Song of Susannah 12th Stanza: Jake and Callahan

One

Don Callahan had had many dreams of returning to America. Usually they began with him waking up under a high, fair desert sky full of the puffy clouds baseball players call "angels" or in his own rectory bed in the town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine. No matter which locale it happened to be, he'd be nearly overwhelmed with relief, his first instinct for prayer.Oh, thank God. Thank God it was only a dream and finally I am awake.

He was awake now, no question of that.

He turned a complete circle in the air and saw Jake do exactly the same in front of him. He lost one of his sandals. He could hear Oy yapping and Eddie roaring in protest. He could hear taxi horns, that sublime New York street music, and something else, as well: a preacher. Really cruising along, by the sound of him. Third gear, at least. Maybe overdrive.

One of Callahan's ankles clipped the side of the Unfound Door as he went through and there was a burst of terrific pain from that spot. Then the ankle (and the area around it) went numb. There was a speedy riffle of todash chimes, like a thirty-three-and-a-third record played at forty-five rpm. A buffet of conflicting air currents hit him, and suddenly he was smelling gasoline and exhaust instead of the Doorway Cave's dank air. First street music; now street perfume.

For a moment there weretwo preachers. Henchick behind, roaring"Behold, the door opens!" and another one ahead, bellowing"Say GAWD, brotha, that's right, say GAWD on Second Avenue!"

More twins,Callahan thought - there was time for that - and then the door behind him blammed shut and the only God-shouter was the one on Second Avenue. Callahan also had time to thinkWelcome home, you sonofabitch, welcome back to America, and then he landed.

Two

It was quite an all-out crash, but he came down hard on his hands and knees. His jeans protected the latter parts to some degree (although they tore), but the sidewalk scraped what felt like an acre of skin from his palms. He heard the rose, singing powerfully and undisturbed.

Callahan rolled over onto his back and looked up at the sky, snarling with pain, holding his bleeding, buzzing hands in front of his face. A drop of blood from the left one splashed onto his cheek like a tear.

"Where the fuck didyou come from, my friend?" asked an astounded black man in gray fatigues. He seemed to have been the only one to mark Don Callahan's dramatic re-entry into America. He was staring down at the man on the sidewalk with wide eyes.

"Oz," Callahan said, and sat up.

His hands stung fiercely and now his ankle was back, complaining in loudyowp-yowp-yowp bursts of pain that were in perfect synch with his elevated heartbeat. "Go on, fella. Get out of here. I'm okay, so twenty-three skidoo."

"Whatever you say, bro. Later."

The man in the gray fatigues - a janitor just off-shift was Callahan's guess - started walking. He favored Callahan with one final glance - still amazed but already beginning to doubt what he'd seen - and then skirted the little crowd listening to the street preacher. A moment later he was gone.

Callahan got to his feet and stood on one of the steps leading up to Hammarskj?ld Plaza, looking for Jake. He didn't see him. He looked the other way, for the Unfound Door, but that was gone, too.

"Now listen, my friends! Listen, I say God, I say God'slove,I say gimme hallelujah!"

"Hallelujah," said a member of the street preacher's crowd, not really sounding all that into it.

"I say amen, thank you, brotha! Now listen because this is America's time of TESTING and America is FAILING her TEST! This country needs a BOMB, not a new-kew-lar one but a GAWD-BOMB, can you say hallelujah?"

"Jake!" Callahan shouted. "Jake, where are you? Jake!"

"Oy!"That was Jake, his voice raised in a scream."Oy, LOOK OUT!"

There was a yapping, excited bark Callahan would have recognized anywhere. Then the scream of locked tires.

The blare of a horn.

And the thud.

Three

Callahan forgot about his bashed ankle and sizzling palms. He ran around the preacher's little crowd (it had turned as one to the street and the preacher had quit his rant in mid-flow) and saw Jake standing in Second Avenue, in front of a Yellow Cab that had slewed to a crooked stop no more than an inch from his legs. Blue smoke was still drifting up from its rear tires. The driver's face was a pallid, craning O of shock. Oy was crouched between Jake's feet. To Callahan the bumbler looked freaked out but otherwise all right.

The thud came again and yet again. It was Jake, bringing his balled-up fist down on the hood of the taxi."Asshole!" Jake yelled at the pallid O on the other side of the windshield.Thud! "Why don't you - " Thud! " - watch where - " THUD! " - the fuck you're GOING!" THUD-THUD!

"You give it to im, Cholly!" yelled someone from across the street, where perhaps three dozen people had stopped to watch the fun.

The taxi's door opened. The long tall helicopter who stepped out was wearing what Callahan thought was called a dashiki over jeans and huge mutant sneakers with boomerangs on the sides. There was a fez on his head, which probably accounted somewhat for the impression of extreme height, but not entirely. Callahan guessed the guy was at least six and a half feet tall, fiercely bearded, and scowling at Jake. Callahan started toward this developing scene with a sinking heart, barely aware that one of his feet was bare, slapping the pavement with every other step. The street preacher was also moving toward the developing confrontation. Behind the taxi stopped in the intersection, another driver, interested in nothing but his own scheduled evening plans, laid on his horn with both hands - WHEEEOOOONNNNNNK!!! - and leaned out his window, hollering "Move it, Abdul, you're blockin the box!"

Jake paid no attention. He was in a total fury. This time he brought both fists down on the hood of the taxi, like Ratso Rizzo inMidnight Cowboy - THUD! "You almost ran my friend down, you asshole, did you even LOOK - " THUD! " - where you were GOING?"

Before Jake could bring his fists down on the hood of the taxi again - which he obviously meant to do until he was satisfied - the driver grabbed his right wrist. "Stop doing that, you little punk!" he cried in an outraged and strangely high voice. "I am telling you - "

Jake stepped back, breaking free of the tall taxi driver's grip. Then, in a liquid motion too quick for Callahan to follow, the kid yanked the Ruger from the docker's clutch under his arm and pointed it at the driver's nose.

"Tell mewhat? " Jake raged at him. "Tell mewhat? That you were driving too fast and almost ran down my friend? That you don't want to die here in the street with a hole in your head? Tell meWHAT? "

A woman on the far side of Second Avenue either saw the gun or caught a whiff of Jake's homicidal fury. She screamed and started hurrying away. Several more followed her example. Others gathered at the curb, smelling blood. Incredibly, one of them - a young man wearing his hat turned around backward - shouted: "Go on, kid! Ventilate that camel-jockey!"

The driver backed up two steps, his eyes widening. He held up his hands to his shoulders. "Do not shoot me, boy! Please!"

"Then say you're sorry!" Jake raved. "If you want to live, you cry my pardon! And his! Andhis! " Jake's skin was dead pale except for tiny red spots of color high up on his cheekbones. His eyes were huge and wet. What Don Callahan saw most clearly and liked least was the way the barrel of the Ruger was trembling. "Say you're sorry for the way you were driving, you careless motherfucker! Do it now!Do it now! "

Oy whined uneasily and said, "Ake!"

Jake looked down at him. When he did, the taxi driver lunged for the gun. Callahan hit him with a fairly respectable right cross and the driver sprawled against the front of his car, his fez tumbling from his head. The driver behind him had clear lanes on either side and could have swung around but continued to lay on his horn instead, yelling"Move it buddy, move it!" Some of the spectators on the far side of Second were actually applauding like spectators at a Madison Square Garden fight, and Callahan thought:Why, this place is a madhouse. Did I know that before and forget, or is it something I just learned?

The street preacher, a man with a beard and long white hair that descended to his shoulders, was now standing beside Jake, and when Jake started to raise the Ruger again, the preacher laid a gentle, unhurried hand on the boy's wrist.

"Holster it, boy," he said. "Stick it away, praise Jesus."

