Danny and Ralphie Glick had gone out to see Mark Petrie with orders to be in by nine, and when they hadn't come home by ten past, Marjorie Glick called the Petrie house. No, Mrs Petrie said, the boys weren't there. Hadn't been there. Maybe your husband had better talk to Henry. Mrs Glick handed the phone to her husband, feeling the lightness of fear in her belly.
The men talked it over. Yes, the boys had gone by the woods path. No, the little brook was very shallow at this time of year, especially after the fine weather. No more than ankle-deep. Henry suggested that he start from his end of the path with a high-powered flashlight and Mr Glick start from his. Perhaps the boys had found a woodchuck burrow or were smoking cigarettes or something. Tony agreed and thanked Mr Petrie for his trouble. Mr Petrie said it was no trouble at all. Tony hung up and comforted his wife a little; she was frightened. He had mentally decided that neither of the boys was going to be able to sit down for a week when he found them.
But before he had even left the yard, Danny stumbled out from the trees and collapsed beside the back yard barbecue. He was dazed and slow-spoken, responding to questions ploddingly and not always sensibly. There was grass in his cuffs and a few autumn leaves in his hair.
He told his father that he and Ralphie had gone down the path through the woods, had crossed Crockett Brook by the stepping stones, and bad gotten up the other bank with no trouble. Then Ralphie began to talk about a ghost in the woods (Danny neglected to mention he had put this idea in his brother's head). Ralphie said he could see a face. Danny began to be frightened. He didn't believe in ghosts or in any kid stuff like the bogeyman, but he did think he had heard something in the dark.
What did they do then?
Danny thought they had started to walk again, holding hands. He wasn't sure. Ralphie had been whimpering about the ghost. Danny told him not to cry, because soon they would be able to see the streetlights of Jointner Avenue. It was only two hundred steps, maybe less. Then something bad had happened.
What? What was the bad thing?
Danny didn't know.
They argued with him, grew excited, expostulated. Danny only shook his head slowly and uncomprehend?ingly. Yes, he knew he should remember, but he couldn't. Honestly, he couldn't. No, he didn't remember failing over anything. Just . . . everything was dark. Very dark. And the next thing he remembered was lying on the path by himself. Ralphie was gone.
Parkins Gillespie said there was no point in sending men into the woods that night. Too many deadfalls. Probably the boy had just wandered off the path. He and Nolly Gardener and Tony Glick and Henry Petrie went up and down the path and along the shoulders of both South Jointner and Brock streets, hailing with battery-powered bullhorns.
Early the next morning, both the Cumberland and the state police began a coordinated search of the wood lot. When they found nothing, the search was widened. They beat the bushes for four days, and Mr and Mrs Glick wandered through the woods and fields, picking their way around the deadfalls left by the ancient fire, calling their son's name with endless and wrenching hope.
When there was no result, Taggart Stream and the Royal River were dragged. No result.
On the Morning of the fifth day, Marjorie Glick woke her husband at 4:00 A.M., terrified and hysterical. Danny had collapsed in the upstairs hallway, apparently on his way to the bathroom. An ambulance bore him away to Central Maine General Hospital. The preliminary diag?nosis was severe and delayed emotional shock.
The doctor in charge, a man named Gorby, took Mr Glick aside.
'Has your boy ever been subject to asthma attacks?'
Mr Glick, blinking rapidly, shook his head. He had aged ten years in less than a week.
'Any history of rheumatic fever?'
'Danny? No . . . not Danny.'
'Has he had a TB skin patch during the last year?'
'TB? My boy got TB?'
'Mr Glick, we're only trying to find out - '
'Marge! Margie, come down here!'
Marjorie Glick got up and walked slowly down the corridor. Her face was pale, her hair absently combed. She looked like a woman in the grip of a deep migraine headache.
'Did Danny have a TB skin patch at school this year?'
'Yes,' she said dully. 'When he started school. No reac?tion.'
Gorby asked, 'Does he cough in the night?'
'Complain of aches in the chest or joints?'
'Any abnormal bleeding? Bloody-nose or bloody stool or even an abnormal number of scrapes and bruises?'
Gordy smiled and nodded. 'We'd like to keep him for tests, if we may.'
'Sure,' Tony said. 'Sure. I got Blue Cross.'
'His reactions are very slow,' the doctor said. 'We're going to do some X rays, a marrow test, a white count - '
Marjorie Glick's eyes had slowly been widening. 'Has Danny got leukemia?' she whispered.
'Mrs Glick, that's hardly - '
But she had fainted.
Ben Mears was one of the 'salem's Lot volunteers who beat the bushes for Ralphie Glick, and he got nothing for his pains other than pants cuffs full of cockleburs and an aggravated case of hay fever brought on by late summer goldenrod.
On the third day of the search he came into the kitchen of Eva's ready to eat a can of ravioli and then fall into bed for a nap before writing. He found Susan Norton bustling around the kitchen stove and preparing some kind of hamburger casserole. The men just home from work were sitting around the table, pretending to talk, and ogling her - she was wearing a faded check shirt tied at the midriff and cut-off corduroy shorts, Eva Miller was ironing in a private alcove off the kitchen.
'Hey, what are you doing here?' he asked.
'Cooking you something decent before you fall away to a shadow,' she said, and Eva snorted laughter from behind the angle of the wall. Ben felt his ears burn.
'Cooks real good, she does,' Weasel said. 'I can tell. I been watchin'.'
'If you was watchin' any more, your eyes woulda fell outta their sockets,' Grover Verrill said, and cackled.
Susan covered the casserole, put it in the oven, and they went out on the back porch to wait for it. The sun was going down red and inflamed.
'No. Nothing.' He pulled a battered pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket and lit one.
'You smell like you took a bath in Old Woodsman's,' she said.
'Fat lot of good it did.' He held out his arm and showed her number of puffed insect bites and half-healed scratches. 'Son of a bitching mosquitoes and goddamn pricker bushes.'
'What do you think happened to him, Ben?'
'God knows.' He exhaled smoke. 'Maybe somebody crept up behind the older brother, coshed him with a sock full of sand or something, and abducted the kid.'
'Do you think he's dead?'
Ben looked at her to see if she wanted an honest answer or merely a hopeful one. He took her hand and locked his fingers through hers. 'Yes,' he said briefly. 'I think the kid is dead. No conclusive proof yet, but I think so.'
She shook her head slowly. 'I hope you're wrong. My mom and some of the other ladies have been in to sit with Mrs Glick. She's out of her mind and so is her husband. And the other boy just wanders around like a ghost.'
'Um,' Ben said. He was looking up at the Marsten House, not really listening. The shutters were closed; they would open up later on. After dark. The shutters would open after dark. He felt a morbid chill at the thought and its nearly incantatory quality.
