Wolves of the Calla
Part One ToDash Chapter II: New York Groove

 H.M. Ward

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Jake fell asleep looking into pure darkness - no stars in that cloudy night sky, no moon. As he drifted off, he had a sensation of falling that he recognized with dismay: in his previous life as a so-called normal child he'd often had dreams of falling, especially around exam time, but these had ceased since his violent rebirth into Mid-World.
Then the falling feeling was gone. He heard a brief chiming melody that was somehow too beautiful: three notes and you wanted it to stop, a dozen and you thought it would kill you if it didn't. Each chime seemed to make his bones vibrate. Sounds Hawaiian, doesn't it ? he thought, for although the chiming melody was nothing like the sinister warble of the thinny, somehow it was.
It was.
Then, just when he truly believed he could bear it no longer, the terrible, gorgeous tune stopped. The darkness behind his closed eyes suddenly lit up a brilliant dark red.
He opened them cautiously on strong sunlight.
And gaped.
At New York.
Taxis bustled past, gleaming bright yellow in the sunshine. A young black man wearing Walkman earphones strolled by Jake, bopping his sandaled feet a little bit to the music and going "Cha-da-ba, cha-da-fcow!" under his breath. A jackhammer battered Jake's eardrums. Chunks of cement dropped into a dumptruck with a crash that echoed from one cliff-face of buildings to another. The world was a-din with racket. He had gotten used to the deep silences of Mid-World without even realizing it. No, more. Had come to love them. Still, this noise and bustle had its attractions, and Jake couldn't deny it. Back in the New York groove. He felt a little grin stretch his lips.
"Ake! Ake!" cried a low, rather distressed voice. Jake looked down and saw Oy sitting on the sidewalk with his tail curled neatly around him. The billy-bumbler wasn't wearing little red booties and Jake wasn't wearing the red Oxfords (thank God), but this was still very like their visit to Roland's Gilead, which they had reached by traveling in the pink Wizard's Glass. The glass ball that had caused so much trouble and woe.
No glass this time... he'd just gone to sleep. But this was no dream. It was more intense than any dream he'd ever had, and more textured. Also...
Also, people kept detouring around him and Oy as they stood to the left of a midtown saloon called Kansas City Blues. While Jake was making this observation, a woman actually stepped over Oy, hitching up her straight black skirt a bit at the knee in order to do so. Her preoccupied face {I'm just one more New Yorker minding my business, so don't screw with mewss what that face said to Jake) never changed.
They don't see us, but somehow they sense us. And if they can sense us, we must really be here.
The first logical question was Why? Jake considered this for a moment, then decided to table it. He had an idea the answer would come. Meantime, why not enjoy New York while he had it?
"Come on, Oy," he said, and walked around the corner. The billy-bumbler, clearly no city boy, walked so close to him that
Jake could feel his breath feathering against his ankle.
Second Avenue , he thought. Then: My God  -
Before he could finish the thought, he saw Eddie Dean standing outside of the Barcelona Luggage store, looking dazed and more than a little out of place in old jeans, a deerskin shirt, and deerskin moccasins. His hair was clean, but it hung to his shoulders in a way that suggested no professional had seen to it in quite some time. Jake realized he himself didn't look much better; he was also wearing a deerskin shirt and, on his lower half, the battered remains of the Dockers he'd had on the day he left home for good, setting sail for Brooklyn, Dutch Hill, and another world.
Good thing no one can see us , Jake thought, then decided that wasn't true. If people could see them, they'd probably get rich on spare change before noon. The thought made him grin. "Hey, Eddie," he said. "Welcome home."
Eddie nodded, looking bemused. "See you brought your friend."
Jake reached down and gave Oy an affectionate pat. "He's my version of the American Express Card. I don't go home without him."
Jake was about to go on - he felt witty, bubbly, full of amusing things to say - when someone came around the corner, passed them without looking (as everyone else had), and changed everything. It was a kid wearing Dockers that looked like Jake's because they were Jake's . Not the pair he had on now, but they were his, all right. So were the sneakers. They were the ones Jake had lost in Dutch Hill. The plaster-man who guarded the door between the worlds had torn them right off his feet.
The boy who had just passed them was John Chambers, it was him , only this version looked soft and innocent and painfully young. How did you survive ? he asked his own retreating back. How did you survive the mental stress of losing your mind, and running away from home, and that horrible house in Brooklyn ? Most of all, how did you survive the doorkeeper? You must be tougher than you look .
