Cover image for Home at last
Title:
Home at last
Author:
Stone, Katherine, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
345 pages ; 18 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780446606776
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

As Lucas Hunter pursues a cunning madman called the Lady Killer who is targeting beautiful, glamorous women who have been close to Lucas, he joins forces with television journalist Galen Chandler, the vicious serial killer's next target.


Author Notes

Katherine Stone was born in Seattle, Washington. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Stanford University, where she also completed her pre-med requirements, and a M.D. from the University of Washington. After her internal medicine residency in San Francisco, she did a fellowship in infectious diseases in Los Angeles. During this time, one of the world's largest outbreaks of Legionnaires' Disease occurred at the hospital where she was doing her fellowship. This provided her the opportunity to write and lecture on the mysterious new disease.

She stopped practicing medicine to focus on her writing career. She is the author of 21 novels including Bed of Roses, Imagine Love, Pearl Moon, Twins, Bel Air, Love Songs, and Pearl Moon.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One "Yes?" Galen Chandler spoke into the intercom that linked her apartment to the building's entrance nine floors below. "It's Lucas Hunter, Galen." Galen touched the trio of numbers that released the distant dead bolt. "Come in." Her doorbell sounded far sooner than Galen would have imagined it could, as if dazzled by him and wanting to impress, the archaic and cranky elevator had carried him aloft with unprecedented speed. The homicide lieutenant was dazzling, a commanding presence--and elegance--of shadow and stone. Dazzling. And ominous. Lucas greeted her with unsmiling gray eyes. And a voice to match. "You didn't look through the peephole to confirm that it was me." "No. I didn't." Had he truly slept, Galen wondered, in the five nights since she had seen him last? Did the gray-eyed panther ever sleep? Or was bed, for him, a place that nourished not with dreams but with passion? And when had the sensuous beast been nourished last? "And there's no closed-circuit video between here and the front door." "No. There's not." She was quite glorious, Lucas thought, in her baggy lavender warm-ups and her pink woolen socks. And quite oblivious, it seemed, to the clash of hues with her fiery curls. Had she truly slept, he wondered, as he noticed the dark purple smudges beneath her eyes. And was bed, for her, a place of nightmares or of dreams? Lucas's own nightmares haunted. "So you just let me in. Twice. With absolutely no proof that it was me." "Yes. And yes. And it was you--both times. Besides, I was expecting some law-enforcement type. In fact, if I'd had time to think about it, I would have known to expect you." "So he's called." "Yes. Just now. You think it's him?" Him, Manhattan's Lady Killer, the monster who was terrorizing the city ... and who was causing such personal torment for Lucas, the man, the hunter, whose pursuit would be relentless until his evil prey was found. I know it's him, Lucas thought. But he remained fiercely focused on the more urgent matter: Galen's utter--and terrifying--disregard for danger. "I cannot believe you just let me in." "You mentioned that." Her chin lifted a defiant notch. "It will never happen again. I promise." Lucas smiled at last, and glinting shards of silver illuminated the ominous gray. "Good. I sure as hell wouldn't want any cooperation with the police-- especially when it comes to something as trivial as finding a killer." His smile vanished, but the silvery light glittered still. Then softly, an invitation to enchantment--and to death--he asked, "What did he say?" "Cross your heart." Galen saw the truth in the harsh ripple of his strong jaw. The truth ... and the fury. "It's him, isn't it?" "Yes. What else ... actually, would you just write down everything you remember?" "Sure. It wasn't a terribly long conversation, but definitely a memorable one." Memorable, Lucas mused. Like the wind-ravaged waif, the vision in turquoise fluff--with matching mittens--whom he had met five nights ago. No, he amended. Nothing was as memorable as that ... except for the waif now, in lavender and pink, with her sleep-starved eyes and naked hands. Galen's hands were slender, as she was, and--as she--delicate and long. And now in the lingering silence, her translucent fingers were fluttering beneath his appraising gaze, a nervous flight from lavender to fire. "Thanks," Lucas said. "I'll get that from you tomorrow. In the meantime, do you mind if I look around?" Galen frowned. "Do you expect him to come here?" "No," Lucas admitted. "I don't." "So I'm not his next victim?" "That's right. You're not. Killing you would look--to the watching world--like failure on his