The Stand:BOOK III

By: Stephen King

THE STAND

SEPTEMBER 7, 1990 – JANUARY 10, 1991

This land is your land

this land is my land,

from California

to the New York island,

from the redwood forests,

to the Gulf stream waters,

this land was made for you and me.

Woody Guthrie

" Hey Trash, what did old lady Semple say when you torched her pension check? "
Carley Yates

When the night has come

When the night has come

And the land is dark

And the moon is the only light we’ll see

I won’t be afraid

Just as long as you stand by me.

Ben E. King

Chapter 61

The dark man had set his guardposts all along the eastern border of Oregon. The largest was at Ontario, where I-80 crosses over from Idaho; there were six men there, quartered in the trailer of a large Peterbilt truck. They had been there for more than a week, playing poker the whole time with twenties and fifties as useless as Monopoly money. One man was almost sixty thousand dollars ahead and another—a man whose working wage in the pre-plague world had been about ten thousand dollars a year—was over forty grand in the bucket.

It had rained almost the whole week, and tempers in the trailer were getting short. They had come out of Portland, and they wanted to get back there. There were women in Portland. Hung from a spike was a powerful two-way radio, broadcasting nothing but static. They were waiting for the radio to broadcast two simple words: Come home. That would mean that the man they were looking for had been captured somewhere else.

The man they were looking for was approximately seventy years old, heavyset, balding. He wore glasses and he was driving a white-over-blue four-wheel drive, either a jeep or an International-Harvester. He was to be killed when he was finally spotted.

They were edgy and bored—the novelty of high-stakes poker for real money had worn off two days ago, even for the dullest of them—but not bored enough to just take off for Portland on their own. They had received their orders from the Walkin Dude himself, and even after rain-induced cabin fever had set in, their terror of him remained. If they screwed the job up and he found out, God help them all.

So they sat and played cards and watched by turns at the sight-slit which had been carved through the side of the trailer’s steel wall. I-80 was deserted in the dull, constant rain. But if the Scout happened along, it would be seen… and stopped.

“He’s a spy from the other side,” the Walkin Dude had told them, that horrible grin wreathing his chops. Why it was so horrible none of them could have said, but when it turned your way you felt as if your blood had turned to hot tomato soup in your veins. “He’s a spy and we could welcome him in with open arms, show him everything, and send him back with no harm done. But I want him. I want them both. And we’re going to send their heads back over the mountains before the snow flies. Let them chew on that all winter.” And he bellowed hot laughter at the people he had gathered together in one of the conference rooms at the Portland Civic Center. They smiled back, but their smiles were cold and uneasy. Aloud they might congratulate each other on having been singled out for such a responsibility, but inside, they wished that those happy, awful, weasel-like eyes had fixed on anyone but them.

There was another large guardpost far south of Ontario, at Sheaville. Here there were four men in a small house just off I-95, which meanders down toward the Alvord Desert, with its weird rock formations and its dark, sullen streams of water.

The other posts were manned by pairs of men, and there were an even dozen of them, ranging from the tiny town of Flora, just off Route 3 and less than sixty miles from the Washington border, all the way down to McDermitt, on the Oregon-Nevada border.

An old man in a blue-and-white four-wheel drive. The instructions to all the sentinels were the same: Kill him, but don’t hit him in the head. There was to be no blood or bruise above the Adam’s apple.

“I don’t want to send back damaged goods,” Randy Flagg told them, and clacked and roared his horrible laughter.

The northern border between Oregon and Idaho is marked by the Snake River. If you were to follow the Snake north from Ontario, where the six men sat in their Peterbilt playing spit-in-the-ocean for worthless money, you would eventually come to within spitting distance of Copperfield. The Snake takes a kink here that geologists call an oxbow, and near Copperfield the Snake was dammed by the Oxbow Dam. And on that seventh day of September, as Stu Redman and his party trudged up Colorado Highway 6 over a thousand miles to the east and south, Bobby Terry was sitting inside the Copperfield Five-and-Dime, a stack of comic books by his side, wondering what sort of shape the Oxbow Dam was in, and if the sluice gates had been left open or shut. Outside, Oregon Highway 86 ran past the dime store.

