Wolves of the Calla
Part One ToDash Chapter IV: Palaver
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When Roland woke in the morning, Susannah was still asleep but Eddie and Jake were up. Eddie had built a small new fire on the gray bones of the old one. He and the boy sat close to it for the warmth, eating what Eddie called gunslinger burritos. They looked both excited and worried.
"Roland," Eddie said, "I think we need to talk. Something happened to us last night - "
"I know," Roland said. "I saw. You went todash."
"Todash?" Jake asked. "What's that?"
Roland started to tell them, then shook his head. "If we're going to palaver, Eddie, you'd better wake Susannah up. That way we won't have to double back over the first part." He glanced south. "And hopefully our new friends won't interrupt us until we've had our talk. They're none of this." But already he was wondering about that.
He watched with more than ordinary interest as Eddie shook Susannah awake, quite sure but by no means positive that it would be Susannah who opened her eyes. It was. She sat up, stretched, ran her fingers through her tight curls. "What's your problem, honeychile? I was good for another hour, at least."
"We need to talk, Suze," Eddie said.
"All you want, but not quite yet," she said. "God , but I'm stiff."
"Sleeping on hard ground'll do it every time," Eddie said.
Not to mention hunting naked in the bogs and damps , Roland thought.
"Pour me some water, sug." She held out her palms, and Eddie filled them with water from one of the skins. She dashed this over her cheeks and into her eyes, gave out a little shivery cry, and said, "Cold."
"Old!" Oy said.
"Not yet," she told the bumbler, "but you give me a few more months like the last few, and I will be . Roland, you Mid-World folks know about coffee, right?"
Roland nodded. "From the plantations of the Outer Arc. Down south."
"If we come across some, we'll hook it, won't we? You promise me, now."
"I promise," Roland said.
Susannah, meanwhile, was studying Eddie. "What's going on? You boys don't look so good."
"More dreams," Eddie said.
"Me too," Jake said.
"Not dreams," the gunslinger said. "Susannah, how did you sleep?"
She looked at him candidly. Roland did not sense even the shadow of a lie in her answer. "Like a rock, as I usually do. One thing all this traveling is good for - you can throw your damn Nembutal away."
"What's this toadish thing, Roland?" Eddie asked.
"Todash," he said, and explained it to them as well as he could. What he remembered best from Vannay's teachings was how the Manni spent long periods fasting in order to induce the right state of mind, and how they traveled around, looking for exactly the right spot in which to induce the todash state. This was something they determined with magnets and large plumb-bobs.
"Sounds to me like these guys would have been right at home down in Needle Park," Eddie said.
"Anywhere in Greenwich Village," Susannah added.
" 'Sounds Hawaiian, doesn't it?' "Jake said in a grave, deep voice, and they all laughed. Even Roland laughed a little.
"Todash is another way of traveling," Eddie said when the laughter had stopped. "Like the doors. And the glass balls. Is that right?"
Roland started to say yes, then hesitated. "I think they might all be variations of the same thing," he said. "And according to Vannay, the glass balls - the pieces of the Wizard's Rainbow - make going todash easier. Sometimes too easy."
Jake said, "We really flickered on and off like... like light-bulbs? What you call sparklights?"
"Yes - you appeared and disappeared. When you were gone, there was a dim glow where you'd been, almost as if something were holding your place for you."
"Thank God if it was," Eddie said. "When it ended... when those chimes started playing again and we kicked loose... I'll tell you the truth, I didn't think we were going to get back."
"Neither did I," Jake said quietly. The sky had clouded over again, and in the dull morning light, the boy looked very pale. "I lost you."
"I was never so glad to see anyplace in my life as I was when I opened my eyes and saw this little piece of road," Eddie said. "And you beside me, Jake. Even Rover looked good to me." He glanced at Oy, then over at Susannah. "Nothing like this happened to you last night, hon?"
"We'd have seen her," Jake said.
"Not if she todashed off to someplace else," Eddie said.
Susannah shook her head, looking troubled. "I just slept the night away. As I told you. What about you, Roland?"
"Nothing to report," Roland said. As always, he would keep his own counsel until his instinct told him it was time to share. And besides, what he'd said wasn't exactly a lie. He looked keenly at Eddie and Jake. "There's trouble, isn't there?"
Eddie and Jake looked at each other, then back at Roland. Eddie sighed."Yeah, probably."
"How bad? Do you know?"
"I don't think we do. Do we, Jake?"
Jake shook his head.
"But I've got some ideas," Eddie went on, "and if I'm right, we've got a problem. A big one." He swallowed. Hard. Jake touched his hand, and the gunslinger was concerned to see how quickly and firmly Eddie took hold of the boy's fingers.
Roland reached out and drew Susannah's hand into his own. He had a brief vision of that hand seizing a frog and squeezing the guts out of it He put it out of his mind. The woman who had done that was not here now.
"Tell us," he said to Eddie and Jake. "Tell us everything. We would hear it all."
"Every word," Susannah agreed. "For your fathers' sakes."
They recounted what had happened to them in the New York of 1977. Roland and Susannah listened, fascinated, as they told of following Jake to the bookstore, and of seeing Balazar and his gentlemen pull up in front.
"Huh!" Susannah said. "The very same bad boys! It's almost like a Dickens novel."
"Who is Dickens, and what is a novel?" Roland asked.
"A novel's a long story set down in a book," she said. "Dickens wrote about a dozen. He was maybe the best who ever lived. In his stories, folks in this big city called London kept meeting people they knew from other places or long ago. I had a teacher in college who hated the way that always happened. He said Dickens's stories were full of easy coincidences."
"A teacher who either didn't know about ka or didn't believe in it," Roland said.
Eddie was nodding. "Yeah, this is ka, all right. No doubt."
"I'm more interested in the woman who wrote Charlie the Choo-Choo than this storyteller Dickens," Roland said. "Jake, I wonder if you'd - "
"I'm way ahead of you," Jake said, unbuckling the straps of his pack. Almost reverently, he slid out the battered book telling the adventures of Charlie the locomotive and his friend, Engineer Bob. They all looked at the cover. The name below the picture was still Beryl Evans.
"Man," Eddie said. "That is so weird. I mean, I don't want to get sidetracked, or anything..." He paused, realizing he had just made a railroading pun, then went on. Roland wasn't very interested in puns and jokes, anyway. "... but that is weird . The one Jake bought - Jake Seventy-seven - was by Claudia something Bachman."
"Inez," Jake said. "Also, there was a y . A lowercase y . Any of you know what that means?"
