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Authors: Stephen King

Billy Summers (37 page)

BOOK: Billy Summers
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“I'll go, too,” Alice says. “Just give me a list.” She looks in the fridge. “You need some vegetables.”

Bucky ignores that. From the sink, back turned, he says, “They're after you, Billy. Not just Nick's organization, four other brands of competition plus God knows how many independents. One of those occasions, rare but not unheard-of, where everybody's on the same page. You're a big topic of conversation in certain chat rooms where you're referred to as Mr. Summerlock.”

“As in Billy Summers and David Lockridge,” Billy says.

“Right.”

“Is anybody chatting about Dalton Smith?” Please God no, he thinks.

“So far as I know Dalton Smith is still good, but these guys have access to all the best investigative agencies, outfits that make the FBI look like rubes, and if you left any loose ends, any at all, Dalton Smith is a goner.”

Bucky turns from the sink, and as he wipes his reddened hands on a dish towel, he looks directly at Alice. He doesn't have to say anything to make his point.

Billy says, “She's not a loose end. When I leave here, she goes her own way as someone else. If you can put together the documentation, that is.”

“Oh, I can do that. Did one thing already. There's nothing like the Internet when it's hooked up to state-of-the-art equipment.” He comes back to the table and sits down. “How do you feel about being Elizabeth Anderson?”

Alice looks startled, then gives a tentative smile. “Fine, I guess. I don't get to pick my own name?”

“It's better that you don't. Too easy to pick one that links to your past. I didn't pick it, either. Computer did. A site called Name Generator.” He looks at Billy. “If you trust her, that's good enough. What about these Jensens? Or the real estate guy? They have any idea you were someone other than Dalton Smith?”

Billy shakes his head.

“So you're clean and that's good, because there's a bounty on your head.”

“How much?”

“Chat rooms say six million dollars.”

Billy gapes. “Are you shitting me? Why? They were only paying me two to do the job in the first place!”

“I don't know.”

Alice is turning her head from one to the other as if watching a tennis match.

Bucky says, “Nick's handling the contract, but I don't think it's his money any more than the money you were promised was his.”

Billy props his elbows on the table and his loosely closed fists on the sides of his face. “Who pays six million dollars to kill a shooter who shot another shooter?”

Bucky laughs. “Save that one. It's right up there with she sells seashells down by the seashore.”

“Who? And why? Joel Allen was
nobody
, as far as I can tell.”

Bucky shakes his head. “Don't know. But I bet Nick Majarian does. Maybe you'll get a chance to ask him.”

“Who's Nick Majarian?” Alice asks.

Billy sighs. “Benjy Compson. The guy who got me into this mess.”

Which is sort of a lie. He got into it all by himself.

14

In the end, Billy decides he and Alice will stay with Bucky for three days, maybe four. He wants to finish writing about the Funhouse. That won't take long, but he also needs time to think about his next move. Does he need another long gun, scope-equipped, to go with the Ruger? He doesn't know. Does he need another handgun, maybe a Glock that holds seventeen rounds instead of a measly six? He doesn't know. But a potato-buster for the Ruger might come in handy, little as he likes them. Would he have occasion to use such a thing? He doesn't know that either, but Bucky tells him that a jam-and-lock silencer for the GP should be no problem. If, that is, he doesn't mind something homemade that might break apart after a few shots were fired through it. Bucky says in the high country all sorts of accessories are available.

“I could get you an M249, if you wanted. I'd have to ask around, but I know some people to ask. Safe people who can keep their mouths shut.”

A SAW, in other words. Billy has a brief but brilliant memory of Big Joe Kleczewski standing outside the Funhouse with that very same gun. He shakes his head. “Let's stick with the silencer for now.”

“Silencer for a Ruger GP, got it.”

Alice will have her paperwork in three days as well, but when she and Billy go for groceries in Sidewinder, Bucky wants her to pick up some hair dye. “I think you should go blond for your driver's license. But leave the eyebrows dark. That would be a good look for you.”

“You think?” She sounds doubtful but looks interested.

“I do. You were in business school, so I'll give you some background to go with that. Can you take shorthand?”