Eddie did a doubletake so comical that Jake laughed in spite of his own shocked surprise. It made him think of those comic-book panels where Archie or Jughead is trying to look in two directions at the same time. He looked down and saw a similar expression on Oy's face. Somehow that made the whole thing even funnier.
"What the fuck ?" Eddie asked.
"Instant replay," Jake said, and laughed harder. It came out sounding goofy as shit, but he didn't care. He felt goofy. "It's like when we watched Roland in the Great Hall of Gilead, only this is New York and it's May 31st, 1977! It's the day I took French Leave from Piper! Instant replay, baby!"
"French - ?" Eddie began, but Jake didn't give him a chance to finish. He was struck by another realization. Except struck was too mild a word. He was buried by it, like a man who just happens to be on the beach when a tidal wave rolls in. His face blazed so brightly that Eddie actually took a step back.
"The rose!" he whispered. He felt too weak in the diaphragm to speak any louder, and his throat was as dry as a sandstorm. "Eddie, the rose !"
"What about it?"
"This is the day I see it!" He reached out and touched Eddie's forearm with a trembling hand. "I go to the bookstore... then to the vacant lot. I think there used to be a delicatessen - "
Eddie was nodding and beginning to look excited himself. "Tom and Jerry's Artistic Deli, corner of Second and Forty-sixth - "
"The deli's gone but the rose is there! That me walking down the street is going to see it, and we can see it, too !"
At that, Eddie's own eyes blazed. "Come on, then," he said. "We don't want to lose you. Him. Whoever the fuck."
"Don't worry," Jake said. "I know where he's going."
The Jake ahead of them - New York Jake, spring-of-1977 Jake -  walked slowly, looking everywhere, clearly digging the day. Mid-World Jake remembered exactly how that boy had felt: the sudden relief when the arguing voices in his mind
(I died!) (I didn't!)
had finally stopped their squabbling. Back by the board fence that had been, where the two businessmen had been playing tic-tac-toe with a Mark Cross pen. And, of course, there had been the relief of being away from the Piper School and the insanity of his Final Essay for Ms. Avery's English class. The Final Essay counted a full twenty-five per cent toward each student's final grade, Ms. Avery had made that perfectly clear, and Jake's had been gibberish. The fact that his teacher had later given him an A+ on it didn't change that, only made it clear that it wasn't just him; the whole world was losing its shit, going nineteen.
Being out from under all that - even for a little while - had been great. Of course he was digging the day.
Only the day's not quite right , Jake thought - the Jake walking along behind his old self. Something about it ...
He looked around but couldn't figure it out. Late May, bright summer sun, lots of strollers and window-shoppers on Second Avenue, plenty of taxis, the occasional long black limo; nothing wrong with any of this.
Except there was.
Everything was wrong with it.
Eddie felt the kid twitch his sleeve. "What's wrong with this picture?" Jake asked.
Eddie looked around. In spite of his own adjustment problems (his involved coming back to a New York that was clearly a few years behind his when), he knew what Jake meant. Something was wrong.
He looked down at the sidewalk, suddenly sure he wouldn't have a shadow. They'd lost their shadows like the kids in one of the stories... one of the nineteen fairy tales... or was it maybe something newer, like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or Peter Pan ? One of what might be called the Modern Nineteen?
Didn't matter in any case, because their shadows were there.
Shouldn't be, though , Eddie thought. Shouldn't be able to see our shadows when it's this dark .
Stupid thought. It wasn't dark. It was morning , for Christ's sake, a bright May morning, sunshine winking off the chrome of passing cars and the windows of the stores on the east side of Second Avenue brightly enough to make you squint your eyes. Yet still it seemed somehow dark to Eddie, as if all this were nothing but fragile surface, like the canvas backdrop of a stage set. "At rise we see the Forest of Arden." Or a Castle in Denmark. Or the Kitchen of Willy Loman's House. In this case we see Second Avenue, midtown New York.
Yes, like that. Only behind this canvas you wouldn't find the workshop and storage areas of backstage but only a great bulging darkness. Some vast dead universe where Roland's Tower had already fallen.
Please let me be wrong , Eddie thought. Please let this just be a case of culture shock or the plain old heebie-jeebies .
He didn't think it was.
"How'd we get here?" he asked Jake. "There was no door..." He trailed off, and then asked with some hope: "Maybe it is a dream?"
"No," Jake said. "It's more like when we traveled in the Wizard's Glass. Except this time there was no ball." A thought struck him. "Did you hear music, though? Chimes? Just before you wound up here?"