None of them did, but Roland said there had been names like it in Mejis. "I believe it was some sort of added honorific. And I'm not sure it is to the side. Jake, you said the sign in the window was different from before. How?"
"I can't remember. But you know what? I think if you hypnotized me again - you know, with the bullet - I could."
"And in time I may," Roland said, "but this morning time is short."
Back to that again , Eddie thought. Yesterday it hardly existed, and now it's short. But it's all about time, somehow, isn't it"?Rolands old days, our old days, and these new days. These dangerous new days .
"Why?" Susannah asked.
"Our friends," Roland said, and nodded to the south. "I have a feeling they'll be making themselves known to us soon."
"Are they our friends?" Jake asked.
"That really is to the side," Roland said, and again wondered if that were really true. "For now, let's turn the mind of our khef to this Bookstore of the Mind, or whatever it's called. You saw the harriers from the Leaning Tower greensticking the owner, didn't you? This man Tower, or Toren."
"Pressuring him, you mean?" Eddie asked. "Twisting his arm?"
"Sure they were," Jake said.
"Were," Oy put in. "Sure were."
"Bet you anything that Tower and Toren are really the same name," Susannah said. "That toren's Dutch for 'tower.' " She saw Roland getting ready to speak, and held up her hand. "It's the way folks often do things in our bit of the universe, Roland - change the foreign name to one that's more... well... American."
"Yeah," Eddie said. "So Stempowicz becomes Stamper... Yakov becomes Jacob... or..."
"Or Beryl Evans becomes Claudia y Inez Bachman," Jake said. He laughed but didn't sound very amused.
Eddie picked a half-burned stick out of the fire and began to doodle with it in the dirt. One by one the Great Letters formed: C... L... A... U. "Big Nose even said Tower was Dutch. 'A squarehead's always a squarehead, right, boss?' " He looked at Jake for confirmation. Jake nodded, then took the stick and continued on with it: D... I... A.
"Him being Dutch makes a lot of sense, you know," Susannah said. "At one time, the Dutch owned most of Manhattan."
"You want another Dickens touch?" Jake asked. He wrote y in the dirt after CLAUDIA, then looked up at Susannah. "How about the haunted house where I came through into this world?"
"The Mansion," Eddie said.
"The Mansion in Dutch Hill," Jake said.
"Dutch Hill. Yeah, that's right. Goddam."
"Let's go to the core," Roland said. "I think it's the agreement paper you saw. And you felt you had to see it, didn't you?"
"Did your need feel like a part of following the Beam?"
"Roland, I think it was the Beam."
"The way to the Tower, in other words."
"Yeah," Eddie said. He was thinking about the way clouds flowed along the Beam, the way shadows bent along the Beam, the way every twig of every tree seemed to turn in its direction. All things serve the Beam , Roland had told them, and Eddie's need to see the paper Balazar had put in front of Calvin Tower had felt like a need, harsh and imperative.
"Tell me what it said."
Eddie bit his lip. He didn't feel as scared about this as he had about carving the key which had ultimately allowed them to rescue Jake and pull him through to this side, but it was close. Because, like the key, this was important. If he forgot something, worlds might crash.
"Man, I can't remember it all, not word for word - "
Roland made an impatient gesture. "If I need that, I'll hypnotize you and get it word for word."
"Do you think it matters?" Susannah asked.
"I think it all matters," Roland said.
"What if hypnosis doesn't work on me?" Eddie asked. "What if I'm not, like, a good subject?"
"Leave that to me," Roland said.
"Nineteen," Jake said abruptly. They all turned toward him. He was looking at the letters he and Eddie had drawn in the dirt beside the dead campfire. "Claudia y Inez Bachman. Nineteen letters."
Roland considered for a moment, then let it pass. If the number nineteen was somehow part of this, its meaning would declare itself in time. For now there were other matters.
"The paper," he said. "Let's stay with that for now. Tell me everything about it you can remember."
"Well, it was a legal agreement, with the seal at the bottom and everything." Eddie paused, struck by a fairly basic question. Roland probably got this part of it - he'd been a kind of law enforcement officer, after all - but it wouldn't hurt to be sure. "You know about lawyers, don't you?"
Roland spoke in his driest tone. "You forget that I came from Gilead, Eddie. The most inner of the Inner Baronies. We had more merchants and farmers and manufactors than lawyers, I think, but the count would have been close."
Susannah laughed. "You make me think of a scene from Shakespeare, Roland. Two characters - might have been Falstaff and Prince Hal, I'm not sure - are talkin about what they're gonna do when they win the war and take over. And one of em says, 'First we'll kill all the lawyers.' "
"It would be a fairish way to start," Roland said, and Eddie found his thoughtful tone rather chilling. Then the gunslinger turned to him again. "Go on. If you can add anything, Jake, please do. And relax, both of you, for your fathers' sakes. For now I only want a sketch."
Eddie supposed he'd known that, but hearing Roland say it made him feel better. "All right. It was a Memorandum of Agreement. That was right at the top, in big letters. At the bottom it said Agreed to , and there were two signatures. One was Calvin Tower. The other was Richard someone. Do you remember, Jake?"
"Sayre," Jake said. "Richard Patrick Sayre." He paused briefly, lips moving, then nodded. "Nineteen letters."
"And what did it say, this agreement?" Roland asked.
"Not all that much, if you want to know the truth," Eddie said. "Or that's what it seemed like to me, anyway. Basically it said that Tower owned a vacant lot on the corner of Forty-sixth Street and Second Avenue - "
"The vacant lot," Jake said. "The one with the rose in it."
"Yeah, that one. Anyway, Tower signed this agreement on July 15th, 1976. Sombra Corporation gave him a hundred grand. What he gave them, so far as I could tell, was a promise not to sell the lot to anyone but Sombra for the next year, to take care of it - pay the taxes and such - and then to give Sombra first right of purchase, assuming he hasn't sold it to them by then, anyway. Which he hadn't when we were there, but the agreement still had a month and a half to run."
"Mr. Tower said the hundred thousand was all spent," Jake put in.
"Was there anything in the agreement about this Sombra Corporation having a topping privilege?" Susannah asked.
Eddie and Jake thought it over, exchanged a glance, then shook their heads.
"Sure?" Susannah asked.
"Not quite, but pretty sure," Eddie said. "You think it matters?"
