'And should I?' The hate was wiped from his face. A darkly charming smile shone forth in its place. 'Should I reprieve the boy, save him for another night?'

'Yes!'

Softly, almost purring, Barlow said, 'Then will you throw away your cross and face me on even terms - black against white? Your faith against my own?'

'Yes,' Callahan said, but a trifle less firmly.

'Then do it!' Those full lips became pursed, anticipatory. The high forehead gleamed in the weird fairy light that filled the room.

'And trust you to let him go? I would be wiser to put a rattlesnake in my shirt and trust it not to bite me.'

'But I trust you . . . look!'

He let Mark go and stood back, both hands in the air, empty.

Mark stood still, unbelieving for a moment, and then ran to his parents without a backward look at Barlow.

'Run, Mark!' Callahan cried. 'Run!'

Mark looked up at him, his eyes huge and dark. 'I think they're dead - '

'R UN!'

Mark got slowly to his feet. He turned around and looked at Barlow.

'Soon, little brother,' Barlow said, almost benignly. 'Very soon now you and I will - '

Mark spit in his face.

Barlow's breath stopped. His brow darkened with a depth of fury that made his previous expressions seem like what they might well have been: mere play-acting. For a moment Callahan saw a madness in his eyes blacker than the soul of murder.

'You spit on me,' Barlow whispered. His body was trembling, nearly rocking with his rage. He took a shudder?ing step forward like some awful blind man.

'Get back!' Callahan screamed, and thrust the cross forward. Barlow cried out and threw his hands in front of his face. The cross flared with preternatural, dazzling brilliance, and it was at that moment that Callahan might have banished him if he had dared to press forward.

'I'm going to kill you,' Mark said.

He was gone, like a dark eddy of water.

Barlow seemed to grow taller. His hair, swept back from his brow in the European manner, seemed to float around his skull. He was wearing a dark suit and a wine-colored tie, impeccably knotted, and to Callahan he seemed part and parcel of the darkness that surrounded him. His eyes glared out of their sockets like sly and sullen embers.

'Then fulfill your part of the bargain, shaman.'

'I'm a priest!' Callahan flung at him.

Barlow made a small, mocking bow. 'Priest,' he said, and the word sounded like a dead haddock in his mouth.

Callahan stood indecisive. Why throw it down? Drive him off, settle for a draw tonight, and tomorrow  -

But a deeper part of his mind warned. To deny the vampire's challenge was to risk possibilities far graver than any he had considered. If he dared not throw the cross aside, it would be as much as admitting . . . admitting . . . what? If only things weren't going so fast, if one only had time to think, to reason it out  -

The cross's glow was dying.

He looked at it, eyes widening. Fear leaped into his belly like a confusion of hot wires. His head jerked up and he stared at Barlow. He was walking toward him across the kitchen and his smile was wide, almost voluptuous.

'Stay back,' Callahan said hoarsely, retreating a step. 'I command it, in the name of God.'

Barlow laughed at him.

The glow in the cross was only a thin and guttering light in a cruciform shape. The shadows had crept across the vampire's face again, masking his features in strangely barbaric lines and triangles under the sharp cheekbones.

Callahan took another step backward, and his buttocks bumped the kitchen table, which was set against the wall.

'Nowhere left to go,' Barlow murmured sadly. His dark eyes bubbled with infernal mirth. 'Sad to see a man's faith fail. Ah, well . . .'

The cross trembled in Callahan's hand and suddenly the last of its light vanished. It was only a piece of plaster that his mother had bought in a Dublin souvenir shop, probably at a scalper's price. The power it had sent ramming up his arm, enough power to smash down walls and shatter stone, was gone. The muscles remembered the thrumming but could not duplicate it.

Barlow reached from the darkness and plucked the cross from his fingers. Callahan cried out miserably, the cry that had vibrated in the soul - but never the throat - of that long-ago child who had been left alone each night with Mr Flip peering out of the closet at him from between the shutters of sleep. And the next sound would haunt him for the rest of his life: two dry snaps as Barlow broke the arms of the cross, and a meaningless thump as he threw it on the floor.

