Satanic forces return to an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with the discovery of a grotesque, charred body and two other eerily linked murders. When the young woman who stumbles upon the body is raped, her husband begins a furious quest for revenge. Meanwhile in the building, a blind and paralyzed nun with sinister intentions stares vacantly out of an upstairs window and a cunning priest tries desperately to save more innocent lives from destruction. Full of hellish twists and turns, The Guardian is a story of what happens when you come face to face with evil incarnate.
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About the Author
His first novel, The Sentinel (1974), was second on the New York Times Mass-Market Best Seller list and is considered to be a horror classic. After writing and producing the film adaptation of The Sentinel for Universal Pictures in 1977, Konvitz published two more bestselling novels: The Guardian (1979), the sequel to The Sentinel; and Monster (1982).
Konvitz has served as executive producer and financing counsel for three major motion pictures: O Jerusalem, I Could Never Be Your Woman, and The Flock. He is currently working on a historical novel, The Circus of Satan, about the late-nineteenth-century destruction of the national Irish Mob and the subsequent rise of Italians and Jews in nationwide politics and crime in the early twentieth century.
Konvitz is also preparing the third book in the Sentinel Trilogy, which continues the saga from where The Guardian left off.
He currently resides in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
By Jeffrey Konvitz
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2016 Jeffrey Konvitz
All rights reserved.
Arthur Seligson stepped out of the IRT station on Bleeker and Lafayette streets, convinced he'd done the right thing by leaving the apartment. In the morning, Sue would have forgotten the argument and he could return home after having had a night on the town. Anyway, their relationship was becoming a drag; he was sick and tired of her bitching, and if she couldn't live with the fact that he was bisexual and enlightened enough to choose an occasional male companion, while still preserving their relationship, she could pack her bags.
He turned down Houston, walked toward the East Village, and entered a club called the Soiree. He'd never been there, but everyone in the gay underground was familiar with the place, if only by reputation. The club wasn't very large. In fact, it was too small to hold the crowd already inside. There was a bar near the door, a dance floor beyond, and a raised stage in the rear, occupied by four black musicians and two transvestite dancers. The décor was unexciting, but few of the people in the place were there for the view, and even if they were, the lights were so low and the smoke and haze so dense that very little was visible in any direction anyway.
He checked his coat, approached the bar, leaned toward the bartender, and ordered a scotch on the rocks. He waited until the bartender had delivered the drink, then took the last available seat and looked around, studying faces. This was a different part of town. A different crowd. A more open way of life than he'd ever encountered. It excited him.
He took off his mohair sweater and draped it over the top of the chair. The cotton shirt underneath was already drenched with perspiration. He asked for a glass of water, carefully tended the scotch, then reached toward a dish of pretzels and grabbed a handful. The man next to him smiled; he smiled back.
The man was attractive, blond, about his own age and very thin. He was dressed smartly in a black Italian knit sweater over white dress shirt and skin-tight jeans, embroidered on the pocket.
"Howya doing?" the man asked.
"Pretty good," Arthur replied.
"My name's Jack. Jack Cooper."
Jack smiled a set of flashy teeth and sipped from his glass of bourbon. "Haven't seen you here before."
Arthur liked the sound of Jack's voice ... soft, clear, distinct, feminine. "I know. This is the first time."
Behind them, the jazz combo finished the set and left the stage. Celebrating the silence, Arthur downed his drink and protested as Jack bought him another.
"You from around here?" Jack asked, moving his seat closer.
"No, Yonkers. Grew up there. Went to school in Buffalo. Came back to Columbia for graduate work, and that's where I am now, occasionally going to class and working part-time Bloomingdale's."
"You live alone?"
"Just a roommate?"
"No ... a girlfriend."
"Then you're really cheating tonight."
"No. There are no secrets. I am what I am and she knows it."
"But it's not easy."
"Not easy at all."
Jack smiled, motioned to the bartender, and pointed to their glasses.
