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Because he could say none of these things, he just reiterated: "Being scared isn't the problem. I just don't want to be involved in something that will land me in the nuthatch."


"Will you at least go with us to talk to him?" Bev asked. "Listen to what he says?"


"Sure," Stan said, and then laughed. "Maybe I ought to bring my bird-book."


They all laughed then, and it was a little easier.


12


Beverly left them outside the Kleen-Kloze and took the rags back home by herself. The apartment was still empty. She put them under the kitchen sink and closed the cupboard. She stood up and looked down toward the bathroom.


I'm not going down there, she thought. I'm going to watch Bandstand on TV. See if I can't learn how to do the Dog.


So she went into the living room and turned on the TV and five minutes later she turned it off while Dick Clark was showing how much oil just one Stri-Dex medicated pad could take off the face of your average teenager ('If you think you can get clean with just soap and water," Dick said, holding the dirty pad up to the glassy eye of the camera so that every teenager in America could get a good look, "you ought to take a good look at this.').


She went back to the kitchen cupboard over the sink, where her father kept his tools. Among them was a pocket tape, the kind that runs out a long yellow tongue of inches. She folded this into one cold hand and went down to the bathroom.


It was sparkling clean, silent. Somewhere, far distant, it seemed, she could hear Mrs Doyon yelling for her boy Jim to get in out of the road, right now.


She went to the bathroom basin and looked down into the dark eye of the drain.


She stood there for some time, her legs as cold as marble inside her jeans, her nipples feeling sharp enough and hard enough to cut paper, her lips dead dry. She waited for the voices.


No voices came.


A little shuddery sigh came from her, and she began to feed the thin steel tape into the drain. It went down smoothly-like a sword into the gullet of a "county fair sideshow performer. Six inches, eight inches, ten. It stopped, bound up in the elbow-bend under the sink, Beverly supposed. She wiggled it, pushing gently at the same time, and eventually the tape began to feed into the drain again. Sixteen inches now, then two feet, then three.


She watched the yellow tape slipping out of the chromed-steel case, which had been worn black on the sides by her father's big hand. In her mind's eye she saw it sliding through the black bore of the pipe, picking up some muck, scraping away flakes of rust. Down there where the sun never shines and the night never stops, she thought.


She imagined the head of the tape, with its small steel buttplate no bigger than a fingernail, sliding farther and farther into the darkness, and part of her mind screamed What are you doing? She did not ignore that voice... but she seemed helpless to heed it. She saw the end of the tape going straight down now, descending into the cellar. She saw it striking the sewage pipe... and even as she saw it, the tape bound up again.


She wiggled it again, and the tape, thin enough to be limber, made a faint eerie sound that reminded her a little bit of the way a saw sounds when you bend it back and forth across your legs.


She could see its tip wiggling against the bottom of this wider pipe, which would have a baked ceramic surface. She could see it bending... and then she was able to push it forward again.


She ran out six feet. Seven. Nine -


And suddenly the tape began to run through her hands by itself, as if something down there was pulling the other end. Not just pulling it: running with it. She stared at the flowing tape, her eyes wide, her mouth a sagging O of fear-fear, yes, but no surprise. Hadn't she known? Hadn't she known something like this was going to happen?


The tape ran out to its final stop. Eighteen feet; an even six yards.


A soft chuckle came wafting out of the drain, followed by a low whisper that was almost reproachful: "Beverly, Beverly, Beverly... you can't fight us... you'll die if you try... die if you try... die if you try... Beverly... Beverly... Beverly... ly-ly-ly..."


Something clicked inside the tape-measure's housing, and it suddenly began to run rapidly back into its case, the numbers and hashmarks blurring by. Near the end-the last five or six feet-the yellow became a dark, dripping red and she screamed and dropped it on the floor as if the tape had suddenly turned into a live snake.


Fresh blood trickled over the clean white porcelain of the basin and back down into the drain's wide eye. She bent, sobbing now, her fear a freezing weight in her stomach, and picked the tape up. She tweezed it between the thumb and first finger of her right hand and, holding it in front of her, took it into the kitchen. As she walked, blood dripped from the tape onto the faded linoleum of the hall and the kitchen.


She steadied herself by thinking of what her father would say to her-what he would do to her-if he found that she had gotten his measuring tape all bloody. Of course, he wouldn't be able to see the blood, but it helped to think that.


