I reached for Ki with the part of my mind that had for the last few weeks known what she was wearing, what room of the trailer she was in, and what she was doing there. There was nothing, of course ¡ª that link was also dissolved.
I called for Jo ¡ª I think I did ¡ª but Jo was gone, too. I was on my own. God help me. God help us both. I could feel panic trying to descend and fought it off. I had to keep my mind clear. If I couldn't think, any chance Ki might still have would be lost. I walked rapidly back down the hall to the foyer, trying not to hear the sick voice in the back of my head, the one saying that Ki was lost already, dead already. I knew no such thing, couldn't know it now that the connection between us was broken.
I looked down at the heap of books, then up at the door. The new tracks had come in this way and gone out this way, too. Lightning stroked the sky and thunder cracked. The wind was rising again. I went to the door, reached for the knob, then paused. Something was caught in the crack between the door and the jamb, something as fine and floaty as a strand of spider's silk.
A single white hair.
I looked at it with a sick lack of surprise. I should have known, of course, and if not for the strain I'd been under and the successive shocks of this terrible day, I would have known. It was all on the tape John had played for me that morning . . . a time that already seemed part of another man's life.
For one thing, there was the time-check marking the point where John had hung up on her. Nine-forty A.M., Eastern Daylight, the robot voice had said, which meant that Rogette had been calling at six-forty in the morning . . . if, that was, she'd really been calling from Palm Springs. That was at least possible; had the oddity occurred to me while we were driving from the airport to Mattie's trailer, I would have told myself that there were no doubt insomniacs all over California who finished their East Coast business before the sun had hauled itself fully over the horizon, and good for them. But there was something else that couldn't be explained away so easily.
At one point John had ejected the tape. He did it because, he said, I'd gone as white as a sheet instead of looking amused. I had told him to go on and play the rest; it had just surprised me to hear her again. The quality of her voice. Christ, the reproduction is good. Except it was really the boys in the basement who had reacted to John's tape; my subconscious co-conspirators. And it hadn't been her voice that had scared them badly enough to turn my face white. The underhum had done that. The characteristic underhum you always got on TR calls, both those you made and those you received.
Rogette Whitmore had never left TR-90 at all. If my failing to realize that this morning cost Ki Devore her life this afternoon, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I told God that over and over as I went plunging down the railroad-tie steps again, running into the face of a revitalized storm.
It's a blue-eyed wonder I didn't go flying right off the embankment. Half my swimming float had grounded there, and perhaps I could have impaled myself on its splintered boards and died like a vampire writhing on a stake. What a pleasant thought that was.
Running isn't good for people near panic; it's like scratching poison ivy. By the time I had thrown my arm around one of the pines at the foot of the steps to check my progress, I was on the edge of losing all coherent thought. Ki's name was beating in my head again, so loudly there wasn't room for much else.
Then a stroke of lightning leaped out of the sky to my right and knocked the last three feet of trunk out from beneath a huge old spruce which had probably been here when Sara and Kito were still alive. If I'd been looking directly at it I would have been blinded; even with my head turned three-quarters away, the stroke left a huge blue swatch like the aftermath of a gigantic camera flash floating in front of my eyes. There was a grinding, juddering sound as two hundred feet of blue spruce toppled into the lake, sending up a long curtain of spray, which seemed to hang between the gray sky and gray water. The stump was on fire in the rain, burning like a witch's hat.
It had the effect of a slap, clearing my head and giving me one final chance to use my brain. I took a breath and forced myself to do just that. Why had I come down here in the first place? Why did I think Rogette had brought Kyra toward the lake, where I had just been, instead of carrying her away from me, up the driveway to Lane Forty-two?
Don't be stupid. She came down here because The Street's the way back to Warrington's, and Warrington's is where she's been, all by herself, ever since she sent the boss's body back to California in his private jet.
She had sneaked into the house while I was under Jo's studio, finding the tin box in the belly of the owl and studying that scrap of genealogy. She would have taken Ki then if I'd given her the chance, but I didn't. I came hurrying back, afraid something was wrong, afraid someone might be trying to get hold of the kid ¡ª
Had Rogette awakened her? Had Ki seen her and tried to warn me before drifting off again? Was that what had brought me in such a hurry? Maybe. I'd still been in the zone then, we'd still been linked then. Rogette had certainly been in the house when I came back. She might even have been in the north-bedroom closet and peering at me through the crack. Part of me had known it, too. Part of me had felt her, felt something that was not-Sara.