Jake looked at him and saw what Susannah had seen not long before: a man who looked eerily like Henchick of the Manni. Jake put the gun back into the docker's clutch, then bent and picked up Oy. The bumbler whined, stretched his face toward Jake's on his long neck, and began to lick the boy's cheek.

Callahan, meanwhile, had taken the driver's arm and was leading him back toward his hack. He fished in his pocket and palmed a ten-dollar bill which was about half the money they'd managed to put together for this little safari.

"All over," he said to the driver, speaking in what he hoped was a soothing voice. "No harm, no foul, you go your way, he goes his - " And then, past the hackie, yelling at the relentless horn-honker: "Horn works, you nimrod, so why not give it a rest and try your lights?"

"That little bastard was pointing the gun at me," said the taxi driver. He felt on his head for his fez and didn't find it.

"It's only a model," Callahan said soothingly. "The kind of thing you build from a kit, doesn't even fire pellets. I assure y - "

"Hey, pal!" cried the street preacher, and when the taxi driver looked, the preacher underhanded him the faded red fez. With this back on his head, the driver seemed more willing to be reasonable. More willing yet when Callahan pressed the ten into his hand.

The guy behind the cab was driving an elderly whale of a Lincoln. Now he laid on his horn again.

"You may be biting my crank, Mr. Monkeymeat!" the taxi driver yelled at him, and Callahan almost burst out laughing. He started toward the guy in the Lincoln. When the taxi driver tried to join him, Callahan put his hands on the man's shoulders and stopped him.

"Let me handle this. I'm a religious. Making the lion lie down with the lamb is my job."

The street preacher joined them in time to hear this. Jake had retired to the background. He was standing beside the street preacher's van and checking Oy's legs to make sure he was uninjured.

"Brother!" the street preacher addressed Callahan. "May I ask your denomination? Your, I say hallelujah, yourview of theAlmighty ?"

"I'm a Catholic," Callahan said. "Therefore, I view the Almighty's a guy."

The street preacher held out a large, gnarled hand. It produced exactly the sort of fervent, just-short-of-crushing grip Callahan had expected. The man's cadences, combined with his faint Southern accent, made Callahan think of Foghorn Leghorn in the Warner Bros. cartoons.

"I'm Earl Harrigan," the preacher said, continuing to wring Callahan's fingers. "Church of the Holy God-Bomb, Brooklyn and America. A pleasure to meet you, Father."

"I'm sort of semi-retired," Callahan said. "If you have to call me something, make it Pere. Or just Don. Don Callahan."

"Praise Jesus, Father Don!"

Callahan sighed and supposed Father Don would have to do. He went to the Lincoln. The cab driver, meanwhile, scooted away with his OFF DUTY light on.

Before Callahan could speak to the Lincoln's driver, that worthy got out on his own. It was Callahan's night for tall men. This one went about six-three and was carrying a large belly.

"It's all over," Callahan told him. "I suggest you get back in your car and drive out of here."

"It ain't over until I say it's over," Mr. Lincoln demurred. "I got Abdul's medallion number; what I want from you, Sparky, is the name and address of that kid with the dog. I also want a closer look at the pistol he just - ow, ow! OWW! OWWWWW! Quit it!"

Reverend Earl Harrigan had seized one of Mr. Lincoln's hands and twisted it behind his back. Now he seemed to be doing something creative to the man's thumb. Callahan couldn't see exactly what it was. The angle was wrong.

"God loves you so much," Harrigan said, speaking quietly into Mr. Lincoln's ear. "And what He wants in return, you loudmouth shithead, is for you to give me hallelujah and then go on your way. Can you give me hallelujah?"

"OWW, OWWW, let go! Police! POLEECE!"

"Only policeman apt to be on this block around now would be Officer Benzyck, and he's already given me my nightly ticket and moved on. By now he'll be in Dennis's, having a pecan waffle and double bacon, praise God, so I want you to think about this." There came a cracking sound from behind Mr. Lincoln's back that set Callahan's teeth on edge. He didn't like to think Mr. Lincoln's thumb had made that sound, but didn't know what else it could have been. Mr. Lincoln cocked his head skyward on his thick neck and let out a long exhalation of pure pain - Yaaaahhhhhhh!

"You want to give me hallelujah, brother," advised Rev. Harrigan, "or you'll be, praise God, carrying your thumb home in your breast pocket."

"Hallelujah," whispered Mr. Lincoln. His complexion had gone an ocher shade. Callahan thought some of that might be attributable to the orangey streetlamps which at some point had replaced the fluorescents of his own time. Probably not all of it, though.

"Good! Now say amen. You'll feel better when you do."

"A-Amen."

"Praise God! Praise Jee-eee-eee-esus!"

"Let me go...let go of mythumb  - !"

"Are you going to get out of here and stop blocking this intersection if I do?"

"Yes!"

"Without any more fiddle-de-dee or hidey-ho, praise Jesus?"

"Yes!"

Harrigan leaned yet closer to Mr. Lincoln, his lips stopping less than half an inch from a large plug of yellow-orange wax caught in the cup of Mr. Lincoln's ear. Callahan watched this with fascination and complete absorption, all other unresolved issues and unfulfilled goals for the time being forgotten. The Pere was more than halfway to believing that if Jesus had had Earl Harrigan on His team, it probably would have been old Pontius who ended up on the cross.

"My friend, bombs will soon begin to fall: God-bombs. And you have to choose whether you want to be among those who are, praise Jesus, up in the skydropping those bombs, or those who are in the villages below, getting blown to smithereens. Now I sense this isn't the time or place for you to make a choice for Christ, but will you at least think about these things, sir?"

Mr. Lincoln's response must have been a tad slow for Rev. Harrigan, because that worthy did something else to the hand he had pinned behind Mr. Lincoln's back. Mr. Lincoln uttered another high, breathless scream.

"I said, will youthink about these things?"

"Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"Then get in your car and drive away and God bless you and keep you."

Harrigan released Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln backed away from him, eyes wide, and got back into his car. A moment later he was driving down Second Avenue - fast.

Harrigan turned to Callahan and said, "Catholics are going to Hell, Father Don. Idolators, each and every one of them; they bow to the Cult of Mary. And the Pope! Don't get me started onhim! Yet I have known some fine Catholic folks, and have no doubt you're one of them. It may be I can pray you through to a change of faith. Lacking that, I may be able to pray you through the flames." He looked back at the sidewalk in front of what now seemed to be called Hammarskj?ld Plaza. "I believe my congregation has dispersed."

"Sorry about that," Callahan said.

Harrigan shrugged. "Folks don't come to Jesus in the summertime, anyway," he said matter-of-factly. "They do a little window-shopping and then go back to their sinning. Winter's the time for serious crusading...got to get you a little storefront where you can give em hot soup and hot scripture on a cold night." He looked down at Callahan's feet and said, "You seem to have lost one of your sandals, my mackerel-snapping friend." A new horn blared at them and a perfectly amazing taxi - to Callahan it looked like a newer version of the old VW Microbuses - went swerving past with a passenger yelling something out at them. It probably wasn't happy birthday. "Also, if we don't get out of the street, faith may not be enough to protect us."

Four

"He's all right," Jake said, setting Oy down on the sidewalk. "I flipped, didn't I? I'm sorry."

"Perfectly understandable," the Rev. Harrigan assured him. "What an interesting dog! I've never seen one that looked quite like that, praise Jesus!" And he bent to Oy.

"He's a mixed breed," Jake said tightly, "and he doesn't like strangers."