'God damn you!' he cried out.

'It's too late for such melodrama,' Barlow said from the darkness. His voice was almost sorrowful. 'There is no need of it. You have forgotten the doctrine of your own church, is it not so? The cross . . . the bread and wine . . . the confessional . . . only symbols. Without faith, the cross is only wood, the bread baked wheat, the wine sour grapes. If you had cast the cross away, you should have beaten me another night. In a way, I hoped it might be so. It has been long since I have met an opponent of any real worth. The boy makes ten of you, false priest.'

Suddenly, out of the darkness, hands of amazing strength gripped Callahan's shoulders.

'You would welcome the oblivion of my death now, I think. There is no memory for the Undead; only the hunger and the need to serve the Master. I could make use of you. I could send you among your friends. Yet is there need of that? Without you to lead them, I think they are little. And the boy will tell them. One moves against them at this time. There is, perhaps, a more fitting punishment for you, false priest.'

He remembered Matt saying: Some things are worse than death.

He tried to struggle away, but the hands held him in a viselike grip. Then one hand left him. There was the sound of cloth moving across bare skin, and then a scraping sound.

The hands moved to his neck.

'Come, false priest. Learn of a true religion. Take my communion.'

Understanding washed over Callahan in a ghastly flood.

'No! Don't . . . don't - '

But the hands were implacable. His head was drawn forward, forward, forward.

'Now, priest,' Barlow whispered

And Callahan's mouth was pressed-against the reeking flesh of the vampire's cold throat, where an open vein pulsed. He held his breath for what seemed like aeons, twisting his head wildly and to no avail, smearing the blood across his cheeks and forehead and chin like war paint.

Yet at last, he drank.

21

Ann Norton got out of her car without bothering to take the keys, and began to walk across the hospital parking lot toward the bright lights of the lobby. Overhead, clouds had blotted out the stars and soon it would begin to rain. She didn't look up to see the clouds. She walked stolidly, looking straight in front of her.

She was a very different-looking woman from the lady Ben Mears had met On that first evening Susan had invited him to take dinner with her family. That lady had been medium-tall, dressed in a green wool dress that did not scream of money but spoke of material comfort. That lady had not been beautiful but she bad been well groomed and pleasant to look at; her graying hair had been permed not long since.

This woman wore only carpet slippers on her feet. Her legs were bare, and with no Supp-hose to mask them, the varicose veins bulged prominently (although not as prominently as before; some of the pressure had been taken off them). She was wearing a ragged yellow dressing gown over her negligee; her hair was blown in errant sheafs by the rising wind. Her face was pallid, and heavy brown circles lay beneath her eyes.

She had told Susan, had warned her about that man Mears and his friends, had warned her about the man who had murdered her. Matt Burke had put him up to it. They had been in cahoots. Oh yes. She knew. He had told her.

She had been sick all day, sick and sleepy and nearly unable to get out of bed. And when she had fallen into a heavy slumber after noon, while her husband was off answering questions for a silly missing persons report, he had come to her in a dream. His face was handsome and commanding and arrogant and compelling. His nose was hawklike, his hair swept back from his brow, and his heavy, fascinating mouth masked strangely exciting white teeth that showed when he smiled. And his eyes . . . they were red and hypnotic. When he looked at you with those eyes, you could not look away . . . and you didn't want to.

He had told her everything, and what she must do - and how she could be with her daughter when it was done, and with so many others . . . and with him. Despite Susan, it was him she wanted to please, so he would give her the thing she craved and needed: the touch; the penetration.

Her husband's .38 was in her pocket.

She entered the lobby and looked toward the reception desk. If anyone tried to stop her, she would take care of them. Not by shooting, no. No shot must be fired until she was in Burke's room. He had told her so. If they got to her and stopped her before she had done the job, he would not come to her, to give her burning kisses in the night.

There was a young girl at the desk in a white cap and uniform, working a crossword in the soft glow of the lamp over her main console. An orderly was just going down the hall, his back to them.