' . . . night?'
'Hmm? Sorry.' He looked around at her.
'I said, my dad would like you to come over tomorrow night. Can you?'
'Will you be there?'
'Sure, I will,' she said, and looked at him.
'All right. Good.' He wanted to look at her - she was lovely in the sunset light - but his eyes were drawn towards the Marsten House as if by a magnet.
'It draws you, doesn't it?' she said, and the reading of his thought, right down to the metaphor, was nearly uncanny.
'Yes. It does.'
'Ben, what's this new book about'?
'Not yet,' he said. 'Give it time. I'll tell you as Soon as I can. It's . . . got to work itself out.'
She wanted to say I love you at that precise moment, say it with the ease and lack of self-consciousness with which the thought had risen to the surface of her mind, but she bit the words off behind her lips. She did not want to say it while he was looking . . . looking up there.
She got up. 'I'll check the casserole.'
When she left him, he was smoking and looking up at the Marsten House.
Lawrence Crockett was sitting in his office on the morning of the twenty-second, pretending to read his Monday cor?respondence and keeping an eye on his secretary's jahoob?ies, when the telephone rang. He had been thinking about his business career in 'salem's Lot, about that small, twink?ling car in the Marsten House driveway, and about deals with the devil.
Even before the deal with Straker had been consum?mated (that's some word, all right, he thought, and his eyes crawled over the front of his secretary's blouse), Lawrence Crockett was, without doubt, the richest man in 'salem's Lot and one of the richest in Cumberland County, although there was nothing about his office or his person to indicate it. The office was old, dusty, and lighted by two fly-specked yellow globes. The desk was an ancient roll-top, littered with papers, pens, and correspondence. A gluepot stood on one side of it and on the other was a square glass paperweight that showed pictures of his family on its different faces. Poised perilously on top of a stack of ledgers was a glass fish bowl filled with matches, and a sign on the front said, 'For Our Matchless Friends.' Except for three fireproof steel filing cabinets and the secretary's desk in a small enclosure, the office was barren.
There were, however, pictures.
Snapshots and photos were everywhere - tacked, stapled, or taped to every available surface. Some were new Polaroid prints, others were colored Kodak shots taken a few years back, still more were curled and yellow?ing black-and-whites, some going back fifteen years. Beneath each was a typed caption: Fine Country Living! Six Rms. or Hilltop Location! Taggart Stream Road, $32, 000 - Cheap! or Fit for a Squire! Ten-Rm. Farmhouse, Burns Road. It looked like a dismal, fly-by-night operation and so it had been until 1957, when Larry Crockett, who was regarded by the better element in Jerusalem's Lot as only one step above shiftless, had decided that trailers were the wave of the future. In those dim dead days, most people thought of trailers as those cute silvery things you hooked on the back of your car when you wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park and take pictures of your wife and kids standing in front of Old Faithful. In those dim dead days, hardly anyone - even the trailer manufacturers themselves - foresaw a day when the cute silvery things would be replaced by campers, which hooked right over the bed of your Chevy pickup or which could come com?plete and motorized in themselves.
Larry, however, had not needed to know these things. A bushleague visionary at best, he had simply gone down to the town office (in those days he was not a selectman; in those days he couldn't have gotten elected dog catcher) and looked up the Jerusalem's Lot zoning laws. They were tremendously satisfactory. Peering between the lines, he could see thousands of dollars. The law said you could not maintain a public dumping ground, or have more than three junked cars in your yard unless you also had a junk yard permit, or have a chemical toilet - a fancy and not very accurate term for outhouse - unless it was approved by the Town Health Officer. And that was it.
Larry had mortgaged himself to the hilt, had borrowed more, and had bought three trailers. Not cute little silvery things but long, plush, thyroidal monsters with plastic wood paneling and Formica bathrooms. He bought one-?acre plots for each in the Bend, where land was cheap, had set them on cheap foundations, and had gone to work selling them. He had done so in three months, overcoming some initial resistance from people who were dubious about living in a home that resembled a Pullman car, and his profit had been close to ten thousand dollars. The wave of the future had arrived in 'salem's Lot, and Larry Crockett had been right up there shooting the curl.
On the day R. T. Straker had walked into his office, Crockett had been worth nearly two million dollars. He had done this as a result of land speculation in a great many neighboring towns (but not in the Lot; you don't shit where you eat was Lawrence Crockett's motto), based on the conviction that the mobile-home industry was going to grow like a mad bastard. It did, and my God how the money rolled in.
In 1965 Larry Crockett became the silent partner of a contractor named Romeo Poulin, who was building a supermarket plaza in Auburn. Poulin was a veteran corner-cutter, and with his on-the-job know-how and Larry's way with figures, they made $750,000 apiece and only had to report a third of that to Uncle. It was all extremely satisfactory, and if the supermarket roof had a bad case of the leaks, well, that was life.
In 1966-68 Larry bought controlling interests in three Maine mobile-home businesses, going through any number of fancy ownership shuffles to throw the tax people off. To Romeo Poulin he described this process as going into the tunnel of love with girl A, screwing girl B in the car behind you, and ending up holding hands with girl A on the other side. He ended up buying mobile homes from himself, and these incestuous businesses were so healthy they were almost frightening.
Deals with the devil, all right, Larry thought, shuffling his papers. When you deal with him, notes come due in brimstone.
The people who bought trailers were lower-middle-class blue- or white-collar workers, people who could not raise a down payment on a more conventional house, or older people looking for ways to stretch their social security. The idea of a brand-new six-room house was something to conjure with for these people. For the elderly, there was another advantage, something that others missed but Larry, always astute, had noticed: Trailers were all on one level and there were no stairs to climb.
Financing was easy, too. A $500 down payment was usually enough to do business on. And in the bad old barracuda-financing days of the sixties, the fact that the other $9,500 was financed at 24 per cent rarely struck these house-hungry people as a pitfall.
And my God! how the money rolled in.
Crockett himself had changed very little, even after playing 'Let's Make a Deal' with the unsettling Mr Straker. No fag decorator came to redo his office. He still got by with the cheap electric fan instead of air conditioning. He wore the same shiny-seat suits or glaring sports jacket combinations. He smoked the same cheap cigars and still dropped by Dell's on Saturday night to have a few beers and shoot some bumper pool with the boys. He had kept his hand in home town real estate, which had home two fruits: First, it had gotten him elected selectman, and second, it wrote off nicely on his income tax return, be?cause each year's visible operation was one rung below the break-even point. Besides the Marsten House, he was and had been the selling agent for perhaps three dozen other decrepit manses in the area. There were some good deals of course. But Larry didn't push them. The money was, after all, rolling in.
