The Dark Tower
Part One THE LITTLE RED KING Chapter VII:REUNION
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Flaherty stood at the New York/Fedic door, which had been scarred by several gunshots but otherwise stood whole against them, an impassable barrier which the shitting kid had somehow passed. Lamia stood silent beside him, waiting for Flaherty's rage to exhaust itself. The others also waited, maintaining the same prudent silence.
Finally the blows Flaherty had been raining on the door began to slow. He administered one final overhand smash, and Lamia winced as blood flew from the hume's knuckles.
"What?" Flaherty asked, catching his grimace. "What? Do you have something to say?"
Lamia cared not at all for the white circles around Flaherty's eyes and the hard red roses in Flaherty's cheeks. Least of all for the way Flaherty's hand had risen to the butt of the Glock automatic hanging beneath his armpit. "No," he said.
"Go on, say what's on your mind, do it please ya," Flaherty persisted. He tried to smile and produced a gruesome grin instead-the leer of a madman. Quietly, with barely a rustle, the rest pulled back. "Others will have plenty to say; why shouldn't you start, my cully? I lost him! Be the first to carp, you ugly motherfucker!"
I'm dead, Lamia thought. After a life of service to the King, one unguarded expression in the presence of a man who needs a scapegoat, and I'm dead.
He looked around, verifying that none of the others would step in for him, and then said: "Flaherty, if I've offended you in some way I'm sor-"
"Oh, you've offended me, sure enough!" Flaherty shrieked, his Boston accent growing thicker as his rage escalated. "I'm sure I'll pay for tonight's work, aye, but I think you'll pay fir-"
There was a kind of gasp in the air around them, as if the corridor itself had inhaled sharply. Flaherty's hair and Lamia's fur rippled. Flaherty's posse of low men and vampires began to turn. Suddenly one of them, a vamp named Albrecht, shrieked and bolted forward, allowing Flaherty a view of two newcomers, men with raindrops still fresh and dark on their jeans and boots and shirts. There was trail-dusty gunna-gar at their feet and revolvers hung at their hips. Flaherty saw the sandalwood grips in the instant before the younger one drew, faster than blue blazes, and understood at once why Albrecht had run. Only one sort of man carried guns that looked like that.
The young one fired a single shot. Albrecht's blond hair jumped as if flicked by an invisible hand and then he collapsed forward, fading within his clothes as he did so.
"Hile, you bondsmen of the Ring," the older one said. He spoke in a purely conversational tone. Flaherty-his hands still bleeding from his extravagant drumming on the door through which the snot-babby had disappeared-could not seem to get the sense of him. It was the one of whom they had been warned, surely it was Roland of Gilead, but how had he gotten here, and on their blindside? Howl Roland's cold blue eyes surveyed them. "Which of this sorry herd calls himself dinh? Will that one honor us by stepping forward or not? Not?" His eyes surveyed them; his left hand departed the vicinity of his gun and journeyed to the corner of his mouth, where a small sarcastic smile had bloomed. "Not?
Too bad. Th'art cowards after all, I'm sorry to see. Thee'd kill a priest and chase a lad but not stand and claim thy day's work.
Th'art cowards and the sons of cow-"
Flaherty stepped forward with his bleeding right hand clasped loosely around the butt of the gun that hung below his left armpit in a docker's clutch. "That would be me, Roland-of-
"You know my name, do you?"
"Aye! I know your name by your face, and your face by your mouth. T'is the same as the mouth of your mother, who did suck John Farson with such glee until he spewed 'is-"
Flaherty drew as he spoke, a bushwhacker's trick he'd no doubt practiced and used before to advantage. And although he was fast and the forefinger of Roland's left hand still touched the side of his mouth when Flaherty's draw began, the gunslinger beat him easily. His first bullet passed between the lips of Jake's chief harrier, exploding the teeth at the front of his upper jaw to bone fragments which Flaherty drew down his throat with his dying breath. His second pierced Flaherty's forehead between the eyebrows and he was flung back against the New York/Fedic door with the unfired Glock spilling from his hand to discharge a final time on the hallway floor.
Most of the others drew a split-second later. Eddie killed the six in front, having taken time to reload the chamber he'd fired at Albrecht. When the revolver was empty, he rolled behind his dinh to reload, as he had been taught. Roland picked off the next five, then rolled smoothly behind Eddie, who took out the rest save one.
