Song of Susannah 9th Stanza: Eddie Bites His Tongue

One

Pere Callahan had made a brief visit to the East Stoneham Post Office almost two weeks before the shootout at Chip McAvoy's store, and there the former Jerusalem's Lot parish priest had written a hurried note. Although addressed to both Aaron Deepneau and Calvin Tower, the note inside the envelope had been aimed at the latter, and its tone had not been particularly friendly:

6/27/77

Tower -

I'm a friend of the guy who helped you with Andolini. Wherever you are, you need to move right away. Find a barn, unused camp, even an abandoned shed if it comes down to that. You probably won't be comfortable but remember that the alternative is being dead. I mean every word I say! Leave some lights on where you are staying now and leave your car in the garage or driveway. Hide a note with directions to your new location under the driver's-side floormat, or under the back-porch step. We'll be in touch. Remember that we are the only ones who can relieve you of the burden you carry. But if we are to help you, you must help us.

Callahan, of the Eld

And make this trip to the post office your LAST! How stupid can you be???

Callahan had risked his life to leave that note, and Eddie, under the spell of Black Thirteen, had nearly lost his. And the net result of those risks and close calls? Why, Calvin Tower had gone jaunting merrily around the western Maine countryside, looking for buys on rare and out-of-print books.

Following John Cullum up Route 5 with Roland sitting silently beside him, then turning to follow Cullum onto the Dimity Road, Eddie felt his temper edging up into the red zone.

Gonna have to put my hands in my pockets and bite my tongue,he thought, but in this case he wasn't sure even those old reliables would work.

Two

About two miles from Route 5, Cullum's Ford F-150 made a right off Dimity Road. The turn was marked by two signs on a rusty pole. The top one said ROCKET RD. Below it was another (rustier still) which promised LAKESIDE CABINS BY THE WK MO OR SEAS. Rocket Road was little more than a trail winding through the trees, and Eddie hung well behind Cullum to avoid the rooster-tail of dust their new friend's old truck was kicking up. The "cartomobile" was another Ford, some anonymous two-door model Eddie couldn't have named without looking at the chrome on the back or in the owner's manual. But it felt most religiously fine to be driving again, with not a single horse between his legs but several hundred of them ready to run at the slightest motion of his right foot. It was also good to hear the sound of the sirens fading farther and farther behind.

The shadows of overhanging trees swallowed them. The smell of fir and pinesap was simultaneously sweet and sharp. "Pretty country," the gunslinger said. "A man could take his long ease here." It was his only comment.

Cullum's truck began to pass numbered driveways. Below each number was a small legend reading JAFFORDS RENTALS. Eddie thought of pointing out to Roland that they'd known a Jaffords in the Calla, known him very well, and then didn't. It would have been belaboring the obvious.

They passed 15, 16, and 17. Cullum paused briefly to consider at 18, then stuck his arm out the cab's window and motioned them on again. Eddie had been ready to move on even before the gesture, knowing perfectly well that Cabin 18 wasn't the one they wanted.

Cullum turned in at the next drive. Eddie followed, the tires of the sedan now whispering on a thick bed of fallen pine needles. Winks of blue once more began to appear between the trees, but when they finally reached Cabin 19 and a view of the water, Eddie saw that this, unlike Keywadin, was a true pond. Probably not much wider than a football field. The cabin itself looked like a two-room job. There was a screened-in porch facing the water with a couple of tatty but comfortable-looking rockers on it. A tin stovestack poked up from the roof. There was no garage and no car parked in front of the cabin, although Eddie thought he could see where one had been. With the cover of duff, it was hard to tell for sure.

Cullum killed the truck's engine. Eddie did likewise. Now there was only the lap of water against the rocks, the sigh of a breeze through the pines, and the mild sound of birdsong. When Eddie looked to the right, he saw that the gunslinger was sitting with his talented, long-fingered hands folded peaceably in his lap.

"How does it feel to you?" Eddie asked.

"Quiet." The word was spoken Calla-fashion:Cahh-it.

"Anyone here?"

"I think so, yes."

"Danger?"

"Yar. Beside me."

Eddie looked at him, frowning.

"You, Eddie. You want to kill him, don't you?"

After a moment, Eddie admitted it was so. This uncovered part of his nature, as simple as it was savage, sometimes made him uneasy, but he could not deny it was there. And who, after all, had brought it out and honed it to a keen edge?

Roland nodded. "There came into my life, after years during which I wandered in the desert as solitary as any anchorite, a whining and self-involved young man whose only ambition was to continue taking a drug which did little but make him sniffle and feel sleepy. This was a posturing, selfish, loudmouthed loutkin with little to recommend him - "

"But good-looking," Eddie said. "Don't forget that. The cat was a true sex mo-chine."

Roland looked at him, unsmiling. "If I could manage not to kill you then, Eddie of New York, you can manage not to kill Calvin Tower now." And with that, Roland opened the door on his side and got out.

"Well, saysyou, " Eddie told the interior of Cullum's car, and then got out himself.

Three

Cullum was still behind the wheel of his truck when first Roland and then Eddie joined him.

"Place feels empty to me," he said, "but I see a light on in the kitchen."

"Uh-huh," Eddie said. "John, I've got - "

"Don't tell me, you got another question. Only person I know who's got more of em is my grand-nephew Aidan. He just went three. Go on, ask."

"Could you pinpoint the center of the walk-in activity in this area over the last few years?" Eddie had no idea why he was asking this question, but it suddenly seemed vitally important to him.

Cullum considered, then said: "Turtleback Lane, over in Lovell."

"You sound pretty sure of that."

"Ayuh. Do you remember me mentionin my friend Donnie Russert, the history prof from Vandy?"

Eddie nodded.

"Well, after he met one of these fellas in person, he got interested in the phenomenon. Wrote several articles about it, although he said no reputable magazine'd publish em no matter how well documented his facts were. He said that writin about the walk-ins in western Maine taught him something he'd never expected to learn in his old age: that some things people just won't believe, not even when you can prove em. He used to quote a line from some Greek poet. 'The column of truth has a hole in it.'

"Anyway, he had a map of the seven-town area mounted on one wall of his study: Stoneham, East Stoneham, Waterford, Lovell, Sweden, Fryeburg, and East Fryeburg. With pins stuck in it for each walk-in reported, do ya see?"

"See very well, say thank ya," Eddie said.

"And I'd have to say...yeah, Turtleback Lane's the heart of it. Why, there were six or eight pins right there, and the whole damn rud can't be more'n two miles long; it's just a loop that runs off Route 7, along the shore of Kezar Lake, and then back to 7 again."

Roland was looking at the house. Now he turned to the left, stopped, and laid his left hand on the sandalwood butt of his gun. "John," he said, "we're well-met, but it's time for you to roll out of here."

"Ayuh? You sure?"

Roland nodded. "The men who came here are fools. It still has the smell of fools, which is partly how I know that they haven't moved on. You're not one of that kind."

John Cullum smiled faintly. "Sh'd hope not," he said, "but I gut t'thankya for the compliment." Then he paused and scratched his gray head. "If 'tis a compliment."

"Don't get back to the main road and start thinking I didn't mean what I said. Or worse, that we weren't here at all, that you dreamed the whole thing. Don't go back to your house, not even to pack an extra shirt. It's no longer safe. Go somewhere else. At least three looks to the horizon."

Cullum closed one eye and appeared to calculate. "In the fifties, I spent ten miserable years as a guard at the Maine State Prison," he said, "but I met a hell of a nice man there named - "

Roland shook his head and then put the two remaining fingers of his right hand to his lips. Cullum nodded.

"Well, I f'git what his name is, but he lives over in Vermont, and I'm sure I'll remember it - maybe where he lives, too - by the time I get acrost the New Hampshire state line."

Something about this speech struck Eddie as a little false, but he couldn't put his finger on just why, and he decided in the end that he was just being paranoid. John Cullum was a straight arrow...wasn't he? "May you do well," he said, and gripped the old man's hand. "Long days and pleasant nights."

"Same to you boys," Cullum said, and then shook with Roland. He held the gunslinger's three-fingered right hand a moment longer. "Was it God saved my life back there, do ya think? When the bullets first started flyin?"

"Yar," the gunslinger said. "If you like. And may he go with you now."

