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Night chills, p.12
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       Night Chills, p.12

           Dean Koontz
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  He stepped past her into the air-conditioned foyer. There was an oval mirror and accessory table on the right, a small painting of a storm-tossed sailing ship on his left. “Close the door. And lock it.”

  She did as she was told.

  A short corridor, containing two more paintings of sailing ships, led from the foyer to the kitchen.

  On the left the living room opened to the hall through an archway. It was neatly furnished. An oriental carpet. Two crushed velvet sofas and a slate-topped coffee table arranged to form a conversation corner. Matching crushed-velvet drapes at the three windows. A magazine rack. A gun case. Two Stiffel lamps. To harmonize with the carpet, the paintings were of Western sailing ships docked in Chinese harbors.

  “Draw the drapes,” he said.

  She went from window to window, then came back to the center of the room. She stood with her hands at her sides, staring at him, a half-smile on her face.

  She was waiting. Waiting for orders. His orders. She was his puppet, his slave.

  For more than a minute he stood in the archway, unable to move, unable to decide what he should do next. Immobilized by fear, anticipation, and the grip of lust that made his groin ache almost unpleasantly, he was nevertheless sweating as if he had just run the mile. She was his. Entirely his: her mouth, breasts, ass, legs, cunt, every inch and fold of her. Better than that, there was no need for him to worry about whether or not he pleased her. The only consideration was his own pleasure. If he told her that she loved it, she would love it. No complaints afterward. No recriminations. Just the act—and then to hell with her. Here, ready for the first time to use a woman exactly as he wanted, he found the reality more exhilarating than the dreams he’d had so many years to elaborate upon.

  She regarded him quizzically. “Is that all?”

  “No.” His voice was hoarse.

  “What do you want?”

  He went to the nearest lamp, switched it on, and sat down on one of the sofas. “You stand where you are,” he said. “Answer my questions and do what I say.”

  “All right.”

  “What’s your name?”


  “How old are you, Brenda?”

  “Twenty-six. ”

  He took his handkerchief from his hip pocket, wiped his face. He looked at the paintings of sailing ships. “Your husband likes the sea?”


  “Then he likes paintings of the sea.”

  “No. He doesn’t care for them.”

  He had only been talking to pass time while he decided how he wanted to proceed with her. Now, her unexpected answer confused him. “Then why the hell do you have all these paintings?”

  “I was born and raised in Cape Cod. I love the sea.”

  “But he doesn’t care for it. Why does he let you hang these damned things everywhere?”

  “He knows I like them,” she said.

  He wiped his face again, put the handkerchief away. “He knows if he took them off the wall, you’d freeze him out of bed. Wouldn’t you, Brenda?”

  “Of course not.”

  “You know you would, you little bitch. You’re a pretty little piece. He’d do anything to keep you happy. Any man would. Men have been running to do your bidding since you were old enough to fuck. You snap your fingers, and they dance. Don’t they?”

  Puzzled, she shook her head. “Dance? No.”

  He laughed bitterly. “A game of semantics. You know I didn’t really mean ‘dance.’ You’re like all the others. You’re a bitch, Brenda.”

  She squinted. Frowned.

  “I say you’re a bitch. Am I right?”

  Her frown vanished. “Yes.”

  “I’m always right. Isn’t that true?”

  “Yes. You’re always right.”

  “What am I?”

  “You’re the key.”

  “What are you?”

  “I’m the lock.”

  He was feeling better by the minute. Not so tense as he had been. Not so jittery. Calm. In control. As he’d never been. He pushed his glasses up on his nose. “You’d like me to strip you naked and screw you. Wouldn’t you like that, Brenda?”

  She hesitated.

  “You’d like it,” he said.

  “I’d like it.”

  “You’d love it.”

  “I’d love it.”

  “Take off your halter.”

  Reaching behind her back, she slipped the knot, and the polka-dot cloth fell to her feet. The flesh beneath was white, in stark and erotic contrast to her dark tan. Her breasts were neither large nor small, but exquisitely curved, upthrust. A few freckles. Pink nipples not much darker than her untanned skin. She kicked the halter out of her way.

  “Touch them,” he said.

  “My breasts?”

  “Squeeze them. Pull on the nipples.” He watched, found her movements too mechanical, and said, “You’re horny, Brenda. You want to be fucked. You can’t wait to have me. You need it. You want it. You want it more than you’ve ever wanted it in your life. You’re almost sick with wanting it. ”

  As she continued to caress herself, her nipples swelled and turned a darker shade of pink. She was breathing heavily.

  He giggled. He couldn’t suppress it. He felt terrific. So terrific. “Take off your shorts.”

