Black House
Chapter Twenty

 Stephen King

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AROUND THE TIME Mouse and Beezer first fail to see the little road and the NO TRESPASSING sign beside it, Jack Sawyer answers the annoying signal of his cell phone, hoping that his caller will turn out to be Henry Leyden with information about the voice on the 911 tape. Although an identification would be wonderful, he does not expect Henry to I.D. the voice; the Fisherman¨CBurnside is Potsie's age, and Jack does not suppose the old villain has much of a social life, here or in the Territories. What Henry can do, however, is to apply his finely tuned ears to the nuances of Burnside's voice and describe what he hears in it. If we did not know that Jack's faith in his friend's capacity to hear distinctions and patterns inaudible to other people was justified, that faith would seem as irrational as the belief in magic: Jack trusts that a refreshed, invigorated Henry Leyden will pick up at least one or two crucial details of history or character that will narrow the search. Anything that Henry picks up will interest Jack.
If someone else is calling him, he intends to get rid of whoever it is, fast.
The voice that answers his greeting revises his plans. Fred Marshall wants to talk to him, and Fred is so wound up and incoherent that Jack must ask him to slow down and start over.
"Judy's flipping out again," Fred says. "Just . . . babbling and raving, and getting crazy like before, trying to rip through the walls ¡ª oh God, they put her in restraints and she hates that, she wants to help Ty, it's all because of that tape. Christ, it's getting to be too much to handle, Jack, Mr. Sawyer, I mean it, and I know I'm running off at the mouth, but I'm really worried."
"Don't tell me someone sent her the 911 tape," Jack says.
"No, not . . . what 911 tape? I'm talking about the one that was delivered to the hospital today. Addressed to Judy. Can you believe they let her listen to that thing? I want to strangle Dr. Spiegleman and that nurse, Jane Bond. What's the matter with these people? The tape comes in, they say, oh goody, here's a nice tape for you to listen to, Mrs. Marshall, hold on, I'll be right back with a cassette player. On a mental ward? They don't even bother to listen to it first? Look, whatever you're doing, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd let me pick you up, so I could drive you over there. You could talk to her. You're the only person who can calm her down."
"You don't have to pick me up, because I'm already on the way. What was on the tape?"
"I don't get it." Fred Marshall has become considerably more lucid. "Why are you going there without me?" After a second of thought, Jack tells him an outright lie. "I thought you would probably be there already. It's a pity you weren't."
"I would have had the sense to screen that tape before letting her hear it. Do you know what was on that thing?"
"The Fisherman," Jack says.
"How did you know?"
"He's a great communicator," Jack says. "How bad was it?"
"You tell me, and then we'll both know. I'm piecing it together from what I gathered from Judy and what Dr. Spiegleman told me later." Fred Marshall's voice begins to waver. "The Fisherman was taunting her. Can you believe that? He said, Your little boy is very lonely. Then he said something like, He's been begging and begging to call home and say hello to his mommy. Except Judy says he had a weird foreign accent, or a speech impediment, or something, so he wasn't easy to understand right away. Then he says, Say hello to your mommy, Tyler, and Tyler . . ." Fred's voice breaks, and Jack can hear him stifling his agony before he begins again. "Tyler, ah, Tyler was apparently too distressed to do much but scream for help." A long, uncertain inhalation comes over the phone. "And he cried, Jack, he cried." Unable to contain his feelings any longer, Fred weeps openly, unguardedly. His breath rattles in his throat; Jack listens to all the wet, undignified, helpless noises people make when grief and sorrow cancel every other feeling, and his heart moves for Fred Marshall.
The sobbing relents. "Sorry. Sometimes I think they'll have to put me in restraints."
"Was that the end of the tape?"
"He got on again." Fred breathes noisily for a moment, clearing his head. "Boasting about what he was going to do. Dere vill be morrr mur-derts, and morrr afder dat, Choo-dee, we are all goink zu haff sotch fun ¡ª Spiegleman quoted this junk to me! The children of French Landing will be harvested like wheat. Havv-uz-ted like wheed. Who talks like that? What kind of person is this?"
"I wish I knew," Jack says. "Maybe he was putting on an accent to sound even scarier. Or to disguise his voice." He'd never disguise his voice, Jack thinks, he's too delighted with himself to hide behind an accent. "I'll have to get the tape from the hospital and listen to it myself. And I'll call you as soon as I have some information."
"There's one more thing," Marshall says. "I probably made a mistake. Wendell Green came over about an hour ago."
"Anything involving Wendell Green is automatically a mistake. So what happened?"
"It was like he knew all about Tyler and just needed me to confirm it. I thought he must have heard from Dale, or the state troopers. But Dale hasn't made us public yet, has he?"
"Wendell has a network of little weasels that feed him information. If he knows anything, that's how he heard about it. What did you tell him?"
"More or less everything," Marshall says. "Including the tape. Oh, God, I'm such a dope. But I thought it'd be all right ¡ª I thought it would all get out anyhow."
"Fred, did you tell him anything about me?"
"Only that Judy trusts you and that we're both grateful for your help. And I think I said that you would probably be going in to see her this afternoon."