"I don't know," Susannah said. "The kind of agreement you're talking about... well, without a topping privilege, it just doesn't seem to make sense. What does it boil down to, when you stop to think about it? 'I, Calvin Tower, agree to think about selling you my vacant lot. You pay me a hundred thousand dollars and I'll think about it for a whole year. When I'm not drinking coffee and playing chess with my friends, that is. And when the year's up, maybe I'll sell it to you and maybe I'll keep it and maybe I'll just auction it off to the highest bidder. And if you don't like it, sweetcheeks, you just go spit.' "
"You're forgetting something," Roland said mildly.
"What?" Susannah asked.
"This Sombra is no ordinary law-abiding combination. Ask yourself if an ordinary law-abiding combination would hire someone like Balazar to carry their messages."
"You have a point," Eddie said. "Tower was mucho scared."
"Anyway," Jake said, "it makes at least a few things clearer. The sign I saw in the vacant lot, for instance. This Sombra Company also got the right to 'advertise forthcoming projects' there for their hundred thousand. Did you see that part, Eddie?"
"I think so. Right after the part about Tower not permitting any liens or encumbrances on his property, because of Sombra's 'stated interest,' wasn't it? "
"Right," Jake said. "The sign I saw in the lot said..." He paused, thinking, then raised his hands and looked between them, as if reading a sign only he could see: "Mills construction AND SOMBRA REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATES ARE CONTINUING TO REMAKE THE FACE OF MANHATTAN. And then, COMING SOON, TURTLE BAY LUXURY CONDOMINIUMS."
"So that's what they want it for," Eddie said. "Condos. But - "
"What are condominiums?" Susannah asked, frowning. "It sounds like some newfangled kind of spice rack."
"It's a kind of co-op apartment deal," Eddie said. "They probably had em in your when, but by a different name."
"Yeah," Susannah said with some asperity. "We called em coops. Or sometimes we went way downtown and called em apartment buildings."
"It doesn't matter because it was never about condos," Jake said. "Never about the building the sign said they were going to put there, for that matter. All that's only, you know... shoot, what's the word?"
"Camouflage?" Roland suggested.
Jake grinned. "Camuflage, yeah. It's about the rose , not the building! And they can't get at it until they own the ground it grows on. I'm sure of it."
"You may be right about the building's not meaning anything," Susannah said, "but that Turtle Bay name has a certain resonance, wouldn't you say?" She looked at the gunslinger. "That part of Manhattan is called Turtle Bay, Roland."
He nodded, unsurprised. The Turtle was one of the twelve Guardians, and almost certainly stood at the far end of the Beam upon which they now traveled.
"The people from Mills Construction might not know about the rose," Jake said, "but I bet the ones from Sombra Corporation do." His hand stole into Oy's fur, which was thick enough at the billy-bumbler's neck to make his fingers disappear entirely. "I think that somewhere in New York City - in some business building, probably in Turtle Bay on the East Side - there's a door marked sombra corporation. And someplace behind that door there's another door . The kind that takes you here."
For a minute they sat thinking about it - about worlds spinning on a single axle in dying harmony - and no one said anything.
"Here's what I think is happening," Eddie said. "Suze, Jake, feel free to step in if you think I'm getting it wrong. This guy Cal Tower's some sort of custodian for the rose. He may not know it on a conscious level, but he must be. Him and maybe his whole family before him. It explains the name."
"Only he's the last," Jake said.
"You can't be sure of that, hon," Susannah said.
"No wedding ring," Jake responded, and Susannah nodded, giving him that one, at least provisionally.
"Maybe at one time there were lots of Torens owning lots of New York property," Eddie said, "but those days are gone. Now the only thing standing between the Sombra Corporation and the rose is one nearly broke fat guy who changed his name. He's a... what do you call someone who loves books?"
"A bibliophile," Susannah said.
"Yeah, one of those. And George Biondi may not be Einstein, but he said at least one smart thing while we were eavesdropping. He said Tower's place wasn't a real shop but just a hole you poured money into. What's going on with him is a pretty old story where we come from, Roland. When my Ma used to see some rich guy on TV - Donald Trump, for instance - "
"Who?" Susannah asked.
"You don't know him, he would've been just a kid back in '64. And it doesn't matter. 'Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations,' my mother would tell us. 'It's the American way, boys.'
"So here's Tower, and he's sort of like Roland - the last of his line. He sells off a piece of property here and a piece there, making his taxes, making his house payments, keeping up with the credit cards and the doctor bills, paying for his stock. And yeah, I'm making this up... except somehow it doesn't feel that way."
"No," Jake said. He spoke in a low, fascinated voice. "It doesn't."
"Perhaps you shared his khef," Roland said. "More likely, you touched him. As my old friend Alain used to. Go on, Eddie."
"And every year he tells himself the bookstore'll turn around. Catch on, maybe, the way things in New York sometimes do. Get out of the red and into the black and then he'll be okay. And finally there's only one thing left to sell: lot two-ninety-eight on Block Nineteen in Turtle Bay."
"Two-nine-eight adds up to nineteen," Susannah said. "I wish I could decide if that means something or if it's just Blue Car Syndrome."
"What's Blue Car Syndrome?" Jake asked.
"When you buy a blue car, you see blue cars everywhere."
"Not here, you don't," Jake said.
"Not here," Oy put in, and they all looked at him. Days, sometimes whole weeks would go by, and Oy would do nothing but give out the occasional echo of their talk. Then he would say something that might almost have been the product of original thought. But you didn't know. Not for sure. Not even Jake knew for sure.
The way we don't know for sure about nineteen , Susannah thought, and gave the bumbler a pat on the head. Oy responded with a companionable wink.
"He holds onto that lot until the bitter end," Eddie said. "I mean hey, he doesn't even own the crappy building his bookstore's in, he only leases it."
Jake took over. "Tom and Jerry's Artistic Deli goes out of business, and Tower has it torn down. Because part of him wants to sell the lot. That part of him says he'd be crazy not to." Jake fell silent for a moment, thinking about how some thoughts came in the middle of the night. Crazy thoughts, crazy ideas, and voices that wouldn't shut up. "But there's another part of him, another voice - "
"The voice of the Turtle," Susannah put in quietly.
"Yes, the Turtle or the Beam," Jake agreed. "They're probably the same thing. And this voice tells him he has to hold onto it at all costs." He looked at Eddie. "Do you think he knows about the rose? Do you think he goes down there sometimes and looks at it?"
"Does a rabbit shit in the woods?" Eddie responded. "Sure he goes. And sure he knows . On some level he must know. Because a corner lot in Manhattan... how much would a thing like that be worth, Susannah?"
"In my time, probably a million bucks," she said. "By 1977, God knows. Three? Five?" She shrugged. "Enough to let sai Tower go on selling books at a loss for the rest of his life, provided he was reasonably careful about how he invested the principal."