"As for that old Ford of mine - "

"Either right here or somewhere nearby," Eddie said. "You'll find it, or someone else will. Don't worry."

Cullum grinned. "That's pretty much what I was gonna tell you."

"Vaya con Dios," Eddie said.

Cullum grinned. "Goes back double, son. You want to watch out for those walk-ins." He paused. "Some of em aren't very nice. From all reports."

Cullum put his truck in gear and drove away. Roland watched him go and said, "Dan-tete."

Eddie nodded. Dan-tete. Little savior. It was as good a way to describe John Cullum - now as gone from their lives as the old people of River Crossing - as any other. And hewas gone, wasn't he? Although there'd been something about the way he'd talked of his friend in Vermont...

Paranoia.

Simple paranoia.

Eddie put it out of his mind.

Four

Since there was no car present and hence no driver's-side floormat beneath which to look, Eddie intended to explore under the porch step. But before he could take more than a single stride in that direction, Roland gripped his shoulder in one hand and pointed with the other. What Eddie saw was a brushy slope going down to the water and the roof of what was probably another boathouse, its green shingles covered with a layer of dry needles.

"Someone there," Roland said, his lips barely moving. "Probably the lesser of the two fools, and watching us. Raise your hands."

"Roland, do you think that's safe?"

"Yes." Roland raised his hands. Eddie thought of asking him upon what basis he placed his belief, and knew the answer without asking: intuition. It was Roland's specialty. With a sigh, Eddie raised his own hands to his shoulders.

"Deepneau!" Roland called out in the direction of the boathouse. "Aaron Deepneau! We're friends, and our time is short! If that's you, come out! We need to palaver!"

There was a pause, and then an old man's voice called: "What's your name, mister?"

"Roland Deschain, of Gilead and the line of the Eld. I think you know it."

"And your trade?"

"I deal in lead!" Roland called, and Eddie felt goose-bumps pebble his arms.

A long pause. Then: "Have they killed Calvin?"

"Not thatwe know of," Eddie called back. "If you know something we don't, why don't you come on out here and tell us?"

"Are you the guy who showed up while Cal was dickering with that prick Andolini?"

Eddie felt another throb of anger at the worddickering. At the slant it put on what had actually been going down in Tower's back room. "A dicker? Is that what he told you it was?" And then, without waiting for Aaron Deepneau to answer: "Yeah, I'm that guy. Come out here and let's talk."

No answer. Twenty seconds slipped by. Eddie pulled in breath to call Deepneau again. Roland put a hand on Eddie's arm and shook his head. Another twenty seconds went by, and then there was the rusty shriek of a spring as a screen door was pushed open. A tall, skinny man stepped out of the boathouse, blinking like an owl. In one hand he held a large black automatic pistol by the barrel. Deepneau raised it over his head. "It's a Beretta, and unloaded," he said. "There's only one clip and it's in the bedroom, under my socks. Loaded guns make me nervous. Okay?"

Eddie rolled his eyes. Thesefolken were their own worst enemas, as Henry might have said.

"Fine," Roland said. "Just keep coming."

And - wonders never ceased, it seemed - Deepneau did.

Five

The coffee he made was better by far than any they'd had in Calla Bryn Sturgis, better than any Roland had had since his days in Mejis, Drop-riding out on the Rim. There were also strawberries. Cultivated and store-bought, Deepneau said, but Eddie was transported by their sweetness. The three of them sat in the kitchen of Jaffords Rentals' Cabin #19, drinking coffee and dipping the big strawberries in the sugarbowl. By the end of their palaver, all three men looked like assassins who'd dabbled the tips of their fingers in the spilled blood of their latest victim. Deepneau's unloaded gun lay forgotten on the windowsill.

Deepneau had been out for a walk on the Rocket Road when he heard gunfire, loud and clear, and then explosions. He'd hurried back to the cabin (not that he was capable of too much hurry in his current condition, he said), and when he saw the smoke starting to rise in the south, had decided that returning to the boathouse might be wise, after all. By then he was almost positive it was the Italian hoodlum, Andolini, so -

"What do you mean, youreturned to the boathouse?" Eddie asked.

Deepneau shifted his feet under the table. He was extremely pallid, with purple patches beneath his eyes and only a few wisps of hair, fine as dandelion fluff, on his head. Eddie remembered Tower's telling him that Deepneau had been diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. He didn't look great today, but Eddie had seen folks - especially in the City of Lud - who looked a lot worse. Jake's old pal Gasher had been just one of them.

"Aaron?" Eddie asked. "What did you mean - "

"I heard the question," he said, a trifle irritably. "We got a note via general delivery, or rather Cal did, suggesting we move out of the cabin to someplace adjacent, and keep a lower profile in general. It was from a man named Callahan. Do you know him?"

Roland and Eddie nodded.

"This Callahan...you could say he took Cal to the woodshed."

Cal, Calla, Callahan,Eddie thought, and sighed.

"Cal's a decent man in most ways, but he does not enjoy being taken to the woodshed. We did move down to the boathouse for a few days..." Deepneau paused, possibly engaging in a brief struggle with his conscience. Then he said, "Two days, actually. Only two. And then Cal said we were crazy, being in the damp was making his arthritis worse, and he could hear me wheezing. 'Next thing I'll have you in that little shitpot hospital over in Norway,' he said, 'with pneumonia as well as cancer.' He said there wasn't a chance in hell of Andolini finding us up here, as long as the young guy - you" - he pointed a gnarled and strawberry-stained finger at Eddie - "kept his mouth shut. 'Those New York hoodlums can't find their way north of Westport without a compass,' he said."

Eddie groaned. For once in his life he absolutelyloathed being right about something.

"He said we'd been very careful. And when I said, 'Well,somebody found us, this Callahan found us,' Cal said well of course." Again the finger pointed at Eddie. "Youmust have told Mr. Callahan where to look for the zip code, and after that it was easy. Then Cal said, 'And the post office was the best he could do, wasn't it? Believe me, Aaron, we're safe out here. No one knows where we are except the rental agent, and she's back in New York."

Deepneau peered at them from beneath his shaggy eyebrows, then dipped a strawberry and ate half of it.

"Isthat how you found us? The rental agent?"

"No," Eddie said. "A local. He took us right to you, Aaron."

Deepneau sat back. "Ouch."

"Ouch is right," Eddie said. "So you moved back into the cabin, and Cal went right on buying books instead of hiding out here and reading one. Correct?"

Deepneau dropped his eyes to the tablecloth. "You have to understand that Cal is very dedicated. Books are his life."

"No," Eddie said evenly, "Cal isn't dedicated. Cal isobsessed, that's what Cal is."

"I understand that you are a scrip," Roland said, speaking for the first time since Deepneau had led them into the cabin. He had lit another of Cullum's cigarettes (after plucking the filter off as the caretaker had shown him) and now sat smoking with what looked to Eddie like absolutely no satisfaction at all.

"A scrip? I don't..."

"A lawyer."

"Oh. Well, yes. But I've been retired from practice since - "

"We need you to come out of retirement long enough to draw up a certain paper," Roland said, and then explained what sort of paper he wanted. Deepneau was nodding before the gunslinger had done more than get started, and Eddie assumed Tower had already told his friend this part of it. That was okay. What he didn't like was the expression on the old fella's face. Still, Deepneau let Roland finish. He hadn't forgotten the basics of relating to potential clients, it seemed, retired or not.

When he was sure Rolandwas finished, Deepneau said: "I feel I must tell you that Calvin has decided to hold onto that particular piece of property a little longer."

Eddie thumped the unwounded side of his head, being careful to use his right hand for this bit of theater. His left arm was stiffening up, and his leg was once more starting to throb between the knee and the ankle. He supposed it was possible that good old Aaron was traveling with some heavy-duty painkillers and made a mental note to ask for a few if he was.

"Cry pardon," Eddie said, "but I took a knock on the head while I was arriving in this charming little town, and I think it's screwed up my hearing. I thought you said that sai...that Mr. Tower had decided against selling us the lot."

Deepneau smiled, rather wearily. "You know perfectly well what I said."

"But he'ssupposed to sell it to us! He had a letter from Stefan Toren, his three-times-great grandfather, saying just that!"