Then I'd left again. Grabbed the carry-bag from Slips 'n Greens and come down here. Turned right, turned north. Toward the birch, the rock, the bag of bones. I'd done what I had to do, and while I was doing it, Rogette carried Kyra down the railroad-tie steps behind me and turned left on The Street. Turned south toward Warrington's. With a sinking feeling deep in my belly, I realized I had probably heard Ki . . . might even have seen her. That bird peeking timidly out from cover during the lull had been no bird. Ki was awake by then, Ki had seen me ¡ª perhaps had seen Jo, as well ¡ª and tried to call out. She had managed just that one little peep before Rogette had covered her mouth.
How long ago had that been? It seemed like forever, but I had an idea it hadn't been long at all ¡ª less than five minutes, maybe. But it doesn't take long to drown a child. The image of Kito's bare arm sticking straight out of the water tried to come back ¡ª the hand at the end of it opening and closing, opening and closing, as if it were trying to breathe for the lungs that couldn't ¡ª and I pushed it away. I also suppressed the urge to simply sprint in the direction of Warrington's. Panic would take me for sure if I did that.
In all the years since her death I had never longed for Jo with the bitter intensity I felt then. But she was gone; there wasn't even a whisper of her. With no one to depend on but myself, I started south along the tree-littered Street, skirting the blowdowns where I could, crawling under them if they blocked my way entirely, taking the noisy branch-breaking course over the top only as a last resort. As I went I issued what I imagine are all the standard prayers in such a situation, but none of them seemed to get past the image of Rogette Whitmore's face rising in my mind. Her screaming, merciless face.
I remember thinking This is the outdoor version of the Ghost House. Certainly the woods seemed haunted to me as I struggled along: trees only loosened in the first grand blow were falling by the score in this follow-up cap of wind and rain. The noise was like great crunching footfalls, and I didn't need to worry about the noise my own feet were making. When I passed the Batchelders' camp, a circular prefab construction sitting on an outcrop of rock like a hat on a footstool, I saw that the entire roof had been bashed flat by a hemlock.
Half a mile south of Sara I saw one of Ki's white hair ribbons lying in the path. I picked it up, thinking how much that red edging looked like blood. Then I stuffed it into my pocket and went on.
Five minutes later I came to an old moss-caked pine that had fallen across the path; it was still connected to its stump by a stretched and bent network of splinters, and squalled like a line of rusty hinges as the surging water lifted and dropped what had been its upper twenty or thirty feet, now floating in the lake. There was space to crawl under, and when I dropped to my knees I saw other knee-tracks, just beginning to fill with water. I saw something else: the second hair ribbon. I tucked it into my pocket with the first.
I was halfway under the pine when I heard another tree go over, this one much closer. The sound was followed by a scream ¡ª not pain or fear but surprised anger. Then, even over the hiss of the rain and the wind, I could hear Rogette's voice: 'Come back! Don't go out there, it's dangerous!'
I squirmed the rest of the way under the tree, barely feeling the stump of a branch which tore a groove in my lower back, got to my feet, and sprinted along the path. If the fallen trees I came to were small, I hurdled them without slowing down. If they were bigger, I scrabbled over with no thought to where they might claw or dig in. Thunder whacked. There was a brilliant stroke of lightning, and in its glare I saw gray barnboard through the trees. On the day I'd first seen Rogette I'd only been able to catch glimpses of Warrington's lodge, but now the forest had been torn open like an old garment ¡ª this area would be years recovering. The lodge's rear half had been pretty well demolished by a pair of huge trees that seemed to have fallen together. They had crossed like a knife and fork on a diner's plate and lay on the ruins in a shaggy X.
Ki's voice, rising over the storm only because it was shrill with terror: 'Go away! I don't want you, white nana! Go away!' It was horrible to hear the terror in her voice, but wonderful to hear her voice at all.
About forty feet from where Rogette's shout had frozen me in place, one more tree lay across the path. Rogette herself stood on the far side of it, holding a hand out to Ki. The hand was dripping blood, but I hardly noticed. It was Kyra I noticed. The dock running between The Street and The Sunset Bar was a long one ¡ª seventy feet at least, perhaps a hundred. Long enough so that on a pretty summer evening you could stroll it hand-in-hand with your date or your lover and make a memory. The storm hadn't torn it away ¡ª not yet ¡ª but the wind had twisted it like a ribbon. I remember newsreel footage at some childhood Saturday matinee, film of a suspension bridge dancing in a hurricane, and that was what the dock between Warring-ton's and The Sunset Bar looked like. It jounced up and down in the surging water, groaning in all its slatted joints like a wooden accordion. There had been a rail ¡ª presumably to guide those who'd made a heavy night of it safely back to shore ¡ª but it was gone now. Kyra was halfway out along this swaying, dipping length of wood. I could see at least three rectangles of blackness between the shore and where she stood, places where boards had snapped off. From beneath the dock came the disturbed clung-clung-clung of the empty steel drums that were holding it up. Several of these drums had come unanchored and were floating away. Ki had her arms stretched out for balance like a tightrope walker in the circus. The black Harley-Davidson tee-shirt flapped around her knees and sunburned shoulders.
