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Authors: Carol Davis Luce

Night Hunter

BOOK: Night Hunter
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Carol Davis Luce



Formerly titled SKIN DEEP

Copyright © 1990 by Carol Davis Luce


Sudalu Media publication: 2010

Sudalu Media publication: 2012

This is a newer edition. Completely revised, edited, trimmed, and repackaged.


Printing: Windsor Publishing Corp. 1990

Printing: October 1992



All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author.



*This edition includes the mystery short story,
Shattered Crystal

With love to the four R
’s in my life . . Robert, Reg, Rob,

Rascals all.



I wish to thank doctors Harry Huneycutt, Gary Pomeranz, and Eugene Le May for medical advice and lab demonstrations

Special thanks go to these friends: Patti and Michael Specchio for their continued support; Priscilla Walden for her west coast public relations; The Farrells, Schmanskis and Martinezs; my reader, amateur therapist, and alter ego, Katina Schafer, for all those things; and, again, to my husband Robert for being there.

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.

Francis Bacon



San Francisco 1970



Miss Classic



The cheers and applause still echoed in her ears. White dots from the bright, popping flashcubes danced before her eyes. Her jaw ached from smiling for the cameras. Her legs, weak from hours on her feet in high heels, began to cramp. But it was worth it. Every minute of it. She was flying high.

Corinne Odett hugged the long-stemmed roses and breathed in their sweet fragrance. She touched the crown on her head. It was hers. Really hers. The crown, the money, the prizes, even a screen test at a Hollywood movie studio; but most important of all, the title. Miss
San Francisco.

She looked around. The changing room of the auditorium was finally empty of people. The four runners-up, Regina, Amelia, Tammy, and Donna, had left on the heels of the news media for the Coronation Ball upstairs in the hotel. Corinne waited, pacing nervously.

The pay phone on the wall rang. She snatched it off the hook, said a terse hello.

The voice she hoped to hear tentatively spoke her name.

Jack? Oh Jack, I was afraid you wouldn’t, that you—” Corinne’s chaperon poked her head in the door and tapped her watch.

I’ll be right there, Mrs. Myer.”

The chaperon nodded, backed out, closing the door,

I did it, Jack, I won. Me, Corinne Odett, Miss Classic. If only you could’ve been here.” Before he could respond, she rushed on, breathless, “I know, I know, and I understand now, I really do. I was awful, wasn’t I? I’m so glad you’re not mad at me. Jack…” she said with a slight tremor in her voice, “will you escort me to the ball?”

His answer was a simple yes.

I’ll wait for you in the changing room. Jack, please hurry.”

Too keyed up and restless to sit, Corinne paced. After several minutes, she forced herself to sit at the long vanity. The quiet began to feel heavy — oppressive. As she waited, she studied her image. She glanced sideways to see her mirrored reflection multiplied and refracted smaller and smaller as it lined up into infinity. Her own beauty, the magnitude of it, never failed to surprise her. A product of poor, uneducated parents, she had learned early in life that her looks were special. Regal, even. The
San Francisco Chronicle
had likened her to Grace Kelly. With her gift of beauty, she was told, she would go far. Far indeed.

But without Jack, it meant nothing.

She heard a soft tapping at the door.

It’s open,” she called out.

Another tap.

With a sigh, still gazing at herself in the mirror, Corinne rose. She straightened the crown, then crossed the room and pulled open the door. The hallway was dark and empty.

Mrs. Myer? Jack?” Corinne said, stepping across the threshold. “Anybody there?”

She detected a movement to her left. A flash of dark clothing, a glint of sparkling glass, and then something wet and warm splashed against her face.

She gasped, stunned.

A stinging sensation spread across her face and ripped into her throat, constricting her vocal cords. She breathed in sharply as delicate sinuses exploded in pain. The skin over the left side of her face seemed to shrink, to pull tight, to throb. It was sheer torture to breathe. She held her breath. Her heart pumped wildly.

No, oh dear God, no.

In anguish and disbelief, shock dulling the pain, Corinne whirled around and, with faltering steps, rushed to the vanity.

She glared into the mirror. From somewhere deep in her body came a low moan filled with utter despair.

The image before her wore her gown and banner. She saw the rhinestone crown, glittering defiantly atop a cascade of sun-streaked curls. One green eye was as bright as cut glass. But the other
eye ...
face ...
the throat ...

Through a flashfire of agony, with a devastating sense of wretchedness and sorrow, Miss Classic 1970, in that split second before the instinctive act of self-preservation took over, realized that the world was no longer hers.




San Francisco 1990

The Finalists




As Regina Van Raven climbed the brick steps of the two-story apartment house alongside her daughter, she heard the creak and clatter of a window sash rising to her right. She caught a glimpse of a man’s naked back as he moved away from the window.