Eddie nodded. "It was sort of overwhelming. Made my eyes water."
"Right," Jake said. "Exactly."
Oy sniffed a fire hydrant. Eddie and Jake paused to let the little guy lift his leg and add his own notice to what was undoubtedly an already crowded bulletin board. Ahead of them, that other Jake - Kid Seventy-seven - was still walking slowly and gawking everywhere. To Eddie he looked like a tourist from Michigan. He even craned up to see the tops of the buildings, and Eddie had an idea that if the New York Board of Cynicism caught you doing that, they took away your Bloomingdale's charge card. Not that he was complaining; it made the kid easy to follow.
And just as Eddie was thinking that, Kid Seventy-seven disappeared.
"Where'd you go? Christ, where'd you go?"
"Relax," Jake said. (At his ankle, Oy added his two cents' worth: "Ax!") The kid was grinning. "I just went into the bookstore. The... um... Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, it's called."
"Where you got Charlie the Choo-Choo and the riddle book?"
Eddie loved the mystified, dazzled grin Jake was wearing. It lit up his whole face. "Remember how excited Roland got when I told him the owner's name?"
Eddie did. The owner of The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind was a fellow named Calvin Tower.
"Hurry up," Jake said. "I want to watch."
Eddie didn't have to be asked twice. He wanted to watch, too.
Jake stopped in the doorway to the bookstore. His smile didn't fade, exactly, but it faltered.
"What is it?" Eddie asked. "What's wrong?"
"Dunno. Something's different, I think. It's just... so much has happened since I was here..."
He was looking at the chalkboard in the window, which Eddie thought was actually a very clever way of selling books. It looked like the sort of thing you saw in diners, or maybe the fish markets.
From Mississippi! Pan-Fried William Faulkner
Hardcovers Market Price Vintage Library Paperbacks 75c each
From Maine! Chilled Stephen King
Hardcovers Market Price
Book Club Bargains
Paperbacks 75c each
From California! Hard-Boiled Raymond Chandler
Hardcovers Market Price
Paperbacks 7 for $5.00
Eddie looked beyond this and saw that other Jake - the one without the tan or the look of hard clarity in his eyes -  standing at a small display table. Kiddie books. Probably both the Nineteen Fairy Tales and the Modern Nineteen.
Quit it , he told himself. That's obsessive-compulsive crap and you know it .
Maybe, but good old Jake Seventy-seven was about to make a purchase from that table which had gone on to change - and very likely to save - their lives. He'd worry about the number nineteen later. Or not at all, if he could manage it.
"Come on," he told Jake. "Let's go in."
The boy hung back.
"What's the matter?" Eddie asked. "Tower won't be able to see us, if that's what you're worried about."
" Tower won't be able to," Jake said, "but what if he can?" He pointed at his other self, the one who had yet to meet Gasher and Tick-Tock and the old people of River Crossing. The one who had yet to meet Blaine the Mono and Rhea of the Coos.
Jake was looking at Eddie with a kind of haunted curiosity. "What if I see myself ?"
Eddie supposed that might really happen. Hell, anything might happen. But that didn't change what he felt in his heart. "I think we're supposed to go in, Jake."
"Yeah..." It came out in a long sigh. "I do, too."
They went in and they weren't seen and Eddie was relieved to count twenty-one books on the display table that had attracted the boy's notice. Except, of course, when Jake picked up the two he wanted - Charlie the Choo-Choo and the riddle book - that left nineteen.
"Find something, son?" a mild voice inquired. It was a fat fellow in an open-throated white shirt. Behind him, at a counter that looked as if it might have been filched from a turn-of-the-century soda fountain, a trio of old guys were drinking coffee and nibbling pastries. A chessboard with a game in progress sat on the marble counter.
"The guy sitting on the end is Aaron Deepneau," Jake whispered. "He's going to explain the riddle about Samson to me."
"Shh!" Eddie said. He wanted to hear the conversation between Calvin Tower and Kid Seventy-seven. All of a sudden that seemed very important... only why was it so fucking dark in here?
Except it's not dark at all. The east side of the street gets plenty of sun at this hour, and with the door open, this place is getting all of it. How can you say it's dark ?
Because it somehow was. The sunlight - the contrast of the sunlight - only made it worse. The fact that you couldn't exactly see that darkness made it worse still... and Eddie realized a terrible thing: these people were in danger. Tower, Deepneau, Kid Seventy-seven. Probably him and Mid-World Jake and Oy, as well.
All of them.