He and his partner, Dave Roberts (now asleep in the apartment overhead), had discussed the dam at great length. It had been raining for a week. The Snake was high. Suppose that old Oxbow Dam decided to let go? Bad news. A rushing wall of water would sweep down on Copperfield and ole Bobby Terry and ole Dave Roberts might be washed all the way down to the Pacific Ocean. They had discussed going over to the dam to look for cracks, but finally just hadn’t dared. Flagg’s orders had been specific: Stay under cover.

Dave had pointed out that Flagg might be anywhere. He was a great traveler, and stories had already sprung up about the way he could suddenly appear in a small, out-of-the-way burg where there were only a dozen people repairing power lines or collecting weapons from some army depot. He materialized, like a ghost. Only this was a grinning black ghost in dusty boots with rundown heels. Sometimes he was alone, and sometimes Lloyd Henreid was with him, behind the wheel of a great big Daimler automobile, black as a hearse and just as long. Sometimes he was walking. One moment he wasn’t there, and the next moment he was. He could be in L.A. one day (or so the talk went) and show up in Boise a day later… on foot.

But as Dave had also pointed out, not even Flagg could be in six different places at the same time. One of them could just scoot over to that damn dam, have a look, and scoot back. The odds in their favor were a thousand to one.

Good, you do it, Bobby Terry told him. You have my permission. But Dave had declined the invitation with an uneasy grin. Because Flagg had a way of knowing things, even if he didn’t turn up on the dime. There were some who said he had an unnatural power over the predators of the animal kingdom. A woman named Rose Kingman claimed to have seen him snap his fingers at a number of crows sitting on a telephone wire, and the crows fluttered down onto his shoulders, this Rose Kingman said, and she further testified that they had croaked “Flagg… Flagg… Flagg…” over and over.

That was just ridiculous, and he knew it. Morons might believe it, but Bobby Terry’s mother Delores had never raised any morons. He knew the way stories got around, growing between the mouth that spoke and the ear that listened. And how happy the dark man would be to encourage stories like that.

But the stories still gave him an atavistic little shiver, as though at the core of each there was a nugget of truth. Some said he could call the wolves, or send his spirit into the body of a cat. There was a man in Portland who said he carried a weasel or a fisher or something less nameable than either in that ratty old Boy Scout pack he wore when he was walking. Stupid stuff, all of it. But… just suppose he could talk to the animals, like a satanic Dr. Doolittle. And suppose he or Dave walked out to look at that damn dam in a direct contradiction of his orders, and was seen.

The penalty for disobedience was crucifixion.

Bobby Terry guessed that old dam wouldn’t break, anyway.

He shot a Kent out of the pack on the table and ht up, grimacing at the hot, dry taste. In another six months, none of the damn cigarettes would be smokable. Probably just as well. Fucking things were death, anyway.

He sighed and took another comic book off the stack. Some ridiculous fucking thing called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Ninja Turtles were supposed to be “heroes on a half-shell.” He threw Raphael, Donatello, and their numbfuck buddies across the store and the comic book they inhabited fluttered down in a tent shape on top of a cash register. It was things like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he thought, that made you believe the world was maybe just as well off destroyed.

He picked up the next one, a Batman —there was a hero you could at least sort of believe in—and was just turning to the first page when he saw the blue Scout go by out front, heading west. Its big tires splashed up muddy sheets of rainwater.

Bobby Terry stared with his mouth ajar at the place where it had passed. He couldn’t believe that the vehicle they were all looking for had just passed his post. To tell the truth, way down deep he had suspected this whole thing was nothing but a make-work shit detail.

He rushed to the front door and jerked it open. He ran out on the sidewalk, still holding the Batman comic book in one hand. Maybe the thing had been nothing but a hallucination. Thinking about Flagg could get anyone hallucinating.