"Did you mention Ty's baseball cap?"
"Do you think I'm nuts? As far as I'm concerned, that stuff is between you and Judy. If I don't get it, I'm not going to talk about it to Wendell Green. At least I got him to promise to stay away from Judy. He has a great reputation, but I got the feeling he isn't everything he's cracked up to be."
"You said a mouthful," Jack says. "I'll be in touch."
When Fred Marshall hangs up, Jack punches in Henry's number.
"I may be a little late, Henry. I'm on my way to French County Lutheran. Judy Marshall got a tape from the Fisherman, and if they'll let me have it, I'll bring it over. There's something strange going on here ¡ª on Judy's tape, I guess he has some kind of foreign accent."
Henry tells Jack there is no rush. He has not listened to the first tape yet, and now will wait until Jack comes over with the second one. He might hear something useful if he plays them in sequence. At least, he could tell Jack if they were made by the same man. "And don't worry about me, Jack. In a little while, Mrs. Morton is coming by to take me over to KDCU. George Rathbun butters my bread today, baby ¡ª six or seven radio ads. 'Even a blind man knows you want to treat your honey, your sweetheart, your lovey-dovey, your wife, your best friend through thick and thin, to a mm-mmm fine dinner tonight, and there's no better place to show your appreciation to the old ball and chain than to take her to Cousin Buddy's Rib Crib on South Wabash Street in beautiful downtown La Riviere!' "
" 'The old ball and chain'?"
"You pay for George Rathbun, you get George Rathbun, warts and all."
Laughing, Jack tells Henry he will see him later that day, and pushes the Ram up to seventy. What is Dale going to do, give him a speeding ticket?
He parks in front of the hospital instead of driving around to the parking lot, and trots across the concrete with his mind filled with the Territories and Judy Marshall. Things are hurtling forward, picking up pace, and Jack has the sense that everything converges on Judy ¡ª no, on Judy and him. The Fisherman has chosen them more purposefully than he did his first three victims: Amy St. Pierre, Johnny Irkenham, and Irma Freneau were simply the right age ¡ª any three children would have done ¡ª but Tyler was Judy Marshall's son, and that set him apart. Judy has glimpsed the Territories, Jack has traveled through them, and the Fisherman lives there the way a cancer cell lives in a healthy organism. The Fisherman sent Judy a tape, Jack a grisly present. At Tansy Freneau's, he had seen Judy as his key and the door it opened, and where did that door lead but into Judy's Faraway?
Faraway. God, that's pretty. Beautiful, in fact.
Aaah . . . the word evokes Judy Marshall's face, and when he sees that face, a door in his mind, a door that is his and his alone, flies open, and for a moment Jack Sawyer stops moving altogether, and in shock, dread, and joyous expectation, freezes on the concrete six feet from the hospital's entrance.
Through the door in his mind pours a stream of disconnected images: a stalled Ferris wheel, Santa Monica cops milling behind a strip of yellow crime-scene tape, light reflected off a black man's bald head. Yes, a bald man's black head, that which he really and truly, in fact most desperately, had not wished to see, so take a good look, kiddo, here it is again. There had been a guitar, but the guitar was elsewhere; the guitar belonged to the magnificent demanding comforting comfortless Speedy Parker, God bless him God damn his eyes God love him Speedy, who touched its strings and sang
Travelin' Jack, ole Travelin' Jack,
Got a far long way to go,
Longer way to come back.
Worlds spin around him, worlds within worlds and other worlds alongside them, separated by a thin membrane composed of a thousand thousand doors, if only you know how to find them. A thousand thousand red feathers, tiny ones, feathers from a robin redbreast, hundreds of robin redbreasts, flew through one of those doors, Speedy's. Robin, as in robin's-egg blue, thank you, Speedy, and a song that said Wake up, wake up, you sleepyhead.
Or: Wake up, wake up, you DUNDERHEAD!
Crazily, Jack hears George Rathbun's now-not-so genial roar: Eeeven a BLIIIND MAAAN coulda seen THIS one coming, you KNOTHEAD!
"Oh, yeah?" Jack says out loud. It is a good thing Head Nurse Jane Bond, Warden Bond, Agent OO Zero, cannot hear him. She's tough, but on the other hand, she's unfair, and if she were to appear beside him now, she would probably clap him in irons, sedate him, and drag him back to her domain. "Well, I know something you don't know, old buddy: Judy Marshall has a Twinner, and the Twinner has been whispering through the wall for a considerable old time now. It's no surprise she finally started to shout."
A red-haired teenager in an ARDEN H.S. BASEBALL T-shirt shoves open the literal door six feet from Jack and gives him a wary, disconcerted look. Man, grown-ups are weird, the look says; aren't I glad I'm a kid? Since he is a high school student and not a mental-health professional, he does not clap our hero in irons and drag him sedated away to the padded room. He simply takes care to steer a wide course around the madman and keeps walking, albeit with a touch of self-conscious stiffness in his gait.
