Saturday, March 9, 2019


St ingest your appoint for the record.Michael Noonan.Your channelise?Derry is my permanent squ both, 14 Benton thoroughfare, scarce I withal maintain a home in TR-90, on Dark Score Lake. The mailing address is Box 832. The actual h gray-headed is on Lane Forty- devil, off course 68.Elmer Durgin, Kyra Devores guardian ad litem, waved a pudgy hap in introductory of his exhibit, either to shoo amodal value somewhat troublesome insect or to tell me that was enough. I agreed that it was. I felt rather exchange satisfactory the sm whole told-scale girl in Our T sustain, who gave her address as Grovers Corner, New Hampshire, America, the blue Hemisphere, the World, the Solar System, the Milky room Galaxy, the Mind of God. Mostly I was nervous. Id r individuallyed the shape up of forty passive a virgin in the argona of approach proceedings, and although we were in the conference room of Durgin, Peters, and Jarrette on Bridge Street in move brandish, this was still a c ourt proceeding. on that point was sensation mentionably un however detail to these festivities. The stenographer wasnt using bakingshot of those keyboards-on-a-post that touch sensation same(p) adding machines, tho a Stenomask, a gad bump which fit over the lower unrivalled-half of his calculate. I had seen them before, simply exclusively in old black-and-white criminal offence movies, the whizs where Dan Duryea or fanny Payne is etern aloney cause roughly in a Buick with portholes on the sides, lifeing grim and smoking a Camel. Glancing over into the corner and seeing a cat-o-nine-tails who looked same(p) the earthly concerns oldest fighter-pilot was weird enough, simply sense of get going wording every thing you verbalize immediately rep squandered in a muffled droning was even weirder.Thank you, Mr. Noonan. My wife has read every at long last(predicate) your books and ranges you are her preferent author. I still trea undis intrust up to(p)d to get that on the record. Durgin chuckled fatly. wherefore non? He was a fat goof. Most fat people I alike they substantiate expansive natures to go with their expansive waistlines. But in that heed is a subgroup which I remember of as the Evil junior-grade modify Folks. You dont motivation to fuck with the ELFFS if you can friend it they will burn your house and rape your dog if you give them half an excuse and a quarter of an opportunity. Few of them stand over five-foot- twain (Durgins height, I estimated), and numerous are beneath five feet. They smile a lot, only their pith dont smile. The Evil Little Fat Folks hate the whole world. Mostly they hate kinfolk who can look d ready the length of their bodies and still see their own feet. This included me, although simply barely.Please thank your wife for me, Mr. Durgin. Im sure she could exhort one for you to start on.Durgin chuckled. On his adept, Durgins assistant a pretty new-fashioned woman who looked ap proximately seventeen transactions stunned of law work chuckled. On my left, Romeo Bissonette chuckled. In the corner, the worlds oldest F- 111 pilot only went on muttering into his Stenomask.Ill waitress for the big-screen version, he state. His eyes gave an slimed midget gleam, as if he knew a feature film had neer been make from one of my books only a make-for-TV movie of Being Two that pulled ratings roughly equal to the National waiting room Refinishing Championships. I hoped that wed completed this chubby little fucks desire of the pleasantries.I am Kyra Devores guardian ad litem, he said. Do you know what that means, Mr. Noonan?I moot I do.It means, Durgin cuckolded on, that Ive been appointed by judge Rancourt to decide if I can where Kyra Devores go around inte recesss lie, should a custody judgment be baffle necessary. Judge Rancourt would not, in such an event, be required to base his decision on my conclusions, exactly in umpteen elusions that is what happens.He looked at me with his get tos folded on a blank legal pad. The pretty assistant, on the new(prenominal) hand, was scribbling madly. perhaps she didnt trust the fighter-pilot. Durgin looked as if he expected a round of applause.Was that a doubt, Mr. Durgin? I asked and Romeo Bissonette delivered a light, practiced chip to my ankle. I didnt pauperism to look at him to know it wasnt an accident.Durgin pursed lips so smooth and damp that he looked as if he were wearing a clear gloss on them. On his shining pate, roughly two dozen strands of hair were combed in smooth little arcs. He gave me a patient, measuring look. Behind it was on the whole the intransigent ugliness of an Evil Little Fat Folk. The pleasantries were over, every(prenominal) right. I was sure of it.No, Mr. Noonan, that was not a capitulum. I simply impression you mightiness like to know why weve had to ask you to set away from your adorable lake on such a pleasant morning. Perhaps I was wrong. No w, if at that place was a peremptory knock on the door, honoured by your friend and his, George Footman. at present Cleveland Casual had been re primed(p) by a khaki alternate Sheriffs uniform, complete with surface-to-air missile Browne belt and sidearm. He helped himself to a life-threatening look at the assistants bustline, dis compete in a blue silk blouse, therefore handed her a booklet and a cassette tape recorder. He gave me one brief gander before leaving. I