Jake watched his other, younger self take a step back from the bookshop owner, his eyes widening in surprise. Because his name is Tower , Jake thought. That's what surprised me. Not because of Roland's Tower, though  -  Ididn't know about that yet  - but because of the picture I put on the last page of my Final Essay .
He had pasted a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the last page, then had scribbled all over it with a black Crayola, darkening it as best he could.
Tower asked him his name. Seventy-seven Jake told him and Tower joked around with him a little. It was good joking-around, the kind you got from adults who really didn't mind kids.
"Good handle, pard," Tower was saying. "Sounds like the footloose hero in a Western novel - the guy who blows into Black Fork, Arizona, cleans up the town, and then travels on. Something by Wayne D. Overholser, maybe..."
Jake took a step closer to his old self (part of him was thinking what a wonderful sketch all this would make on Saturday Night Live) , and his eyes widened slightly. "Eddie!" He was still whispering, although he knew the people in the bookstore couldn't -
Except maybe on some level they could. He remembered the lady back on Fifty-fourth Street, twitching her skirt up at the knee so she could step over Oy. And now Calvin Tower's eyes shifted slightly in his direction before going back to the other version of him.
"Might be good not to attract unnecessary attention," Eddie muttered in his ear.
"I know," Jake said, "but look at Charlie the Choo-Choo , Eddie!"
Eddie did, and for a moment saw nothing - except for Charlie himself, of course: Charlie with his headlight eye and not-quite-trustworthy cowcatcher grin. Then Eddie's eyebrows went up.
"I thought Charlie the Choo-Choo was written by a lady named Beryl Evans," he whispered.
Jake nodded. "I did, too."
"Then who's this - " Eddie took another look. "Who's this Claudia y Inez Bachman?"
"I have no idea," Jake said. "I never heard of her in my life."
One of the old men at the counter came sauntering toward them. Eddie and Jake drew away. As they stepped back, Eddie's spine gave a cold little wrench. Jake was very pale, and Oy was giving out a series of low, distressed whines. Something was wrong here, all right. In a way they had lost their shadows. Eddie just didn't know how.
Kid Seventy-seven had taken out his wallet and was paying for the two books. There was some more talk and good-natured laughter, then he headed for the door. When Eddie started after him, Mid-World Jake grabbed his arm. "No, not yet - I come back in."
"I don't care if you alphabetize the whole place," Eddie said. "Let's wait out on the sidewalk."
Jake thought about this, biting his lip, then nodded. They headed for the door, then stopped and moved aside as the other Jake returned. The riddle book was open. Calvin Tower had lumbered over to the chessboard on the counter. He looked around with an amiable smile.
"Change your mind about that cup of coffee, O Hyperborean Wanderer?"
"No, I wanted to ask you - "
"This is the part about Samson's Riddle," Mid-World Jake said. "I don't think it matters. Although the Deepneau guy sings a pretty good song, if you want to hear it."
"I'll pass," Eddie said. "Come on."
They went out. And although things on Second Avenue were still wrong - that sense of endless dark behind the scenes, behind the very sky  - it was somehow better than in The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind. At least there was fresh air.
"Tell you what," Jake said. "Let's go down to Second and Forty-sixth right now." He jerked his head toward the version of him listening to Aaron Deepneau sing. "I'll catch up with us."
Eddie considered it, then shook his head.
Jake's face fell a little. "Don't you want to see the rose?"
"You bet your ass I do," Eddie said. "I'm wild to see it."
"Then - "
"I don't feel like we're done here yet. I don't know why, but I don't."
Jake - the Kid Seventy-seven version of him - had left the door open when he went back inside, and now Eddie moved into it. Aaron Deepneau was telling Jake a riddle they would later try on Blaine the Mono: What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks. Mid-World Jake, meanwhile, was once more looking at the notice-board in the bookstore window
(Pan-Fried William Faulkner, Hard-Boiled Raymond Chandler) . He wore a frown of the kind that expresses doubt and anxiety rather than ill temper.
"That sign's different, too," he said.
"I can't remember."
"Is it important?"
Jake turned to him. The eyes below the furrowed brow were haunted. "I don't know. It's another riddle. I hate riddles!"
Eddie sympathized. When is a Beryl not a Beryl ? "When it's a Claudia," he said.
"Never mind. Better step back, Jake, or you're going to run into yourself."
