Black House - Chapter Sixteen



6:45 P.M. FRENCH LANDING is fogged out, fagged out, and uneasy in its heart, but quiet. The quiet won't last. Once it has started, slippage never stops for long.

At Maxton's, Chipper has stayed late, and considering the leisurely (and really quite sensational) blow job being administered to him by Rebecca Vilas as he sits sprawled in his office chair, his decision to put in a little overtime isn't that surprising.

In the common room, the old folks sit transfixed by Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music. Alice Weathers is actually crying with happiness ¡ª Music is her all-time favorite movie. Singin' in the Rain comes close, but close never won the cigar. Among those MEC inmates who are ambulatory, only Burny is missing . . . except no one here misses him at all. Burny is deep in sleep. The spirit that now controls him ¡ª the demon, we might as well say ¡ª has its own agenda in French Landing, and it has used Burny roughly over these last few weeks (not that Burny's complaining; he is a very willing accomplice).

On Norway Valley Road, Jack Sawyer is just pulling his Dodge Ram into Henry Leyden's driveway. The fog out here is thinner, but it still turns the truck's headlamps into soft coronas. Tonight he will recommence Bleak House at chapter 7 ("The Ghost's Walk") and hopefully reach the end of chapter 8 ("Covering a Multitude of Sins"). But before Dickens, he has promised to listen to the Wisconsin Rat's latest candidate for hot rotation, a number called "Gimme Back My Dog" by Slob-berbone.

"Every five years or so, another great rock-'n'-roll song comes break-dancing out of the woodwork," Henry has told him over the phone, and Jack's damned if he can't hear the Rat screaming around the edges of his friend's voice, popping wheelies out there on the edge of darkness. "This is a great rock-'n'-roll song."

"If you say so," Jack replies dubiously. His idea of a great rock-'n'-roll song is "Runaround Sue," by Dion.

At 16 Robin Hood Lane (that sweet little Cape Cod honey of a home), Fred Marshall is down on his hands and knees, wearing a pair of green rubber gloves and washing the floor. He's still got Tyler's baseball cap balanced on his head, and he's weeping.

Out at the Holiday Trailer Park, the Crow Gorg is dripping poison into the porches of Tansy Freneau's ears.

In the sturdy brick house on Herman Street where he lives with the beautiful Sarah and the equally beautiful David, Dale Gilbertson is just getting ready to head back to the office, his movements slightly slowed by two helpings of chicken pot pie and a dish of bread pudding. When the telephone rings, he is not terribly surprised. He's had that feeling, after all. His caller is Debbi Anderson, and from her first word he knows that something has popped.

He listens, nodding, asking an occasional question. His wife stands in the kitchen doorway, watching him with worried eyes. Dale bends and jots on the pad beside the phone. Sarah walks over and reads two names: Andy Railsback and M. Fine.

"You've still got Railsback on the line?" he asks.

"Yes, on hold ¡ª "

"Patch me in."

"Dale, I don't know if I know how to do that." Debbi sounds uncharacteristically flustered. Dale closes his eyes a moment, reminds himself that this isn't her usual job.

"Ernie's not there yet?"


"Who is?"

"Bobby Dulac . . . I think Dit might be in the shower . . ."

"Put Bobby on," Dale says, and is relieved when Bobby is able to patch him quickly and painlessly through to Andy Railsback in Morty Fine's office. The two men have been upstairs to room 314, and one look at the Polaroids scattered on the floor of George Potter's closet has been enough for Morty. He's now as pale as Andy himself. Maybe paler.

Outside the police station, Ernie Therriault and Reginald "Doc" Amberson meet in the parking lot. Doc has just arrived on his old (but perfectly maintained) Harley Fat Boy. They exchange amiable greetings in the fog. Ernie Therriault is another cop ¡ª sort of ¡ª but relax: he's the last one we'll have to meet (well, there is an FBI agent running around here someplace, but never mind him right now; he's in Madison, and he's a fool).

Ernie is a trim sixty-five, retired from full-time police duty for almost twelve years, and still four times the cop Arnold Hrabowski will ever be. He supplements his pension by doing night dispatch at the FLPD (he doesn't sleep so well these days, thanks to a cranky prostate) and pulling private security time at First Bank of Wisconsin on Fridays, when the Wells Fargo people come at two and the Brinks people at four.

Doc looks every inch the Hells Angel, with his long black-and-gray beard (which he sometimes braids with ribbons in the style of the pirate Edward Teach), and he brews beer for a living, but the two men get along very well. For one thing, they recognize each other's intelligence. Ernie doesn't know if Doc really is a doctor, but he could be. Maybe at one point he was.

"Anything changed?" Doc asks.

"Not that I know of, my friend," Ernie says. One of the Five comes by every night, in turn, to check. Tonight Doc's got the duty.

"Mind if I walk in with you?"

"Nope," Ernie said. "Just as long as you respect the rule."

Doc nods. Some of the other Fives can be pissy about the rule (especially Sonny, who's pissy about lots of stuff ), but Doc abides by it: one cup of coffee or five minutes, whichever comes first, then down the road you go. Ernie, who saw plenty of real Hells Angels when he was a cop in Phoenix back in the seventies, appreciates how deeply patient Beezer St. Pierre and his crew have been. But of course, they are not Hells Angels, or Pagans, or Beasts on Bikes, or any of that nonsense. Ernie doesn't know exactly what they are, but he knows that they listen to Beezer, and he suspects that Beezer's patience is growing thin. Ernie knows his would be by now.

"Well, then, come on in," Ernie says, clapping the big man on the shoulder. "Let's see what's shaking."

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Dale finds he is able to think quickly and clearly. His earlier fear has left him, partly because the fuckup has already happened and the case ¡ª the official case, anyway ¡ª has been taken away from him. Mostly because he knows he can now call on Jack if he needs to, and Jack will answer. Jack's his safety net.

He listens to Railsback's description of the Polaroids ¡ª mostly letting the old fella vent and settle a bit ¡ª and then asks a single question about the two photos of the boy.

"Yellow," Railsback replies with no hesitation. "The shirt was yellow. I could read the word Kiwanis on it. Nothing else. The . . . the blood . . ."

Dale says he understands, and tells Railsback an officer will join them shortly.

There is the sound of the phone shifting hands, and then Fine is in his ear ¡ª a fellow Dale knows and doesn't much care for. "What if he comes back, Chief ? What if Potter comes back here to the hotel?"

"Can you see the lobby from where you are?"

"No." Petulant. "We're in the office. I told you that."

"Then go out front. Look busy. If he comes in ¡ª "

"I don't want to do that. If you'd seen those pitchers, you wouldn't want to do it, either."

"You don't have to say boo to him," Dale says. "Just call if he goes by."

"But ¡ª "

"Hang up the telephone, sir. I've got a lot to do."