It is all about Twinners, of course. Rebuking his stupidity, Jack raps his knuckles against the side of his head. He should have seen it before; he should have understood immediately. If he has any excuse, it is that at first he refused to think about the case despite Speedy's efforts to wake him up, then became so caught up in concentrating on the Fisherman that until this morning, while watching his mother on the Sand Bar's big TV, he had neglected to consider the monster's Twinner. In Judy Marshall's childhood, her Twinner had spoken to her through that membrane between the two worlds; growing more and more alarmed over the past month, the Twinner had all but thrust her arms through the membrane and shaken Judy senseless. Because Jack is single-natured and has no Twinner, the corresponding task fell to Speedy. Now that everything seems to make sense, Jack cannot believe it has taken him so long to see the pattern.
And this is why he has resented everything that kept him from standing before Judy Marshall: Judy is the doorway to her Twinner, to Tyler, and to the destruction of both the Fisherman and his opposite number in the Territories, the builder of the satanic, fiery structure a crow named Gorg showed Tansy Freneau. Whatever happens on Ward D today, it is going to be world-altering.
Heart thrumming in anticipation, Jack passes from intense sunlight into the vast ocher space of the lobby. The same bathrobed patients seem to occupy the many chairs; in a distant corner, the same doctors discuss a troublesome case or, who knows, that tricky tenth hole at Arden Country Club; the same golden lilies raise their luxuriant, attentive heads outside the gift shop. This repetition reassures Jack, it hastens his step, for it surrounds and cushions the unforeseeable events awaiting him on the fifth floor.
The same bored clerk responds to the proffer of the same password with an identical, if not the same, green card stamped VISITOR. The elevator surprisingly similar to one in the Ritz H?tel on the Place Vend?me obediently trembles upward past floors two, three, and four, in its dowager-like progress pausing to admit a gaunt young doctor who summons the memory of Roderick Usher, then releases Jack on five, where the beautiful ocher light seems a shade or two darker than down there in the huge lobby. From the elevator Jack retraces the steps he took with his guide Fred Marshall down the corridor, through the two sets of double doors and past the way stations of Gerontology and Ambulatory Ophthalmology and Records Annex, getting closer and closer to the unforeseen unforeseeable as the corridors grow narrower and darker, and emerges as before into the century-old room with high, skinny windows and a lot of walnut-colored wood.
And there the spell breaks, for the attendant seated behind the polished counter, the person currently the guardian of this realm, is taller, younger, and considerably more sullen than his counterpart of the day before. When Jack asks to see Mrs. Marshall, the young person glances in disdain at his VISITOR card and inquires if he should happen to be a relative or ¡ª another glance at the card ¡ª a medical professional. Neither, Jack admits, but if the young person could trouble himself to inform Nurse Bond that Mr. Sawyer wishes to speak to Mrs. Marshall, Nurse Bond is practically guaranteed to swing open the forbidding metal doors and wave him inward, since that is more or less what she did yesterday.
That is all well and good, if it happens to be true, the young person allows, but Nurse Bond is not going to be doing any door opening and waving in today, for today Nurse Bond is off duty. Could it be that when Mr. Sawyer showed up to see Mrs. Marshall yesterday he was accompanied by a family member, say Mr. Marshall?
Yes. And if Mr. Marshall were to be consulted, say via the telephone, he would urge the young fellow presently discussing the matter in a commendably responsible fashion with Mr. Sawyer to admit the gentleman promptly.
That may be the case, the young person grants, but hospital regulations require that nonmedical personnel in positions such as the young person's obtain authorization for any outside telephone calls.
And from whom, Jack wishes to know, would this authorization be obtained?
From the acting head nurse, Nurse Rack.
Jack, who is growing a little hot, as they say, under the collar, suggests in that case that the young person seek out the excellent Nurse Rack and obtain the required authorization, so that things might progress in the manner Mr. Marshall, the patient's husband, would wish.
No, the young person sees no reason to pursue such a course, the reason being that doing so would represent a pitiful waste of time and effort. Mr. Sawyer is not a member of Mrs. Marshall's family; therefore the excellent Nurse Rack would under no circumstances grant the authorization.
"Okay," Jack says, wishing he could strangle this irritating pip-squeak, "let's move a step up the administrative ladder, shall we? Is Dr. Spiegleman somewhere on the premises?"
"Could be," the young person says. "How'm I supposed to know? Dr. Spiegleman doesn't tell me everything he does."
Jack points to the telephone at the end of the counter. "I don't expect you to know, I expect you to find out. Get on that phone now."
The young man slouches down the counter to the telephone, rolls his eyes, punches two numbered keys, and leans against the counter with his back to the room. Jack hears him muttering about Spiegleman, sigh, then say, "All right, transfer me, whatever." Transferred, he mutters something that includes Jack's name. Whatever he hears in response causes him to jerk himself upright and sneak a wide-eyed look over his shoulder at Jack. "Yes, sir. He's here now, yes. I'll tell him."
He replaces the receiver. "Dr. Spiegleman'll be here right away." The boy ¡ª he is no more than twenty ¡ª steps back and shoves his hands in his pockets. "You're that cop, huh?"
"What cop?" Jack says, still irritated.
"The one from California that came here and arrested Mr. Kinderling."
"Yes, that's me."