But it wasn’t. He caught a glimpse of the Scout’s roof as it went down over the next hill and out of town. Then he was running back through the deserted five-and-dime, bawling for Dave at the top of his lungs.

The Judge held on to the steering wheel grimly, trying to pretend there was no such thing as arthritis, and if there was, he didn’t have it, and if he did have it, it never bothered him in damp weather. He didn’t try to take it any further because the rain was a fact, a pure-d fact, as his father would have said, and there was no hope but Mount Hope.

He wasn’t getting too far with the rest of the fantasy, either.

He had been running through rain for the last three days. It sometimes backed off to a drizzle, but mostly it had been nothing more or less than a good old solid downpour. And that was also a pure-d fact. The roads were on the point of washing out in some places, and by next spring a lot of them were going to be flat impassable. He had thanked God for the Scout many times on this little expedition.

The first three days, struggling along I-80, had convinced him that he wasn’t going to raise the West Coast before the year 2000 if he didn’t get off onto the secondary roads. The Interstate had been eerily deserted for long stretches, and in places he had been able to weave in and out of stalled traffic in second gear, but too many times he had been forced to hook the Scout’s winch on to some car’s back bumper and yank it off the road to make himself a hole he could crawl through.

By Rawlins, he’d had enough. He turned northwest on I-287, skirted the Great Divide Basin, and had camped two days later in Wyoming’s northwest corner, east of Yellowstone. Up here, the roads were almost completely empty. Crossing Wyoming and eastern Idaho had been a frightening, dreamlike experience. He would not have thought that the feeling of death could have set so heavily on such an empty land, nor on his own soul. But it was there—a malign stillness under all that big western sky, where once the deer and the Winnebagos had roamed. It was there in the telephone poles that had fallen over and not been repaired; it was there in the cold, waiting stillness of the small towns he drove his Scout through: Lamont, Muddy Gap, Jeffrey City, Lander, Crowheart.

His loneliness grew with his realization of the emptiness, with his internalization of the death feeling. He grew more and more certain that he was never going to see the Boulder Free Zone again, or the people who lived there—Frannie, Lucy, the Lauder boy, Nick Andros. He began to think he knew how Cain must have felt when God exiled him to the land of Nod.

Only that land had been to the east of Eden.

The Judge was now in the West.

He felt it most strongly crossing the border between Wyoming and Idaho. He came into Idaho through the Targhee Pass, and stopped by the roadside for a light lunch. There was no sound but the sullen boil of high water in a nearby creek, and an odd grinding sound that reminded him of dirt in a doorhinge. Overhead the blue sky was beginning to silt up with mackerel scales. Wet weather coming, and arthritis coming with it. His arthritis had been very quiet so far, in spite of the exercise and the long hours of driving and…

…and what was that grinding sound?

When he had finished his lunch, he got his Garand out of the Scout and went down to the picnic area by the stream—it would have been a pleasant place to eat in kindlier weather. There was a small grove of trees, several tables spotted among them. And hanging from one of the trees, his shoes almost touching the ground, was a hanged man, his head grotesquely cocked, his flesh nearly picked clean by the birds. The grinding, creaking sound was the rope slipping back and forth on the branch over which it had been looped. It was almost frayed through.

That was how he had come to know he was in the West.

That afternoon, around four o’clock, the first hesitant splashes of rain had struck the Scout’s windshield. It had been raining ever since.

He reached Butte City two days later, and the pain in his fingers and knees had gotten so bad that he had stopped for a full day, holed up in a motel room. Stretched out on the motel bed in the great silence, hot towels wrapped around his hands and knees, reading Lapham’s Law and the Classes of Society, Judge Farris looked like a weird cross between the Ancient Mariner and a Valley Forge survivor.