"Cal says different," Aaron responded mildly. "Have another strawberry, Mr. Dean."

"No thank you!"

"Have another strawberry, Eddie," Roland said, and handed him one.

Eddie took it. Considered squashing it against Long, Tall, and Ugly's beak, just for the hell of it, then dipped it first in a saucer of cream, then in the sugarbowl. He began to eat. And damn, it was hard to stay bitter with that much sweetness flooding your mouth. A fact of which Roland (Deepneau too, for that matter) was surely aware.

"According to Cal," Deepneau said, "there was nothing in the envelope he had from Stefan Toren except for this man's name." He tilted his mostly hairless head toward Roland. "Toren's will - what was in the olden days sometimes called a 'dead-letter' - was long gone."

"I knew what was in the envelope," Eddie said. "He asked me, andI knew! "

"So he told me." Deepneau regarded him expressionlessly. "He said it was a trick any streetcorner magician could do."

"Did he also tell you that hepromised to sell us the lot if I could tell him the name? That he fuckingpromised? "

"He claims to have been under considerable stress when he made that promise. As I am sure he was."

"Does the son of a bitch think we mean to weasel on him?" Eddie asked. His temples were thudding with rage. Had he ever been so angry? Once, he supposed. When Roland had refused to let him go back to New York so he could score some horse. "Is that it? Because we won't. We'll come up with every cent he wants, and more. I swear it on the face of my father! And on the heart of my dinh!"

"Listen to me carefully, young man, because this is important."

Eddie glanced at Roland. Roland nodded slightly, then crushed out his cigarette on one bootheel. Eddie looked back at Deepneau, silent but glowering.

"Hesays that is exactly the problem. He says you'll pay him some ridiculously low token amount - a dollar is the usual sum in such cases - and then stiff him for the rest. He claims you tried to hypnotize him into believing you were a supernatural being, or someone withaccess to supernatural beings...not to mention access to millions from the Holmes Dental Corporation...but he was not fooled."

Eddie gaped at him.

"These are things Calvinsays, " Deepneau continued in that same calm voice, "but they are not necessarily the things Calvinbelieves. "

"What in hell do you mean?"

"Calvin has issues with letting go of things," Deepneau said. "He is quite good at finding rare and antiquarian books, you know - a regular literary Sherlock Holmes - and he is compulsive about acquiring them. I've seen himhound the owner of a book he wants - I'm afraid there's no other word that really fits - until the book's owner gives in and sells. Sometimes just to make Cal stop calling on the telephone, I'm sure.

"Given his talents, his location, and the considerable sum of money to which he gained complete access on his twenty-sixth birthday, Cal should have been one of the most successful antiquarian book-dealers in New York, or in the whole country. His problem isn't with buying but selling. Once he has an item he's really worked to acquire, he hates to let it go again. I remember when a book collector from San Francisco, a fellow almost as compulsive as Cal himself, finally wore down Cal enough to sell him a signed first ofMoby-Dick. Cal made over seventy thousand dollars on that one deal alone, but he also didn't sleep for a week.

"He feels much the same way about the lot on the corner of Second and Forty-sixth. It's the only real property, other than his books, which he still has. And he's convinced himself that you want to steal it from him."

There was a short period of silence. Then Roland said: "Does he know better, in his secret heart?"

"Mr. Deschain, I don't understand what - "

"Aye, ya do," Roland said. "Does he?"

"Yes," Deepneau said at last. "I believe he does."

"Does he understand in his secret heart that we are men of our word who will pay him for his property, unless we're dead?"

"Yes, probably. But - "

"Does he understand that, if he transfers ownership of the lot to us, and if we make this transfer perfectly clear to Andolini's dinh - his boss, a man named Balazar - "

"I know the name," Deepneau said dryly. "It's in the papers from time to time."

"That Balazar will then leave your friend alone? If, that is, he can be made to understand that the lot is no longer your friend's to sell, and that any effort to take revenge on sai Tower will cost Balazar himself dearly?"

Deepneau crossed his arms over his narrow chest and waited. He was looking at Roland with a kind of uneasy fascination.

"In short, if your friend Calvin Tower sells us that lot, his troubles will be over. Do you think he knowsthat in his secret heart?"

"Yes," Deepneau said. "It's just that he's got this...this kink about letting stuff go."

"Draw up a paper," Roland said. "Object, the vacant square of waste ground on the corner of those two streets. Tower the seller. Us the buyer."

"The Tet Corporation as buyer," Eddie put in.

Deepneau was shaking his head. "I could draw it up, but you won't convince him to sell. Unless you've got a week or so, that is, and you're not averse to using hot irons on his feet. Or maybe his balls."

Eddie muttered something under his breath. Deepneau asked him what he'd said. Eddie told him nothing. What he'd said wasSounds good.

"We will convince him," Roland said.

"I wouldn't be so sure of that, my friend."

"We will convince him," Roland repeated. He spoke in his driest tone.

Outside, an anonymous little car (a Hertz rental if Eddie had ever seen one) rolled into the clearing and came to a stop.

Bite your tongue, bite your tongue,Eddie told himself, but as Calvin Tower got briskly out of the car (giving the new vehicle in his dooryard only the most cursory glance), Eddie felt his temples begin to heat up. He rolled his hands into fists, and when his nails bit into the skin of his palms, he grinned in bitter appreciation of the pain.

Tower opened the trunk of his rental Chevy and pulled out a large bag.His latest haul, Eddie thought. Tower looked briefly south, at the smoke in the sky, then shrugged and started for the cabin.

That's right,Eddie thought,that's right, you whore, just something on fire, what's it to you? Despite the throb of pain it caused in his wounded arm, Eddie squeezed his fists tighter, dug his nails in deeper.

You can't kill him, Eddie,Susannah said.You know that, don't you?

Did he know it? And even if he did, could he listen to Suze's voice? To any voice of reason, for that matter? Eddie didn't know. What he knew was that the real Susannah was gone, she had a monkey named Mia on her back and had disappeared into the maw of the future. Tower, on the other hand, was here. Which made sense, in a way. Eddie had read someplace that nuclear war's most likely survivors would be the cockroaches.

Never mind, sugar, you just bite down on your tongue and let Roland handle this. You can't kill him!

No, Eddie supposed not.

Not, at least, until sai Tower had signed on the dotted line. After that, however...after that...

Six

"Aaron!" Tower called as he mounted the porch steps.

Roland caught Deepneau's eyes and put a finger across his lips.

"Aaron, heyAaron !" Tower sounded strong and happy to be alive - not a man on the run but a man on a wonderful busman's holiday. "Aaron, I went over to that widow's house in East Fryeburg, and holy Joe, she's got every novel Herman Wouk ever wrote! Not the book club editions, either, which is what I expected, but - "

Thescroink! of the screen door's rusty spring being stretched was followed by the clump of shoes across the porch.

" - the Doubleday firsts!Marjorie Morningstar! The Caine Mutiny! I think somebody across the lake better hope their fire insurance is paid up, because - "

He stepped in. Saw Aaron. Saw Roland sitting across from Deepneau, looking at him steadily from those frightening blue eyes with the deep crow's feet at the corners. And, last of all, he saw Eddie. But Eddie didn't see him. At the last moment Eddie Dean had lowered his clasped hands between his knees and then lowered his head so his gaze was fixed upon them and the board floor below them. He was quite literally biting his tongue. There were two drops of blood on the side of his right thumb. He fixed his eyes on these. He fixed every iota of his attention on them. Because if he looked at the owner of that jolly voice, Eddie would surely kill him.

Saw our car. Saw it but never went over for a look. Never called out and asked his friend who was here, or if everything was okay. IfAaronwas okay. Because he had some guy named Herman Wouk on his mind, not book club editions but the real thing. No worries, mate. Because you've got no more short-term imagination than Jack Andolini. You and Jack, just a couple ragged cockroaches, scuttling across the floor of the universe. Eyes on the prize, right? Eyes on the fucking prize.

"You," Tower said. The happiness and excitement were gone from his voice. "The guy from - "

"The guy from nowhere," Eddie said without looking up. "The one who peeled Jack Andolini off you when you were about two minutes from shitting in your pants. And this is how you repay. You're quite the guy, aren't you?" As soon as he finished speaking, Eddie clamped down on his tongue again. His clasped hands were trembling. He expected Roland to intervene - surely he would, Eddie couldn't be expected to deal with this selfish monster on his own, he wasn't capable of it - but Roland said nothing.

