EFFICIENCY KITCHENS AVAILABLE 3 страница

“Bathroom,” I said. “Quick.”

He pointed to the back, and I sprinted toward the doors marked BUOYS and GULLS. I straight-armed BUOYS like a fullback looking for open field to run in. The place stank of shit, cigarette smoke, and eye-watering chlorine. The single toilet stall had no door, which was probably good. I tore my pants open like Superman late for a bank robbery, turned, and dropped.

Just in time.

When the latest throe had passed, I took the giant bottle of Kaopectate out of the paper bag and chugged three long swallows. My stomach heaved. I fought it back into place. When I was sure the first dose was going to stay down, I slugged another one, belched, and slowly screwed the cap back into place. On the wall to my left, someone had drawn a penis and testicles. The testicles were split open, and blood was gushing from them. Below this charming image, the artist had written: HENRY CASTONGUAY NEXT TIME YOU FUCK MY WIFE THIS IS WHAT YOU GET.

I closed my eyes, and when I did, I saw the startled patron who had watched my charge to the bathroom. But was he a patron? There had been nothing on his table; he had just been sitting there. With my eyes closed, I could see that face clearly. It was one I knew.

When I went back into the bar, Ferlin Husky had replaced Conway Twitty, and No Suspenders was gone. I went to the bartender and said, “There was a guy sitting over there when I came in. Who was it?”

He looked up from his puzzle. “I didn’t see no one.”

I took out my wallet, removed a five, and put it on the bar beside a Narragansett coaster. “The name.”

He held a brief silent dialogue with himself, glanced at the tip jar beside the one holding pickled eggs, saw nothing inside but one lonely dime, and made the five disappear. “That was Bill Turcotte.”

The name meant nothing to me. The empty table might mean nothing, either, but on the other hand…

I put Honest Abe’s twin brother on the bar. “Did he come in here to watch me?” If the answer to that was yes, it meant he had been following me. Maybe not just today, either. But why?

The bartender pushed the five back. “All I know is what he usually comes in for is beer and a lot of it.”

“Then why did he leave without having one?”

“Maybe he looked in his wallet and didn’t see nothing but his liberry card. Do I look like fuckin Bridey Murphy? Now that you’ve stunk up my bathroom, why don’t you either order something or leave?”

“It was stinking just fine before I got there, my friend.”

Not much of an exit line, but the best I could do under the circumstances. I went out and stood on the sidewalk, looking for Turcotte. There was no sign of him, but Norbert Keene was standing in the window of his drugstore, hands clasped behind his back, watching me. His smile was gone.

8

At five-twenty that afternoon, I parked my Sunliner in the lot adjacent to the Witcham Street Baptist Church. It had plenty of company; according to the signboard, there was a 5:00 P.M. AA meeting at this particular church. In the Ford’s trunk were all the possessions I’d collected during my seven weeks as a resident of what I had come to think of as the Peculiar Little City. The only indispensable items were in the Lord Buxton briefcase Al had given me: his notes, my notes, and the remaining cash. Thank God I’d kept most of it in portable form.

Beside me on the seat was a paper bag containing my bottle of Kaopectate—now three-quarters empty—and the continence pants. Thankfully, I didn’t think I was going to need those. My stomach and bowels seemed to have settled, and the shakes had left my hands. There were half a dozen Payday candybars in the glove compartment lying on top of my Police Special. I added these items to the bag. Later, when I was in position between the garage and the hedge at 202 Wyemore Lane, I’d load the gun and stuff it into my belt. Like a cheap gunsel in the kind of B pictures that played The Strand.

There was one other item in the glove compartment: an issue of TV Guide with Fred Astaire and Barrie Chase on the cover. For probably the dozenth time since I’d bought the magazine at the newsstand on upper Main Street, I turned to the Friday listings.

8 PM, Channel 2: The New Adventures of Ellery Queen, George Nader, Les Tremayne. “So Rich, So Lovely, So Dead.” A conniving stockbroker (Whit Bissell) stalks a wealthy heiress (Eva Gabor) as Ellery and his father investigate.

I put it into the bag with the other stuff—mostly for good luck—then got out, locked my car, and set out for Wyemore Lane. I passed a few mommies and daddies trick-or-treating with children too young to be out on their own. Carved pumpkins grinned cheerfully from many stoops, and a couple of stuffed straw-hat-wearing dummies stared at me blankly.