Eddie said, "Everything about this shows how reluctant he is to sell. I mean Suze already pointed out how little Sombra got for their hundred grand."
"But they did get something," Roland said. "Something very important."
"A foot in the door," Eddie said.
"You say true. And now, as the term of their agreement winds down, they send your world's version of the Big Coffin Hunters. Hard-caliber boys. If greed or necessity doesn't compel Tower to sell them the land with the rose on it, they'll terrify him into it."
"Yeah," Jake said. And who would stand on Tower's side? Maybe Aaron Deepneau. Maybe no one. "So what do we do?"
"Buy it ourselves," Susannah said promptly. "Of course."
There was a moment of thunderstruck silence, and then Eddie nodded thoughtfully. "Sure, why not? The Sombra Corporation doesn't have a topping privilege in their little agreement - they probably tried, but Tower wouldn't go for it. So sure, we'll buy it. How many deerskins do you think he'll want? Forty? Fifty? If he's a real hard bargainer, maybe we can throw in some relics from the Old People. You know, cups and plates and arrowheads. They'd be conversation pieces at cocktail parties."
Susannah was looking at him reproachfully.
"Okay, maybe not so funny," Eddie said. "But we have to face the facts, hon. We're nothing but a bunch of dirty-ass pilgrims currently camped out in some other reality - I mean, this isn't even Mid-World anymore."
"Also," Jake said apologetically, "we weren't even really there, at least not the way you are when you go through one of the doors. They sensed us, but basically we were invisible."
"Let's take one thing at a time," Susannah said. "As far as money goes, I have plenty. If we could get at it, that is."
"How much?" Jake asked. "I know that's sort of impolite - my mother'd faint if she heard me ask someone that, but - "
"We've come a little bit too far to worry about being polite," Susannah said. "Truth is, honey, I don't exacdy know. My dad invented a couple of new dental processes that had to do with capping teeth, and he made the most of it. Started a company called Holmes Dental Industries and handled the financial side mostly by himself until 1959."
"The year Mort pushed you in front of the subway train," Eddie said.
She nodded. "That happened in August. About six weeks later, my father had a heart attack - the first of many. Some of it was probably stress over what happened to me, but I won't own all of it. He was a hard driver, pure and simple."
"You don't have to own any of it," Eddie said. "I mean, it's not as if you jumped in front of that subway car, Suze."
"I know. But how you feel and how long you feel it doesn't always have a lot to do with objective truth. With Mama gone, it was my job to take care of him and I couldn't handle it - I could never completely get the idea that it was my fault out of my head."
"Gone days," Roland said, and without much sympathy.
"Thanks, sug," Susannah said dryly. "You have such a way of puttin things in perspective. In any case, my Dad turned over the financial side of the company to his accountant after that first heart attack - an old friend named Moses Carver. After my Dad passed, Pop Mose took care of things for me. I'd guess that when Roland yanked me out of New York and into this charming piece of nowhere, I might have been worth eight or ten million dollars. Would that be enough to buy Mr. Tower's lot, always assuming he'd sell it to us?"
"He probably would sell it for deerskins, if Eddie's right about the Beam," Roland said. "I believe a deep part of Mr. Tower's mind and spirit - the ka that made him hold onto the lot for so long in the first place - has been waiting for us."
"Waiting for the cavalry," Eddie said with a trace of a grin. "Like Fort Ord in the last ten minutes of a John Wayne movie."
Roland looked at him, unsmiling. "He's been waiting for the White."
Susannah held her brown hands up to her brown face and looked at them. "Then I guess he isn't waiting for me," she said.
"Yes," Roland said, "he is." And wondered, briefly, what color that other one was. Mia.
"We need a door," Jake said.
"We need at least two," Eddie said. "One to deal with Tower, sure. But before we can do that, we need one to go back to Susannah's when. And I mean as close to when Roland took her as we can possibly get. It'd be a bummer to go back to 1977, get in touch with this guy Carver, and discover he had Odetta Holmes declared legally dead in 1971. That the whole estate had been turned over to relatives in Green Bay or San Berdoo."
"Or to go back to 1968 and discover Mr. Carver was gone," Jake said. 'Tunneled everything into his own accounts and retired to the Costa del Sol."
Susannah was looking at him with a shocked oh-my-lands expression that would have been funny under other circumstances. "Pop Mose'd never do such a thing! Why, he's my godfather!"
Jake looked embarrassed. "Sorry. I read lots of mystery novels - Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ed McBain - and stuff like that happens in them all the time."
"Besides," Eddie said, "big money can do weird things to people."
She gave him a cold and considering glance that looked strange, almost alien, on her face. Roland, who knew something Eddie and Jake didn't, thought it a frog-squeezing look. "How would you know?" she asked. And then, almost at once, "Oh, sugar, I'm sorry. That was uncalled-for."
"It's okay," Eddie said. He smiled. The smile looked stiff and unsure of itself. "Heat of the moment." He reached out, took her hand, squeezed it. She squeezed back. The smile on Eddie's face grew a little, started to look as if it belonged there.
"It's just that I know Moses Carver. He's as honest as the day is long."
Eddie raised his hand - not signaling belief so much as an unwillingness to go any further down that path.
"Let me see if I understand your idea," Roland said. "First, it depends upon our ability to go back to your world of New York at not just one point of when, but two."
There was a pause while they parsed that, and then Eddie nodded. "Right. 1964, to start with. Susannah's been gone a couple of months, but nobody's given up hope or anything like that. She strolls in, everybody claps. Return of the prodigal daughter. We get the dough, which might take a little time - "
"The hard part's apt to be getting Pop Mose to let go of it," Susannah said. "When it comes to money in the bank, that man got a tight grip. And I'm pretty sure that in his heart, he still sees me as eight years old."
"But legally it's yours, right?" Eddie asked. Roland could see that he was still proceeding with some caution. Hadn't quite got over that crack - How would you know? - just yet. And the look that had gone with it. "I mean, he can't stop you from taking it, can he?"
"No, honey," she said. "My dad and Pop Mose made me a trust fund, but it went moot in 1959, when I turned twenty-five." She turned her eyes - dark eyes of amazing beauty and expression - upon him. "There. You don't need to devil me about my age anymore, do you? If you can subtract, you can figure it out for yourself."
"It doesn't matter," Eddie said. "Time is a face on the water."
Roland felt gooseflesh run up his arms. Somewhere - perhaps in a glaring, blood-colored field of roses still far from here - a rustie had just walked over his grave.
