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Life Expectancy

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2019 год
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      Life Expectancy
Dean Koontz

In the dazzling new thriller from the master of dark suspense, the hand of fate reaches out to touch an ordinary man with greatness. So long as he is ready. So long as he is, above all, afraid.Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers' waiting room and his dying father's bedside. It's a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm's fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the first and last time since his stroke.What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson – five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his 20th year; the second in his 23rd year; the third in his 28th; the fourth in his 29th; the fifth in his 30th.Rudy is all too ready to discount his father's last words as a dying man's delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the moment of his grandson's birth to the minute, as well as his exact height, weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly – the unexplained anomaly of fused digits on his left foot. Suddenly, the old man's predictions take on a chilling significance.What terrifying events await Jimmy on these five dark days? What nightmares will he face? What challenges must he survive? As the novel unfolds, picking up Jimmy's story at each of these crisis points, the path he must follow will defy every expectation. And with each crisis he faces, he will move closer to a fate he could never have imagined. For who Jimmy Tock is and what he must accomplish on the five days his world turns is a mystery as dangerous as it is wondrous – a struggle against an evil so dark and pervasive only the most extraordinary of human spirits can shine through.

DEAN KOONTZ

Life Expectancy

Copyright (#u65731e56-00ea-565c-9cfc-82642fc347a5)

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/)

First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers 2005

Copyright © Dean Koontz 2005

Dean Koontz asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins ebooks

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication

Source ISBN: 9780007196951

Ebook Edition © FEBRUARY 2009 ISBN: 9780007318223

Version: 2018-12-03

To Laura Albano,

who has such a good heart.

Strange brain, but good heart.

But he that dares not grasp the thorn

Should never crave the rose.

—ANNE BRONTё, “The Narrow Way”

Here’s a sigh to those who love me,

And a smile to those who hate;

And, whatever sky’s above me, Here’s a heart for every fate.

—LORD BYRON, “To Thomas Moore”

Contents

Title Page (#u982999e1-f335-5172-871d-9031e9cb6ab7)Copyright (#u379c91bb-838a-56bc-a819-e1a1d0103486)Epigraph (#u54baafa2-240d-5e8f-80b5-0c3c6a783b42)Part One: Welcome To The World, Jimmy Tock (#u3649a0dd-b4d8-5cf1-b729-783e76d92bd9)Chapter One (#uab96b3e0-e9e4-5602-bb1b-210c7cddfbcc)Chapter Two (#ufe78b67e-e427-559f-b878-e70916d4b77e)Chapter Three (#u46cc5afd-2e5f-5d0c-9884-e06707dd4707)Chapter Four (#u5bf9446e-49f1-50e8-a52c-9c1f2aa07ec9)Part Two: Might As Well Die If I Can’t Fly (#u48dd0217-309a-569b-91e1-f8f32633ce17)Chapter Five (#u2d3f10df-886c-54f5-a8b3-639ce2fd70ab)Chapter Six (#u0d7d35d0-3c49-5654-8808-5e2c0cc92490)Chapter Seven (#u89cdd401-655f-5010-8aa0-fd61c966861c)Chapter Eight (#u977c89c1-ac5e-5aaa-a28c-1281216f6e0a)Chapter Nine (#ub1ca4edd-676a-5f5a-bab8-63fb9ed1308b)Chapter Ten (#u31ee1b74-bdd9-534b-99b3-c006e11a3352)Chapter Eleven (#u5bd8db8b-0654-5651-badd-023bc84536c9)Chapter Twelve (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirteen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fourteen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifteen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixteen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Seventeen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Eighteen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Nineteen (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty One (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Two (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Three (#litres_trial_promo)Part Three: Welcome To The World, Annie Tock (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Four (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Five (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Six (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Seven (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Eight (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Twenty Nine (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty One (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Two (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Three (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Four (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Five (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Six (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Seven (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Eight (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Thirty Nine (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty (#litres_trial_promo)Part Four: All I Ever Wanted Was Immortality (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty One (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Two (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Three (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Four (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Five (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Six (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Seven (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Eight (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Forty Nine (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty One (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Two (#litres_trial_promo)Part Five: Just Like Pontius Pilate,You Washed Your Hands Of Me (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Three (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Four (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Five (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Six (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Seven (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Eight (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Fifty Nine (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty One (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Two (#litres_trial_promo)Part Six: I Am Moonlight Walking, The Love Of Every Woman, The Envy Of Every Man (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Three (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Four (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Five (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Six (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Seven (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Eight (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Sixty Nine (#litres_trial_promo)Chapter Seventy (#litres_trial_promo)Preview (#litres_trial_promo)Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo)About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)Also By Dean Koontz (#litres_trial_promo)About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

PART ONE (#u65731e56-00ea-565c-9cfc-82642fc347a5)

Welcome to the World, Jimmy Tock (#u65731e56-00ea-565c-9cfc-82642fc347a5)

1 (#u65731e56-00ea-565c-9cfc-82642fc347a5)

On the night that I was born, my paternal grandfather, Josef Tock, made ten predictions that shaped my life. Then he died in the very minute that my mother gave birth to me.

