Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER SIX
“Don't blaspheme the name of the Savior, Herbert.
“Shut up! Shut up! I'm tired of listening to you rave about that crap!”
She drew in a startled gasp.
He limped over to her, his cane thumping the floor in counterpoint. She flinched back a little in her chair and then looked up at him with that sweet martyr's expression that made him want, God forgive him, to bust her one across the head with his own damn walking stick.
“You're not so far gone that you don't know what you're doing,” he said. “You don't have that excuse. You snuck around behind my back, Vera. You…
“I did not! That's a lie! I did no such…
“You did!” he bellowed. “Well, you listen to me, Vera. This is where I'm drawing the line. You pray all you want. Praying's free. Write all the letters you want, a stamp still only costs thirteen cents. If you want to take a bath in all the cheap, shitty lies those Jesusiumpers tell, if you want to go on with the delusions and the make-believe, you go on. But I'm not a part of it. Remember that. Do you understand me?”
“Do you understand me?”
“You think I'm crazy!” she shouted at him, and her face crumpled and squeezed together in a terrible way. She burst into the braying, ugly tears of utter defeat and disillusion.
“No,” he said more quietly. “Not yet. But maybe it's time for a little plain talk, Vera, and the truth is, I think you will be if you don't pull out of this and start facing reality.”
“You'll see,” she said through her team. “You'll see. God knows the truth but waits.”
“Just as long as you understand that he's not going to have our furniture while he's waiting,” Herb said grimly. “As long as we see eye to eye on that.”
“It's Last Times!” she told him. “The hour of the Apocalypse is at hand.”
“Yeah? That and fifteen cents will buy you a cup of coffee, Vera.”
Outside the rain fell in steady sheets. That was the year Herb turned fifty-two, Vera fifty one, and Sarah Hazlett twenty-seven.
Johnny had been in his coma for four years.
The baby came on Halloween night. Sarah's labor lasted nine hours. She was given mild whiffs of gas when she needed them, and at some point in her extremity it occurred to her that she was in the same hospital as Johnny, and she called his name over and over again. Afterward she barely remembered this, and certainly never told Walt. She thought she might have dreamed it.
The baby was a boy. They named him Dennis Edward Hazlett. He and his mother went home three days later, and Sarah was teaching again after the Thanksgiving holiday. Walt had landed what looked like a fine job with a Bangor firm of lawyers, and if all went well they planned for Sarah to quit teaching in June of 1975. She wasn't all that sure she wanted to. She had grown to like it.
On the first day of 1975, two small boys, Charlie Norton and Norm Lawson, both of Otisfield, Maine, were in the Nortons” back yard, having a snowball fight. Charlie was eight, Norm was nine. The day was overcast and drippy.
Sensing that the end of the snowball fight was nearing-it was almost time for lunch-Norm charged Charlie, throwing a barrage of snowballs. Ducking and laughing, Charlie was at first forced back, and then turned tail and ran, jumping the low stone wall that divided the Norton back yard from the woods. He ran down the path that led toward Strimmer's Brook. As he went, Norm caught him a damn good one on the back of the hood.
Then Charlie disappeared from sight.
Norm jumped the wall and stood there for a moment, looking into the snowy woods and listening to the drip of melt-water from the birches, pines, and spruces.
“Come on back, chicken!” Norm called, and made a series of high gobbling sounds.
Charlie didn't rise to the bait. There was no sign of him now, but the path descended steeply as it went down toward the brook. Norm gobbled again and shifted irresolutely from one foot to the other. These were Charlie's woods, not his. Charlie's territory. Norm loved a good snowball fight when he was winning, but he didn't really want to go down there if Charlie was lying in ambush for him with half a dozen good hard slushballs all ready to go.
Nonetheless he had taken half a dozen steps down the path when a high, breathless scream rose from below.
Norm Lawson went as cold as the snow his green gum-rubber boots were planted in. The two snowballs he had been holding dropped from his hands and plopped to the ground. The scream rose again, so thin it was barely audible.
Jeepers-creepers, he went and fell in the brook, Norm thought, and that broke the paralysis of his fear. He ran down the path, slipping and sliding, falling right on his can once. His heartbeat roared in his ears. Part of his mind saw him fishing Charlie from the brook just before he went down for the third time and getting written up in Boys” Life as a hero.
Three-quarters of the way down the slope the path dog-legged, and when he got around the corner he saw that Charlie Norton hadn't fallen in Strimmer's Brook after all. He was standing at the place where the path levelled out, and he was staring at something in the melting snow. His hood had fallen back and his face was nearly as white as the snow itself. As Norm approached, he uttered that horrible gasping out-of-breath scream again.
“What is it?” Norm asked, approaching. “Charlie, what's wrong?”
Charlie turned to him, his eyes huge, his mouth gaping. He tried to speak but nothing came out of his mouth but two inarticulate grunts and a silver cord of saliva. He pointed instead.
Norm came closer and looked. Suddenly all the strength went out of his legs and he sat down hard. The world swam around him.
Protruding from the melting snow were two legs clad in blue jeans. There was a loafer on one foot, but the other was bare, white, and defenseless. One arm stuck out of the snow, and the hand at the end of it seemed to plead for a rescue that had never come. The rest of the body was still mercifully hidden.
Charlie and Norm had discovered the body of seventeen-year old Carol Dunbarger, the fourth victim of the Castle Rock Strangler.
It had been almost two years since he had last killed, and the people of Castle Rock (Strimmer's Brook formed the southern borderline between the towns of Castle Rock and Otisfield) had begun to relax, thinking the nightmare was finally over.
Eleven days after the discovery of the Dunbarger girl's body, a sleet-and-ice storm struck northern New England. On the sixth floor of the Eastern Maine Medical Center, everything was running just a little bit late in consequence. A lot of the staff had run into problems getting to work, and those that made it found themselves running hard just to stay even.
It was after nine am when one of the aides, a young woman named Allison Conover, brought Mr. Starret his light breakfast. Mr. Starret was recovering from a heart attack and was “doing his sixteen” in intensive care-a sixteen-day stay following a coronary was standard operating procedure. Mr. Starret was doing nicely. He was in room 619, and he had told his wife privately that the biggest incentive to his recovery was the prospect of getting away from the living corpse in the room's second bed. The steady whisper of the poor guy's respirator made it hard to sleep, he told her. After a while it got so you didn't know if you wanted it to go on whispering or stop. Stop dead, so to speak.
The TV was on when Allison came in. Mr. Starret was sitting up in bed with his control button in one hand. “Today” had ended, and Mr. Starret had not yet decided to blank out “My Back Yard”, the cartoon show that followed it. That would have left him alone with the sound of Johnny's respirator.