  She did.

  “And your panties. You’re a real blonde, I see. Now, put one hand between those pretty legs. Finger yourself. That’s it. That’s good. That’s a good girl.”

  Standing, her feet wide apart, masturbating, she was a stunning sight. She threw back her head, golden hair trailing like a banner, mouth open, face slack. She was gasping for breath. Shivering. Twitching. Moaning. With her free hand, she was still caressing her breasts.

  The power. Good God, the power he had over them now, would always have over them, from this day forward! He could come into their homes, into their most sacred and private places, and once inside do whatever he wished with them. And not just with the women. Men too. If he ordered it of them, the men would mewl and crawl to him on their hands and knees. They would beg him to screw their wives. They’d give him their daughters, their girl children. They wouldn’t deny him any experience, however extravagant or outrageous. He would demand every thrill, and he would enjoy each of them. But on the whole, he would be a benign ruler, a benevolent dictator, more like a father than a jailer. No jackboots in their faces. He laughed at that last thought. Ten years ago, when he was still conducting lecture tours and writing about the future of behavior modification and mind control, he was subjected to extensive ridicule and vehement condemnation from some members of the academic community. In lecture halls, all but forcibly detained at the end of his speeches, he had listened to countless self-righteous bores droning through homilies about invasion of privacy and the sanctity of the human mind. They quoted hundreds of great thinkers, epigrams by the score—some of which he remembered to this day. There was one about the future of mankind amounting to little more than a jackboot in the face. Well, that was crap. Jackboots, and the cruel authoritarian state they symbolized, were only a means of keeping the masses in line. Now, with his drug and the key-lock program, jackboots had become obsolete. No one would have a jackboot pushed in his face. Of course, for selected women, he had something else to push in their faces. Massaging himself through his trousers, he laughed. The power. The sweet, sweet power.

  “Brenda. ”

  Shuddering, gasping, her knees bending slightly, she climaxed as her index finger worked industriously between her legs.


  At last she looked up at him. She was beginning to perspire. Her hair was dark and damp at the brow.

  He said, “Go to that sofa. Kneel on it with your back to me, and brace your arms against the pillows.”

  When she was in position, her white butt thrust up at him, she looked over her shoulder. “Hurry. Please.”

  Laughing, he shoved the coffee table out of the way, sent it sliding off th
e carpet, across the hardwood floor and into the magazine rack. He stood behind her, dropped his trousers and his yellow-striped shorts. He was ready, the veins about to burst, hard as iron, bigger than he’d ever been, big as a stallion’s gun, a horse cock. And red. So red it looked as if it had been smeared with blood. He ran one hand over her buttocks, over the golden hairs on her back, along her side, under to the swinging breast, pinched the nipple, smoothed her flank, pinched her ass, slipped his fingers between her thighs, to her pubes. She was wet, dripping, far more ready than he was. He could even smell her. Giggling, he said, “You’re a bitch in more ways than one. A regular little bitch dog. A little animal. Aren’t you, Brenda?”


  “Say you’re a little animal.”

  “I am. I’m a little animal.”

  The power.

  “What do you want, Brenda?”

  “I want you to screw me.”

  “Do you?”


  “How bad do you want it?”

  “Real bad.”

  Sweet, sweet power.

  “What do you want?”

  “You know!”

  “Do I?”

  “I already said!”

  “Say it again.”

  “You’re humiliating me.”

  “I haven’t even begun.”

  “Oh, God.”

  “Listen to me, Brenda.”


  “Your cunt’s getting hotter.”

  She groaned softly. Shuddered.

  “Feel it, Brenda?”


  “Hotter and hotter. ”

  “I don’t—I can’t—”

  “You can’t stand it?”

  “So hot. Almost hurts.”

  He smiled. “Now what do you want?”

  “I want you to screw me.”

  See, Miriam? I am somebody.

  “What are you, Brenda?”

  “I am the lock.”

  “What else are you?”

  “A bitch.”

  “I can’t hear it often enough.”

  “A bitch.”

  “In heat?”

  “Yes, yes. Please!”