part, an admission that you were getting perilously close to discovering who he was." "But I might be the victim after next?" Yes. No. "There isn't going to be a victim after next. Or even a next victim. We're going to get him, Galen. You and I. Which means, I'm afraid, that I really do need to see your apartment. Now. It couldn't matter less if it's a mess." Her apartment was not a mess, merely an uneasy standoff between what she did and who she was. Uneasy, and quite crowded, in the single room in which she dwelled. Galen's studio apartment was not inexpensive. Au contraire. Its prime location in midtown was a landlord's dream. The accessories of a modern-day anchorwoman rimmed the outermost edges of the room--computer, radio, TX, fax. And everywhere else, including nearly every square inch of her neatly made bed, were the ancient accoutrements of a seamstress. Two irons, one large, one small, stood on the floor, glittering silver sentries amid the colorful mosaic of fabric and thread. And on the fabric-draped couch were the Barbies, some seated, some standing. All clothed. Fully clothed. Modest even in the privacy of this design studio. Lucas wanted to ask about the modesty of the dolls, to know about it. But the question he posed was more relevant to the reason he was here. "Why the cardboard boxes?" There were four, emblazoned with a stylized Mayflower, its sail unfurled. "I'm moving. At least I was." "Moving where?" "I'm not sure. Away from New York." "And from KCOR?" "Yes." "Because of Sunday morning? Because of what you said ... and didn't say?" "You know what I said?" According to published reports, and since Sunday Galen had read every word, Lieutenant Lucas Hunter was a man possessed by his quarry--and nothing else. But now he seemed consumed only with her. "Yes. I know. I thought it was sensational." "Thanks. It felt ... right." And this--the gentle caress of the hunter's eyes--felt ... wonderful. Impossible. "But unpopular?" Lucas pressed softly even as fury churned within. He should have known what her courage had cost her-- would have known had he permitted himself such an indulgent distraction from the grim task at hand. But he hadn't, and ... "They fired you?" Her ballerina hands found again the tangled flames. "I fired myself." "Why?" "Because it's been obvious from the beginning that I'm simply not anchorwoman material." Simply . She said it so simply, her failure at the job that was every reporter's dream. "Because?" "Oh. Because I don't have the emotional range." So simply. So dispassionately. An earnest assessment that pierced her soul. And his. "What the hell does that mean?" "That I can't make smooth transitions from one story to the next with appropriate emotions to match." "You have trouble making cheerful segues from 'fire kills a family of five' to `Brooklyn housewife wins lotto'?" "Lots of trouble." "Maybe, Galen, you have too much emotional range." "Oh! Well. Thank you. But ... one couldn't say that Marianne didn't have emotional range. Or Adam. Or any of the hundreds of anchors who do this so successfully every day." "I'm not saying that. Especially about Marianne. So I'll just say this about you: No other reporter in New York would have gotten the interview I gave you. Not other reporter in the world." The sudden pinkness of her cheeks clashed wildly--enchantingly--with her hair. But she didn't seem enchanted, merely confused. Lucas returned to the police-business topic at hand. "When did you fire yourself?" "Today." "Who knows?" "Only KCOR's owner, John McLain." Galen's reeling mind spun to what else Lucas had said--"Especially about Marianne"--and how he had said it: fondly. "Do you know John? Did you know Marianne?" "Marianne and Fran and I knew each other as children." "In England?" "No. In New York. In Westchester County, in a town called Chatsworth, about an hour from here. I lived in Chatsworth until I was nine." "And Fran and Marianne lived there, too?" "Yes." As did pain ... and horror ... and the death of dreams. Galen saw the sudden shadow, deep and dark in his dark gray eyes. It was a glacial shadow, bitter cold--and edged, she thought with pain ... which vanished--Lucas vanquished it--when he spoke anew, a reply to her query about John McLain. "I met John several years ago." Several years, Galen mused. And John and Marianne had been married for almost ten. Which meant that despite the fondness--and because of the pain?