Stocking up well on aspirin and brandy, he pushed on, patiently searching out secondary roads, putting the Scout in four-wheel drive and churning his muddy way around wrecks rather than using the winch when he could, so as to spare himself the necessary flexing and bending that came with attaching it. It was not always possible. Approaching the Salmon River Mountains on September 5, two days ago, he had been forced to hook on to a large ConTel telephone truck and haul it a mile and a half in reverse before the shoulder fell away on one side and he was able to dump the bastardly thing into a river for which he had no name.

On the night of September 4, one day before the ConTel truck and three days before Bobby Terry spotted him passing through Copperfield, he had camped in New Meadows, and a rather unsettling thing happened. He had pulled in at the Ranchhand Motel, got a key to one of the units in the office, and had found a bonus—a battery-operated heater, which he set up by the foot of his bed. Dusk had found him really warm and comfortable for the first time in a week. The heater put out a strong, mellow glow. He was stripped to his underwear shorts, propped up on the pillows, and reading about a case where an uneducated black woman from Brixton, Mississippi, had been sentenced to ten years on a common shoplifting offense. The assistant D.A. who had tried the case and three of the jurors had been black, and Lapham seemed to be pointing out that—

Tap, tap, tap: at the window.

The Judge’s old heart staggered in his chest. Lapham went flying. He grabbed for the Garand leaning against the chair and turned to the window, ready for anything. His cover story went flying through his mind like jackstraws blown in the wind. This was it, they’d want to know who he was, where he’d come from—

It was a crow.

The Judge relaxed, a little at a time, and managed a small, shaken smile.

Just a crow.

It sat on the outer sill in the rain, its glossy feathers pasted together in a comic way, its little eyes looking through the dripping pane at one very old lawyer and the world’s oldest amateur spy, lying on a motel bed in western Idaho, wearing nothing but boxer shorts with LOS ANGELES LAKERS printed all over them in purple and gold, a heavy lawbook across his big belly. The crow seemed almost to grin at the sight. The Judge relaxed all the way and grinned back. That’s right, the joke’s on me. But after two weeks of pushing on alone through this empty country, he felt he had a right to be a little jumpy.

Tap, tap, tap.

The crow, tapping the pane of glass with his beak. Tapping as he had tapped before.

The Judge’s smile faltered a bit. There was something in the way the crow was looking at him that he didn’t quite like. It still seemed almost to grin, but he could have sworn it was a contemptuous grin, a kind of sneer.

Tap, tap, tap.

Like the raven that had flown in to roost on the bust of Pallas. When will I find out the things they need to know, back in the Free Zone that seems so far away? Nevermore. Will I get any idea what chinks there might be in the dark man’s armor? Nevermore.

Will I get back safe?

Nevermore.

Tap, tap, tap.

The crow, looking in at him, seeming to grin.

And it came to him with a dreamy, testicle-shriveling certainty that this was the dark man, his soul, his ka somehow projected into this rain-drenched, grinning crow that was looking in at him, checking up on him.

He stared at it, fascinated.

The crow’s eyes seemed to grow larger. They were rimmed with red, he noticed, a darkly rich ruby color. Rainwater dripped and ran, dripped and ran. The crow leaned forward and, very deliberately, tapped on the glass.

The Judge thought: It thinks it’s hypnotizing me. And maybe it is, a little. But maybe I’m too old for such things. And suppose… it’s silly, of course, but suppose it is him. And suppose I could bring that rifle up in one quick snap motion? It’s been four years since I shot any skeet, but I was club champion back in ‘76 and again in ‘79, and still pretty good in ‘86. Not great, no ribbon that year so I gave it up, my pride was in better shape than my eyesight by then, but I was still good enough to place fifth in a field of twenty-two. And that window’s a lot closer than skeet-shooting distance. If it was him, could I kill him? Trap his ka—if there is such a thing—inside that dying crow body? Would it be so unfitting if an old geezer could end the whole thing by the undramatic murder of a blackbird in western Idaho?

The crow grinned at him. He was now quite sure it was grinning.