"I'm from French Landing, and boy, that was some shock. To the whole town. Nobody would have guessed. Mr. Kinderling? Are you kidding? You'd never believe that someone like that would . . . you know, kill people."
"Did you know him?"
"Well, in a town like French Landing, everybody sort of knows everybody, but I didn't really know Mr. Kinderling, except to say hi. The one I knew was his wife. She used to be my Sunday school teacher at Mount Hebron Lutheran."
Jack cannot help it; he laughs at the incongruity of the murderer's wife teaching Sunday school classes. The memory of Wanda Kinderling radiating hatred at him during her husband's sentencing stops his laughter, but it is too late. He sees that he has offended the young man. "What was she like?" he asks. "As a teacher."
"Just a teacher," the boy says. His voice is uninflected, resentful. "She made us memorize all the books of the Bible." He turns away and mutters, "Some people think he didn't do it."
"What did you say?"
The boy half-turns toward Jack but looks at the brown wall in front of him. "I said, Some people think he didn't do it. Mr. Kinderling. They think he got put in jail because he was a small-town guy who didn't know anybody out there."
"That's too bad," Jack says. "Do you want to know the real reason Mr. Kinderling went to prison?"
The boy turns the rest of the way and looks at Jack.
"Because he was guilty of murder, and he confessed. That's it, that's all. Two witnesses put him at the scene, and two other people saw him on a plane to L.A. when he told everyone he was flying to Denver. After that, he said, Okay, I did it. I always wanted to know what it was like to kill a girl, and one day I couldn't stand it anymore, so I went out and killed two whores. His lawyer tried to get him off on an insanity plea, but the jury at his hearing found him sane, and he went to prison."
The boy lowers his head and mumbles something.
"I couldn't hear that," Jack says.
"Lots of ways to make a guy confess." The boy repeats the sentence just loud enough to be heard.
Then footsteps ring in the hallway, and a plump, white-coated man with steel-rimmed glasses and a goatee comes striding toward Jack with his hand out. The boy has turned away. The opportunity to convince the attendant that he did not beat a confession out of Thornberg Kinderling has slipped away. The smiling man with the white jacket and the goatee seizes Jack's hand, introduces himself as Dr. Spiegleman, and declares it a pleasure to meet such a famous personage. (Personage, persiflage, Jack thinks.) From one step behind the doctor, a man unnoticed until this moment steps fully into view and says, "Hey, Doctor, do you know what would be perfect? If Mr. Famous and I interview the lady together. Twice the information in half the time ¡ª perfect."
Jack's stomach turns sour. Wendell Green has joined the party.
After greeting the doctor, Jack turns to the other man. "What are you doing here, Wendell? You promised Fred Marshall you'd stay away from his wife."
Wendell Green holds up his hands and dances back on the balls of his feet. "Are we calmer today, Lieutenant Sawyer? Not inclined to use a sucker punch on the hardworking press, are we? I have to say, I'm getting a little tired of being assaulted by the police."
Dr. Spiegleman frowns at him. "What are you saying, Mr. Green?"
"Yesterday, before that cop knocked me out with his flashlight, Lieutenant Sawyer here punched me in the stomach for no real reason at all. It's a good thing I'm a reasonable man, or I'd have filed lawsuits already. But, Doctor, you know what? I don't do things that way. I believe everything works out better if we cooperate with each other."
Halfway through this self-serving speech, Jack thinks, Oh hell, and glances at the young attendant. The boy's eyes burn with loathing. A lost cause: now Jack will never persuade the boy that he did not mistreat Kinderling. By the time Wendell Green finishes congratulating himself, Jack has had a bellyful of his specious, smarmy affability.
"Mr. Green offered to give me a percentage of his take, if I let him sell photographs of Irma Freneau's corpse," he tells the doctor. "What he is asking now is equally unthinkable. Mr. Marshall urged me to come here and see his wife, and he made Mr. Green promise not to come."
"Technically, that may be true," Green says. "As an experienced journalist, I know that people often say things they don't mean and will eventually regret. Fred Marshall understands that his wife's story is going to come out sooner or later."
"Does he?"
"Especially in the light of the Fisherman's latest communication," Green says. "This tape proves that Tyler Marshall is his fourth victim, and that, miraculously, he is still alive. How long do you think that can be kept from the public? And wouldn't you agree that the boy's mother should be able to explain the situation in her own words?"
"I refuse to be badgered like this." The doctor scowls at Green and gives Jack a look of warning. "Mr. Green, I am very close to ordering you out of this hospital. I wish to discuss several matters with Lieutenant Sawyer, in private. If you and the lieutenant can work out some agreement between the two of you, that is your affair. I am certainly not going to permit a joint interview with my patient. I am in no way certain that she should talk to Lieutenant Sawyer, either. She is calmer than she was this morning, but she is still fragile."
"The best way to deal with her problem is to let her express herself," Green says.
"You will be quiet now, Mr. Green," Dr. Spiegleman says. The double chins that fold under his goatee turn a warm pink. He glares at Jack. "What specifically is it that you request, Lieutenant?"
"Do you have an office in this hospital, Doctor?"
"I do."