She took one of the clean rags-still as warm as fresh bread from the dryer-and went back into the bathroom. Before she began to clean, she put the hard rubber plug in the drain, closing that eye. The blood was fresh, and it cleaned up easily. She went up her own trail, wiping away the dune-sized drops on the linoleum, then rinsing the rag, wringing it out, and putting it aside.


She got a second rag and used it to clean her father's measuring tape. The blood was thick, viscous. In two places there were clots of the stuff, black and spongy.


Although the blood only went back five or six feet, she cleaned the entire length of the tape, removing from it all traces of pipemuck. That done, she put it back into the cupboard over the sink and took the two stained rags out in back of the apartment. Mrs Doyon was yelling at Jim again. Her voice was clear, almost bell-like in the still hot late afternoon.


In the back yard, which was mostly bare din, weeds, and clothes-lines, there Was a rusty incinerator. Beverly threw the rags into it, then sat down on the back steps. Tears came suddenly, with surprising violence, and this time she made no effort to hold them back.


She put her arms on her knees, her head in her arms, and wept while Mrs Doyon called for Jim to come out of that road, did he want to get hit by a car and be killed?


DERRY: THE SECOND INTERLUDE


"Quaeque ipsa miserrima vidi,


Et quorum pars magna fui."


-Virgil


"You don't fuck around with the infinite."


-Mean Streets


February 14th, 1985


Valentine's Day


Two more disappearances in the past week-both children. Just as I was beginning to relax. One of them a sixteen-year-old boy named Dennis Torrio, the other a girl of just five who was out sledding in back of her house on West Broadway. The hysterical mother found her sled, one of those blue plastic flying saucers, but nothing else. There had been a fresh fall of snow the night before-four inches or so. No tracks but hers, Chief Rademacher said when I called him. He is becoming extremely annoyed with me, I think. Not anything that's going to keep me awake nights; I have worse things to do than that, don't I?


Asked him if I could see the police photos. He refused.


Asked him if her tracks led away toward any sort of drain or sewer grating. This was followed by a long period of silence. Then Rademacher said, "I'm beginning to wonder if maybe you shouldn't see a doctor, Hanlon. The head-peeper kind of doctor. The kid was snatched by her father. Don't you read the papers?"


"Was the Torrio boy snatched by his father?" I asked..


Another long pause.


"Give it a rest, Hanlon," he said. "Give me a rest."


He hung up.


Of course I read the papers-don't I put them out in the Reading Room of the Public Library each morning myself? The little girl, Laurie Ann Winterbarger, had been in the custody of her mother following an acrimonious divorce proceeding in the spring of 1982. The police are operating on the theory that Horst Winterbarger, who is supposedly working as a machinery maintenance man somewhere in Florida, drove up to Maine to snatch his daughter. They further theorize that he parked his car beside the house and called to his daughter, who then joined him-hence the lack of any tracks other than the little girl's. They have less to say about the fact that the girl had not seen her father since she was two. Part of the deep bitterness which accompanied the Winterbargers" divorce came from Mrs Winterbarger's allegations that on at least two occasions Horst Winterbarger had sexually molested the child. She asked the court to deny Winterbarger all visitation rights, a request the court granted in spite of Winterbarger's hot denials. Rademacher claims the court's decision, which had the effect of cutting Winterbarger off completely from his only child, may have pushed Winterbarger into taking his daughter. That at least has some dun plausibility, but ask yourself this: would little Laurie Ann have recognized him after three years and run to him when he called her? Rademacher says yes, even though she was two the last time she saw him. I don't think so. And her mother says Laurie Ann had been well trained about not approaching or talking to strangers, a lesson most Derry children learn early and well. Rademacher says he's got Florida State Police looking for Winterbarger and that his responsibility ends there.


"Matters of custody are more the province of the lawyers than that of the police," this pompous, overweight asshole is quoted as saying in last Friday's Derry News.


But the Torrio boy... that's something else. Wonderful home life. Played football for the Derry Tigers. Honor Roll student. Had gone through the Outward Bound Survival School in the summer of '84 and passed with flying colors. No history of drug use. Had a girlfriend that he was apparently head-over-heels about. Had everything to live for. Everything to stay in Derry for, at least for the next couple of years.