Oy showed how much he disliked and distrusted them by raising his head to Harrigan's hand and flattening his ears in order to improve the stroking surface. He grinned up at the preacher as if they were old, old pals. Callahan, meanwhile, was looking around. It was New York, and in New York people had a tendency to mind their business and let you mind yours, but still, Jake had drawn a gun. Callahan didn't know how many folks had seen it, but hedid know it would only take one to report it, perhaps to this Officer Benzyck Harrigan had mentioned, and put them in trouble when they could least afford it.

He looked at Oy and thought,Do me a favor and don't say anything, okay? Jake can maybe pass you off as some new kind of Corgi or Border Collie hybrid, but the minute you start talking, that goes out the window. So do me a favor and don't.

"Good boy," said Harrigan, and after Jake's friend miraculously didnot respond by saying "Oy!" the preacher straightened up. "I have something for you, Father Don. Just a minute."

"Sir, we really have to - "

"I have something for you, too, son - praise Jesus, say dear Lord! But first...this won't take but a second..."

Harrigan ran to open the side door of his illegally parked old Dodge van, ducked inside, rummaged.

Callahan bore this for awhile, but the sense of passing seconds quickly became too much. "Sir, I'm sorry, but - "

"Herethey are!" Harrigan exclaimed and backed out of the van with the first two fingers of his right hand stuck into the heels of a pair of battered brown loafers. "If you're less than a size twelve, we can stuff em with newspaper. More, and I guess you're out of luck."

"A twelve is exactly what I am," Callahan said, and ventured a praise-God as well as a thank-you. He was actually most comfortable in size eleven and a half shoes, but these were close enough, and he slipped them on with genuine gratitude. "And now we - "

Harrigan turned to the boy and said, "The woman you're after got into a cab right where we had our little dust-up, and no more than half an hour ago." He grinned at Jake's rapidly changing expression - first astonishment, then delight. "She said the other one is in charge, that you'd know who the other one was, and where the other one is taking her."

"Yeah, to the Dixie Pig," Jake said. "Lex and Sixty-first. Pere, we might still have time to catch her, but only if we go right now. She - "

"No," Harrigan said. "The woman who spoke to me - inside my head she spoke to me and clear as a bell, praise Jesus - said you were to go to the hotel first."

"Which hotel?" Callahan asked.

Harrigan pointed down Forty-sixth Street to the Plaza - Park Hyatt. "That's the only one in the neighborhood...and that's the direction she came from."

"Thank you," Callahan said. "Did she say why we were to go there?"

"No," Harrigan said serenely, "I believe right around then the other one caught her blabbing and shut her up. Then into the taxi and away she went!"

"Speaking of moving on - " Jake began.

Harrigan nodded, but also raised an admonitory finger. "By all means, but remember that the God-bombs are going to fall. Never mind the showers of blessing - that's for Methodist wimps and Episcopalian scuzzballs! Thebombs are gonna fall! And boys?"

They turned back to him.

"I know you fellas are as much God's human children as I am, for I've smelled your sweat, praise Jesus. But what about the lady? The lay-dees,for in truth I b'lieve there were two of em. What aboutthem ?"

"The woman you met's with us," Callahan said after a brief hesitation. "She's okay."

"I wonder about that," Harrigan said. "The Book says - praise God and praise His Holy Word - to beware of the strange woman, for her lips drip as does the honeycomb but her feet go down to death and her steps take hold on hell. Remove thy way from her and come not nigh the door of her house." He had raised one lumpy hand in a benedictory gesture as he offered this. Now he lowered it and shrugged.

"That ain't exact, I don't have the memory for scripture that I did when I was younger and Bible-shoutin down south with my Daddy, but I think you get the drift."

"Book of Proverbs," Callahan said.

Harrigan nodded. "Chapter five, sayGawd. " Then he turned and contemplated the building which rose into the night sky behind him. Jake started away, but Callahan stayed him with a touch...although when Jake raised his eyebrows, Callahan could only shake his head. No, he didn't know why. All he knew was that they weren't quite through with Harrigan yet.

"This is a city stuffed with sin and sick with transgression," the preacher said at last. "Sodom on the halfshell, Gomorrah on a graham cracker, ready for the God-bomb that will surely fall from the skies, say hallelujah, say sweet Jesus and gimme amen. But this right here is a good place. Agood place. Can you boys feel it?"

"Yes," Jake said.

"Can youhear it?"

"Yes," Jake and Callahan said together.

"Amen! I thought it would all stop when they tore down the little deli that stood here years and years ago. But it didn't. Those angelic voices - "

"So speaks Gan along the Beam," Jake said.

Callahan turned to him and saw the boy's head cocked to one side, his face wearing the calm look of entrancement.

Jake said: "So speaks Gan, and in the voice of the can calah, which some call angels. Gan denies the can toi; with the merry heart of the guiltless he denies the Crimson King and Discordia itself."

Callahan looked at him with wide eyes - frightened eyes - but Harrigan nodded matter-of-factly, as if he had heard it all before. Perhaps he had. "There was a vacant lot after the deli, and then they built this. Two Hammarskj?ld Plaza. And I thought, 'Well,that'll end it and then I'll move on, for Satan's grip is strong and his hoof prints leave deep tracks in the ground, and there no flower will bloom and no grain will grow.' Can you saysee -lah?" He raised his arms, his gnarly old man's hands, trembling with the outriders of Parkinson's, turned upward to the sky in that open immemorial gesture of praise and surrender. "Yet still it sings," he said, and dropped them.

"Selah," Callahan murmured. "You say true, we say thank ya."

"Itis a flower," Harrigan said, "for once I went in there to see. In the lobby, somebody say hallelujah, I say in thelobby between the doors to the street and the elevators to those upper floors where God knows how much dollarbill fuckery is done, there's a little garden growing in the sun which falls through the tall windows, a garden behind velvet ropes, and the sign says GIVEN BY THE TET CORPORATION, IN HONOR OF THE BEAME FAMILY, AND IN MEMORY OF GILEAD. "

"Does it?" Jake said, and his face lit with a glad smile. "Do you say so, sai Harrigan?"

"Boy, if I'm lyin I'm dyin.Gawd -bomb! And in the middle of all those flowers there grows a single wild rose, so beautiful that I saw it and wept as those by the waters of Babylon, the great river that flows by Zion. And the men coming and going in that place, them with their briefcases stuffed full of Satan's piecework, many ofthem wept, too. Wept and went right on about their whores' business as if they didn't even know."

"They know," Jake said softly. "You know what I think, Mr. Harrigan? I think the rose is a secret their hearts keep, and that if anyone threatened it, most of them would fight to protect it. Maybe to the death." He looked up at Callahan.

"Pere, we have to go."

"Yes."

"Not a bad idea," Harrigan agreed, "for mine eyes can see Officer Benzyck headed back this way, and it might be well if you were gone when he gets here. I'm glad your furry little friend wasn't hurt, son."

"Thanks, Mr. Harrigan."

"Praise God, he's no more a dog than I am, is he?"

"No, sir," Jake said, smiling widely.

"Beware that woman, boys. She put a thought in my head. I call that witchcraft. And she wastwo. "

"Twins-say-twim, aye," Callahan said, and then (without knowing he meant to do it until it was done) he sketched the sign of the cross in front of the preacher.

"Thank you for your blessing, heathen or not," Earl Harrigan said, clearly touched. Then he turned toward the approaching NYPD patrolman and called cheerfully, "Officer Benzyck! Good to see you and there's some jam right there on your collar, praise God!"

And while Officer Benzyck was studying the jam on his uniform collar, Jake and Callahan slipped away.

Five

"Whoo-eee," Jake said under his breath as they walked toward the brightly underlit hotel canopy. A white limousine, easily twice the size of any Jake had seen before (and he'd seen his share; once his father had even taken him to the Emmys), was offloading laughing men in tuxedos and women in evening dresses. They came out in a seemingly endless stream.