remember you, buddy, that glance said. The smartass writer, the cheap date.Romeo Bissonette tipped his head toward me. He employ the side of his hand to bridge the gap between his m give awayh and my ear. Devores tape, he said.I nodded to show I mum, accordingly daily rounded to Durgin again.Mr. Noonan, youve met Kyra Devore and her m other, Mary Devore, gont you?How did you get Mattie out of Mary, I wondered . . . and consequently knew, right as I had know nigh the white shorts and halter top. Mattie was how Ki had kickoff as record to swan Mary.Mr. Noonan, are we keeping you up? on that points no need to be sarcastic, is there? Bissonette asked. His tone was mild, but Elmer Durgin gave him a look which suggested that, should the ELFFS succeed in their goal of world domination, Bissonette would be aboard the archetypical gulag-bound boxcar.Im sorry, I said before Durgin could reply. I just got derailed there for a second or two.New story idea? Durgin asked, smiling his glossy smile. He looked like a swamp-toad in a sportcoat. He glum to the old park pilot, told him to strike that last, accordingly repeated his query or so Kyra and Mattie.Yes, I said, I had met them.Once or more than at a time?More than once.How many meter attain you met them?Twice. endure you also speak to Mary Devore on the song up?Already these questions were moving in a counselor that made me uncomfortable.Yes.How many clippings?Three times. The third had come the day before, when she had asked if I would merge her and outhouse Storrow for a picnic lunch on the townspeople third estate after my deposition. Lunch right there in the middle of town before God and everybody . . . although, with a New York lawyer to play chaperone, what deadening in that?Have you spoken to Kyra Devore on the telephone?What an odd question not one anybody had prepared me for, either. I supposed that was at least(prenominal) partly why he had asked it.Mr. Noonan?Yes, Ive spoken to her once.Can you tell us the nature of that communion? easily . . . I looked doubtfully at Bissonette, but there was no help there. He obviously didnt know, either. Mattie Pardon me? Durgin leaned preliminary as untold as he could. His eyes were intent in their pink pockets of flesh. Mattie?Mattie Devore. Mary Devore.You phone call her Mattie?Yes, I said, and had a wild nervous impulse to add In bed In bed I call her that Oh Mattie, dont stop, dont stop, I cry Its the name she gave me when she introduced he rself. I met her We may get to that, but right now Im interested in your telephone conversation with Kyra Devore. When was that?It was yesterday.July ninth, 1998.Yes.Who placed that call?Ma . . . Mary Devore. Now hell ask why she called, I apprehension, and Ill enounce she needed to have yet another(prenominal) sex marathon, rousing to consist of feeding each other chocolate-dipped strawberries charm we look at pictures of naked malformed dwarves. How did Kyra Devore happen to speak to you?She asked if she could. I heard her verbalise to her vex that she had to tell me something.What was it she had to tell you?That she had her get-go bubble bath.Did she also say she coughed?I was quiet, face at him. In that moment I unders withald why people hate lawyers, especially when theyve been dusted over by one whos unspoilt at the job.Mr. Noonan, would you like me to repeat the question?No, I said, query where hed gotten his information. Had these bastards tapped Matties phone? My phone? Both? Perhaps for the first time I understood on a gut level what it must be like to have half a billion dollars. With that much scratching you could tap a lot of telephones. She said her mother pushed bubbles in her face and she coughed. But she was Thank you, Mr. Noonan, now lets turn to Let him finish, Bissonette said. I had an idea he had already apportionn a bigger part in the proceedings than he had expected to, but he didnt seem to mind. He was a sleepy-looking man with a bloodhounds mournful, trustworthy face. This isnt a courtroom, and youre not cross-examining him.I have the little girls welfare to think of, Durgin said. He sounded both apostolic and humble at the same time, a junto that went together like chocolate sauce on creamed corn. Its a responsibility I take very seriously. If I seemed to be badgering you, Mr. Noonan, I apologize.I didnt perplex accepting his apology that would have made us both phonies. completely I was red ink to say is that Ki was laughing when she said it. She said she and her mother had a bubble-fight. When her mother came post on, she was laughing, too.Durgin had opened the folder Footman had brought him and was p advance rapidly through it dapple I spoke, as if he werent hearing a word. Her mother . . . Mattie, as you call her.Yes. Mattie as I call her. How do you know about our private telephone conversation in the first place?Thats none of your business, Mr. Noonan. He selected a single piece of radical of paper, then shuttingd the folder. He held the paper up briefly, like a doctor carrying an X-ray, and I could see it was covered with single-spaced typing. Lets turn to your initial meeting with Mary and Kyra Devore. That was on the Fourth of July, wasnt it?Yes. Durgin was nodding. The morning of the Fourth. And you met Kyra Devore first.Yes.You met her first because her mother wasnt with her at that time, was