“Yes. I took a summer course in Rhode Island and picked it up fairly fast.”

“And you can answer a phone? ‘Dignam Chevrolet, how may I direct your call?' ”

Alice rolls her eyes.

“Okay, entry-level skills at least, and the way the economy is roaring, that should be enough. Add nice clothes, good shoes, and a cheery smile and there's no reason why Beth Anderson can't find her niche.”

But Bucky doesn't like it. Alice doesn't pick up on it, but Billy does. He just doesn't know why.

15

They go for groceries, Billy wearing his wig and a pair of dark glasses Bucky finds for him in the clutter of stuff—what he calls Irish luggage—he hasn't unpacked yet. At King Soopers Billy pays cash. They go back up Edgewood Mountain Drive, the Fusion thudding and bumping and forging grumpily ahead over the last two miles.

Alice helps Bucky put the things away. He looks at the plantains she purchased doubtfully but says nothing. When that chore is done, she says she's tired of being cooped up and asks if it would
be okay for her to take a walk. Bucky tells her that if she goes out the back door, she'll find a path into the woods. “Steep slope, but you look young and strong. Might want to put on some bug dope. Check the bathroom.”

Alice comes back with her sleeves rolled up trucker style, slathering on Cutter. Her cheeks are shiny with it.

“Don't mind the wolves,” Bucky says. Then, seeing her alarmed expression: “Kidding, kiddo. The oldtimers say there haven't been wolves around here since the 1950s. All hunted out. Bears, too. But if you can make it a mile, you're going to come to one hell of a view. You can look across I don't know how many miles of gulch and ravine to a big old flat clearing on the other side. Used to be a resort hotel there, but it burned flat many a moon ago.” He drops his voice. “It was reputed to be haunted.”

“Watch your step,” Billy says. “You don't want to break an ankle.”

“I'll be careful.”

When she's gone, Bucky turns to Billy with a smile. “ ‘Watch your step, you don't want to break an ankle.' What are you, her daddy? God knows you're old enough to be.”

“Don't get Freudian. She's just my friend. I couldn't tell you exactly how that happened, but it did.”

“You said they roughed her up. Does that mean what I think it does?”

“Yes.”

“All of them?”

“Two out of three. One of them just jizzed on her belly. That's what he said, anyway.”

“Jesus Christ, she seems so… you know, okay.”

“She's not.”

“No. Of course she's not. Probably never will be, not completely.”

Billy thinks that, like too many depressing ideas, it's probably true.

Bucky gets two beers and they go out on the front porch. Billy has parked the Fusion beneath, nose-to-nose with the Cherokee.

“She seems to be coping, at least,” Bucky says when he's resumed his rocking chair. Billy has taken another one. “Got some guts.”

Billy nods. “She does.”

“And she can read a room, as they say. Maybe she did want to go strolling, but she mostly left so we could talk.”

“You think?”

“I do. She can have the spare room while you stay here. A bunch of my stuff's in it now, but I'll clear it out. The bed's stripped and I don't know if there's sheets, but I saw a couple of blankets on the shelf in the closet. That'll do for three or four nights. Since you're not sleeping with her, you get the attic. Most times of year you'd freeze or boil up there, but right now it should be just about perfect. I've got a sleeping bag somewhere. Maybe still in the back of the Cherokee.”

“Sounds good. Thanks.”

“Least I can do for a guy who's promising me a million dollars. Unless you've changed your mind about that.”

“I haven't.” Billy gives Bucky a sideways look. “You don't think I'll get it.”

“You might.” Bucky pulls a pack of Pall Mall straights out of his shirt pocket—Billy didn't know they still made those—and offers it to Billy, who shakes his head. Bucky lights his smoke with an old Zippo, the Marine emblem and
Semper Fi
embossed on the side. “I learned a long time ago not to sell you short, William.”

They sit for awhile without talking, two men in porch rockers. Billy thought Pearson Street was quiet, but this place makes Pearson Street sound like downtown. Somewhere far off someone is using a chainsaw, or maybe it's a wood-chipper. That and a light breeze sighing through the pines and aspens is the whole soundtrack. Billy watches a bird go stiff-wing gliding across the blue sky.