Sarah has put her hand on her husband's shoulder. Dale puts his free one over hers. There is a click in his ear, loud enough to sound disgruntled.

"Bobby, are you on?"

"Right here, Chief. Debbi, too, and Dit. Oh, and Ernie just walked in." He lowers his voice. "He's got one of those motorcycle boys with him. The one who calls himself Doc."

Dale thinks furiously. Ernie, Debbi, Dit, and Bobby: all in uniform. Not good for what he wants. He comes to a sudden decision and says, "Put the hogger on."


"You heard me."

A moment later he's talking to Doc Amberson. "You want to help bust the fucker who killed Armand St. Pierre's little girl?"

"Hell, yes." No hesitation.

"All right: don't ask questions and don't make me repeat myself."

"I'm listening," Doc says crisply.

"Tell Officer Dulac to give you the blue cell phone in evidence storage, the one we took off the doper who skipped. He'll know the one I mean." If anyone tries to star-69 a call originating from that phone, Dale knows, they won't be able to trace it back to his shop, and that's just as well. He is, after all, supposed to be off the case.

"Blue cell phone."

"Then walk down to Lucky's Tavern, next to the Nelson Hotel."

"I got my bike ¡ª "

"No. Walk. Go inside. Buy a lottery ticket. You'll be looking for a tall man, skinny, salt-and-pepper hair, about seventy, khaki pants, maybe a khaki shirt, too. Most likely alone. His favorite roost is between the jukebox and the little hall that goes to the johns. If he's there, call the station. Just hit 911. Got all that?"


"Go. Really shuck your buns, Doctor."

Doc doesn't even bother to say good-bye. A moment later, Bobby's back on the phone. "What are we gonna do, Dale?"

"If he's there, we're gonna take the son of a bitch," Dale says. He's still under control, but he can feel his heartbeat accelerating, really starting to crank. The world stands out before him with a brilliance that hasn't been there since the first murder. He can feel every finger of his wife's hand on his shoulder. He can smell her makeup and her hairspray. "Get Tom Lund. And lay out three of the Kevlar vests." He thinks that over, then says: "Make it four."

"You're going to call Hollywood?"

"Yeah," he says, "but we're not gonna wait for him." On that he hangs up. Because he wants to bolt, he makes himself stand still for a moment. Takes a deep breath. Lets it out, then takes another.

Sarah grasps his hands. "Be careful."

"Oh yeah," Dale says. "You can take that to the bank." He starts for the door.

"What about Jack?" she calls.

"I'll get him from the car," he says without slowing. "If God's on our side, we'll have the guy in lockup before he makes it halfway to the station."

Five minutes later, Doc is standing at the bar in Lucky's, listening to Trace Adkins sing "I Left Something Turned On at Home" and scratching a Wisconsin instant-winner ticket. It actually is a winner ¡ª ten bucks ¡ª but most of Doc's attention is focused in the direction of the juke. He bops his shaggy head a little bit, as if he's really getting off on this particular example of Shitkicker Deluxe.

Sitting at the table in the corner with a plate of spaghetti in front of him (the sauce as red as a nosebleed) and a pitcher of beer close at hand is the man he's looking for: tall even sitting down, skinny, lines grooving his tanned hound dog's face, salt-and-pepper hair neatly combed back. Doc can't really see the shirt, because the guy's got a napkin tucked into the collar, but the long leg sticking out from under the table is dressed in khaki.

If Doc was entirely sure this was the baby-killing puke who did Amy, he'd make a citizen's arrest right now ¡ª an extremely rough one. Fuck the cops and their Miranda shit. But maybe the guy's only a witness, or an accomplice, or something.

He takes his ten-spot from the bartender, turns down the suggestion that he stay for a beer, and strolls back out into the fog. Ten steps up the hill, he takes the blue cell phone from his pocket and dials 911. This time it's Debbi who answers.

"He's there," Doc says. "What next?"

"Bring the phone back," she says, and hangs up.

"Well, fuck you very much," Doc says mildly. But he'll be a good boy. He'll play by their rules. Only first ¡ª

He dials another number on the blue phone (which has one more chore to do before it passes out of our tale forever) and Bear Girl answers. "Put him on, sweetness," he says, hoping she won't tell him that Beezer's gone down to the Sand Bar. If the Beez ever goes down there alone, it'll be because he's after one thing. A bad thing.

But a moment later Beezer's voice is in his ear ¡ª rough, as if he's been crying. "Yeah? What?"

"Round 'em up and get your heavyset ass down to the police station parking lot," Doc tells him. "I'm not a hunnert percent certain, but I think they might be getting ready to nail the motherfucker done it. I might even have seen ¡ª "

Beezer is gone before Doc can get the phone off his ear and push the OFF button. He stands in the fog, looking up at the bleary lights of the French Landing cop shop, wondering why he didn't tell Beezer and the boys to meet him outside of Lucky's. He supposes he knows the answer. If Beezer got to that old guy before the cops, spaghetti might turn out to be the old guy's last meal.

Better to wait, maybe.

Wait and see.

There's nothing but a fine mist on Herman Street, but the soup thickens almost as soon as Dale turns toward downtown. He turns on his parking lights, but they're not enough. He goes to low beams, then calls Jack's. He hears the recorded announcement start, kills the call, and dials Uncle Henry's. And Uncle Henry answers. In the background, Dale can hear a howling fuzz-tone guitar and someone growling "Gimme back my dog!" over and over.

"Yes, he's just arrived," Henry allows. "We're currently in the Musical Appreciation phase of our evening. Literature to follow. We've reached a critical juncture in Bleak House ¡ª Chesney Wold, the Ghost's Walk, Mrs. Rouncewell, all of that ¡ª and so unless your need is actually urgent ¡ª "

"It is. Put him on now, Unc."

Henry sighs. "Oui, mon capitaine."

A moment later he's talking to Jack, who of course agrees to come at once. This is good, but French Landing's police chief finds some of his friend's reactions a trifle puzzling. No, Jack doesn't want Dale to hold the arrest until he arrives. Very considerate of him to ask, also very considerate of Dale to have saved him a Kevlar vest (part of the law enforcement booty showered on the FLPD and thousands of other small police departments during the Reagan years), but Jack believes Dale and his men can nab George Potter without much trouble.

The truth is, Jack Sawyer seems only slightly interested in George Potter. Ditto the horrific photos, although they must certainly be authentic; Railsback has I.D.'d Johnny Irkenham's yellow Kiwanis Little League shirt, a detail never given to the press. Even the loathsome Wen-dell Green never ferreted out that particular fact.

What Jack asks about ¡ª not once but several times ¡ª is the guy Andy Railsback saw in the hallway.

"Blue robe, one slipper, and that's all I know!" Dale is finally forced to admit. "Jesus, Jack, what does it matter? Listen, I have to get off the telephone."