With a sudden lunge the Judge sat up, bringing the Garand up to his shoulder in a quick, sure motion—he did it better than he ever would have dreamed. A kind of terror seemed to seize the crow. Its rain-drenched wings fluttered, spraying drops of water. Its eyes seemed to widen in fear. The Judge heard it utter a strangled caw! and he felt a moment’s triumphant certainty: It was the black man, and he had misjudged the Judge, and the price for it would be his miserable life—

“EAT THIS! ” the Judge thundered, and squeezed the trigger.

But the trigger would not depress, because he had left the safety on. A moment later the window was empty except for the rain.

The Judge lowered the Garand to his lap, feeling dull and stupid. He told himself it was just a crow after all, a moment’s diversion to liven up the evening. And if he had blown out the window and let the rain in, he would have had to go to the botheration of changing rooms. Lucky, really.

But he slept poorly that night, and several times he started awake and stared toward the window, convinced that he heard a ghostly tapping sound there. And if the crow happened to land there again, it wouldn’t get away. He left the safety catch off the rifle.

But the crow didn’t come back.

The next morning he had driven west again, his arthritis no worse but certainly no better, and at just past eleven he had stopped at a small café for lunch. And as he finished his sandwich and thermos of coffee, he had seen a large black crow flutter down and land on the telephone wire half a block up the street. The Judge watched it, fascinated, the red thermos cup stopped dead halfway between the table and his mouth. It wasn’t the same crow, of course not. There must be millions of crows by now, all of them plump and sassy. It was a crow’s world now. But all the same, he felt that it was the same crow, and he felt a presentiment of doom, a creeping resignation that it was all over.

He was no longer hungry.

He pushed on. Some days later, at quarter past twelve in the afternoon, now in Oregon and moving west on Highway 86, he drove through the town of Copperfield, not even glancing toward the five-and-dime where Bobby Terry watched him go by, slackjawed with amazement. The Garand was beside him on the seat, the safety still off, a box of ammo beside it. The Judge had decided to shoot any crow he might see.

Just on general principles.

“Faster! Can’t you move this fucking thing any faster?”

“You get off my ass, Bobby Terry. Just because you were asleep at the switch is no reason to get on my butt.”

Dave Roberts was behind the wheel of the Willys International that had been parked nose-out in the alley beside the five-and-dime. By the time Bobby Terry had gotten Dave awake and up and dressed, the old geezer in the Scout had gotten a ten-minute start on them. The rain was coming down hard, and visibility was poor. Bobby Terry was holding a Winchester across his lap. There was a .45 Colt tucked in his belt.

Dave, who was wearing cowboy boots, jeans, a yellow foul-weather slicker, and nothing else, glanced over at him.

“You keep squeezing the trigger of that rifle and you’re going to blow a hole right through your door, Bobby Terry.”

“You just catch him,” Bobby Terry said. He muttered to himself. “The guts. Got to shoot him in the guts. Dasn’t mark the head. Right.”

“Stop talkin to yourself. People who talk to theirselves play with theirselves. That’s what I think.”

“Where is he?” Bobby Terry asked.

“We’ll get him. Unless you dreamed the whole thing. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes if you did, brother.”

“I didn’t. It was that Scout. But what if he turns off?”

“Turns off where?” Dave asked. “There’s nothing but farm roads all the way to the Interstate. He couldn’t get fifty feet up a one of them without going into the mud up to his fenders, four-wheel drive and all. Relax, Bobby Terry.”

Bobby Terry said miserably, “I can’t. I keep wonderin how it’d feel to get hung up to dry on some telephone pole out in the desert.”

“Can that!… And lookit there! See im? We’re sniffin up his ass now, by God!”

Ahead of them was a months-old head-on collision between a Chevy and a big heavy Buick. They lay in the rain, blocking the road from one side to the other like the rusted bones of unburied mastodons. To the right, deep fresh tire tracks were printed into the shoulder.

“That’s him,” Dave said. “Those tracks ain’t five minutes old.”