"Has to be cash," Jake said in a dry, businesslike tone.
"Huh?" Eddie looked away from Susannah with an effort.
"Cash," Jake repeated. "No one'd honor a check, even a cashier's check, that was thirteen years old. Especially not one for millions of dollars."
"How do you know stuff like that, sug?" Susannah asked.
Jake shrugged. Like it or not (usually he didn't), he was Elmer Chambers's son. Elmer Chambers wasn't one of the world's good guys - Roland would never call him part of the White - but he had been a master of what network execs called "the kill." A Big Coffin Hunter in TVLand , Jake thought. Maybe that was a little unfair, but saying that Elmer Chambers knew how to play the angles was definitely not unfair. And yeah, he was Jake, son of Elmer. He hadn't forgotten the face of his father, although he had times when he wished that wasn't so.
"Cash, by all means cash," Eddie said, breaking the silence. "A deal like this has to be cash. If there's a check, we cash it in 1964, not 1977. Stick it in a gym-bag - did they have gym-bags in 1964, Suze? Never mind. Doesn't matter. We stick it in a bag and take it to 1977. Doesn't have to be the same day Jake bought Charlie the Choo-Choo and Riddle-De-Dum , but it ought to be close."
"And it can't be after July fifteenth of '77," Jake put in.
"God, no," Eddie agreed. "We'd be all too likely to find Balazar'd persuaded Tower to sell, and there we'd be, bag of cash in one hand, thumbs up our asses, and big grins on our faces to pass the time of day."
There was a moment of silence - perhaps they were considering this lurid image - and then Roland said, "You make it sound very easy, and why not? To you three, the concept of doorways between this world and your world of tack-sees and astin and fottergrafs seems almost as mundane as riding a mule would to me. Or strapping on a sixgun. And there's good reason for you to feel that way. Each of you has been through one of these doors. Eddie has actually gone both ways - into this world and then back into his own."
"I gotta tell you that the return trip to New York wasn't much fun," Eddie said. "Too much gunplay." Not to mention my brother's severed head rolling across the floor ofBalazar's office .
"Neither was getting through the door on Dutch Hill," Jake added.
Roland nodded, ceding these points without yielding his own. "All my life I've accepted what you said the first time I knew you, Jake - what you said when you were dying."
Jake looked down, pale and without answer. He did not like to recall that (it was mercifully hazy in any case), and knew that Roland didn't, either. Good! he thought. You shouldn't want to remember! You let me drop! You let me die!
"You said there were other worlds than these," Roland said, "and there are. New York in all its multiple whens is only one of many. That we are drawn there again and again has to do with the rose. I have no doubt of that, nor do I doubt that in some way I do not understand the rose is the Dark Tower. Either that or - "
"Or it's another door," Susannah murmured. "One that opens on the Dark Tower itself."
Roland nodded. "The idea has done more than cross my mind. In any case, the Manni know of these other worlds, and in some fashion have dedicated their lives to them. They believe todash to be the holiest of rites and most exalted of states. My father and his friends have long known of the glass balls; this I have told you. That the Wizard's Rainbow, todash, and these magical doors may all be much the same is something we have guessed."
"Where you going with this, sug?" Susannah asked.
"I'm simply reminding you that I have wandered long," Roland said. "Because of changes in time - a softening of time which I know you all have felt - I've quested after the Dark Tower for over a thousand years, sometimes skipping over whole generations the way a sea-bird may cruise from one wave-top to the next, only wetting its feet in the foam. Never in all this time did I come across one of these doors between the worlds until I came to the ones on the beach at the edge of the Western Sea. I had no idea what they were, although I could have told you something of todash and the bends o' the rainbow."
Roland looked at them earnestly.
"You speak as though my world were as filled with magical doorways as yours is with..." He thought about it. "... with airplanes or stage-buses. That's not so."
"Where we are now isn't the same as anywhere you've been before, Roland," Susannah said. She touched his deeply tanned wrist, her fingers gentle. "We're not in your world anymore. You said so yourself, back in that version of Topeka where Blaine finally blew his top."
"Agreed," Roland said. "I only want you to realize that such doors may be far more rare than you realize. And now you're speaking not of one but two. Doors you can aim in time, the way you'd aim a gun."
I do not aim with my hand , Eddie thought, and shivered a little. "When you put it that way, Roland, it does sound a little iffy."
"Then what do we do next?" Jake asked.
"I might be able to help you with that," a voice said.
They all turned, only Roland without surprise. He had heard the stranger when he arrived, about halfway through their palaver. Roland did turn with interest, however, and one look at the man standing twenty feet from them on the edge of the road was enough to tell him that the newcomer was either from the world of his new friends, or from one right next door.
"Who are you?" Eddie asked.
"Where are your friends?" Susannah asked.
"Where are you from?" Jake asked. His eyes were alight with eagerness.
The stranger wore a long black coat open over a dark shirt with a notched collar. His hair was long and white, sticking up on the sides and in front as if scared. His forehead was marked with a T-shaped scar. "My friends are still back there a little piece," he said, and jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the woods in a deliberately nonspecific way. "I now call Calla Bryn Sturgis my home. Before that, Detroit, Michigan, where I worked in a homeless shelter, making soup and running AA meetings. Work I knew quite well. Before that - for a short while - Topeka, Kansas."
He observed the way the three younger ones started at that with a kind of interested amusement.
"Before that, New York City. And before that , a little town called Jerusalem's Lot, in the state of Maine."
"You're from our side," Eddie said. He spoke in a kind of sigh. "Holy God, you're really from our side!"
"Yes, I think I am," the man in the turned-around collar said. "My name is Donald Callahan."
"You're a priest," Susannah said. She looked from the cross that hung around his neck - small and discreet, but gleaming gold - to the larger, cruder one that scarred his forehead.
Callahan shook his head. "No more. Once. Perhaps one day again, with the blessing, but not now. Now I'm just a man of God. May I ask... when are you from?"
"1964," Susannah said.
"1977," Jake said.
"1987," Eddie said.
Callahan's eyes gleamed at that. "1987. And I came here in 1983, counting as we did then. So tell me something, young man, something very important. Had the Red Sox won the World Series yet when you left?"
Eddie threw back his head and laughed. The sound was both surprised and cheerful. "No, man, sorry. They came within one out of it last year - at Shea Stadium this was, against the Mets - and then this guy named Bill Buckner who was playing first base let an easy grounder get through his wickets. He'll never live it down. Come on over here and sit down, what do you say? There's no coffee, but Roland - that's this beat-up-lookin guy on my right - makes a pretty fair cup of woods tea."
