The Night Visitor

Dianne Emley

Alibi
New York

This is an uncorrected excerpt file. Please do not quote for
publication until you check your copy against the finished
book.
The Night Visitor is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents are
either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
An Alibi eBook Original
Copyright © 2014 by Dianne Emley
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Alibi, an imprint of Random House, a
division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company,
New York.
Alibi and the Alibi colophon are trademarks of Random House LLC.
eBook ISBN 9780804178938
Cover design: Scott Beil
Cover

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(Woman)

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Author photograph: Bill Youngblood Photography
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1
Junior Lara saw the doves and knew something was wrong. They were
loose inside the loft, flying in crazy circles, their beating wings stirring the
air, scenting it with musk.
A gust of warm wind blew through the open windows. It carried a
trace of something sweet and earthy.
The back of Junior’s neck prickled. He stood with his hand against
the edge of the antique elevator’s door, hesitating before stepping into his
loft apartment.
“Anya? You here?”
He peered up the long staircase that led to the roof. The door at the
top was open. He shouted up the stairs, “Anya!”
Looking around the loft, Junior saw Anya’s purse and two cell
phones on the big library table. “You’re here someplace. You wouldn’t go
off without your beloved cell phones.”
He knew what she’d done. She’d gotten bored waiting inside the
loft and went up to the roof to see the doves, and she had left the door to
the coop open. The light had drawn the birds inside. He’d told her that he
was on his way, but she couldn’t sit still for a few minutes, and now his
place was a mess. But where was she?
“Dammit, Anya.”
It was wrong. Wrong from the get-go. Anya was bad news. He
knew it, but he’d done it anyway.

He flipped off the lights and started on the windows along one wall
of the loft, working by moonlight. He shooed birds outside and cranked
the tall casement windows closed. Two of his favorite doves landed on his
head and shoulder and rode with him, cooing and picking at his hair.
The wind gusted. Screens that partitioned the bedroom scuttled
against the concrete floor. Magazine pages rustled. Loose drawings took
flight. Pencils and charcoals rolled. Paintings on easels caught the wind
like sails. The doves had been calming but took flight anew, circling, the
moonlight luminescent on their feathers.
Junior cursed when he caught his foot on a stack of canvases
leaning against a table and they clattered to the floor.
“Can’t sit still and wait ten minutes, can you, Miss Diva?”
He reached a corner and stopped before going to the windows
along the adjacent wall. The back of his neck prickled again. He resisted
an urge to turn on the lights. He’d never get the birds out that way. But
something was giving him the creeps. It wasn’t the doves. They’d done
this before. It wasn’t the darkness. He often painted by moonlight,
enjoying the still and quiet of the quirky old building in the desolate
neighborhood. It wasn’t the hot wind. The Santa Anas made others edgy
but energized him. It was something else. There was a vibration, a tension
in the air, formless and weightless, but palpable. It had slithered beneath
his skin and nagged the pit of his stomach.
He thought of his fiancée, Rory. He wanted her here. He hated
having lied to her. Mistakes on top of mistakes. It was time to come clean
and tell her everything. Now.
He brushed his pets off him and pulled a cell phone from his
pocket. He brought up Rory’s number and was about to make the call

when something caught his eye. He’d left easels set up in front of the
windows beside a vintage sofa. One easel displayed the nude portrait he’d
painted of Anya. On the second easel was a framed painting, silhouetted
by the moonlight. He blinked, not believing what he now saw. The two
paintings seemed alive, undulating in the wind. They’d been reduced to
ribbons, the strips of canvas flying like the torn fabric of a kite’s tail.
“I know you had a problem with it, but son of a bitch, Anya.”
The wind quieted, settling the tattered canvases, only to scatter
them again.
Junior crossed the room, heading for the shredded paintings. Near
the sofa, he slipped. The floor was wet and slick. Pitching forward,
grabbing on to the sofa to not fall, he skidded into something solid yet soft
on the floor behind it. It was Anya.
Even in the dim light, he saw her sultry gaze. Her full lips were
parted, and her dark hair was splayed around her head. It was the pose in
which she’d been photographed thousands of times.
Junior realized that her face wasn’t shadowed but was covered
with blood. He scrambled to get away, holding on to the sofa, fighting the
suction pull of the blood. He sensed motion close behind him. It wasn’t
the wind. It wasn’t the doves. Before he got to his feet, he was again
falling.
There was a flash or a bang—he wasn’t sure which. He was
suddenly on the cold, bloody floor but strangely distant from his senses.
Anya’s limp form in the moonlight faded as darkness closed in. He
grappled to fix a thought in his head, something to sustain him, to keep
him here and away from the darkness. Rory. He focused on Rory. Scenes

from their life together flashed through his mind. He seized them and held
on tightly.
The darkness crept closer. He tried to hold on to the light, but bit
by bit it ebbed until all that he had been was reduced to a pinprick. Then,
life as he had known it was over.