I walked down Wyemore Lane in the middle of the sidewalk as if I had every right to be there. When a father approached, holding the hand of a little girl wearing dangly gypsy earrings, mom’s bright red lipstick, and big black plastic ears clapped over a curly-haired wig, I tipped my hat to Dad and bent down to the child, who was carrying a paper bag of her own.

“Who are you, honey?”

“Annette Foonijello,” she said. “She’s the prettiest Mouseketeer.”

“And you’re just as pretty,” I told her. “Now what do you say?”

She looked puzzled, so her father leaned over and whispered in her ear. She brightened into a smile. “Trigger-treat!”

“Right,” I said. “But no tricks tonight.” Except for the one I hoped to play on the man with the hammer.

I took a Payday from my bag (I had to paw past the gun to get it), and held it out. She opened her bag and I dropped it in. I was just a guy on the street, a perfect stranger in a town that had been beset by terrible crimes not long ago, but I saw the same childlike trust on the faces of both father and daughter. The days of candy doctored with LSD were far in the future—as were those of DO NOT USE IF SEAL IS BROKEN.

The father whispered again.

“Thank you, mister,” Annette Foonijello said.

“Very welcome.” I winked to Dad. “You two have a great night.”

“She’ll probably have a bellyache tomorrow,” Dad said, but he smiled. “Come on, Punkin.”

“I’m Annette!” she said.

“Sorry, sorry. Come on, Annette.” He gave me a grin, tipped his own hat, and they were off again, in search of plunder.

I continued on to 202, not too fast. I would have whistled if my lips hadn’t been so dry. At the driveway I risked one quick look around. I saw a few trick-or-treaters on the other side of the street, but no one who was paying the slightest attention to me. Excellent. I walked briskly up the driveway. Once I was behind the house, I breathed a sigh of relief so deep it seemed to come all the way from my heels. I took up my position in the far right corner of the backyard, safely hidden between the garage and the hedge. Or so I thought.

I peered into the Dunnings’ backyard. The bikes were gone. Most of the toys were still there—a child’s bow and some arrows with suction-cup tips, a baseball bat with its handle wrapped in friction tape, a green Hula Hoop—but the Daisy air rifle was missing. Harry had taken it inside. He meant to bring it when he went out trick-or-treating as Buffalo Bob.

Had Tugga given him shit about that yet? Had his mother already said you take it if you want to, it’s not a real gun? If not, they would. Their lines had already been written. My stomach cramped, this time not from the twenty-four-hour bug that was going around, but because total realization—the kind you feel in your gut—had finally arrived in all its bald-ass glory. This was actually going to happen. In fact, it was happening already. The show had started.

I glanced at my watch. It seemed to me that I’d left the car in the church parking lot an hour ago, but it was only quarter to six. In the Dunning house, the family would be sitting down to supper… although if I knew kids, the younger ones would be too excited to eat much, and Ellen would already be wearing her Princess Summerfall Winterspring outfit. She’d probably jumped into it as soon as she got home from school, and would be driving her mother crazy with requests to help her put on her warpaint.

I sat down with my back propped against the rear wall of the garage, rummaged in my bag, and brought out a Payday. I held it up and considered poor old J. Alfred Prufrock. I wasn’t so different, although it was a candybar I wasn’t sure I dared to eat. On the other hand, I had a lot to do in the next three hours or so, and my stomach was a rumbling hollow.

Fuck it, I thought, and unwrapped the candybar. It was wonderful—sweet, salty, and chewy. I gobbled most of it in two bites. I was getting ready to pop the rest of it into my mouth (and wondering why in God’s name I hadn’t packed a sandwich and a bottle of Coke), when I saw movement from the corner of my left eye. I started to turn, reaching into the bag for the gun at the same time, but I was too late. Something cold and sharp pricked the hollow of my left temple.

“Take your hand out of that bag.”

I knew the voice at once. Should hope to smile n kiss a pig, its owner had said when I asked if he or any of his friends knew a fellow named Dunning. He had said Derry was full of Dunnings, and I verified that for myself not long after, but he’d had a good idea which one I was after right from the get-go, hadn’t he? And this was the proof.

The point of the blade dug a little deeper, and I felt a trickle of blood run down the side of my face. It was warm against my chilly skin. Almost hot.

“Take it out now, chum. I think I know what’s in there, and if your hand don’t come out empty, your Halloween treat’s gonna be eighteen inches of Jap steel. This thing’s plenty sharp. It’ll pop right out the other side of your head.”