“You should take her with you.”

Billy turns to him, startled. Bucky has an old tin ashtray loaded with filterless butts sitting on his lap. “What? Are you crazy? I thought she could stay here with you while I track Nick down in Vegas.”

“She could, but you really should take her along.” He stubs out his cigarette, sets the ashtray aside, and leans forward. “Hear me now, because I'm not sure you did before.
Guys are looking for you
. Hard guys like this Dana Edison you mentioned. They know the cops didn't catch you, they know Nick stiffed you, and they know there's a damn good chance that you'll be on your way to get what's owing. That you'll take it out of his hide if you can't get it any other way.”

“Like Shylock,” Billy murmurs.

“I don't know about that, never saw the movie, but if you think
that
will fool them—” He flicks the blond wig, which really has become bedraggled and needs to be replaced. “—you're taking dumb pills. They know you've changed your appearance, you never would have gotten out of Red Bluff otherwise. And if you're driving, there are only so many ways into Vegas. They'll be watching all of them.”

He's making sense, but Billy doesn't like the idea of bringing Alice into danger. The idea was to get her out of it.

“The first thing you might want to think about is the license plates on that ride of yours.” He points down at the deck and the vehicles beneath. “There are cars with Dixieland plates in this part of the country, but not that many.”

Billy doesn't reply. He's struck dumb by his own stupidity. He set up the jammer to block the Fusion's onboard computer, but he's been flashing those blue-diamond plates all the way across the Midwest. Like a sign saying HERE I AM.

Bucky doesn't have to read his mind because everything Billy's thinking is on his face. “Don't beat yourself up about it. You did most stuff right, especially for someone moving fast.”

“It only takes one thing wrong to put your head in the noose.”

Bucky doesn't disagree, just lights another cigarette and says he doubts if they're looking for Billy in places like Oklahoma and Kansas. “They'll want to concentrate out west. Keep it tight. Idaho, Utah, maybe Arizona, but most of all in Nevada. Until you get to Vegas, things stand out there.”

Billy nods.

“Besides, if they'd seen you and tracked you, they'd be here already.” Bucky gestures with his hand, leaving a trail of smoke in the air. “Isolated spot. Fine place for a shooting party. I think you're okay, the odds in your favor. Which is good in another way, because the paperwork on that leased car is in the Dalton Smith name, right?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have ID in any other name?”

Billy still has his David Lockridge DL and Mastercard, for all the good it will do him. “None that's not burned.”

“I can make you some, enough to get by. I'll use Name Generator. Just, if I make you a credit card, don't try using it. It'll only be for show. And never mind switching the plates, you need to switch vehicles. That lease car can stay here for the time being, it's butt-ugly anyway.”

“Comfy, though,” Billy says, and drinks some beer.

“You've got money? You wired me my ten per cent of your advance, so I'm thinking you do.”

“Forty thousand or so, but not in cash. Money Manager accounts back in Red Bluff.”

“But in Dalton Smith's name, yeah?”

“Yes.”

Bucky's cigarette is down to a roach. He butts it. “There's a place on the east side of Sidewinder called Ricky's Good Used Cars. Kind of a fly-by-night operation. You can buy something there. No, better,
I
buy something there. I can pay cash and you can give me a Dalton Smith check for the amount. I'll wait to cash it until you've finished this fucktub of an operation.”

“And if I get killed, you'll be stuck.”

Bucky flaps a hand at him. “I'm not talking about a BMW, just something that'll roll for as long as you need it to roll. Fifteen hundred dollars, maybe two grand. Maybe not a car at all. Maybe an old pickup truck would be better, something rusted out with bad springs but a worthwhile motor.” He looks up into the sun, calculating. “And maybe pulling one of those little open trailers like landscape guys use to tote their mowers and blowers and shit.”

Billy can see it in his mind's eye. A truck with paint cracking on the doors, rust on the rocker panels, and Bondo around the headlights. Clap a beat-up old cowboy hat on his head and yes, it could be good camouflage. He'd look like any day-wage drifter.

BOOK: Billy Summers
13.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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