"Ideally, I'd like to spend about half an hour, maybe less, talking to Mrs. Marshall in a safe, quiet environment where our conversation would be completely confidential. Your office would probably be perfect. There are too many people on the ward, and you can't talk without being interrupted or having other patients listen in."
"My office," Spiegleman says.
"If you're willing."
"Come with me," the doctor says. "Mr. Green, you will please stand back next to the counter while Lieutenant Sawyer and I step into the hallway."
"Anything you say." Green executes a mocking bow and moves lightly, with a suggestion of dance steps, to the counter. "In your absence, I'm sure this handsome young man and I will find something to talk about."
Smiling, Wendell Green props his elbows on the counter and watches Jack and Dr. Spiegleman leave the room. Their footsteps click against the floor tiles until it sounds as though they have gone more than halfway down the corridor. Then there is silence. Still smiling, Wendell about-faces and finds the attendant openly staring at him.
"I read you all the time," the boy says. "You write real good."
Wendell's smile becomes beatific. "Handsome and intelligent. What a stunning combination. Tell me your name."
"Ethan Evans."
"Ethan, we do not have much time here, so let's make this snappy. Do you think responsible members of the press should have access to information the public needs?"
"You bet."
"And wouldn't you agree that an informed press is one of our best weapons against monsters like the Fisherman?"
A single, vertical wrinkle appears between Ethan Evans's eyebrows. "Weapons?"
"Let me put it this way. Isn't it true that the more we know about the Fisherman, the better chance we have of stopping him?"
The boy nods, and the wrinkle disappears.
"Tell me, do you think the doctor is going to let Sawyer use his office?"
"Prob'ly, yeah," Evans says. "But I don't like the way that Sawyer guy works. He's a police brutality. Like when they hit people to make them confess. That's brutality."
"I have another question for you. Two questions, really. Is there a closet in Dr. Spiegleman's office? And is there some way you could take me there without going through that corridor?"
"Oh." Evans's dim eyes momentarily shine with understanding. "You want to listen."
"Listen and record." Wendell Green taps the pocket that contains his cassette recorder. "For the good of the public at large, God bless 'em one and all."
"Well, maybe, yeah," the boy says. "But Dr. Spiegleman, he . . ."
A twenty-dollar bill has magically appeared folded around the second finger of Wendell Green's right hand. "Act fast, and Dr. Spiegleman will never know a thing. Right, Ethan?"
Ethan Evans snatches the bill from Wendell's hand and motions him back behind the counter, where he opens a door and says, "Come on, hurry."
Low lights burn at both ends of the dark corridor. Dr. Spiegleman says, "I gather that my patient's husband told you about the tape she received this morning."
"He did. How did it get here, do you know?"
"Believe me, Lieutenant, after I saw the effect that tape had on Mrs. Marshall and listened to it myself, I tried to learn how it reached my patient. All of our mail goes through the hospital's mailroom before being delivered, all of it, whether to patients, medical staff, or administrative offices. From there, a couple of volunteers deliver it to the addressees. I gather that the package containing the tape was in the hospital mailroom when a volunteer looked in there this morning. Because the package was addressed only with my patient's name, the volunteer went to our general information office. One of the girls brought it up."
"Shouldn't someone have consulted you before giving the tape and a cassette player to Judy?"
"Of course. Nurse Bond would have done so immediately, but she is not on duty today. Nurse Rack, who is on duty, assumed that the address referred to a childhood nickname and thought that one of Mrs. Marshall's old friends had sent her some music to cheer her up. And there is a cassette player in the nurses' station, so she put the tape in the player and gave it to Mrs. Marshall."
In the gloom of the corridor, the doctor's eyes take on a sardonic glint. "Then, as you might imagine, all hell broke loose. Mrs. Marshall reverted to the condition in which she was first hospitalized, which takes in a range of alarming behaviors. Fortunately, I happened to be in the hospital, and when I heard what had happened, I ordered her sedated and placed in a secure room. A secure room, Lieutenant, has padded walls ¡ª Mrs. Marshall had reopened the wounds to her fingers, and I did not want her to do any more damage to herself. Once the sedative had taken effect, I went in and talked to her. I listened to the tape. Perhaps I should have called the police immediately, but my first responsibility is to my patient, and I called Mr. Marshall instead."
"From where?"
"From the secure room, with my cell phone. Mr. Marshall of course insisted on speaking to his wife, and she wanted to speak to him. She became very distraught during their conversation, and I had to give her another mild sedative. When she calmed down, I went out of the room and called Mr. Marshall again, to tell him more specifically about the contents of the tape. Do you want to hear it?"
"Not now, Doctor, thanks. But I do want to ask you about one aspect of it."
"Then ask."
"Fred Marshall tried to imitate the way you had reproduced the accent of the man who made the tape. Did it sound like any recognizable accent to you? German, maybe?"
"I've been thinking about that. It was sort of like a Germanic pronunciation of English, but not really. If it sounded like anything recognizable, it was English spoken by a Frenchman trying to put on a German accent, if that makes sense to you. But really, I've never heard anything like it."
