Jeffrey Konvitz’s New York Times–bestselling horror novel about a young woman descending into demonic madness who discovers it’s not simply in her mind
Aspiring model Allison Parker finally moves into her dream apartment: a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But her perfect home quickly turns hellish.
The building is filled with a cast of sinister tenants, including a reclusive blind priest, who seems to watch her day and night through an upstairs window. Eventually, Allison starts hearing strange noises from the empty apartment above hers. Before long, she uncovers the building’s demonic secret and is plunged into a nightmare of sinful misdeeds and boundless evil.
In the tradition of Rosemary’s Baby, this gripping novel was adapted into a feature film starring Ava Gardner, Cristina Raines, and Chris Sarandon. The Sentinel is classic horror at its best.
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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.
The taxi fought its way up First Avenue, past the United Nations, the Fifty-ninth Street bridge and the singles bars that lined the avenue.
Her head lay against the window; her mind wandered. Had it really happened? Or would she wake up at the sound of the alarm, squint at the reflected rays of light on the smog-coated windows and realize, as she wiped sweat from her forehead and threw off her blanket, that the last four months had been one incredible nightmare, the hospital, the funeral, the agony and despair ... while waiting and eventually hoping for Father to die ... all of it ... and that everything she'd experienced and seen would dissipate like visions, as they had when she'd left home seven years before, forever, or so she'd thought. She laughed softly to herself. No, it had all happened, as hard as it was to believe. She closed her eyes, thinking of New York City. Not a bad place once you got used to it. She'd been happy here. In fact, returning to Indiana was the last thought in her mind last July, when she'd raced from the shower and, out of breath, lifted the phone to hear Mother's strained voice plead, "He's dying. Come home!" Could she have said no? Perhaps. Every impulse told her not to go back. But if she'd left Mother alone, she could never have lived with herself. She'd had to return, no matter what she'd had to give up. Even Michael. And though she could have spent hours reliving the subsequent events, it would have been a waste of time. She'd survived, physically and mentally, and the memories that had plagued her could not have altered that fact. It was over.
The taxi cornered onto Seventy-first Street and pulled to a stop in front of a modern thirty-story apartment house.
The door swung open and the doorman extended his hand into the cab. "Miss Parker!" he said happily.
"Hello, George," Allison said, smiling. She was attractive. Angular and tall. With skin like silk and long brown hair that fell over her shoulders halfway down her back. She looked younger than twenty-six, her face highlighted by a delicately sculpted nose and two enormous blue eyes.
"It's been a long time," George commented
"Yes," she replied cordially. George was always enthusiastically attentive and pleasant. She liked him. "Almost four months," she added. She stepped from the cab and walked under the green canopy that extended from the doorway to the street. She glanced at the watch; it was late. She looked up at the doorman. "How've you been?" she asked.
"Good," he answered, walking to the rear of the cab.
"And your family?"
"Fine, very fine." He began to collect her luggage. "I asked Mr. Farmer about you many times."
She stepped back toward the polished glass partition. "I hope he said good things."
"Only the best." George smiled. His powerful muscles began to bulge from the strain of the heavy baggage.
She'd remember to tip him handsomely, if just to signify her friendship. And she'd remember to thank Michael for his unusual display of affection and discretion. "Is Mr. Farmer in?" she asked. Of course, he'd be in. Waiting. It was her homecoming.
"No, he left town yesterday."
"He did?" He hadn't said anything on the phone about leaving town.
"He left a note for you. And gave me instructions to let you use his apartment."
They entered the building.
He put down the pieces of luggage, returned to the cab, brought in the last two suitcases, laid them next to the car packs, turned, and disappeared into a small room just inside the door. He reappeared moments later with an envelope in his hand.
"Mr. Farmer told me to give you this myself." He bowed, obviously pleased with his conscientiousness.
She smiled thankfully and snatched the envelope from his hand. Quickly, she tore it open, removed a note, and read:
Sorry couldn't be there when you got back. Had to leave Friday night for Albany. Business. Be back Tuesday.
See you then.
P.S. Will call Sunday night.
She folded the paper and shoved it into her purse.
That was just like Michael to disappear when she wanted him so badly. And to leave a note that could just as well have been a telegram. Short. Direct. And unemotional. A perfect mirror of his personality, but then again she could never hope to change him into something that he wasn't, nor did she really want to. If she'd thought about it, she'd have had to admit that it was just his curt and businesslike manner that she found so appealing and the challenge of every so often of coaxing him to let his hair down and betray some of the emotions that he so carefully kept hidden beneath his impassive exterior.
She thought for a moment, then turned to George. "Could you help me with the luggage?" she asked.
"Of course, ma'am," he answered. He lifted her bags under both his arms, an accomplishment that she'd thought impossible, and walked around the bend toward the elevators. "Mr. Farmer told me you gave up your apartment."
"Yes. I was going home for an indefinite period. It was best to let it go." She paused, then added, "I'm going to start looking for a new one first thing tomorrow. Preferably in a brownstone. A change of pace."
She pressed the call button, looked up, and watched the light start ticking downward from number seven.
"Weather's been bad," said George. "Lots of rain and it's been colder than the North Pole."
