Facade_cover_final

New York Times bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in almost every genre. Generally, she uses her real name (Rusch) for most of her writing. Under that name, she publishes bestselling science fiction and fantasy, award-winning mysteries, acclaimed mainstream fiction, controversial nonfiction, and the occasional romance. Her novels have made bestseller lists around the world and her short fiction has appeared in eighteen best of the year collections. She has won more than twenty-five awards for her fiction, including the Hugo, Le Prix Imaginales, the Asimov's Readers Choice award, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Choice Award.

Publications from The Chicago Tribune to Booklist have included her Kris Nelscott mystery novels in their top-ten-best mystery novels of the year. The Nelscott books have received nominations for almost every award in the mystery field, including the best novel Edgar Award, and the Shamus Award.

She writes goofy romance novels as award-winner Kristine Grayson and futuristic sf as Kris DeLake.

She also edits. Beginning with work at the innovative publishing company, Pulphouse, followed by her award-winning tenure at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she took fifteen years off before returning to editing with the original anthology series Fiction River, published by WMG Publishing. She acts as series editor with her husband, writer Dean Wesley Smith, and edits at least two anthologies in the series per year on her own.

To keep up with everything she does, go to kriswrites.com and sign up for her newsletter. To track her many pen names and series, see their individual websites (krisnelscott.com, kristinegrayson.com, krisdelake.com, retrievalartist.com, divingintothewreck.com). She lives and occasionally sleeps in Oregon.

Facade by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Thomas fell in love with the Oregon Coast while filming his signature role as Anthony Short. Then his estranged daughter Heather died there, and Thomas fled.

Now he returns, not to solve his daughter's murder, but to see if he can live with himself and his past.

Only someone leaves mysterious notes signed Your Daughter, and birds die on his porch. Strangers report a man in a cloak who looks just like Thomas, but the fans who follow him everywhere don't see anyone.

But Thomas knows something strange lurks in the shadows. Then more people die and Thomas realizes he holds the key to it all. He alone can solve the crisis, if he only dares…

CURATOR'S NOTE

Kris Rusch is both versatile, working in a number of genres, and phenomenally productive. Neither of these things is particularly noteworthy, of course. What makes Kris stand out is that she maintains such a staggeringly high standard, repeatedly lauded by critics and fans alike, regularly hitting the bestseller lists, and gaining her top awards across the genres. Facade is a fine example of her ability to take a genre – in this case dark fantasy suspense – and proceed to dissect it, reassemble it, and make it her own. – Keith Brooke

 

REVIEWS

  • "Rusch's [Façade] is an exceptionally effective casebook of abnormal psychology…Rich and revelatory. The ending is perfect."

    – Locus
  • "Like early Ray Bradbury, Rusch has the ability to switch on a universal dark."

    – the Times (London)
  • A joy of clarity and lyricism. She is a new breed of writer: a Renaissance woman.

    – Charles de Lint
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch is one of the best writers in the field.

    SFRevu
 

BOOK PREVIEW

OPENING SCENE
TAKE ONE

(NOW)

FADE IN:

EXT. VILLAGE STREET ALONG ROCKY SEASHORE.

OPEN with water breaking along the rocks, surf splashing over the edges of the cliff, spraying passersby on this street in a small seaside town. In the distance, a lighthouse looms. Gray clouds overhead, old gray buildings weathered by the ocean—even the passersby are gray. The entire area evokes a mood of gloomy darkness. Shoot almost FILM NOIR, gritty and shadowy, à la 1930s B movies.

ANTHONY SHORT and his cat, RUMBLES, stroll across the road. Rumbles is half Siamese, half everything else, all mouth and no substance. Short is tall, lanky, and very impressive. His rain cape billows out behind him, making him look as if he is flying.

"CUT! CUT! Dash it, Thomas, the coat is supposed to billow out behind you. You're supposed to look important, not like the Wicked Witch of the West after she's met with a bucket of water."

Thomas shakes the moisture out of his black hair. Skizits, the cat, easily drops her Rumbles role and runs for a drier section of road.

"Sorry," Thomas says.

The camera crew relaxes. One of the grips reaches beside his chair for a thermos. The assistant director checks the script as if it is at fault for the flub instead of Thomas.

