Excerpt: Anne Rice's New Thriller 'Of Love and Evil'

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It seemed then the other voices sang from their hearts, in protest, in praise, I couldn't tell.

I wanted to hold him. I wanted to beg him to let me stay just a little while more with him here. Take me again into the realm of the lamps of Heaven. I wanted to cry. I had never known as a child how to cry. And now as an adult, I did it repeatedly, awake and in dreams.

Malchiah came on steadily as though the distance between us was far greater than I had supposed.

"You've only a couple of hours before they come," he said, "and you want to be ready."

I was awake.

The morning sun flooded the windows.

The noise of traffic rose from the streets.

I was in the Amistad Suite, in the Mission Inn, and I was sitting back against a nest of pillows, and Malchiah sat, collected and calm, in one of the wing chairs near the cold stone fireplace and he said again to me that Liona and my son would soon come.

Chapter 2

a car was going to pick them up from the Los Angeles airport and bring them straight to the Mission Inn. I'd told her I'd meet her under the campanario, that I'd have a suite for her and for Toby—that was my son's name—and that I'd take care of everything.

But I still didn't believe she'd really come. How could she come?

I'd disappeared out of her life, in New Orleans, ten years ago, leaving her seventeen and pregnant, and now I was back via a phone call from the West Coast, and when I'd found out she wasn't married, not even engaged, not even living with someone, when I'd found that out, I'd almost passed out on the spot.

Of course I couldn't tell her that an angel named Malchiah told me I had a son. I couldn't tell her what I'd been doing both before and after I met that angel, and I couldn't tell her when or how I might see her again.

I couldn't explain either that the angel was giving me time to see her now, before I went off on another assignment for him, and when she agreed to fly out here to see me, to bring my son, Toby, with her, well, I'd been in a sustained state of jubilation and disbelief.

"Look, the way my father feels about you," she'd said, "it's easier for me to fly to the West Coast. And of course I'll bring your son to see you. Don't you think he wants to know who his father is?"

She was still living with her father, apparently, old Dr. Carpenter, as I had called him back then, and it didn't surprise me that I had earned his contempt and scorn. I'd crept off with his daughter into the family guesthouse, and never dreamed all these years that she'd had a child as the result.

The point is: they were coming.

Malchiah went down with me to the front walk. It was perfectly plain to me that other people could see him, but he looked entirely normal, as he always did, a man of my height, and dressed in a three-piece suit pretty much like my own. Only his was gray silk. Mine was khaki. His shirt had a sheen to it, and mine was a workingman's blue shirt, starched, pressed and finished off with a dark blue tie.

He looked to me rather like a perfect human being, his wondering eyes drifting over the flowers and the high palms against the sky as if he was savoring everything. He even seemed to feel the breeze and to glory a little in it.

"You're an hour early," he said.

"I know. I can't sit still. I feel better if I just wait here."

He nodded as though that was perfectly reasonable when in fact it was ridiculous.

"She's going to ask what I've been doing all this time," I said. "What do I say to her?"

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