"Yes, I know," Allison agreed.
"You're lucky you were away."
"I suppose I was," she answered just to agree, since it had probably been colder and rainier back home.
The elevator arrived; the door slid open. She entered; he stepped in behind her. The door closed, the cabin ascended, and opened smoothly on the tenth floor. They walked out, turned to the right, and George opened apartment 10E.
She flicked on the light switch.
"Just put everything on the floor. I'll do the rest."
He placed the luggage at her feet and accepted the five-dollar bill, which was offered. "Thank you," he said. "If there's anything you need, just buzz down."
He stepped out; she closed the door. Breathing deeply. Tired. It had been a long day what with the goodbyes, the flight to Kennedy International, and the discouraging drive into Manhattan. She propped herself against the largest valise and surveyed the apartment. Living room straight ahead. Dining alcove to her right. Furnished early bachelor, endearingly tacky. He still hadn't thrown out the faded couch, or the rug, or the ridiculous painting of Napoleon Bonaparte. She'd be sure to speak to him about it all.
She removed her jacket and shoes, carried the car packs into the dining alcove and hung them one at a time in the alcove closets. She was pleased to see that the clothes she'd left several months before were still neatly folded in place and apparently hadn't been moved or exposed to anything that might have injured the fabrics. She turned, grabbed two of the valises, and hauled them down the hall past the kitchen and into the bedroom, where she laid them on the black shag rug next to the night table. She turned on the table lamp and pulled the white bedspread off the bed. It fell to the floor and lay crumpled, the contrast brilliant.
The bed looked empty without him. But it would have to do. The note said he wouldn't be home until Tuesday.
She removed her clothes, washed, then climbed under the bed sheets, blinking at the lights that shone through the window.
She threw Michael from her thoughts, turned off the night-table lamp, and clutched the crucifix that lay around her neck. She pressed the cross gently against her lips, remembering, the recent events back home so vivid it was as if she replaying them live.
The return to the old house during Father's funeral.
She'd refused to go with the mourners to the cemetery. She'd felt too sick. It had started in the hospital, about an hour before Father had died. The pain had been relentless, noticeably increasing in intensity, the headache becoming a pounding migraine and the dizziness spiraling into disorientation. They'd missed her at the cemetery. Just as they'd missed her earlier in the day, when she'd refused to enter the church for the services. But neither impropriety had mattered. They'd all understood. The family history was public knowledge. The why of it patently obvious. She'd needed rest. And the opportunity to retrieve the crucifix.
The house would be empty. She could trespass on her past undisturbed, satisfying that curious impulse of redemption that had haunted her since her return, waiting for Father's death to seek its fulfillment.
Before opening the front door, she'd stood silently on the porch. Then she'd entered the main hall, and, after climbing the staircase, had walked into a dimly lit corridor that ended in a solid gray wall. To the right was a solitary door. It had once been her parents' bedroom. For seven years, it had remained untouched and locked.
Inserting a rusted key, she'd turned the round crystal door handle, gently pushing open the door. Poorly hinged, the squeaking vibrated through the halls. Terrified, she'd stepped inside.
The bedroom was simply furnished. An old wooden bed occupied room center. Above it, hung a crucifix. On the left side of the room was an antique dresser. On the right were the closets. The room was carpeted with dust; cobwebs covered the furnishings.
She'd stumbled. Dizzy with the memory of dead voices. Remembering her escape though these halls all over again.
The police. "Allison, tell us what happened."
"What happened?" Mother had asked over and over, until her words had become nonsense.
"I don't know."
"Please tell me."
Then the truth.
The doctors. "Why'd you throw away the cross, Allison?"
"It was dirty. Everything was dirty."
"That's not true, Allison."
"You know that's not true. Let's talk about it again. Let's talk about everything again."
"I can't. I want to die."
She'd heard herself cry, as the blade, so many years before, had cut into her wrists. Then nothing. She'd looked around. The room quiet, the voices gone, the past, attempting resurrection, dead again.
She'd walked to the dressing table, the top covered with pictures standing in frames. She'd picked up several, stared, then had returned them to their places. Searching the rest of the table, she'd lifted a small box behind the picture of Bugle, their black Newfoundland, who'd died many years before. She'd removed the top. Inside, on a wad of cotton, lay a crucifix about the size of a silver dollar. Trembling, she'd carefully removed it. Could it have been that long, since she'd last held it in her hand? It looked the same. The figure of Christ was still intact; the chain had remained unbroken. Slightly more tarnished, perhaps, but one would have had to expect that after seven years.
Glancing about the empty room, she'd placed the chain around her neck, then she'd started to close the circular catch; she'd paused.
Father is dead, she'd told herself angrily.
Then she'd snapped the latch, while looking in the mirror, the crucifix positioned just right, handing there for the first time since that terrible night so long ago.
It had felt comfortable.
And still did, but perhaps even more so, now that she was back in New York, and secure in the confines of Michael's bedroom.