-- Lucas Hunter had not attended the wedding of his childhood friend. "What did John say about your firing yourself?" Galen hesitated. And when she spoke, it was slowly and with care. "It wasn't what he said, but the way he looked. He should have been relieved. But he wasn't. Not at all. And he refused to accept my resignation formally until Monday." "To give you time to reconsider." "Yes." Lucas looked at the cardboard boxes, ready to be filled, even though it was only Thursday night. Galen wasn't going to change her mind. Didn't want to. The flame-haired waif was eager--desperate--to leave the Big Apple. "Maybe," he said, "you should leave as planned." "I should?" "Don't get me wrong. I need your help. Want it. But this isn't going to be pleasant." Lucas could keep her safe. Would. Absolutely. But he could not control the killer's words. "He may say very disturbing things to you." I need your help. Want it. It felt--to her foolish, lonely heart--like I need you. Want you. "I'm staying, Lieutenant. In New York and at KCOR." "Okay," he said softly. Okay. Galen would remain in Manhattan, and they would bring the killer to his knees, and ... and Lucas did not want to talk-- yet--about death. His gaze drifted to the small, crowded, colorful couch. "You'll stay, and your dolls will stay." "Actually, the Barbies were never schedule to leave." "Another"-- final --"delivery of joy to 6-North? When?" "I told Casey I'd be there at three Sunday afternoon. But ..." "That shouldn't be a problem." No matter what the killer had in mind. The murderer would not prevent the seamstress from keeping her promise to Casey and the girls. These dolls, this modest assembly of color and shape and joy would be delivered right on time. "I hadn't realized Barbies came in such variety. Such diversity." "Barbie has definitely become politically correct." "It sounds as if you don't approve." "I do. Of course. It's just that I never really bought the 'destruction of self-esteem' theory--the proposition that if a little girl owned a doll who was beautiful and blonde, she'd set the same standard of perfection for herself ... only to face spiritual--or even literal--death when inevitably she failed." "Literal death?" "By starvation or plastic surgery or whatever other extreme she chose in order to mimic the humanly impossible shape." "What theory do you buy?" "The one in which they're dolls , like any other dolls. Companions, not competitors. And friends." Her shrug caused a dance of curls. "And I guess I just don't see what's wrong with any little girl--every little girl--having a pretty, stylish friend who's there for her always." "Which Barbie is yours?" Show me the friend who was your faithful companion as a little girl, even when promises were broken, and who is with you still, nonjudgmental where others have judged you so harshly, not disappointed in you-- ever--in any way. Show me, Galen. Introduce me to your blonde, beautiful, plastic friend, and let's talk of dolls, not death, for as long as we can. But Galen made no proud and joyful introduction, and Lucas saw in her cloudy blue eyes what he had wanted to postpone. Loss. Death. "None of them." "Where is she?" Galen shrugged anew. But the flames did not dance. "I'm not sure. She was--is--my mother's. When I left her home, I left her Barbie behind." Her mother's home. Her mother's Barbie. The mother's, not the child's. This daughter, it seemed, this nomadic woman of cardboard boxes adorned with sailing ships was as homeless as he. Homeless? Lucas Hunter? Yes. Quite homeless, despite the grand box in which he dwelled. The nomad--and seamstress--moved then, away from him and toward her dolls. But Galen halted before reaching the Barbies, and for several moments she merely stared at the glass-topped table. Then, with a long snowy finger, she began to trace a meandering path--a leisurely slalom between spools of thread which ended at a golden needle with an emerald tail. Cross your heart and hope to die and stick a needle in your eye ... Her finger touched the needle's very tip. "Does he really ...?" I don't want to tell you what he does. But the choice did not belong to Lucas. The murderer had already made it. "Yes. He pierces their eyes--but only, Galen, after they're dead." Her own eyes squeezed shut, briefly. Then she stared, and spoke still, to the needle. "How do they die?" "He uses a knife." "Yes. I know." Viciously stabbed , or variations thereof, appeared in every article she had read. "But how?" "Galen ..." "I need to know this. Please. I won't reveal--" "I know that." "So how do they die?" How? Lucas echoed in silence. Horribly. Horrifically. Watching the frantic pulse of crimson--and feeling its heat--even as the shivering begins. "He cuts their throats." Quick. Painless. Terrifying. "Does he make a cross over their hearts? With the knife?" "Yes, he does. After death." "Does he do ... anything else?" she asked softly, apprehensively, but needing to know. "No, Galen, he doesn't." She looked up, her voice urgent, her worried face framed with frozen flames. "He has no intention of getting caught." "That's what's called the deluded arrogance of the megalomaniac." "He certainly has the maniac part down." "The deluded part as well. He's just made a monumental mistake." "By calling me?" "By calling you. We'll get him, Galen." We will get him. It was a promise, and a vow. Copyright © 1999 Katherine Stone. All rights reserved.

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