He swung the Willys out and around the smashup, and they bounced wildly along the shoulder. Dave swung back onto the road where the Judge had before him, and they both saw the muddy herringbone pattern of the Scout’s tires on the asphalt. At the top of the next hill, they saw the Scout just disappearing over a knoll some two miles distant.

“Howdy-doody!” Dave Roberts cried. “Go for broke!”

He floored the accelerator and the Willys crept up to sixty. The windshield was a silvery blur of rain that the wipers could not hope to keep up with. At the top of the knoll they saw the Scout again, closer. Dave yanked out his headlight switch and began to work the dimmer switch with his foot. After a few moments, the Scout’s taillights flashed on.

“All right,” Dave said. “We act friendly. Get him to step out. Don’t you go off half-cocked, Bobby Terry. If we do this right, we’re gonna have a couple of suites at the MGM Grand in Vegas. Fuck it up and we’re gonna get our assholes cored out. So don’t you fuck up. Get him to step out.”

“Oh my God, why couldn’t he have come through Robinette?” Bobby Terry whined. His hands were locked on the Winchester.

Dave whacked at one of them. “You don’t carry that rifle out, either.”

“But—”

“Shut up! Get a smile on, goddam you!”

Bobby Terry began to grin. It was like watching a mechanical funhouse clown grin.

“You nogood,” Dave snarled. “I’ll do it. Stay in the goddam car.”

They had pulled even with the Scout, which was idling with two wheels on the pavement and two on the soft shoulder. Smiling, Dave got out. His hands were in the pockets of his yellow slicker. In the lefthand pocket was a .38 Police Special.

The Judge climbed carefully down from the Scout. He was also wearing a yellow rain slicker. He walked carefully, bearing himself the way a man might bear a fragile vase. The arthritis was loose in him like a pack of tigers. He carried the Garand rifle in his left hand.

“Hey, you won’t shoot me with that, will you?” the man from the Willys said with a friendly grin.

“I guess not,” the Judge said. They spoke over the steady hiss of the rain. “You must have been back in Copperfield.”

“So we were. I’m Dave Roberts.” He stuck out his right hand.

“Farris is my name,” said the Judge, and put out his own right hand. He glanced up toward the passenger window of the Willys and saw Bobby Terry leaning out, holding his .45 in both hands. Rain was dripping off the barrel. His face, dead pale, was still frozen in that maniacal funhouse grin.

“Oh bastard,” the Judge murmured, and pulled his hand out of Roberts’s rain-slippery grip just as Roberts fired through the pocket of his slicker. The bullet ploughed through the Judge’s midsection just below the stomach, flattening, spinning, mushrooming, coming out to the right of his spine, leaving an exit hole the size of a tea saucer. The Garand fell from his hand onto the road and he was driven back into the Scout’s open driver’s side door.

None of them noticed the crow that had fluttered down to a telephone wire on the far side of the road.

Dave Roberts took a step forward to finish the job. As he did, Bobby Terry fired from the passenger window of the Willys. His bullet took Roberts in the throat, tearing most of it away. A fury of blood cascaded down the front of Roberts’s slicker and mixed with the rain. He turned toward Bobby Terry, his jaw working in soundless, dying amazement, his eyes bulging. He took two shuffling steps forward, and then the amazement went out of his face. Everything went out of it. He fell dead. Rain plinked and drummed on the back of his slicker.

“Oh shit, lookit this! ” Bobby Terry cried in utter dismay.

The Judge thought: My arthritis is gone. If I could live, I could stun the medical profession. The cure for arthritis is a bullet in the guts. Oh dear God, they were laying for me. Did Flagg tell them? He must have, Jesus help whoever else the committee sent over here…

The Garand was lying on the road. He bent for it, feeling his guts trying to run right out of his body. Strange feeling. Not very pleasant. Never mind. He got hold of the gun. Was the safety off? Yes. He began to bring it up. It seemed to weigh a thousand pounds.