Tower laughed. The sound was as nervous and brittle as his voice when he'd realized who was sitting in the kitchen of his rented cabin. "Oh, sir...Mr. Dean...I really think you've exaggerated the seriousness of that situation - "

"What I remember," Eddie said, still without looking up, "is the smell of the gasoline. I fired my dinh's gun, do you recall that? I suppose we were lucky there were no fumes, and that I fired it in the right direction. They poured gasoline all over the corner where you keep your desk. They were going to burn your favorite books...or should I say your best friends, your family? Because that's what they are to you, aren't they? And Deepneau, who the fuck is he? Just some old guy full of cancer who ran north with you when you needed a running buddy. You'd leave him dying in a ditch if someone offered you a first edition of Shakespeare or some special Ernest Hemingway."

"I resent that!" Tower cried. "I happen to know that my bookshop has been burned flat, and through an oversight it's uninsured! I'm ruined, and it's all your fault! I want you out of here!"

"You defaulted on the insurance when you needed cash to buy that Hopalong Cassidy collection from the Clarence Mulford estate last year," Aaron Deepneau said mildly. "You told me that insurance lapse was only temporary, but - "

"It was!" Tower said. He sounded both injured and surprised, as if he had never expected betrayal from this quarter. Probably he hadn't. "Itwas only temporary, goddammit!"

" - but to blame this young man," Deepneau went on in that same composed but regretful voice, "seems most unfair."

"I want you out of here!" Tower snarled at Eddie. "You and your friend, as well! I have no wish to do business with you! If you ever thought I did, it was a...amisapprehension! " He seized upon this last word as though upon a prize, and nearly shouted it out.

Eddie clasped his hands more tightly yet. He had never been more aware of the gun he was wearing; it had gained a kind of balefully lively weight. He reeked with sweat; he could smell it. And now drops of blood began to ooze out from between his palms and fall to the floor. He could feel his teeth beginning to sink into his tongue. Well, it was certainly a way to forget the pain in one's leg. Eddie decided to give the tongue in question another brief conditional parole.

"What I remember most clearly about my visit to you - "

"You have some books that belong to me," Tower said. "I want them back. Iinsist on - "

"Shut up, Cal," Deepneau said.

"What?"Tower did not sound wounded now; he sounded shocked. Almost breathless.

"Stop squirming. You've earned this scolding, and you know it. If you're lucky, a scolding is all it will be. So shut up and for once in your life take it like a man."

"Hear him very well," Roland said in a tone of dry approval.

"What I remember most clearly," Eddie pushed on, "is how horrified you were by what I told Jack - about how I and my friends would fill Grand Army Plaza with corpses if he didn't lay off. Some of them women and children. You didn't like that, but do you know what, Cal? Jack Andolini's here, right now, in East Stoneham."

"Youlie! " Tower said. He drew in breath as he said it, turning the words into an inhaled scream.

"God," Eddie replied, "if only I did. I saw two innocent women die, Cal. In the general store, this was. Andolini set an ambush, and if you were a praying man - I suppose you're not, unless there's some first edition you feel in danger of losing, but if you were - you might want to get down on your knees and pray to the god of selfish, obsessed, greedy, uncaring dishonest bookstore owners that it was a woman namedMia who told Balazar's dinh where we were probably going to end up,her, not you. Because if they followedyou, Calvin, those two women's blood is onyour hands! "

His voice was rising steadily, and although Eddie was still looking steadfastly down, his whole body had begun to tremble. He could feel his eyes bulging in their sockets and the cords of strain standing out on his neck. He could feel his balls drawn all the way up, as small and as hard as peach-pits. Most of all he could feel the desire to spring across the room, as effortless as a ballet dancer, and bury his hands in Calvin Tower's fat white throat. He was waiting for Roland to intervene - hopingfor Roland to intervene - but the gunslinger did not, and Eddie's voice continued to rise toward the inevitable scream of fury.

"One of those women went right down but the other...she stayed up for a couple of seconds. A bullet took off the top of her head. I think it was a machine-gun bullet, and for the couple of seconds she stayed on her feet, she looked like a volcano. Only she was blowing blood instead of lava. Well, but it was probably Mia who ratted. I've got a feeling about that. It's not entirely logical, but luckily for you, it'sstrong. Mia using what Susannah knew and protecting her chap."

"Mia? Young man - Mr. Dean - I know no - "

"Shut up!" Eddie cried. "Shut up, you rat! You lying, reneging weasel! You greedy, grasping, piggy excuse for a man! Why didn't you take out a few billboards? H I, I'M CAL TOWER ! I' M STAYING ON THE ROCKET ROAD IN EAST STONEHAM! W HY DON ' T YOU COME SEE ME AND MY FRIEND, AARON! B RING GUNS! "

Slowly, Eddie looked up. Tears of rage were rolling down his face. Tower had backed up against the wall to one side of the door, his eyes huge and moist in his round face. Sweat stood out on his brow. He held his bag of freshly acquired books against his chest like a shield.

Eddie looked at him steadily. Blood dripped from between his tightly clasped hands; the spot of blood on the arm of his shirt had begun to spread again; now a trickle of blood ran from the left side of his mouth, as well. And he supposed he understood Roland's silence. This was Eddie Dean's job. Because he knew Tower inside as well as out, didn't he? Knew him very well. Once upon a time not so long ago hadn't he himself thought everything in the world but heroin pale and unimportant? Hadn't he believed everything in the world that wasn't heroin up for barter or sale? Had he not come to a point when he would literally have pimped his own mother in order to get the next fix? Wasn't that why he was so angry?

"That lot on the corner of Second Avenue and Forty-sixth Street was never yours," Eddie said. "Not your father's, or his father's, all the way back to Stefan Toren. You were only custodians, the same way I'm custodian of the gun I wear."

"I deny that!"

"Do you?" Aaron asked. "How strange. I've heard you speak of that piece of land in almost those exact words - "

"Aaron, shut up!"

" - many times," Deepneau finished calmly.

There was a pop. Eddie jumped, sending a fresh throb of pain up his leg from the hole in his shin. It was a match. Roland was lighting another cigarette. The filter lay on the oilcloth covering the table with two others. They looked like little pills.

"Here is what you said to me," Eddie said, and all at once he was calm. The rage was out of him, like poison drawn from a snakebite. Roland had let him do that much, and despite his bleeding tongue and bleeding palms, he was grateful.

"Anything I said...I was under stress...I was afraid you might kill me yourself!"

"You said you had an envelope from March of 1846. You said there was a sheet of paper in the envelope, and a name written on the paper. You said - "

"I deny - "

"You said that if I could tell you the name written on that piece of paper, you'd sell me the lot. For one dollar. And with the understanding that you'd be getting a great deal more - millions - between now and...1985, let's say."

Tower barked a laugh. "Why not offer me the Brooklyn Bridge while you're at it?"

"You made a promise. And now your father watches you attempt to break it."

Calvin Tower shrieked:"I DENY EVERY WORD YOU SAY!"

"Deny and be damned," Eddie said. "And now I'm going to tell you something, Cal, something I know from my own beat-up but still beating heart. You're eating a bitter meal. You don't know that because someone told you it was sweet and your own tastebuds are numb."

"I have no idea what you're talking about! You're crazy!"

"No," Aaron said. "He's not. You're the one who's crazy if you don't listen to him. I think...I think he's giving you a chance to redeem the purpose of your life."

"Give it up," Eddie said. "Just once listen to the better angel instead of to the other one. That other one hates you, Cal. It only wants to kill you. Believe me, I know."

Silence in the cabin. From the pond came the cry of a loon. From across it came the less lovely sound of sirens.

Calvin Tower licked his lips and said, "Are you telling the truth about Andolini? Is he really in this town?"

"Yes," Eddie said. Now he could hear thewhuppa-whuppa-whup of an approaching helicopter. A TV news chopper? Wasn't this still about five years too early for such things, especially up here in the boondocks?