"Ding-dong," Jack replies, equably enough, and rings off.

Dale turns into the foggy parking lot. He sees Ernie Therriault and the biker-brewer called Doc standing outside the back door, talking. They are little more than shadows in the drifting fog.

Dale's conversation with Jack has left him feeling very uneasy, as if there are huge clues and signposts that he (dullard that he is) has entirely missed. But what clues? For Christ's sake, what signposts? And now a dash of resentment flavors his unease. Perhaps a high-powered Lucas Davenport type like Jack Sawyer just can't believe in the obvious. Perhaps guys like him are always more interested in the dog that doesn't bark.

Sound travels well in the fog, and halfway to the station's back door, Dale hears motorcycle engines explode into life down by the river. Down on Nailhouse Row.

"Dale," Ernie says. He nods a greeting as if this were any ordinary evening.

"Hey, Chief," Doc chips in. He's smoking an unfiltered cigarette, looks to Dale like a Pall Mall or a Chesterfield. Some doctor, Dale thinks. "If I may egregiously misquote Misterogers," Doc goes on, "it's a beautiful night in the neighborhood. Wouldn't you say?"

"You called them," Dale says, jerking his head in the direction of the revving motorcycles. Two pairs of headlights swing into the parking lot. Dale sees Tom Lund behind the wheel of the first car. The second vehicle is almost certainly Danny Tcheda's personal. The troops are gathering once more. Hopefully this time they can avoid any cataclysmic fuckups. They better. This time they could be playing for all the marbles.

"Well, I couldn't comment on that directly," Doc says, "but I could ask, If they were your friends, what would you do?"

"Same damn thing," Dale says, and goes inside.

Henry Leyden once more sits primly in the passenger seat of the Ram pickup. Tonight he's dressed in an open-collared white shirt and a pair of trim blue khakis. Slim as a male model, silvering hair combed back. Did Sydney Carton look any cooler going to the guillotine? Even in Charles Dickens's mind? Jack doubts it.

"Henry ¡ª "

"I know," Henry says. "Sit here in the truck like a good little boy until I'm called."

"With the doors locked. And don't say Oui, mon capitaine. That one's wore out."

"Will affirmative do?"


The fog thickens as they near town, and Jack dips his headlights ¡ª high beams are no good in this shit. He looks at the dashboard clock. 7:03 P.M. Things are speeding up. He's glad. Do more, think less, Jack Sawyer's recipe for E-Z care sanity.

"I'll whisk you inside as soon as they've got Potter jugged."

"You don't expect them to have a problem with that, do you?"

"No," Jack says, then changes the subject. "You know, you surprised me with that Slobberbone record." He can't really call it a song, not when the lead vocalist simply shrieked most of the lyrics at the top of his lungs. "That was good."

"It's the lead guitar that makes the record," Henry says, picking up on Jack's careful use of the word. "Surprisingly sophisticated. Usually the best you can hope for is in tune." He unrolls his window, sticks his head out like a dog, then pulls it back in. Speaking in that same conversational voice, he says: "The whole town reeks."

"It's the fog. It pulls up the river's stinkiest essence."

"No," Henry replies matter-of-factly, "it's death. I smell it, and I think you do, too. Only maybe not with your nose."

"I smell it," Jack admits.

"Potter's the wrong man."

"I think so."

"The man Railsback saw was a Judas goat."

"The man Railsback saw was almost certainly the Fisherman." They drive in silence for a while.



"What's the best record? The best record and the best song?" Henry thinks about it. "Do you realize what a dreadfully personal question that is?"


Henry thinks some more, then says: " 'Stardust,' maybe. Hoagy Carmichael. For you?"

The man behind the wheel thinks back, all the way back to when Jacky was six. His father and Uncle Morgan had been the jazz fiends; his mother had had simpler tastes. He remembers her playing the same song over and over one endless L.A. summer, sitting and looking out the window and smoking. Who is that lady, Mom? Jacky asks, and his mother says, Patsy Cline. She died in an airplane crash.

" 'Crazy Arms,' " Jack says. "The Patsy Cline version. Written by Ralph Mooney and Chuck Seals. That's the best record. That's the best song."

Henry says no more for the rest of the drive. Jack is crying.

Henry can smell his tears.

Let us now take the wider view, as some politician or other no doubt said. We almost have to, because things have begun to overlap. While Beezer and the rest of the Thunder Five are arriving in the FLPD parking lot just off Sumner Street, Dale and Tom Lund and Bobby Dulac ¡ª bulky in their Kevlar vests ¡ª are double-parking in front of Lucky's. They park in the street because Dale wants plenty of room to swing the back door of the cruiser wide, so that Potter can be bundled in as fast as possible. Next door, Dit Jesperson and Danny Tcheda are at the Nelson Hotel, where they will cordon off room 314 with yellow POLICE LINE tape. Once that's done, their orders are to bring Andy Railsback and Morty Fine to the police station. Inside the police station, Ernie Therriault is calling WSP officers Brown and Black, who will arrive after the fact . . . and if they're pissed about that, good deal. At the Sand Bar, a dead-eyed Tansy Freneau has just pulled the plug on the jukebox, killing the Wallflowers. "Listen to me, everybody!" she cries in a voice that's not her own. "They've got him! They've got the baby-murdering son of a bitch! His name's Potter! They'll have him up in Madison by midnight, and unless we do something, some smart lawyer will have him back out on the street by next Monday! WHO WANTS TO HELP ME DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?" There is a moment of silence . . . and then a roar. The half-stoned, half-drunk habitu¨¦s of the Sand Bar know exactly what they want to do about it. Jack and Henry, meanwhile, with no fog to slow them down until they hit town, swing into the police station parking lot just behind the Thunder Five, who park in a line around Doc's Fat Boy. The lot is filling up rapidly, mostly with cops' personal vehicles. Word of the impending arrest has spread like fire in dry grass. Inside, one of Dale's crew ¡ª we need not bother with exactly which one ¡ª spots the blue cell phone Doc used outside Lucky's. This cop grabs it and ducks into the closet-sized room marked EVIDENCE STORAGE.

At the Oak Tree Inn, where he has checked in for the duration of the Fisherman case, Wendell Green is getting sullenly drunk. In spite of three double whiskeys, his neck still aches from having his camera pulled off by the biker asshole, and his gut still aches from being sucker punched by the Hollywood asshole. The parts of him that hurt most of all, however, are his pride and his pocketbook. Sawyer concealed evidence just as sure as shit sticks to a blanket. Wendell is halfway to believing that Sawyer himself is the Fisherman . . . but how can he prove either thing with his film gone? When the bartender says he has a call, Wendell almost tells him to stick the call up his ass. But he's a professional, goddamnit, a professional news hawk, and so he goes over to the bar and takes the phone.

