Twilight Eyes Page 34

Astonished, I collapsed back into my chair, and in spite of her admonition about interrupting her, I said, “An accommodation? Just like that? But why would they want to reach an accommodation with you? Why not just kill you? No matter what you told them, even if they believed you would keep their secret, you still represented a threat to them. I don’t understand. They had nothing to gain by reaching this . . . this accommodation.”

Her pendulum mood had swung again, back toward darkness and quiet despair. She sagged in her chair. When she spoke, her voice was barely audible. “They did have something to gain. There was something I could offer them. You see, I have another psychic ability that you either don’t have . . . or don’t have in the same degree that I do. What I’ve got is . . . the ability to detect extrasensory perception in other people, especially when they can see the goblins. I can detect their power regardless of how hard they might try to conceal it. I don’t always know instantly upon meeting them. Sometimes it takes a while. It’s a slowly growing awareness. But I can perceive hidden psychic gifts in others pretty much the way I can see the goblins in their disguises. Until tonight I thought this insight was . . . well, infallible . . . but now you tell me Joel Tuck sees the goblins, and I never suspected him. Still, I think I’m nearly always quick to perceive these things. I knew there was something special about you, right from the start, though you turned out to be . . . more special, much more special, in more ways than I realized at first.” She whispered now: “I want to hold on to you. I never thought I would find someone . . . someone I needed . . . loved. But you came, and now I want to hold on to you, but the only way I can do that is if you make the same accommodation with them that I’ve made.”

I had turned to stone. Immobile as rock, I sat in the armchair, listening to my granite heart thump, a hard and cold and heavy sound, a mournful and hollow sound, each beat like a mallet striking a block of marble. My love, my need for her, my longing were all still in my petrified heart but inaccessible, just as beautiful sculptures are potentialities in any crude block of stone but remain inaccessible and unrealized to the man who lacks artistic talent and who has no skill with the chisel. I did not want to believe what she had said, and I could not bear to think about what came next, yet I was compelled to listen, to know the worst.

As tears came to her eyes, she said, “When I encounter someone who can see the goblins, I . . . I report it. I warn one of their kind about the seer. You see, they don’t want open warfare, like there was last time. They prefer their secrecy. They don’t want us organizing against them, even though it would be hopeless, anyway. So I point out people who know about them, who might kill them or spread the word. And the goblins . . . they just . . . they eliminate the threat. In return they guarantee my safety from their kind. Immunity. They leave me alone. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, Slim. To be left alone. And if you make the same arrangement with them, then they’ll leave both of us alone . . . and we can be . . . we can stay . . . together . . . happy—”

“Happy?” I did not speak the word so much as expel it. “Happy? You think we can be happy, knowing that we survive by . . . by betraying others?”

“The goblins would get some of them, anyway.”

With great effort I moved my cold stone hands to my face and hid in the cave of fingers, as if I could retreat from these hideous revelations. But that was a childish fantasy. The ugly truth stayed with me. “Jesus.”

“We could have a life,” she said, weeping openly now because she sensed my horror and the impossibility of my ever reaching the dreadful accommodation that she had negotiated for herself. “Together . . . a life . . . the way it’s been this past week . . . even better . . . much better . . . us against the world, safe, perfectly safe. And the goblins don’t just guarantee my safety in return for the information I give them. They guarantee my success too. I’m very valuable to them, see. Because, like I said, a lot of people who see the goblins either wind up in an asylum or a carnival. So . . . so I’m in a perfect position to . . . well, to turn up more than a few seers like you and me. So the goblins also help me out, help me get along. Like . . . they planned an accident at the Dodgem Cars—”

“And I stopped it from happening,” I said coldly.

She was surprised. “Oh. Yes. I should have figured you did. But, see . . . the idea was, once there’d been an accident, the injured mark would probably sue Hal Dorsey, the man who owns the Dodgem, and then he would be in financial trouble, what with the legal fees and everything, and I would be able to buy him out at a good price, take on a new concession at a cost that was attractive. Oh, shit. Please. Please listen to me. I see what you’re thinking. I sound so . . . so cold.” In fact, though the tears flowed from her, and though I had never seen anyone more miserable than she was at that moment, she did indeed seem cold, bitterly cold. “But, Slim, you’ve got to understand about Hal Dorsey. He’s a bastard, he really is, a mean son of a bitch, and nobody likes him ’cause he’s a user, a user and an abuser, so I’ll be damned if I’ll feel sorry about ruining him.”