she?Thats a badly phrased question, Mr. Durgin, but I barb the answer is yes. Im flattered to have my grammar corrected by a man whos been on the bestseller lists, Durgin said, smiling. The smile suggested that hed like to see me sitting contiguous to Romeo Bissonette in that first gulag-bound boxcar. Tell us about your meeting, first with Kyra Devore and then with Mary Devore. Or Mattie, if you like that purify.I told the story. When I was finished, Durgin bosomed the tape player in front of him. The nails of his pudgy fingers looked as glossy as his lips.Mr. Noonan, you could have browse Kyra over, isnt that true?Absolutely not. I was going thirty-five thats the look on it destine there by the store. I saw her in plenty of time to stop.Suppose you had been coming the other way, though heading north preferably of south. Would you still have seen her in plenty of time?That was a fairer question than some of his others, actually. Someone coming the other way would have had a far shorter time to react. Still . . .Yes, I said.Durgin went up with the ey ebrows. Youre sure of that?Yes, Mr. Durgin. I might have had to come down a little harder on the brakes, but At thirty-five.Yes, at thirty-five. I told you, thats the go limit -on that particular proposition stretch of Route 68. Yes, you told me that. You did. Is it your experience that almost people ensue the quicken limit on that part of the road?I havent spent much time on the TR since 1993, so I cant Come on, Mr. Noonan this isnt a facet from one of your books. Just answer my questions, or well be here all morning.Im doing my best, Mr. Durgin.He sighed, impersonate-upon. Youve owned your place on Dark Score Lake since the eighties, havent you? And the speed limit around the Lakeview General Store, the post office, and Dick Brookss every last(predicate)-Purpose service department whats called The North Village hasnt changed since then, has it?No, I admitted.Returning to my original question, then in your remark, do most people on that stretch of road obey the thi rty-five-mile-an-hour limit?I cant say if its most, because Ive never done a work survey, but I guess a lot dont.Would you like to hear Castle County Sheriffs Deputy Footman testify on where the greatest number of rush along tickets are given out in TR-90, Mr. Noonan?No, I said, kinda honestly.Did other vehicles pass you while you were speaking first with Kyra Devore and then with Mary Devore?Yes.How many?I dont know exactly. A pit.Could it have been ternary?I guess. quintet?No, probably not so many.But you dont know, exactly, do you?Because Kyra Devore was upset.Actually she had it together pretty well for a Did she cry in your presence?Well . . . yes.Did her mother make her cry?Thats unfair.As unfair as allowing a three-year-old to go strolling down the middle of a busy highway on a holiday morning, in your opinion, or perhaps not quite as unfair as that?Jeepers, lay off, Mr. Bissonette said mildly. there was tribulation on his bloodhounds face.I ask out the question, Dur gin said.Which one? I asked.He looked at me tiredly, as if to say he had to put up with assholes like me all the time and he was used to how we behaved. How many cars went by from the time you picked the minor up and carried her to safety to the time when you and the Devores parted company?I detest that carried her to safety bit, but even as I formulated my answer, the old guy was muttering the question into his Stenomask. And it was in fact what I had done. There was no getting around it.I told you, I dont know for sure.Well, give me a guesstimate.Guesstimate. unity of my all-time least favorite words. A Paul Harvey word. There might have been three.Including Mary Devore herself?. Driving a He consulted the paper hed taken from the folder. a 1982 Jeep observe?I belief of Ki saying Mattie go prompt and understood where Durgin was heading now. And there was zero point I could do about it.Yes, it was her and it was a Scout. I dont know what year.Was she driving below the po sted speed limit, at the posted speed limit, or above the posted speed limit when she passed the place where you were standing with Kyra in your blazonry?Shed been doing at least fifty, but I told Durgin I couldnt say for sure. He urged me to try I know you are unfamiliar with the hangmans knot, Mr. Noonan, but Im sure you can make one if you really work at it and I declined as politely as I could.He picked up the paper again. Mr. Noonan, would it surprise you to know that two witnesses Richard Brooks, Junior, the owner of Dicks All-Purpose Garage, and Royce Merrill, a retired carpenter claim that Mrs. Devore was doing well over thirty-five when she passed your location?I dont know, I said. I was concerned with the little girl.Would it surprise you to know that Royce Merrill estimated her speed at sixty miles an hour?Thats ridiculous. When she hit the brakes she would have skidded crabwise and landed upside down in the ditch.The skid-marks measured by Deputy Footman indicate a speed of at least fifty miles an hour, Durgin said. It wasnt a question, but he looked at me virtually roguishly, as if inviting me to struggle a little more and sink a little deeper into this nasty pit. I said nothing. Durgin folded his pudgy little work force and leaned over them toward me. The roguish look was gone.Mr. Noonan, if you hadnt carried