"Green," he growls.

"Hello, asshole," says the cop with the blue cell phone. Wendell doesn't yet know his caller is a cop, only that it's some cheery ghoul poaching on his valuable drinking time. "You want to print some good news for a change?"

"Good news doesn't sell papers, my pal."

"This will. We caught the guy."

"What?" In spite of the three doubles, Wendell Green is suddenly the most undrunk man on the planet.

"Did I stutter?" The caller is positively gloating, but Wendell Green no longer cares. "We caught the Fisherman. Not the staties, not the Feebs, us. Name's George Potter. Early seventies. Retired builder. Had Polaroids of all three dead kids. If you hustle, you can maybe be here to snap the picture when Dale takes him inside."

This thought ¡ª this shining possibility ¡ª explodes in Wendell Green's head like a firework. Such a photo could be worth five times as much as one of little Irma's corpse, because the reputable mags would want it. And TV! Also, think of this: What if someone shot the bastard as Marshall Dillon was taking him in? Given the town's mood, it's far from impossible. Wendell has a brief and brilliant memory of Lee Harvey Oswald clutching his stomach, mouth open in his dying yawp.

"Who is this?" he blurts.

"Officer Fucking Friendly," the voice on the other end says, and clicks off.

In Lucky's Tavern, Patty Loveless is now informing those assembled (older than the Sand Bar crowd, and a good deal less interested in non-alcoholic substances) that she can't get no satisfaction and her tractor can't get no traction. George Potter has finished his spaghetti, neatly folded his napkin (which in the end had to catch only a single drop of red-sauce), and turned seriously to his beer. Sitting close to the juke as he is, he doesn't notice that the room has quieted with the entrance of three men, only one in uniform but all three armed and wearing what look too much like bulletproof vests to be anything else.

"George Potter?" someone says, and George looks up. With his glass in one hand and his pitcher of suds in the other, he is a sitting duck.

"Yeah, what about it?" he asks, and then he is snatched by the arms and shoulders and yanked from his spot. His knees connect with the bottom of the table, overturning it. The spaghetti plate and the pitcher hit the floor. The plate shatters. The pitcher, made of sterner stuff, does not. A woman screams. A man says, "Yow!" in a low and respectful voice.

Potter holds on to his partly filled glass for a moment, and then Tom Lund plucks this potential weapon from his hand. A second later, Dale Gilbertson is snapping on the cuffs, and Dale has time to think that it's the most satisfying sound he's ever heard in his life. His tractor has finally gotten some traction, by God.

This deal is light-years from the snafu at Ed's; this is slick and tidy. Less than ten seconds after Dale asked the only question ¡ª "George Potter?" ¡ª the suspect is out the door and into the fog. Tom has one elbow, Bobby the other. Dale is still rattling off the Miranda warning, sounding like an auctioneer on amphetamines, and George Potter's feet never touch the sidewalk.

Jack Sawyer is fully alive for the first time since he was twelve years old, riding back from California in a Cadillac Eldorado driven by a werewolf. He has an idea that later on he will pay a high price for this regained vividness, but he hopes he will just button his lip and fork over when the time comes. Because the rest of his adult life now seems so gray.

He stands outside his truck, looking in the window at Henry. The air is dank and already charged with excitement. He can hear the blue-white parking lot lights sizzling, like something frying in hot juices.



"Do you know the hymn 'Amazing Grace'?"

"Of course I do. Everyone knows 'Amazing Grace.' "

Jack says, " 'Was blind but now I see.' I understand that now."

Henry turns his blind, fearfully intelligent face toward Jack. He is smiling. It is the second-sweetest smile Jack has ever seen. The blue ribbon still goes to Wolf, that dear friend of his wandering twelfth autumn. Good old Wolf, who liked everything right here and now.

"You're back, aren't you?"

Standing in the parking lot, our old friend grins. "Jack's back, that's affirmative."

"Then go do what you came back to do," Henry says.

"I want you to roll up the windows."

"And not be able to hear? I think not," Henry tells him, pleasantly enough.

More cops are coming, and this time the blue lights of the lead car are flashing and the siren is blurping. Jack detects a celebratory note to those little blurps and decides he doesn't have time to stand here arguing with Henry about the Ram's windows.

He heads for the back door of the police station, and two of the blue-white arcs cast his shadow double on the fog, one dark head north and one south.

Part-time officers Holtz and Nestler pull in behind the car bearing Gilbertson, Lund, Dulac, and Potter. We don't care much about Holtz and Nestler. Next in line is Jesperson and Tcheda, with Railsback and Morton Fine in the back seat (Morty is complaining about the lack of knee room). We care about Railsback, but he can wait. Next into the lot ¡ª oh, this is interesting, if not entirely unexpected: Wendell Green's beat-up red Toyota, with the man himself behind the wheel. Around his neck is his backup camera, a Minolta that'll keep taking pictures as long as Wendell keeps pressing the button. No one from the Sand Bar ¡ª not yet ¡ª but there is one more car waiting to turn into the already crowded lot. It's a discreet green Saab with a POLICE POWER sticker on the left side of the bumper and one reading HUGS NOT DRUGS on the right. Behind the wheel of the Saab, looking stunned but determined to do the right thing (whatever the right thing might be), is Arnold "the Mad Hungarian" Hrabowski.

Standing in a line against the brick wall of the police station are the Thunder Five. They wear identical denim vests with gold 5's on the left breast. Five sets of meaty arms are crossed on five broad chests. Doc, Kaiser Bill, and Sonny wear their hair in thick ponytails. Mouse's is cornrowed tonight. And Beezer's floods down over his shoulders, making him look to Jack a little like Bob Seger in his prime. Earrings twinkle. Tats flex on huge biceps.

"Armand St. Pierre," Jack says to the one closest the door. "Jack Sawyer. From Ed's?" He holds out his hand and isn't exactly surprised when Beezer only looks at it. Jack smiles pleasantly. "You helped big-time out there. Thanks."

Nothing from the Beez.

"Is there going to be trouble with the intake of the prisoner, do you think?" Jack asks. He might be asking if Beezer thinks it will shower after midnight.

Beezer watches over Jack's shoulder as Dale, Bobby, and Tom help George Potter from the back of the cruiser and begin walking him briskly toward the back door. Wendell Green raises his camera, then is nearly knocked off his feet by Danny Tcheda, who doesn't even have the pleasure of seeing which asshole he's bumped. "Watch it, dick-weed," Wendell squawks.

Beezer, meanwhile, favors Jack ¡ª if that is the word ¡ª with a brief, cold glance. "Wellnow," he says. "We'll have to see how it shakes out, won't we?"