'Come back!' Rogette cried. Her lank hair flew around her head; the shiny black raincoat she was wearing rippled. She was holding both hands out now, one bloody and one not. I had an idea Ki might have bitten her.
'No, white nana!' Ki shook her head in wild negation and I wanted to tell her don't do that, Ki-bird, don't shake your head like that, very bad idea. She tottered, one arm pointed up at the sky and one down at the water so she looked for a moment like an airplane in a steep bank. If the dock had picked that moment to take a hard buck beneath her, Ki would have spilled off the side. She regained some precarious balance instead, although I thought I saw her bare feet slide a little on the slick boards. 'Go away, white nana, I don't want you! Go . . . go take a nap, you look tired!'
Ki didn't see me; all her attention was fixed on the white nana. The white nana didn't see me, either. I dropped to my belly and squirmed under the tree, pulling myself along with my clawed hands. Thunder rolled across the lake like a big mahogany ball, the sound echoing off the mountains. When I got to my knees again, I saw that Rogette was advancing slowly toward the shore end of the dock. For every step she took forward, Kyra took a shaky, dangerous step backward. Rogette was holding her good hand out, though for a moment I thought this one had begun to bleed as well. The stuff running through her bunchy fingers was too dark for blood, however, and when she began to talk, speaking in a hideous coaxing voice that made my skin crawl, I realized it was melting chocolate.
'Let's play the game, Ki-bird,' Rogette cooed. 'Do you want to start?' She took a step. Ki took a compensatory step backward, tottered, caught her balance. My heart stopped, then resumed racing. I closed the distance between myself and the woman as rapidly as I could, but I didn't run; I didn't want her to know a thing until she woke up. If she woke up. I didn't care if she did or not. Hell, if I could fracture the back of George Footman's skull with a hammer, I could certainly put a hurt on this horror. As I walked, I laced my hands together into one large fist.
'No? Don't want to start? Too shy?' Rogette spoke in a sugary Romper Room voice that made me want to grind my teeth together. 'All right, I'll start. Happy! What rhymes with happy, Ki-bird? Pappy . . . and nappy . . . you were taking a nappy, weren't you, when I came and woke you up. And lappy . . . would you want to come and sit on my lappy, Ki-bird? We'll feed each other chocolate, just like we used to . . . I'll tell you a new knock-knock joke . . . '
Another step. She had come to the edge of the dock. If she'd thought of it, she could simply have thrown rocks at Kyra as she had at me, thrown until she connected with one and knocked Ki into the lake. But I don't think she got even close to such a notion. Once crazy goes past a certain point, you're on a turnpike with no exit ramps. Rogette had other plans for Kyra.
'Come on, Ki-Ki, play the game with white nana.' She held out the chocolate again, gooey Hershey's Kisses dripping through crumpled foil. Kyra's eyes shifted, and at last she saw me. I shook my head, trying to tell her to be quiet, but it was no good ¡ª an expression of joyous relief crossed her face. She cried out my name, and I saw Rogette's shoulders go up in surprise.
I ran the last dozen feet, raising my joined hands like a club, but I slipped a little on the wet ground at the crucial moment and Rogette made a kind of ducking cringe. Instead of striking her at the back of the neck as I'd meant to, my joined hands only glanced off her shoulder. She staggered, went to one knee, and was up again almost at once. Her eyes were like little blue arc-lamps, spitting rage instead of electricity. 'You!' she said, hissing the word over the top of her tongue, turning it into the sound of some ancient curse: Heeyuuuu! Behind us Kyra screamed my name, stagger-dancing on the wet wood and waving her arms in an effort to keep from falling in the lake. Water slopped onto the deck and ran over her small bare feet.
'Hold on, Ki!' I called back. Rogette saw my attention shift and took her chance ¡ª she spun and ran out onto the dock. I sprang after her, grabbed her by the hair, and it came off in my hand. All of it. I stood there at the edge of the surging lake with her mat of white hair dangling from my fist like a scalp.