"And what about you?" Arthur asked, as he watched the bartender fill his glass for the third time.
"I study literature at the New School and work here part-time."
"Mostly tending bar. I've lived in the Village about four years and worked most all the joints. I came in from Cincinnati. To be an actor. Didn't do very well, though. I did a commercial for a soft drink I'd never heard of, a couple of voice-overs that never ran, and six weeks as the Wall in a touring company of The Fantasticks. Pretty good, huh? Six weeks onstage without a word. Now, that's acting. But what the hell. I wasn't much of an actor, though I couldn't admit it to myself at the time."
Arthur nodded reassuringly.
Jack pulled out a pack of pall malls and lit a cigarette. "What are you going to do when you get out of school?"
Arthur shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I've become a professional student. Diplomas and honors make great decorations, but don't teach you a damn about making a buck. And selling widgets at Bloomingdale's is not a career. So, I'll just take some more classes till they either throw me out or I marry a rich man's daughter."
"Or son?" Jack asked.
Arthur grinned. "Or son."
Laughing, Jack placed his arm around Arthur's shoulder. "You got a good head. And a good smile. I like you."
Arthur sipped from his drink. "The feeling's mutual."
Jack held out the pack of cigarettes. "Smoke?"
Arthur shook his head. "No," he said, as he hiccupped. Christ, he was loaded. "Never touch the stuff."
Jack put the pack away. "I might as well ask," he said.
"When did you come out?"
"In college," Arthur answered without hesitation. "During my senior year. On a vacation, a ski trip. I went to Stowe, Vermont, and met a guy from the University of New Hampshire. He was a good skier and I'd never skied before. So he started to teach me, and we hung out for a week chasing broads, but not doing too well. The last two nights we stayed in his hotel room and got drunk. And on the last night it happened."
"Did you feel guilty?"
"Not a bit." Arthur paused, as Jack laughed and continued to sip his drink. "And you?"
Jack lifted his brow archly. "I'm an old hand. Started when I was fifteen with a marine who was stationed at a base outside of Lexington, Kentucky. And that was some noisy affair. My mom caught us in the hay one night, when she was supposed to be out of town. Boy, did she flip out. Thank God my old man had died a year before or he would have cut my throat. As it was, my mom almost did. She was tough. She kept asking me why, and I told her if she were a boy and had an old lady like her beating on her every day, she'd have grabbed onto the first cock that came along and held on for life. Well, she didn't think too much of my reasoning, so she beat the crap out of me every night of a month until I got the hell out of there, took the first bus I could find to parts east ... Philadelphia, to be exact ... and then here. Haven't seen her since. I heard that the shock of having a fag for a son blew her mind and she just flipped out. But I never checked, 'cause I don't give a damn. She wasn't much of a mother to start with."
Arthur digested the chronology. "Have you been with a woman since?"
Jack shook his head.
They continued to talk and drink through another set, until Jack looked at his watch and grabbed Arthur's hand.
"You going home to your lady tonight?" he asked.
"I hope not," Arthur replied.
"My place is only a couple of blocks away. Why don't we get a bottle of wine and go back there? It's quiet. We can talk. I'll light the fireplace, turn on some good music, and whatever."
"Sounds good," Arthur said.
They stood and maneuvered to the exit. As they waited for their coats, a short, stocky man in a Moroccan djellaba grabbed jack and hugged him.
"Charlie Kellerman," Jack said. "Arthur Seligson."
Kellerman embraced Arthur, then looked to Jack. "You leaving?"
"Yes. I'll come in at twelve tomorrow. And I'll work tomorrow night, but not on bar." He glanced at Arthur and grabbed Kellerman by the throat. "We should only have a piece of this joint. This queen is getting rich."
Kellerman laughed, then put his arm around Arthur's waist. "You spending the night with this creep?"
Arthur just smiled.
Kellerman drew deeply on a cigarette. "I give him my highest recommendation. But watch yourself. I might get jealous."