"Indeed we will," Jack agrees. He sounds almost happy. He pushes in between Mouse and Kaiser Bill, making himself a place: the Thunder Five Plus One. And perhaps because they sense he doesn't fear them, the two wide-boys make room. Jack crosses his own arms over his chest. If he had a vest, an earring, and a tattoo, he really would fit right in.

The prisoner and his custodians kill the distance between the car and the building quickly. Just before they reach it, Beezer St. Pierre, spiritual leader of the Thunder Five and father of Amy, whose liver and tongue were eaten, steps in front of the door. His arms are still folded. In the heartless glare of the parking lot lights, his massive biceps are blue.

Bobby and Tom suddenly look like guys with a moderate case of the flu. Dale looks stony. And Jack continues to smile gently, arms placidly crossed, seeming to gaze everywhere and nowhere at once.

"Get out of the way, Beezer," Dale says. "I want to book this man."

And what of George Potter? Is he stunned? Resigned? Both? It's hard to tell. But when Beezer's bloodshot blue eyes meet Potter's brown ones, Potter does not drop his gaze. Behind him, the lookie-loos in the parking lot fall silent. Standing between Danny Tcheda and Dit Jesperson, Andy Railsback and Morty Fine are gawking. Wendell Green raises his camera and then holds his breath like a sniper who's lucked into a shot ¡ª just one, mind you ¡ª at the commanding general.

"Did you kill my daughter?" Beezer asks. The gentle inquiry is somehow more terrible than any raw yell could have been, and the world seems to hold its breath. Dale makes no move. In that moment he seems as frozen as the rest of them. The world waits, and the only sound is a low, mournful hoot from some fogbound boat on the river.

"Sir, I never killed no one," Potter says. He speaks softly and without emphasis. Although he has expected nothing else, the words still box Jack's heart. There is an unexpected painful dignity in them. It's as if George Potter is speaking for all the lost good men of the world.

"Stand aside, Beezer," Jack says gently. "You don't want to hurt this guy."

And Beezer, looking suddenly not at all sure of himself, does stand aside.

Before Dale can get his prisoner moving again, a raucously cheerful voice ¡ª it can only be Wendell's ¡ª yells out: "Hey! Hey, Fisherman! Smile for the camera!"

They all look around, not just Potter. They have to; that cry is as insistent as fingernails dragged slowly down a slate blackboard. White light strobes the foggy parking lot ¡ª one! two! three! four! ¡ª and Dale snarls. "Aw, fuck me till I cry! Come on, you guys! Jack! Jack, I want you!"

From behind them, one of the other cops calls, "Dale! You want me to grab this creep?"

"Leave him alone!" Dale shouts, and bulls his way inside. It's not until the door is closed behind him and he's in the lower hall with Jack, Tom, and Bobby that Dale realizes how certain he was that Beezer would simply snatch the old man away from him. And then crack his neck like a chicken bone.

"Dale?" Debbi Anderson calls uncertainly from halfway down the stairs. "Is everything all right?"

Dale looks at Jack, who still has his arms crossed over his chest and is still smiling his little smile. "I think it is," Dale says. "For now."

Twenty minutes later, Jack and Henry (the latter gentleman retrieved from the truck and still reet-petite) sit in Dale's office. Beyond the closed door, the ready room roars with conversation and laughter: almost every cop on the FLPD force is out there, and it sounds like a god-damn New Year's Eve party. There are occasional shouts and smacking sounds that can only be relieved boys (and girls) in blue high-fiving each other. In a little while Dale will put a stop to that shit, but for now he's content to let them go ahead. He understands how they feel, even though he no longer feels that way himself.

George Potter has been printed and stuck in a cell upstairs to think things over. Brown and Black of the State Police are on their way. For now, that is enough. As for triumph . . . well, something about his friend's smile and his faraway eyes have put triumph on hold.

"I didn't think you were going to give Beezer his moment," Jack says. "It's a good thing you did. There might have been trouble right here in River City if you'd tried to face him down."

"I suppose I have a better idea tonight of how he feels," Dale replies. "I lost track of my own kid tonight, and it scared the living shit out of me."

"David?" Henry cries, leaning forward. "Is David okay?"

"Yeah, Uncle Henry, Dave's fine."

Dale returns his gaze to the man who now lives in his father's house. He's remembering the first time Jack ever laid eyes on Thornberg Kinderling. Dale had at that point known Jack only nine days ¡ª long enough to form some favorable opinions, but not long enough to realize how really extraordinary Jack Sawyer was. That was the day Janna Massengale at the Taproom told Jack about the trick Kinderling did when he was getting squiffy, that little trick of pinching his nostrils shut with his palm turned out to the world.

They had just arrived back at the police station from interviewing Janna, Dale in his personal unit that day, and he'd touched Jack on the shoulder just as Jack was about to get out of the car. "Speak a name, see the face it belongs to before suppertime, that's what my mother used to say." He pointed down to Second Street, where a broad-shouldered bald fellow had just come out of News 'n Notions, a newspaper under his arm and a fresh deck of smokes in his hand. "That's Thornberg Kinderling, his very own self."

Jack had bent forward without speaking, looking with the sharpest (and perhaps the most merciless) eyes Dale had ever seen in his life.

"Do you want to approach him?" Dale had asked.

"No. Hush."

And Jack simply sat with one leg in Dale's car and one out of it, not moving, eyes narrowed. So far as Dale could tell, he didn't even breathe. Jack watched Kinderling open his cigarettes, tap one out, put it in his mouth, and light it. He watched Kinderling glance at the headline of the Herald and then saunter to his own car, an all-wheel-drive Subaru. Watched him get in. Watched him drive away. And by that time, Dale realized he was holding his own breath.

"Well?" he'd asked when the Kinderling-mobile was gone. "What do you think?"

And Jack had said, "I think he's the guy."

Only Dale had known better. Even then he had known better. Jack was saying I think only because he and Chief Dale Gilbertson of French Landing, Wisconsin, were still on short terms, getting-to-know-you, getting-to-work-with-you terms. What he had meant was I know. And although that was impossible, Dale had quite believed him.

Now, sitting in his office with Jack directly across the desk from him ¡ª his reluctant but scarily gifted deputy ¡ª Dale asks, "What do you think? Did he do it?"

"Come on, Dale, how can I ¡ª "

"Don't waste my time, Jack, because those assholes from WSP are going to be here any minute and they'll take Potter heigh-ho over the hills. You knew it was Kinderling the second you looked at him, and you were halfway down the block. You were close enough to Potter when I brought him in to count the hairs in his nose. So what do you think?"

Jack is quick, at least; spares him the suspense and just administers the chop. "No," he says. "Not Potter. Potter's not the Fisherman."

Dale has known that Jack believes this ¡ª knew it from his face outside ¡ª but hearing it is still an unhappy thump. He sits back, disappointed.

"Deduction or intuition?" Henry asks.