The bookstore owner's eyes shifted to Roland. Tower had been surprised, and he'd been guilt-tripped with a vengeance, but the man was already regaining some of his composure. Eddie could see it, and he reflected (not for the first time) on how much simpler life would be if people would stay in the pigeonholes where you originally put them. He did not want to waste time thinking of Calvin Tower as a brave man, or as even second cousin to the good guys, but maybe he was both those things. Damn him.

"You're truly Roland of Gilead?"

Roland regarded him through rising membranes of cigarette smoke. "You say true, I say thank ya."

"Roland of the Eld?"

"Yes."

"Son of Steven?"

"Yes."

"Grandson of Alaric?"

Roland's eyes flickered with what was probably surprise. Eddie himself was surprised, but what he mostly felt was a kind of tired relief. The questions Tower was asking could mean only two things. First, more had been passed down to him than just Roland's name and trade of hand. Second, he was coming around.

"Of Alaric, aye," Roland said, "him of the red hair."

"I don't know anything about his hair, but I know why he went to Garlan. Do you?"

"To slay a dragon."

"And did he?"

"No, he was too late. The last in that part of the world had been slain by another king, one who was later murdered."

Now, to Eddie's even greater surprise, Tower haltingly addressed Roland in a language that was a second cousin to English at best. What Eddie heard was something likeHad heet Rol-uh, fa heet gun, fa heet hak, fa-had gun?

Roland nodded and replied in the same tongue, speaking slowly and carefully. When he was finished, Tower sagged against the wall and dropped his bag of books unheeded to the floor. "I've been a fool," he said.

No one contradicted him.

"Roland, would you step outside with me? I need...I...need..." Tower began to cry. He said something else in that not-English language, once more ending on a rising inflection, as if asking a question.

Roland got up without replying. Eddie also got up, wincing at the pain in his leg. There was a slug in there, all right, he could feel it. He grabbed Roland's arm, pulled him down, and whispered in the gunslinger's ear: "Don't forget that Tower and Deepneau have an appointment at the Turtle Bay Washateria, four years from now. Tell him Forty-seventh Street, between Second and First. He probably knows the place. Tower and Deepneau were...are...will bethe ones who save Don Callahan's life. I'm almost sure of it."

Roland nodded, then crossed to Tower, who initially cringed away and then straightened with a conscious effort. Roland took his hand in the way of the Calla, and led him outside.

When they were gone, Eddie said to Deepneau, "Draw up the contract. He's selling."

Deepneau regarded him skeptically. "You really think so?"

"Yeah," Eddie said. "I really do."

Seven

Drawing the contract didn't take long. Deepneau found a pad in the kitchen (there was a cartoon beaver on top of each sheet, and the legend DAM IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO ) and wrote it on that, pausing every now and then to ask Eddie a question.

When they were finished, Deepneau looked at Eddie's sweat-shiny face and said, "I have some Percocet tablets. Would you like some?"

"You bet," Eddie said. If he took them now, he thought - hoped - he would be ready for what he wanted Roland to do when Roland got back. The bullet was still in there, in there for sure, and it had to come out. "How about four?"

Deepneau's eyes measured him.

"I know what I'm doing," Eddie said. Then added: "Unfortunately."

Eight

Aaron found a couple of children's Band-Aids in the cabin's medicine chest (Snow White on one, Bambi on another) and put them over the hole in Eddie's arm after pouring another shot of disinfectant into the wound's entry and exit points. Then, while drawing a glass of water to go with the painkillers, he asked Eddie where he came from. "Because," he said, "although you wear that gun with authority, you sound a lot more like Cal and me than you do him."

Eddie grinned. "There's a perfectly good reason for that. I grew up in Brooklyn. Co-Op City." And thought:Suppose I were to tell you that I'm there right now, as a matter of fact? Eddie Dean, the world's horniest fifteen-year-old, running wild in the streets? For that Eddie Dean, the most important thing in the world is getting laid. Such things as the fall of the Dark Tower and some ultimate baddie named the Crimson King won't bother me for another -

Then he saw the way Aaron Deepneau was looking at him and came out of his own head in a hurry. "What? Have I got a booger hanging out of my nose, or something?"

"Co-Op City's not in Brooklyn," Deepneau said. He spoke as one does to a small child. "Co-Op City's in the Bronx. Always has been."

"That's - " Eddie began, meaning to addridiculous, but before he could get it out, the world seemed to waver on its axis. Again he was overwhelmed by that sense of fragility, that sense of the entire universe (or an entirecontinuum of universes) made of crystal instead of steel. There was no way to speak rationally of what he was feeling, because there was nothing rational about what was happening.

"There are more worlds than these," he said. "That was what Jake told Roland just before he died. 'Go, then - there are other worlds than these.' And he must have been right, because he came back."

"Mr. Dean?" Deepneau looked concerned. "I don't understand what you're talking about, but you've come over very pale. I think you should sit down."

Eddie allowed himself to be led back into the cabin's combination kitchen and sitting room. Did he himself understand what he was talking about? Or how Aaron Deepneau - presumably a lifelong New Yorker - could assert with such casual assurance that Co-Op City was in the Bronx when Eddie knew it to be in Brooklyn?

Not entirely, but he understood enough to scare the hell out of him. Other worlds. Perhaps an infinite number of worlds, all of them spinning on the axle that was the Tower. All of them were similar, but therewere differences. Different politicians on the currency. Different makes of automobiles - Takuro Spirits instead of Datsuns, for instance - and different major league baseball teams. In these worlds, one of which had been decimated by a plague called the superflu, you could time-hop back and forth, past and future. Because...

Because in some vital way, they aren't the real world. Or if they're real, they're not the key world.

Yes, that felt closer. He had come from one of those other worlds, he was convinced of it. So had Susannah. And Jakes One and Two, the one who had fallen and the one who had been literally pulled out of the monster's mouth and saved.

But this world was the key world. And he knew it because he was a key-makerby trade:Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, not to worry, you've got the key.

Beryl Evans? Not quite real. Claudia y Inez Bachman? Real.

World with Co-Op City in Brooklyn? Not quite real. World with Co-Op City in the Bronx? Real, hard as it was to swallow.

And he had an idea that Callahan had crossed over from the real world to one of the others long before he had embarked on his highways in hiding; had crossed without even knowing it. He'd said something about officiating at some little boy's funeral, and how, after that...

"After that he said everything changed," Eddie said as he sat down. "Thateverything changed. "

"Yes, yes," Aaron Deepneau said, patting him on the shoulder. "Sit quietly now."

"Pere went from a seminary in Boston to Lowell, real. 'Salem's Lot, not real. Made up by a writer named - "

"I'm going to get a cold compress for your forehead."

"Good idea," Eddie said, closing his eyes. His mind was whirling. Real, not real. Live, Memorex. John Cullum's retired professor friend was right: the column of truthdid have a hole in it.



Eddie wondered if anyone knew how deep that hole went.

Nine

It was a different Calvin Tower who came back to the cabin with Roland fifteen minutes later, a quiet and chastened Calvin Tower. He asked Deepneau if Deepneau had written a bill of sale, and when Deepneau nodded, Tower said nothing, only nodded back. He went to the fridge and returned with several cans of Blue Ribbon beer and handed them around. Eddie refused, not wanting to put alcohol on top of the Percs.

Tower did not offer a toast, but drank off half his beer at a single go. "It isn't every day I get called the scum of the earth by a man who promises to make me a millionaire and also to relieve me of my heart's heaviest burden. Aaron, will this thing stand up in court?"

Aaron Deepneau nodded. Rather regretfully, Eddie thought.

"All right, then," Tower said. Then, after a pause: "All right, let's do it." But still he didn't sign.

Roland spoke to him in that other language. Tower flinched, then signed his name in a quick scrawl, his lips tucked into a line so narrow his mouth seemed almost not to be there. Eddie signed for the Tet Corporation, marveling at how strange the pen felt in his hand - he couldn't remember when last he had held one.

When the thing was done, sai Tower reverted - looked at Eddie and cried in a cracked voice that was almost a shriek, "There! I'm a pauper! Give me my dollar! I'm promised a dollar! I feel a need to take a shit coming on and I need something to wipe my ass with!"

Then he put his hands over his face. He sat like that for several seconds, while Roland folded the signed paper (Deepneau had witnessed both signatures) and put it in his pocket.