"Sorry? Sorry?" Michael takes a step closer to him. "We only have the morning to do the damn opening scene, and all you can say is sorry?"

Fifteen people wait for him. The cameras and equipment hide the road. Thomas turns away from them, and gazes at the lighthouse, half lost in the morning mist. "I'm not much for grimy seascapes," he says.

(THEN)

THE HOUSE HAD A HEAVY, wet look. Ocean-logged, as Heather would have called it. A shutter banged against the frame. The wind off the sea rose bitter here; its cold bit into his unprotected skin. Thomas climbed onto the porch without grabbing the rail. The wood groaned beneath his feet.

"Twenty-five thousand?" he asked the realtor.

She nodded. The wind whipped her brown hair against her face. She looked reluctant to enter the house. He had been the one who suggested it. The place looked perfect, off on a side road, near the ocean, private and cheap. Too cheap to trust.

He waited for her to open the door. She shrugged. "It's not locked," she said, hanging back.

The shutter banged again. The wind gave this old house life. He grabbed the brass knob, twisted it, and shoved the door open. No one had entered for a long time. A thin layer of dirt carpeted the floor. The air smelled musty, damp, closed in. He glanced back at the realtor. She huddled against the house, her arms crossed in front of her chest as a protection against the wind. He could see the ocean behind her, waves wild, foaming, crashing on the beach. "You coming in?"

For a minute, he thought she was going to say no. Then she smiled tightly and pushed past him. He watched her walk into the empty, open living room as if she had never seen it before. Slowly, he let the door slide closed. It slammed, making him jump even though he expected the sound.

"Tell me what is going on." His voice echoed in the room.

Her hands clutched at her sweater and a slow flush rose in her cheeks. She looked like Heather at three—trapped and unable to lie. "A woman was murdered here. Awful thing. Her blood painted across the walls—" The realtor laughed nervously. "Here I am trying to sell you the house and I tell you something like that."

"At least you're honest." Thomas took a step inward. A large brick fireplace dwarfed the room. The walls were white, the paint carrying an unused, new look. The kitchen stood off to the right. Thomas walked into it. Under the dust, the cabinets wore a fresh coat of varnish. The appliances were about three years old—he recognized the make and model from his year as Mr. Appliance—and still bore a local store's stickers. No-wax tile, obviously not original to the house, covered the floor.

"The kitchen is big enough for a table and a china hutch. The appliances are new, never been—"

"Yes, I see that." Thomas didn't care if he sounded harsh. He had given her a chance to do her job earlier. Trying to sell the house now only irritated him. "She died down here?"

"No." The realtor's voice had become small. "Upstairs. But then he dragged her down the steps—"

"He? They caught the guy?"

"No, but he was sighted, running from here, his cape billowing out behind him in the fog."

Thomas smiled. It sounded like a gothic. Something in black and white. Not film noir, but using shadows like poetry used words, to obscure and enlighten at the same time. "Enough to know he wasn't local, huh?"

"It was three years ago."

"Then why are you so frightened?"

(THEN)

THE HOUSE HAD A HEAVY, wet look. Ocean-logged, as Heather would have called it. A shutter banged against the frame. The wind off the sea rose bitter here; its cold bit into his unprotected skin. Thomas climbed onto the porch without grabbing the rail. The wood groaned beneath his feet.

"Twenty-five thousand?" he asked the realtor.

She nodded. The wind whipped her brown hair against her face. She looked reluctant to enter the house. He had been the one who suggested it. The place looked perfect, off on a side road, near the ocean, private and cheap. Too cheap to trust.

He waited for her to open the door. She shrugged. "It's not locked," she said, hanging back.

The shutter banged again. The wind gave this old house life. He grabbed the brass knob, twisted it, and shoved the door open. No one had entered for a long time. A thin layer of dirt carpeted the floor. The air smelled musty, damp, closed in. He glanced back at the realtor. She huddled against the house, her arms crossed in front of her chest as a protection against the wind. He could see the ocean behind her, waves wild, foaming, crashing on the beach. "You coming in?"

For a minute, he thought she was going to say no. Then she smiled tightly and pushed past him. He watched her walk into the empty, open living room as if she had never seen it before. Slowly, he let the door slide closed. It slammed, making him jump even though he expected the sound.

"Tell me what is going on." His voice echoed in the room.