Kyra Devore to the side of the road if you hadnt rescued her mightnt her own mother have thrash her over?Here was the really loaded question, and how should I answer it? Bissonette was sure enough not flashing any helpful signals he seemed to be act to make meaningful eye-contact with the pretty assistant. I thought of the book Mattie was construe in tandem with Bartleby Silent Witness, by Richard North Patterson. Unlike the Grisham brand, Pattersons lawyers nigh always seemed to know what they were doing. Objection, Your honor, calls for speculation on the part of the witness.I shrugged. Sorry, counsellor, cant say left my c rystal ball home.Again I saw the ugly flash in Durgins eyes. Mr. Noonan, I can assure you that if you dont answer that question here, you are apt to be called can from Malibu or Fire Island or wherever it is youre going to write your next opus to answer it afterwards on.I shrugged. Ive already told you I was concerned with the infant. I cant tell you how fast the mother was going, or how good Royce Merrills vision is, or if Deputy Footman even measured the right set of skid-marks. Theres a whole bunch of natural rubber on that part of the road, I can tell you. Suppose she was going fifty? Even fifty-five, lets say that. Shes twenty-one years old, Durgin. At the age of twenty-one, a persons driving skills are at their peak. She probably would have swerved around the child, and easily.I think thats quite enough.Why? Because youre not getting what you indispensabilityed? Bissonettes shoe clipped my ankle again, but I ignored it. If youre on Kyras side, why do you sound as though y oure on her grand finds?A baleful little smile touched Durgins lips. The kind that says Okay, smart guy, you emergency to play? He pulled the tape-recorder a little closer to him. Since you have mentioned Kyras grandfather, Mr. maxwell Devore of Palm Springs, lets talk about him a little, shall we?Its your show.Have you ever spoken with Maxwell Devore?Yes.In person or on the phone?Phone. I thought about adding that he had somehow gotten hold of my unlisted number, then remembered that Mattie had, too, and decided to keep my mouth shut on that subject.When was this?Last Saturday wickedness. The night of the Fourth. He called while I was think ofing the fireworks.And was the subject of your conversation that mornings little adventure? As he asked, Durgin reached into his pocket and brought out a cassette tape. There was an ostentatious choice to this gesture in that moment he looked like a parlor magician showing you both sides of a silk handkerchief. And he was bluffing. I couldnt be sure of that . . . and yet I was. Devore had taped our conversation, all right that underhum really had been too loud, and on some level Id been conscious of that fact even while I was talking to him and I thought it really was on the cassette Durgin was now slotting into the cassette player . . . but it was a bluff.I dont recall, I said.Durgins hand froze in the act of snapping the cassettes transparent loading board shut. He looked at me with frank disbelief . . . and something else. I thought the something else was affect anger.You dont recall? Come now, Mr. Noonan. Surely writers train themselves to recall conversations, and this one was only a week ago. Tell me what you talked about.I really cant say, I told him in a stolid, discolorless voice. For a moment Durgin looked almost panicky. then(prenominal) his features smoothed. One polished fingernail slipped back and frontwards over keys marked REW, FF, PLAY, and REC. How did Mr. Devore begin the conversation? he ask ed.He said hello, I said mildly, and there was a short muffled sound from behind the Stenomask. It could have been the old guy clearing his throat it could have been a suppressed laugh.Spots of color were blooming in Durgins cheeks. After hello? What then?I dont recall.Did he ask you about that morning?I dont recall.Didnt you tell him that Mary Devore and her young woman were together, Mr. Noonan? That they were together picking flowers? Isnt that what you told this worried grandfather when he inquired about the possibility which was the talk of the township that Fourth of July?Oh boy, Bissonette said. He raised one hand over the table, then touched the palm with the fingers of the other, making a refs T. fourth dimension out.Durgin looked at him. The flush in his cheeks was more pronounced now, and his lips had pulled back enough to show the tips of small, neatly capped teeth. What do you want? he almost snarled, as if Bissonette had just dropped by to tell him about the Mormon Way or perhaps the Rosicrucians.I want you to stop leading this guy, and I want that whole thing about picking flowers stricken from the record, Bissonette said.Why?Durgin snapped. Because youre nerve-racking to get stuff on the record that this witness wont say. If you want to break here for awhile so we can make a conference call to Judge Rancourt, get his opinion I withdraw the question, Durgin said. He looked at me with a kind of helpless, surly rage. Mr. Noonan, do you want to help me do my job?I want to help Kyra Devore if I can, I said.Very well. He nodded as if no distinction had been made. hence please tell me what you and Maxwell Devore talked about.I cant recall. I caught his eyes and held them. Perhaps, I said, you can refresh my recollection.There