Rogette looked over her shoulder, snarling, an ancient bald gnome in the rain, and I thought It's him, it's Devore, he never died at all, somehow he and the woman swapped identities, she was the one who committed suicide, it was her body that went back to California on the jet ¡ª
Even as she turned the other way again and began to run toward Ki, I knew better. It was Rogette, all right, but she'd come by that hideous resemblance honestly. Whatever was wrong with her had done more than make her hair fall out; it had aged her as well. Seventy, I'd thought, but that had to be at least ten years beyond the actual mark.
I've known a lot of folks name their kids alike, Mrs M. had told me. They think it's cute. Max Devore must have thought so, too, because he had named a son Roger and his daughter Rogette. Perhaps she'd come by the Whitmore part honestly ¡ª she might have been married in her younger years ¡ª but once the wig was gone, her antecedents were beyond argument. The woman tottering along the wet dock to finish the job was Kyra's aunt.
Ki began to back up rapidly, making no effort to be careful and pick her footing. She was going into the drink; there was no way she could stay up. But before she could fall, a wave slapped the dock between them at a place where some of the barrels had come loose and the slatted walkway was already partly submerged. Foamy water flew up and began to twist into one of those helix shapes I had seen before. Rogette stopped ankle-deep in the water sloshing over the dock, and I stopped about twelve feet behind her.
The shape solidified, and even before I could make out the face I recognized the baggy shorts with their fading swirls of color and the smock top. Only Kmart sells smock tops of such perfect shapelessness; I think it may be a federal law.
It was Mattie. A grave gray Mattie, looking at Rogette with grave gray eyes. Rogette raised her hands, tottered, tried to turn. At that moment a wave surged under the dock, making it rise and then drop like an amusement-park ride. Rogette went over the side. Beyond her, beyond the water-shape in the rain, I could see Ki sprawling on the porch of The Sunset Bar. That last heave had flipped her to temporary safety like a human tiddlywink.
Mattie was looking at me, her lips moving, her eyes on mine. I had been able to tell what Jo was saying, but this time I had no idea. I tried with all my might, but I couldn't make it out.
The figure didn't so much turn as revolve; it didn't actually seem to be there below the hem of the long shorts. It moved up the dock to the bar, where Ki was now standing with her arms held out.
Something grabbed at my foot.
I looked down and saw a drowning apparition in the surging water. Dark eyes stared up at me from beneath the bald skull. Rogette was coughing water from between lips that were as purple as plums. Her free hand waved weakly up at me. The fingers opened . . . and closed. Opened . . . and closed. I dropped to one knee and took it. It clamped over mine like a steel claw and she yanked, trying to pull me in with her. The purple lips peeled back from yellow toothpegs like those in Sara's skull. And yes ¡ª I thought that this time Rogette was the one laughing.
I rocked on my haunches and yanked her up. I didn't think about it; it was pure instinct. I had her by at least a hundred pounds, and three quarters of her came out of the lake like a gigantic, freakish trout. She screamed, darted her head forward, and buried her teeth in my wrist. The pain was immediate and enormous. I jerked my arm up even higher and then brought it down, not thinking about hurting her, wanting only to rid myself of that weasel's mouth. Another wave hit the half-submerged dock as I did. Its rising, splintered edge impaled Rogette's descending face. One eye popped; a dripping yellow splinter ran up her nose like a dagger; the scant skin of her forehead split, snapping away from the bone like two suddenly released windowshades. Then the lake pulled her away. I saw the torn topography of her face a moment longer, upturned into the torrential rain, wet and as pale as the light from a fluorescent bar. Then she rolled over, her black vinyl raincoat swirling around her like a shroud.
What I saw when I looked back toward The Sunset Bar was another glimpse under the skin of this world, but one far different from the face of Sara in the Green Lady or the snarling, half-glimpsed shape of the Outsider. Kyra stood on the wide wooden porch in front of the bar amid a litter of overturned wicker furniture. In front of her was a waterspout in which I could still see ¡ª very faintly ¡ª the fading shape of a woman. She was on her knees, holding her arms out.
They tried to embrace. Ki's arms went through Mattie and came out dripping. 'Mommy, I can't get you!'
The woman in the water was speaking ¡ª I could see her lips moving. Ki looked at her, rapt. Then, for just a moment Mattie turned to me. Our eyes met, and hers were made of the lake. They were Dark Score, which was here long before I came and will remain long after I am gone. I put my hands to my mouth, kissed my palms, and held them out to her. Shimmery hands went up, as if to catch those kisses.