"Both," Jack says. "And stop looking like I plugged your mother, Dale. You may still have the key to this thing."


Jack makes a seesawing gesture with one hand ¡ª maybe, maybe not, it says. "Railsback probably saw what the Fisherman wanted him to see . . . although the single slipper is intriguing, and I want to ask Rails-back about it. But if Mr. One-Slipper was the Fisherman, why would he lead Railsback ¡ª and us ¡ª to Potter?"

"To get us off his trail," Dale says.

"Oh, have we been on it?" Jack asks politely, and when neither of them answers: "But say he thinks we're on his trail. I can almost buy that, especially if he just remembered some goof he might have made."

"Nothing back yet on the 7-Eleven phone one way or the other, if that's what you're thinking of," Dale tells him.

Jack appears to ignore this. His eyes gaze off into the middle distance. That little smile is back on his face. Dale looks at Henry and sees Henry looking at Jack. Unc's smile is easier to read: relief and delight. Look at that, Dale thinks. He's doing what he was built to do. By God, even a blind man can see it.

"Why Potter?" Jack finally repeats. "Why not one of the Thunder Five, or the Hindu at the 7-Eleven, or Ardis Walker down at the bait shop? Why not Reverend Hovdahl? What motive usually surfaces when you uncover a frame job?"

Dale thinks it over. "Payback," he says at last. "Revenge."

In the ready room, a phone rings. "Shut up, shut up!" Ernie bellows to the others. "Let's try to act professional here for thirty seconds or so!"

Jack, meanwhile, is nodding at Dale. "I think I need to question Potter, and rather closely."

Dale looks alarmed. "Then you better get on it right away, before Brown and Black ¡ª " He comes to a halt, frowning, with his head cocked. A rumbling sound has impinged on his attention. It's low, but rising. "Uncle Henry, what's that?"

"Motors," Henry says promptly. "A lot of them. They're east of here, but coming this way. Edge of town. And I don't know if you've noticed this, but it sounds like the party next door is like, over, dude."

As if this were a cue, Ernie Therriault's distressed cry comes through the door. "Ohhhh, shit."

Dit Jesperson: "What's ¡ª "

Ernie: "Get the chief. Aw, never mind, I'll ¡ª " There is a single perfunctory knock and then Ernie's looking in at the brain trust. He's as collected and soldierly as ever, but his cheeks have paled considerably beneath his summer tan, and a vein is pulsing in the middle of his forehead.

"Chief, I just took a call on the 911, twenty was the Sand Bar?"

"That hole," Dale mutters.

"Caller was the bartender. Says about fifty to seventy people are on their way." By now the sound of approaching engines is very loud. It sounds to Henry like the Indy 500 just before the pace car runs for dear life and the checkered flag drops.

"Don't tell me," Dale says. "What do I need to make my day complete? Let me think. They're coming to take my prisoner."

"Umm, yes, sir, that's what the caller said," Ernie agrees. Behind him, the other cops are silent. In that moment they don't look like cops at all to Dale. They look like nothing but dismayed faces crudely drawn on a dozen or so white balloons (also two black ones ¡ª can't forget Pam Stevens and Bob Holtz). The sound of the engines continues to grow. "Also might want to know one other thing the caller said?"

"Christ, what?"

"Said the, um . . ." Ernie searches for a word that isn't mob. "The protest group was being led by the Freneau girl's mom?"

"Oh . . . my . . . Christ," Dale says. He gives Jack a look of sick panic and utter frustration ¡ª the look of a man who knows he is dreaming but can't seem to wake up no matter how hard he tries. "If I lose Potter, Jack, French Landing is going to be the lead story on CNN tomorrow morning."

Jack opens his mouth to reply, and the cell phone in his pocket picks that moment to start up its annoying tweet.

Henry Leyden immediately crosses his arms and tucks his hands into his armpits. "Don't hand it to me," he says. "Cell phones give you cancer. We agreed on that."

Dale, meanwhile, has left the room. As Jack digs for the cell phone (thinking someone has picked a cataclysmically shitty time to ask him about his network television preferences), Henry follows his nephew, walking briskly with his hands now held slightly out, fingers gently fluttering the air, seeming to read the currents for obstacles. Jack hears Dale saying that if he sees a single drawn weapon, the person who drew it will join Arnie Hrabowski on the suspension list. Jack is thinking exactly one thing: no one is taking Potter anywhere until Jack Sawyer has had time to put a few pointed questions. No way.

He flicks the cell phone open and says, "Not now, whoever you are. We've got ¡ª "

"Hidey-ho, Travelin' Jack," says the voice from the phone, and for Jack Sawyer the years once more roll away.


"The very one," Speedy says. Then the drawl is gone. The voice becomes brisk and businesslike. "And as one coppiceman to another, son, I think you ought to visit Chief Gilbertson's private bathroom. Right now."

Outside, there are enough vehicles arriving to shake the building. Jack has a bad feeling about this; has since he heard Ernie say who was leading the fools' parade.

"Speedy, I don't exactly have the time to visit the facilities right n ¡ª "

"You haven't got time to visit anyplace else," Speedy replies coldly. Only now he's the other one. The hard boy named Parkus. "What you're gonna find there you can use twice. But if you don't use it almighty quick the first time, you won't need it the second time. Because that man is gonna be up a lamppost."

And just like that, Speedy is gone.

When Tansy leads the willing patrons into the Sand Bar's parking lot, there is none of the carnival raucousness that was the keynote of the cluster fuck at Ed's Eats & Dawgs. Although most of the folks we met at Ed's have been spending the evening in the Bar, getting moderately to seriously tanked, they are quiet, even funereal, as they follow Tansy out and fire up their cars and pickups. But it's a savage funereality. She has taken something in from Gorg ¡ª some stone powerful poison ¡ª and passed it along to them.

In the belt of her slacks is a single crow feather.

Doodles Sanger takes her arm and guides her sweetly to Teddy Runkleman's International Harvester pickup. When Tansy heads for the truck bed (which already holds two men and one hefty female in a white rayon waitress's uniform), Doodles steers her toward the cab. "No, honey," Doodles says, "you sit up there. Be comfy."

Doodles wants that last place in the truck bed. She's spotted something, and knows just what to do with it. Doodles is quick with her hands, always has been.

The fog isn't thick this far from the river, but after two dozen cars and trucks have spun out of the Bar's dirt parking lot, following Teddy Runkleman's dented, one-taillight I.H., you can barely see the tavern. Inside, only half a dozen people are left ¡ª these were somehow immune to Tansy's eerily powerful voice. One of them is Stinky Cheese, the bartender. Stinky has a lot of liquid assets to protect out here and isn't going anywhere. When he calls 911 and speaks to Ernie Therriault, it will be mostly in the spirit of petulance. If he can't go along and enjoy the fun, by God, at least he can spoil it for the rest of those monkeys.

