Odd Hours

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Authors: Dean Koontz
the lump on the side of my head, I continued: “Mitchum said he knew he could knock you down, probably more than once, but he also knew you would keep getting up and coming back until one of you was dead.”
    Mr. Sinatra gestured as if to say that Mitchum had overestimated him.
    “Sir, here’s the situation. You came to me for help, but you keep resisting it.”
    Two weeks ago, he had gone poltergeist on me, with the result that my collection of books about him went twirling around my room.
    Spirits cannot directly harm us, not even evil spirits. This is our world, and they have no power over us. Their blows pass through us. Their fingernails and teeth cannot draw blood.
    Sufficiently malevolent, however, with bottomless depths of rage to draw upon, they can spin spiritual power into whips of force that lash inanimate objects into motion. Squashed by a refrigerator hurled by a poltergeist, you tend not to take solace in the fact that the blow was indirect, rather than from the ghostly hand itself.
    Mr. Sinatra wasn’t evil. He was frustrated by his circumstances and, for whatever reason, fearful about leaving this world—though he would never admit to the fear. As one who had not found organized religion highly credible until later in life, he was now confused about his place in the vertical of sacred order.
    The biographies had not ricocheted from wall to wall with violent force, but had instead circled the room like the horses on a carousel. Every time I tried to pluck one of those books from the air, it had eluded me.
    “Mr. Mitchum said you’d keep getting up and coming back until one of you was dead,” I repeated. “But in
this
fight, sir, one of us is already dead.”
    His sunny smile grew wintry for a moment, but then thawed away. As dark as his bad moods could be, they were always short seasons.
    “There’s no point in you resisting me. No point. All I want to do is help you.”
    As was often the case, I could not read those extraordinary blue eyes, but at least they were not bright with hostility.
    After a moment, he affectionately pinched my cheek.
    He went to the nearest window and turned his back to me, a genuine spirit watching the fog haunt the night with its legions of false ghosts.
    I recalled “It Was a Very Good Year,” a song that could be read as the sentimental and boastful recollections of an irredeemable Casanova. The poignant melancholy of his interpretation had elevated those words and that music to art.
    For him, the good and the bad years were gone, and what remained was merely forever. Maybe he resisted eternity out of fear based in remorse, though maybe not.
    The next life promised to be without struggle, but everything I had learned about him suggested that he had
thrived
on struggle. Perhaps he could not imagine an interesting life without it.
    I
can imagine it easily enough. After death, whatever I might have to face, I will not linger on this side of the door. In fact, I might cross the threshold at a run.

ELEVEN
    I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE BY THE front door. The way my luck was running, I would find the barbarian horde on the porch, about to pay a visit.
    In my dictionary, three bad guys who between them have at least one chin beard, one set of rotten teeth, and three guns qualify as a horde.
    Leaving by the back of the house meant I had to pass the parlor, where Hutch brooded about the wife and son he’d never had and about how lonely and vulnerable he was after losing them.
    I did not mind if he called me an ungrateful little shit again; that was merely rehearsal for a possible visit from a representative of the horde. The quick shower, the change of clothes, and the chat in the kitchen with Hutch had cost me twenty minutes, however, and I was anxious to locate Annamaria.
    “Odd,” he said as I tried to move past the open parlor doors with the stealth of a Special Forces op in camouflage and sound-suppressing footgear.
    “Oh, hi.”
    Roosting in his armchair with a

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