Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE



“No,” the Trimbull chief of police said in answer to Johnny's question, “you're not charged with anything. You're not under detention. And you don't have to answer any questions. We'd just be very grateful if you would.”

“Very grateful,” the man in the conservative business suit echoed. His name was Edgar Lancte. He was with the Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He thought that Johnny Smith looked like a very sick man. There was a puffed bruise above his left eyebrow that was rapidly turning purple. When he blacked out, Johnny had come down very hard-either on the shoe of a marching-bandsman or on the squared-off toe of a motorcycle boot. Lancte mentally favored the latter possibility. And possibly the motorcycle boot had been in motion at the instant of contact.

Smith was too pale, and his hands trembled badly as he drank the paper cup of water that Chief Bass had given him. One eyelid was ticking nervously. He looked like the classic would-be assassin, although the most deadly thing in his personal effects had been a nailclipper. Still, Lancte would keep that impression in mind, because he was what he was.

“What can I tell you?” Johnny asked. He had awakened on a cot in an unlocked cell. He'd had a blinding headache. It was draining away now, leaving him feeling strangely hollow inside. He felt a little as if his legitimate innards had been scooped out and replaced with Reddi Wip. There was a high, constant sound in his ears-not precisely a ringing; more like a high, steady hum. It was nine P. M. The Stillson entourage had long since swept out of town. All the hot dogs had been eaten.

“You can tell us exactly what happened back there,” Bass said.

“It was hot. I guess I got overexcited and fainted.”

“You an invalid or something?” Lancte asked casually.

Johnny looked at him steadily. “Don't play games with me, Mr. Lancte. If you know who I am, then say so.”

“I know,” Lancte said. “Maybe you are psychic.”

“Nothing psychic about guessing an FBI agent might be up to a few games,” Johnny said.

“You're a Maine boy, Johnny. Born and bred. What's a Maine boy doing down in New Hampshire?”


“The Chatsworth boy?”

“For the second time: if you know, why ask? Unless you suspect me of something.”

Lancte lit a Vantage Green. “Rich family.”

“Yes. They are.”

“You a Stillson fan, are you, Johnny?” Bass asked. Johnny didn't like fellows who used his first name on first acquaintance, and both of these fellows were doing it” It made him nervous.

“Are you?” he asked,

Bass made an obscene blowing sound. “About five years ago we had a day-long folk-rock concert in Trimbull. Out on Hake Jamieson's land. Town council had their doubts, but they went ahead because the kids have got to have something. We thought we were going to have maybe two hundred local kids in Hake's east pasture listening to music. Instead we got sixteen hundred, all of em smoking pot and drinking hard stuff straight out from the neck of the bottle. They made a hell of a mess and the council got mad and said there'd never be another one and they turned around all hurt arid wet-eyed and said, “Whassa matter? No one got hurt, did they?” It was supposed to be okay to make a helluva mess because no one got hurt. I feel the same way about this guy Stilison. I remember once…

“You don't have any sort of grudge against Stillson, do you, Johnny?” Lancte asked. “Nothing personal between you and him?” He smiled a fatherly, you-can-get-it-off-your-chest-if-you-want-to smile.

“I didn't even know who he was until six weeks ago.”

“Yes, well, but that really doesn't answer my question, does it?”

Johnny sat silent for a little while. “He disturbs me,” he said finally.

“That doesn't really answer my question, either.”

“Yes, I think it does.”

“You're not being as helpful as we'd like,” Lancte said regretfully.

Johnny glanced over at Bass. “Does anybody who faints in your town at a public gathering get the FBI treatment, Chief Bass?”

Bass looked uncomfortable. “Well… no. Course not.”

“You were shaking hands with Stillson when you keeled over,” Lancte said. “You looked sick. Stillson himself looked scared green. You're a very lucky young man, Johnny. Lucky his goodbuddies there didn't turn your head into a votive urn. They thought you'd pulled a piece on him.”

Johnny was looking at Lancte with dawning surprise. He looked at Bass, then back to the FBI man. “You were there,” he said. “Bass didn't call you up on the phone. You were there. At the rally.”

Lancte crushed out his cigarette. “Yes. I was.”

“Why is the FBI interested in Stillson?” Johnny nearly barked the question.

“Let's talk about you, Johnny. What's your…

“No, let's talk about Stillson. Let's talk about his good-buddies, as you call them. Is it legal for them to carry” around sawed-off pool cues?”

“It is,” Bass said. Lancte threw him a warning look, but Bass either didn't see it or ignored it. “Cues, baseball bats, golf clubs. No law against any of them.”

“I heard someone say those guys used to be iron riders. Bike gang members.”

“Some of them used to be with a New Jersey club, some used to be with a New York club, that's…”

“Chief Bass,” Lancte interrupted, “I hardly think this is the time…

“I can't see the harm of telling him,” Bass said. “They're bums, rotten apples, hairbags. Some of them ganged together in the Hamptons back four or five years ago, when they had the bad riots. A few of them were affiliated with a bike club called the Devil's Dozen that disbanded in 1972. Stillson's ramrod is a guy named Sonny Elliman. He used to be the president of the Devil's Dozen. He's been busted half a dozen times but never convicted of anything.”

“You're wrong about that, Chief,” Lancte said, lighting a fresh cigarette. “He was cited in Washington State in 1973 for making an illegal left turn against traffic. He signed the waiver and paid a twenty-five dollar fine.”

Johnny got up and went slowly across the room to the water cooler, where he drew himself a fresh cup of water. Lancte watched him go with interest.

“So you just fainted, right?” Lancte said.

“No,” Johnny said, not turning around. “I was going to shoot him with a bazooka. Then, at the critical moment, all my bionic circuits blew.”

Lancte sighed.

Bass said, “You're free to go any time.”

“Thank you.

“But I'll tell you just the same way Mr. Lancte here would tell you. In the future, I'd stay away from Stillson rallies, if I were you. If you want to keep a whole skin, that is. Things have a way of happening to people Greg Stillson doesn't like…

“Is that so?” Johnny asked. He drank his water.

“Those are matters outside your bailiwick, Chief Bass,” Lancte said. His eyes were like hazy steel and he was looking at Bass very hard.

“All right,” Bass said mildly.

“I don't see any harm in telling you that there have been other rally incidents,” Lancte said. “In Ridgeway a young pregnant woman was beaten so badly she miscarried. This was just after the Stillson rally there that CBS filmed. She said she couldn't ID her assailant, but we feel it may have been one of Stillson's bikies. A month ago a kid, he was fourteen, got himself a fractured skull. He had a little plastic squirtgun. He couldn't ID his assailant, either. But the squirtgun makes us believe it may have been a security overreaction.”

How nicely put, Johnny thought.

“You couldn't find anyone who saw it happen?”

“Nobody who would talk. “Lancte smiled humorlessly and tapped the ash off his cigarette. “He's the people's choice.”

Johnny thought of the young guy holding his son up so that the boy could see Greg Stillson. Who the hell cares? They're just for show, anyway.

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