Jake gave the oncoming version of John Chambers a startled glance, then did as Eddie suggested. And when Kid Seventy-seven started on down Second Avenue with his new books in his left hand, Mid-World Jake gave Eddie a tired smile. "I do remember one thing," he said. "When I left this bookstore, I was sure I'd never come here again. But I did."
"Considering that we're more ghosts than people, I'd say that's debatable." Eddie gave the back of Jake's neck a friendly scruff. "And if you have forgotten something important, Roland might be able to help you remember. He's good at that."
Jake grinned at this, relieved. He knew from personal experience that the gunslinger really was good at helping people remember. Roland's friend Alain might have been the one with the strongest ability to touch other minds, and his friend Cuthbert had gotten all the sense of humor in that particular ka-tet, but Roland had developed over the years into one hell of a hypnotist. He could have made a fortune in Las Vegas.
"Can we follow me now?" Jake asked. "Check out the rose?" He looked up and down Second Avenue - a street that was somehow bright and dark at the same time - with a kind of unhappy perplexity. "Things are probably better there. The rose makes everything better."
Eddie was about to say okay when a dark gray Lincoln Town Car pulled up in front of Calvin Tower's bookshop. It parked by the yellow curb in front of a fire hydrant with absolutely no hesitation. The front doors opened, and when Eddie saw who was getting out from behind the wheel, he seized Jake's shoulder.
"Ow!"Jake said. "Man, that hurts!"
Eddie paid no attention. In fact the hand on Jake's shoulder clamped down even tighter.
"Christ," Eddie whispered. "Dear Jesus Christ, what's this? What in hell is this ?"
Jake watched Eddie go past pale to ashy gray. His eyes were bulging from their sockets. Not without difficulty, Jake pried the clamping hand off his shoulder. Eddie made as if to point with that hand, but didn't seem to have the strength. It fell against the side of his leg with a little thump.
The man who had gotten out on the passenger side of the Town Car walked around to the sidewalk while the driver opened the rear curbside door. Even to Jake their moves looked practiced, almost like steps in a dance. The man who got out of the back seat was wearing an expensive suit, but that didn't change the fact that he was basically a dumpy little guy with a potbelly and black hair going gray around the edges. Dandrufjy black hair, from the look of his suit's shoulders.
To Jake, the day suddenly felt darker than ever. He looked up to see if the sun had gone behind a cloud. It hadn't, but it almost seemed to him that there was a black corona forming around its brilliant circle, like a ring of mascara around a startled eye.
Half a block farther downtown, the 1977 version of him was glancing in the window of a restaurant, and Jake could remember the name of it: Chew Chew Mama's. Not far beyond it was Tower of Power Records, where he would think Towers are selling cheap today . If that version of him had looked back, he would have seen the gray Town Car... but he hadn't. Kid Seventy-seven's mind was fixed firmly on the future.
"It's Balazar," Eddie said.
Eddie was pointing at the dumpy guy, who had paused to adjust his Sulka tie. The other two now stood flanking him. They looked simultaneously relaxed and watchful.
"Enrico Balazar. And looking much younger. God, he's almost middle-aged!"
"It's 1977," Jake reminded him. Then, as the penny dropped: "That's the guy you and Roland killed?" Eddie had told Jake the story of the shoot-out at Balazar's club in 1987, leaving out the gorier parts. The part, for instance, where Kevin Blake had lobbed the head of Eddie's brother into Balazar's office in an effort to flush Eddie and Roland into the open. Henry Dean, the great sage and eminent junkie.
"Yeah," Eddie said. "The guy Roland and I killed. And the one who was driving, that's Jack Andolini. Old Double-Ugly, people used to call him, although never to his face. He went through one of those doors with me just before the shooting started."
"Roland killed him, too. Didn't he?"
Eddie nodded. It was simpler than trying to explain how Jack Andolini had happened to the blind and faceless beneath the tearing claws and ripping jaws of the lobstrosities on the beach.
"The other bodyguard's George Biondi. Big Nose. I killed him myself. Will kill him. Ten years from now." Eddie looked as if he might faint at any second.
"Eddie, are you okay?"
"I guess so. I guess I have to be." They had drawn away from the bookshop's doorway. Oy was still crouched at Jake's ankle. Down Second Avenue, Jake's other, earlier self had disappeared. I'm running by now , Jake thought. Maybe jumping over the UPS guy's dolly. Sprinting all-out for the delicatessen, because I'm sure that's the way back to Mid-World. The way back to him.
Balazar peered at his reflection in the window beside the today's specials display-board, gave the wings of hair above his ears one last little fluff with the tips of his fingers, then stepped through the open door. Andolini and Biondi followed.