Her hands clutched at her sweater and a slow flush rose in her cheeks. She looked like Heather at three—trapped and unable to lie. "A woman was murdered here. Awful thing. Her blood painted across the walls—" The realtor laughed nervously. "Here I am trying to sell you the house and I tell you something like that."

"At least you're honest." Thomas took a step inward. A large brick fireplace dwarfed the room. The walls were white, the paint carrying an unused, new look. The kitchen stood off to the right. Thomas walked into it. Under the dust, the cabinets wore a fresh coat of varnish. The appliances were about three years old—he recognized the make and model from his year as Mr. Appliance—and still bore a local store's stickers. No-wax tile, obviously not original to the house, covered the floor.

"The kitchen is big enough for a table and a china hutch. The appliances are new, never been—"

"Yes, I see that." Thomas didn't care if he sounded harsh. He had given her a chance to do her job earlier. Trying to sell the house now only irritated him. "She died down here?"

"No." The realtor's voice had become small. "Upstairs. But then he dragged her down the steps—"

"He? They caught the guy?"

"No, but he was sighted, running from here, his cape billowing out behind him in the fog."

Thomas smiled. It sounded like a gothic. Something in black and white. Not film noir, but using shadows like poetry used words, to obscure and enlighten at the same time. "Enough to know he wasn't local, huh?"

"It was three years ago."

"Then why are you so frightened?"

"Steve usually shows this place. He's on vacation." She rubbed her hands against her upper arms. "I've never been here before."

Thomas nodded. "I'll look at the upstairs by myself," he said. The stairs ran off a small hallway opposite the kitchen. He climbed the steps slowly, noting the high polish and the nail holes in the wood. The stairs opened into an attic room with no hallway. The ceiling was low; he had to walk in the middle so that he could stand upright. The faint scent of fresh paint still lingered, but the window was covered with three years' growth of spiderwebs and grime. He cleared the dirt away.

The ocean roared below him, in constant motion. Waves broke against the rocks off to his left. The waves pulled at the beach, as if trying to drag it back into the ocean—recapture it, reclaim it. Thomas watched, finding the water's violence both soothing and disturbing.

The room felt cozy. He could imagine himself, lying on his bed, staring at the ocean in the dark.

He gave the rest of the house a cursory look, noting the bathroom's old paint and rusty shower, the tiny laundry room, and the dank, dark basement. Then he stopped beside the realtor. She was standing in front of the large picture window, still hugging herself as she stared at the sea.

"Steve picked a bad time to go on vacation."

She jumped. One hand covered her mouth as if to block a scream. When she saw him, she relaxed slightly.

Thomas smiled. "I'm going to buy it."

TAKE TWO

>(NOW)

FADE IN:

EXT. LIGHTHOUSE, tall and imposing against the broad expanse of sky. The white paint has turned gray from years of standing so close to the ocean. A railing runs about the base of the house, though no one stands before it. Waves hit the cliffs below, spraying the area with water as dark as the clouds.

ANTHONY SHORT and his cat, RUMBLES, walk to the edge. Short grabs the railing and leans into the spray. Rumbles stands at his feet, ignoring the water as it pours over her.

"CUT! CUT!" Michael stands up. His rain slicker is dry. "Thomas, we'll never finish this bit if you don't follow the bloody script."

Thomas nods and picks up Skizits who is rooted to her spot. "I don't understand why standing at the railing is necessary. It looks slippery and dangerous there."

The members of the crew get up and move away. These conversations have become commonplace, and the crew uses them as breaks.

"It's an establishing shot." Michael takes a deep breath and then releases it, as if he is trying to calm himself. "You're the first actor I know who can handle the interior dialogue but mucks up the establishing shots. They're the bloody easy ones, Thomas."

Water splashes against Thomas. He turns, protecting the cat from the droplets, but she shudders anyway. The sea froths below them, laughing at Thomas for cringing.

"I don't know what's so easy about them," Thomas murmurs.

(THEN)

HE FOUND HER sitting on the doorstep his third day in the house. She had her jacket wrapped tightly about her body, her hands stuck in the pockets. She didn't say hello as he approached, but stood, sniffled, and wiped her nose with her sleeve.