Callahan turned his attention to Roland and then did an amazing thing: dropped to one knee, lowered his head slightly, and put his fist against his scarred brow. "Hile, gunslinger, may we be well-met on the path."
"Hile," Roland said. "Come forward, good stranger, and tell us of your need."
Callahan looked up at him, surprised.
Roland looked back at him calmly, and nodded. "Well-met or ill, it may be you will find what you seek."
"And you may also," Callahan said.
"Then come forward," Roland said. "Come forward and join our palaver."
"Before we really get going, can I ask you something?"
This was Eddie. Beside him, Roland had built up the fire and was rummaging in their combined gunna for the little earthen pot - an artifact of the Old People - in which he liked to brew tea.
"Of course, young man."
"You're Donald Callahan."
"What's your middle name?"
Callahan cocked his head a litde to the side, raised one eyebrow, then smiled. "Frank. After my grandfather. Does it signify?"
Eddie, Susannah, and Jake shared a look. The thought that went with it flowed effordessly among them: Donald Frank Callahan. Equals nineteen.
"It does signify," Callahan said.
"Perhaps," Roland said. "Perhaps not." He poured water for the tea, manipulating the waterskin easily.
"You seem to have suffered an accident," Callahan said, looking at Roland's right hand.
"I make do," Roland said.
"Gets by with a little help from his friends, you might say," Jake added, not smiling.
Callahan nodded, not understanding and knowing he need not: they were ka-tet. He might not know that particular term, but the term didn't matter. It was in the way they looked at each other and moved around each other.
"You know my name," Callahan said. "May I have the pleasure of knowing yours?"
They introduced themselves: Eddie and Susannah Dean, of New York; Jake Chambers, of New York; Oy of Mid-World; Roland Deschain, of Gilead that was. Callahan nodded to each in turn, raising his closed fist to his forehead.
"And to you comes Callahan, of the Lot," he said when the introductions were done. "Or so I was. Now I guess I'm just the Old Fella. That's what they call me in the Calla."
"Won't your friends join us?" Roland said. "We haven't a great deal to eat, but there's always tea."
"Perhaps not just yet."
"Ah," Roland said, and nodded as if he understood.
"In any case, we've eaten well," Callahan said. "It's been a good year in the Calla - until now, anyway - and we'll be happy to share what we have." He paused, seemed to feel he had gone too far too fast, and added: "Mayhap. If all goes well."
"If," Roland said. "An old teacher of mine used to call it the only word a thousand letters long."
Callahan laughed. "Not bad! In any case, we're probably better off for food than you are. We also have fresh muffin-balls - Zalia found em - but I suspect you know about those. She said the patch, although large, had a picked-over look."
"Jake found them," Roland said.
"Actually, it was Oy," Jake said, and stroked the bumbler's head. "I guess he's sort of a muffin-hound."
"How long have you known we were here?" Callahan asked.
Callahan contrived to look both amused and exasperated. "Since we cut your trail, in other words. And we tried to be so crafty."
"If you didn't think you needed someone craftier than you are, you wouldn't have come," Roland said.
Callahan sighed. "You say true, I say thankya."
"Do you come for aid and succor?" Roland asked. There was only mild curiosity in his voice, but Eddie Dean felt a deep, deep chill. The words seemed to hang there, full of resonance. Nor was he alone in feeling that. Susannah took his right hand. A moment later Jake's hand crept into Eddie's left.
"That is not for me to say." Callahan sounded suddenly hesitant and unsure of himself. Afraid, maybe.
"Do you know you come to the line of Eld?" Roland asked in that same curiously gentle voice. He stretched a hand toward Eddie, Susannah, and Jake. Even toward Oy. "For these are mine, sure. As I am theirs. We are round, and roll as we do. And you know what we are."
"Are you?" Callahan asked. "Are you all ?"
Susannah said, "Roland, what are you getting us into?"
"Naught be zero, naught be free," he said. "I owe not you, nor you owe me. At least for now. They have not decided to ask."
They will , Eddie thought. Dreams of the rose and the deli and little todash-jaunts aside, he didn't think of himself as particularly psychic, but he didn't need to be psychic to know that they - the people from whom this Callahan had come as representative - would ask. Somewhere chestnuts had fallen into a hot fire, and Roland was supposed to pull them out.
But not just Roland.
You've made a mistake here, Pops , Eddie thought. Perfectly understandable, hit a mistake, all the same. We're not the cavalry. We're not the posse. We're not gunslingers. We're just three lost souls from the Big Apple who -
But no. No. Eddie had known who they were since River Crossing, when the old people had knelt in the street to Roland. Hell, he'd known since the woods (what he still thought of as Shardik's Woods), where Roland had taught them to aim with the eye, shoot with the mind, kill with the heart. Not three, not four. One. That Roland should finish them so, complete them so, was horrible. He was filled with poison and had kissed them with his poisoned lips. He had made them gunslingers, and had Eddie really thought there was no work left for the line of Arthur Eld in this mostly empty and husked-out world? That they would simply be allowed to toddle along the Path of the Beam until they got to Roland's Dark Tower and fixed whatever was wrong there? Well, guess again.
It was Jake who said what was in Eddie's mind, and Eddie didn't like the look of excitement in the boy's eyes. He guessed plenty of kids had gone off to plenty of wars with that same excited gonna-kick-some-ass look on their faces. Poor kid didn't know he'd been poisoned, and that made him pretty dumb, because no one should have known better.
"They will, though," he said. "Isn't that true, Mr. Callahan? They will ask."
"I don't know," Callahan said. "You'd have to convince them..."
He trailed off, looking at Roland. Roland was shaking his head.
"That's not how it works," the gunslinger said. "Not being from Mid-World you may not know that, but that's not how it works. Convincing isn't what we do. We deal in lead."
Callahan sighed deeply, then nodded. "I have a book. Tales of Arthur , it's called."
Roland's eyes gleamed. "Do you? Do you, indeed? I would like to see such a book. I would like it very well."
"Perhaps you shall," Callahan said. "The stories in it are certainly not much like the tales of the Round Table I read as a boy, but..." He shook his head. "I understand what you're saying to me, let's leave it at that. There are three questions, am I right? And you just asked me the first."
"Three, yes," Roland said. "Three is a number of power."
Eddie thought, If you want to try a real number of power, Roland old buddy, try nineteen .
"And all three must be answered yes."
Roland nodded. "And if they are, you may ask no more. We may be cast on, sai Callahan, but no man may cast us back. Make sure your people" - he nodded toward the woods south of them - "understand that."