"Yes indeed," Callahan said. "It's like being on a roller coaster, isn't it?"

Jake said, "We're not even supposed tobe here. This was Roland and Eddie's job. We were just supposed to go see Calvin Tower."

"Something apparently thought different."

"Well, it should have thought twice," Jake said gloomily. "A kid and a priest, with one gun between them? It's a joke. What are our chances, if the Dixie Pig is full of vampires and low men unwinding on their day off?"

Callahan did not respond to this, although the prospect of trying to rescue Susannah from the Dixie Pig terrified him. "What was that Gan stuff you were spouting?"

Jake shook his head. "I don't know - I can barely remember what I said. I think it's part of the touch, Pere. And do you know where I think I got it?"

"Mia?"

The boy nodded. Oy trotted neatly at his heel, his long snout not quite touching Jake's calf. "And I'm getting something else, as well. I keep seeing this black man in a jail cell. There's a radio playing, telling him all these people are dead - the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe, George Harrison, Peter Sellers, Itzak Rabin, whoeverhe is. I think it might be the jail in Oxford, Mississippi, where they kept Odetta Holmes for awhile."



"But this is aman you see. Not Susannah but aman. "

"Yes, with a toothbrush mustache, and he wears funny little gold-rimmed glasses, like a wizard in a fairy-tale."

They stopped just outside the radiance of the hotel's entrance. A doorman in a green swallowtail coat blew an ear-splitting blast on his little silver whistle, hailing down a Yellow Cab.

"Is it Gan, do you think? Is the black man in the jail cell Gan?"

"I don't know." Jake shook his head with frustration.

"There's something about the Dogan, too, all mixed in."

"And this comes from the touch."

"Yes, but it's not from Mia or Susannah or you or me. I think..." Jake's voice lowered. "I think I better figure out who that black man is and what he means to us, because I think that what I'm seeing comes from the Dark Tower itself." He looked at Callahan solemnly. "In some ways, we're getting very close to it, and that's why it's so dangerous for the ka-tet to be broken like it is.

"In some ways, we're almost there."

Six

Jake took charge smoothly and completely from the moment he stepped out of the revolving doors with Oy in his arms and then put the billy-bumbler down on the lobby's tile floor. Callahan didn't think the kid was even aware of it, and probably that was all to the good. If he got self-conscious, his confidence might crumble.

Oy sniffed delicately at his own reflection in one of the lobby's green glass walls, then followed Jake to the desk, his claws clicking faintly on the black and white marble squares. Callahan walked beside him, aware that he was looking at the future and trying not to goggle at it too obviously.

"She was here," Jake said. "Pere, I can almost see her. Both of them, her and Mia."

Before Callahan could reply, Jake was at the desk. "Cry pardon, ma'am," he said. "My name is Jake Chambers. Do you have a message for me, or a package, or something? It'd be either from Susannah Dean or maybe from a Miss Mia."

The woman peered down doubtfully at Oy for a moment. Oy looked up at her with a cheery grin that revealed a great many teeth. Perhaps these disturbed the clerk, because she turned away from him with a frown and examined the screen of her computer.

"Chambers?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am." Spoken in his best getting-along-with-grownups voice. It had been awhile since he'd needed to use that one, but it was still there, Jake found, and within easy reach.

"I have something for you, but it's not from a woman. It's from someone named Stephen King." She smiled. "I don't suppose it's the famous writer? Do you know him?"

"No, ma'am," Jake said, and snuck a sidewards glance at Callahan. Neither of them had heard of Stephen King until recently, but Jake understood why the name might give his current traveling companion the chills. Callahan didn't look particularly chilly at the moment, but his mouth had thinned to a single line.

"Well," she said, "I suppose it's a common enough name, isn't it? Probably there arenormal Stephen Kings all over the United States who wish he'd just...I don't know...give it arest. " She voiced a nervous little laugh, and Callahan wondered what had set her on edge. Oy, who got less doggy the longer you looked at him? Maybe, but Callahan thought it was more likely something in Jake, something that whispereddanger. Perhaps evengunslinger. Certainly there was something in him that set him apart from other boys.Far. Callahan thought of him pulling the Ruger from the docker's clutch and sticking it under the unfortunate taxi driver's nose.Tell me that you were driving too fast and almost ran down my friend! he'd screamed, his finger already white on the trigger.Tell me that you don't want to die here in the street with a hole in your head!

Was that the way an ordinary twelve-year-old reacted to a near-miss accident? Callahan thought not. He thought the desk clerk was right to be nervous. As for himself, Callahan realized he felt a little better about their chances at the Dixie Pig. Not a lot, but a little.

Seven

Jake, perhaps sensing something a little off-kilter, flashed the clerk his best getting-along-with-grownups smile, but to Callahan it looked like Oy's: too many teeth.

"Just a moment," she said, turning away from him.

Jake gave Callahan a puzzled what's up-with-herlook. Callahan shrugged and spread his hands.

The clerk went to a cabinet behind her, opened it, looked through the contents of a box stored inside, and returned to the desk with an envelope bearing the Plaza - Park's logo. Jake's name - and something else - had been written on the front in what looked like half-script and half-printing:

Jake Chambers

This is the Truth

She slid it across the desk to him, careful that their fingers should not touch.

Jake took it and ran his fingers down the length of it. There was a piece of paper inside. Something else, as well. A hard narrow strip. He tore open the envelope and pulled out the paper. Folded inside it was the slim, white plastic rectangle of a hotel MagCard. The note had been written on a cheeky piece of stationery headed CALLING ALL BLOWHARDS. The message itself was only three lines long:

Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, not to worry, you've got the key.

Dad-a-chud, dad-a-ched, see it, Jake! The key is red!

Jake looked at the MagCard and watched color abruptly swirl into it, turning it the color of blood almost instantly.

Couldn't be red until the message was read,Jake thought, smiling a little at the idea's riddle-ish quality. He looked up to see if the clerk had seen the MagCard's transformation, but she had found something which required her attention at the far end of the desk. And Callahan was checking out a couple of women who'd just come strolling in from the street. He might be a Pere, Jake reflected, but his eye for the ladies still seemed to be in proper working order.

Jake looked back at the paper and was just in time to read the last line:

Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, give this boy a plastic key.

A couple of years before, his mother and father had given him a Tyco Chemistry Set for Christmas. Using the instruction booklet, he'd whipped up a batch of invisible ink. The words written in the stuff had faded almost as quickly as these words were fading now, only if you looked very closely, you could still read the message written in chemistry set ink. This one, however, was authenticallygone, and Jake knew why. Its purpose had been served. There was no more need for it. Ditto the line about the key being red, and sure enough, that was fading, as well. Only the first line remained, as if he needed reminding:

Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, not to worry, you've got the key.

HadStephen King sent this message? Jake doubted it. More likely one of the other players in the game - perhaps even Roland or Eddie - had used the name to get his attention. Still, he'd run upon two things since arriving here that encouraged him enormously. The first was the continued singing of the rose. It was stronger than ever, really, even though a skyscraper had been built on the vacant lot. The second was that Stephen King was apparently still alive twenty-four years after creating Jake's traveling companion. And no longer just a writer but afamous writer.

Great. For now things were still rattling precariously along the right set of tracks.

Jake grabbed Father Callahan's arm and led him toward the gift shop and tinkling cocktail piano. Oy followed, padding at Jake's knee. Along the wall they found a line of house phones. "When the operator answers," Jake said, "tell her you want to talk to your friend Susannah Dean, or toher friend, Mia."

"She'll ask me what room," Callahan said.

"Tell her you forgot, but it's on the nineteenth floor."

"How do you - "

"It'll be the nineteenth, just trust me."

"I do," Callahan said.