Too much money, maybe. It was possible, he supposed, to outsmart yourself. To go into the tunnel of love with girl A, screw girl B, come out holding hands with girl A, only to have both of them beat the living shit out of you. Straker had said he would be in touch and that had been fourteen months ago. Now what if -
That was when the telephone rang.
'Mr Crockett,' the familiar, accentless voice said.
'Straker, isn't it?'
'I was just thinkin' about you. Maybe I'm psychic.'
'How very amusing, Mr Crockett. I need a service, please.'
'I thought you might.'
'You will procure a truck, please. A big one. A rental truck, perhaps. Have it at the Portland docks tonight at seven sharp. Custom House Wharf. Two movers will be sufficient, I think.'
'Okay.' Larry drew a pad over by his right hand, and scrawled: H. Peters, R. Snow. Henry's U-Haul. 6 at latest. He did not stop to consider how imperative it seemed to follow Straker's orders to the letter.
'There are a dozen boxes to be picked up. All save one go to the shop. The other is an extremely valuable sideboard - a Hepplewhite. Your movers will know it by its size. It is to be taken to the house. You understand?'
'Have them put it down cellar. Your men can enter through the outside bulkhead below the kitchen windows. You understand?'
'Yeah. Now, this sideboard - '
'One other service, please. You will procure five stout Yale padlocks. You are familiar with the brand Yale?'
'Everybody is. What - '
'Your movers will lock the shop's back door when they leave. At the house, they will leave the keys to all five locks on the basement table. When they leave the house, they will padlock the bulkhead door, the front and back doors, and the shed-garage. You understand?'
'Thank you, Mr Crockett. Follow all directions ex?plicitly. Good-by.'
'Now, wait just a minute - '
It was two minutes of seven when the big orange-and-white truck with 'Henry's U-Haul' printed on the sides and back pulled up to the corrugated-steel shack at the end of Custom House Wharf at the Portland docks. The tide was on the turn and the gulls were restless with it, wheeling and crying overhead against the sunset crimson sky.
'Christ, there's nobody here,' Royal Snow said, swigging the last of his Pepsi and dropping the empty to the floor of the cab. 'We'll get arrested for burglars.'
'There's somebody,' Hank Peters said. 'Cop.'
It wasn't precisely a cop; it was a night watchman. He shone his light in at them. 'Either of you guys Lawrence Crewcut?'
'Crockett,' Royal said. 'We're from him. Come to pick up some boxes.'
'Good,' the night watchman said. 'Come on in the office. I got an invoice for you to sign.' He gestured to Peters, who was behind the wheel. 'Back up right over there. Those double doors with the light burning. See?'
'Yeah.' He put the truck in reverse.
Royal Snow followed the night watchman into the office where a coffee maker was burbling. The clock over the pin-up calendar said 7:04. The night watchman scrabbled through some papers on the desk and came up with a clipboard. 'Sign there.'
Royal signed his name.
'You want to watch out when you go in there. Turn on the lights. There's rats.'
'I've never seen a rat that wouldn't run from one of these,' Royal said, and swung his work-booted foot in an arc.
'These are wharf rats, sonny,' the watchman said dryly. 'They've run off with bigger men than you.'
Royal went back out and walked over to the warehouse door. The night watchman stood in the doorway of the shack, watching him, 'Look out,' Royal said to Peters. 'The old guy said there was rats.'
'Okay.' He sniggered. 'Good ole Larry Crewcut.'
Royal found the light switch inside the door and turned them on. There was something about the atmosphere, heavy with the mixed aromas of salt and wood rot and wetness, that stifled hilarity. That, and the thought of rats.
The boxes were stacked in the middle of the wide ware?house floor. The place was otherwise empty, and the collection looked a little portentous as a result. The side?board was in the center, taller than the others, and the only one not stamped 'Barlow and Straker, 27 Jointner Avenue, Jer. Lot, Maine.'
'Well, this don't look too bad,' Royal said. He consulted his copy of the invoice and then counted boxes. 'Yeah, they're all here.'
'There are rats,' Hank said. 'Hear 'em?'
'Yeah, miserable things. I hate 'em.'
They both fell silent for a moment, listening to the squeak and patter coming from the shadows.
'Well, let's get with it,' Royal said. 'Let's put that big baby on first so it won't be in the way when we get to the store.'
They walked over to the box, and Royal took out his pocket knife. With one quick gesture he had slit the brown invoice envelope taped to the side.
'Hey Hank said. 'Do you think we ought to - '
'We gotta make sure we got the right thing, don't we? If we screw up, Larry'll tack our asses to his bulletin board.' He pulled the invoice out and looked at it.
'What's it say?' Hank asked.
'Heroin,' Royal said judiciously. 'Two hundred pounds of the shit. Also two thousand girlie books from Sweden, three hundred gross of French ticklers - '
'Gimme that.' Hank snatched it away. 'Sideboard,' he said. 'Just like Larry told us. From London, England. Portland, Maine, POE. French ticklers, my ass. Put this back.'
Royal did. 'Something funny about this,' he said.
'Yeah, you. Funny like the Italian Army.'
'No, no shit. There's no customs stamp on this fucker. Not on the box, not on the invoice envelope, not on the invoice. No stamp.'
'They probably do 'em in that ink that only shows up under a special black light.'
'They never did when I was on the docks. Christ, they stamped cargo ninety ways for Sunday. You couldn't grab a box without getting blue ink up to your elbows.'
'Good. I'm very glad. But my wife happens to go to bed very early and I had hopes of getting some tonight.'
'Maybe if we took a look inside - '
'No way. Come on. Grab it.'
Royal shrugged. They tipped the box, and something shifted heavily inside. The box was a bitch to lift. It could be one of those fancy dressers, all right. It was heavy enough.
Grunting, they staggered out to the truck and heaved it onto the hydraulic lifter with identical cries of relief. Royal stood back while Hank operated the lift. When it was even with the truck body, they climbed up and walked it inside.
There was something about the box he didn't like. It was more than the lack of customs stamp. An indefinable something. He looked at it until Hank ran down the back gate.
'Come on,' he said. 'Let's get the rest of them.'
The other boxes had regulation customs stamps, except for three that had been shipped here from inside the United States. As they loaded each box onto the truck, Royal checked it off on the invoice form and initialed it. They stacked all of the boxes bound for the new store near the back gate of the truck, away from the sideboard.
'Now, who in the name of God is going to buy all this stuff?' Royal asked when they had finished. 'A Polish rocking chair, a German clock, a spinning wheel from Ireland . . . Christ Almighty, I bet they charge a frigging fortune.'