From the start of this conversation, Dr. Spiegleman has been measuring Jack, assessing him according to standards Jack cannot even begin to guess. His expression remains as neutral and impersonal as that of a traffic cop. "Mr. Marshall informed me that he intended to call you. It seems that you and Mrs. Marshall have formed a rather extraordinary bond. She respects your skill at what you do, which is to be expected, but she also seems to trust you. Mr. Marshall asks that you be allowed to interview his wife, and his wife tells me that she must talk to you."
"Then you should have no problems with letting me see her in private for half an hour."
Dr. Spiegleman's smile is gone as soon as it appears. "My patient and her husband have demonstrated their trust in you, Lieutenant Sawyer, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not I can trust you."
"Trust me to do what?"
"A number of things. Primarily, to act in the best interest of my patient. To refrain from unduly distressing her, also from giving her false hopes. My patient has developed a number of delusions centered on the existence of another world somehow contiguous to ours. She thinks her son is being held captive in this other world. I must tell you, Lieutenant, that both my patient and her husband believe you are familiar with this fantasy-world ¡ª that is, my patient accepts this belief wholly, and her husband accepts it only provisionally, on the grounds that it comforts his wife."
"I understand that." There is only one thing Jack can tell the doctor now, and he says it. "And what you should understand is that in all of my conversations with the Marshalls, I have been acting in my unofficial capacity as a consultant to the French Landing Police Department and its chief, Dale Gilbertson."
"Your unofficial capacity."
"Chief Gilbertson has been asking me to advise him on his conduct of the Fisherman investigation, and two days ago, after the disappearance of Tyler Marshall, I finally agreed to do what I could. I have no official status whatsoever. I'm just giving the chief and his officers the benefit of my experience."
"Let me get this straight, Lieutenant. You have been misleading the Marshalls as to your familiarity with Mrs. Marshall's delusional fantasy-world?"
"I'll answer you this way, Doctor. We know from the tape that the Fisherman really is holding Tyler Marshall captive. We could say that he is no longer in this world, but in the Fisherman's."
Dr. Spiegleman raises his eyebrows.
"Do you think this monster inhabits the same universe that we do?" asks Jack. "I don't, and neither do you. The Fisherman lives in a world all his own, one that operates according to fantastically detailed rules he has made up or invented over the years. With all due respect, my experience has made me far more familiar with structures like this than the Marshalls, the police, and, unless you have done a great deal of work with psychopathic criminals, even you. I'm sorry if that sounds arrogant, because I don't mean it that way."
"You're talking about profiling? Something like that?"
"Years ago, I was invited into a special VICAP profiling unit run by the FBI, and I learned a lot there, but what I'm talking about now goes beyond profiling." And that's the understatement of the year, Jack says to himself. Now it's in your court, Doctor.
Spiegleman nods, slowly. The distant glow flashes in the lenses of his glasses. "I think I see, yes." He ponders. He sighs, crosses his arms over his chest, and ponders some more. Then he raises his eyes to Jack's. "All right. I'll let you see her. Alone. In my office. For thirty minutes. I wouldn't want to stand in the way of advanced investigative procedure."
"Thank you," Jack says. "This will be extremely helpful, I promise you."
"I have been a psychiatrist too long to believe in promises like that, Lieutenant Sawyer, but I hope you succeed in rescuing Tyler Marshall. Let me take you to my office. You can wait there while I get my patient and bring her there by another hallway. It's a little quicker."
Dr. Spiegleman marches to the end of the dark corridor and turns left, then left again, pulls a fat ball of keys from his pocket, and opens an unmarked door. Jack follows him into a room that looks as though it had been created by combining two small offices into one. Half of the room is taken up by a long wooden desk, a chair, a glass-topped coffee table stacked with journals, and filing cabinets; the other half is dominated by a couch and the leather recliner placed at its head. Georgia O'Keeffe posters decorate the walls. Behind the desk stands a door Jack assumes opens into a small closet; the door directly opposite, behind the recliner and at the midpoint between the two halves of the office, looks as though it leads into an adjoining room.
"As you see," Dr. Spiegleman says, "I use this space as both an office and a supplementary consulting room. Most of my patients come in through the waiting room, and I'll bring Mrs. Marshall in that way. Give me two or three minutes."
Jack thanks him, and the doctor hurries out through the door to the waiting room.
In the little closet, Wendell Green slides his cassette recorder from the pocket of his jacket and presses both it and his ear to the door. His thumb rests on the RECORD button, and his heart is racing. Once again, western Wisconsin's most distinguished journalist is doing his duty for the man in the street. Too bad it's so blasted dark in that closet, but being stuffed into a black hole is not the first sacrifice Wendell has made for his sacred calling; besides, all he really needs to see is the little red light on his tape recorder.
Then, a surprise: although Doctor Spiegleman has left the room, here is his voice, asking for Lieutenant Sawyer. How did that Freudian quack get back in without opening or closing a door, and what happened to Judy Marshall?
Lieutenant Sawyer, I must speak to you. Pick up the receiver. You have a call, and it sounds urgent.
Of course ¡ª he is on the intercom. Who can be calling Jack Sawyer, and why the urgency? Wendell hopes that Golden Boy will push the telephone's SPEAKER button, but alas Golden Boy does not, and Wendell must be content with hearing only one side of the conversation.