"Hard guys," Jake said.
"The hardest," Eddie agreed.
"From Brooklyn."
"Well, yeah."
"Why are hard guys from Brooklyn visiting a used-book store in Manhattan?"
"I think that's what we're here to find out. Jake, did I hurt your shoulder?"
"I'm okay. But I don't really want to go back in there."
"Neither do I. So let's go."
They went back into The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind.
Oy was still at Jake's heel and still whining. Jake wasn't crazy about the sound, but he understood it. The smell of fear in the bookstore was palpable. Deepneau sat beside the chessboard, gazing unhappily at Calvin Tower and the newcomers, who didn't look much like bibliophiles in search of the elusive signed first edition. The other two old guys at the counter were drinking the last of their coffee in big gulps, with the air of fellows who have just remembered important appointments elsewhere.
Cowards , Jake thought with a contempt he didn't recognize as a relatively new thing in his life. Lowbellies. Being old forgives some of it, but not all of it .
"We just have a couple of things to discuss, Mr. Toren," Balazar was saying. He spoke in a low, calm, reasonable voice, without even a trace of accent. "Please, if we could step back into your office - "
"We don't have business," Tower said. His eyes kept drifting to Andolini. Jake supposed he knew why. Jack Andolini looked the ax-wielding psycho in a horror movie. "Come July fifteenth, we might have business. Might . So we could talk after the Fourth. I guess. If you wanted to." He smiled to show he was being reasonable. "But now? Gee, I just don't see the point. It's not even June yet. And for your information my name's not - "
"He doesn't see the point," Balazar said. He looked at Andolini; looked at the one with the big nose; raised his hands to his shoulders, then dropped them. What's wrong with this world of ours? the gesture said. "Jack? George? This man took a check from me - the amount before the decimal point was a one followed by five zeroes - and now he says he doesn't see the point of talking to me."
"Unbelievable," Biondi said. Andolini said nothing. He simply looked at Calvin Tower, muddy brown eyes peering out from beneath the unlovely bulge of his skull like mean little animals peering out of a cave. With a face like that, Jake supposed, you didn't have to talk much to get your point across. The point being intimidation.
"I want to talk to you ," Balazar said. He spoke in a patient, reasonable tone of voice, but his eyes were fixed on Tower's face with a terrible intensity. "Why? Because my employers in this matter want me to talk to you. That's good enough for me. And do you know what? I think you can afford five minutes of chitchat for your hundred grand. Don't you?"
"The hundred thousand is gone," Tower said bleakly. "As I'm sure you and whoever hired you must know."
"That's of no concern to me," Balazar said. "Why would it be? It was your money. What concerns me is whether or not you're going to take us out back. If not, we'll have to have our conversation right here, in front of the whole world."
The whole world now consisted of Aaron Deepneau, one billy-bumbler, and a couple of expatriate New Yorkers none of the men in the bookstore could see. Deepneau's counter-buddies had run like the lowbellies they were.
Tower made one last try. "I don't have anyone to mind the store. Lunch-hour is coming up, and we often have quite a few browsers during - "
"This place doesn't do fifty dollars a day," Andolini said, "and we all know it, Mr. Toren. If you're really worried you're going to miss a big sale, let him run the cash register for a few minutes."
For one horrible second, Jake thought the one Eddie had called "Old Double-Ugly" meant none other than John "Jake" Chambers. Then he realized Andolini was pointing past him, at Deepneau.
Tower gave in. Or Toren. "Aaron?" he asked. "Do you mind?"
"Not if you don't," Deepneau said. He looked troubled. "Sure you want to talk with these guys?"
Biondi gave him a look. Jake thought Deepneau stood up under it remarkably well. In a weird way, he felt proud of the old guy.
"Yeah," Tower said. "Yeah, it's fine."
"Don't worry, he won't lose his butthole virginity on our account," Biondi said, and laughed.
"Watch your mouth, you're in a place of scholarship," Balazar said, but Jake thought he smiled a little. "Come on, Toren. Just a little chat."
"That's not my name! I had it legally changed on - "
"Whatever," Balazar said soothingly. He actually patted Tower's arm. Jake was still trying to get used to the idea that all this... all this melodrama. . . had happened after he'd left the store with his two new books (new to him, anyway) and resumed his journey. That it had all happened behind his back.
"A squarehead's always a squarehead, right, boss?" Biondi asked jovially. "Just a Dutchman. Don't matter what he calls himself."