The phone rang twice and then the operator asked how she could help. Callahan told her. He was connected, and in some room on the nineteenth floor, a telephone began to ring.

Jake watched the Pere begin to speak, then subside into listening again with a small, bemused smile on his face. After a few moments, he hung up. "Answering machine!" he said. "They have amachine that takes guests' calls and then tapes messages! What a wonderful invention!"

"Yeah," Jake said. "Anyway, we know for sure that she's out and for pretty sure she didn't leave anyone behind to watch her gunna. But, just in case..." He patted the front of his shirt, which now concealed the Ruger.

As they crossed the lobby to the elevator bank, Callahan said: "What do we want in her room?"

"I don't know."

Callahan touched him on the shoulder. "I think you do."

The doors of the middle elevator popped open and Jake got on with Oy still at heel. Callahan followed, but Jake thought he was all at once dragging his feet a little.

"Maybe," Jake said as they started up. "And maybe you do, too."

Callahan's stomach suddenly felt heavier, as if he'd just finished a large meal. He supposed the added weight was fear. "I thought I was rid of it," he said. "When Roland took it out of the church, I really thought I was rid of it."

"Some bad pennies just keep turning up," Jake said.

Eight

He was prepared to try his unique red key in every door on the nineteenth floor if he had to, but Jake knew 1919 was right even before they reached it. Callahan did, too, and a sheen of sweat broke on his forehead. It felt thin and hot. Feverish.

Even Oy knew. The bumbler whined uneasily.

"Jake," Callahan said. "We need to think this over. That thing is dangerous. Worse, it'smalevolent. "

"That's why we gotta take it," Jake said patiently. He stood in front of 1919, drumming the MagCard between his fingers. From behind the door - and under it, and through it - came a hideous drone like the singing voice of some apocalyptic idiot. Mixed in was the sound of jangling, out-of-tune chimes. Jake knew the ball had the power to send you todash, and in those dark and mostly doorless spaces, it was all too possible to become lost forever. Even if you found your way to another version of Earth, it would have a queer darkness to it, as if the sun were always on the verge of total eclipse.

"Have you seen it?" Callahan asked.

Jake shook his head.

"I have," Callahan said dully, and armed sweat from his forehead. His cheeks had gone leaden. "There's an Eye in it. I think it's the Crimson King's eye. I think it's a part of him that's trapped in there forever, and insane. Jake, taking that ball to a place where there are vampires and low men - servants of the King - would be like giving Adolf Hitler an A-bomb for his birthday."

Jake knew perfectly well that Black Thirteen was capable of doing great, perhaps illimitable, damage. But he knew something else, as well.

"Pere, if Mia left Black Thirteen in this room and she's now going to wherethey are, they'll know about it soon enough. And they'll be after it in one of their big flashy cars before you can say Jack Robinson."

"Can't we leave it for Roland?" Callahan asked miserably.

"Yes," Jake said. "That's a good idea, just like taking it to the Dixie Pig is a bad one. But we can't leave it for himhere. " Then, before Callahan could say anything else, Jake slid the blood-red MagCard into the slot above the doorknob. There was a loud click and the door swung open.

"Oy, stay right here, outside the door."

"Ake!" He sat down, curling his cartoon squiggle of a tail around his paws, and looked at Jake with anxious eyes.

Before they went in, Jake laid a cold hand on Callahan's wrist and said a terrible thing.

"Guard your mind."

Nine

Mia had left the lights on, and yet a queer darkness had crept into Room 1919 since her departure. Jake recognized it for what it was: todash darkness. The droning song of the idiot and the muffled, jangling chimes were coming from the closet.

It's awake,he thought with mounting dismay.It was asleep before - dozing, at least - but all this moving around woke it up. What do I do? Are the box and the bowling bag enough to make it safe? Do I have anything that will make it safer? Any charm, any sigul?

As Jake opened the closet door, Callahan found himself exerting all the force of his will - which was considerable - just to keep from fleeing. That atonal humming and the occasional jangling chimes beneath it offended his ears and mind and heart. He kept remembering the way station, and how he had shrieked when the hooded man had opened the box. Howslick the thing inside had been! It had been lying on red velvet...and it hadrolled. Hadlooked at him, and all the malevolent madness of the universe had been in that dis-embodied, leering gaze.

I will not run. Iwill not.If the boy can stay, I can stay.

Ah, but the boy was agunslinger, and that made a difference. He was more than ka's child; he was Roland of Gilead's child as well, his adopted son.

Don't you see how pale he is? He's as scared as you are, for Christ's sake! Now get hold of yourself, man!

Perhaps it was perverse, but observing Jake's extreme pallor steadied him. When an old bit of nonsense song occurred to him and he began to sing under his breath, he steadied yet more.

"Round and round the mulberry bush," he sang in a whisper, "the monkey chased the weasel...the monkey thought 'twas all in fun..."

Jake eased open the closet. There was a room safe inside. He tried 1919 and nothing happened. He paused to let the safe mechanism reset itself, wiped sweat from his forehead with both hands (they were shaking), and tried again. This time he punched 1999, and the safe swung open.

Black Thirteen's droning song and the contrapuntal jangle of the todash chimes both increased. The sounds were like chilly fingers prying around in their heads.

And it can send you places,Callahan thought.All you have to do is let down your guard a little bit...open the bag...open the box...and then...oh, the places you'll go! Pop goes the weasel!

True though he knew this to be, part of himwanted to open the box.Lusted to. Nor was he the only one; as he watched, Jake knelt before the safe like a worshipper at an altar. Callahan reached to stop him from lifting the bag out with an arm that seemed incredibly heavy.

It doesn't matter if you do or don't,a voice whispered in his mind. It was sleep-inducing, that voice, and incredibly persuasive. Nonetheless, Callahan kept reaching. He grasped Jake's collar with fingers from which all feeling seemed to have departed.

"No," he said. "Don't." His voice sounded draggy, dispirited, depressed. When he pulled Jake to one side, the boy seemed to go as if in slow motion, or underwater. The room now seemed lit by the sick yellow light that sometimes falls over a landscape before a ruinous storm. As Callahan fell onto his own knees before the open safe (he seemed to descend through the air for at least a full minute before touching down), he heard the voice of Black Thirteen, louder than ever. It was telling him to kill the boy, to open the boy's throat and give the ball a refreshing drink of his warm life's blood. Then Callahan himself would be allowed to leap from the room's window.

All the way down to Forty-sixth Street you will praise me,Black Thirteen assured him in a voice both sane and lucid.

"Do it," Jake sighed. "Oh yes, do it, who gives a damn."

"Ake!" Oy barked from the doorway."Ake!" They both ignored him.

As Callahan reached for the bag, he found himself remembering his final encounter with Barlow, the king vampire - the Type One, in Callahan's own parlance - who had come to the little town of 'Salem's Lot. Found himself remembering how he'd confronted Barlow in Mark Petrie's house, with Mark's parents lying lifeless on the floor at the vampire's feet, their skulls crushed and their oh-so-rational brains turned to jelly.

While you fall, I'll let you whisper the name ofmyking, Black Thirteen whispered.The Crimson King.

As Callahan watched his hands grasp the bag - whatever had been there before, NOTHING BUT STRIKES AT MID-WORLD LANES was now printed on the side - he thought of how his crucifix had first glared with some otherworldly light, driving Barlow back...and then had begun to darken again.

"Open it!" Jake said eagerly. "Open it, I want to see it!"

Oy was barking steadily now. Down the hall someone yelled "Shut that dog up!" and was likewise ignored.

Callahan slipped the ghostwood box from the bag - the box that had spent such a blessedly quiet time hidden beneath the pulpit of his church in Calla Bryn Sturgis. Now he would open it. Now he would observe Black Thirteen in all its repellent glory.