'Tourists,' Hank said wisely. 'Tourists'll buy anything. Some of those people from Boston and New York they'd buy a bag of cowshit if it was an old bag.'
'I don't like that big box, neither,' Royal said. 'No customs stamp, that's a hell of a funny thing.'
'Well, let's get it where it's going.'
They drove back to 'salem's Lot without speaking, Hank driving heavy on the gas. This was one errand he wanted done. He didn't like it. As Royal had said, it was damn peculiar.
He drove around to the back of the new store, and the back door was unlocked, as Larry had said it would be. Royal tried the lightswitch just inside with no result.
'That's nice,' he grumbled. 'We get to unload this stuff in the goddamn dark . . . say, does it smell a little funny in here to you?'
Hank sniffed. Yes, there was an odor, an unpleasant one, but he could not have said exactly what it reminded him of. It was dry and acrid in the nostrils, like a whiff of old corruption.
'It's just been shut up too Ion ' he said, shining his flashlight around the long, empty room. 'Needs a good airing out.'
'Or a good burning down,' Royal said. He didn't like it. Something about the place put his back up. 'Come on. And let's try not to break our legs.'
They unloaded the boxes as quickly as they could, putting each one down carefully. A half an hour later, Royal closed the back door with a sigh of relief and snapped one of the new padlocks on it.
'That's half of it,' he said.
'The easy half,' Hank answered. He looked up toward the Marsten House, which was dark and shuttered tonight. 'I don't like goin' up there, and I ain't afraid to say so. If there was ever a haunted house, that's it. Those guys must be crazy, tryin' to live there. Probably queer for each other anyway.'
'Like those fag interior decorators,' Royal agreed. 'Prob?ably trying to turn it into a showplace. Good for business.'
'Well, if we got to do it, let's get with it.'
They spared a last look for the crated sideboard leaning against the side of the U-Haul and then Hank pulled the back door down with a bang. He got in behind the wheel and they drove up Jointner Avenue onto the Brooks Road.
A minute later the Marsten House loomed ahead of them, dark and crepitating, and Royal felt the first thread of real fear worm its way into his belly.
'Lordy, that's a creepy place,' Hank murmured. 'Who'd want to live there?'
'I don't know. You see any lights on behind those shutters?'
The house seemed to lean toward them, as if awaiting their arrival, Hank wheeled the truck up the driveway and around to the back. Neither of them looked too closely at what the bouncing headlights might reveal in the rank grass of the back yard. Hank felt a strain of fear enter his heart that he had not even felt in Nam, although he had been scared most of his time there. That was a rational fear. Fear that you might step on a pongee stick and see your foot swell up like some noxious green balloon, fear that some kid in black p.j.'s whose name you couldn't even fit in your mouth might blow your head off with a Russian rifle, fear that you might draw a Crazy Jake on patrol that might want you to blow up everyone in a village where the Cong had been a week before. But this fear was childlike, dreamy. There was no reference point to it. A house was a house - boards and hinges and nails and sills. There was no reason, really no reason, to feel that each splintered crack was exhaling its own chalky aroma of evil. That was just plain stupid thinking. Ghosts? He didn't believe in ghosts. Not after Nam.
He had to fumble twice for reverse, and then backed the truck jerkily up to the bulkhead leading to the cellar. The rusted doors stood open, and in the red glow of the truck's taillights, the shallow stone steps seemed to lead down into hell.
'Man ', I don't dig this at all,' Hank said. He tried to smile and it became a grimace.
They looked at each other in the wan dash lights, the fear heavy on both of them. But childhood was beyond them, and they were incapable of going back with the job undone because of irrational fear - how would they explain it in bright daylight? The job had to be done.
Hank killed the engine and they got out and walked around to the back of the truck. Royal climbed up, released the door catch, and thrust the door up on its tracks.
The box sat there, sawdust still clinging to it, squat and mute.
'God, I don't want to take that down there!' Hank Peters choked out, and his voice was almost a sob.
'Come on up,' Royal said. 'Let's get rid of it.'
They dragged the box onto the lift and let it down with a hiss of escaping air. When it was at waist level, Hank let go of the lever and they gripped it.
'Easy,' Royal grunted, backing toward the steps. 'Easy does it . . . easy . . . ' In the red glow of the taillights his face was constricted and corded like the face of a man having a heart attack.
He backed down the stairs one at a time, and as the box tilted up against his chest, he felt its dreadful weight settle against him like a slab of stone. It was heavy, he would think later, but not that heavy. He and Hank had muscled bigger loads for Larry Crockett, both upstairs and down, but there was something about the atmosphere of this place that took the heart out of you and made you no good.
The steps were slimy-slick and twice he tottered on the precarious edge of balance, crying out miserably, 'Hey! For Christ's sake! Watch it!'
And then they were down. The ceiling was low above them and they carried the sideboard bent over like hags.
'Set it here" Hank gasped. 'I can't carry it no further!'
They set it down with a thump and stepped away. They looked into each other's eyes and saw that fear had been changed to near terror by some secret alchemy. The cellar seemed suddenly filled with secret rustling noises. Rats, perhaps, or perhaps something that didn't even bear think?ing of.
They bolted, Hank first and Royal Snow right behind him. They ran up the cellar steps and Royal slammed the bulkhead doors with backward sweeps of his arm.
They clambered into the cab of the U-Haul and Hank started it up and put it in gear. Royal grabbed his arm, and in the darkness his face seemed to be all eyes, huge and staring.
'Hank, we never put on those locks.'
They both stared at the bundle of new padlocks on the truck's dashboard, held together by a twist of baling wire. Hank grabbed at his jacket pocket and brought out a key ring with five new Yale keys on it, one which would fit the lock on the back door of the shop in town, four for out here. Each was neatly labeled.
'Oh, Christ,' he said. 'Look, if we come back early tomorrow morning - '
Royal unclamped the flashlight under the dashboard. 'That won't work,' he said, 'and you know it.'
They got out of the cab, feeling the cool evening breeze strike the sweat on their foreheads. 'Go do the back door,' Royal said. 'I'll get the front door and the shed.'
They separated. Hank went to the back door, his heart thudding heavily in his chest. He had to fumble twice to thread the locking arm through the hasp. This close to the house, the smell of age and wood rot was palpable. All those stories about Hubie Marsten that they had laughed about as kids began to recur, and the chant they had chased the girls with: Watch out, watch out, watch out! Hubie'll get you if you don't. watch . . . OUT -
He drew in breath sharply, and the other lock dropped out of his hands. He picked it up. 'You oughtta know better than to creep up on a person like that, Did you . . . ?'
'Yeah. Hank, who's gonna go down in that cellar again and put the key ring on the table?'
'I dunno,' Hank Peters said. 'I dunno.'