The duty nurse looked up with a trained smile when she heard Ann's footsteps, but it faded when she saw the hollow-eyed woman who was approaching her in night clothes. Her eyes were blank yet oddly shiny, as if she were a wind-up toy someone had set in motion. A patient, perhaps, who had gone wandering.

'Ma'am, if you - '

Ann Norton drew the .38 from the pocket of her wrapper like some creaky gunslinger from beyond time. She pointed it at the duty nurse's head and told her, 'Turn around.' The nurse's mouth worked silently. She drew in breath with a convulsive heave.

'Don't scream. I'll kill you if you do.'

The air wheezed out. The nurse had gone very pale.

'Turn around now.'

The nurse got up slowly and turned around. Ann Norton reversed the.38 and prepared to bring the butt down on the nurse's head with all the strength she had.

At that precise moment, her feet were kicked out from under her.

22

The gun went flying.

The woman in the ragged yellow dressing gown did not scream but began to make a high whining noise in her throat, almost keening. She scrambled after it like a crab, and the man who was behind her, looking bewildered and frightened, also darted after it. When he saw that she would get to it first, he kicked it across the lobby rug.

'Hey!' he yelled. 'Hey, help!'  

Ann Norton looked over her shoulder and hissed at him, her faced pulled into a cheated scrawl of hate, and then scrambled after the gun again. The orderly had come back, on the run. He looked at the scene with blank amazement for a moment, and then picked up the gun that lay almost at his feet.

'For Christ's sake,' he said. 'This thing is load - '

She attacked him. Her hands, hooked into claws, pin?-wheeled across his face, dragging red stripes across the surprised orderly's forehead and right cheek. He held the gun up out of her reach. Still keening, she clawed for it.

The bewildered man came up from behind and grabbed her. He would say later that it was like grabbing a bag of snakes. The body beneath the dressing gown was hot and repulsive, every muscle twitching and writhing.

As she struggled to get free, the orderly popped her one flush on the jaw. Her eyes rolled up to the whites and she collapsed.

The orderly and the bewildered man looked at each other.

The nurse at the reception desk was screaming. Her hands were clapped to her mouth, giving the screams a unique foghorn effect.

'What kind of a hospital do you people run here, any?how?' the bewildered man asked.

'Christ if I know,' the orderly said. 'What the hell happened?'

'I was just coming in to visit my sister. She had a baby. And this kid walks up to me and says a woman just went in with a gun. And - '

'What kid?'

The bewildered man who had come to visit his sister looked around. The lobby was filling with people, but all of them were above drinking age.

'I don't see him now. But he was here. That gun loaded?'

'It sure is,' the orderly said.

'What kind of a hospital do you people run here, any?how?' the bewildered man asked again.

23

They had seen two nurses run past the door toward the elevators and heard a vague shout down the stairwell. Ben glanced at Jimmy and Jimmy shrugged imperceptibly. Matt was dozing with his mouth open.

Ben closed the door and turned off the lights. Jimmy crouched by the foot of Matt's bed, and when they heard footsteps hesitate outside the door, Ben stood beside it, ready. When it opened and a head poked through, he grabbed it in a half nelson and jammed the cross he held in the other hand into the face.

'Let me go!'

A hand reached up and beat futilely at his chest. A moment later the overhead light went on. Matt was sitting up in bed, blinking at Mark Petrie, who was struggling in Ben's arms.

Jimmy came out of his crouch and ran across the room. He seemed almost ready to embrace the boy when he hesitated. 'Lift your chin.'

Mark did, showing all three of them his unmarked neck.

Jimmy relaxed. 'Boy, I've never been so glad to see anyone in my life. Where's the Father?'

'Don't know,' Mark said somberly. 'Barlow caught me . . . killed my folks. They're dead. My folks are dead. He beat their heads together. He killed my folks. Then he had me and he said to Father Callahan that he would let me go if Father Callahan would promise to throw away his cross. He promised. I ran. But before I ran, I spit on him. I spit on him and I'm going to kill him.'

