised one hand to his face. He had a habit of meditatively stroking his scar when troubled, as another man might finger a strand of worry beads. The feel of it soothed him, perhaps because it was a reminder that he'd survived the worst terror he would ever know, that life could have no more surprises dark enough to destroy him.
The scar defined Spencer. He was a damaged man.
Pale, slightly glossy, extending from his right ear to his chin, the mark varied between one quarter and one half an inch in width. Extremes of cold and heat bleached it whiter than usual. In wintry air, though the thin ribbon of connective tissue contained no nerve endings, it felt like a hot wire laid on his face. In summer sun, the scar was cold.
The traffic signal changed from red to green.
The dog stretched his furry head forward in anticipation.
Spencer drove slowly southward along the dark coast, both hands on the wheel again. He nervously searched for the red door on the eastern side of the street, among the many shops and restaurants.
Though no longer touched the fault line in his face, he remained conscious of it. He was never unaware that he was branded. If he smiled or frowned, he would feel the scar cinching one half of his countenance. If he laughed, his amusement would be tempered by the tension in that inelastic tissue.
The metronomic windshield wipers timed the rhythm of the rain.
Spencer's mouth was dry, but the palms of his hands were camp. The tightness in his chest arose as much from anxiety as from the pleasant anticipation of seeing Valerie again.
He was of half a mind to go home. The new hope he harbored was surely the emotional equivalent of fool's gold. He was alone, and he was always going to be alone, except for Rocky. He was ashamed of this fresh glimmer of optimism, of the naivete it revealed, the secret need, the quiet desperation. But he kept driving.
Ricky couldn't know what they were searching for, but he chuffed softly when the red landmark appeared. No doubt he was responding to a subtle change in Spencer's mood at the sight of the door.
The cocktail lounge was between a Thai restaurant with steam-streaked windows and an empty storefront that had once been an art gallery.