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"He was wearing it because he loved this shitty little town!" the boyfriend, Don Hagarty, screamed at the cops.


"Now, now-there's no need for that sort of language," Officer Harold Gardener told Hagarty. Harold Gardener was one of Dave Gardener's our sons. On the day his father had discovered the lifeless, one-armed body of George Denbrough, Harold Gardener had been five. On this day, almost twenty-seven years later, he was thirty-two and balding. Harold Gardener recognized the reality of Don Hagarty's grief and pain, and at the same time found it impossible to take seriously. This man-if you want to call him a man-was wearing lipstick and satin pants so tight you could almost read the wrinkles in his cock. Grief or no grief, pain or no pain, he was, after all, just a queer. Like his friend, the late Adrian Mellon.


"Let's go through it again," Harold's partner, Jeffrey Reeves, said. "The two of you came out of the Falcon and turned toward the Canal. Then what?"


"How many times do I have to tell you idiots?" Hagarty was still screaming. "They killed him! They pushed him over the side! Just another day in Macho City for them!" Don Hagarty began to cry.


"One more time," Reeves repeated patiently. "You came out of the Falcon. Then what?"


2


In an interrogation room just down the hall, two Derry cops were speaking with Steve Dubay, seventeen; in the Clerk of Probate's office upstairs, two more were questioning John "Webby" Garton, eighteen; and in the Chief of Police's office on the fifth floor, Chief Andrew Rademacher and Assistant District Attorney Tom Boutillier were questioning fifteen-year-old Christopher Unwin. Unwin, who wore faded jeans, a grease-smeared tee-shirt, and blocky engineer boots, was weeping. Rademacher and Boutillier had taken him because they had quite accurately assessed him as the weak link in the chain.


"Let's go through it again," Boutillier said in this office just as Jeffrey Reeves was saying the same thing two floors down.


"We didn't mean to kill him," Unwin blubbered. "It was the hat. We couldn't believe he was still wearing the hat after, you know, after what Webby said the first time. And I guess we wanted to scare him."


"For what he said," Chief Rademacher interjected.


"Yes."


"To John Garton, on the afternoon of the 17th."


"Yes, to Webby." Unwin burst into fresh tears. "But we tried to save him when we saw he was in trouble... at least me and Stevie Dubay did... we didn't mean to kill him!"


"Come on, Chris, don't shit us," Boutillier said. "You threw the little queer into the Canal."


"Yes, but-"


"And the three of you came in to make a clean breast of things. Chief Rademacher and I appreciate that, don't we, Andy?"


"You bet. It takes a man to own up to what he did, Chris."


"So don't fuck yourself up by lying now. You meant to throw him over the minute you saw him and his fag buddy coming out of the Falcon, didn't you?"


"No!" Chris Unwin protested vehemently.


Boutillier took a pack of Marlboros from his shirt pocket and stuck one in his mouth. He offered the pack to Unwin. "Cigarette?"


Unwin took one. Boutillier had to chase the tip with a match in order to give him a light because of the way Unwin's mouth was trembling.


"But when you saw he was wearing the hat?" Rademacher asked.


Unwin dragged deep, lowered his head so that his greasy hair fell in his eyes, and jetted smoke from his nose, which was littered with blackheads.


"Yeah," he said, almost too softly to be heard.


Boutillier leaned forward, brown eyes gleaming. His face was predatory but his voice was gentle. "What, Chris?"


"I said yes. I guess so. To throw him in. But not to kill him." He looked up at them, face frantic and miserable and still unable to comprehend the stupendous changes which had taken place in his life since he left the house to take in the last night of Derry's Canal Days Festival with two of his buddies at seven-thirty the previous evening. "Not to kill him!" he repeated. "And that guy under the bridge... I still don't know who he was."


"What guy was that?" Rademacher asked, but without much interest. They had heard this part before as well, and neither of them believed it-sooner or later men accused of murder almost always drag out that mysterious other guy. Boutillier even had a name for it: he called it the "One-Armed Man Syndrome," after that old TV series The Fugitive.


"The guy in the clown suit," Chris Unwin said, and shivered. "The guy with the balloons."


3


The Canal Days Festival, which ran from July 15th to July 21st, had been a rousing success, most Derry residents agreed: a great thing for the city's morale, image... and pocketbook. The week-long festival was pegged to mark the centenary of the opening of the Canal which ran through the middle of downtown. It had been the Canal which had fully opened Derry to the lumber trade in the years 1884 to 1910; it had been the Canal which had birthed Derry's boom years.