2
Five Years Later
Daniel Lara burst into the lobby of the run-down hospital in the Lincoln
Heights neighborhood east of downtown L.A.’s Chinatown. He shoved a
rolled magazine into his jacket pocket, snatched a pen that dangled from a
chain attached to a clipboard on the scarred wooden counter, and wrote his
name on the visitor’s log in an illegible scribble.
The hospital’s lobby was a dingy rectangle floored in pocked
linoleum. Steel and plastic chairs lined the walls. A television on a wall
was tuned to a Spanish-language station. A Latino couple sat on the
uncomfortable chairs watching it. A boy and a girl played on the floor
with toys pulled from a bin in the corner.
“My man, Danny boy.” The guard looked up from the sports
section of a newspaper. Danny had become such a fixture at the hospital
that the guard was already making out a visitor’s badge. “Look at you,
lady-killer. Pressed and prettied in a suit and tie. You got a date or
somethin’?”
“Hey, Johnnie.” Danny took tissues from a pocket and wiped beads
of perspiration from his forehead. He glanced at the clock on the wall
behind the guard, rolling his feet from heel to toe.
“Give it up, Danny. Warm this old man’s dull night.”

Danny was wearing a dark suit that had belonged to his brother,
Junior, plus a blue shirt he’d bought at Walmart that day and a tie he’d
found in his brother-in-law’s closet. The suit jacket drooped from his bony
shoulders. He’d gotten a haircut. His wavy, dark brown hair set off his
features—still striking even after the weight he’d lost.
He coughed wetly into the tissues. “Johnnie, yesterday a reporter
got in and took pictures of Junior. How’d that happen?”
“Man, I’m sorry ’bout that. Broadsided me. Wasn’t expecting
reporters. Haven’t had to watch out for that sort of thing in a while. Corliss
found the guy beside Junior’s bed. I was gonna tell your mom the next
time she came by. I deleted the pictures off the guy’s camera. Think I did,
anyway.”
“Tonight’s the five-year anniversary of the shootings.”
“Damn. Been that long?”
Danny coughed again, holding the tissues over his mouth. The fit
went on. He looked sheepishly at Johnnie, who was frowning.
“You see somebody about that cough?”
Moonlight.
Doves.
White shimmering.
Black.
Eyes soulless.
Wings beating.
The vision powerfully entered Danny’s mind. His eyes became
distant as he saw the hospital lobby through a film of white doves in flight.

Around and around they flew, circling in moonlight, their feathers
glistening, their eyes black and shiny.
“Danny, hey. You all right?”
In his mind, Danny said, I know, bro. Been a long wait. But it’s
gonna reach a conclusion tonight.
“Danny boy?”
“Yeah, yeah. Johnnie, look. Here’s a heads-up. There’re gonna be
more reporters trying to get in here to see Junior.”
“Okay.” The guard considered Danny’s statement. “Why?”
“No. Really. Listen. You’ve gotta watch out. You’ve gotta be
vigilant, man. Always.”
Johnnie looked hard at Danny. Junior Lara’s little brother was just
twenty-two years old, but the years that had passed since Junior’s gunshot
injury had taken a toll on Danny, more than on Junior’s sister or even his
mother. Before the shootings, Danny had been a popular high school jock.
Now he was gaunt, his skin was sallow, and his behavior had become
increasingly strange. Lately Danny nearly lived in Junior’s hospital room.
Corliss, the lead nurse in the subacute unit, had confided that Danny
believed he could communicate telepathically with his minimally
conscious brother. Johnnie had gotten used to Danny’s bizarre but
harmless behavior, but tonight Danny was different. Edgy. What Danny
was telling him now alarmed him, but he didn’t know where to go with it.
Danny again looked at the wall clock. He shoved his hands into his
jacket pockets, where his fidgeting didn’t stop. “Junior’s not good.
He’s . . . You know, he’s on his way out. I don’t want him bothered with
all that mess. I need to know I can count on you. Huh, Johnnie?”

“What’s goin’ on, buddy? You seem kind of . . . I don’t know. Is
something gonna happen or something?”
Danny smiled. His smile was still winning. “Something always
happens. Just gotta go with the flow. Right, my man? Gotta go.”
He pushed through the swinging doors that led into the hospital.
“Hey, how . . . ?”
Danny turned down the corridor and was gone.
Johnnie watched the doors swing on their springs until they fell
still. He finished the question to himself: “How did you know about that
reporter taking Junior’s picture? I haven’t seen your mom yet to tell her.
Corliss probably called her. Yeah, that’s it.” Satisfied with his explanation,
he returned to the newspaper.

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