Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - PROLOGUE
“So he's got his own pet FBI agent.”
Lancte shrugged and smiled disarmingly. “Well, what can I say? Except, FYI, it's no tit assignment, Johnny. Sometimes I get scared. The guy generates one hell of a lot of magnetism. If he pointed me out from the podium and told the crowd at one of those rallies who I was, I think they'd run me up the nearest lamppost.
Johnny thought of the crowd that afternoon, and of the pretty girl hysterically waving her chunk of watermelon. “I think you might be right,” he said.
“So if there's something you know that might help me… “Lancte leaned forward. The disarming smile had become slightly predatory. “Maybe you even had a psychic flash about him. Maybe that's what messed you up.”
“Maybe I did,” Johnny said, unsmiling.
For one wild moment Johnny considered telling them everything. Then he rejected it. “I saw him on TV. I had nothing in particular to do today, so I thought I'd come over here and check him out in person. I bet I wasn't the only out-of-towner who did that.”
“You sure wasn't,” Bass said vehemently.
“And that's all?” Lancte asked.
“That's all,” Johnny said, and then hesitated. “Except I think he's going to win his election.”
“We're sure he is,” Lancte said. “Unless we can get something on him. In the meantime, I'm in complete agreement with Chief Bass. Stay away from Stillson rallies.”
“Don't worry. “Johnny crumpled up his paper cup and threw it away. “It's been nice talking to you two gentle men, but I've got a long drive back to Durham.”
“Going back to Maine soon, Johnny?” Lancte asked casually.
“Don't know. “He looked from Lancte, slim and impeccable, tapping out a fresh cigarette on the blank face of his digital watch, to Bass, a big, tired man with a basset hound's face. “Do either of you think he'll run for higher office? If he gets this seat in the House of Representatives?”
“Jesus wept,” Bass muttered, and rolled his eyes.
“These guys come and go,” Lancte said. His eyes, so brown they were nearly black, had never stopped studying Johnny. “They're like one of those rare radioactive elements that are so unstable that they don't last long. Guys like Stillson have no permanent political base, just a temporary coalition that holds together for a little while and then falls apart. Did you see that crowd today? College kids and mill hands yelling for the same guy? That's not politics, that's something on the order of hula hoops or coonskin caps or Beatle wigs. He'll get his term in the House and he'll free4unch until 1978 and that'll be it. Count on it.”
But Johnny wondered.
The next day, the left side of Johnny's forehead had become very colorful. Dark purple-almost black-above the eyebrow shaded to red and then to a morbidly gay yellow at the temple and hairline. His eyelid had puffed slightly, giving him a leering sort of expression, like the second banana in a burlesque review.
He did twenty laps in the pool and then sprawled in one of the deck chairs, panting. He felt terrible. He had gotten less than four hours” sleep the night before, and all of what he had gotten had been dream-haunted.
“Hi, Johnny… how you doing, man?”
He turned around. It was Ngo, smiling gently. He was dressed in his work clothes and wearing gardening gloves. Behind him was a child's red wagon filled with small pine trees, their roots wrapped in burlap. Recalling what Ngo called the pines, he said: “I see you're planting more weeds.”
Ngo wrinkled his nose. “Sorry, yes. Mr. Chatsworth is loving them. I tell him, but they are junk trees. Every-where there are these trees in New England. His face goes like this… “Now Ngo's whole face wrinkled and he looked like a caricature. of some late show monster…… and he says to me, “Just plant them. "”
Johnny laughed. That was Roger Chatsworth, all right.
He liked things done his way. “How did you enjoy the rally?”
Ngo smiled gently. “Very instructive,” he said. There was no way to read his eyes. He might not have noticed the sunrise on the side of Johnny's face. “Yes, very instructive, we are all enjoying ourselves.”
“Not so much,” Johnny said, and touched the bruise lightly with his fingertips. It was very tender.
“Yes, too bad, you should put a beefsteak on it,” Ngo said, still smiling gently.
What did you think about him, Ngo? What did your class think? Your Polish friend? Or Ruth Chen and her sister?”
“Going back we did not talk about it, at our instructors” request. Think about what you have seen, they say. Next Tuesday we will write in class, I think. Yes, I am thinking very much that we will. A class composition.”
“What will you say in your composition?”
Ngo looked at the blue summer sky. He and the sky smiled at each other. He was a small man with the first threads of gray in his hair. Johnny knew almost nothing about him; didn't know if he had been married, had fathered children, if he had fled before the Vietcong, if he had been from Saigon or from one of the rural provinces. He had no idea what Ngo's political leanings were.
“We talked of the game of the Laughing Tiger,” Ngo said. “Do you remember?”
“Yes,” Johnny said.
“I will tell you of a real tiger. When I was a boy there was a tiger who went bad near my village. He was being le manger d'homme, eater of men, you understand, except he was not that, he was an eater of boys and girls and old women because this was during the war and there were no men to eat. Not the war you know of, but the Second World War. He had gotten the taste for human meat, this tiger. Who was there to kill such an awful creature in a humble village where the youngest man is being sixty and with only one arm, and the oldest boy is myself, only seven years of age? And one day this tiger was found in a pit that had been baited with the body of a dead woman. It is a terrible thing to bait a trap with a human being made in the image of God, I will say in my composition, but it is more terrible to do nothing while a bad tiger carries away small children. And I will say in my composition that this bad tiger was still alive when we found it. It was having a stake pushed through its body but it was still alive. We beat it to death with hoes and sticks. Old men and women and children, some children so excited and frightened they are wetting themselves in their pants. The tiger fell in the pit and we beat it to death with our hoes because the men of the village had gone to fight the Japanese. I am thinking that this Stillson is like that bad tiger with its taste for human meat. I think a trap should be made for him, and I think he should be falling into it. And if he still lives, I think he should be beaten to death.”
He smiled gently at Johnny in the clear summer sunshine.
“Do you really believe that?” Johnny asked.
“Oh, yes,” Ngo said. He spoke lightly, as if it were a matter of no consequence. “What my teacher will say when I am handing in such a composition, I don't know. “He shrugged his shoulders. “Probably he will say, “Ngo, you are not ready for the American Way.” But I will say the truth of what I feel. What did you think, Johnny?” His eyes moved to the bruise, then moved away.
“I think he's dangerous,” Johnny said. “I… I know lie's dangerous.”
“Do you?” Ngo remarked. “Yes, I believe you do know it. Your fellow New Hampshires, they see him as an engaging clown. They set him the way many of this world are seeing this black man, Idi Amin Dada. But you do not.
“No,” Johnny said. “But to suggest he should be killed…
“Politically killed,” Ngo said, smiling. “I am only suggesting he should be politically killed.”
“And if he can't be politically killed?”
Ngo smiled at Johnny. He unfolded his index finger, cocked his thumb, and then snapped it down. “Bam,” he said softly. “Bam, bam, ham.”