And then die. Gratefully.

Ten

Sad to see a man's faith fail,the vampire Kurt Barlow had said, and then he'd plucked Don Callahan's dark and useless cross from his hand. Why had he been able to do that? Because - behold the paradox, consider the riddle - Father Callahanhad failed to throw the cross away himself. Because he had failed to accept that the cross was nothing but one symbol of a far greater power, one that ran like a river beneath the universe, perhaps beneath a thousand universes -

I need no symbol,Callahan thought; and then:Is that why God let me live? Was He giving me a second chance to learn that?

It was possible, he thought as his hands settled on the lid of the box. Second chances were one of God's specialties.

"Folks, you got to shut your dogup. " The querulous voice of a hotel maid, but very distant. Then it said: "Madre de Dios,why's it sodark in here? What's that...what's that...n...n..."

Perhaps she was trying to saynoise. If so, she never finished. Even Oy now seemed resigned to the spell of the humming, singing ball, for he gave up his protests (and his post at the door) to come trotting into the room. Callahan supposed the beast wanted to be at Jake's side when the end came.

The Pere struggled to still his suicidal hands. The thing in the box raised the volume of its idiot's song, and the tips of his fingers twitched in response. Then they stilled again.I have that much of a victory, Callahan thought.

"Ne'mine,I'll do it." The voice of the maid, drugged and avid. "I want to see it.Dios! I want tohold it!"

Jake's arms seemed to weigh a ton, but he forced them to reach out and grab the maid, a middle-aged Hispanic lady who couldn't have weighed more than a hundred and five pounds.

As he had struggled to still his hands, so Callahan now struggled to pray.

God, not my will but Thine. Not the potter but the potter's clay. If I can't do anything else, help me to take it in my arms and jump out the window and destroy the gods-damned thing once and for all. But if it be Your will to help me make it still, instead - to make it go back to sleep - then send me Your strength. And help me to remember...

Drugged by Black Thirteen he might have been, but Jake still hadn't lost his touch. Now he plucked the rest of the thought out of the Pere's mind and spoke it aloud, only changing the word Callahan used to the one Roland had taught them.

"I need no sigul," Jake said. "Not the potter but the potter's clay,and I need no sigul! "

"God," Callahan said. The word was as heavy as a stone, but once it was out of his mouth, the rest of them came easier. "God, if You're still there, if You still hear me, this is Callahan. Please still this thing, Lord. Please send it back to sleep. I ask it in the name of Jesus."

"In the name of the White," Jake said.

"Ite!"Oy yapped.

"Amen," said the maid in a stoned, bemused voice.

For a moment the droning idiot's song from the box rose another notch, and Callahan understood it was hopeless, that not even God Almighty could stand against Black Thirteen.

Then it fell silent.

"God be thanked," he whispered, and realized his entire body was drenched with sweat.

Jake burst into tears and picked up Oy. The chambermaid also began to weep, but had no one to comfort her. As Pere Callahan slid the meshy (and oddly heavy) material of the bowling bag back around the ghostwood box, Jake turned to her and said, "You need to take a nap, sai."

It was the only thing he could think of, and it worked. The maid turned and walked across to the bed. She crawled up on it, pulled her skirt down over her knees, and appeared to fall unconscious.

"Will it stay asleep?" Jake asked Callahan in a low voice. "Because...Pere...that was too close for comfort."

Perhaps, but Callahan's mind suddenly seemed free - freer than it had been in years. Or perhaps it was his heart that had been freed. In any case, his thoughts seemed very clear as he lowered the bowling bag to the folded dry-cleaning bags on top of the safe.

Remembering a conversation in the alley behind Home. He and Frankie Chase and Magruder, out on a smoke-break. The talk had turned to protecting your valuables in New York, especially if you had to go away for awhile, and Magruder had said the safest storage in New York...the absolute safest storage...

"Jake, there's also a bag of plates in the safe."

"Orizas?"

"Yes. Get them." While he did, Callahan went to the maid on the bed and reached into the left skirt pocket of her uniform. He brought out a number of plastic MagCards, a few regular keys, and a brand of mints he'd never heard of - Altoids.

He turned her over. It was like turning a corpse.

"What're you doing?" Jake whispered. He had put Oy down so he could sling the silk-lined reed pouch over his shoulder. It was heavy, but he found the weight comforting.

"Robbing her, what does it look like?" the Pere replied angrily. "Father Callahan of the Holy Roman Catholic Church is robbing a hotel maid. Or would, if she had any...ah!"

In the other pocket was the little roll of bills he'd been hoping for. She had been performing turndown service when Oy's barking had distracted her. This included flushing the john, pulling the shades, turning down the bed, and leaving what the maids called "pillow candy." Sometimes patrons tipped for the service. This maid was carrying two tens, three fives, and four ones.

"I'll pay you back if our paths cross," Callahan told the unconscious maid. "Otherwise, just consider it your service to God."

"Whiiiite,"the maid said in the slurred whisper of one who talks and yet sleeps.

Callahan and Jake exchanged a look.

Eleven

In the elevator going back down, Callahan held the bag containing Black Thirteen and Jake carried the one with the 'Rizas inside. He also carried their money. It now came to a total of forty-eight dollars.

"Will it be enough?" It was his only question after hearing the Pere's plan for disposing of the ball, a plan which would necessitate another stop.

"I don't know and I don't care," Callahan replied. They were speaking in the low voices of conspirators, although the elevator was empty save for them. "If I can rob a sleeping chambermaid, stiffing a cab driver should be a leadpipe cinch."

"Yeah," Jake said. He was thinking that Roland had done more than rob a few innocent people during his quest for the Tower; he'd killed a good many, as well. "Let's just get this done and then find the Dixie Pig."

"You don't have to worry so much, you know," Callahan said. "If the Tower falls, you'll be among the very first to know."

Jake studied him. After a moment or two of this, Callahan cracked a smile. He couldn't help it.

"Not that funny, sai," Jake said, and they went out into the dark of that early summer's night in the year of '99.

Twelve

It was quarter to nine and there was still a residue of light across the Hudson when they arrived at the first of their two stops. The taximeter's tale was nine dollars and fifty cents. Callahan gave the cabbie one of the maid's tens.

"Mon, don't hurt yose'f," the driver said in a powerful Jamaican accent. "I dreadful 'fraid you might leave yose'fshote. "

"You're lucky to get anything at all, son," Callahan said kindly. "We're seeing New York on a budget."

"My woman got a budget, too," said the cabbie, and then drove away.

Jake, meanwhile, was looking up. "Wow," he said softly. "I guess I forgot howbig all this is."

Callahan followed his glance, then said: "Let's get it done." And, as they hurried inside: "What are you getting from Susannah? Anything?"

"Man with a guitar," Jake said. "Singing...I don't know. And I should. It was another one of those coincidences that aren't coincidences, like the owner of the bookstore being named Tower or Balazar's joint turning out to be The Leaning Tower. Some song...I should know."

"Anything else?"

Jake shook his head. "That's the last thing I got from her, and it was just after we got into the taxi outside the hotel. I think she's gone into the Dixie Pig and now she's out of touch." He smiled faintly at the unintentional pun.

Callahan veered toward the building directory in the center of the huge lobby. "Keep Oy close to you."

"Don't worry."

It didn't take Callahan long to find what he was looking for.

Thirteen

The sign read:

LONG-TERM STORAGE

10 - 36 MOS.

USE TOKENS

TAKE KEY

MANAGEMENT ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY

FOR LOST PROPERTY!

Below, in a framed box, was a list of rules and regulations, which they both scanned closely. From beneath their feet came the rumble of a subway train. Callahan, who hadn't been in New York for almost twenty years, had no idea what train it might be, where it might go, or how deep in the city's intestine it might run. They'd already come down two levels by escalator, first to the shops and then to here. The subway station was deeper still.