He swayed in the doorway. There were bramble marks on his forehead and cheeks. He had run through the forest along the path where Danny Glick and his brother had come to grief so long before. His pants were wet to the knees from his flight through Taggart Stream. He had hitched a ride, but couldn't remember who he had hitched it with. The radio had been playing, he remembered that.

Ben's tongue was frozen. He did not know what to say.

'You poor boy,' Matt said softly. 'You poor, brave boy.'

Mark's face began to break up. His eyes closed and his mouth twisted and strained. 'My muh-muh-mother - ' He staggered blindly and Ben caught him in his arms, enfolded him, rocked him as the tears came and raged against his shirt.

24

Father Donald Callahan had no idea how long he walked in the dark. He stumbled back toward the downtown area along Jointner Avenue, never heeding his car, which he had left parked in the Petries' driveway. Sometimes he wandered in the middle of the road, and sometimes he staggered along the sidewalk. Once a car bore down on him, its headlights great shining circles; its horn began to blare and it swerved at the last instant, tires screaming on the pavement. Once he fell in the ditch. As he approached the yellow blinking light, it began to rain.

There was no one on the streets to mark his passage; salem's Lot had battened down for the night, even tighter than usual. The diner was empty, and in Spencer's Miss Coogan was sitting by her cash register and reading a confession magazine off the rack in the frosty glow of the overhead fluorescents. Outside, under the lighted sign showing the blue dog in mid-flight, a red neon sign said:

BUS

They were afraid, he supposed. They had every reason to be. Some inner part of themselves had absorbed the danger, and tonight doors were locked in the Lot that had not been locked in years . . . if ever.

He was on the streets alone. And he alone had nothing to fear. It was funny. He laughed aloud, and the sound of it was like wild, lunatic sobbing. No vampire would touch him. Others, perhaps, by not him. The Master had marked him, and he would walk free until the Master claimed his own.

St Andrew's loomed above him.

He hesitated, then walked up the path. He would pray. Pray all night, if necessary. Not to the new God, the God of ghettos and social conscience and free lunches, but the old God, who had proclaimed through Moses not to suffer a witch to live and who had given it unto his own son to raise from the dead. A second chance, God. All my life for penance. Only . . . a second chance.

He stumbled up the wide steps, his gown muddy and bedraggled, his mouth smeared with Barlow's blood.

At the top he paused a moment, and then reached for the handle of the middle door.

As he touched it, there was a blue flash of light and he was thrown backward. Pain lanced his back, then his head, then his chest and stomach and shins as he fell head over heels down the granite steps to the walk.

He lay trembling in the rain, his hand afire.

He lifted it before his eyes. It was burned.

'Unclean,' he muttered. 'Unclean, unclean, O God, so unclean.'

He began to shiver. He slid his arms around his shoulders and shivered in the rain and the church loomed behind him, its doors shut against him.

25

Mark Petrie sat on Matt's bed, in exactly the spot Ben had occupied when Ben and Jimmy had come in. Mark had dried his tears with his shirt sleeve, and although his eyes were puffy and bloodshot, he seemed to have himself in control.

'You know, don't you,' Matt asked him, 'that 'salem's Lot is in a desperate situation?'

Mark nodded.

'Even now, his Undead are crawling over it,' Matt said somberly. 'Taking others to themselves. They won't get them all - not tonight - but there is dreadful work ahead of you tomorrow.'

'Matt, I want you to get some sleep,' Jimmy said. 'We'll be here don't worry. You don't took good. This has been a horrible strain on you - '

'My town is disintegrating almost before my eyes and you want me to sleep?' His eyes, seemingly tireless, flashed out of his haggard face.

Jimmy said stubbornly, 'If you want to be around for the finish, you better save something back. I'm telling you that as your physician, goddammit.'

'All right. In a minute.' He looked at all of them. 'Tomorrow the three of you must go back to Mark's house. You're going to make stakes. A great many of them.' The meaning sank home to them.

'How many?' Ben asked softly.