When Tower lowered his hands again, his eyes were dry and his face was composed. There even seemed to be a touch of color in his formerly ashy cheeks. "I think I actually do feel a little better," he said. He turned to Aaron. "Do you suppose these twocockuhs might be right?"

"I think it's a real possibility," Aaron said, smiling.

Eddie, meanwhile, had thought of a way to find out for sure if it really was these two men who would save Callahan from the Hitler Brothers - or almost for sure. One of them had said...

"Listen," he said. "There's a certain phrase, Yiddish, I think.Gai cocknif en yom. Do you know what it means? Either of you?"

Deepneau threw back his head and laughed. "Yeah, it's Yiddish, all right. My Ma used to say it all the time when she was mad at us. It means go shit in the ocean."

Eddie nodded at Roland. In the next couple of years, one of these men - probably Tower - would buy a ring with the wordsEx Libris carved into it. Maybe - how crazy wasthis  - because Eddie Dean himself had put the idea into Cal Tower's head. And Tower - selfish, acquisitive, miserly, book-greedy Calvin Tower - would save Father Callahan's life while that ring was on his finger. He was going to be shit-scared (Deepneau, too), but he was going to do it. And -

At that point Eddie happened to look at the pen with which Tower had signed the bill of sale, a perfectly ordinary Bic Clic, and the enormous truth of what had just happened struck home. They owned it. They owned the vacant lot.They, not the Sombra Corporation.They owned the rose!

He felt as if he'd just taken a hard shot to the head. The rose belonged to the Tet Corporation, which was the firm of Deschain, Dean, Dean, Chambers & Oy. It was now their responsibility, for better or for worse. This round they had won. Which did not change the fact that he had a bullet in his leg.

"Roland," he said, "there's something you have to do for me."

Ten

Five minutes later Eddie lay on the cabin's linoleum floor in his ridiculous knee-length Calla Bryn Sturgis underbritches. In one hand he held a leather belt which had spent its previous life holding up various pairs of Aaron Deepneau's pants. Beside him was a basin filled with a dark brown fluid.

The hole in his leg was about three inches below his knee and a little bit to the right of the shinbone. The flesh around it had risen up in a hard little cone. This miniature volcano's caldera was currently plugged with a shiny red-purple clot of blood. Two folded towels had been laid beneath Eddie's calf.

"Are you going to hypnotize me?" he asked Roland. Then he looked at the belt he was holding and knew the answer. "Ah, shit, you're not, are you?"

"No time." Roland had been rummaging in the junk-drawer to the left of the sink. Now he approached Eddie with a pair of pliers in one hand and a paring knife in the other. Eddie thought they made an exceedingly ugly combo.

The gunslinger dropped to one knee beside him. Tower and Deepneau stood in the living area, side by side, watching with big eyes. "There was a thing Cort told us when we were boys," Roland said. "Will I tell it to you, Eddie?"

"If you think it'll help, sure."

"Pain rises. From the heart to the head, pain rises. Double up sai Aaron's belt and put it in your mouth."

Eddie did as Roland said, feeling very foolish and very scared. In how many Western movies had he seen a version of this scene? Sometimes John Wayne bit a stick and sometimes Clint Eastwood bit a bullet, and he believed that in some TV show or other, Robert Culp had actually bitten a belt.

But of course we have to remove the bullet,Eddie thought.No story of this type would be complete without at least one scene where -

A sudden memory, shocking in its brilliance, struck him and the belt tumbled from his mouth. He actually cried out.

Roland had been about to dip his rude operating instruments in the basin, which held the rest of the disinfectant. Now he looked at Eddie, concerned. "What is it?"

For a moment Eddie couldn't reply. His breath was quite literally gone, his lungs as flat as old inner tubes. He was remembering a movie the Dean boys had watched one afternoon on TV in their apartment, the one in

(Brooklyn)

(the Bronx)

Co-Op City. Henry mostly got to pick what they watched because he was bigger and older. Eddie didn't protest too often or too much; he idolized his big brother. (When hedid protest too much he was apt to get the old Indian Rope Burn or maybe a Dutch Rub up the back of his neck.) What Henry liked was Westerns. The sort of movies where, sooner or later, some character had to bite the stick or belt or bullet.

"Roland," he said. His voice was just a faint wheeze to start with. "Roland, listen."

"I hear you very well."

"There was a movie. I told you about movies, right?"

"Stories told in moving pictures."

"Sometimes Henry and I used to stay in and watch them on TV. Television's basically a home movie-machine."

"A shit-machine, some would say," Tower put in.

Eddie ignored him. "One of the movies we watched was about these Mexican peasants - folken,if it does ya - who hired some gunslingers to protect them from thebandidos who came every year to raid their village and steal their crops. Does any of this ring a bell?"

Roland looked at him with gravity and what might have been sadness. "Yes. Indeed it does."

"And the name of Tian's village. I always knew it sounded familiar, but I didn't know why. Now I do. The movie was calledThe Magnificent Seven, and just by the way, Roland, how many of us were in the ditch that day, waiting for the Wolves?"

"Would you boys mind telling us what you're talking about?" Deepneau asked. But although he asked politely, both Roland and Eddie ignored him, too.

Roland took a moment to cull his memory, then said: "You, me, Susannah, Jake, Margaret, Zalia, and Rosa. There were more - the Tavery twins and Ben Slightman's boy - but seven fighters."

"Yes. And the link I couldn't quite make was to the movie's director. When you're making a movie, you need a director to run things. He's the dinh."

Roland nodded.

"The dinh ofThe Magnificent Seven was a man named John Sturges."

Roland sat a moment longer, thinking. Then he said: "Ka."

Eddie burst out laughing. He simply couldn't help it. Roland always had the answer.

Eleven

"In order to catch the pain," Roland said, "you have to clamp down on the belt at the instant you feel it. Do you understand?The very instant. Pin it with your teeth."

"Gotcha. Just make it quick."

"I'll do the best I can."

Roland dipped first the pliers and then the knife into the disinfectant. Eddie waited with the belt in his mouth, lying across his teeth. Yes, once you saw the basic pattern, you couldn't unsee it, could you? Roland was the hero of the piece, the grizzled old warrior who'd be played by some grizzled but vital star like Paul Newman or maybe Eastwood in the Hollywood version. He himself was the young buck, played by the hot young boy star of the moment. Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, someone like that. And here's a set we all know, a cabin in the woods, and a situation we've seen many times before but still relish, Pulling the Bullet. All that was missing was the ominous sound of drums in the distance. And, Eddie realized, probably the drums were missing because they'd already been through the Ominous Drums part of the story: the god-drums. They had turned out to be an amplified version of a Z.Z. Top song being broadcast through streetcorner speakers in the City of Lud. Their situation was becoming ever harder to deny:they were characters in someone's story. This whole world -

I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that I was raised in Brooklyn simply because of some writer's mistake, something that will eventually be fixed in the second draft. Hey, Pere, I'm with you - I refuse to believe I'm acharacter.This is my fucking life!

"Go on, Roland," he said. "Get that thing outta me."

The gunslinger poured some of the disinfectant from the bowl over Eddie's shin, then used the tip of the knife to flick the clot out of the wound. With that done, he lowered the pliers. "Be ready to bite the pain, Eddie," he murmured, and a moment later Eddie did.

Twelve

Roland knew what he was doing, had done it before, and the bullet hadn't gone deep. The whole thing was over in ninety seconds, but it was the longest minute and a half in Eddie's life. At last Roland tapped the pliers on one of Eddie's closed hands. When Eddie managed to unroll his fingers, the gunslinger dropped a flattened slug into it. "Souvenir," he said. "Stopped right on the bone. That was the scraping that you heard."

Eddie looked at the mashed piece of lead, then flicked it across the linoleum floor like a marble. "Don't want it," he said, and wiped his brow.

Tower, ever the collector, picked up the cast-off slug. Deepneau, meanwhile, was examining the toothmarks in his belt with silent fascination.

"Cal," Eddie said, getting up on his elbows. "You had a book in your case - "

"I want those books back," Tower said immediately. "You better be taking care of them, young man."

"I'm sure they're in great condition," Eddie said, telling himself once more to bite his tongue if he had to.Or grab Aaron's belt and bite that again, if your tongue won't do.