Josef had never previously engaged in fortunetelling. He was a pastry chef. He made éclairs and lemon tarts, not predictions.

Some lives, conducted with grace, are beautiful arcs bridging this world to eternity. I am thirty years old and can’t for certain see the course of my life, but rather than a graceful arc, my passage seems to be a herky-jerky line from one crisis to another.

I am a lummox, by which I do not mean stupid, only that I am biggish for my size and not always aware of where my feet are going.

This truth is not offered in a spirit of self-deprecation or even humility. Apparently, being a lummox is part of my charm, an almost winsome trait, as you will see.

No doubt I have now raised in your mind the question of what I intend to imply by “biggish for my size.” Autobiography is proving to be a trickier task than I first imagined.

I am not as tall as people seem to think I am, in fact not tall at all by the standards of professional—or even of high school—basketball. I am neither plump nor as buff as an iron-pumping fitness fanatic. At most I am somewhat husky.

Yet men taller and heavier than I am often call me “big guy.” My nickname in school was Moose. From childhood, I have heard people joke about how astronomical our grocery bills must be.

The disconnect between my true size and many people’s perception of my dimensions has always mystified me.

My wife, who is the linchpin of my life, claims that I have a presence much bigger than my physique. She says that people measure me by the impression I make on them.

I find this notion ludicrous. It is bullshit born of love.

If sometimes I make an outsized impression on people, it’s as likely as not because I fell on them. Or stepped on their feet.

In Arizona, there is a place where a dropped ball appears to roll uphill in defiance of gravity. In truth, this effect is a trick of perspective in which elements of a highly unusual landscape conspire to deceive the eye.

I suspect I am a similar freak of nature. Perhaps light reflects oddly from me or bends around me in a singular fashion, so I appear to be more of a hulk than I am.

On the night I was born in Snow County Hospital, in the community of Snow Village, Colorado, my grandfather told a nurse that I would be twenty inches long and weigh eight pounds ten ounces.

The nurse was startled by this prediction not because eight pounds ten is a huge newborn—many are larger—and not because my grandfather was a pastry chef who suddenly began acting as though he were a crystal-ball gazer. Four days previously he had suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak; yet from his bed in the intensive care unit, he began making prognostications in a clear voice, without slur or hesitation.

He also told her that I would be born at 10:46 P.M. and that I would suffer from syndactyly. That is a word difficult to pronounce before a stroke, let alone after one.

Syndactyly—as the observing nurse explained to my father—is a congenital defect in which two or more fingers or toes are joined. In serious cases, the bones of adjacent digits are fused to such an extent that two fingers share a single nail.

Multiple surgeries are required to correct such a condition and to ensure that the afflicted child will grow into an adult capable of giving the F-you finger to anyone who sufficiently annoys him.

In my case, the trouble was toes. Two were fused on the left foot, three on the right.

My mother, Madelaine—whom my father affectionately calls Maddy or sometimes the Mad One—insists that they considered forgoing the surgery and, instead, christening me Flipper.

Flipper was the name of a dolphin that once starred in a hit TV show—not surprisingly titled Flipper—in the late 1960s. My mother describes the program as “delightfully, wonderfully, hilariously stupid.” It went off the air a few years before I was born.

Flipper, a male, was played by a trained dolphin named Suzi. This was most likely the first instance of transvestism on television.

Actually, that’s not the right word because transvestism is a male dressing as a female for sexual gratification. Besides, Suzi—alias Flipper—didn’t wear clothes.

So it was a program in which the female star always appeared nude and was sufficiently butch to pass for a male.

Just two nights ago at dinner, over one of my mother’s infamous cheese-and-broccoli pies, she asked rhetorically if it was any wonder that such a dire collapse in broadcast standards, begun with Flipper, should lead to the boring freak-show shock that is contemporary television.

Playing her game, my father said, “It actually began with Lassie. In every show, she was nude, too.”

“Lassie was always played by male dogs,” my mother replied.
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