Although I did not want to look at her, I looked. Although I did not want to speak to her, I spoke. “What’s the difference between the torture that the goblins initiate and the torture you suggest to them?”

“I told you, Hal Dorsey is a—”

Raising my voice, I said, “What’s the difference between the behavior of a man like Abner Kady and the way you betray your own kind?”

She was sobbing now. “I only wanted to be . . . safe. For once in my life—just once—I wanted to be safe.”

I loved her and hated her, pitied and despised her. I wanted her to share my life, wanted it as intensely as ever, but I knew that I could not sell my conscience or my birthright for her. When I thought of what she had told me about Abner Kady and her dull-witted mother, when I considered the horror of her childhood, when I realized the extent of her legitimate complaints against the human race and how little she owed to society, I could understand how she could have decided to collaborate with the goblins. I could understand, almost forgive, but I could not agree that it had been right. At that awful moment my feelings for her were so complex, such a tangled mess of tightly knotted emotions, that I experienced an uncharacteristic suicidal longing, so vivid and sweet that it made me cry, and I knew it must be like the death wish that haunted her every day of her life. I could see why she had spoken of nuclear war with such enthusiasm and poetry when we had been together on the Ferris wheel on Sunday night. With the burden of dark knowledge that she carried, total annihilation of the Abner Kadys and the goblins and the whole dirty mess of human civilization must, at times, strike her as a wonderfully freeing, cleansing possibility.

I said, “You made a deal with the devil.”

“If they’re devils, then we’re gods, because we created them,” she said.

“That’s sophistry,” I said. “And this is no goddamned debate.”

She said nothing. She just drew herself into a ball and wept uncontrollably.

I wanted to get up, unlock the door, burst out into the clean night air, and run, just run and run, forever. But my soul seemed to have turned to stone, in sympathy with the petrification of my flesh, and that added weight made it impossible for me to rise up from the chair.

After perhaps a minute during which neither of us could think of anything to say, I finally broke the silence. “Where the hell do we go from here?”

“You won’t make the . . . accommodation,” she said.

I did not even bother answering that question.

“So . . . I’ve lost you,” she said.

I was crying, too. She had lost me, but I had lost her.

Finally I said, “For the sake of others like me . . . others to come . . . I should break your neck right now. But . . . God help me . . . I can’t. Can’t. Can’t do it. So . . . I’ll pack my things and go. Another carnival. Another start. We’ll . . . forget.”

“No,” she said. “It’s too late for that.”

With the back of my hand I wiped some of the tears out of my eyes. “Too late?”

“You’ve done too much killing here. The killing, and your special relationship with me, has drawn attention.”

I did not merely feel someone walking on my grave; I sensed someone dancing on it, stomping on it. For all the warmth I felt, it seemed more like a night in February than August.

She said, “Your only hope was to see things my way, to make the same arrangements with them that I have.”

“You’re actually . . . going to turn me in?”

“I didn’t want to tell them about you . . . not after I got to know you.”

“Then don’t.”

“You don’t understand yet.” She shuddered. “The day I met you, before I realized what you would mean to me, I . . . dropped a hint to one of them . . . suggested that I was on the trail of another seer. So he’s waiting for a report.”

“Who? Which one of them?”

“The one who’s in charge here . . . in Yontsdown.”

“In charge among the goblins, you mean?”

“He’s especially alert, even for one of them. He saw something special was happening between you and me, and he sensed that you were someone extraordinary, the one I had hinted about. So he demanded that I confirm it. I didn’t want to. I tried to lie. But he’s not stupid. He’s not easily deceived. He kept pressing me. ‘Tell me about him,’ he said. Tell me about him or things will change between us. You’ll no longer have our immunity.’ Slim, can’t you see? I . . . had . . . no choice.”

I heard movement behind me.

I turned my head.

