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Authors: Gary; Devon






Praise for the Writing of Gary Devon


Edgar Award Finalist

is the kind of novel that will play havoc with readers who enjoy a long night's sleep. In fact, once you start this book, forget about sleeping, eating or whatever until you're done. [Gary Devon] comes through with a book that deserves serious consideration as a minor American classic.” —
Philadelphia Daily News

“One of the most original riveting pieces of storytelling in years.” —
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I've heard books described as gripping, and I might even have used the term myself. I don't think I really knew that it meant though, until I picked up
…. The writing is remarkable, dark, and exquisite.
is a real find.” —
The Washington Post Book World

“Gripping … Mr. Devon has written a novel of appealing originality.” —
The New York Times

Bad Desire

“Devon follows his praised first novel,
, with an account of forbidden love and serial murder that thrills from intriguing start to chilling finish.” —
Publishers Weekly

“From the masterly depiction of his ice-eyed killer to his chilling Hitchcockian ending, Gary Devon blows away every other psychological suspense writer around.
Bad Desire
is a stunner. Buy it. Or beg, borrow, steal it. But read it.” —Martha Grimes,
New York Times
–bestselling author

Bad Desire
is a very good read. A fine psychological thriller.” —Mary Higgins Clark,
New York Times
–bestselling author

“Gripping and suspenseful.” —Ira Levin,
New York Times
–bestselling author


Gary Devon

This book is dedicated to my family

to Mom and Dad and my three sisters

but especially to the memory of

my brother Rudy, 1945–1953

I want to express my gratitude to

Dr. Virginia Lowell Grabill

without whose early encouragement and assistance

this work might never have been done

And to my wife, Deborah

who saw it through

Because there is wrath, beware
lest he take thee away with his stroke
then a great ransom cannot deliver thee

Desire not the night, when people are?
cut off in their place

Job 36:18, 20



The bullet entered his head slightly above and behind his left ear, and the air pocketed with the report. The shot jarred him off balance and his tense face hurtled sideways, blurred like a swiftly unwinding bobbin of thread. His name was Sherman Abbott; he was twelve years old.

Thrown out loose by the recoil, his upturned hand wavered daintily in the evening air, his fingers bent back twitching under the weight of the dangling revolver. Suddenly he slumped as if to curtsy, then bolted erect. He staggered forward a step or two, weaving from side to side; the revolver jiggled from the end of his thumb, and he fell headlong in the high grass.

His sister Mamie, who was almost seven and the youngest of the Abbott children, watched him go down. She was standing less than ten feet from him when it happened, close enough for the resounding shock of the noise to hurt her ears. Clutching the tin pail with the nine berries in it, which she had picked and counted, she hurried to reach him. Small for her age, she squatted beside him, peering at him. “Sherman,” she said, leaning down through her spread knees. But if he saw her or heard her or knew who she was, he didn't let on.

He burrowed among the yellow stalks of grass, lurching and rocking up and down, as if he were trying to lift himself and crawl. Spasms flew through his body like tiny flickering fish. Then he stopped moving. Slowly his head settled on the crook of his unbuttoned shirt sleeve. The hurt side of his face was bone white and it was blood-pocked and embedded with grit, like a knee scraped on gravel. His still eyes were half shut and very blue. In the thin bristle of his new haircut, in the cheesy-white skin above his ear, the ruptured carbuncle of the wound was crusted with black dust. A rising puddle of bright blood filled his ear and broke down across his cheek.

Again Mamie spoke to him, a nudging worry in her voice. “Sherman,” she said, “you better get up.” But she didn't comprehend the terror of what he'd done or the gravity of the pain it would cause—she couldn't believe it was real until she touched him.

Irresistibly, even as the dread knotted tight inside her, she lowered her fingertips to the side of his face. Ever so lightly and gently. And the skin there was cool-hot and clammy like a fever. “Sherman,” she whispered, “what'd you do?” She was about to pull away when something happened: she lost her footing or her hand shook of itself, and her fingers smeared across the sticky blood drying on his cheek. At first she couldn't breathe; when at last she caught her breath, a shriek rode out of her body so high-pitched it snapped in and out of frequency. It was like a corrugated sound she couldn't stop. She jerked back, kicked back, flinging out her hand. She came to her feet and turned, and turned, stumbling in an aimless zigzag, her cry continuing as shrill and piercing as a chalk squeak.