'Mommy don't go!' Kyra screamed, and flung her arms around the figure. She was immediately drenched and backed away with her eyes squinched shut, coughing. There was no longer a woman with her; there was only water running across the boards and dripping through the cracks to rejoin the lake, which comes up from deep springs far below, from the fissures in the rock which underlies the TR and all this part of our world.
Moving carefully, doing my own balancing act, I made my way out along the wavering dock to The Sunset Bar. When I got there I took Kyra in my arms. She hugged me tight, shivering fiercely against me. I could hear the small dicecup rattle of her teeth and smell the lake in her hair.
'Mattie came,' she said.
'I know. I saw her.'
'Mattie made the white nana go away.'
'I saw that, too. Be very still now, Ki. We're going back to solid ground, but you can't move around a lot. If you do, we'll end up swimming.'
She was good as gold. When we were on The Street again and I tried to put her down, she clung to my neck fiercely. That was okay with me. I thought of taking her into Warrington's, but didn't. There would be towels in there, probably dry clothes as well, but I had an idea there might also be a bathtub full of warm water waiting in there. Besides, the rain was slackening again and this time the sky looked lighter in the west.
'What did Mattie tell you, hon?' I asked as we walked north along The Street. Ki would let me put her down so we could crawl under the downed trees we came to, but raised her arms to be picked up again on the far side of each.
'To be a good girl and not be sad. But I am sad. I'm very sad.' She began to cry, and I stroked her wet hair.
By the time we got to the railroad-tie steps she had cried herself out . . . and over the mountains in the west, I could see one small but very brilliant wedge of blue.
'All the woods fell down,' Ki said, looking around. Her eyes were very wide.
'Well . . . not all, but a lot of them, I guess.'
Halfway up the steps I paused, puffing and seriously winded. I didn't ask Ki if I could put her down, though. I didn't want to put her down. I just wanted to catch my breath.
'Mattie told me something else.'
'Can I whisper?'
'If you want to, sure.'
Ki leaned close, put her lips to my ear, and whispered.
I listened. When she was done I nodded, kissed her cheek, shifted her to the other hip, and carried her the rest of the way up to the house.
'T'wasn't the stawm of the century, chummy, and don't you go thinkin that it was. Nossir.
So said the old-timers who sat in front of the big Army medics' tent that served as the Lakeview General that late summer and fall. A huge elm had toppled across Route 68 and bashed the store in like a Saltines box. Adding injury to insult, the elm had carried a bunch of spitting live lines with it. They ignited propane from a ruptured tank, and the whole thing went kaboom. The tent was a pretty good warm-weather substitute, though, and folks on the TR took to saying they was going down to the MASH for bread and beer ¡ª this because you could still see a faded red cross on both sides of the tent's roof.
The old-timers sat along one canvas wall in folding chairs, waving to other old-timers when they went pooting by in their rusty old-timer cars (all certified old-timers own either Fords or Chevys, so I'm well on my way in that regard), swapping their undershirts for flannels as the days began to cool toward cider season and spud-digging, watching the township start to rebuild itself around them. And as they watched they talked about the ice storm of the past winter, the one that knocked out lights and splintered a million trees between Kittery and Fort Kent; they talked about the cyclones that touched down in August of 1985; they talked about the sleet hurricane of 1927. Now there was some stawms, they said. There was some stawms, by Gorry.
I'm sure they've got a point, and I don't argue with them ¡ª you rarely win an argument with a genuine Yankee old-timer, never if it's about the weather ¡ª but for me the storm of July 21, 1998, will always be the storm. And I know a little girl who feels the same. She may live until 2100, given all the benefits of modern medicine, but I think that for Kyra Elizabeth Devore that will always be the storm. The one where her dead mother came to her dressed in the lake.
The first vehicle to come down my driveway didn't arrive until almost six o'clock. It turned out to be not a Castle County police car but a yellow bucket-loader with flashing yellow lights on top of the cab and a guy in a Central Maine Power Company slicker working the controls. The guy in the other seat was a cop, though ¡ª was in fact Norris Ridgewick, the County Sheriff himself. And he came to my door with his gun drawn.