He didn't say hello either. He shifted the grocery bags slightly so that he could extend the hand holding his keys. She grabbed them and opened the door as if she had been doing so for years. He hurried into the kitchen, set the bags down on the counter, and turned to see if she had followed him.

She hadn't. She was standing in the living room, staring at the poster for his latest film. Finally, she looked at him. Her cheeks were ruddy with the cold and there were deep shadows under her brown eyes.

"You're taller," he said, knowing that he had to make an obligatory remark about her appearance.

"Thinner," she corrected. She shoved her hands back into her pockets, uncertain about her welcome. "And no. Mother doesn't know that I'm here."

He reached into the grocery bag and pulled out food for his single lifestyle: TV dinners, hamburger, boxed meals, and four six-packs of Diet Coke. "You want something?"

"Coffee." She sniffled again. He dug further in the bag, brought out a box of Kleenex, and handed it to her. His mother would never have allowed him to drink coffee at thirteen, but he didn't say anything.

"All I got is instant."

"Fine." Heather opened the box, tossed the oval-shaped cardboard onto the counter, and pulled out a tissue. She blew her nose loudly, then set the used Kleenex beside the cardboard.

"Garbage is under the sink." The first fatherly thing he had said. He didn't feel like much of a father—it was a role he played for one week annually, a part in summer stock forgotten as quickly as it had been learned.

Heather grabbed her garbage, opened the door under the sink, and tossed everything away. Then she closed the door and leaned against the basin, still hugging her coat to her chest.

Thomas handed her the kettle. "Take off your coat and stay awhile," he said.

She took the kettle from him. He turned his attention back to the groceries. The bag rattled against his arm as he pulled out lettuce, cucumbers, and some Ivory soap. He glanced over at Heather; she was struggling to turn on the faucet. He reached over and yanked it for her. With a squeal of rusted metal, the handle turned. Water splooshed out of the pipe and sprayed against the top of the kettle. Heather wiped her face with her free hand, then shut the faucet off.

"What the hell are you doing on the Oregon coast?" She didn't look at him. Her tone was not conversational. It had an element of blame.

He watched her set the kettle on the front burner and turn on the stove. "Hell" was a new word. The attitude was new too. He pictured three scenarios: in the first, he took his father's tactic and yelled about Heather's vocabulary and immediately alienated her; in the second, he answered her question, ignoring all the complexities; and in the third—

"How did you find me?" he asked.

"Connie."

His agent. She was probably wondering why she hadn't heard from him. "I've got to let your mom know you're here."

Heather sighed. Beside her the kettle rattled. "I know. Connie explained it to me. 'He's famous, you know'"—Heather mimicked Connie's nasal Brooklyn tones perfectly—"'We can't have some kidnapping scandal hit him now.'"

Not exactly the most tactful woman. But then that was Connie's strength in Hollywood. Thomas reached up and took a mug from the cupboard. It was tall and had a lighthouse painted on the front. He had picked it up the morning before in one of the little touristy shops that lined Highway 101. "I was actually thinking she might be worried," he said.

"Mom? She doesn't worry." Heather pulled open a cupboard door. "Where's the—oh." She took the coffee off the shelf, twisted off the top, and poured the freeze-dried granules into the mug. "Can we at least wait until tomorrow to call her?"

"No," Thomas said. He folded up the grocery bag and put it next to the garbage under the sink. The kettle made a slow whine. "You'll call her tonight, tell her you're with me, and you don't know when you're coming home. Tell her I'll talk to her later."

The kettle screamed. Heather shut off the burner and poured the hot water into the mug. "I suppose you want me to do that now."

He handed her a spoon. She took it, swirled it in the mug, then wrapped her hands around the lighthouse.

"It would probably be a good idea," he said. "The phone's in the living room."

She sighed, took her mug with her, and headed out of the kitchen. She had gotten thinner. Much thinner. Her legs were like sticks. "And take off your coat," he said.

Heather didn't seem to hear him or, if she had, she didn't want to obey. She sat in the big green armchair by the picture window and cradled the phone's receiver between her ear and shoulder as she dialed.

Thomas watched her, wondering what role to slide into—father or friend. He decided not to decide, to wait and see what she needed most.