"A call?" Jack says. "Who's it from?"
"He refused to identify himself," the doctor says. "Someone you told you'd be visiting Ward D."
Beezer, with news of Black House. "How do I take the call?"
"Just punch the flashing button," the doctor says. "Line one. I'll bring in Mrs. Marshall when I see you're off the line."
Jack hits the button and says, "Jack Sawyer."
"Thank God," says Beezer St. Pierre's honey-and-tobacco voice. "Hey man, you gotta get over to my place, the sooner the better. Everything got messed up."
"Did you find it?"
"Oh yeah, we found Black House, all right. It didn't exactly welcome us. That place wants to stay hidden, and it lets you know. Some of the guys are hurting. Most of us will be okay, but Mouse, I don't know. He got something terrible from a dog bite, if it was a dog, which I doubt. Doc did what he could, but Hell, the guy is out of his mind, and he won't let us take him to the hospital."
"Beezer, why don't you take him anyway, if that's what he needs?"
"We don't do things that way. Mouse hasn't stepped inside a hospital since his old man croaked in one. He's twice as scared of hospitals as of what's happening to his leg. If we took him to La Riviere General, he'd probably drop dead in the E.R."
"And if he didn't, he'd never forgive you."
"You got it. How soon can you be here?"
"I still have to see the woman I told you about. Maybe an hour ¡ª not much longer than that, anyhow."
"Didn't you hear me? Mouse is dying on us. We got a whole lot of things to say to each other."
"I agree," Jack says. "Work with me on this, Beez." He hangs up, turns to the door near the consulting-room chair, and waits for his world to change.
What the hell was that all about? Wendell wonders. He has squandered two minutes' worth of tape on a conversation between Jack Sawyer and the dumb SOB who spoiled the film that should have paid for a nice car and a fancy house on a bluff above the river, and all he got was worthless crap. Wendell deserves the nice car and the fancy house, has earned them thrice over, and his sense of deprivation makes him seethe with resentment. Golden Boys get everything handed to them on diamond-studded salvers, people fall all over themselves to give them stuff they don't even need, but a legendary, selfless working stiff and gentleman of the press like Wendell Green? It costs Wendell Green twenty bucks to hide in a dark, crowded little closet just to do his job!
His ears tingle when he hears the door open. The red light burns, the faithful recorder passes the ready tape from spool to spool, and whatever happens now is going to change everything: Wendell's gut, that infallible organ, his best friend, warms with the assurance that justice will soon be his.
Dr. Spiegleman's voice filters through the closet door and registers on the spooling tape: "I'll leave you two alone now."
Golden Boy: "Thank you, Doctor. I'm very grateful."
Dr. Spiegleman: "Thirty minutes, right? That means I'll be back at, umm, ten past two."
Golden Boy: "Fine."
The soft closing of the door, the click of the latch. Then long seconds of silence. Why aren't they talking to each other? But of course . . . the question answers itself. They're waiting for fat-ass Spiegleman to move out of hearing range.
Oh, this is just delicious, that's what this is! The whisper of Golden Boy's footsteps moving toward that door all but confirms the sterling reporter's intuition. O gut of Wendell Green, O Instrument Marvelous and Trustworthy, once more you come through with the journalistic goods! Wendell hears, the machine records, the inevitable next sound: the click of the lock.
Judy Marshall: "Don't forget the door behind you."
Golden Boy: "How are you?"
Judy Marshall: "Much, much better, now that you're here. The door, Jack."
Another set of footsteps, another unmistakable sliding into place of a metal bolt.
Soon-To-Be-Ruined Boy: "I've been thinking about you all day. I've been thinking about this."
The Harlot, the Whore, the Slut: "Is half an hour long enough?"
Him With Foot In Bear Trap: "If it isn't, he'll just have to bang on the doors."
Wendell barely restrains himself from crowing with delight. These two people are actually going to have sex together, they are going to rip off their clothes and have at it like animals. Man, talk about your pay-backs! When Wendell Green is done with him, Jack Sawyer's reputation will be lower than the Fisherman's.
Judy's eyes look tired, her hair is limp, and her fingertips wear the startling white of fresh gauze, but besides registering the depth of her feeling, her face glows with the clear, hard-won beauty of the imaginative strength she called upon to earn what she has seen. To Jack, Judy Marshall looks like a queen falsely imprisoned. Instead of disguising her innate nobility of spirit, the hospital gown and the faded nightdress make it all the more apparent. Jack takes his eyes from her long enough to lock the second door, then takes a step toward her.
He sees that he cannot tell her anything she does not already know. Judy completes the movement he has begun; she moves before him and holds out her hands to be grasped.
"I've been thinking about you all day," he says, taking her hands. "I've been thinking about this."
Her response takes in everything she has come to see, everything they must do. "Is half an hour long enough?"
"If it isn't, he'll just have to bang on the doors."
They smile; she increases the pressure on his hands. "Then let him bang." With the smallest, slightest tug, she pulls him forward, and Jack's heart pounds with the expectation of an embrace.
