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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 6

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“Did you note the slashed tires?” Arctor said as the cop started to leave. “Did you examine her vehicle out there on the lot and note personally the number of the tires slashed, casing slashes with a sharp instrument, recently made—there is still some air leaking out?”

The cop glanced at him again with the same expression and left with no further comment.

“You better not stay here,” Arctor said to Kimberly. “He should have advised you to clear out. Asked if there was some other place you could stay.”

Kimberly sat on her seedy couch in her debris-littered living room, her eyes lusterless again now that she had ceased the futile effort of trying to explain her situation to the investigating officer. She shrugged.

“I’ll drive you somewhere,” Arctor said. “Do you know some friend you could—”

“Get the fuck out!” Kimberly said abruptly, with venom, in a voice much like Dan Manchen’s but more raspy. “Get the fuck out of here, Bob Arctor—get lost, get lost, goddammit. Will you get lost?” Her voice rose shrilly and then broke in despair.

He left and walked slowly back down the stairs, step by step. When he reached the bottom step something banged and rolled down after him: it was the can of Drano. He heard her door lock, one bolt after another. Futile locks, he thought. Futile everything. The investigating officer advises her to call if the suspect returns. How can she, without going out of her apartment? And there Dan Mancher will stab her like he did the tires. And—remembering the complaint of the old folks downstairs—she will probably first step on and then fall dead into dog shit. He felt like laughing hysterically at the old folks’ priorities; not only did a burned-out freak upstairs night after night beat up and threaten to kill and probably would soon kill a young girl addict turning tricks who no doubt had strep throat if not much else besides, but in addition to that

As he drove Luckman and Barris back north, he chuckled aloud. “Dog shit,” he said. “Dog shit.” Humor in dog shit, he thought, if you can flash on it. Funny dog shit.

“Better change lanes and pass that Safeway truck,” Luckman said. “The humper’s hardly moving.”

He moved into the lane to the left and picked up speed. But then, when he took his foot off the throttle, the pedal all at once fell to the floor mat, and at the same time the engine roared all the way up furiously and the car shot forward at enormous, wild speed.

“Slow down!” both Luckman and Barris said together.

By now the car had reached almost one hundred; ahead, a VW van loomed. His gas pedal was dead: it did not return and it did nothing. Both Luckman, who sat next to him, and Barris, beyond him, threw up their arms instinctively. Arctor twisted the wheel and shot by the VW van, to its left, where a limited space remained before a fast-moving ‘Vet filled it up. The Corvette honked, and they heard its brakes screech. Now Luckman and Barris were yelling; Luckman suddenly reached and shut off the ignition; meanwhile, Arctor shifted out of gear into neutral. The car slowed, and he braked it down, moved into the right-hand lane and then, with the engine finally dead and the transmission out of gear, rolled off onto the emergency strip and came by degrees to a stop.

The Corvette, long gone down the freeway, still honked its indignation. And now the giant Safeway truck rolled by them and for a deafening moment sounded its own warning air horn.

“What the hell happened?” Barris said.

Arctor, his hands and voice and the rest of him shaking, said, “The return spring on the throttle cable—the gas. Must have caught or broken.” He pointed down. They all peered at the pedal, which lay still flat against the floor. The engine had revved up to its entire maximum rpm, which for his car was considerable. He had not clocked their final highest road speed, probably well over one hundred. And, he realized, though he had been reflexively pushing down on the power brakes, the car had only slowed.

Silently the three of them got onto the emergency pavement and raised the hood. White smoke drifted up from the oil caps and from underneath as well. And near-boiling water fizzled from the overflow spout of the radiator.

Luckman reached over the hot engine and pointed. “Not the spring,” he said. “It’s the linkage from the pedal to the carb. See? It fell apart.” The long rod lay aimlessly against the block, hanging impotently and uselessly down with its locking ring still in place. “So the gas pedal didn’t push back up when you took your foot off. But—” He inspected the carb for a time, his face wrinkled.

“There’s a safety override on the carb,” Barris said, grinfling and showing his syntheticlike teeth. “This system when the linkage parts—”

“Why’d it pant?” Arctor broke in. “Shouldn’t this locking ring hold the nut in place?” He stroked along the rod. “How could it just fall off like that?”

As if not hearing him, Barris continued, “If for any reason the linkage gives, then the engine should drop down to idle. As a safety factor. But it revved up all the way instead.” He bent his body around to get a better look at the carb. “This screw has been turned all the way out,” he said. “The idle screw. So that when the linkage parted the override went the other way, up instead of down.”

“How could that happen?” Luckman said loudly. “Could it screw itself all the way out like that accidentally?”

Without answering, Barris got out his pocketknife, opened the small blade, and began slowly screwing the idle-adjustment screw back in. He counted aloud. Twenty turns of the screw to get it in. “To loosen the lock ring and nut assembly that holds the accelerator-linkage rods together,” he said, “a special tool would be needed. A couple, in fact. I’d estimate it’ll take about half an hour to get this back together. I have the tools, though, in my toolbox.”

“Your toolbox is back at the house,” Luckman said.

“Yes.” Barris nodded. “Then we’ll have to get to a gas station and either borrow theirs or get their tow truck out here. I suggest we get them out here to look it over before we drive it again.”

“Hey, man,” Luckman said loudly, “did this happen by accident or was this done deliberately? Like the cephscope?”

Barris pondered, still smiling his wily, rueful smile. “I couldn’t say for sure about this. Normally, sabotage on a car, malicious damage to cause an accident …” He glanced at Arctor, his eyes invisible behind his green shades. “We almost piled up. If that ‘Vet had been coming any faster … There was almost no ditch to head for. You should have cut the ignition as soon as you realized what happened.”

“I got it out of gear,” Arctor said. “When I realized. For a second I couldn’t figure it out.” He thought, If it had been the brakes, if the brake pedal had gone to the floor, I’d have flashed on it sooner, known better what to do. This was so—weird.

“Someone deliberately did it,” Luckman said loudly. He spun around in a circle of fury, lashing out with both fists. “MOTHERFUCKER! We almost bought it! They fucking almost got us!”

Barris, standing visible by the side of the freeway with all its heavy traffic whizzing by, got out a little horn snuffbox of death tabs and took several. He passed the snuffbox to Luckman, who took a few, then passed it to Arctor.

“Maybe that’s what’s fucking us up,” Arctor said, declining irritably. “Messing up our brains.”

“Dope can’t screw up an accelerator linkage and carb-idle adjustment,” Barris said, still holding the snuffbox out to Arctor. “You’d better drop at least three of these—they’re Primo, but mild. Cut with a little meth.”

“Put the damn snuffbox away,” Arctor said. He felt, in his head, loud voices singing: terrible music, as if the reality around him had gone sour. Everything now—the fast-moving cars, the two men, his own car with its hood up, the smell of smog, the bright, hot light of midday—it all had a rancid quality, as if, throughout, his world had putrefied, rather than anything else. Not so much become all at once, because of this, dangerous, not frightening, but more as if rotting away, stinking in sight and sound and odor. It made him sick, and he shut his eyes and shuddered.

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