Bobby Terry ripped his stunned gaze away from Dave at last, just in time to see the Judge preparing to shoot him. The Judge was sitting on the road. His slicker was red with blood from chest to hem. He had settled the barrel of the Garand on his knee.

Bobby snapped a shot and missed. The Garand went off with a giant thunderclap and jagged glass sprayed Bobby Terry’s face. He screamed, sure he was dead. Then he saw that the left half of the windshield was gone and understood that he was still in the running.

The Judge was ponderously correcting his aim, swiveling the Garand perhaps two degrees on his knee. Bobby Terry, his nerves entirely shot now, fired three times in rapid succession. The first bullet spanged a hole through the side of the Scout’s cab. The second struck the Judge above the right eye. A .45 is a large gun, and at close range it does large, unpleasant things. This bullet took off most of the top of the Judge’s skull and hurled it back into the Scout. His head tilted back radically, and Bobby Terry’s third bullet struck the Judge a quarter of an inch below his lower lip, exploding his teeth into his mouth, where he aspirated them with his final breath. His chin and jawbone disintegrated. His finger squeezed the Garand’s trigger in a dying convulsion, but the bullet went wild into the white, rainy sky.

Silence descended.

Rain drummed on the roofs of the Scout and the Willys. On the slickers of the two dead men. It was the only sound until the crow took off from the telephone wire with a raucous caw. That startled Bobby Terry out of his daze. He got slowly down from the passenger seat, still clutching the smoking .45.

“I did it,” he said confidentially to the rain. “Killed his ass. You better believe it. Shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. Fuckin-A right. Ole Bobby Terry just killed him as dead as you’d want.”

But with dawning horror, he realized that it wasn’t the Judge’s ass he’d killed after all.

The Judge had died leaning back into the Scout. Now Bobby Terry grabbed the lapels of his slicker and yanked him forward; staring at what remained of the Judge’s features. There was really nothing left but his nose. To tell the truth, that wasn’t in such hot shape, either.

It could have been anyone.

And in a dream of terror, Bobby Terry again heard Flagg saying: I want to send him back undamaged.

Holy God, this could be anyone. It was as if he had set out to deliberately do just the opposite of what the Walkin Dude had ordered. Two direct hits in the face. Even the teeth were gone.

Rain, drumming, drumming.

It was over here. That was all. He didn’t dare go east, and he didn’t dare stay in the West. He would either wind up riding a telephone pole bareback or… or something worse.

Were there worse things?

With that grinning freak in charge, Bobby Terry had no doubt there were. So what was the answer?

Running his hands through his hair, still looking down at the ruined face of the Judge, he tried to think.

South. That was the answer. South. No border guards anymore. South of Mexico, and if that wasn’t far enough, get on down to Guatemala, Panama, maybe fucking Brazil. Opt out of the whole mess. No more East, no more West, just Bobby Terry, safe and as far away from the Walkin Dude as his old boogie shoes could carry h—

A new sound in the rainy afternoon.

Bobby Terry’s head jerked up.

The rain, yes, making its steel drum sound on the cabs of the two vehicles, and the grumbling of two idling motors, and—

A strange clocking sound, like rundown bootheels hammering swiftly along the secondary road macadam.

“No,” Bobby Terry whispered.

He began to turn around.

The clocking sound was speeding up. A fast walk, a trot, a jog, run, sprint, and Bobby Terry got all the way around, too late, he was coming, Flagg was coming like some terrible horror monster out of the scariest picture ever made. The dark man’s cheeks were flushed with jolly color, his eyes were twinkling with happy good fellowship, and a great hungry voracious grin stretched his lips over huge tombstone teeth, shark teeth, and his hands were held out in front of him, and there were shiny black crowfeathers fluttering from his hair.

No, Bobby Terry tried to say, but nothing came out.

“HEY, BOBBY TERRY, YOU SCROOOOWED IT UP! ” the dark man bellowed, and fell upon the hapless Bobby Terry.

There were worse things than crucifixion.

There were teeth.

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