I took my hand out of the bag—empty—and turned to look at No Suspenders. His hair tumbled over his ears and forehead in greasy locks. His dark eyes swam in his pale, stubbly face. I felt a dismay so great it was almost despair. Almost… but not quite. Even if it kills me, I thought again. Even if.

“There’s nothing in the bag but candybars,” I said mildly. “If you want one, Mr. Turcotte, all you have to do is ask. I’ll give you one.”

He snatched the bag before I could reach in. He used the hand that wasn’t holding the weapon, which turned out to be a bayonet. I don’t know if it was Japanese or not, but from the way it gleamed in the fading dusklight, I was willing to stipulate that it was plenty sharp.

He rummaged and brought out my Police Special. “Nothing but candybars, huh? This don’t look like candy to me, Mister Amberson.”

“I need that.”

“Yeah, and people in hell need icewater, but they don’t get it.”

“Keep your voice down,” I said.

He put my gun in his belt—exactly where I had imagined I’d put it, once I’d shoved through the hedge and into the Dunning backyard—then poked the bayonet toward my eyes. It took willpower to keep from flinching back. “Don’t you tell me what to—” He staggered on his feet. He rubbed first his stomach, then his chest, then the stubble-rough column of his neck, as if something were caught in there. I heard a click in his throat as he swallowed.

“Mr. Turcotte? Are you all right?”

“How do you know my name?” And then, without waiting for an answer: “It was Pete, wasn’t it? The bartender in the Sleepy. He told you.”

“Yes. Now I’ve got a question for you. How long have you been following me? And why?”

He grinned humorlessly, revealing a pair of missing teeth. “That’s two questions.”

“Just answer them.”

“You act like”—he winced again, swallowed again, and leaned against the back wall of the garage—“like you’re the one in charge.”

I gauged Turcotte’s pallor and distress. Mr. Keene might be a bastard with a streak of sadism, but I thought that as a diagnostician he wasn’t too bad. After all, who’s more apt to know what’s going around than the local druggist? I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to need the rest of the Kaopectate, but Bill Turcotte might. Not to mention the continence pants, once that bug really went to work.

This could be very good or very bad, I thought. But that was bullshit. There was nothing good about it.

Never mind. Keep him talking. And once the puking starts—assuming it does before he cuts my throat or shoots me with my own gun—jump him.

“Just tell me,” I said. “I think I have a right to know, since I haven’t done anything to you.”

“It’s him you mean to do something to, that’s what I think. All that real estate stuff you’ve been spouting around town—so much crap. You came here looking for him.” He nodded in the direction of the house on the other side of the hedge. “I knew it the minute his name jumped out of your mouth.”

“How could you? This town is full of Dunnings, you said so yourself.”

“Yeah, but only one I care about.” He raised the hand holding the bayonet and wiped sweat off his brow with his sleeve. I think I could have taken him right then, but I was afraid the sound of a scuffle might attract attention. And if the gun went off, I’d probably be the one to take the bullet.

Also, I was curious.

“He must have done you a hell of a good turn somewhere along the way to turn you into his guardian angel,” I said.

He voiced a humorless yap of a laugh. “That’s a hot one, bub, but in a way it’s true. I guess I am sort of his guardian angel. At least for now.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he’s mine, Amberson. That son of a bitch killed my little sister, and if anyone puts a bullet in him… or a blade”—he brandished the bayonet in front of his pale, grim face—“it’s going to be me.”

9

I stared at him with my mouth open. Somewhere in the distance there was a rattle of pops as some Halloween miscreant set off a string of firecrackers. Kids were shouting their way up and down Witcham Street. But here it was just the two of us. Christy and her fellow alcoholics called themselves the Friends of Bill; we were the Enemies of Frank. A perfect team, you would say… except Bill “No Suspenders” Turcotte didn’t look like much of a team player.

“You…” I stopped and shook my head. “Tell me.”

“If you’re half as bright as you think you are, you should be able to put it together for yourself. Or didn’t Chazzy tell you enough?”

At first that didn’t compute. Then it did. The little man with the mermaid on his forearm and the cheerful chipmunk face. Only that face hadn’t looked so cheerful when Frank Dunning had clapped him on the back and told him to keep his nose clean, because it was too long to get dirty. Before that, while Frank was still telling jokes at the Tracker brothers’ bullshit table at the back of The Lamplighter, Chaz Frati had filled me in about Dunning’s bad temper… which, thanks to the janitor’s essay, was no news to me. He got a girl pregnant. After a year or two, she collected the baby and scrammed.