The change in the weather the TV guy had promised had already arrived, clouds and storm-cells driven east by a chilly wind running just under gale force. Trees had continued to fall in the dripping woods for at least an hour after the rain stopped. Around five o'clock I made us toasted-cheese sandwiches and tomato soup . . . comfort food, Jo would have called it. Kyra ate listlessly, but she did eat, and she drank a lot of milk. I had wrapped her in another of my tee-shirts and she tied her own hair back. I offered her the white ribbons, but she shook her head decisively and opted for a rubber band instead. 'I don't like those ribbons anymore,' she said. I decided I didn't, either, and threw them away. Ki watched me do it and offered no objection. Then I crossed the living room to the woodstove.
'What are you doing?' She finished her second glass of milk, wriggled off her chair, and came over to me.
'Making a fire. Maybe all those hot days thinned my blood. That's what my mom would have said, anyway.'
She watched silently as I pulled sheet after sheet from the pile of paper I'd taken off the table and stacked on top of the woodstove, balled each one up, and slipped it in through the door. When I felt I'd loaded enough, I began to lay bits of kindling on top.
'What's written on those papers?' Ki asked.
'Is it a story?'
'Not really. It was more like . . . oh, I don't know. A crossword puzzle. Or a letter.'
'Pretty long letter,' she said, and then laid her head against my leg as if she were tired.
'Yeah,' I said. 'Love letters usually are, but keeping them around is a bad idea.'
'Because they . . . ' Can come back to haunt you was what rose to mind, but I wouldn't say it. 'Because they can embarrass you in later life.'
'Besides,' I said. 'These papers are like your ribbons, in a way.'
'You don't like them anymore.'
She saw the box then ¡ª the tin box with JO'S NOTIONS written on the front. It was on the counter between the living room and the sink, not far from where old Krazy Kat had hung on the wall. I didn't remember bringing the box up from the studio with me, but I suppose I might not have; I was pretty freaked. I also think it could have come up . . . kind of by itself. I do believe such things now; I have reason to.
Kyra's eyes lit up in a way they hadn't since she had wakened from her short nap to find out her mother was dead. She stood on tiptoe to take hold of the box, then ran her small fingers across the gilt letters. I thought about how important it was for a kid to own a tin box. You had to have one for your secret stuff the best toy, the prettiest bit of lace, the first piece of jewelry. Or a picture of your mother, perhaps.
'This is so . . . pretty,' she said in a soft, awed voice.
'You can have it if you don't mind it saying JO'S NOTIONS instead of 'KI'S NOTIONS. There are some papers in it I want to read, but I could put them somewhere else.'
She looked at me to make sure I wasn't kidding, saw I wasn't.
'I'd love it,' she said in the same soft, awed voice.
I took the box from her, scooped out the steno books, notes, and clippings, then handed it back to Ki. She practiced taking the lid off and then putting it back on.
'Guess what I'll put in here,' she said.
'Yes!' she said, and actually smiled for a moment. 'Who was Jo, Mike? Do I know her? I do, don't I? She was one of the fridgearator people.'
'She ¡ª ' A thought occurred. I shuffled through the yellowed clippings. Nothing. I thought I'd lost it somewhere along the way, then saw a corner of what I was looking for peeking from the middle of one of the steno notebooks. I slid it out and handed it to Ki.
'What is it?'
'A backwards photo. Hold it up to the light.'
She did, and looked for a long time, rapt. Faint as a dream I could see my wife in her hand, my wife standing on the swimming float in her two-piece suit.
'That's Jo,' I said.
'She's pretty. I'm glad to have her box for my things.'
'I am too, Ki.' I kissed the top of her head.
When Sheriff Ridgewick hammered on the door, I thought it wise to answer with my hands up. He looked wired. What seemed to ease the situation was a simple, uncalculated question.
'Where's Alan Pangborn these days, Sheriff?'
'Over New Hampshire,' Ridgewick said, lowering his pistol a little (a minute or two later he holstered it without even seeming to be aware he had done so). 'He and Polly are doing real well. Except for her arthritis. That's nasty, I guess, but she still has her good days. A person can go along quite awhile if they get a good day every once and again, that's what I think. Mr. Noonan, I have a lot of questions for you. You know that, don't you?'
'First off and most important, do you have the child? Kyra Devore?'
'Where is she?'
'I'll be happy to show you.'
We walked down the north-wing corridor and stood just outside the bedroom doorway, looking in. The duvet was pulled up to her chin and she was sleeping deeply. The stuffed dog was curled in one hand ¡ª we could just see its muddy tail poking out of her fist at one end and its nose poking out at the other. We stood there for a long time, neither of us saying anything, watching her sleep in the light of a summer evening. In the woods the trees had stopped falling, but the wind still blew. Around the eaves of Sara Laughs it made a sound like ancient music.