Twenty vehicles leave the Sand Bar. By the time the caravan passes Ed's Eats (the lane leading to it cordoned off by yellow tape) and the NO TRESPASSING sign alongside the overgrown lane to that queer forgotten house (not cordoned off; not even noticed, for that matter), the caravan has grown to thirty. There are fifty cars and trucks rolling down both lanes of Highway 35 by the time the mob reaches Goltz's, and by the time it passes the 7-Eleven, there must be eighty vehicles or more, and maybe two hundred and fifty people. Credit this unnaturally rapid swelling to the ubiquitous cell phone.

Teddy Runkleman, oddly silent (he is, in fact, afraid of the pallid woman sitting beside him ¡ª her snarling mouth and her wide, unblinking eyes), brings his old truck to a halt in front of the FLPD parking lot entrance. Sumner Street is steep here, and he sets the parking brake. The other vehicles halt behind him, filling the street from side to side, rumbling through rusty mufflers and blatting through broken exhaust pipes. Misaligned headlights stab the fog like searchlight beams at a movie premiere. The night's dank wet-fish smell has been overlaid with odors of burning gas, boiling oil, and cooking clutch lining. After a moment, doors begin to open and then clap shut. But there is no conversation. No yelling. No indecorous yee-haw whooping. Not tonight. The newcomers stand in clusters around the vehicles that brought them, watching as the people in the back of Teddy's truck either jump over the sides or slip off the end of the tailgate, watching as Teddy crosses to the passenger door, at this moment as attentive as a young man arriving with his date at the junior prom, watching as he helps down the slim young woman who has lost her daughter. The mist seems to outline her somehow, and give her a bizarre electric aura, the same blue of the sodium lights on Beezer's upper arms. The crowd gives out a collective (and weirdly amorous) sigh when it sees her. She is what connects them. All her life, Tansy Freneau has been the forgotten one ¡ª even Cubby Freneau forgot her eventually, running off to Green Bay and leaving her here to work odd jobs and collect the ADC. Only Irma remembered her, only Irma cared, and now Irma is dead. Not here to see (unless she's looking down from heaven, Tansy thinks in some distant and ever-receding part of her mind) her mother suddenly idolized. Tansy Freneau has tonight become the dearest subject of French Landing's eye and heart. Not its mind, because its mind is temporarily gone (perhaps in search of its conscience), but certainly of its eye and heart, yes. And now, as delicately as the girl she once was, Doodles Sanger approaches this woman of the hour. What Doodles spotted lying on the floor of Teddy's truck bed was an old length of rope, dirty and oily but thick enough to do the trick. Below Doodles's petite fist hangs the noose that her clever hands have fashioned on the ride into town. She hands it to Tansy, who holds it up in the misty light.

The crowd lets out another sigh.

Noose raised, looking like a female Diogenes in search of an honest man rather than of a cannibal in need of lynching, Tansy walks ¡ª delicate herself in her jeans and bloodstained sweatshirt ¡ª into the parking lot. Teddy, Doodles, and Freddy Saknessum walk behind her, and behind them come the rest. They move toward the police station like the tide.

The Thunder Five are still standing with their backs to the brick wall and their arms folded. "What the fuck do we do?" Mouse asks.

"I don't know about you," Beezer says, "but I'm gonna stand here until they grab me, which they probably will." He's looking at the woman with the upraised noose. He's a big boy and he's been in a lot of hard corners, but this chick frightens him with her blank, wide eyes, like the eyes of a statue. And there's something stuck in her belt. Something black. Is it a knife? Some kind of dagger? "And I'm not gonna fight, because it won't work."

"They'll lock the door, right?" Doc asks nervously. "I mean, the cops'll lock the door."

"I imagine," Beezer says, never taking his eyes from Tansy Freneau. "But if these folks want Potter, they'll have him on the half shell. Look at 'em, for Christ's sake. There's a couple of hundred."

Tansy stops, the noose still held up. "Bring him out," she says. Her voice is louder than it should be, as if some doctor has cunningly hidden an amplifying gadget in her throat. "Bring him out. Give us the killer!"

Doodles joins in. "Bring him out!"

And Teddy. "Give us the killer!"

And Freddy. "Bring him out! Give us the killer!"

And then the rest. It could almost be the sound track of George Rathbun's Badger Barrage, only instead of "Block that kick!" or "On Wisconsin!" they are screaming, "BRING HIM OUT! GIVE US THE KILLER!"

"They're gonna take him," Beezer murmurs. He turns to his troops, his eyes both fierce and frightened. Sweat stands out on his broad forehead in large perfect drops. "When she's got 'em pumped up to high, she'll come and they'll be right on her ass. Don't run, don't even unfold your arms. And when they grab you, let it happen. If you want to see daylight tomorrow, let it happen."

The crowd stands knee-deep in fog like spoiled skim milk, chanting, "BRING HIM OUT! GIVE US THE KILLER!"

Wendell Green is chanting right along with them, but that doesn't keep him from continuing to take pictures.

Because shit, this is the story of a lifetime.

From the door behind Beezer, there's a click. Yeah, they locked it, he thinks. Thanks, you whores.

But it's the latch, not the lock. The door opens. Jack Sawyer steps out. He walks past Beezer without looking or reacting as Beez mutters, "Hey, man, I wouldn't go near her."

Jack advances slowly but not hesitantly into the no-man's-land between the building and the mob with the woman standing at its head, Lady Liberty with the upraised hangman's noose instead of a torch in her hand. In his simple gray collarless shirt and dark pants, Jack looks like a cavalier from some old romantic tale advancing to propose marriage. The flowers he holds in his own hand add to this impression. These tiny white blooms are what Speedy left for him beside the sink in Dale's bathroom, a cluster of impossibly fragrant white blossoms.

They are lilies of the vale, and they are from the Territories. Speedy left him no explanation about how to use them, but Jack needs none.

The crowd falls silent. Only Tansy, lost in the world Gorg has made for her, continues to chant: "Bring him out! Give us the killer!" She doesn't stop until Jack is directly in front of her, and he doesn't kid himself that it's his handsome face or dashing figure that ends the too loud repetition. It is the smell of the flowers, their sweet and vibrant smell the exact opposite of the meaty stench that hung over Ed's Eats.

Her eyes clear . . . a little, at least.

"Bring him out," she says to Jack. Almost a question.

"No," he says, and the word is filled with heartbreaking tenderness. "No, dear."

Behind them, Doodles Sanger suddenly thinks of her father for the first time in maybe twenty years and begins to weep.

"Bring him out," Tansy pleads. Now her own eyes are filling. "Bring out the monster who killed my pretty baby."

"If I had him, maybe I would," Jack says. "Maybe I would at that." Although he knows better. "But the guy we've got's not the guy you want. He's not the one."