'Think we better flip for it?'
'Yeah, I guess that's best.'
Royal took out a quarter. 'Call it in the air.' He flicked it.
Royal caught it, slapped it on his forearm, and exposed it. The eagle gleamed at them dully.
'Jesus,' Hank said miserably. But he took the key ring and the flashlight and opened the bulkhead doors again.
He forced his legs to carry him down the steps, and when he had cleared the roof overhang he shone his light across the visible cellar, which took an L-turn thirty feet further up and went off God knew where. The flashlight beam picked out the table, with a dusty checked tablecloth on it. A rat sat on the table, a huge one, and it did not move when the beam of light struck it. It sat up on its plump haunches and almost seemed to grin.
He walked past the box toward the table. 'Hsst! Rat!'
The rat jumped down and trotted off toward the elbow?-bend further up. Hank's hand was trembling now, and the flashlight beam slipped jerkily from place to place, now picking out a dusty barrel, now a decades-old bureau that had been loaded down here, now a stack of old newspapers, now -
He jerked the flashlight beam back toward the news?papers and sucked in breath as the light fell on something to the left side of them.
A shirt . . . was that a shirt? Bundled up like an old rag. Something behind it that might have been blue jeans. And something that looked like . . .
Something snapped behind him.
He panicked, threw the keys wildly on the table, and turned away, shambling into a run. As he passed the box, he saw what had made the noise. One of the aluminum bands had let go, and now pointed jaggedly toward the low roof, like a finger.
He stumbled up the stairs, slammed the bulkhead behind him (his whole body had crawled into goose flesh; he would not be aware of it until later), snapped the lock on the catch, and ran to the cab of the truck. He was breathing in small, whistling gasps like a hurt dog. He dimly heard Royal asking him what had happened, what was going on down there, and then he threw the truck into drive and screamed out, roaring around the corner of the house on two wheels, digging at the soft earth. He did not slow down until the truck was back on the Brooks Road, speed?ing toward Lawrence Crockett's office in town. And then he began to shake so badly he was afraid he would have to pull over.
'What was down there?' Royal asked. 'What did you see?'
'Nothin',' Hank Peters said, and the word came out in sections divided by his clicking teeth. 'I didn't see nothin' and I never want to see it again.'
Larry Crockett was getting ready to shut up shop and go home when there was a perfunctory tap on the door and Hank Peters stepped back in. He still looked scared.
'Forget somethin', Hank?' Larry asked. When they had come back from the Marsten House, both looking like somebody had given their nuts a healthy tweak, he had given them each an extra ten dollars and two six-packs of Black Label and had allowed as how maybe it would be best if none of them said too much about the evening's outing.
'I got to tell you,' Hank said now. 'I can't help it, Larry. I got to.'
'Sure you do,' Larry said. He opened the bottom desk drawer, took out a bottle of Johnnie Walker, and poured them each a knock in a couple of Dixie cups. 'What's on your mind?'
Hank took a mouthful, grimaced, and swallowed it.
'When I took those keys down to put 'em on the table, I seen something. Clothes, it looked like. A shirt and maybe some dungarees. And a sneaker. I think it was a sneaker, Larry.'
Larry shrugged and smiled. 'So?' It seemed to him that a large lump of ice was resting in his chest.
'That little Glick boy was wearin' jeans. That's what it said in the Ledger. Jeans and a red pull-over shirt and sneaks. Larry, what if - '
Larry kept smiling. The smile felt frozen on.
Hank gulped convulsively. 'What if those guys that bought the Marsten House and that store blew up the Glick kid?' There. It was out. He swallowed the rest of the liquid fire in his cup.
Smiling, Larry said, 'Maybe you saw a body, too.'
'No - no. But - '
'That'd be a matter for the police,' Larry Crockett said. He refilled Hank's cup and his hand didn't tremble at all. It was as cold and steady as a rock in a frozen brook. 'And I'd drive you right down to see Parkins. But something like this . . .' He shook his head. 'A lot of nastiness can come up. Things like you and that waitress out to Dell's . . . her name's Jackie, ain't it?'
'What the hell are you talking about?' His face had gone deadly pale.
'And they'd sure as shit find out about that dishonorable discharge of yours. But you do your duty, Hank. Do it as you see it.'
'I didn't see no body,' Hank whispered.
'That's good,' Larry said, smiling. 'And maybe you didn't see any clothes, either. Maybe they were just . . . rags.'
'Rags,' Hank Peters said hollowly.
'Sure, you know those old places. All kinds of junk in em. Maybe you saw some old shirt or something that was torn up for a cleaning rag.'
'Sure,' Hank said. He drained his glass a second time. 'You got a good way of looking at things, Larry.'
Crockett took his wallet out of his back pocket, opened it, and counted five ten-dollar bills out on the desk.
'What's that for?'
'Forgot all about paying you for that Brennan job last month. You should prod me about those things, Hank. You know how I forget things.'
'But you did - '
'Why,' Larry interrupted, smiling, 'you could be sitting right here and telling me something, and I wouldn't re?member a thing about it tomorrow morning. Ain't that a pitiful way to be?'
'Yeah,' Hank whispered. His hand reached out trem?bling and took the bills; stuffed them into the breast pocket of his denim jacket as if anxious to be rid of the touch of them. He got up with such jerky hurriedness that he almost knocked his chair over. 'Listen, I got to go, Larry. I . . . I didn't . . . I got to go.'
'Take the bottle,' Larry invited, but Hank was already going out the door. He didn't pause.
Larry sat back down. He poured himself another drink. His hand still did not tremble. He did not go on shutting up shop. He had another drink, and then another. He thought about deals with the devil. And at last his phone rang. He picked it up. Listened.
'It's taken care of,' Larry Crockett said.
He listened. He hung up. He poured himself another drink.
Hank Peters woke up in the early hours of the next morning from a dream of huge rats crawling out of an open grave, a grave which held the green and rotting body of Hubie Marsten, with a frayed length of manila hemp around his neck. Peters Jay propped on his elbows, breathing heavily, naked torso slicked with sweat, and when his wife touched his arm he screamed aloud.
Milt Crossen's Agricultural Store was located in the angle formed by the intersection of Jointner Avenue and Rail?road Street, and most of the town's old codgers went there when it rained and the park was uninhabitable. During the long winters, they were a day-by-day fixture.
When Straker drove up in that '39 Packard - or was it a '40? - it was just misting gently, and Milt and Pat Middler were having a desultory conversation about whether Freddy Overlock's girl Judy run off in 1957 or '58. They both agree that she had run off with that Saladmaster salesman from Yarmouth, and they both agreed that he hadn't been worth a pisshole in the snow, nor was she, but beyond that they couldn't get together.