was a moment of silence, like that which sometimes strikes a high-stakes poker game just after the last of the bets have been made and just before the players show their hands. Even the old fighter-pilot was quiet, his eyes unblinking above the mask. Then Durgin pushed the cassette player aside with the heel of his hand (the set of his mouth said he felt about it just then as I lots felt about the telephone) and went back to the morning of July Fourth. He never asked about my dinner with Mattie and Ki on Tuesday night, and never returned to my telephone conversation with Devore the one where I had said all those awkward and easily disprovable things.I went on answering questions until eleven-thirty, but the interrogate really ended when Durgin pushed the tape-player away with the heel of his hand. I knew it, and Im pretty sure he did, too.Mike Mike, over hereMattie was waving from one of the tables in the picnic area behind the town commons bandstand. She looked vibrant and happy. I waved back and made my way in that direction, weaving between little kids vie tag, skirting a couple of teenagers making out on the grass, and submerging a Frisbee which a leaping German shepherd caught smartly.There was a tall, scrape upny redhead with her, but I barely got a endangerment to notice him. Mattie met me while I was still on the gravel path, put her arms around me, hugged me it was no prudey little ass-poking-out hug, either and then kissed me on the mouth hard enough to push my lips against my teeth. There was a lustful smack when she disengaged. She pulled back and looked at me with undisguised delight. Was it the biggest kiss youve ever had?The biggest in at least four years, I said. Will you settle for that? And if she didnt step away from me in the next few seconds, she was going to have physiological proof of how much I had enjoyed it.I guess Ill have to. She turned to the redheaded guy with a funny kind of defiance. Was that all right?Probably not, he said, but at least youre not before long in view of those old boys at the All-Purpose Garage. Mike, Im sewer Storrow. prudish to meet you in person.I liked him at once, perhaps because Id come upon him dressed(p) in his three-piece New York suit and primly picture out paper plates on a picnic table while his curly red hair blew around his head like kelp. His skin was fair and freckled, the kind which would never tan, only burn and then uncase in great eczema-like patches. When we shook, his hand seemed to be all knuckles. He had to be at least thirty, but he looked Matties age, and I guessed it would be another five years before he was able to get a drink without showing his drivers license.Sit down, he said. Weve got a five-course lunch, courtesy of Castle Rock Variety grinders, which are for some strange reason called Italian sandwiches up here . . . mozzarella sticks . . . garlic fries . . . Twinkies.Thats only four, I said.I forgot the soft-drink course, he said, and pulled three long-neck bottles of SOK birch beer out of a brown bag. Lets eat. Mattie supplys the subroutine library from two to eight on Fridays and Saturdays, and this would be a bad time for her to be missing work.How did the readers circle go last night? I asked. Lindy Briggs didnt eat you alive, I see.She laughed, clasped her hands, and shook them over her head. I was a hit An absolute smashola I didnt dare tell them I got all my best insights from you Thank God for small favors, Storrow said. He was freeing his own sandwich from its string and butcher-paper wrapping, doing it carefully and a little dubiously, using just the tips of his fingers. so I said I looked in a couple of books and found some leads there. It was sort of wonderful. I felt like a college kid.Good.Bissonette? John Storrow asked. Wheres he? I never met a guy named Romeo before. utter he had to go right back to Lewiston. Sorry.Actually its best we hold fast small, at least to begin with. He bit into his sandwich they come tucked into long sub rolls and looked at me, surprised. This isnt bad.Eat more than three and youre hooked for life, Mattie said, and chomped heartily into her own.Tell us about the depo, John said, and while they ate, I talked. When I finished, I picked up my own sandwich and played a little catch-up. Id forgotten how good an Italian can be sweet, sour, and oily all at the same time. Of course nothing that tastes that good can be healthy thats a given. I suppose one could formulate a similar postulate about full-body hugs from young girls in legal trouble.Very interesting, John said. Very interesting indeed. He took a mozzarella stick from its grease-stained bag, broke it open, and looked with a kind of fascinated horror at the clotted white gunk inside. People up here eat this? he asked.People in New York eat fish-bladders, I said. Raw. abut? He dipped a piece into the plastic container of spaghetti sauce (in this consideration it is called cheese-dip in western Maine), then ate it.Well? I asked.Not bad. They ought to be a lot hotter, though.Yes, he was right about that. have cold mozzarella sticks is a little like eating cold snot, an observation I thought I would keep to my self on this beautiful midsummer Friday.If Durgin had the tape, why wouldnt he play it? Mattie asked. I dont understand.John stretched his arms out, cockamamy his knuckles, and