Lamia had been too cunning to try and so was the last standing. He raised his empty hands, the fingers furry and the palms smooth. "Will ye grant me parole, gunslinger, if I promise ye peace?"
"Not a bit," Roland said, and cocked his revolver.
"Be damned to you, then, chary-ka," said the taheen, and Roland of Gilead shot him where he stood, and Lamia of Galee fell down dead.
Flaherty's posse lay stacked in front of the door like cordwood,
Lamia facedown in front. Not a single one had had a chance to fire. The tile-throated corridor stank of the gunsmoke which hung in a blue layer. Then the purifiers kicked in, chugging wearily in the wall, and the gunslingers felt the air first stirred into motion and then sucked across their faces.
Eddie reloaded the gun-his, now, so he had been told-and dropped it back into its holster. Then he went to the dead and yanked four of them absently aside so he could get to the door. "Susannah! Suze, are you there?"
Do any of us, except in our dreams, truly expect to be reunited with our hearts' deepest loves, even when they leave us only for minutes, and on the most mundane of errands? No, not at all. Each time they go from our sight we in our secret hearts count them as dead. Having been given so much, we reason, how could we expect not to be brought as low as Lucifer for the staggering presumption of our love?
So Eddie didn't expect her to answer until she did-from another world, and through a single diickness of wood. "Eddie?
Sugar, is it you?"
Eddie's head, which had seemed perfectly normal only seconds before, was suddenly too heavy to hold up. He leaned it against the door. His eyes were similarly too heavy to hold open and so he closed them. The weight must have been tears, for suddenly he was swimming in them. He could feel them rolling down his cheeks, warm as blood. And Roland's hand, touching his back.
"Susannah," Eddie said. His eyes were still closed. His fingers were splayed on the door. "Can you open it?"
Jake answered. "No, but you can."
"What word?" Roland asked. He had been alternating glances at the door with looks behind him, almost hoping for reinforcements (for his blood was up), but the tiled corridor was empty. "What word, Jake?"
There was a pause-brief, but it seemed very long to Eddie-and then both spoke together. "Chassit," they said.
Eddie didn't trust himself to say it; his throat was too full of tears. Roland had no such problem. He hauled several more bodies away from the door (including Flaherty's, his face still fixed in its final snarl) and then spoke the word. Once again the door between the worlds clicked open. It was Eddie who opened it wide and then the four of them were face-to-face again,
Susannah and Jake in one world, Roland and Eddie in another, and between them a shimmering transparent membrane like living mica. Susannah held out her hands and they plunged through the membrane like hands emerging from a body of water that had been somehow magically turned on its side.
Eddie took them. He let her fingers close over his and draw him into Fedic.
By the time Roland stepped through, Eddie had already lifted Susannah and was holding her in his arms. The boy looked up at the gunslinger. Neither of them smiled. Oy sat at Jake's feet and smiled for both of them.
"Hile, Jake," Roland said.
"Will you call me so?"
Jake nodded. "Yes, if I may."
"Such would please me ever," Roland said. Then, slowly-as one performs an action with which he's unfamiliar-he held out his arms. Looking up at him solemnly, never taking his eyes from Roland's face, the boy Jake moved between those killer's hands and waited until they locked at his back. He had had dreams of this that he would never have dared to tell.
Susannah, meanwhile, was covering Eddie's face with kisses.
"They almost got Jake," she was saying. "I sat down on my side of the door... and I was so tired I nodded off. He musta called me three, four times before I..."
Later he would hear her tale, every word and to the end.
Later there would be time for palaver. For now he cupped her breast-the left one, so he could feel the strong, steady beat of her heart-and then stopped her speech with his mouth.
Jake, meanwhile, said nothing. He stood with his head turned so his cheek rested against Roland's midsection. His eyes were closed. He could smell rain and dust and blood on the gunslinger's shirt. He thought of his parents, who were lost; his friend Benny, who was dead; the Pere, who had been overrun by all those from whom he had so long fled. The man he held had betrayed him once for the Tower, had let him fall, and Jake couldn't say the same might not happen again. Certainly there were miles ahead, and they would be hard ones. Still, for now, he was content. His mind was quiet and his sore heart was at peace. It was enough to hold and be held.
Enough to stand here with his eyes shut and to think My father has come for me.