All conversation ceased when Straker walked in.
He looked around at them - Milt and Pat Middler and Joe Crane and Vinnie Upshaw and Clyde Corliss - and smiled humorlessly. 'Good afternoon, gentlemen,' he said.
Milt Crossen stood up, pulling his apron around him almost primly. 'Help you?'
'Very good,' Straker said. 'Attend over at this meat case, please.'
He bought a roast of beef, a dozen prime ribs, some hamburger, and a pound of calves' liver. To this he added some dry goods - flour, sugar, beans - and several loaves of ready-made bread.
His shopping took place in utter silence. The store's babitu6s sat around the large Pearl Kineo stove that Milt's father had converted to range oil, smoked, looked wisely out at the sky, and observed the stranger from the corners of their eyes.
When Milt had finished packing the goods into a large cardboard carton, Straker paid with hard cash - a twenty and a ten. He picked up the carton, tucked it under one arm, and flashed that hard, humorless smile at them again.
'Good day, gentlemen,' he said, and left.
Joe Crane tamped a load of Planter's into his corncob. Clyde Corliss hawked back and spat a mass of phlegm and chewing tobacco into the dented pail beside the stove. Vinnie Upshaw produced his old Top cigarette roller from inside his vest, spilled a line of tobacco into it, and inserted a cigarette paper with arthritis-swelled fingers.
They watched the stranger lift the carton into the trunk. All of them knew that the carton must have weighed thirty pounds with the dry goods, and they had all seen him tuck it under his arm like a feather pillow going out. He went around to the driver's side, got in, and drove off up Jointner Avenue. The car went up the hill, turned left onto the Brooks Road, disappeared, and reappeared from behind the screen of trees a few moments later, now toy-sized with distance. It turned into the Marsten driveway and was lost from sight.
'Peculiar fella,' Vinnie said. He stuck his cigarette in his mouth, plucked a few bits of tobacco from the end of it, and took a kitchen match from his vest pocket.
'Must be one of the ones got that store,' Joe Crane said.
'Marsten House, too,' Vinnie agreed.
Clyde Corliss broke wind.
Pat Middler picked at a callus on his left palm with great interest.
Five minutes passed.
'Do you suppose they'll make a go of it?' Clyde asked no one in particular.
'Might,' Vinnie said. 'They might show up right pert in the summertime. Hard to tell the way things are these days.'
A general murmur, sigh almost, of agreement.
'Strong fella,' Joe said.
'Ayuh,' Vinnie said. 'That was a thirty-nine Packard, and not a spot of rust on her.'
"Twas a forty,' Clyde said.
'The forty didn't have runnin' boards,' Vinnie said. "Twas a thirty-nine.'
'You're wrong on that one,' Clyde said.
Five minutes passed. They saw Milt was examining the twenty Straker had paid with.
'That funny money, Milt?' Pat asked. 'That fella give you some funny money?'
'No; but look.' Milt passed it across the counter and they all stared at it. It was much bigger than an ordinary bill.
Pat held it up to the light, examined it, then turned it over. 'That's a series E twenty, ain't it, Milt?'
'Yep,' Milt said. 'They stopped makin' those forty-five or fifty years back. My guess is that'd be worth some money down to Arcade Coin in Portland.'
Pat handed the bill around and each examined it, holding it up close or far off depending on the flaws in their eyesight. Joe Crane handed it back, and Milt put it under the cash drawer with the personal checks and the coupons.
'Sure is a funny fella,' Clyde mused.
'Ayuh,' Vinnie said, and paused. 'That was a thirty-nine, though. My half brother Vic had one. Was the first car he ever owned. Bought it used, he did, in 1944. Left the oil out of her one mornin' and burned the goddamn pistons right out of her.'
'I believe it was a forty,' Clyde said,' because I remember a fella that used to cane chairs down by Alfred, come right to your house he would, and - '
And so the argument was begun, progressing more in the silences than in the speeches, like a chess game p aye by mail. And the day seemed to stand still and stretch into eternity for them, and Vinnie Upshaw began to make another cigarette with sweet, arthritic slowness.
Ben was writing when the tap came at the door, and he marked his place before getting up to open it. It was just after three o'clock on Wednesday, September 24. The rain had ended any plans to search further for Ralphie Glick, and the consensus was that the search was over. The Glick boy was gone . . . solid gone.
He opened the door and Parkins Gillespie was standing there, smoking a cigarette. He was holding a paperback in one hand, and Ben saw with some amusement that it was the Bantam edition of Conway's Daughter.
'Come on in, Constable,' he said. 'Wet out there.'
'It is, a trifle,' Parkins said, stepping in. 'September's grippe weather. I always wear in' galoshes. There's some that laughs, but I ain't had the grippe since St.-L?, France, in 1944.'
'Lay your coat on the bed. Sorry I can't offer you coffee.'
'Wouldn't think of wettin' it,' Parkins said, and tapped ash in Ben's wastebasket. 'And I just had a cup of Pauline's down to the Excellent.'
'Can I do something for you?'
'Well, my wife read this. . . . ' He held up the book. She heard you was in town, but she's shy. She kind of thought maybe you might write your name in it, or somethin'.'
Ben took the book. 'The way Weasel Craig tells it, your wife's been dead fourteen or fifteen years.'
'That so?' Parkins looked totally unsurprised. 'That Weasel, he does love to talk. He'll open his mouth too wide one day and fall right in.'
Ben said nothing.
'Do you s'pose you could sign it for me, then?'
'Delighted to.' He took a pen from the desk, opened the book to the flyleaf ('A raw slice of life!' - Cleveland Plain Dealer), and wrote: Best wishes to Constable Gillespie, from Ben Mears, 9/24/75. He handed it back.
'I appreciate that,' Parkins said, without looking at what Ben had written. He bent over and crushed out his smoke on the side of the wastebasket. 'That's the only signed book I got.'
'Did you come here to brace me?' Ben asked, smiling.
'You're pretty sharp,' Parkins said. 'I figured I ought to come and ask a question or two, now that you mention it. Waited until Nolly was off somewheres. He's a good boy, but he likes to talk, too. Lordy, the gossip that goes on.'
'What would you like to know?'
'Mostly where you were on last Wednesday evenin'.'
'The night Ralphie Glick disappeared?'
'Am I a suspect, Constable?'
'No, sir. I ain't got no suspects. A thing like this is outside my tour, you might say. Catchin' speeders out by Dell's or chasin' kids outta the park before they turn randy is more my line. I'm just nosin' here and there.'
'Suppose I don't want to tell you.'
Parkins shrugged and produced his cigarettes. 'That's your business, son.'