"They better be, young man; now they're all I have left."

"Yes, along with the forty or so in your various safe deposit boxes," Aaron Deepneau said, completely ignoring the vile look his friend shot him. "The signedUlysses is probably the best, but there are several gorgeous Shakespeare folios, a complete set of signed Faulkners - "

"Aaron, would you please be quiet?"

" - and aHuckleberry Finn that you could turn into a Mercedes-Benz sedan any day of the week," Deepneau finished.

"In any case, one of them was a book called'Salem's Lot, " Eddie said. "By a man named - "

"Stephen King," Tower finished. He gave the slug a final look, then put it on the kitchen table next to the sugarbowl. "I've been told he lives close to here. I've picked up two copies ofLot and also three copies of his first novel,Carrie. I was hoping to take a trip to Bridgton and get them signed. I suppose now that won't happen."

"I don't understand what makes it so valuable," Eddie said, and then: "Ouch, Roland, that hurts!"

Roland was checking the makeshift bandage around the wound in Eddie's leg. "Be still," he said.

Tower paid no attention to this. Eddie had turned him once more in the direction of his favorite subject, his obsession, his darling. What Eddie supposed Gollum in the Tolkien books would have called "his precious."

"Do you remember what I told you when we were discussingThe Hogan, Mr. Dean? OrThe Dogan, if you prefer? I said that the value of a rare book - like that of a rare coin or a rare stamp - is created in different ways. Sometimes it's just an autograph - "

"Your copy of'Salem's Lot isn't signed."

"No, because this particular author is very young and not very well known. He may amount to something one day, or he may not." Tower shrugged, almost as if to say that was up to ka. "But this particular book...well, the first edition was only seventy-five hundred copies, and almost all of them sold in New England."

"Why? Because the guy who wrote it is from New England?"

"Yes. As so often happens, the book's value was created entirely by accident. A local chain decided to promote it heavily. They even produced a TV commercial, which is almost unheard-of at the local retail level. And it worked. Bookland of Maine ordered five thousand copies of the first edition - almost seventy per cent - and sold nearly every single one. Also, as withThe Hogan, there were misprints in the front matter. Not the title, in this case, but on the flap. You can tell an authentic first of'Salem's Lot by the clipped price - at the last minute, Doubleday decided to raise the price from seven-ninety-five to eight-ninety-five - and by the name of the priest in the flap copy."

Roland looked up. "What about the name of the priest?"

"In the book, it's Father Callahan. But on the flap someone wrote FatherCody, which is actually the name of the town's doctor."

"And that's all it took to bump the price of a copy from nine bucks to nine hundred and fifty," Eddie marveled.

Tower nodded. "That's all - scarcity, clipped flap, mis-print. But there's also an element of speculation in collecting rare editions which I find...quite exciting."

"That's one word for it," Deepneau said dryly.

"For instance, suppose this man King becomes famous or critically acclaimed? I admit the chances are small, but suppose that did happen? Available first editions of his second book are so rare that, instead of being worth seven hundred and fifty dollars, my copy might be worth ten times that." He frowned at Eddie. "So you'd better be taking good care of it."

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Eddie said, and wondered what Calvin Tower would think if he knew that one of the book's characters had it on a shelf in his arguably fictional rectory. Said rectory in a town that was the fraternal twin of one in an old movie starring Yul Brynner as Roland's twin, and introducing Horst Buchholz as Eddie's.

He'd think you were crazy, that's what he'd think.

Eddie got to his feet, swayed a little, and gripped the kitchen table. After a few moments the world steadied.

"Can you walk on it?" Roland asked.

"I was before, wasn't I?"

"No one was digging around in there before."

Eddie took a few experimental steps, then nodded. His shin flared with pain each time he shifted his weight to his right leg, but yes - he could walk on it.

"I'll give you the rest of my Percocet," Aaron said. "I can get more."

Eddie opened his mouth to say yeah, sure, bring it on, and then saw Roland looking at him. If Eddie said yes to Deepneau's offer, the gunslinger wouldn't speak up and cause Eddie to lose face...but yes, his dinh was watching.

Eddie thought of the speech he'd made to Tower, all that poetic stuff about how Calvin was eating a bitter meal. It was true, poetic or not. But that apparently wouldn't stop Eddie from sitting back down to that same dinner himself. First a few Percodan, then a few Percocet. Both of them too much like horse for comfort. So how long would it be before he got tired of kissing his sister and started looking for somereal pain relief?

"I think I'll skip the Percs," Eddie said. "We're going to Bridgton - "

Roland looked at him, surprised. "We are?"

"We are. I can pick up some aspirin on the way."

"Astin," Roland said, with unmistakable affection.

"Are you sure?" Deepneau asked.

"Yeah," Eddie said. "I am." He paused, then added: "Say sorry."

Thirteen

Five minutes later the four of them stood in the needle-carpeted dooryard, listening to sirens and looking at the smoke, which had now begun to thin. Eddie was bouncing the keys to John Cullum's Ford impatiently in one hand. Roland had asked him twice if this trip to Bridgton was necessary, and Eddie had told him twice that he was almost sure it was. The second time he'd added (almost hopefully) that as dinh, Roland could overrule him, if he wished.

"No. If you think we should go see this tale-spinner, we will. I only wish you knewwhy. "

"I think that when we get there, we'll both understand."

Roland nodded, but still looked dissatisfied. "I know you're as anxious as I am to leave this world - this level of the Tower. For you to want to go against that, your intuition must be strong."

It was, but there was something else, as well: he'd heard from Susannah again, the message once more coming from her version of the Dogan. She was a prisoner in her own body - at least Eddiethought that was what she was trying to tell him - but she was in the year 1999 and she was all right.

This had happened while Roland was thanking Tower and Deepneau for their help. Eddie was in the bathroom. He'd gone in to take a leak, but suddenly forgot all about that and simply sat on the toilet's closed lid, head bent, eyes closed. Trying to send a message back to her. Trying to tell her to slow Mia down if she possibly could. He'd gotten the sense of daylight from her - New York in the afternoon - and that was bad. Jake and Callahan had gone through the Unfound Door into New York at night; this Eddie had seen with his own eyes. They might be able to help her, but only if she could slow Mia down.

Burn up the day,he sent to Susannah...or tried to.You have to burn up the day before she takes you to wherever she's supposed to have the kid. Do you hear me? Suze, do you hear me? Answer if you hear me! Jake and Pere Callahan are coming and you have to hold on!

June,a sighing voice had replied.June of 1999. The girls walk around with their bellies showing and -

Then came Roland's knock on the bathroom door, and Roland's voice asking if Eddie was ready to roll. Before the day was over they'd make their way to Turtleback Lane in the town of Lovell - a place where walk-ins were common, according to John Cullum, and reality was apt to be correspondingly thin - but first they were going to make a trip to Bridgton, and hopefully meet the man who seemed to have created Donald Callahan and the town of 'Salem's Lot.

Be a hoot if King was out in California, writing the movie version, or something,Eddie thought, but he didn't believe that was going to be the case. They were still on the Path of the Beam, in the way of ka. So, presumably, was sai King.

"You boys want to take it very easy," Deepneau told them. "There are going to be a lot of cops around. Not to mention Jack Andolini and whatever remains of his merry band."

"Speaking of Andolini," Roland said, "I think the time has come for the two of you to go somewhere he isn't."

Tower bristled. Eddie could have predicted it. "Gonow? You must be joking! I have a list of almost a dozen people in the area who collect books - buy, sell, trade. Some know what they're doing, but others..." He made a clipping gesture, as if shearing an invisible sheep.

"There'll be people selling old books out of their barns over in Vermont, too," Eddie said. "And you want to remember how easy it was for us to find you. It was you who made it easy, Cal."

"He's right," Aaron said, and when Calvin Tower made no reply, only turned his sulky face down to regard his shoes, Deepneau looked at Eddie again. "But at least Cal and I have driver's licenses to show, should we be stopped by the local or the state police. I'm guessing neither of you do."

"That would be correct," Eddie said.

"And I very much doubt if you could show a permit to carry those frighteningly large handguns, either."