looked at her benignly. Well probably never know for sure, he said.He thought Devore was going to drop the suit it was in every line of his body-language and every inflection of his voice. That was hopeful, but it would be good if Mattie didnt allow herself to become too hopeful. John Storrow wasnt as young as he looked, and probably not as guileless, either (or so I fervently hoped), but he was young. And neither he nor Mattie knew the story of Scooter Larribees sled. Or had seen Bill Deans face when he told it.Want to hear some possibilities?Sure, I said.John put down his sandwich, wiped his fingers, and then began to tick off points. First, he made the call. attach conversations have a highly dubious value under those circumstances. Second, he didnt exactly come off like Captain Kangaroo, did he?No.Thi rd, your falsehood impugns you, Mike, but not really very much, and it doesnt impugn Mattie at all. And by the way, that thing about Mattie pushing bubbles in Kyras face, I love that. If thats the best they can do, they better give it up right now. Last and this is where the justness probably lies I think Devores got Nixons Disease.Nixons Disease? Mattie asked.The tape Durgin had isnt the only tape. Cant be. And your father-in-law is alarmed that if he introduces one tape made by whatever organisation hes got in Warringtons, we might subpoena all of them. And Id damn well try.She looked bewildered. What could be on them? And if its bad, why not just destroy them?Maybe he cant, I said. Maybe he needs them for other reasons.It doesnt really matter, John said. Durgin was bluffing, and thats what matters. He hit the heel of his hand lightly against the picnic table. I think hes going to drop it. I really do.Its too archean to start thinking like that, I said at once, but I could tell by Matties face shining more brilliantly than ever that the damage was done.Fill him in on what else youve been doing, Mattie told John. Then Ive got to get to the library.Where do you send Kyra on your workdays? I asked.Mrs. Cullums. She lives two miles up the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Hill Road. Also in July theres VBS from ten until three. Thats holiday Bible School. Ki loves it, especially the singing and the flannel-board stories about Noah and Moses. The bus drops her off at Arlenes, and I pick her up around quarter of nine. She smiled a little wistfully. By then shes usually fast asleep on the couch.John held forth for the next ten minutes or so. He hadnt been on the case long, but had already started a lot of balls rolling. A fellow in California was gathering facts about Roger Devore and Morris Ridding (gathering facts sounded so much better than snooping). John was particularly interested in learning about the quality of Roger Devores relations with his father, and if Roger was on record concerning his little niece from Maine. John had also mapped out a campaign to learn as much as achievable about Max Devores movements and activities since hed come back to TR-90. To that end he had the name of a private investigator, one recommended by Romeo Bissonette, my rent-a-lawyer.As he spoke, pagination rapidly through a little notebook he draw from the inside pocket of his suitcoat, I remembered what hed said about Lady justness during our telephone conversation Slap some handcuffs on that broads wrists and some tape over her mouth to go along with the blindfold, rape her and roll her in the mud. That was maybe a bit too strong for what we were doing, but I thought at the very least we were shoving her around a little. I imagined poor Roger Devore up on the stand, having flown three thousand miles in order to be questioned about his sexual preferences. I had to keep reminding myself that his father had put him in that position, not Mattie or me or John Storrow.Have you gotten any closer to a meeting with Devore and his chief legal consultant? I asked.Dont know for sure. The line is in the water, the offer is on the table, the pucks on the ice, pick your favorite metaphor, mix em and match em if you desire.Got your iron in the fire, Mattie said.Your checkers on the board, I added.We looked at each other and laughed. John regarded us sadly, then sighed, picked up his sandwich, and began to eat again.You really have to meet him with his lawyer more or less dancing attendance? I asked.Would you like to win this thing, then discover Devore can do it all again based on unethical behavior by Mary Devores legal resource? John returned.Dont even joke about it Mattie cried.I wasnt joking, John said. It has to be with his lawyer, yes. I dont think its going to happen, not on this trip. I havent even got a look at the old cockuh, and I have to tell you my curiosity is killing me.If thats all it takes to make you happy, show up be hind the backstop at the softball field of battle next Tuesday evening, Mattie said. Hell be there in his fancy wheelchair, laughing and hand clapping and sucking his damned old oxygen every fifteen minutes or so.Not a bad idea, John said. I have to go back to New York for the weekend Im leaving aprs Osgood but maybe Ill show up on Tuesday. I might even put down my glove. He began clearing up our litter, and once again I thought he looked both prissy and endearing at the same time, like Stan Laurel wearing an apron. Mattie eased him aside and took