TAKE THREE

(NOW)

FADE IN:

EXT. HOUSE ON DESERTED BEACHFRONT. OPEN with wild sea. Waves compress into the rock crevices, then spout into the air as they break, sending spray to the edge of the lawn. The empty house stares at the sea. No one has lived here in decades.

ANTHONY SHORT walks purposefully up the porch steps. His cat, RUMBLES, follows, but stops on the second step to lick her paws. Short approaches the door and Rumbles screams.

"CUT! CUT!" Michael's voice follows Thomas across the beach. Thomas runs in sand, his feet sinking, his legs aching. The wind whips across his face and he can taste sea salt in the air. Spray washes his face. The ocean pounds with his footsteps. "Will someone stop that lunatic?"

Thomas stops running on his own. He can't see the man anymore—hasn't seen him since leaping off the porch. Two grips run up alongside him, tall men, big, like bouncers in a single's bar. One puts his hand on Thomas's arm. "You okay, Mr. Stanton?"

Thomas wipes the sweat off his forehead. "Did you see him? The man in the cape?"

The grip looks at his companion, then frowns. "That was you, sir. They caught your reflection in the glass they were moving for the next scene."

"Are you ready to work?" Michael yells. He is still standing by the house, the cameras crowded behind him like bodyguards. He looks tiny, ineffectual, D.W. Griffith beside a director's chair, clutching a bullhorn.

"Not here," Thomas whispers. "Not ever."

(THEN)

HE BOBBED into wakefulness, narrowly missing the low ceiling as he sat up. His throat was dry, his heart pounding. Moonlight streamed across the bed. Downstairs, a shutter banged.

He threw back the covers, grabbed a robe, and started toward the stairs. Then he stopped. Heather was thirteen. If she was frightened, she would come for him. The creaking stairs would probably wake her and she would resent him for interrupting her sleep to calm his own fears.

He never worried about her when she was with Marge. Strange that he would worry now.

The shutter banged again. In the morning he would have to fix it so that he could sleep on windy nights. He tossed his robe on the bed and walked over to the window. The moonlight trimmed fifteen pounds off his naked body, hiding the paunch he was gaining, making him look twenty-five again. He ran his hands down his sides, feeling the layer of skin that was still there. In the morning, too, he would start running and maybe ask Heather to join him.

She had changed, his daughter, become tight, suspicious, too thin and cold, always cold. She had picked at dinner and said nothing. He wasn't the enemy, but he was little better since he had made her make the phone call. He hated the anger he felt wave off her, never permitted it in himself. Perhaps, in time, she would tell him why she had run away. Or maybe she wouldn't. He still hadn't decided what role to play.

A final bang—loud, sharp, like a pistol shooting blanks. Thomas leaned out the window in time to see a figure running down the beach. The water foamed and once Thomas thought the figure would get dragged in. The moonlight reflecting off the sand sharpened the world's edges with the clarity of day. Thomas stared at the runner—a man, his cloak billowing out behind him—and then remembered the realtor's words about the three-year-old murder.

His fear was back, strong, rising in his throat like bile. He grabbed his robe and shoved his arms in its sleeves as he ran down the stairs. His feet thudded against the wood—Heather would hear the panic in all of his movements. He ran across the hardwood floor and into the living room.

Covers trailed off the couch. The pillow was crumpled between the back and the armrest, and the bottom sheet had been scrunched. The kitchen door stood open, the room dark and empty.

"Heather?" His voice echoed in the still house. "Sweetheart?"

Nothing. No reply. Her clothes were piled beside the couch, where she had left them, her coat tossed casually over the armchair by the phone. The screen door was open. As he watched, it banged against the frame, and slowly eased open again.

"Heather?"

He went to the door, pushed it open, and stepped out on the porch. The weathered wood was cold against his bare feet. He traced the length of the porch, shivering in the damp, looking across the sand and seeing nothing but the ocean, frothing ghostly white in the moonlight. Finally he went in the back door—unlocked, damn his absentmindedness—and through the foyer.

"Heather?"

She wasn't upstairs or down. He checked the basement, turning on the light so that he could see past the cobwebs, afraid he might find her, crumpled like her bedclothes at the bottom of the stairs. Nothing. No one.

He walked to the living room, feeling shell-shocked, trying to ignore the fright. He turned his back on the empty couch as he picked up the phone to tell the authorities that his daughter had disappeared.