"Gunslinger - "
"Call me Roland. We're at peace, you and I."
"All right, Roland. Hear me well, do ya, I beg. (For so we say in the Calla.) We who come to you are only half a dozen. We six cannot decide. Only the Calla can decide."
"Democracy," Roland said. He pushed his hat back from his forehead, rubbed his forehead, and sighed.
"But if we six agree - especially sai Overholser - " He broke off, looking rather warily at Jake. "What? Did I say something?"
Jake shook his head and motioned Callahan to continue.
"If we six agree, it's pretty much a done deal."
Eddie closed his eyes, as if in bliss. "Say it again, pal."
Callahan eyed him, puzzled and wary. "What?"
"Done deal. Or anything from your where and when." He paused. "Our side of the big ka."
Callahan considered this, then began to grin. "I didn't know whether to shit or go blind," he said. "I went on a bender, broke the bank, kicked the bucket, blew my top, walked on thin ice, rode the pink horse down nightmare alley. Like that?"
Roland looked puzzled (perhaps even a little bored), but Eddie Dean's face was a study in bliss. Susannah and Jake seemed caught somewhere between amusement and a kind of surprised, recollective sadness.
"Keep em coming, pal," Eddie said hoarsely, and made a come on, man gesture with both hands. He sounded as if he might have been speaking through a throatful of tears. "Just keep em coming."
"Perhaps another time," Callahan said gently. "Another time we may sit and have our own palaver about the old places and ways of saying. Baseball, if it do ya. Now, though, time is short."
"In more ways than you know, maybe," Roland said. "What would you have of us, sai Callahan? And now you must speak to the point, for I've told you in every way I can that we are not wanderers your friends may interview, then hire or not as they do their farmhands or saddle-tramps."
"For now I ask only that you stay where you are and let me bring them to you," he said. "There's Tian Jaffords, who's really responsible for us being out here, and his wife, Zalia. There's Overholser, the one who most needs to be convinced that we need you."
"We won't convince him or anyone," Roland said.
"I understand," Callahan said hastily. "Yes, you've made that perfectly clear. And there's Ben Slightman and his boy, Benny. Ben the Younger is an odd case. His sister died four years ago, when she and Benny were both ten. No one knows if that makes Ben the Younger a twin or a singleton." He stopped abruptly. "I've wandered. I'm sorry."
Roland gestured with an open palm to show it was all right.
"You make me nervous, hear me I beg."
"You don't need to beg us nothing, sugar," Susannah said.
Callahan smiled. "It's only the way we speak. In the Calla, when you meet someone, you may say, 'How from head to feet, do ya, I beg?' And the answer, 'I do fine, no rust, tell the gods thankee-sai.' You haven't heard this?"
They shook their heads. Although some of the words were familiar, the overall expressions only underlined the fact that they had come to somewhere else, a place where talk was strange and customs perhaps stranger.
"What matters," Callahan said, "is that the borderlands are terrified of creatures called the Wolves, who come out of Thunderclap once a generation and steal the children. There's more to it, but that's the crux. Tian Jaffords, who stands to lose not just one child this time but two, says no more, the time has come to stand and fight. Others - men like Overholser - say doing that would be disaster. I think Overholser and those like him would have carried the day, but your coming has changed things." He leaned forward earnestly. "Wayne Overholser isn't a bad man, just a frightened man. He's the biggest farmer in the Calla, and so he has more to lose than some of the rest. But if he could be convinced that we might drive the Wolves off... that we could actually win against them... I believe he might also stand and fight."
"I told you - " Roland began.
"You don't convince," Callahan broke in. "Yes, I understand. I do. But if they see you, hear you speak, and then convince themselves... ?"
Roland shrugged. "There'll be water if God wills it, we say."
Callahan nodded. "They say it in the Calla, too. May I move on to another, related matter?"
Roland raised his hands slightly - as if, Eddie thought, to tell Callahan it was his nickel.
For a moment the man with the scar on his brow said nothing. When he did speak, his voice had dropped. Eddie had to lean forward to hear him. "I have something. Something you want. That you may need. It has reached out to you already, I think."
"Why do you say so?" Roland asked.
Callahan wet his lips and then spoke a single word: "Todash."
"What about it?" Roland asked. "What about todash?"
"Haven't you gone?" Callahan looked momentarily unsure of himself. "Haven't any of you gone?"
"Say we have," Roland said. "What's that to you, and to your problem in this place you call the Calla?"
Callahan sighed. Although it was still early in the day, he looked tired. "This is harder than I thought it would be," he said, "and by quite a lot. You are considerably more - what's the word? - trig, I suppose. More trig than I expected."
"You expected to find nothing but saddle-tramps with fast hands and empty heads, isn't that about the size of it?" Susannah asked. She sounded angry. "Well, joke's on you, honeybunch. Anyway, we may be tramps, but we got no saddles. No need for saddles with no horses."
"We've brought you horses," Callahan said, and that was enough. Roland didn't understand everything, but he thought he now had enough to clarify the situation quite a bit. Callahan had known they were coming, known how many they were, known they were walking instead of riding. Some of those things could have been passed on by spies, but not all. And todash... knowing that some or all of them had gone todash...
"As for empty heads, we may not be the brightest four on the planet, but - " She broke off suddenly, wincing. Her hands went to her stomach.
"Suze?" Eddie asked, instantly concerned. "Suze, what is it? You okay?"
"Just gas," she said, and gave him a smile. To Roland that smile didn't look quite real. And he thought he saw tiny lines of strain around the corners of her eyes. "Too many muffin-balls last night." And before Eddie could ask her any more questions, Susannah turned her attention back to Callahan. "You got something else to say, then say it, sugar."
"All right," Callahan said. "I have an object of great power. Although you are still many wheels from my church in the Calla, where this object is hidden, I think it's already reached out to you. Inducing the todash state is only one of the things it does." He took a deep breath and let it out. "If you will render us - for the Calla is my town now, too, ye ken, where I hope to finish my days and then be buried - the service I beg, I will give you this... this thing."
"For the last time, I'd ask you to speak no more so," Roland said. His tone was so harsh that Jake looked around at him with dismay. "It dishonors me and my ka-tet. We're bound to do as you ask, if we judge your Calla in the White and those you call Wolves as agents of the outer dark: Beam-breakers, if you ken. We may take no reward for our services, and you must not offer. If one of your own mates were to speak so - the one you call Tian or the one you call Overholster - "
(Eddie thought to correct the gunslinger's pronunciation and then decided to keep his mouth shut - when Roland was angry, it was usually best to stay silent.)
