Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Johnny found himself abruptly wishing himself dead. If this talent was a gift from God, then God was a dangerous lunatic who ought to be stopped. If God wanted Greg Stilison dead, why hadn't he sent him down the birth canal with the umbilical cord wrapped around his throat? Or strangled him on a piece of meat? Or electrocuted him while he was changing the radio station? Drowned him in the ole swimming hole? Why did God have to have Johnny Smith to do his dirty work? It wasn't his responsibility to save the world, that was for the psychos and only psychos would presume to try it. He suddenly decided he would let Greg Stillson live and spit in God's eye.

“You okay, Johnny?” O'Donnell asked.

“Huh? Yeah, sure.”

“You looked sorta funny for just a second there.”

Chuck Chatsworth saying: if I didn't, I'd be afraid all those people he killed would haunt me to my grave.

“Out woolgathering, I guess,” Johnny said. “I want you to know it's been a pleasure drinking with you.”

“Well, the same goes back to you,” O'Donnell said, looking pleased. “I wish more people passing through felt that way. They go through here headed for the ski resorts, you know. The big places. That's where they take their money. If I thought they'd stop in, I'd fix this place up like they'd like. Posters, you know, of Switzerland and Colorado. A fireplace. Load the juke up with rock “n” roll records instead of that shitkicking music I'd… you know, I'd like that. “He shrugged. “I'm not a bad guy, hell.”

“Of course not,” Johnny said, getting off the stool and thinking about the dog trained to sic, and the hoped-for hippie junkie burglar.

“Well, tell your friends I'm here,” O'Donnell said

“For sure,” Johnny said.

“Hey Dick!” one of the bar-bags hollered. “Ever hear of service-with-a-smile in this place?”

“Why don't you get stuffed?” O'Donnell yelled at her, flushing.

“Fuck-YO U!” Clarice called back, and cackled. Johnny slipped quietly out into the gathering storm,


He was staying at the Holiday Inn in Portsmouth. When he got back that evening, he told the desk clerk to have his bill ready for checkout in the morning.

In his room, he sat down at the impersonal Holiday Inn writing desk, took out all the stationery, and grasped the Holiday Inn pen. His head was throbbing, but there were letters to be written. His momentary rebellion-if that was what it had been-had passed. His unfinished business with Greg Stillson remained.

I've gone crazy, he thought. That's really it. I've gone entirely off my chump. He could see the headlines now.


And Inside View, of course, would have a field day.


IT. With a sidebar by that fellow Dees, maybe, telling how Johnny had threatened to get his shotgun and “shoot me a trespasser”.


The hospital debt was paid, but this would leave a new bill of particulars behind, and his father would have to pay for it. He and his new wife would spend a lot of days in the limelight of his reflected notoriety. They would get the hate mail. Everyone he had known would be interviewed-the Chatsworths, Sam, Sheriff George Bannerman. Sarah? Well, maybe they wouldn't get as far as Sarah. After all, it wasn't as though he were planning to shoot the president. At least, not yet. There's a lotta people afraid to come right out and say it, but I'm not. I'll say it right out loud. Some day Greg Stillson's apt to be president.

Johnny rubbed his temples. The headache came in low, slow waves, and none of this was getting his letters written. He drew the first sheet of stationery toward him, picked up the pen, and wrote Dear Dad. Outside, snow struck the window with that dry, sandy sound that means serious business. Finally the pen began to move across the paper, slowly at first, then gaining speed.



Johnny came up wooden steps that had been shoveled clear of snow and salted down. He went through a set of double doors and into a foyer plastered with specimen ballots and notices of a special town meeting to be held here in Jackson on the third of February. There was also a notice of Greg Stillson's impending visit and a picture of The Man Who himself, hard hat cocked back on his head, grinning that hard slantwise “We're wise to em, ain't we, pard?” grin. Set a little to the right of the green door leading into the meeting hall itself was a sign that Johnny hadn't expected, and he pondered it in silence for several seconds, his breath pluming white from his lips. DRIVER EXAMINATIONS TODAY, this sign read. It was set on a wooden easel. HAVE PAPERS READY.

He opened the door, went into the stuporous glow of heat thrown by a big woodstove, and there sat a cop at a desk. The cop was wearing a ski parka, unzipped. There were papers scattered across his desk, and there was also a gadget for examining visual acuity.

The cop looked up at Johnny, and he felt a sinking sensation in his gut”

“Can I help you, sir?”

Johnny fingered the camera slung around his neck. “Well, I wondered if it would be all right to look around a little bit,” he said. “I'm on assignment from Yankee magazine. We're doing a spread on town hall architecture in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Taking a lot of pictures, you know.”

“Go right to it,” the cop said. “My wife reads Yankee all the time. Puts me to sleep.”

Johnny smiled. “New England architecture has a tendency toward… well, starkness.”

“Starkness,” the cop repeated doubtfully, and then let it go. “Next, please.”

A young man approached the desk the cop was sitting behind. He handed an examination sheet to the cop, who took it and said, “Look into the viewer, please, and identify the traffic signs and signals which I will show you.

The young man peered into the viewing machine. The cop put an answer-key over the young man's exam sheet. Johnny moved down the center aisle of the Jackson town hall and clicked a picture of the rostrum at the front.

“Stop sign,” the young man said from behind him. “The next one's a yield sign… and the next one is a traffic information sign… no right turn, no left turn, like that…”

He hadn't expected a cop in the town hall; he hadn't even bothered to buy film for the camera he was using as a prop. But now it was too late to back out anyway. This was Friday, and Stillson would be here tomorrow if things went the way they were supposed to go. He would be answering questions and listening to suggestions from the good people of Jackson. There would be a fair-sized entourage with him. A couple of aides, a couple of advisors-and several others, young men in sober suits and sports jackets who had been” wearing jeans and riding motorcycles not so long ago. Greg Stillson was still a firm believer in guards for the body. At the Trimbull rally they had been carrying sawedoff pool cues. Did they carry guns now? Would it be so difficult for a U. S. representative to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon? Johnny didn't think so. He could count on one good chance only; he would have to make the most of it. So it was important to look the place over, to try and decide if he could take Stillson in here or if it would be better to wait in the parking lot with the window rolled down and the rifle on his lap.

So he had come and here he was, casing the joint while a state cop gave driver-permit exams not thirty feet away.

There was a bulletin board on his left, and Johnny snapped his unloaded camera at it-why in God's name hadn't he taken another two minutes and bought himself a roll of film? The board was covered with chatty small-town intelligence concerning baked-bean suppers, an upcoming high school play, dog-licensing information, and, of course, more on Greg. A file card said that Jackson's first selectman was looking for someone who could take shorthand, and Johnny studied this as though it were of great interest to him while his mind moved into high gear.

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