'I had dinner with Susan Norton and her folks. Played some badminton with her dad.'
'Bet he beat you, too. He always beats Nolly. Nolly raves up and down about how bad he'd like to beat Bill Norton just once. What time did you leave?'
Ben laughed, but the sound did not contain a great deal of humor. 'You cut right to the bone, don't you?'
'You know,' Parkins said, 'if I was one of those New York detectives like on TV, I might think you had somethin' to hide, the way you polka around my questions.'
'Nothing to hide,' Ben said. 'I'm just tired of being the stranger in town, getting pointed at in the streets, being nudged over in the library. Now you come around with this Yankee trader routine, trying to find out if I've got Ralphie Glick's scalp in my closet.'
'Now, I don't think that, not at all.' He gazed at Ben over his cigarette, and his eyes had gone flinty. 'I'm just tryin' to close you off. If I thought you had anything to do with anything, you'd be down in the tank.'
'Okay,' Ben said. 'I left the Nortons around quarter past? seven. I took a walk out toward Schoolyard Hill. When it got too dark to see, I came back here, wrote for two hours, and went to bed.'
'What time did you get back here?' 'Quarter past eight, I think. Around there.'
'Well, that don't clear you as well as I'd like. Did you see anybody?'
'No,' Ben said. 'No one.'
Parkins made a noncommittal grunt and walked toward the typewriter. 'What are you writin' about?'
'None of your damn business,' Ben said, and his voice had gone tight. 'I'll thank you to keep your eyes and your hands off that. Unless you've got a search warrant, of course.'
'Kind of touchy, ain't you? For a man who means his books to be read?'
'When it's gone through three drafts, editorial correc?tion, galley-proof corrections, final set and print, I'll per?sonally see that you get four copies. Signed. Right now that comes under the heading of private papers.'
Parkins smiled and moved away. 'Good enough. I doubt like hell that it's a signed confession to anything, anyway.' Ben smiled back. 'Mark Twain said a novel was a con?fession to everything by a man who had never done any?thing.'
Parkins blew out smoke and went to the door. 'I won't drip on your rug anymore, Mr Mears. Want to thank you for y'time, and just for the record, I don't think you ever saw that Glick boy. But it's my job to kind of ask round about these things.'
Ben nodded. 'Understood.'
'And you oughtta know how things are in places like Isalem's Lot or Milbridge or Guilford or any little pissant burg. You're the stranger in town until you been here twenty years.'
'I know. I'm sorry if I snapped at you. But after a week of looking for him and not finding a goddamned thing Ben shook his head.
'Yeah,' Parkins said. 'It's bad for his mother. Awful bad. You take care.'
'Sure,' Ben said.
'No hard feelin's?'
'No.' He paused. 'Will you tell me one thing?'
'I will if I can.'
'Where did you get that book? Really?'
Parkins Gillespie smiled. 'Well, there's a fella over in Cumberland that's got a used-furniture barn. Kind of a sissy fella, he is. Name of Gendron. He sells paperbacks a dime apiece. Had five of these.'
Ben threw back his head and laughed, and Parkins Gillespie went out, smiling and smoking. Ben went to the window and watched until he saw the constable come out and cross the street, walking carefully around puddles in his black galoshes.
Parkins paused a moment to look in the show window of the new shop before knocking on the door. When the place had been the Village Washtub, a body could look in here and see nothing but a lot of fat women in rollers adding bleach or getting change out of the machine on the wall, most of them chewing gum like cows with mouthfuls of mulch. But an interior decorator's truck from Portland had been here yesterday afternoon and most of today, and the place looked considerably different.
A platform had been shoved up behind the window, and it was covered with a swatch of deep nubby carpet, light green in color. Two spotlights had been installed up out of sight, and they cast soft, highlighting glows on the three objects that bad been arranged in the window: a clock, a spinning wheel, and an old-fashioned cherrywood cabinet. There was a small easel in front of each piece, and a discreet price tag on each easel, and my God, would anybody in their right mind actually pay $600 for a spinning wheel when they could go down to the Value House and get a Singer for $48.95?
Sighing, Parkins went to the door and knocked.
It was opened only a second later, almost as if the new fella had been lurking behind it, waiting for him to come to the door.
'Inspector!' Straker said with a narrow smile. 'How good of you to drop by!'
'Plain old constable, I guess,' Parkins said. He lit a Pall Mall and strolled in, 'Parkins Gillespie. Pleased to meet you.' He stuck out his hand. It was gripped, squeezed gently by a hand that felt enormously strong and very dry, and then dropped.
'Richard Throckett Straker,' the bald man said.
'I figured you was,' Parkins said, looking around. The entire shop had been carpeted and was in the process of being painted. The smell of fresh paint was a good one, but there seemed to be another smell underneath it, an unpleasant one. Parkins could not place it; he turned his attention back to Straker.
'What can I do for you on this so-fine day?' Straker asked.
Parkins turned his mild gaze out the window, where the rain continued to pour down.
'Oh, nothing at all, I guess. I just came by to say how-do. More or less welcome you to the town an' wish you good luck, I guess.'
'How thoughtful. Would you care for a coffee? Some sherry? I have both out back.'
'No thanks, I can't stop. Mr Barlow around?'
'Mr Barlow is in New York, on a buying trip. I don't expect him back until at least the tenth of October.'
'You'll be openin' without him, then,' Parkins said, thinking that if the prices he had seen in the window were any indication, Straker wouldn't exactly be swamped with customers. 'What's Mr Barlow's first name, by the way?'
Straker's smile reappeared, razor-thin. 'Are you asking in your official capacity, ah . . . Constable?'
'Nope. Just curious.'
'My partner's full name is Kurt Barlow,' Straker said. 'We have worked together in both London and Hamburg. This' - he swept his arm around him - 'this is our retire?ment. Modest. Yet tasteful. We expect to make no more than a living. Yet we both love old things, fine things, and we hope to make a reputation in the area . . . perhaps even throughout your so-beautiful New England region. Do you think that would be possible, Constable Gillespie?'
'Anything's possible, I guess,' Parkins said, looking around for an ash tray. He saw none, and tapped his cigarette ash into his coat pocket. 'Anyway, I hope you'll have the best of luck, and tell Mr Barlow when you see him that I'm gonna try and get around.'
'I'l I do so,' Straker said. 'He enjoys company.
'That's fine,' Gillespie said. He went to the door, paused, looked back. Straker was looking at him intently. 'By the way, how do you like that old house?'
'It needs a great deal of work,' Straker said. 'But we have time.'
'I guess you do,' Parkins agreed. 'Don't suppose you seen any yow'uns up around there.'
Straker's brow creased. 'Yowwens?'