“Is somethin comin through on the radio waves, Commander Cody? Looks like it might be.”

“Frank Dunning’s first wife was your sister.”

“Well there. The man says the secret woid and wins a hunnert dollars.”

“Mr. Frati said she took the baby and ran out on him. Because she got enough of him turning ugly when he drank.”

“Yeah, that’s what he told you, and that’s what most people in town believe—what Chazzy believes, for all I know—but I know better. Clara n me was always close. Growin up it was me for her and her for me. You probably don’t know about a thing like that, you strike me as a mighty cold fish, but that’s how it was.”

I thought about that one good year I’d had with Christy—six months before the marriage and six months after. “Not that cold. I know what you’re talking about.”

He was rubbing at himself again, although I don’t think he was aware of it: belly to chest, chest to throat, back down to the chest again. His face was paler than ever. I wondered what he’d had for lunch, but didn’t think I’d have to wonder for long; soon I’d be able to see for myself.

“Yeah? Then maybe you’d think it’s a little funny that she never wrote me after her n Mikey got settled somewhere. Not so much as a postcard. Me, I think it’s a lot more than funny. Because she woulda. She knew how I felt about her. And she knew how much I loved that kiddo. She was twenty and Mikey was sixteen months old when that joke-tellin cuntwipe reported em missin. That was the summer of ’38. She’d be forty now, and my nephew’d be twenty-one. Old enough to fuckin vote. And you want to tell me she’d never write a single line to the brother who kep Nosey Royce from stickin his wrinkled old meat inside her back when we was kids? Or to ask for a little money to help her get set up in Boston or New Haven or wherever? Mister, I would have—”

He winced, made a little urk-ulp sound I was very familiar with, and staggered back against the garage wall.

“You need to sit down,” I said. “You’re sick.”

“I never get sick. I ain’t even had a cold since I was in sixth grade.”

If so, that bug would blitzkrieg him like the Germans rolling into Warsaw.

“It’s stomach flu, Turcotte. I was up all night with it. Mr. Keene at the drugstore says it’s going around.”

“That narrow-ass ole lady don’t know nothin. I’m fine.” He gave his greasy clumps of hair a toss to show me how fine he was. His face was paler than ever. The hand holding the Japanese bayonet was shaking the way mine had until noon today. “Do you want to hear this or not?”

“Sure.” I snuck a glance at my watch. It was ten past six. The time that had been dragging so slowly was now speeding up. Where was Frank Dunning right now? Still at the market? I thought not. I thought he had left early today, maybe saying he was going to take his kids trick-or-treating. Only that wasn’t the plan. He was in a bar somewhere, and not The Lamplighter. That was where he went for a single beer, two at the most. Which he could handle, although—if my wife was a fair example, and I thought she was—he would always leave dry-mouthed, with his brain raging for more.

No, when he felt the need to really take a bath in the stuff, he’d want to do it in one of Derry’s down-and-dirty bars: the Spoke, the Sleepy, the Bucket. Maybe even one of the absolute dives that hung over the polluted Kenduskeag—Wally’s or the scabrous Paramount Lounge, where ancient whores with waxwork faces still populated most of the stools at the bar. And did he tell jokes that got the whole place laughing? Did people even approach him as he went about the job of pouring grain alcohol onto the coals of rage at the back of his brain? Not unless they wanted impromptu dental work.

“When my sister n nephew disappeared, them n Dunning was livin in a little rented house out by the Cashman town line. He was drinkin heavy, and when he drinks heavy, he exercises his fuckin fists. I seen the bruises on her, and once Mikey was black n blue all the way up his little right arm from the wrist to the elbow. I says, ‘Sis, is he beatin on you n the baby? Because if he is, I’ll beat on him.’ She says no, but she wouldn’t look at me when she said it. She says, ‘You stay away from him, Billy. He’s strong. You are too, I know it, but you’re skinny. A hard wind would blow you away. He’d hurt you.’ It wasn’t six months after that when she disappeared. Took off, that’s what he said. But there’s a lot of woods out that side of town. Hell, once you get into Cashman, there’s nothing but woods. Woods n swamp. You know what really happened, don’t you?”

I did. Others might not believe it because Dunning was now a well-respected citizen who seemed to have controlled his drinking a long time ago. Also because he had charm to spare. But I had inside information, didn’t I?