" - that would be different. They know nothing but legends, mayhap. But you, sai, have at least one book which should have taught you better. I told you we deal in lead, and so we do. But that doesn't make us hired guns."
"All right, all right - "
"As for what you have," Roland said, his voice rising and overriding Callahan's, "you'd be rid of it, would you not? It terrifies you, does it not? Even if we decide to ride on past your town, you'd beg us to take it with us, would you not? Would you not ?"
"Yes ," Callahan said miserably. "You speak true and I say thankee. But... it's just that I heard a bit of your palaver... enough to know you want to go back... to pass over, as the Manni say... and not just to one place but two... or maybe more... and time... I heard you speak of aiming time like a gun...''
Jake's face filled with understanding and horrified wonder. "Which one is it?" he asked. "It can't be the pink one from Mejis, because Roland went inside it, it never sent him todash. So which one?"
A tear spilled down Callahan's right cheek, then another. He wiped them away absently. "I've never dared handle it, but I've seen it. Felt its power. Christ the Man Jesus help me, I have Black Thirteen under the floorboards of my church. And it's come alive. Do you understand me?" He looked at them with his wet eyes. "It's come alive ."
Callahan put his face in his hands, hiding it from them.
When the holy man with the scar on his forehead left to get his trailmates, the gunslinger stood watching him go without moving. Roland's thumbs were hooked into the waistband of his old patched jeans, and he looked as if he could stand that way well into the next age. The moment Callahan was out of sight, however, he turned to his own mates and made an urgent, almost bearish, clutching gesture at the air: Come to me . As they did, Roland squatted on his hunkers. Eddie and Jake did the same (and to Susannah, hunkers were almost a way of life). The gunslinger spoke almost curtly.
"Time is short, so tell me, each of you, and don't shillyshally: honest or not?"
"Honest," Susannah said at once, then gave another little wince and rubbed beneath her left breast.
"Honest," said Jake.
"Onnes," said Oy, although he had not been asked.
"Honest," Eddie agreed, "but look." He took an unburned twig from the edge of the campfire, brushed away a patch of pine-duff, and wrote in the black earth underneath:
"Live or Memorex?" Eddie said. Then, seeing Susannah's confusion: "Is it a coincidence, or does it mean something?"
"Who knows?" Jake asked. They were all speaking in low tones, heads together over the writing in the dirt. "It's like nineteen."
"I think it's only a coincidence," Susannah said. "Surely not everything we encounter on our path is ka, is it? I mean, these don't even sound the same." And she pronounced them, Calla with the tongue up, making the broad-a sound, Callahan with the tongue down, making a much sharper a-sound. " Calla 's Spanish in our world... like many of the words you remember from Mejis, Roland. It means street or square, I think... don't hold me to it, because high school Spanish is far behind me now. But if I'm right, using the word as a prefix for the name of a town - or a whole series of them, as seems to be the case in these parts - makes pretty good sense. Not perfect, but pretty good. Callahan, on the other hand..." She shrugged. "What is it? Irish? English?"
"It's sure not Spanish," Jake said. "But the nineteen thing - "
"Piss on nineteen," Roland said rudely. "This isn't the time for number games. He'll be back here with his friends in short order, and I would speak to you an-tet of another matter before he does."
"Do you think he could possibly be right about Black Thirteen?" Jake asked.
"Yes," Roland said. "Based just on what happened to you and Eddie last night, I think the answer is yes. Dangerous for us to have such a thing if he is right, but have it we must. I fear these Wolves out of Thunderclap will if we don't. Never mind, that need not trouble us now."
Yet Roland looked very troubled indeed. He turned his regard toward Jake.
"You started when you heard the big farmer's name. So did you, Eddie, although you concealed it better."
"Sorry," Jake said. "I have forgotten the face of - "
"Not even a bit have you," Roland said. "Unless I have, as well. Because I've heard the name myself, and recently. I just can't remember where." Then, reluctantly: "I'm getting old."
"It was in the bookstore," Jake said. He took his pack, fiddled nervously with the straps, undid them. He flipped the pack open as he spoke. It was as if he had to make sure Charlie the Choo-Choo and Riddle-De-Dumwere still there, still real. "The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind. It's so weird. Once it happened to me and once I watched it happen to me. That'd make a pretty good riddle all by itself."
Roland made a rapid rotating gesture with his diminished right hand, telling him to go on and be quick.
"Mr. Tower introduced himself," Jake said, "and then I did the same. Jake Chambers, I said. And he said - "
" 'Good handle, partner,'" Eddie broke in. "That's what he said. Then he said Jake Chambers sounded like the name of the hero in a Western novel."
" 'The guy who blows into Black Fork, Arizona, cleans up the town, then moves on,'"Jake quoted. "And then he said, 'Something by Wayne D. Overholser, maybe.' " He looked at Susannah and repeated it. "Wayne D. Overholser . And if you tell me that's a coincidence, Susannah..." He broke into a sunny, sudden grin. "I'll tell you to kiss my white-boy ass."
Susannah laughed. "No need of that, sass-box. I don't believe it's a coincidence. And when we meet Callahan's farmer friend, I intend to ask him what his middle name is. I set my warrant that it'll not only begin with D, it'll be something like Dean or Dane, just four letters - " Her hand went back to the place below her breast. "This gas! My! What I wouldn't give for a roll of Tums or even a bottle of - " She broke off again. "Jake, what is it? What's wrong?"
Jake was holding Charlie the Choo-Choo in his hands, and his face had gone dead white. His eyes were huge, shocked. Beside him, Oy whined uneasily. Roland leaned over to look, and his eyes also widened.
"Good gods," he said.
Eddie and Susannah looked. The title was the same. The picture was the same: an anthropomorphic locomotive puffing up a hill, its cowcatcher wearing a grin, its headlight a cheerful eye.
But the yellow letters across the bottom, Story and Pictures by Beryl Evans, were gone. There was no credit line there at all.
Jake turned the book and looked at the spine. It said Charlie the Choo-Choo and McCauley House, Publishers. Nothing else.
South of them now, the sound of voices. Callahan and his friends, approaching. Callahan from the Calla. Callahan of the Lot, he had also called himself.
"Title page, sugar," Susannah said. "Look there, quick."
Jake did. Once again there was only the title of the story and the publisher's name, this time with a colophon.
"Look at the copyright page," Eddie said.
Jake turned the page. Here, on the verso of the title page and beside the recto where the story began, was the copyright information. Except there was no information, not really.
Copyright 1936, it said. Numbers which added up to nineteen. The rest was blank.