'Kids,' Parkins explained patiently. 'You know how they sometimes like to devil new folks. Throw rocks or ring the bell an' run away . . . that sort of thing.'
'No,' Straker said. 'No children.'
'We seem to kind have misplaced one.'
'Is that so?'
'Yes,' Parkins said judiciously, 'yes, it is. The thinkin' now is that we may not find him. Not alive.'
'What a shame,' Straker said distantly.
'It is, kinda. If you should see anything . . . '
'I would of course report it to your office, posthaste.' He smiled his chilly smile again.
'That's good,' Parkins said. He opened the door and looked resignedly out at the pouring rain. 'You tell Mr Barlow that I'm lookin' forward.'
'I certainly will, Constable Gillespie. Ciao.'
Parkins looked back, startled. 'Chow?'
Straker's smile widened. 'Good-by, Constable Gillespie. That is the familiar Italian expression for good-by.'
'Oh? Well, you learn somethin' new every day, don't you? 'By.' He stepped out into the rain and closed the door behind him. 'Not familiar to me, it ain't.' His cigarette was soaked. He threw it away.
Inside, Straker watched him up the street through the show window. He was no longer smiling.
When Parkins got back to his office in the Municipal Building, he called, 'Nolly? You here, Nolly?'
No answer. Parkins nodded. Nolly was a good boy, but a little bit short on brains. He took off his coat, unbuckled his galoshes, sat down at his desk, looked up a telephone number in the Portland book, and dialed. The other end picked up on the first ring.
'FBI, Portland. Agent Hanrahan.'
'This is Parkins Gillespie. Constable at Jerusalem's Lot township. We've got us a missin' boy up here.'
'So I understand,' Hanrahan said crisply. 'Ralph Glick. Nine years old, four-three, black hair, blue eyes. What is it, kidnap note?'
'Nothin' like that. Can you check on some fellas for me?'
Hanrahan answered in the affirmative.
'First one is Benjaman Mears. M-E-A-R-S. Writer. Wrote a book called Conway's Daughter. The other two are sorta stapled together. Kurt Barlow. B-A-R-L-O-W. The other guy - '
'You spell that Kurt with a "c" or a "k"?' Hanrahan asked.
'Okay. Go on.'
Parkins did so, sweating. Talking to the real law always made him feel like an asshole. 'The other guy is Richard Throckett Straker. Two t's on the end of Throckett, and Straker like it sounds. This guy and Barlow are in the furniture and antique business. They just opened a little shop here in town. Straker claims Barlow's in New York on a buyin' trip. Straker claims the two of them worked together in London an' Hamburg. And I guess that pretty well covers it.'
'Do you suspect these people in the Glick case?'
'Right now I don't know if there even is a case. But they all showed up in town about the same time.'
'Do you think there's any connection between this guy Mears and the other two?'
Parkins leaned back and cocked an eye out the window. 'That,' he said, 'is one of the things I'd like to find out.'
The telephone wires make an odd humming on clear, cool days, almost as if vibrating with the gossip that is transmitted through them, and it is a sound like no other ?the lonely sound of voices flying over space. The telephone poles are gray and splintery, and the freezes and thaws of winter have heaved them into leaning postures that are casual. They are not businesslike and military, like phone poles anchored in concrete. Their bases are black with tar if they are beside paved roads, and floured with dust if beside the back roads. Old weathered cleat marks show on their surfaces where linemen have climbed to fix some?thing in 1946 or 1952 or 1969. Birds - crows, sparrows, robins, starlings - roost on the humming wires and sit in hunched silence, and perhaps they hear the foreign human sounds through their taloned feet. If so, their beady eyes give no sign. The town has a sense, not of history, but of time, and the telephone poles seem to know this. If you lay your hand against one, you can feel the vibration from the wires deep in the wood, as if souls had been imprisoned in there and were struggling to get out.
' . . . and he paid with an old twenty, Mabel, one of the big ones. Clyde said he hadn't seen one of those since the run on the Gates Bank and Trust in 1930. He was . . . '
' . . . yes, he is a peculiar sort of man, Evvie. I've seen him through my binocs, trundling around behind the house with a wheelbarrer. Is he up there alone, I wonder, or . . . '
' . . . Crockett might know, but he won't tell. He's keep?ing shut about it. He always was a . . . '
' . . . writer at Eva's. I wonder if Floyd Tibbits knows he's been . . . '
' . . . spends an awful lot of time at the library. Loretta Starcher says she never saw a fella who knew so many . . . '
' . . . she said his name was . . . '
' . . . yes, it's Straker. Mr R. T. Straker. Kenny Danles's mom said she stopped by that new place downtown and there was a genuine DeBiers cabinet in the window and they wanted eight hundred dollars for it. Can you imagine? So I said . . . '
' . . . funny, him coming and that little Glick boy . . . '
' . . . you don't think . . . '
' . . . no, but it is funny. By the way, do you still have that recipe for . . . '
The wires hum. And hum. And hum.
Name: Glick, Daniel Francis
Address: RFD #I, Brock Road, Jerusalem's Lot, Maine 04270
Age: 12 Sex: Male Race: Caucasian
Admitted: 9/22/75 Admitting Person: Anthony H. Glick (Father)
Symptoms: Shock, loss of memory (partial), nausea, disinterest in food, constipation, general loginess
Tests (see attached sheet):
1. Tuberculosis skin patch: Neg.
2. Tuberculosis sputum and urine: Neg.
3. Diabetes: Neg.
4. White cell count: Neg.
5. Red cell count: 45% hemo.
6. Marrow sample: Neg.
7. Chest X ray: Neg.
Possible diagnosis: Pernicious anemia, primary or sec?ondary; previous exam shows 86% hemoglobin. Sec?ondary anemia is unlikely; no history of ulcers, hemorrhoids, bleeding piles, et al. Differential cell count neg. Primary anemia combined with mental shock likely. Recommend barium enema and X rays for internal bleeding on the off-chance, yet no recent accidents, father says. Also recommend daily dosage of vitamin B12 (see attached sheet).
Pending further tests, let's release him.
G. M. Gorby
At one o'clock in the morning, September 24, t nurse stepped into Danny Glick's hospital room to give him his medication. She paused in the doorway, frowning. The bed was empty.
Her eyes jumped from the bed to the oddly wasted white bundle that lay collapsed by the foot. 'Danny?' she said.
She stepped toward him and thought, He had to go to the bathroom and it was too much for him, that's all.
She turned him over gently, and her first thought before realizing that he was dead was that the B12 had been helping; he looked better than he had since his admission.
And then she felt the cold flesh of his wrist and the lack of movement in the light blue tracery of veins beneath her fingers, and she ran for the nurses' station to report a death on the ward.