Eddie glanced down at the big - and incredibly ancient - revolver riding just below his hip, then looked back up at Deepneau, amused. "That would also be correct," he said.

"Then be careful. You'll be leaving East Stoneham, so you'll probably be okay if you are."

"Thanks," Eddie said, and stuck out his hand. "Long days and pleasant nights."

Deepneau shook. "That's a lovely thing to say, son, but I'm afraid my nights haven't been especially pleasant just lately, and if things on the medical front don't take a turn for the better soon, my days aren't apt to be especially long, either."

"They're going to be longer than you might think," Eddie said. "I have good reason to believe you've got at least another four years in you."

Deepneau touched a finger to his lips, then pointed at the sky. "From the mouth of man to the ear of God."

Eddie swung to Calvin Tower while Roland shook hands with Deepneau. For a moment Eddie didn't think the bookstore owner was going to shake with him, but at last he did. Grudgingly.

"Long days and pleasant nights, sai Tower. You did the right thing."

"I was coerced and you know it," Tower said. "Store gone...property gone...about to be run off the first real vacation I've had in ten years..."

"Microsoft," Eddie said abruptly. And then: "Lemons."

Tower blinked. "Beg pardon?"

"Lemons," Eddie repeated, and then he laughed out loud.

Fourteen

Toward the end of his mostly useless life, the great sage and eminent junkie Henry Dean had enjoyed two things above all others: getting stoned; getting stoned and talking about how he was going to make a killing in the stock market. In investment matters, he considered himself a regular E. F. Hutton.

"One thing I would most definitelynot invest in, bro," Henry told him once when they were up on the roof. Not long before Eddie's trip to the Bahamas as a cocaine mule, this had been. "One thing I would most apple-solutelynot sink my money into is all this computer shit, Microsoft, Macintosh, Sanyo, Sankyo, Pentium, all that."

"Seems pretty popular," Eddie had ventured. Not that he'd much cared, but what the hell, it was a conversation. "Microsoft, especially. The coming thing."

Henry had laughed indulgently and made jacking-off gestures. "My prick, that's the coming thing."

"But - "

"Yeah, yeah, I know, people'reflocking to that crap. Driving all the prices up. And when I observe that action, do you know what I see?"

"No, what?"

"Lemons!"

"Lemons?" Eddie had asked. He'd thought he was following Henry, but he guessed he was lost, after all. Of course the sunset had been amazing that evening, and he had been most colossally fucked up.

"You heard me!" Henry had said, warming to the subject. "Fuckin lemons! Didn't they teach you anything in school, bro? Lemons are these little animals that live over in Switzerland, or someplace like that. And every now and then - I think it's every ten years, I'm not sure - they get suicidal and throw themselves over the cliffs."

"Oh," Eddie said, biting hard on the inside of his cheek to keep from bursting into mad cackles. "Thoselemons. I thought you meant the ones you use to make lemonade."

"Fuckin wank," Henry said, but he spoke with the indulgent good nature the great and eminent sometimes reserve for the small and uninformed. "Anyway, mypoint is that all these people who are flockin to invest in Microsoft and Macintosh and, I don't know, fuckin Nervous Norvus Speed Dial Chips, all they're gonna do is make Bill Fuckin Gates and Steve Fuckin Jobs-a-rino rich. This computer shit is gonna crash and burn by 1995, all the experts say so, and the people investin in it? Fuckin lemons, throwin themselves over the cliffs and into the fuckin ocean."

"Just fuckin lemons," Eddie agreed, and sprawled back on the still-warm roof so Henry wouldn't see how close he was to losing it entirely. He was seeing billions of Sunkist lemons trotting toward these high cliffs, all of them wearing red jogging shorts and little white sneakers, like M&Ms in a TV ad.

"Yeah, but I wish I'd gotten into that fuckin Microsoft in '82," Henry said. "Do you realize that shares that were sellin for fifteen bucks back then are now sellin for thirty-five? Oh, man!"

"Lemons," Eddie had said dreamily, watching the sunset's colors begin to fade. At that point he'd had less than a month to live in his world - the one where Co-Op City was in Brooklyn and always had been - and Henry had less than a month to live, period.

"Yeah," Henry had said, lying down beside him, "but man, I wish I coulda gotten in back in '82."

Fifteen

Now, still holding Tower's hand, he said: "I'm from the future. You know that, don't you?"

"I know thathe says you are, yes." Tower jerked his head toward Roland, then tried to pull his hand free. Eddie held on.

"Listen to me, Cal. If you listen and then act on what I tell you, you can earn what that vacant lot of yours would be worth on the real estate market five, maybe even ten times over."

"Big talk from a man who isn't even wearing socks," Tower said, and once again tried to pull his hand free. Again Eddie held it. Once he supposed he wouldn't have been able to do that, but his hands were stronger now. So was his will.

"Big talk from a man who's seen the future," he corrected. "And the future is computers, Cal. The future is Microsoft. Can you remember that?"

"Ican," Aaron said. "Microsoft."

"Never heard of it," Tower said.

"No," Eddie agreed, "I don't think it even exists yet. But it will, soon, and it's going to be huge. Computers, okay? Computers for everybody, or at least that was the plan.Will be the plan. The guy in charge is Bill Gates. Always Bill, never William."

It occurred to him briefly that since this world was different from the one in which he and Jake had grown up - the world of Claudia y Inez Bachman instead of Beryl Evans - that maybe the big computer genius herewouldn't be Gates; could be someone named Chin Ho Fuk, for all Eddie knew. But he also knew that wasn't likely. This world was very close to his: same cars, same brand names (Coke and Pepsi rather than Nozz-A-La), same people on the currency. He thought he could count on Bill Gates (not to mention Steve Jobs-a-rino) showing up when he was supposed to.

In one way, he didn't even care. Calvin Tower was in many respects a total shithead. On the other hand, Tower had stood up to Andolini and Balazar for as long as he had to. He'd held onto the vacant lot. And now Roland had the bill of sale in his pocket. They owed Tower a fair return for what he'd sold them. It had nothing to do with how much or how little they liked the guy, which was probably a good thing for old Cal.

"This Microsoft stuff," Eddie said, "you can pick it up for fifteen dollars a share in 1982. By 1987 - which is when I sort of went on permanent vacation - those shares will be worth thirty-five apiece. That's a hundred per cent gain. A little more."

"Says you," Tower said, and finally succeeded in pulling his hand free.

"If he says so," Roland said, "it's the truth."

"Say thanks," Eddie said. It occurred to him that he was suggesting that Tower take a fairly big leap based on a stone junkie's observations, but he thought that in this case he could do that.

"Come on," Roland said, and made that twirling gesture with his fingers. "If we're going to see the writer, let's go."

Eddie slid behind the wheel of Cullum's car, suddenly sure that he would never see either Tower or Aaron Deepneau again. With the exception of Pere Callahan, none of them would. The partings had begun.

"Do well," he said to them. "May ya do well."

"And you," Deepneau said.

"Yes," Tower said, and for once he didn't sound a bit grudging. "Good luck to you both. Long days and happy nights, or whatever it is."

There was just room to turn around without backing, and Eddie was glad - he wasn't quite ready for reverse, at least not yet.

As Eddie drove back toward the Rocket Road, Roland looked over his shoulder and waved. This was highly unusual behavior for him, and the knowledge must have shown on Eddie's face.

"It's the end-game now," Roland said. "All I've worked for and waited for all the long years. The end is coming. I feel it. Don't you?"

Eddie nodded. It was like that point in a piece of music when all the instruments begin rushing toward some inevitable crashing climax.

"Susannah?" Roland asked.

"Still alive."

"Mia?"

"Still in control."

"The baby?"

"Still coming."

"And Jake? Father Callahan?"

Eddie stopped at the road, looked both ways, then made his turn.

"No," he said. "From them I haven't heard. What about you?"

Roland shook his own head. From Jake, somewhere in the future with just an ex-Catholic priest and a billy-bumbler for protection, there was only silence. Roland hoped the boy was all right.

For the time being, he could do no more.

STAVE: Commala-me-mine

You have to walk the line.

When you finally get the thing you need

It makes you feel so fine.

RESPONSE: Commala-come-nine!

It makes ya feel fine!

But if you'd have the thing you need

You have to walk the line.

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