All the same, he's gone.


What happened to him? A sudden attack of wanderlust? A drunk driver who maybe hit him, killed him, and buried him? Or is he maybe still in Derry, is he maybe on the nightside of Derry, keeping company with folks like Betty Ripsom and Patrick Hockstetter and Eddie Corcoran and all the rest? Is it


(later)


I'm doing it again. Going over and over the same ground, doing nothing constructive, only cranking myself up to the screaming point. I jump when the iron stairs leading up to the stacks creak. I jump at shadows. I find myself wondering how I'd react if I was shelving books up therein the stacks, pushing my little rubber-wheeled trolley in front of me, and a hand reached from between two leaning rows of books, a groping hand...


Had again a well-nigh insurmountable desire to begin calling them this afternoon. At one point I even got as far as dialing 404, the Atlanta area code, with Stanley Uris's number in front of me. Then I just held the phone against my ear, asking myself if I wanted to call them because I was really sure-one hundred percent sure-or simply because I'm now so badly spooked that I can't stand to be alone; that I have to talk to someone who knows (or will know) what it is I am spooked about.


For a moment I could hear Richie saying Batches? BATCHES? We doan need no stinkin" batches, senhorr! in his Pancho Vanilla Voice, as clearly as if he were standing beside me... and I hung up the phone. Because when you want to see someone as badly as I wanted to see Richie-or any of them-at that moment, you just can't trust your own motivations. We lie best when we lie to ourselves. The fact is, I'm still not one hundred percent sure. If another body should turn up, I will call... but for now I must suppose that even such a pompous ass as Rademacher may be right. She could have remembered her father; there may have been pictures of him. And I suppose a really persuasive adult could talk a kid into coming to his car, no matter what that child had been taught.


There's another fear that haunts me. Rademacher suggested that I might be going crazy. I don't believe that, but if I call them now, they may think I'm crazy. Worse than that, what if they should not remember me at all? Mike Hanlon? Who? I don't remember any Mike Hanlon. I don't remember you at all. What promise?


I feel that there will come a right time to call them... and when that time comes, I'll know that it's right. Their own circuits will open at the same time. It's as if there are two great wheels slowly coming into some sort of powerful convergence with each other, myself and the rest of Derry on one, and all my childhood friends on the other.


When the time comes, they will hear the voice of the Turtle.


So I'll wait, and sooner or later I'll know. I don't believe it's a question anymore of calling them or not calling them.


Only a question of when.


February 20th, 1985


The fire at the Black Spot.


"A perfect example of how the Chamber of Commerce will try to rewrite history, Mike," old Albert Carson would have told me, probably cackling as he said it. "They'll try, and sometimes they almost succeed... but the old people remember how things really went. They always remember. And sometimes they'll tell you, if you ask them right."


There are people who have lived in Derry for twenty years and don't know that there was once a "special" barracks for noncoms at the old Derry Army Air Corps Base, a barracks that was a good half a mile from the rest of the base-and in the middle of February, with the temperature standing right around zero and a forty-mile-an-hour wind howling across those flat runways and whopping the wind-chill factor down to something you could hardly believe, that extra half a mile became something that could give you frost-freeze or frostbite, or maybe even kill you.


The other seven barracks had oil heat, storm windows, and insulation. They were toasty and cozy. The "special" barracks, which housed the twenty-seven men of Company E, was heated by a balky old wood furnace. Supplies of wood for it were catch-as-catch-can. The only insulation was the deep bank of pine and spruce boughs the men laid around the outside. One of the men promoted a complete set of storm windows for the place one day, but the twenty-seven inmates of the "special" barracks were detailed up to Bangor that same day to help with some work at the base up there, and when they came back that night, tired and cold, all of those windows had been broken. Every one.


This was in 1930, when half of America's air force still consisted of biplanes. In Washington, Billy Mitchell had been courtmartialed and demoted to flying a desk because his gadfly insistence on trying to build a more modern air force had finally irritated his elders enough for them to slap him down hard. Not long after, he would resign.


So there was precious little flying that went on at the Derry base, in spite of its three runways (one of which was actually paved). Most of the soldiering that went on there was of the make-work variety.


One of the Company E soldiers who returned to Derry after his service tour


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