'I would say you'll need three hundred at least. I advise you to make five hundred.'

'That's impossible,' Jimmy said flatly. 'There can't be that many of them.'

'The Undead are thirsty,' Matt said simply. 'It's best to be prepared. You will go together. You dare not split up, even in the daytime. It will be like a scavenger hunt. You must start at one end of town and work toward the other.'

'We'll never be able to find them all,' Ben objected. 'Not even if we could start at first light and work through until dark.'

'You've got to do your best, Ben. People may begin to believe you. Some will help, if you show them the truth of what you say. And when dark comes again, much of his work will be undone.' He sighed. 'We have to assume that Father Callahan is lost to us. That's bad. But you must press on, regardless. You'll have to be careful, all of you. Be ready to lie. If you're locked up, that will serve his purpose well. And if you haven't considered it, you might do well to consider it now: There is every possibility that some of us or all of us may live and triumph only to stand trial for murder.'

He looked each of them in the face. What he saw there must have satisfied him, because he turned his attention wholly to Mark again.

'You know what the most important job is, don't you?'

'Yes,' Mark said. 'Barlow has to be killed.

Matt smiled a trifle thinly. 'That's putting the cart before the horse, I'm afraid. First we have to find him.' He looked closely at Mark. 'Did you see anything tonight, hear anything, smell anything, touch anything, that might help us locate him? Think carefully before you answer! You know better than any of us how important it is!'

Mark thought. Ben had never seen anyone take a com?mand quite so literally. He lowered his chin into the palm of his hand and shut his eyes. He seemed to be quite deliberately going over every nuance of the night's encoun?ter.

At last he opened his eyes, looked around at them briefly, and shook his head. 'Nothing.'

Matt's face fell, but he did not give up. 'A leaf clinging to his coat, maybe? A cattail in his pants cuff? Dirt on his shoes? Any loose thread that he has allowed to dangle?' He smote the bed helplessly. 'Jesus Christ Almighty, is he seamless like an egg?'

Mark's eyes suddenly widened.

'What?' Matt said. He grasped the boy Is elbow. 'What is it? What have you thought of?'

'Blue chalk,' Mark said. 'He had one arm hooked around my neck, like this, and I could see his hand. He had long white fingers and there were smears of blue chalk on two of them. Just little ones.'

'Blue chalk,' Matt said thoughtfully.

'A school,' Ben said. 'It must be.'

'Not the high school,' Matt said. 'All our supplies come from Dennison and Company in Portland. They supply only white and yellow. I've had it under my fingernails and on my coats for years.'

'Art classes?' Ben asked.

'No, only graphic arts at the high school. They use inks, not chalk. Mark, are you sure it was - '

'Chalk,' he said, nodding.

'I believe some of the science teachers use colored chalk, but where is there to hide at the high school? You saw it all on one level, all enclosed in glass. People are in and out of the supply closets all day. That is also true of the furnace room.'

'Backstage?'

Matt shrugged. 'It's dark enough. But if Mrs Rodin takes over the class play for me - the students call her Mrs Rodan after a quaint Japanese science fiction film - that area would be used a great deal. It would be a horrible risk for him.'

'What about the grammar schools?' Jimmy asked. 'They must teach drawing in the lower grades. And I'd bet a hundred dollars that colored chalk is one of the things they keep on hand.'

Matt said, 'The Stanley Street Elementary School was built with the same bond money as the high school. It is also modernistic, filled to capacity, and built on one level. Many glass windows to let in the sun. Not the kind of building our target would want to frequent at all. They like old buildings, full of tradition, dark, dingy, like - '

'Like the Brock Street School,' Mark said.

'Yes.' Matt looked at Ben. 'The Brock Street School is a wooden frame building, three stories and a basement, built at about the same time as the Marsten House. There was much talk in the town when the school bond issue was up for a vote that the school was a fire hazard. It was one reason our bond issue passed. There had been a schoolhouse fire in New Hampshire two or three years before - '

'I remember,' Jimmy murmured. 'In Cobbs' Ferry, wasn't it?'