Jake shifted the bag of Orizas to his other shoulder and pointed out the last line on the framed notice. "We'd get a discount if we were tenants," he said.

"Count!" Oy cried sternly.

"Aye, laddie," Callahan agreed, "and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. We don't need a discount."

Nor did they. After walking through a metal detector (no problem with the Orizas) and past a rent-a-cop dozing on a stool, Jake determined that one of the smallest lockers - those on the far lefthand side of the long room - would accommodate the MID-WORLD LANES bag and the box inside. To rent the box for the maximum length of time would cost twenty-seven dollars. Pere Callahan fed bills into the various slots of the token-dispensing machine carefully, prepared for a malfunction: of all the wonders and horrors he'd seen during their brief time back in the city (the latter including a two-dollar taxi drop-charge), this was in some ways the hardest to accept. A vending machine that accepted paper currency? A lot of sophisticated technology had to lie behind this machine with its dull brown finish and its sign commanding patrons to INSERT BILLS FACE UP! The picture accompanying the command showed George Washington with the top of his head facing to the left, but the bills Callahan fed into the machine seemed to work no matter which way the head was facing. Just as long as the picture was on top. Callahan was almost relieved when the machinedid malfunction once, refusing to accept an old and wrinkled dollar bill. The relatively crisp fives it gobbled up without a murmur, dispensing little showers of tokens into the tray beneath. Callahan gathered up twenty-seven dollars' worth of these, started back toward where Jake was waiting, and then turned around again, curious about something. He looked on the side of the amazing (amazing to him, at least, it was) currency-eating vending machine. Toward the bottom, on a series of little plaques, was the information he'd been looking for. This was a Change-Mak-R 2000, manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio, but a lot of companies had chipped in: General Electric, DeWalt Electronics, Showrie Electric, Panasonic, and, at the bottom, smallest of all but very much there, North Central Positronics.

The snake in the garden,Callahan thought.This guy Stephen King, who supposedly thought me up, may only exist in one world, but what do you bet North Central Positronics exists in all of them? Sure, because that's the Crimson King's rig, just like Sombra's his rig, and he only wants what any power-mad despot in history has wanted: to be everywhere, own everything, and basically control the universe.

"Or bring it to darkness," he murmured.

"Pere!" Jake called impatiently."Pere!"

"I'm coming," he said, and hurried across to Jake with his hands full of shiny gold tokens.

Fourteen

The key came out of Locker 883 after Jake had inserted nine of the tokens, but he went on putting them in until all twenty-seven were gone. At this point the small glass port-hole under the locker-number turned red.

"Maxed out," Jake said with satisfaction. They were still talking in those low mustn't-wake-the-baby tones, and this long, cavernous room was indeed very quiet. Jake guessed it would be bedlam at eight in the morning and five in the afternoon on working days, with folks coming and going from the subway station below, some of them storing their gear in the short-term coin-op lockers. Now there was just the ghostly sound of conversation drifting down the escalator well from the few shops still open in the arcade and the rumble of another approaching train.

Callahan slid the bowling bag into the narrow opening. Slid it back as far as it would go with Jake watching anxiously. Then he closed the locker and Jake turned the key. "Bingo," Jake said, putting the key in his pocket. Then, with anxiety: "Will it sleep?"

"I think so," Callahan said. "Like it did in my church. If another Beam breaks, it might wake up and work mischief, but then, if another Beam lets go - "

"If another Beam lets go, a little mischief won't matter," Jake finished for him.

Callahan nodded. "The only thing is...well, you know where we're going. And you know what we're apt to find there."

Vampires. Low men. Other servants of the Crimson King, maybe. Possibly Walter, the hooded man in black who sometimes shifted his shape and form and called himself Randall Flagg. Possibly even the Crimson King himself.

Yes, Jake knew.

"If you have the touch," Callahan continued, "we have to assume that some of them do, too. It's possible they could pick this place - and the locker-number - out of our minds. We're going to go in there and try to get her, but we have to recognize that the chances of failure are fairly high. I've never fired a gun in my life, and you're not - forgive me, Jake, but you're not exactly a battle-hardened veteran."

"I've got one or two under my belt," Jake said. He was thinking about his time with Gasher. And about the Wolves, of course.

"This is apt to be different," Callahan said. "I'm just saying it might be a bad idea for us to be taken alive. If it comes to that. Do you understand?"

"Don't worry," Jake said in a tone of chilling comfort. "Don't worry about that, Pere. We won't be."

Fifteen

Then they were outside again, looking for another cab. Thanks to the maid's tip-money, Jake reckoned they had just about enough remaining cash to take them to the Dixie Pig. And he had an idea that once they entered the Pig, their need for ready cash - or anything else - would cease.

"Here's one," Callahan said, and waved his arm in a flagging gesture. Jake, meanwhile, looked back at the building from which they had just emerged.

"You're sure it'll be safe there?" he asked Callahan as the cab swerved toward them, honking relentlessly at a slow-poke between him and his fares.

"According to my old friend sai Magruder, that's the safest storage area in Manhattan," Callahan said. "Fifty times safer than the coin-op lockers in Penn Station and Grand Central, he said...and of course here you've got the long-term storage option. There are probably other storage places in New York, but we'll be gone before they open - one way or the other."

The cab pulled over. Callahan held the door for Jake, and Oy hopped unobtrusively in right behind him. Callahan spared one final glance at the twin towers of the World Trade Center before getting in himself.

"It's good to go until June of two thousand and two, unless someone breaks in and steals it."

"Or if the building falls down on top of it," Jake said.

Callahan laughed, although Jake hadn't quite sounded as if he were joking. "Never happen. And if it did...well, one glass ball under a hundred and ten stories of concrete and steel? Even a glass ball filled with deep magic? That'd be one way to take care of the nasty thing, I guess."

Sixteen

Jake had asked the cabbie to drop them off at Lexington and Fifty-ninth, just to be on the safe side, and after looking to Callahan for approval, he gave the sai all but their last two dollars.

On the corner of Lex and Sixtieth, Jake pointed to a number of cigarette ends mashed into the sidewalk. "This is where he was," he said. "The man playing the guitar."

He bent down, picked up one of the butts, and held it in his palm for a moment or two. Then he nodded, smiled cheerlessly, and readjusted the strap on his shoulder. The Orizas clanked faintly inside the rush bag. Jake had counted them in the back of the cab and hadn't been surprised to find there were exactly nineteen.

"No wonder she stopped," Jake said, dropping the butt and wiping his hand on his shirt. And suddenly he sang, low but perfectly on pitch: "I am a man...of constant sorrow...I've seen trouble...all my days...I'm bound to ride...that Northern railroad...Perhaps I'll take...the very next train."

Callahan, keyed up already, felt his nerves crank yet tighter. Of course he recognized the song. Only when Susannah had sung it that night on the Pavilion - the same night Roland had won the hearts of the Calla by dancing the fiercest commala many had ever seen - she'd substituted "maid" for "man."

"She gave him money," Jake said dreamily. "And she said..." He stood with his head down, biting his lip, thinking hard. Oy looked up at him raptly. Nor did Callahan interrupt. Understanding had come to him: he and Jake were going to die in the Dixie Pig. They would go down fighting, but they were going to die there.

And he thought dying would be all right. It was going to break Roland's heart to lose the boy...yet he would go on. As long as the Dark Tower stood, Roland would go on.

Jake looked up. "She said, 'Remember the struggle.' "

"Susannah did."

"Yes. Shecame forward. Mia let her. And the song moved Mia. She wept."

"Say true?"

"True. Mia, daughter of none, mother of one. And while Mia was distracted...her eyes blind with tears..."