Balazar said, "If I want you to talk, George, I'll tell you what I want you to say. Have you got that?"
"Okay," Biondi said. Then, perhaps after deciding that didn't sound quite enthusiastic enough: "Yeah! Sure."
"Good." Balazar, now holding the arm he had patted, guided Tower toward the back of the shop. Books were piled helter-skelter here; the air was heavy with the scent of a million musty pages. There was a door marked employees only. Tower produced a ring of keys, and they jingled slightly as he picked through them.
"His hands are shaking," Jake murmured.
Eddie nodded. "Mine would be, too."
Tower found the key he wanted, turned it in the lock, opened the door. He took another look at the three men who had come to visit him - hard guys from Brooklyn - then led them into the back room. The door closed behind them, and Jake heard the sound of a bolt being shot across. He doubted Tower himself had done that.
Jake looked up into the convex anti-shoplifting mirror mounted in the corner of the shop, saw Deepneau pick up the telephone beside the cash register, consider it, then put it down again.
"What do we do now?" Jake asked Eddie.
"I'm gonna try something," Eddie said. "I saw it in a movie once." He stood in front of the closed door, then tipped Jake a wink. "Here I go. If I don't do anything but bump my head, feel free to call me an asshole."
Before Jake could ask him what he was talking about, Eddie walked into the door. Jake saw his eyes close and his mouth tighten in a grimace. It was the expression of a man who expects to take a hard knock.
Only there was no hard knock. Eddie simply passed through the door. For one moment his moccasin-clad foot was sticking out, and then it went through, too. There was a low rasping sound, like a hand being passed over rough wood.
Jake bent down and picked Oy up. "Close your eyes," he said.
"Eyes," the bumbler agreed, but continued to look at Jake with that expression of calm adoration. Jake closed his own eyes, squinting them shut When he opened them again, Oy was mimicking him. Without wasting any time, Jake walked into the door with the employees only sign on it. There was a moment of darkness and the smell of wood. Deep in his head, he heard a couple of those disturbing chimes again. Then he was through.
It was a storage area much bigger than Jake had expected -  almost as big as a warehouse and stacked high with books in every direction. He guessed that some of those stacks, held in place by pairs of upright beams that provided shoring rather than shelving, had to be fourteen or sixteen feet high. Narrow, crooked aisles ran between them. In a couple he saw rolling platforms that made him think of the portable boarding ramps you saw in smaller airports. The smell of old books was the same back here as in front, but ever so much stronger, almost overwhelming. Above them hung a scattering of shaded lamps that provided yellowish, uneven illumination. The shadows of Tower, Balazar, and Balazar's friends leaped grotesquely on the wall to their left. Tower turned that way, leading his visitors to a corner that really was an office: there was a desk with a typewriter and a Rolodex on it, three old filing cabinets, and a wall covered with various pieces of paperwork. There was a calendar with some nineteenth-century guy on the May sheet Jake didn't recognize... and then he did. Robert Browning. Jake had quoted him in his Final Essay.
Tower sat down in the chair behind his desk, and immediately seemed sorry he'd done that. Jake could sympathize. The way the other three crowded around him couldn't have been very pleasant. Their shadows jumped up the wall behind the desk like the shadows of gargoyles.
Balazar reached into his suitcoat and brought out a folded sheet of paper. He opened it and put it down on Tower's desk. "Recognize this?"
Eddie moved forward. Jake grabbed at him. "Don't go close! They'll sense you!"
"I don't care," Eddie said. "I need to see that paper."
Jake followed, not knowing what else to do. Oy stirred in his arms and whined. Jake shushed him curtly, and Oy blinked. "Sorry, buddy," Jake said, "but you have to keep quiet."
Was the 1977 version of him in the vacant lot yet? Once inside it, that earlier Jake had slipped somehow and knocked himself unconscious. Had that happened yet? No sense wondering. Eddie was right. Jake didn't like it, but he knew it was true: they were supposed to be here , not there, and they were supposed to see the paper Balazar was now showing Calvin Tower.
Eddie got the first couple of lines before Jack Andolini said, "Boss, I don't like this. Something feels hinky."
Balazar nodded. "I agree. Is someone back here with us, Mr. Toren?" He still sounded calm and courteous, but his eyes were everywhere, assessing this large room's potential for concealment.
"No," Tower said. "Well, there's Sergio; he's the shop cat. I imagine he's back here somew - "
"This ain't no shop," Biondi said, "it's a hole you pour money into. One of those chi-chi designers'd have trouble making enough to cover the overhead on a joint this big, and a bookstore? Man, who are you kidding?"