'Yes. Three children were burned to death

'Is the Brock Street School still used?' Ben asked.

'Only the first floor. Grades one through four. The entire building is due to be phased out in two years, when they put the addition on the Stanley Street School.'

'Is there a place for Barlow to hide?'

'I suppose so,' Matt said, but he sounded reluctant. 'The second and third floors are full of empty classrooms. The windows have been boarded over because so many children threw stones through them.'

'That's it, then,' Ben said. 'It must be.'

'It sounds good,' Matt admitted, and he looked very tired indeed now. 'But it seems too simple. Too trans?parent.'

'Blue chalk,' Jimmy murmured. His eyes were far away.

'I don't know,' Matt said, sounding distracted. 'I just don't know.'

Jimmy opened his black bag and brought out a small bottle of pills. 'Two of these with water,' he said. 'Right now.'

'No. There's too much to go over. There's too much - '

'Too much for us to risk losing you,' Ben said firmly. 'If Father Callahan is gone, you're the most important of all of us now. Do as he says.'

Mark brought a glass of water from the bathroom, and Matt gave in with some bad grace.

It was quarter after ten.

Silence fell in the room. Ben thought that Matt looked fearfully old, fearfully used. His white hair seemed thinner, drier, and a lifetime of care seemed to have stamped itself on his face in a matter of days. In a way, Ben thought, it was fitting that when trouble finally came to him - great trouble - it should come in this dreamlike, darkly fantasti?cal form. A lifetime's existence had prepared him to deal in symbolic evils that sprang to light under the reading lamp and disappeared at dawn.

'I'm worried about him,' Jimmy said softly.

'I thought the attack was mild,' Ben said. 'Not really a heart attack at all.'

'It was a mild occlusion. But the next one won't be mild. It'll be major. This business is going to kill him if it doesn't end quickly.' He took Matt's hand and fingered the pulse gently, with love. 'That,' he said, 'would be a tragedy.'

They waited around his bedside, sleeping and watching by turns. He slept the night away, and Barlow did not put in an appearance. He had business elsewhere.

26

Miss Coogan was reading a story called 'I Tried to Strangle Our Baby' in Real Life Confessions when the door opened and her first customer of the evening came in.

She had never seen things so slow. Ruthie Crockett and her friends hadn't even been in for a soda at the fountain - not that she missed that crowd - and Loretta Starcher hadn't stopped in for The New York Times. It was still under the counter, neatly folded. Loretta was the only person in Jerusalem's Lot who bought the Times (she pronounced it that way, in italics) regularly. And the next day she would put it out in the reading room.

Mr Labree hadn't come back from his supper, either, although there was nothing unusual about that. Mr Labree was a widower with a big house out on Schoolyard Hill near the Griffens, and Miss Coogan knew perfectly well that he didn't go home for his supper. He went out to Dell's and ate hamburgers and drank beer. If he wasn't back by eleven (and it was quarter of now), she would get the key out of the cash drawer and lock up herself. Wouldn't be the first time, either. But they would-all be in a pretty pickle if someone came in needing medicine badly.  

She sometimes missed the after-movie rush that had always come about this time before they had demolished the old Nordica across the street - people wanting ice?cream sodas and frapps and malteds, dates holding hands and talking about homework assignments. It had been hard, but it had been wholesome, too. Those children hadn't been like Ruthie Crockett and her crowd, sniggering and flaunting their busts and wearing jeans tight enough to show the line of their panties - if they were wearing any. The reality of her feelings for those bygone patrons (who, although she had forgotten it, had irritated her just as much) was fogged by nostalgia, and she looked up eagerly when the door opened, as if it might be a member of the class of '64 and his girl, ready for a chocolate fudge sundae with extra nuts.

But it was a man, a grown-up man, someone she knew but could not place. As he carried his suitcase down to the counter, something in his walk or the motion of his head identified him for her.

'Father Callahan!' she said, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. She had never seen him without his priest suit on. He was wearing plain dark slacks and a blue chambray shirt, like a common millworker.