It looks nice from the outside, Mom,” seventeen-year-old Kristy said.

Wilma wouldn’t live in a place that wasn’t nice.”

Regina felt the cotton blouse sticking to her back. They opened the outer door, walked into the entry, and pressed a button under Szabo--manager. A moment later they were buzzed through another door into a wide hall.

It was cool inside and smelled of wood polish and Pinesol. Before Regina could knock, the door to lA opened and a pleasant-looking, heavyset woman in her late sixties came out. “Mrs. Van Raven, yes?”

Regina nodded. “Mrs. Szabo, this is my daughter Kristy.”

The woman clasped her hands at her chest and said with a thick European accent, “Oh, the little one is such a beauty.”

Kristy smiled and looked down.

Come, come, come,” Mrs. Szabo said, leading the way to the staircase. “Second floor. Mrs. Axelrod, she say she’ll move her furniture out in three days.”

Mother and daughter hurried to keep up.

At the end of the hall toward the front of the apartment house, the landlady opened the door to 2B. Bright sunlight poured out into the dim hall. Regina stepped inside, taking in the clean, airy living room. Large windows wrapped the south and east corner, facing the distant bay. Under fringed area rugs, hardwood floors gleamed.

We’ll take it,” Kristy said.

Kristy, I’d like to see it first,” Regina said evenly, trying to keep the enthusiasm from her voice.

Kristy smiled sheepishly.

Regina strolled through the two-bedroom apartment, her excitement mounting. It was everything she had hoped it would be. And the price was right. Coming back into the living room, she heard her daughter talking to the landlady.

Right now we live in this monstrous house in Berkeley,” Kristy said. “My dad died six months ago, and I’ll be leaving in September for college, Cal Poly, that’s in San Luis Obispo, so she’s gonna need a smaller place. When her friend, Wilma—y’know Wilma, the woman who lives here? —well, when she told her about this apartment coming up for grabs, well ... jeeze — and it’s so close to the station where she works. My mom’s a co-producer

We’ll take it,” Regina quickly cut in. “If for no other reason than to spare Mrs. Szabo the entire family history.”

You love it,” Kristy teased. “Admit it.”

I love it.”

Regina looked at her watch. 3:20. If she didn’t get moving now, she’d be late for the taping of “City Gallery.” Donna Lake depended on her to soothe the guests and smooth out any preshow hassles. “I can give you a deposit now, then come back after work and sign the lease,” she said to the landlady, reaching for her checkbook.





Inside the studio at KSCO TV, under the bright lights of the set, Donna Lake felt her hair cling wetly to the back of her neck. Although her antiperspirant hadn’t failed, her underarms itched maddeningly. She was dry, but miserable.

Her guest on ‘City Gallery’ that afternoon was tattoo artist Mark Coontz, whose claim to fame was his urbane tattoo salon, just off Union Square, where, catering to the rich and famous, he specialized in the permanent application of eyeliner, eyebrows, lip lining, strategically placed beauty marks and, naturally, the avant-garde tattoo.

The floor director signaled Donna to wind it up.

Fascinating subject, Mark. Unfortunately, we’ve run out of time.” She turned to the camera. “Mark Coontz, proprietor of The Mark of Beauty Shop--”

Salon,” he amended.

Mark of Beauty
. Next week our guest will be Crystal Downey, former beauty queen, top model, and most recently the author of the best selling beauty book,
Crystal Clear.
Until then, this is Donna Lake with City Gallery.”

The lights blinked out. Before Donna could remove her mike and thank her guest, her husband swooped down on her, his handsome face like granite.

Forget Crystal Downey.”

Donna stood and quickly walked off the set. She knew all too well that expression, that tone. The last thing she wanted was a confrontation within earshot of the guests and crew. She stepped into a dark control room, waited for him to enter, then closed the door.

What happened?” she asked.

Crystal canceled, that’s what happened. She was hot to trot when I talked to her. Then she talks to Regina and it’s suddenly a no-go.”

Honey, Regina warned us she was a flake and couldn’t be counted on.”

He slapped his clipboard down on the counter. “Okay, so any suggestions?”

She looked at him, surprised. Nolan rarely asked her advice or opinion. In a quiet voice she said, “I’ll check with Regina. She has—”

Regina, Regina,” he cut in. “Always Regina.” He snatched up the clipboard and consulted it. “We’ll go with the Classic finalists. Same premise. The five of you could easily fill the time slot.”

They’re scheduled for next month. I just wrote to them two days ago.”

Call them. Have your precious Regina get her butt in gear.”

BOOK: Night Hunter
3.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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