Jake looked around. Oy looked around with him, likely not searching for anything but only imitating his beloved Ake. Callahan was remembering that night on the Pavilion. The lights. The way Oy had stood on his hind legs and bowed to thefolken. Susannah, singing. The lights. The dancing, Roland dancing the commala in the lights, the colored lights. Roland dancing in the white. Always Roland; and in the end, after the others had fallen, murdered away one by one in these bloody motions, Roland would remain.

I can live with that,Callahan thought.And die with it.

"She left something but it'sgone! " Jake said in a distressed, almost-crying voice. "Someone must have found it...or maybe the guitar-player saw her drop it and took it...this fucking city! Everyone steals everything! Ah,shit! "

"Let it go."

Jake turned his pale, tired, frightened face up to Callahan's. "She left us something and weneed it! Don't you understand how thin our chances are?"

"Yes. If you want to back off, Jake, now would be the time."

The boy shook his head with no doubt nor the slightest hesitation, and Callahan was fiercely proud of him. "Let's go, Pere," he said.

Seventeen

On the corner of Lex and Sixty-first they stopped again. Jake pointed across the street. Callahan saw the green awning and nodded. It was imprinted with a cartoon porker that was grinning blissfully in spite of having been roasted a bright and smoking red. T HE DIXIE PIG was written on the awning's overhang. Parked in a row in front of it were five long black limousines with their accent lights glowing a slightly blurred yellow in the dark. Callahan realized for the first time that a mist was creeping down the Avenue.

"Here," Jake said, and handed him the Ruger. The boy rummaged in his pockets and came up with two big handfuls of cartridges. They gleamed dully in the pervasive orange glow of the streetlamps. "Put em all in your breast pocket, Pere. Easier to get at that way, all right?"

Callahan nodded.

"Ever shot a gun before?"

"No," Callahan said. "Have you ever fired one of those plates?"

Jake's lips parted in a grin. "Benny Slightman and I snuck a bunch of the practice dishes out to the riverbank and had a match one night. He wasn't much good, but..."

"Let me guess. You were."

Jake shrugged, then nodded. He had no words to express how fine the plates had felt in his hands, how savagely right. But perhaps that was natural. Susannah had also taken quickly and naturally to throwing the Oriza. That Pere Callahan had seen for himself.

"All right, what's our plan?" Callahan asked. Now that he had decided to go through it all the way to the end, he was more than willing to give leadership over to the boy. Jake was, after all, the gunslinger.

The boy shook his head. "Thereis none," he said, "not really. I go in first. You right behind me. Once we're through the door, we spread apart. Ten feet between us any time we have ten feet to give, Pere - do you understand? So that no matter how many there are or howclose they are, no one of them can get both of us at the same time."

This was Roland's teaching, and Callahan recognized it as such. He nodded.

"I'll be able to follow her by touch, and Oy will be able to by scent," Jake said. "Move with us. Shoot whatever asks to be shot, and without hesitation, do you understand?"

"Aye."

"If you kill something that has what looks like a useful weapon, take it. If you can scoop it up on the move, that is. We have to keep moving. We have to keep taking it to them. We have to be relentless. Can you scream?"

Callahan considered it, then nodded.

"Scream at them," Jake said. "I'll be doing the same. And I'll be moving. Maybe running, more likely at a good fast walk. Make sure that every time I look on my right, I see the side of your face."

"You'll see it," Callahan said, and thought:Until one of them drops me, at least. "After we bring her out of there, Jake, am I a gunslinger?"

Jake's grin was wolfish, all his doubts and fears put behind him. "Khef, ka, and ka-tet," he said. "Look, there's the WALK light. Let's cross."

Eighteen

The driver's seat of the first limo was empty. There was a fellow in a cap and a uniform behind the wheel of the second, but to Pere Callahan the sai looked asleep. Another man in cap and uniform was leaning against the sidewalk side of the third limo. The coal of a cigarette made a lazy arc from his side to his mouth and then back down again. He glanced their way, but with no appreciable interest. What was there to see? A man going on elderly, a boy going on teenage, and a scurrying dog. Big deal.

When they gained the other side of Sixty-first, Callahan saw a sign on a chrome stand in front of the restaurant:

CLOSED FOR PRIVATE FUNCTION

What exactly did you call tonight's function at the Dixie Pig? Callahan wondered. A baby shower? A birthday party?

"What about Oy?" he asked Jake in a low voice.

"Oy stays with me."

Only four words, but they were enough to convince Callahan Jake knew what he did: this was their night to die. Callahan didn't know if they'd manage to go out in a blaze of glory, but they would be going out, all three of them. The clearing at the end of the path was now hidden from their view by only a single turn; they would enter it three abreast. And little as he wanted to die while his lungs were still clear and his eyes could still see, Callahan understood that things could have been much worse. Black Thirteen had been stuffed away in another dark place where it would sleep, and if Roland did indeed remain standing when the hurly-burly was done, the battle lost and won, then he would track it down and dispose of it as he saw fit. Meanwhile -

"Jake, listen to me a second. This is important."

Jake nodded, but he looked impatient.

"Do you understand that you are in danger of death, and do you ask forgiveness for your sins?"

The boy understood he was being given last rites. "Yes," he said.

"Are you sincerely sorry for those sins?"

"Yes."

"Repent of them?"

"Yes, Pere."

Callahan sketched the sign of the cross in front of him."In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus - "

Oy barked. Just once, but with excitement. And it was a bit muffled, that bark, for he had found something in the gutter and was holding it up to Jake in his mouth. The boy bent and took it.

"What?" Callahan asked. "What is it?"

"It's what she left for us," Jake said. He sounded enormously relieved, almost hopeful again. "What she dropped while Mia was distracted and crying about the song. Oh man - we might have a chance, Pere. We might just have a chance after all."

He put the object in the Pere's hand. Callahan was surprised by its weight, and then struck almost breathless by its beauty. He felt the same dawning of hope. It was probably stupid, but it was there, all right.

He held the scrimshaw turtle up to his face and ran the pad of his index finger over the question-mark-shaped scratch on its shell. Looked into its wise and peaceful eyes. "How lovely it is," he breathed. "Is it the Turtle Maturin? It is, isn't it?"

"I don't know," Jake said. "Probably. She calls it thesk?ldpadda, and it may help us, but it can't kill the harriers that are waiting for us in there." He nodded toward the Dixie Pig. "Only we can do that, Pere. Will you?"

"Oh yes," Callahan said calmly. He put the turtle, thesk?ldpadda, into his breast pocket. "I'll shoot until the bullets are gone or I'm dead. If I run out of bullets before they kill me, I'll club them with the gun-butt."

"Good. Let's go givethem some last rites."

They walked past the CLOSED sign on its chrome post, Oy trotting between them, his head up and his muzzle wearing that toothy grin. They mounted the three steps to the double doors without hesitating. At the top, Jake reached into the pouch and brought out two of the plates. He tapped them together, nodded at the dull ringing sound, and then said: "Let's see yours."

Callahan lifted the Ruger and held the barrel beside his right cheek like a duelist. Then he touched his breast pocket, which bulged and drooped with shells.

Jake nodded, satisfied. "Once we're in, we stay together. Always together, with Oy between. On three. And once we start, we don't stop until we're dead."

"Never stop."

"Right. Are you ready?"

"Yes. God's love on you, boy."

"And on you, Pere. One...two...three." Jake opened the door and together they went into dim light and the sweet tangy smell of roasting pork.

STAVE: Commala-come-ki,

There's a time to live and one to die.

With your back against the final wall

Ya gotta let the bullets fly.

RESPONSE: Commala-come ki!

Let the bullets fly!

Don't 'ee mourn for me, my lads

When it comes my day to die.

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