“I think he snapped. I think he came home drunk and she said the wrong thing, maybe something completely innocuous—”

“Inocku-what?”

I peered through the hedge into the backyard. Beyond it, a woman passed the kitchen window and was gone. In casa Dunning, dinner was served. Would they be having dessert? Jell-O with Dream Whip? Ritz cracker pie? I thought not. Who needs dessert on Halloween night? “What I’m saying is that he killed them. Isn’t that what you think?”

“Yeah…” He looked both taken aback and suspicious. I think obsessives always look that way when they hear the things that have kept them up long nights not just articulated but corroborated. It has to be a trick, they think. Only this was no trick. And it certainly wasn’t a treat.

I said, “Dunning was what, twenty-two? Whole life ahead of him. He must have been thinking, ‘Well, I did an awful thing here, but I can clean it up. We’re out in the woods, nearest neighbors a mile away… ’ Were they a mile away, Turcotte?”

“At least.” He said it grudgingly. One hand was massaging the base of his throat. The bayonet had sagged. Grabbing it with my right hand would have been simple, and grabbing the revolver out of his belt with the other wouldn’t have been out of the question, but I didn’t want to. I thought the bug would take care of Mr. Bill Turcotte. I really thought it would be that simple. You see how easy it is to forget the obduracy of the past?

“So he took the bodies out in the woods and buried them and said they’d run off. There couldn’t have been much of an investigation.”

Turcotte turned his head and spat. “He come from a good old Derry fambly. Mine come down from the Saint John Valley in a rusty ole pickup truck when I was ten n Clara was eight. Just on parle trash. What do you think?”

I thought it was another case of Derry being Derry—that’s what I thought. And while I understood Turcotte’s love and sympathized with his loss, he was talking about an old crime. It was the one that was scheduled to happen in less than two hours that concerned me.

“You set me up with Frati, didn’t you?” This was now obvious, but still disappointing. I’d thought the guy was just being friendly, passing on a little local gossip over beer and Lobster Pickin’s. Wrong. “Pal of yours?”

Turcotte smiled, but it looked more like a grimace. “Me friends with a rich kike pawnbroker? That’s a laugh. You want to hear a little story?”

I took another peek at my watch and saw I still had some time to spare. While Turcotte was talking, that old stomach virus would be hard at work. The first time he bent over to puke, I intended to pounce.

“Why not?”

“Me, Dunning, and Chaz Frati are all the same age—forty-two. You believe that?”

“Sure.” But Turcotte, who had lived hard (and was now getting sick, little as he wanted to admit it), looked ten years older than either of them.

“When we was all seniors at the old Consolidated, I was assistant manager of the football team. Tiger Bill, they called me—ain’t that cute? I tried out for the team when I was a freshman and then again when I was a sophomore, but I got cut both times. Too skinny for the line, too slow for the backfield. Story of my fuckin life, mister. But I loved the game, and I couldn’t afford the dime to buy a ticket—my fambly didn’t have nothin—so I took on bein assistant manager. Nice name, but do you know what it means?”

Sure I did. In my Jake Epping life, I wasn’t Mr. Real Estate but Mr. High School, and some things don’t change. “You were the waterboy.”

“Yeah, I brought em water. And held the puke-bucket if someone got sick after runnin laps on a hot day or took a helmet in the nuts. Also the guy who stayed late to pick up all their crud on the field and fished their shit-stained jocks off the shower room floor.”

He grimaced. I imagined his stomach turning into a yacht on a stormy sea. Up she goes, mateys… then the corkscrew plunge.

“So one day in September or October of ’34, I’m out there after practice all on my lonesome, pickin up dropped pads and elastic bandages and all the other stuff they used to leave behind, puttin it all in my wheelie-basket, and what do I see but Chaz Frati tear-assin across the football field, droppin his books behind him. A bunch of boys was chasin him and—Christ, what was that?”

He stared around, eyes bulging in his pale face. Once again I maybe could have grabbed the pistol, and the bayonet for sure, but I didn’t. His hand was rubbing his chest again. Not his stomach, but his chest. That probably should have told me something, but I had too much on my mind. His story was not the least of it. That’s the curse of the reading class. We can be seduced by a good story even at the least opportune moments.

“Relax, Turcotte. It’s just kids shooting off firecrackers. Halloween, remember?”