She was suddenly frightened. The clothes he wore were clean and his hair was neatly combed, but there was something in his face, something  -

She suddenly remembered the day, twenty years ago, when she had come from the hospital where her mother had died of a sudden stroke - what the old-timers called a shock. When she had told her brother, he had looked something like Father Callahan did now. His face had a haggard, doomed took, and his eyes were blank and stunned. There was a burned-out look in them that made her uncomfortable. And the skin around his mouth looked red and irritated, as if he had overshaved or rubbed it for a long period of time with a washcloth, trying to get rid of a bad stain.

'I want to buy a bus ticket,' he said.

That's it, she thought. Poor man, someone's died and he just got the call down at the directory, or whatever they call it.

'Certainly,' she said. 'Where - '

'What's the first bus?'

'To where?'

'Anywhere,' he said, throwing her theory into shambles.

'Well . . . I don't . . . let me see . . .' She fumbled out the schedule and looked at it, flustered. 'There's a bus at eleven-ten that connects with Portland, Boston, Hartford, and New Y - '

'That one,' he said. 'How much?'

'For how long - I mean, how far?' She was thoroughly flustered now.

'All the way,' he said hollowly, and smiled. She had never seen such a dreadful smile on a human face, and she flinched from it. If he touches me, she thought, I'll scream. Scream blue murder.

'T-th-that would be to New York City,' she said. 'Twenty-nine dollars and seventy-five cents.'

He dug his wallet out of his back pocket with some difficulty, and she saw that his right hand was bandaged. He put a twenty and two ones before her, and she knocked a whole pile of blank tickets onto the floor taking one off the top of the stack. When she finished picking them up, he had added five more ones and a pile of change.

She wrote the ticket as fast as she could, but nothing would have been fast enough. She could feel his dead gaze on her. She stamped it and pushed it across the counter so she wouldn't have to touch his hand.

'Y-you'll have to wait outside, Father C-Callahan. I've got to close in about five minutes.' She scraped the bills and change into the cash drawer blindly, making no attempt to count it.

'That's fine,' he said. He stuffed the ticket into his breast pocket. Without looking at her he said, 'And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, that whosoever found him should not kill him. And Cain went out from the face of the Lord, and dwelt as a fugitive on the earth, at the east side of Eden. That's Scripture, Miss Coogan. The hardest scripture in the Bible.'

'Is that so?' she said. 'I'm afraid you'll have to go out?side, Father Callahan. I . . . Mr Labree is just in back a minute and he doesn't like doesn't like me to . . . to . . .'

'Of course,' he said, and turned to go. He stopped and looked around at her. She flinched before those wooden eyes. 'You live in Falmouth, don't you, Miss Coogan?'

'Yes - '

'Have your own car?'

'Yes, of course. I really have to ask you to wait for the bus outside - '

'Drive home quickly tonight, Miss Coogan. Lock all your car doors and don't stop for anybody. Anybody. Don't even stop if it's someone you know.'

'I never pick up hitchhikers,' Miss Coogan said righteously.

'And when you get home, stay away from Jerusalem's Lot,' Callahan went on. He was looking at her fixedly. 'Things have gone bad in the Lot now.'

She said faintly, 'I don't know what you're talking about, but you'll have to wait for the bus outside.'

'Yes. All right.'

He went out.

She became suddenly aware of how quiet the drugstore was ' how utterly quiet. Could it be that no one - no one - had come in since it got dark except Father Callahan? It was. No one at all.

Things have gone bad in the Lot now.

She began to go around and turn off the lights.

27

In the Lot the dark held hard.

At ten minutes to twelve, Charlie Rhodes was awakened by a long, steady honking. He came awake in his bed and sat bolt upright.

His bus!

And on the heels of that:

The little bastards! The children had tried things like this before. He knew them, the miserable little sneaks. They had let the air out of his tires with matchsticks once. He hadn't seen who did it, but he had a damned good idea. He had gone to that damned wet-ass principal and reported Mike Philbrook and Audie James. He had known it was them - who had to see?