They all laughed. The hat checker handed them their coats. Kellerman hugged Jack once again, gave Arthur's arm a tight squeeze, cocked his head, and brazenly kissed the air.
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," he cautioned.
Jack laughed. "You're the corniest bastard I ever met."
Kellerman smirked, dragged on the cigarette again, and retreated into the crowd.
Jack called after him and placed his arm through Arthur's.
They looked at each other, smiled, then left the club.CHAPTER 2
As the tires spun hopelessly into the mud, Annie Thompson cringed and looked through the side window, straining to make out the edge of the roadbed. Other than her reflection, she could see almost nothing, and that made the ordeal so much worse. And God, she looked terrible, her eyes bloodshot, her face almost colorless.
Bobby Joe Mason gripped the wheel of the Volvo sedan, rammed his foot against the accelerator once more and grabbed Annie's arm to keep her from being thrown forward. "At this angle, it's a bitch," he said, recapturing her attention. He looked up the summit road toward the ridge of the Adirondack peak and repeated through tightly gritted teeth, "A goddamn bitch!"
"We really know how to pick a week, don't we?" she mumbled, shaking her head and listening to the pounding of the rain on the roof.
"What the hell," he said.
The tires continued to spin, kicking up mud into the shears of the gale that had unexpectedly exploded out of Canada less than an hour before, catching them twenty miles from nowhere, unprepared and ill-advised, the weather report having predicted sunshine and warm day's right through the Thanksgiving weekend.
Annie jumped in the seat, banging her knee on the dash, startled by the crash of a branch on the nearly obscured windshield. Bobby laughed, then reached back for a parka.
"Slide behind the wheel. I'm going to push. When I yell gas, press the accelerator to the floor and hold it there."
"Do you think it'll work?"
"It better. Or else we're going to have to back down the entire road to the highway."
She grimaced in frustration. "Oh, great."
He snapped open the door, jumped out, slid to the trunk, braced himself, and breathing deeply, shook his head to shed the water trickling over his face. Above him, the sky was black. Ahead, the apex of the road was shielded by an advancing mist that crept down the incline between the thick crop of mountain trees.
He wiped each of his hands, noticing that the flesh had already turned white from the biting cold. "Hit the gas!" he screamed.
She pressed the accelerator. Mud shot up in his face. The wheels slid wildly from side to side, trying to bite into the ground.
"Keep going," he yelled, rocking the car again and again, until it finally shot forward and settled into the roadbed, the engine racing.
He sloshed up to the front door and jumped inside. "Let's get out of here," he said, gasping for breath.
Annie leaned over and wiped the mud off his face. "We did it!" she cried triumphantly.
Smiling, Bobby gunned the car up the road and crossed the crest of the peak, turning through a short expanse of dense wood into a parking area that fronted a two-story pine cabin and formed a proscenium for a natural amphitheater of trees.
"It looks the same," she cried happily.
He leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek. "I told you it would."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head in his heavy wool sweater.
"Come on," he said, pushing her away. He rubbed his hands together to crack off the dried mud and then buttoned the parka. "I'll get the bags. You take the food."
"Okay," she said.
They collected the bags and packages and carried them up a short stone path to the porch, where he took a set of keys from his pocket and opened the door. Then they pulled the bags inside, turned on the lights, locked the door, and threw their coats on the overstuffed sofa that stood in the middle of the floor, facing an old stone hearth.
The interior of the cabin was exactly as they remembered it. Heavy beams overhead. Furniture well laid out. Kitchen to the right. Staircase on the left, leading to the twin bedrooms on the second floor.
"I'll put the food away," she said.
He nodded and moved toward the woodshed door.
She popped into the kitchen and inspected the cabinets and appliances. Most of the shelves were empty, except for a jar of paprika, a canister of sugar, and several containers of seasonings. The potbelly stove seemed in good condition, but the icebox smelled from disuse. She left it open, while she put the contents of the bags away.
"There's no wood in the shed," Bobby called, his voice nearly obscured by the wind.