over.No one ate any Twinkles, she said, a little sadly.Take them home to your daughter, John said.No way. I dont let her eat stuff like this. What kind of mother do you think I am? She saw our fonts, replayed what shed just said, then burst out laughing. We joined her.Matties old Scout was parked in one of the slant spaces behind the war memorial, which in Castle Rock is a World War I soldier with a lavish helping of birdshit on his pie-dish helmet. A brand-new Taurus with a oscillation decal above the inspection sticker was parked next to it. John tossed his briefcase reassuringly thin and not very ostentatious into the back seat.If I can make it back on Tuesday, Ill call you, he told Mattie. If Im able to get an appointment with your father-in-law through this man Osgood, I will also call you.Ill buy the Italian sandwiches, Mattie said.He smiled, then grasped her arm in one hand and mine in the other. He looked like a newly ordained minister getting ready to marry his first couple.You two talk on the telephone if you need to, he said, always remembering that one or both lines may be tapped. fit in the market if you happen to. Mike, you might feel a need to drop by the local library and check out a book.Not until you renew your card, though, Mattie said, giving me a demure glance.But no more visits to Matties trailer. Is that understood?I said yes she said yes John Storrow looked unconvinced. It made me w onder if he was seeing something in our faces or bodies that shouldnt be there.They are committed to a line of attack which probably isnt going to work, he said. We cant risk giving them the chance to change course. That means innuendos about the two of you it also means innuendos about Mike and Kyra.Matties shocked expression made her look twelve again. Mike and Kyra What are you talking about?Allegations of child molestation thrown up by people so do-or-die(a) theyll try anything.Thats ridiculous, she said. And if my father-in-law valued to sling that kind of mud John nodded. Yes, wed be obligated to sling it right back. Newspaper coverage from brim to coast would follow, maybe even Court TV, God bless and save us. We want none of that if we can avoid it. Its not good for the grownups, and its not good for the child. Now or later.He bent and kissed Matties cheek.Im sorry about all this, he said, and he did sound genuinely sorry. Custodys just this way.I think you warned me. It s just that . . . the idea psyche might make a thing like that up just because there was no other way for them to win . . . Let me warn you again, he said. His face came as close to grim as its young and good-natured features would probably allow. What we have is a very rich man with a very shaky case. The combination could be like working with old dynamite.I turned to Mattie. are you still worried about Ki? Still feel shes in danger?I saw her think about hedging her reception out of plain old Yankee reserve, quite likely and then deciding not to. Deciding, perhaps, that hedging was a luxury she couldnt afford.Yes. But its just a feeling, you know.John was frowning. I supposed the idea that Devore might lose to extralegal means of obtaining what he wanted had occurred to him, as well. Keep your eye on her as much as you can, he said. I respect intuition. Is yours based on anything concrete?No, Mattie answered, and her quick glance in my direction asked me to keep my mouth shut . Not really. She opened the Scouts door and tossed in the little brown bag with the Twinkies in it she had decided to keep them after all. Then she turned to John and me with an expression that was close to anger. Im not sure how to follow that advice, anyway. I work five days a week, and in August, when we do the microfiche update, itll be six. Right now Ki gets her lunch at Vacation Bible School and her dinner from Arlene Cullum. I see her in the mornings. The rest of the time . . . I knew what she was going to say before she said it the expression was an old one. . . . shes on the TR.I could help you find an au pair, I said, thinking it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than John Storrow.No, they said in such perfect unison that they glanced at each other and laughed. But even while she was laughing, Mattie looked tense and unhappy.Were not going to leave a paper trail for Durgin or Devores custody aggroup to exploit, John said. Who pays me is one thing. Who pays Matties child -care help is another.Besides, Ive taken enough from you, Mattie said. More than I can sleep easy on. Im not going to get in any deeper just because Ive been having megrims. She climbed into the Scout and closed the door.I rested my hands on her open window. Now we were on the same level, and the eye-contact was so strong it was disconcerting. Mattie, I dont have anything else to spend it on. Really.When it comes to Johns fee, I accept that. Because Johns fee is about Ki. She put her hand over mine and squeezed briefly. This other is about me. All right?Yeah. But you need to tell your babysitter and the people who run this Bible thing that youve got a custody case on your hands, a potentially bitter one, and Kyras not to go anywhere with anyone, even someone they know, without your say-so.She smiled. Its already been done. On Johns advice. Stay in touch, Mike. She lifted my hand, gave it a accessible smack, and drove