Are you sure it was them, Rhodes?

I told you, didn't I?

And there was nothing that fucking Mollycoddle could do; he had to suspend them. Then the bastard had called him to the office a week later.

Rhodes, we suspended Andy Garvey today.

Yeah? Not surprised. What was he up to?  

Bob Thomas caught him letting the air out of his bus tires. And he had given Charlie Rhodes a long, cold, measuring look.  

Well, so what if it had been Garvey instead of Philbrook and James? They all hung around together, they were all creeps, they all deserved to have their nuts in the grinder.

Now, from outside, the maddening sound of his horn, running down the battery, really laying on it:

WHONK, WHONNK, WHOONNNNNNNNK  -

'You sons of whores,' he whispered, and slid out of bed. He dragged his pants on without using the light. The light would scare the little scumbags away, and he didn't want that.

Another time, someone had left a cow pie on his driver's seat, and he had a pretty good idea of who had done that, too. You could read it in their eyes. He had learned that standing guard at the repple depple in the war. He had taken care of the cow-pie business in his own way. Kicked the little son of a whore off the bus three days' running, four miles from home. The kid finally came to him crying.

I ain't done nothin', Mr Rhodes. Why you keep kickin' me off.?

You call puttin' a cow flop on my seat nothin'?

No, that wasn't me. Honest to God it wasn't.

Well, you had to hand it to them. They could lie to their own mothers with a clear and smiling face, and they probably did it, too. He had kicked the kid off two more nights and then he had confessed, by the Jesus. Charlie kicked him off once more - one to grow on, you might say - and then Dave Felsen down at the motor pool told him he better cool it for a while.  

WHONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNK-

He grabbed his shirt and then got the old tennis racket standing in the corner. By Christ, he was going to whip some ass tonight!

He went out the back door and around the house to where he kept the big yellow bus parked. He felt tough and coldly competent. This was infiltration, just like the Army.  

He paused behind the oleander bush and looked at the bus. Yes, he could see them, a whole bunch of them, darker shapes behind the night-darkened glass. He felt the old red rage, the hate of them like hot ice, and his grip on the tennis racket tightened until it trembled in his hand like a tuning fork. They had busted out - six, seven, eight - eight windows on his bus!

He slipped behind it and then crept up the long yellow side to the passenger door. It was folded open. He tensed, and suddenly sprang up the steps.

'All right! Stay where you are! Kid, lay off that goddamn horn or I'll - '

The kid sitting in the driver's seat with both hands plastered on the horn ring turned to him and smiled crazily. Charlie felt a sickening drop in his gut. It was Richie Boddin. He was white - just as white as a sheet - except for the black chips of coal that were his eyes, and his lips, which were ruby red.

And his teeth  -

Charlie Rhodes looked down the aisle.

Was that Mike Philbrook? Audie James? God Almighty, the Griffen boys were down there! Hal and Jack, sitting near the back with hay in their hair. But they don't ride on my bus! Mary Kate Greigson and Brent Tenney, sitting side by side. She was in a nightgown, he in blue jeans and a flannel shirt that was on backward and inside out, as if he had forgotten how to dress himself.

And Danny Glick. But - oh, Christ - he was dead; dead for weeks!

'You,' he said through numb lips. 'You kids - '

The tennis racket slid from his hand. There was a wheeze and a thump as Richie Boddin, still smiling that crazy smile, worked the chrome lever that shut the folding door. They were getting out of their seats now, all of them.

'No,' he said, trying to smile. 'You kids . . . you don't understand. It's me. It's Charlie Rhodes. You . . . you . . .' He grinned at them without meaning, shook his head, held out his hands to show them they were just ole Charlie Rhodes's hands, blameless, and backed up until his back was jammed against the wide tinted glass of the windshield.

'Don't,' he whispered.

They came on, grinning. 'Please don't.'

And fell on him.

28

Ann Norton died on the short elevator trip from the first floor of the hospital to the second. She shivered once, and a small trickle of blood ran from the comer of her mouth.