She looked over her shoulder. "The agent said the wood was in the downstairs bin."
She listened. The basement door creaked open. She heard footsteps on the basement staircase, some rustling below, followed by more footsteps, more rustling below, followed by more footsteps, this time on the way up. Then silence.
He smiled, his arms loaded with logs. "Thing's filled to the top."
"Good," she said. "Now, start the fire and get that sweater off or you'll catch pneumonia."
He walked out of the kitchen, as she pounded her arms with her hands, trying to keep warm; she was stiff, achy, racked by the discomfort that comes from cold dampness and biting wind. Yet, she was unbelievably happy. They were alone together at the cabin just as they'd been a year ago, two weeks after meeting at the start of the fall semester at college. It had all seemed so daring then, since both of them had been on their own, away from home, for so short a time, but now it seemed just perfect, the culmination of a year together, sharing, laughing, crying, knowing each other as neither had ever known a person before.
Annie walked to the kitchen entrance, watched him toy with the paper and wood in the hearth, then walked up behind him, knelt, and threw her arms around his neck. "How you doing?" she asked in a whisper.
"Almost there," Bobby replied, as he placed the last log on the pile, struck a match, and touched it to the newspaper.
She reached over his shoulder, grabbed the bellows, and handed it to him, kissing his ear almost as an afterthought.
He touched her hand. "I love you," he said softly.
The paper ignited. He fanned the flames; the underside of the wood started to smolder.
She tightened her grip on his body and pressed close. "Let's make love," she said.
He smiled. "It's colder than Hell."
"It'll warm up. And we'll do it here in front of the fireplace."
"What if someone looks in the window?"
"If someone's up here on the mountain in this weather, he deserves every bit of entertainment we can offer."
They laughed. He pushed her over on the rug, kissed her softly, then pulled back in reaction to a violent gust of wind. He glanced at each of the windows to assure himself that on one was there, then turned, facing the fire.
She slowly unbuttoned his shirt, ran her tongue up his chest, removed his pants, stood, took off her own clothes slowly, suggestively, her pink body slithering through the dance of the fire's flames, then lay down beside his again, pressing her small firm breasts against his chest.
"Promise me something?" she asked, staring up at him with round green eyes that shone like lanterns.
"That you'll never leave me. Or let me go. Or stop loving me."
He smiled. "I promise."
She laid her head on his shoulder. The patter of rain relaxed her. So did his warm, soft body. If it poured all week, it might prove a godsend. They could lie together like this for hour after hour, isolated from the world. In fact, she wished that they might never leave, that everything could remain just as it was at this moment. She felt his hand between her legs, rubbing slowly. She wanted him ... so much. But she was tired. And the pounding of the rain seemed to be moving far away, retreating like the muffled sound of a drum roll.
Within moments, she was asleep.
The last of the fire's live embers died into ash, as Annie opened her eyes and yawned. The room was cold, and except for the assault of the storm, unnaturally quiet. She reached out of Bobby's body, but felt only the coarse hairs of the animal-skin rug. She looked around the room. The lights were out and she was alone. Shivering, she put on her pants and blouse. The sleeve buttons in place, she sifted through the embers of the hearth with the poker. The remains gave off almost no heat. She must have been asleep at least five hours, and since they'd fallen out at about ten o'clock, it had to be near three in the morning. A quick glance at the total darkness outside the cabin windows assured her that she was probably right.
She stood and turned the switch on the table lamp. Nothing. She tried the ceiling lights. Dead, too. The main fuse must have blown.
She walked carefully through the darkness to the staircase and began to climb, the wood squeaking loudly beneath her feet. Steeping onto the top landing, she flicked on the hall switch ... again no lights ... and poked her head into the master bedroom. It was empty, as were the second bedroom and both bathrooms.
Something was wrong; she could feel it. Her stomach churned into a knot, as a cold perspiration began to dampen her skin.
Excerpted from The Guardian by Jeffrey Konvitz. Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Konvitz. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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