The town was spruced up from east to west and north to south. Potholes which some residents swore hadn't been patched for ten years or more were neatly filled with hottop and rolled smooth. The town buildings were refurbished on the inside, repainted on the outside. The worst of the graffiti in Bassey Park-much of it coolly logical anti-gay statements such as KILL ALL QUEERS and AIDS FROM GOD YOU HELLHOUND HOMOS!!-was sanded off the benches and wooden walls of the little covered walkway over the Canal known as the Kissing Bridge.


A Canal Days Museum was installed in three empty store-fronts downtown, and filled with exhibits by Michael Hanlon, a local librarian and amateur historian. The town's oldest families loaned freely of their almost priceless treasures, and during the week of the festival nearly forty thousand visitors paid a quarter each to look at eating-house menus from the 1890s, loggers" bitts, axes, and peaveys from the 1880s, children's toys from the 1920s, and over two thousand photographs and nine reels of movie film of life as it had been in Derry over the last hundred years.


The museum was sponsored by the Derry Ladies" Society, which vetoed some of Hanlon's proposed exhibits (such as the notorious tramp-chair from the 1930s) and photographs (such as those of the Bradley Gang after the notorious shoot-out). But all agreed it was a great success, and no one really wanted to see those gory old things anyway. It was so much better to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as the old song said.


There was a huge striped refreshment tent in Derry Park, and band concerts there every night. In Bassey Park there was a carnival with rides by Smokey's Greater Shows and games run by local townfolk. A special tram-car circled the historic sections of the town every hour on the hour and ended up at this gaudy and amiable money-machine.


It was here that Adrian Mellon won the hat which would get him killed, the paper top-hat with the flower and the band which said I? DERRY!


4


"I'm tired," John "Webby" Garton said. Like his two friends, he was dressed in unconscious imitation of Bruce Springsteen, although if asked he would probably call Springsteen a wimp or a fagola and would instead profess admiration for such "bitchin" heavy-metal groups as Def Leppard, Twisted Sister, or Judas Priest. The sleeves of his plain blue tee-shirt were torn off, showing his heavily muscled arms. His thick brown hair fell over one eye-this touch was more John Cougar Mellencamp than Springsteen. There were blue tattoos on his arms-arcane symbols which looked as if they had been drawn by a child. "I don't want to talk no more."


"Just tell us about Tuesday afternoon at the fair," Paul Hughes said. Hughes was tired and shocked and dismayed by this whole sordid business. He thought again and again that it was as if Derry Canal Days ended with one final event which everyone had somehow known about but which no one had quite dared to put down on the Daily Program of Events. If they had, it would have looked like this:


Saturday, 9:00 P.M.: Final band concert featuring the Derry High School Band and the Barber Shop Mello-Men.


Saturday, 10:00 P.M.: Giant fireworks show.


Saturday, 10:35 P.M.: Ritual sacrifice of Adrian Mellon officially ends Canal Days.


"Fuck the fair," Webby replied.


"Just what you said to Mellon and what he said to you."


"Oh Christ." Webby rolled his eyes.


"Come on, Webby," Hughes's partner said.


Webby Garton rolled his eyes and began again.


5


Garton saw the two of them, Mellon and Hagarty, mincing along with their arms about each other's waists and giggling like a couple of girls. At first he actually thought they were a couple of girls. Then he recognized Mellon, who had been pointed out to him before. As he looked, he saw Mellon turn to Hagarty... and they kissed briefly.


"Oh, man, I'm gonna barf!" Webby cried, disgusted.


Chris Unwin and Steve Dubay were with him. When Webby pointed out Mellon, Steve Dubay said he thought the other fag was named Don somebody, and that he'd picked up a kid from Derry High hitching and then tried to put a few moves on him.


Mellon and Hagarty began to move toward the three boys again, walking away from the Pitch Til U Win and toward the carny's exit. Webby Garton would later tell Officers Hughes and Conley that his "civic pride" had been wounded by seeing a fucking faggot wearing a hat which said I LOVE DERRY. It was a silly thing, that hat-a paper imitation of a top hat with a great big flower sticking up from the top and nodding about in every direction. The silliness of the hat apparently wounded Webby's civic pride even more.