Himself, that's who , Eddie thought. He's been kidding himself .
As if this thought had summoned them, those terrible chimes began again. The hoods gathered in Tower's storeroom office didn't hear them, but Jake and Oy did; Eddie could read it on their distressed faces. And suddenly this room, already dim, began to grow dimmer still.
We're going back , Eddie thought. Jesus, we're going back! But not before  -
He bent forward between Andolini and Balazar, aware that both men were looking around with wide, wary eyes, not caring. What he cared about was the paper. Someone had hired Balazar first to get it signed (probably) and then to shove it under Tower/Toren's nose when the time was right (certainly). In most cases, Il Roche would have been content to send a couple of his hard boys - what he called his "gentlemen" - on an errand like that. This job, however, was important enough to warrant his personal attention. Eddie wanted to know why.
This document constitutes a Pact of Agreement between Mr. calvin tower, a New York State resident, owning real property which is principally a vacant lot, identified as Lot # 298 and Block # 19, located ...
Those chimes wriggled through his head again, making him shiver. This time they were louder. The shadows drew thicker, leaping up the storage room's walls. The darkness Eddie had sensed out on the street was breaking through. They might be swept away, and that would be bad. They might be drowned in it, and that would be worse, of course it would, being drowned in darkness would surely be an awful way to go.
And suppose there were things in that darkness? Hungry things like the doorkeeper?
There are . That was Henry's voice. For the first time in almost two months. Eddie could imagine Henry standing just behind him and grinning a sallow junkie's grin: all bloodshot eyes and yellow, uncared-for teeth. You know there are. But when you hear the chimes, you got to go, bro, as I think you know .
"Eddie!" Jake cried. "It's coming back! Do you hear it?"
"Grab my belt," Eddie said. His eyes raced back and forth over the paper in Tower's pudgy hands. Balazar, Andolini, and Big Nose were still looking around. Biondi had actually drawn his gun.
"Your - ?"
"Maybe we won't be separated," Eddie said. The chimes were louder than ever, and he groaned. The words of the agreement blurred in front of him. Eddie squinted his eyes, bringing the print back together:
... identified as Lot #298 and Block #19, located in manhattan, New York City, on 46th Street and 2nd Avenue, and Sombra Corporation, a corporation doing business within the State of New York.
On this day of july 15,1976, sombra is paying a non-returnable sum of $100,000.00 to calvin tower, receipt of which is acknowledged in regard to this property. In consideration thereof, Calvin Tower agrees not to ...
July 15th, 1976. Not quite a year ago.
Eddie felt the darkness sweeping down on them, and tried to cram the rest of it through his eyes and into his brain: enough, maybe, to make sense of what was going on here. If he could do that, it would be at least a step toward figuring out what all this meant to them.
If the chimes don't drive me crazy. If the things in the darkness don't eat us on the way back.
"Eddie!" Jake. And terrified, by the sound. Eddie ignored him.
... Calvin Tower agrees not to sell or lease or otherwise encumber the property during a one-year period commencing on the date hereof and ending on July 15, 1977. It is understood that the sombra corporation shall have first right of purchase on the above mentioned property, as defined below.
During this period, calvin tower will fully preserve and protect sombra corporation's stated interest in the above-mentioned Property and will permit no liens or other encumbrances...
There was more, but now the chimes were hideous, head-bursting. For just one moment Eddie understood - hell, could almost see  - how thin this world had become. All of the worlds, probably. As thin and worn as his own jeans. He caught one final phrase from the agreement:... if these conditions are met, will have the righttosell or otherwise dispose of the propertyto Sombra or any other party. Then the words were gone, everything was gone, spinning into a black whirlpool. Jake held onto Eddie's belt with one hand and Oy with the other. Oy was barking wildly now, and Eddie had another confused image of Dorothy being swirled away to the Land of Oz.
There were things in the darkness: looming shapes behind weird phosphorescent eyes, the sort of things you saw in movies about exploring the deepest cracks of the ocean floor. Except in those movies, the explorers were always inside a steel diving-bell, while he and Jake -
The chimes grew to an ear-splitting volume. Eddie felt as if he had been jammed headfirst into the works of Big Ben as it was striking midnight. He screamed without hearing himself. And then it was gone, everything was all gone - Jake, Oy, Mid-World - and he was floating somewhere beyond the stars and the galaxies.
Susannah! .'he cried. Where are you, Suze ?
No answer. Only darkness.