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Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER THREE

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“No. Spin for the lady. I'll watch this one.”

She looked at him, puzzled. “Johnny?”

He shrugged. “Just a feeling.”

The pitchman rolled his eyes in a heaven-give-me-strength-to-bear-these fools gesture and set his Wheel going again. It spun, slowed, and stopped. On double zero. “House numbah, house numbah,” the pitchman chanted, and Sarah's quarter disappeared into his apron.

“Is that fair, Johnny?” Sarah asked, hurt.

“Zero and double zero only pay the house,” he said.

“Then you were smart to take your money off the board.”

“I guess I was.”

“You want me to spin this Wheel or go for coffee?” the pitchman asked.

“Spin it,” Johnny said, and put his quarters down in two stacks of four on the third trip.

As the Wheel buzzed around in its cage of lights, Sarah asked Johnny, never taking her eyes from the spin, “How much can a place like this take in on one night?”

The teenagers had been joined by a quartet of older people, two men and two women. A man with the build of a construction worker said, “Anywheres from five to seven hundred dollars.”

The pitchman rolled his eyes again. “Oh, man, I wish you was right,” he said.

“Hey, don't give me that poor mouth,” the man who looked like a construction worker said. “I used to work this scam twenty years ago. Five to seven hundred a night, two grand on a Saturday, easy. And that's running a straight Wheel.”

Johnny kept his eyes on the Wheel, which was now spinning slowly enough to read the individual numbers as they flashed past. It flashed past 0 and 00, through the first trip, slowing, through the second trip, still slowing.

“Too much legs, man,” one of the teenagers said.

“Wait,” Johnny said, in a peculiar tone of voice. Sarah glanced at him, and his long, pleasant face looked oddly strained, his blue eyes darker than usual, for away, distant.

The pointer stopped on 30 and came to rest.

“Hot stick, hot stick,” the pitchman chanted resignedly as the little crowd behind Johnny and Sarah uttered a cheer. The man who looked like a construction worker clapped Johnny on the back hard enough to make him stagger a bit. The pitchman reached into the Roi-Tan box under the counter and dropped four singles beside Johnny's eight quarters.

“Enough?” Sarah asked.

“One more,” Johnny said. “If I win, this guy paid for our fair and your gas. If I lose, we're out half a buck or so.

“Hey-hey-hey,” the pitchman chanted. He was brightening up now, getting his rhythm back. “Get it down where you want it down. Step right up, you other folks. This ain't no spectator sport. Round and round she's gonna go and where she's gonna stop ain't nobody knows.”

The man who looked like a construction worker and the two teenagers stepped up beside Johnny and Sarah. After a moment's consultation, the teenagers produced half a buck in change between them and dropped it on the middle trip. The man who looked like a construction worker, who introduced himself as Steve Bernhardt, put a dollar on the square marked EVEN.

“What about you, buddy?” the pitchman asked Johnny. “You gonna play it as it lays?”

“Yes,” Johnny said.

“Oh man,” one of the teenagers said, “that's tempting fate.”

“I guess,” Johnny said, and Sarah smiled at him.

Bernhardt gave Johnny a speculative glance and suddenly switched his dollar to his third trip. “What the hell,” sighed the teenager who had told Johnny he was tempting fate. He switched the fifty cents he and his friend had come up with to the same trip.

“All the eggs in one basket,” the pitchman chanted. “That how you want it?”

The players stood silent and affirmative. A couple of roustabouts had drifted over to watch, one of them with a lady friend; there was now quite a respectable little knot of people in front of the Wheel of Fortune concession in the darkening arcade. The pitchman gave the Wheel a mighty spin. Twelve pairs of eyes watched it revolve. Sarah found herself looking at Johnny again, thinking how strange his face was in this bold yet somehow furtive lighting. She thought of the mask again-Jekyll and Hyde, odd and even. Her stomach turned over again, making her feel a little weak. The Wheel slowed, began to tick. The teenagers began to shout at it, urging it onward.

“Little more, baby,” Steve Bernhardt cajoled it. “Little more, honey.”

The Wheel ticked into the third trip and came to a stop on 24. A cheer went up from the crowd again.

“Johnny, you did it, you did it I” Sarah cried.

The pitchman whistled through his teeth in disgust and paid off. A dollar for the teenagers, two for Bernhardt, a ten and two ones for Johnny. He now had eighteen dollars in front of him on the board.

“Hot stick, hot stick, hey-hey-hey. One more, buddy? This Wheel's your friend tonight.”

Johnny looked at Sarah.

Up to you, Johnny. “But she felt suddenly uneasy.

“Go on, man,” the teenager with the Jimi Hendrix button urged. “I love to see this guy get a beatin.”

“Okay,” Johnny said, “last time.”

“Get it down where you want it down.”

They all looked at Johnny, who stood thoughtful for a moment, rubbing his forehead. His usually good-humored face was still and serious and composed. He was looking at the Wheel in its cage of lights and his fingers worked steadily at the smooth skin over his right eye.

“As is,” he said finally.

A little speculative murmur from the crowd.

“Oh, man, that is really tempting it.”

“He's hot,” Bernhardt said doubtfully. He glanced back at his wife, who shrugged to show her complete mystification. “I'll tag along with you, long, tall, and ugly.”

The teenager with the button glanced at his friend, who shrugged and nodded. “Okay,” he said, turning back to the pitchman. “We'll stick, too.”

The Wheel spun. Behind them Sarah heard one of the roustabouts bet the other five dollars against the third trip coming up again. Her stomach did another forward roll but this time it didn't stop; it just went on somersaulting over and over and she became aware that she was getting sick. Cold sweat stood out on her face.

The Wheel began to slow in the first trip, and one of the teenagers flapped his hands in disgust. But he didn't move away. It ticked past 11, 12, 13. The pitchman looked happy at last. Tick-tock-tick, 14, 15, 16.

“It's going through,” Bernhardt said. There was awe in his voice. The pitchman looked at his Wheel as if he wished he could just reach out and stop it. It clicked past

20, 21, and settled to a stop in the slot marked 22.

There was another shout of triumph from the crowd, which had now grown almost to twenty. All the people left at the fair were gathered here, it seemed. Faintly, Sarah heard the roustabouts who had lost his bet grumble something about “Shitass luck,” as he paid off. Her head thumped. Her legs felt suddenly, horribly unsteady, the muscles trembling and untrustworthy. She blinked her eyes rapidly several times and got only a nauseating instant of vertigo for her pains. The world seemed to tilt up at a skewed angle, as if they were still on the Whip, and then slowly settle back down.

I got a bad hot dog, she thought dismally. That's what you get for trying your luck at the county fair, Sarah.

“Hey-hey-hey,” the pitchman said without much enthusiasm, and paid off. Two dollars for the teenagers, four for Steve Bernhardt, and then a bundle for Johnny -three tens, a five, and a one. The pitchman was not overjoyed, but he was sanguine. If the tall, skinny man with the good-looking blonde tried the third trip again, the pitchman would almost surely gather back in everything he had paid out. It wasn't the skinny man's money until it was off the board. And if he walked? Well, he had cleared a thousand dollars on the Wheel just today, he could afford to pay out a little tonight. The word would get around that Sol Drummore's Wheel had been hit and tomorrow play would be heavier than ever. A winner was a good ad.

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