As Mellon and Hagarty passed, each with his arm linked about the other's waist, Webby Garton yelled out: "I ought to make you eat that hat, you fucking ass-bandit!"


Mellon turned toward Garton, fluttered his eyes flirtatiously, and said: "If you want something to eat, hon, I can find something much tastier than my hat."


At this point Webby Garton decided he was going to rearrange the faggot's face. In the geography of Mellon's face, mountains would rise and continents would drift. Nobody suggested he sucked the root. Nobody.


He started toward Mellon. Mellon's friend Hagarty, alarmed, attempted to pull Mellon away, but Mellon stood his ground, smiling. Garton would later tell Officers Hughes and Conley that he was pretty sure Mellon was high on something. So he was, Hagarty would agree when this idea was passed on to him by Officers Gardener and Reeves. He was high on two fried doughboys smeared with honey, on the carnival, on the whole day. He had been consequently unable to recognize the real menace which Webby Garton represented.


"But that was Adrian," Don said, using a tissue to wipe his eyes and smearing the spangled eyeshadow he was wearing. "He didn't have much in the way of protective coloration. He was one of those fools who think things really are going to turn out all right."


He might have been badly hurt there and then if Garton hadn't felt something tap his elbow. It was a nightstick. He turned his head to see Officer Frank Machen, another member of Derry's Finest.


"Never mind, little buddy," Machen told Garton. "Mind your business and leave those little gay boyos alone. Have some fun."


"Did you hear what he called me?" Garton asked body. He was now joined by Unwin and Dubay-the two of them, smelling trouble, tried to urge Garton on up the midway, but Garton shrugged them away, would have turned on them with his fists if they had persisted. His masculinity had borne an insult which he felt must be avenged. Nobody suggested he sucked the root. Nobody.


"I don't believe he called you anything," Machen replied. "And you spoke to him first, I believe. Now move on, sonny. I don't want to have to tell you again."


"He called me a queer!"


"Are you worried you might be, then?" Machen asked, seeming to be honestly interested, and Garton flushed a deep ugly red.


During this exchange, Hagarty was trying with increasing desperation to pull Adrian Mellon away from the scene. Now, at last, Mellon was going.


"Ta-ta, love!" Adrian called cheekily over his shoulder.


"Shut up, candy-ass," Machen said. "Get out of here."


Garton made a lunge at Mellon, and Machen grabbed him.


"I can run you in, my friend," Machen said, "and the way you're acting, it might not be such a bad idea."


"Next time I see you I'm gonna hurt you!" Garton bellowed after the departing pair, and heads turned to stare at him. "And if you're wearing that hat, I'm gonna kill you! This town don't need no faggots like you!"


Without turning, Mellon waggled the fingers of his left hand-the nails were painted cerise-and put an extra little wiggle in his walk. Garton lunged again.


"One more word or one more move and in you go," Machen said mildly. "Trust me, my boy, for I mean exactly what I say."


"Come on, Webby," Chris Unwin said uneasily. "Mellow out."


"You like guys like that?" Webby asked Machen, ignoring Chris and Steve completely. "Huh?"


"About the bum-punchers I'm neutral," Machen said. "What I'm really in favor of is peace and quiet, and you are upsetting what I like, pizza face. Now do you want to go a round with me or what?"


"Come on, Webby," Steve Dubay said quietly. "Let's go get some hot dogs."


Webby went, straightening his shirt with exaggerated moves and brushing the hair out of his eyes. Machen, who also gave a statement on the morning following Adrian Mellon's death, said: "The last thing I heard him say as him and his buddies walked off was, "Next time I see him he's going to be in serious hurt."


6


"Please, I got to talk to my mother," Steve Dubay said for the third time. "I've got to get her to mellow out my stepfather, or there is going to be one hell of a punching-match when I get home."


"In a little while," Officer Charles Avarino told him. Both Avarino and his partner, Barney Morrison, knew that Steve Dubay would not be going home tonight and maybe not for many nights to come. The boy did not seem to realize just how heavy this particular bust was, and Avarino would not be surprised when he learned, later on, that Dubay had left school at age sixteen. At that time he had still been in Water Street Junior High. His IQ was 68, according to the Wechsler he had taken during one of his three trips through the seventh grade.


"Tell us what happened when you saw Mellon coming out of the Falcon," Morrison invited.


"No, man, I better not."


"Well, why not?" Avarino asked.


"I already talked too much, maybe."


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