She ambled in loops, unable to get her bearings. Again and again, she found herself coming upon him. She wanted to pick him up, impossible as it was. She kept thinking, I should pick him up and take him home. But she knew she couldn't lift him—he was nearly twice her size. Each time she saw her blood-dirtied fingers, she screamed. With the air almost gone from her lungs, she finally gasped, “Sherman … Sherman … Oh, Sherman,” so frightened she couldn't call for help. She kept her bloodied fingers extended before her. She didn't know what to do—she couldn't dirty her dress, put
on it. Suddenly she dropped to her knees, wiping her hands viciously on the grass, pulling out clumps of grass and scrubbing it across the palm of the bloody hand. Again, inadvertently, she touched him, his arm this time.

She sat back on her haunches. Breathing hard and moaning, she wiped her face on her hunched-up shoulders. She couldn't bear to look at him, but she did look and the blood was trickling out now in a pink foam—from his nose and mouth. Quickly she squeezed her eyes shut; she put her hands on top of her head, one on top of the other, and just sat there, still and numb. “Oh, Sherman,” she babbled in her desperation, “I wish you wouldn't do things like this to me.” After she said it, she thought it sounded like something her mother might say. She sat there beside him on her haunches, unable to help him, afraid to touch him. And she covered her eyes with her hands but she couldn't stop the tears running through them. At last, shivering uncontrollably, she pushed to her feet and whirled away, running for home.

Some of the men in the neighborhood brought Sherman home that night and put him on the wicker lounger in the living room—the lounger their wives had pulled in from the porch and hastily prepared with starched white linen.

Mamie sat halfway up the stairs, clutching the varnished spindles, peering down on the commotion. Above her, on the dark landing of the stairs, Toddy Abbott, who'd just turned eight, stood motionless in his pajamas as if by being quiet he could hide. He'd stayed in bed that afternoon and evening with a croupy summer cold. They listened as their mother frantically tried to decide what to do, changed her mind and changed it again, but none of the neighbors questioned her judgment. Finally, sobbing as she spoke, she blurted out what she wanted most. “If he has to die,” she said, “it should be here at home. Don't you think so?” The longer she talked, the more she pleaded. “I want it to be here—in his home—among his own things when it happens. Not in some cold hospital room. I want him to be home, at least. Don't you think that's right?”

Outside, police cars pulled up, one, then two of them, their red lights beating irregularly against the front windows. Car doors slammed and voices shouted outside beyond the doorway, but it was the doctor, followed by a nurse dressed in white, who wove through the tangle of neighbors in the foyer. Without a word, they went directly into the bright living room, where the doctor paused and drew the tall sliding doors shut behind him. Almost immediately from that closed-in place, Mamie heard her mother's heartbreaking wail—a sound as thin and relentless as wind on wire. The cry tore through Mamie like a dagger; startled, she clung to the spindles, unable to stop her tears.

Her mother's voice rose and fell like a loud heartbeat: “Don't … hurt him … please … don't hurt him … any more.” Just when Mamie thought she couldn't bear it any longer, the sliding doors rumbled apart. Escorted on either side by neighbor women, her mother wandered out, coming down the shaft of light and into the foyer where the dim wall lights lit the stairs. She hugged a small oblong box to her breast. Her face was white as plaster.

The doors slid shut. The hot August night dragged on.

By the time their father arrived in his work clothes, the police cars were gone. He had been running; sweat soaked his shirt. He stumbled through the crowd, saw their mother, and turned toward her, unsteady on his feet. And their expressions were so tender and full of longing they were painful to watch. Their mother's fingers picked at the oblong box, and she kept saying, “Oh, Ray, I'm so sorry,” over and over again. They stood less than two feet apart, unable somehow to touch each other, their eyes full of tears. She said to him, “All my life I've been afraid of something like this.”

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