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Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER SIXTEEN

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Chuck Gendron said hesitantly, “You're kidding, aren't you, Greg?”

Greg's frown returned. It was forbidding. “Chuck, I never kid. People… they think I kid. The Union-Leader and those yo-yos on the Daily Democrat, they think I kid. But you go see George Harvey. You ask him if I kid around, or if I get the job done. You ought to know better, too. After all, we buried some bodies together, didn't we, Chuck?”

The frown metamorphosed into a somehow chilling grin-chilling to Gendron, perhaps, because he had allowed himself to be pulled along on a couple of Greg Stilison's development schemes. They had made money, yes, of course they had, that wasn't the problem. But there had been a couple of aspects of the Sunningdale Acres development (and the Laurel Estates deal as well, to be honest) that hadn't been-well, strictly legal. A bribed EPA agent for one thing, but that wasn't the worst thing.

On the Laurel Estates thing there had been an old man out on the Back Ridgeway Road who hadn't wanted to sell, and first the old man's fourteen-or-so chickens had died of some mysterious ailment and second there had been a fire in the old man's potato house and third when the old man came back from visiting his sister, who was in a nursing home in Keene, one weekend not so long ago, someone bad smeared dogshit all over the old man's living room and dining room and fourth the old man had sold and fifth Laurel Estates was now a fact of life.

And, maybe sixth: That motorcycle spook, Sonny Elliman, was hanging around again. He and Greg were good buddies, and the only thing that kept that from being town gossip was the counterbalancing fact that Greg was seen in the company of a lot of heads, hippies, freaks, and cyclists-as a direct result of the Drug Counselling Center he had set up, plus Ridgeway's rather unusual program for young drug, alcohol, and road offenders. Instead of fining them or locking them up, the town took out their services in trade. It had been Greg's idea-and a good one, the banker would be the first to admit. It had been one of the things that had helped Greg to get elected mayor.

But this-this was utter craziness.

Greg had said something else. Gendron wasn't sure what.

“Pardon me,” he said.

“I asked you how you'd like to be my campaign manager,” Greg repeated.

“Greg… “Gendron had to clear his throat and start again. “Greg, you don't seem to understand. Harrison Fisher is the Third District representative in Washington. Harrison Fisher is Republican, respected, and probably eternal.”

“No one is eternal,” Greg said.

“Harrison is damn close,” Gendron said. “Ask Harvey. They went to school together. Back around 1800, I think.”

Greg took no notice of this thin witticism. “I'll call myself a Bull Moose or something… and everyone will think I'm kidding around… and in the end, the good people of the Third District are going to laugh me all the way to Washington.”

“Greg, you're crazy.”

Greg's smile disappeared as if it had never been there. Something frightening happened to his face. It became very still, and his eyes widened to show too much of the whites. They were like the eyes of a horse that smells bad water.

“You don't want to say something like that, Chuck. Ever.”

The banker felt more than chilled now.

“Greg, I apologize. It's just that…

“No, you don't ever want to say that to me, unless you want to find Sonny Elliman waiting for you some afternoon when you go out to get your big fucking Imperial.”

Gendron's mouth moved but no sound came out.

Greg smiled again, and it was like the sun suddenly breaking through threatening clouds. “Never mind. We don't want to be kicking sand if we're going to be working together.”

“Greg…

“I want you because you know every damn business man in this part of New Hampshire. We're gonna have plenty good money once we get this thing rolling, but I figure we'll have to prime the pump. Now's the time for me to expand a little, and start looking like the state's man as well as Ridgeway's man. I figure fifty thousand dollars ought to be enough to fertilize the grass roots.

The banker, who had worked for Harrison Fisher in his last four canvasses, was so astounded by Greg's political naivete that at first he was at a loss on how to proceed. At last he said, “Greg. Businessmen contribute to campaigns not out of the goodness of their hearts but be-cause the winner ends up owing them something. in a close campaign they'll contribute to any candidate who has a chance of winning, because they can write off the loser as a tax loss as well. But the operant phrase is chance of winning. Now Fisher is a…

“Shoo-in,” Greg supplied. He produced an envelope from his back pocket. “Want you to look at these.”

Gendron looked doubtfully at the envelope, then up at Greg. Greg nodded encouragingly. The banker opened the envelope.

There was a long silence in the pine-panelled office after Gendron's initial gasp for breath. It was unbroken except for the faint hum of the digital clock on the banker's desk and the hiss of a match as Greg lit a Phillies cheroot. On the walls of the office were Frederick Remington pictures. In the lucite cube were family pictures. Now, spread on the desk, were pictures of the banker with his head buried between the thighs of a young woman with black hair-or it might have been red, the pictures were high-grain black-and-white glossies and it was hard to tell. The woman's face was very clear. It was not the face of the banker's wife. Some residents of Ridge. way would have recognized it as the face of one of the waitresses at Bobby Strang's truckstop two towns over.

The pictures of the banker with his head between the legs of the waitress were the safe ones-her face was clear but his was not. In others, his own grandmother would have recognized him. There were pictures of Gendron and the waitress involved in a whole medley of sexual delights-hardly all the positions of the Kama Sutra, but there were several positions represented that had never made the “Sexual Relationships” chapter of the Ridgeway High health textbook.

Gendron looked up, his face cheesy, his hands trembling. His heart was galloping in his chest. He feared a heart attack.

Greg was not even looking at him. He was looking out the window at the bright blue slice of October sky visible between the Ridgeway Five and Ten and the Ridgeway Card and Notion Shoppe.

“The winds of change have started to blow,” he said, and his face was distant and preoccupied; almost mystical. He looked back at Gendron. “One of those drugfreaks down at the Center, you know what he gave me?”

Chuck Gendron shook his head numbly. With one of his shaking hands he was massaging the left side if his chest-just in case. His eyes kept falling to the photographs. The damning photographs. What if his secretary came in right now? He stopped massaging his chest and began gathering up the pictures, stuffing them back into the envelope.

“He gave me Chairman Mao's little red book,” Greg said. A chuckle rumbled up from the barrel chest that had once been so thin, part of a body that had mostly disgusted his idolized father. “And one of the proverbs in there… I can't remember exactly how it went, but it was something like, “The man who senses the wind of change should build not a windbreak but a windmill.” That was the flavor of it, anyway.”

He leaned forward.

“Harrison Fisher's not a shoo-in, he's a has-been. Ford is a has-been. Muskie's a has-been. Humphrey's a has-been. A lot of local and state politicians all the way across this country are going to wake up the day after election day and find out that they're as dead as dodo birds. They forced Nixon out, and the next year they forced out the people who stood behind him in the impeachment hearings, and next year they'll force out Jerry Ford for the same reason.

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