  Poised to enter her, dizzy with excitement, demoniac, electrified by the power he held, Salsbury had no illusions that his orgasm, deep within the silken regions of this woman, was the most important aspect of the rape. The spasmed outpouring of a tablespoon or two of semen was only the punctuation at the end of the sentence, at the conclusion of his declaration of independence. During the past half hour, he had proved himself, had freed himself from the dozens of bitches who had messed in his life all the way back to and including his mother, especially his mother, that goddess of bitches, that empress of ball-breakers. After her came the girls who were frigid and the girls who laughed at him and the girls who whined about his poor technique and the girls who rejected him with unconcealed distaste and Miriam and the contemptible whores to whom he had been forced to resort in later years. Brenda Macklin was only a metaphor, written into his life by chance. If it hadn’t been her, it would have been someone else this afternoon or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. She was the voodoo doll, the totem with which he would exorcise some of those bitches from his past. Each inch of prick he jammed into her was a blow to the Brendas of years gone by. Each stroke—the more brutal it was the better—was an announcement of his triumph. He would pound her. Bruise her. Use her until she was raw. Hurt her. With every blade of pain he sent through her, he would be cutting each of those hated women. By mounting this lean blond animal, by battering relentlessly into her, tearing her apart, he would be proving his superiority to all of them.

  He seized her hips and leaned close. But as the tip of his shaft touched her vagina, even before the head of it slipped into her, he ejaculated uncontrollably. His legs gave way. Crying out, he fell on her.

  She collapsed against the pillows.

  Panic took him. Memories of past failures. The sour looks they gave him afterwards. The contempt with which they treated him. The shame of it. He held Brenda down, weighed her down. Desperately, he said, “You’re coming, girl. You’re climaxing. Do you hear me? Do you understand? I’m telling you. You’re coming.”

  She made a noise, muffled by pillows.

  “Feel it?”


  “Do you feel it?”

  Raising her head she said, “God, yes!”

  “You’ve never had it better.”

  “Not ever. Never.” She was gasping.

  “Feel it?”

  “Feel it.”

  “Is it hot?”

  “So hot. Oh!”

  “Coasting now. You’re coming down.”

  She stopped squirming under him.

  “Drifting down. It’s almost over.”

  “So good ...” Softly.

  “You little animal.”

  With that the tension drained out of her.

  The doorbell rang.

  “What the hell?”

  She didn’t react.

  Pushing away from her, he swayed to his feet, tried to take a step with his trousers around his ankles and almost fell. He grabbed his shorts, jerked them up, then his trousers. “You said you weren’t expecting anyone.”

  “Wasn’t. ”

  “Then who’s that?”

  She rolled onto her back. She looked sated.

  “Who’s that?” he asked again.

  “Don’t know.”

  “For God’s sake, get dressed.”

  She rose dreamily from the couch.

  “Quickly, damn you!”

  Obediently, she scuttled after her clothes.

  At one of the front windows, he parted the drapes a fraction of an inch, just enough to see the porch. A woman was standing at the door, unaware that she was under observation. In sandals, white shorts, and a scoop-necked orange sweater, she was even better-looking than Brenda Macklin.

  Brenda said, “I’m dressed.”

  The doorbell rang again.

  Letting go of the drapery, Salsbury said, “It’s a woman. You better answer it. But get rid of her. Whatever you do, don’t let her inside.”

  “What should I say?”

  “If it’s someone you’ve never seen before, you don’t have to say anything.”


  “Tell her you’ve got a headache. A terrible migraine headache. Now go.”

  She went out of the room.

  When he heard her open the door in the foyer, he parted the velvet again in time to see a smile touch the face of the woman in the orange sweater. She said something, and Brenda replied, and the smile was replaced by a look of concern. Filtered through the walls and windows, their voices were hardly more than whispers. He couldn’t follow the conversation, but it seemed to go on forever.

  Maybe you should have let her come inside, he thought. Use the code phrase on her. Then screw them both.

  But what if you let her come in and then discover she’s got a weak spot in her program?

  Not much chance of that.

  Or what if she’s from out of town? A relative from Bexford, perhaps. Then what?

  Then she’d have to be killed.

  And how would you dispose of the body?

  Under his breath he said, “Come on, Brenda, you bitch. Get rid of her. ”

  Finally, the stranger turned away from the door. Salsbury had a brief glimpse of green eyes, ripe lips, a superb profile, extremely deep cleavage in the scoop-necked sweater. When she had her back to him and was going down the steps, he saw that her legs weren’t just sexy, as Brenda’s were, but sexy and elegant, even without nylons. Long, taut, smooth, scissoring legs, feminine muscles bunching and twisting and stretching and compacting and rippling sinuously with each step. An animal. A healthy animal. His animal. Like all of them now: his. At the end of the Macklin property, she turned left into the searing afternoon sun, distorted by waves of heat rising from the concrete sidewalk, soon out
of sight.

  Brenda came back into the living room.

  When she started to sit down, he said, “Stand. The middle of the room.”

  She did that, her hands at her sides.

  Returning to the sofa, he said, “What did you tell her?”

  “That I had a migraine headache. ”

  “She believed you?”

  “I guess so.”

  “Did you know her?”

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