“I don’t feel so good. Maybe you’re right about that bug.”

If he thought he might be getting sick enough to be incapacitated, he might do something rash. “Never mind the bug just now. Tell me about Frati.”

He grinned. It was an unsettling expression on that pale, sweaty, stubbly face. “Ole Chazzy ran like hell, but they caught up with him. There was a ravine about twenty yards past the goalposts at the south end of the field, and they pushed him down into it. Would you be s’prized to know that Frankie Dunning was one of em?”

I shook my head.

“They got him down in there, and they pantsed him. Then they started pushin him around and takin smacks at him. I yelled for em to quit it, and one of em looks up at me and yells, ‘Come on down and make us, fuckface. We’ll give you double what we’re givin him.’ So I ran for the locker room and told some of the football players that a bunch of yeggs were bullyin up on a kid and maybe they wanted to put a stop to it. Well, they didn’t give a shit about who was gettin bullied and who wasn’t, but those guys were always up for a fight. They run on out, some of em not wearin nothin but their underwear. And you want to know somethin really funny, Amberson?”

“Sure.” I took another quick glance at my watch. Almost quarter of seven now. In the Dunning house, Doris would be doing the dishes and maybe listening to Huntley-Brinkley on the television.

“You late for somethin?” Turcotte asked. “Got a fuckin train to catch?”

“You were going to tell me something funny.”

“Oh. Yeah. They was singin the school song! How do you like that?”

In my mind’s eye I could see eight or ten beefy half-dressed boys churning across the field, eager to do a little post-practice hitting, and singing Hail Derry Tigers, we hold your banner high. It was sort of funny.

Turcotte saw my grin and answered with one of his own. It was strained but genuine. “The footballies baffed a couple of those guys around pretty good. Not Frankie Dunning, though; that yellabelly saw they was gonna be outnumbered and run into the woods. Chazzy was layin on the ground, holdin his arm. It was broke. Could have been a lot worse, though. They woulda put him in the hospital. One of the footballies looks at him layin there and kinda toes at him—the way you might toe a cow patty you almost stepped in—and he says, ‘We ran all the way out here to save a jewboy’s bacon?’ And a bunch of em laughed, because it was kind of a joke, you see. Jewboy? Bacon?” He peered at me through clumps of his Brylcreem-shiny hair.

“I get it,” I said.

“‘Aw, who gives a fuck,’ another of em says. ‘I got to kick some ass and that’s good enough for me.’ They went on back, and I helped ole Chaz up the ravine. I even walked home with im, because I thought he might faint or somethin. I was scared Frankie and his friends might come back—he was, too—but I stuck with him. Fuck if I know just why. You should have seen the house he lived in—a fuckin palace. That hockshop business must really pay. When we got there, he thanked me. Meant it, too. He was just about bawlin. I says, ‘Don’t mention it, I just didn’t like seeing six-on-one.’ Which was true. But you know what they say about Jews: they never forget a debt or a favor.”

“Which you called in to find out what I was doing.”

“I had a pretty good idea what you were doin, chum. I just wanted to make sure. Chaz told me to leave it alone—he said he thought you were a nice guy—but when it comes to Frankie Dunning, I don’t leave it alone. Nobody messes with Frankie Dunning but me. He’s mine.”

He winced and went back to rubbing his chest. And this time the penny dropped.

“Turcotte—is it your stomach?”

“Naw, chest. Feels all tight.”

That didn’t sound good, and the thought that went through my mind was now he’s in the nylon stocking, too.

“Sit down before you fall down.” I started toward him. He pulled the gun. The skin between my nipples—where the bullet would go—began to itch madly. I could have disarmed him, I thought. I really could have. But no, I had to hear the story. I had to know.

“You sit down, brother. Unlax, as they say in the funnypages.”

“If you’re having a heart attack—”

“I ain’t havin no fuckin heart attack. Now sit down.”

I sat and looked up at him as he leaned against the garage. His lips had gone a bluish shade I did not associate with good health.

“What do you want with him?” Turcotte asked. “That’s what I want to know. That’s what I got to know, before I can decide what to do with you.”

I thought carefully about how to answer this. As if my life depended on it. Maybe it did. I didn’t think Turcotte had outright murder in him, no matter what he thought, or Frank Dunning would have been planted next to his parents a long time ago. But Turcotte had my gun, and he was a sick man. He might pull the trigger by accident. Whatever force there was that wanted things to stay the same might even help him do it.


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