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Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - PART TWO The Laughing Tiger

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They were looking down at a rough chart Johnny had made on the back of a circular for used state police interceptors. Stacked untidily by Bannerman's desk were seven or eight cartons of old time cards, and sitting in the top half of Bannerman's in/out basket were Frank Dodd's cards, going back to 1971, when he had joined the sheriff's department. The chart looked like this:

THE MURDERS-FRANK DODD

Alma Frechette (waitress) Then working at Main Street

3:00PM, 11/12/70 Gulf Station

Pauline Toothaker Off-duty

10:00AM, 11/17/71

Cheryl Moody U. H. S. student) Off-duty

2:00 PM, 12/16/71

Carol Dunbarger (H. S. student) Two-week vacation period

11/?/74

Etta Ringgold (teacher) Regular duty tours

10/29(?)/75

Mary Kate Hendrasen Off-duty

10:10 AM, 12/17/75

All times are “estimated time of death” figures supplied by State Medical Examiner

“No, it doesn't prove anything,” Johnny agreed, rubbing his temples. “But it doesn't exactly rule him out, either.”

Bannerman tapped the chart. “When Miss Ringgold was killed, he was on duty.”

“Yeah, if she really was killed on the twenty-ninth of October. But it might have been the twenty-eighth, or the twenty-seventh. And even if he was on duty, who suspects a cop?”

Bannerman was looking at the little chart very carefully.

“What about the gap?” Johnny said. “The two-year gap?”

Bannerman thumbed the time cards. “Frank was right here on duty all during 1973 and 1974. You saw that.”

“So maybe the urge didn't come on him that year. At least, so far as we know.”

“So far as we know, we don't know anything,” Banner-man contradicted quickly.

“But what about 1972? Late 1972 and early 1973? There are no time cards for that period. Was he on vacation?”

“No,” Bannerman said. “Frank and a guy named Tom Harrison took a semester course in Rural Law Enforcement at a branch of the University of Colorado in Pueblo. It's the only place in the country where they offer a deal like that. It's an eight-week course. Frank and Tom were out there from October 15 until just about Christmas. The state pays part, the county pays part, and the U. S. government pays part under the Law Enforcement Act of 1971. I picked Harrison-he's chief of police over in Gates Falls now-and Frank. Frank almost didn't go, because he was worried about his mother being alone. To tell you the truth, I think she tried to persuade him to stay home. I talked him into it. He wants to be a career officer, and something like the Rural Law Enforcement course looks damn good on your record. I remember that when he and Tom got back in December, Frank had a low-grade virus and he looked terrible. He'd lost twenty pounds. Claimed no one out there in cow country could cook like his mom.

Bannerman fell silent. Something in what he had just said seemed to disturb him.

“He took a week's sick leave around the holidays and then he was okay,” Bannerman resumed, almost defensively. “He was back by the fifteenth of January at the latest. Check the time cards for yourself.”

“I don't have to. Any more than I have to tell you what your next step is.”

“No,” Bannerman said. He looked at his hands. “I told you that you had a head for this stuff. Maybe I was righter than I knew. Or wanted to be.”

He picked up the telephone and pulled out a thick directory with a plain blue cover from the bottom drawer of his desk. Paging through it without looking up, he told Johnny, “This is courtesy of that same Law Enforcement Act. Every sheriff's office in every county of the United States. “He found the number he wanted and made his call.

Johnny shifted in his seat.

“Hello,” Bannerman said. “Am I talking to the Pueblo sheriff's office?… All right. My name is George Banner-man, I'm the county sheriff of Castle County, in western Maine… yes, that's what I said. State of Maine. Who am I talking to, please?… All right, Officer Taylor, this is the situation. We've had a series of murders out here, rape-stranglings, six of them in the past five years. All of them have taken place in the late fall or early winter. We have a… “He looked up at Johnny for a moment, his eyes hurt and helpless. Then he looked down at the phone again. “We have a suspect who was in Pueblo from October 15 of 1972 until… uh, December 17, I think. What I'd like to know is if you have an unsolved homicide on your books during that period, victim female, no particular age, raped, cause of death, strangulation. Further, I would like to know the perpetrator's sperm type if you have had such a crime and a sperm sample was obtained. What?… Yes, okay. Thanks… I'll be right here, waiting. Good-bye, Officer Taylor.”

He hung up. “He's going to verify my bona fides, then check it through, then call me back. You want a cup of no, you don't drink it, do you?”

“No,” Johnny said. “I'll settle for a glass of water.”

He went over to the big glass cooler and drew a paper cupful of water. Outside the storm howled and pounded.

Behind him, Bannerman said awkwardly: “Yeah, okay. You were right. He's the son I'd've liked to have had. My wife had Katrina by cesarian. She can never have another one, the doctor said it would kill her. She had the Band-Aid operation and I had a vasectomy. Just to be sure.”

Johnny went to the window and looked out on darkness, his cup of water in his hand. There was nothing to see but snow, but if he turned around, Bannerman would break off-you didn't have to be psychic to know that.

“Frank's dad worked on the B amp;M line and died in an accident when Frank was five or so. He was drunk, tried to make a coupling in a state where he probably would have pissed down his own leg and never known it. He got crushed between two flatcars. Frank's had to be the man of the house ever since. Roscoe says he had a girl in high school, but Mrs. Dodd put paid to that in a hurry.”

I bet she did, Johnny thought. A woman who would do that thing… that clothespin thing… to her own son… that sort of woman would stop at nothing. She” must be almost as crazy as he is.

“He came to me when he was sixteen and asked if there was such a thing as a part-time policeman. Said it was the only thing he'd ever really wanted to do or be since he was a kid. I took a shine to him right off. Hired him to work around the place and paid him out of my own pocket. Paid him what I could, you know, he never complained about the wages. He was the Sort of kid who would have worked for free. He put in an application for full-time work the month before he graduated from high school, but at that time we didn't have any vacancies. So he went to work at Donny Haggar's Gulf and took a night course in police work at the university down in Gorham. I guess Mrs. Dodd tried to put paid to that, too-felt she was alone too much of the time, or something-but that time Frank stood up to her… with my encouragement. We took him on in July of 1971 and he's been with the department ever since. Now you tell me this and I think of Katrina being out yesterday morning, walking right past whoever did it… and it's like some dirty kind of incest, almost. Frank's been at our house, he's eaten our food, babysat Katie once or twice… and you tell me…

Johnny turned around. Bannerman had taken off his glasses and was wiping his eyes again.

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