What she does is far more extraordinary than a mere embrace: she lowers her head and, with two light, dry brushes of her lips, kisses his hands. Then she presses the back of his right hand against her cheek, and steps back. Her eyes kindle. "You know about the tape."
He nods.
"I went mad when I heard it, but sending it to me was a mistake. He pushed me too hard. Because I fell right back into being that child who listened to another child whispering through a wall. I went crazy and I tried to rip the wall apart. I heard my son screaming for my help. And he was there ¡ª on the other side of the wall. Where you have to go."
"Where we have to go."
"Where we have to go. Yes. But I can't get through the wall, and you can. So you have work to do, the most important work there could be. You have to find Ty, and you have to stop the abbalah. I don't know what that is, exactly, but stopping it is your job. Am I saying this right: you are a coppiceman?"
"You're saying it right," Jack says. "I am a coppiceman. That's why it's my job."
"Then this is right, too. You have to get rid of Gorg and his master, Mr. Munshun. That's not what his name really is, but it's what it sounds like: Mr. Munshun. When I went mad, and I tried to rip through the world, she told me, and she could whisper straight into my ear. I was so close!"
What does Wendell Green, ear and whirling tape recorder pressed to the door, make of this conversation? It is hardly what he expected to hear: the animal grunts and moans of desire busily being satisfied. Wendell Green grinds his teeth, he stretches his face into a grimace of frustration.
"I love that you've let yourself see," says Jack. "You're an amazing human being. There isn't a person in a thousand who could even understand what that means, much less do it."
"You talk too much," Judy says.
"I mean, I love you."
"In your way, you love me. But you know what? Just by coming here, you made me more than I was. There's this sort of beam that comes out of you, and I just locked on to that beam. Jack, you lived there, and all I could do was peek at it for a little while. That's enough, though. I'm satisfied. You and Ward D, you let me travel."
"What you have inside you lets you travel."
"Okay, three cheers for a well-examined spell of craziness. Now it's time. You have to be a coppiceman. I can only come halfway, but you'll need all your strength."
"I think your strength is going to surprise you."
"Take my hands and do it, Jack. Go over. She's waiting, and I have to give you to her. You know her name, don't you?"
He opens his mouth, but cannot speak. A force that seems to come from the center of the earth surges into his body, rolling electricity through his bloodstream, tightening his scalp, sealing his trembling fingers to Judy Marshall's, which also tremble. A feeling of tremendous lightness and mobility gathers within all the hollow spaces of his body; at the same time he has never been so aware of his body's obduracy, its resistance to flight. When they leave, he thinks, it'll be like a rocket launch. The floor seems to vibrate beneath his feet.
He manages to look down the length of his arms to Judy Marshall, who leans back with her head parallel to the shaking floor, eyes closed, smiling in a trance of accomplishment. A band of shivery white light surrounds her. Her beautiful knees, her legs shining beneath the hem of the old blue garment, her bare feet planted. That light shivers around him, too. All of this comes from her, Jack thinks, and from ¡ª
A rushing sound fills the air, and the Georgia O'Keeffe prints fly off the walls. The low couch dances away from the wall; papers swirl up from the jittering desk. A skinny halogen lamp crashes to the ground. All through the hospital, on every floor, in every room and ward, beds vibrate, television sets go black, instruments rattle in their rattling trays, lights flicker. Toys drop from the gift-shop shelves, and the tall lilies skid across the marble in their vases. On the fifth floor, light bulbs detonate into showers of golden sparks.
The hurricane noise builds, builds, and with a great whooshing sound becomes a wide, white sheet of light, which immediately vanishes into a pinpoint and is gone. Gone, too, is Jack Sawyer; and gone from the closet is Wendell Green.
Sucked into the Territories, blown out of one world and sucked into another, blasted and dragged, man, we're a hundred levels up from the simple, well-known flip. Jack is lying down, looking up at a ripped white sheet that flaps like a torn sail. A quarter of a second ago, he saw another white sheet, one made of pure light and not literal, like this one. The soft, fragrant air blesses him. At first, he is conscious only that his right hand is being held, then that an astonishing woman lies beside him. Judy Marshall. No, not Judy Marshall, whom he does love, in his way, but another astonishing woman, who once whispered to Judy through a wall of night and has lately drawn a great deal closer. He had been about to speak her name when ¡ª
Into his field of vision moves a lovely face both like and unlike Judy's. It was turned on the same lathe, baked in the same kiln, chiseled by the same besotted sculptor, but more delicately, with a lighter, more caressing touch. Jack cannot move for wonder. He is barely capable of breathing. This woman whose face is above him now, smiling down with a tender impatience, has never borne a child, never traveled beyond her native Territories, never flown in an airplane, driven a car, switched on a television, scooped ice ready-made from the freezer, or used a microwave: and she is radiant with spirit and inner grace. She is, he sees, lit from within.
Humor, tenderness, compassion, intelligence, strength, glow in her eyes and speak from the curves of her mouth, from the very molding of her face. He knows her name, and her name is perfect for her. It seems to Jack that he has fallen in love with this woman in an instant, that he enlisted in her cause on the spot, and at last he finds he can speak her perfect name: