Innocence Read online





  Innocence is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2014 by Dean Koontz

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

  A signed, limited edition has been privately printed by Charnel House.

  Charnelhouse.com

  Title page art from an original photograph

  by Agne Kveselyte

  BANTAM BOOKS and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

  LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

  Koontz, Dean R. (Dean Ray)

  Innocence : a novel / Dean Koontz.

  pages cm

  ISBN 978-0-553-80803-2 (acid-free paper)—

  ISBN 978-0-345-53965-6 (eBook)

  1. Social isolation—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3561.O55155 2013

  813′.54—dc23 2013014516

  www.bantamdell.com

  Jacket design: Scott Biel

  Jacket photo: Pawel Gaul/E+/Getty Images

  v3.1

  Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.

  —PETRARCH, DE REMEDIIS

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Epigraph

  Part One: The Girl I Met in Lamplight Near Charles Dickens

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Part Two: The Flame Delights the Moth Before the Wings Burn

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Part Three: What Might Have Been and What Has Been

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  Chapter 86

  Dedication

  Other Books by This Author

  About the Author

  1

  HAVING ESCAPED ONE FIRE, I EXPECTED ANOTHER. I didn’t view with fright the flames to come. Fire was but light and heat. Throughout our lives, each of us needs warmth and seeks light. I couldn’t dread what I needed and sought. For me, being set afire was merely the expectation of an inevitable conclusion. This fair world, compounded of uncountable beauties and enchantments and graces, inspired in me only one abiding fear, which was that I might live in it too long.

  2

  I WAS CAPABLE OF LOVE, BUT I LIVED IN SOLITUDE after Father died. Therefore I loved only the precious dead, and books, and the moments of great beauty with which the city surprised me from time to time, as I passed through it in utmost secrecy.

  For instance, sometimes on clear nights, in the solemn hour when most of the population sleeps, when the cleaning crews are finished and the high-rises darkle until dawn, the stars come out. They are not as bright over this metropolis as they must be over a Kansas plain or a Colorado mountain, but they still shine as if there is a city in the sky, an enchanting place where I could walk the streets with no fear of fire, where I could find someone to love, who would love me.

  Here, when I was seen, my capacity for love earned me no mercy. Quite the opposite. When they saw me, men and women alike recoiled, but their fear quickly gave way to fury. I would not harm them to defend myself, and I remained therefore defenseless.

  3

  ON CERTAIN NIGHTS, BEAUTIFUL BUT SAD MUSIC found its way into my deep windowless rooms. I didn’t know from where it came, and I couldn’t identify the tune. No lyrics accompanied the melody, but I remained convinced that I had once heard a smoky-voiced chanteuse sing this song. Each time the song came, my mouth moved as if forming the words, but they eluded me.

  The piece was not a blues number, yet it weighed on the heart as did the blues. I might call it a nocturne, although I believe that a nocturne is always an instrumental. Words existed to this melody. I was certain they did.

  I should have been able to follow those mellifluous strains to a vent grille or a drain, or to some other route of transmission, but every attempt to seek the source ended in failure. The music seemed to issue from the air, as if passing through a membrane from another, unseen world parallel to ours.

  Perhaps those who lived in the open would have found the idea of an invisible world too fanciful and would have dismissed the notion.

  Those of us who remain hidden from everyone else, however, know that this world is wondrous and filled with mysteries. We possess no magical perception, no psychic insight. I believe our recognition of reality’s complex dimensions is a consequence of our solitude.

  To live in the city of crowds and traffic and constant noise, to be always striving, to be in the ceaseless competition for money and status and power, perhaps distracted the mind until it could no longer see—and forgot—the all that is. Or maybe, because of the pace and pressure of that life, sanity depended on blinding oneself to the manifold miracles, astonishments, wonders, and enigmas that comprised the true world.

  When I said “those of us who remain hidden,” I should instead have said “I who am hidden.” As far as I was aware, no other like me existed in that metropolis. I had lived alone for a long time.

  For twelve years, I shared this deep redoubt with Father. He died six years earlier. I loved him. I missed him every day. I was now twenty-six, with perhaps a long, lonely life ahead of me.

  Before I arrived, my father lived here with his father, whom I never had the honor of meeting. Most of the furnishings and books were handed down to me from them.

  One day perhaps I would pass my belongings to so