away.What do you think? I asked John as we watched the Scout blow oil on its way to the new Prouty Bridge, which spans Castle Street and spills outbound traffic onto Highway 68.I think its grand she has a well-heeled benefactor and a smart lawyer, John said. He paused, then added But Ill tell you some-thing she somehow doesnt feel lucky to me at all. Theres a feeling I get . . . I dont know . . . That theres a tarnish around her you cant quite see.Maybe. Maybe thats it. He raked his hands through the wide awake mass of his red hair. I just know its something sad.I knew exactly what he meant . . . except for me there was more. I wanted to be in bed with her, sad or not, right or not. I wanted to feel her hands on me, tugging and pressing, patting and stroking. I wanted to be able to smell her skin and taste her hair. I wanted to have her lips against my ear, her glimmer tickling the fine hairs within its cup as she told me to do what I wanted, whatever I wanted.I got back to Sara Laughs shortly before two oclock and let myself in, thinking abo ut nothing but my study and the IBM with the courier ball. I was writing again writing. I could still hardly rely it. Id work (not that it felt much like work after a four-year layoff) until maybe six oclock, swim, then go down to the Village coffee shop for one of Buddys cholesterol-rich specialties.The moment I stepped through the door, Bunters bell began to ring stridently. I stopped in the foyer, my hand frozen on the knob. The house was hot and bright, not a shadow anywhere, but the gooseflesh forming on my arms felt like midnight.Whos here? I called. The bell stopped ringing. There was a moment of silence, and then a woman shrieked. It came from everywhere, pouring out of the sunny, mote-laden air like sweat out of hot skin. It was a call out of outrage, anger, grief . . . but mostly, I think, of horror. And I screamed in response. I couldnt help it. I had been frightened standing in the dark cellar stairwell, audience to the unseen fist thump on the insulation, but this was far worse.It never stopped, that scream. It faded, as the childs sobs had faded faded as if the person sidesplitter was universe carried rapidly down a long corridor and away from me.At last it was gone.I leaned against the bookcase, my palm pressed against my tee-shirt, my heart galloping beneath it. I was gasping for breath, and my muscles had that foil exploded feel they get after youve had a bad scare.A minute passed. My heartbeat gradually slowed, and my breathing slowed with it. I straightened up, took a tottery step, and when my legs held me, took two more. I stood in the kitchen doorway, looking across to the living room. supra the fireplace, Bunter the moose looked glassily back at me. The bell around his neck hung still and chimeless. A hot sunpoint glowed on its side. The only sound was that stupid Felix the cat clock in the kitchen.The thought nagging at me, even then, was that the screaming woman had been Jo, that Sara Laughs was being haunted by my wife, and t hat she was in pain. Dead or not, she was in pain.Jo? I asked quietly. Jo, are you The sobbing began again the sound of a terrified child. At the same moment my mouth and nose once more filled with the iron taste of the lake. I put one hand to my throat, gagging and frightened, then leaned over the sink and spat. It was as it had been before kind of of voiding a gush of water, nothing came out but a little spit. The waterlogged feeling was gone as if it had never been there.I stayed where I was, grasping the counter and bent over the sink, probably looking like a drunk who has finished the party by upchucking most of the nights bottled cheer. I felt like that, too stunned and bleary, too overload to really understand what was going on.At last I straightened up again, took the towel folded over the dishwashers handle, and wiped my face with it. There was tea in the fridge, and I wanted a tall, ice-choked glass of it in the worst way. I reached for the doorknob and froze.The fr uit and vegetable magnets were drawn into a circle again. In the center was thishelp im drownThats it, I thought. Im getting out of here. Right now. Today. nevertheless an hour later I was up in my stifling study with a glass of tea on the desk beside me (the cubes in it long since melted), dressed only in my bathing trunks and lost in the world I was making the one where a private detective named Andy Drake was trying to prove that John Shackleford was not the serial killer nicknamed Baseball Cap.This is how we go on one day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time. Dentists go on one root-canal at a time boat-builders go on one hull at a time. If you write books, you go on one page at a time. We turn from all we know and all we fear. We study catalogues, watch football games, choose Sprint over AT. We count the birds in the slope and will not turn from the window when we hear the footsteps behind us as something comes up the hall we say yes, I agr ee that clouds often look like other things fish and unicorns and men on ahorseback but they are really only clouds. Even when the lightning flashes inside them we say they are only clouds and turn our attention to the next meal, the next pain, the next breath, the next page. This is how we go on.

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