"But Gorg said ¡ª "

Here is a word he knows. One of the words Judy Marshall tried to eat. Jack, not in the Territories but not entirely in this world right now either, reaches forward and plucks the feather from her belt. "Did Gorg give you this?"

"Yes ¡ª "

Jack lets it drop, then steps on it. For a moment he thinks ¡ª knows ¡ª that he feels it buzzing angrily beneath the sole of his shoe, like a half-crushed wasp. Then it stills. "Gorg lies, Tansy. Whatever Gorg is, he lies. The man in there is not the one."

Tansy lets out a great wail and drops the rope. Behind her, the crowd sighs.

Jack puts his arm around her and again he thinks of George Potter's painful dignity; he thinks of all the lost, struggling along without a single clean Territories dawn to light their way. He hugs her to him, smelling sweat and grief and madness and coffee brandy.

In her ear, Jack whispers: "I'll catch him for you, Tansy."

She stiffens. "You . . ."


"You . . . promise?"


"He's not the one?"

"No, dear."

"You swear?"

Jack hands her the lilies and says, "On my mother's name."

She lowers her nose to the flowers and inhales deeply. When her head comes up again, Jack sees that the danger has left her, but not the insanity. She's one of the lost ones now. Something has gotten to her. Maybe if the Fisherman is caught, it will leave her. Jack would like to believe that.

"Someone needs to take this lady home," Jack says. He speaks in a mild, conversational voice, but it still carries to the crowd. "She's very tired and full of sadness."

"I'll do it," Doodles says. Her cheeks gleam with tears. "I'll take her in Teddy's truck, and if he don't give me the keys, I'll knock him down. I ¡ª "

And that's when the chant starts again, this time from back in the crowd: "Bring him out! Give us the killer! Give us the Fisherman! Bring out the Fisherman!" For a moment it's a solo job, and then a few other hesitant voices begin to join in and lend harmony.

Still standing with his back against the bricks, Beezer St. Pierre says: "Ah, shit. Here we go again."

Jack forbade Dale to come out into the parking lot with him, saying that the sight of Dale's uniform might set off the crowd. He didn't mention the little bouquet of flowers he was holding, and Dale barely noticed them; he was too terrified of losing Potter to Wisconsin's first lynching of the new millennium. He followed Jack downstairs, however, and has now commandeered the peephole in the door by right of seniority.

The rest of the FLPD is still upstairs, looking out of the ready-room windows. Henry has ordered Bobby Dulac to give him a running play-by-play. Even in his current state of worry about Jack (Henry thinks there's at least a 40 percent chance the mob will either trample him or tear him apart), Henry is amused and flattered to realize that Bobby is doing George Rathbun without even realizing it.

"Okay, Hollywood's out there . . . he approaches the woman . . . no sign of fear . . . the rest of them are quiet . . . Jack and the woman appear to be talking . . . and holy jeezum, he's givin' her a bouquet of flowers! What a ploy!"

"Ploy" is one of George Rathbun's favorite sports terms, as in The Brew Crew's hit-and-run ploy failed yet again last night at Miller Park.

"She's turnin' away!" Bobby yells jubilantly. He grabs Henry's shoulder and shakes it. "Hot damn, I think it's over! I think Jack turned her off!"

"Even a blind man could see he turned her off," Henry says.

"Just in time, too," Bobby says. "Here's Channel Five and there's another truck with one of those big orange poles on it . . . Fox-Milwaukee, I think . . . and ¡ª "

"Bring him out!" a voice outside begins yelling. It sounds cheated and indignant. "Give us the killer! Give us the Fisherman!"

"Oh nooo!" Bobby says, even now sounding like George Rathbun, telling his morning-after audience how another Badger rally had started to fizzle. "Not nowwww, not with the TV here! That's ¡ª "

"Bring out the Fisherman!"

Henry already knows who that is. Even through two layers of chicken-wire-reinforced glass, that high, yapping cry is impossible to mistake.

Wendell Green understands his job ¡ª don't ever make the mistake of thinking he doesn't. His job is to report the news, to analyze the news, to sometimes photojournalize the news. His job is not to make the news. But tonight he can't help it. This is the second time in the last twelve hours that a career maker of a story has been extended to his grasping, pleading hands, only to be snatched away at the last second.

"Bring him out!" Wendell bawls. The raw strength in his voice surprises, then thrills him "Give us the killer! Give us the Fisherman!"

The sound of other voices joining in with his provides an incredible rush. It is, as his old college roommate used to say, a real zipper buster.

Wendell takes a step forward, his chest swelling, his cheeks reddening, his confidence building. He's vaguely aware that the Action News Five truck is rolling slowly toward him through the crowd. Soon there will be 10-k's and 5-k's shining through the fog; soon there will be TV cameras rolling tape by their harsh light. So what? If the woman in the blood-spattered sweatshirt was in the end too chicken to stand up for her own kid, Wendell will do it for her! Wendell Green, shining exemplar of civic responsibility! Wendell Green, leader of the people!

He begins to pump his camera up and down. It's exhilarating. Like being back in college! At a Skynyrd concert! Stoned! It's like ¡ª

There is a huge flash in front of Wendell Green's eyes. Then the lights go out. All of them.


He grabs Dale's blind uncle by the shoulders and whirls him in a delirious circle. A thick aroma of Aqua Velva descends toward Henry, who knows Bobby's going to kiss him on both cheeks, French style, a second before Bobby actually does this. And when Bobby's narration resumes, he sounds as transported as George Rathbun on those rare occasions when the local sports teams actually buck the odds and grab the gold.

"Can you believe it, the Mad Hungarian hit him with his ever-lovin' flashlight and . . . GREEN'S DOWN! THE FUCKIN' HUNGARIAN HAS PUT EVERYONE'S FAVORITE ASSHOLE REPORTER ON THE MAT! WAY TO GO, HRABOWSKI!"

All around them, cops are cheering at the tops of their lungs. Debbi Anderson starts chanting "We Are the Champions," and other voices quickly lend support.

These are strange days in French Landing, Henry thinks. He stands with his hands in his pockets, smiling, listening to the bedlam. There's no lie in the smile; he's happy. But he's also uneasy in his heart. Afraid for Jack.

Afraid for all of them, really.

"That was good work, man," Beezer tells Jack. "I mean, balls to the wall."

Jack nods. "Thanks."

"I'm not going to ask you again if that was the guy. You say he's not, he's not. But anything we can do to help you find the right one, you just call us."

The other members of the Thunder Five rumble assent; Kaiser Bill gives Jack a friendly bop on the shoulder. It will probably leave a bruise.

"Thanks," Jack says again.

Before he can knock on the door, it's opened. Dale grabs him and gives him a crushing embrace. When their chests touch

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