She rolled on her side, burying her face in the soft beckoning pillows. The impulse of redemption was still strong, inciting a return, part conscious, part subliminal. The most terrible stigma had been removed by death. The others remained. Confront them? The disavowals? The reality from which she'd fled? The attempts at self-destruction? The death of Michael's wife Karen with all its unspeakable horrors? Reconcile her past with her future? Yes. It would happen. Slowly. It was inevitable. Whether she knew it or not. Whether by choice or momentum. Now in the silence of the bedroom or soon, wherever, whenever.
She fell asleep, her hand caressing the figure of Christ.CHAPTER 2
The ad was located in the lower right-hand portion of a page marked "Commercial lofts and storage Facilities." It read:
ATTRACTIVE BROWNSTONE APARTMENT, OLD, PARTIALLY RENOVATED BUILDING, FLOOR THRU, ONE WBFP, UPPER WEST SIDE, 3 ½ ROOMS, FURNISHED.
CALL RENTAL AGENT, YU 6-1452. ASK FOR MISS LOGAN FOR APARTMENT 3A.
It was out of place. It should have been entered under "Residential Apartments." If it had, she might not have wasted the entire day chasing from building to building, agent to agent. Yet, as she removed a dime from her pocket, she warned herself not to be overly optimistic. The apartment might have already been rented. Or it might prove unacceptable, as had most of the other favorable leads.
The day had started inauspiciously; she'd overslept. Yet, she hadn't had much sleep. She'd woken twice during the night, one time to go to the bathroom, the other to find something to kill the dull pressure that had gnawed at her temples, reminding her that the tension that had caused the terrible migraines and dizziness was just beginning to subside and that she'd probably feel some discomfort for some time to come.
Strangely, the aspirin had had little effect. The headache persisted through her sleep, had intensified during the morning and had first started to dissipate after she'd left the apartment. It was gone by noon, and was now only a memory as she found a phone booth in a midtown drug store, called the listed number and, after speaking to Miss Logan, walked uptown toward Seventy-seventh Street and located the dilapidated brownstone that housed the agent's office. She opened the front door, consulted the directory. Miss Logan was the second floor. She climbed to it, then peeked through an open doorway. A woman was seated at a desk, examining a handful of documents.
"Miss Logan?" Allison questioned.
"Miss Parker," countered the woman, her voice a modulated contralto. She was neatly dressed, but years behind in style. Matronly and spinsterish. With a strict posture, an old-fashioned hairstyle and bland, reserved features. "Please take a seat," she suggested. She leaned forward, removed some papers from a nearby chair, and placed them on the already overloaded desk.
"Thank you," Allison said, as she entered the room and sat down.
Miss Logan quickly collated the piles of paper in front of her. "I was about to leave when you called. I don't like to stay too late on Sunday, so I'm straightening up. I'm sure you don't mind."
"Of course not. I hope I didn't cause ..."
"No, it's no trouble at all."
"Nevertheless, I appreciate your staying for me. The apartment sounds perfect. I didn't want to wait till tomorrow and perhaps lose it."
"Yes, I see," observed the agent.
"You sounded unsure on the phone. It is available, isn't it?"
"I believe so," she said. She leaned over the desk and closed the Venetian blind on the only un-boarded window.
"Believe?" Allison asked.
The agent smacked her lips. "The landlord said he was going to cease running the notice. He didn't like the prior applicants. We assured him we would find someone suitable, but he became disenchanted and decided to leave the apartment unoccupied."
"He obviously changed his mind again."
Allison extended the paper and pointed to the bottom of the page.
The agent read the blurb and nodded.
"Then I can see the apartment?"
The agent eyed Allison intently. "Well, I don't see why not." She paused, then added, "The building is on West Eighty-ninth Street. It's old, but still in good condition." She turned back to the desk, shuffled through the piles of papers, removed a document and smiled triumphantly. "Our questionnaire. Standard information for us about you, and I'd appreciate your indulgence. There's also a document that defines our commission, which you must sign." She handed the paper to Allison with a slightly raised brow. "Thank you," she said prematurely. "As soon as you've finished, we'll catch a cab."
Allison pulled a pencil from her purse and addressed her attention to the forms.
Miss Logan completed the arrangement of her desk. The room was silent for several minutes, then she swiveled around, sat back and stated, "You're from the Midwest, right?"
"Yes," Allison answered, lifting her head.
"I can hear it in your voice."
"I didn't know the drawl was so prominent."
"It's not, but it's there for someone who can recognize it. I'm from Peoria, Illinois, myself, but I've lost the intonation. I've been here fifteen years."
Allison smiled and continued to write.
"You just get to New York."
"I didn't think so." Miss Logan was craning her neck, curious as to the answers on the form. "You'll be living alone?" she asked.
"Yes," Allison answered, annoyed at the constant interruption. "With an occasional visitor."
"I live alone."
Allison raised her eyes. "How nice," she remarked.
"I prefer it that way. It gives me more freedom. I can do what I wish, whenever I wish. And solitude is good after dealing with people six days a week, ten hours a day."
Excerpted from The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz. Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Konvitz. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book moves fast and if it is a but sexist (women fainting and going hysterical...evil men...nasty detectives....homophobia) it is a product of the times more than anything else. I enjoyed the pacing and the story. Particularly that it references two of my favorite classical works.