From the narrow hall that led to the back of the trailer, Chief Lisle Kelsko entered the living room.

Chapter seventeen


Kelsko’s Smith & Wesson .45 revolver was in his hand, but he was not actually pointing it at me because, given the advantages of surprise and police authority, he did not think he would need to fire the gun. He was holding it at his side, the muzzle aimed at the floor, but he would be able to swing it up and fire at the least sign of trouble.

From beneath the square, hard, rough-looking human face, the goblin leered at me. Under the bushy eyebrows of its human disguise, I saw the molten demon eyes encircled by cracked, thickened skin. Beyond the mean slash of the man’s mouth, there was the goblin’s mouth with its wickedly sharp teeth and hooked fangs. On first seeing the Kelsko goblin in its office in Yontsdown, I had been impressed by how much more malevolent and fierce it looked than many others of its kind—and how much uglier. Its cracked and wrinkled flesh, wattled skin, callused lips, blisters, warts, and array of scars seemed to indicate great age. Rya had said some of them lived to be fifteen hundred, even older, and it was not difficult to believe that the thing calling itself Lisle Kelsko was that ancient. It had probably lived thirty or forty human lives, moving from identity to identity, killing thousands of us as the centuries passed, directly or indirectly torturing tens of thousands more, and all those lives and all those years had brought it here, tonight, to finish me.

“Slim MacKenzie,” it said, maintaining its human identity with no purpose but sarcasm, “I am placing you under arrest as part of the investigation into several recent homicides—”

I was not going to let them put me in their squad car and drive me to some very private torture chamber. Instant death, here and now, was far more appealing than submission, so before the creature had finished its little speech, I reached into my boot and put my hand on my knife. I was sitting, my back to the goblin, twisted around to look at it, so the beast could not see either my boot or my hand. For some reason—and now I suppose I knew the reason—I had never told Rya about the knife, and she did not realize what I was doing until I drew the weapon from the sheath and, in one fluid movement, stood and turned and threw it.

I was so fast that Kelsko did not have an opportunity to raise the gun and pull off a shot at me, though the creature did fire one round into the floor as it fell backward with the blade protruding from its throat. In that small room the blast sounded like God shouting.

Rya screamed, not in warning so much as in shock, but the Kelsko demon was dead even as the sound escaped her.

As Kelsko hit the floor, while the crash of gunfire was still echoing in the trailer, I scrambled to the beast, twisted the knife to finish the job, pulled it out of the gushing flesh, stood, and turned just in time to see that Rya had unlocked the door and that a Yontsdown deputy was coming inside. It was the same officer who had stood in the corner of Kelsko’s office when Jelly, Luke, and I had gone there to deliver the payoffs; like the chief, this cop was also a goblin. It was coming off the top step, just this side of the doorway, and I saw its eyes flick to Kelsko’s body, saw it electrified by a sudden awareness of mortal danger, but by that time I had reversed the knife in my right hand and had a thrower’s grip on it. I tossed the blade and split the demon’s Adam’s apple with it, and in the same instant the beast squeezed the trigger of its Smith & Wesson, but its aim was wide and the bullet destroyed a lamp to the left of me. The goblin fell backward, through the open door, off the steps, into the night.

Rya’s face was a definition of terror. She thought I was going to kill her next.

She plunged out of the trailer and ran for her life.

For a moment I stood there, gasping, unable to move, overwhelmed. It was not the killing that had stunned me; I had killed before—often. It was not the close call that made my legs feel weak and numb; I had been through plenty of tight scrapes prior to this. What nailed me there, immovable, was the shock of how utterly things had changed between me and her, the shock of what I had lost and might never find again; it seemed as if love was nothing more than a cross on which she had crucified me.

Then my paralysis broke.

I stumbled to the door.

Down the metal steps.

Around the dead deputy.

I saw several carnies who had come out in response to the gunfire. One of them was Joel Tuck.

Rya was perhaps a hundred feet away, running down the “street” between the rows of trailers, heading toward the back of the meadow. As she passed through pools of darkness that alternated with streams of light from the trailer windows and doorways, the stroboscopic effect made her seem unreal, as if she were a spectral figure fleeing through a dreamscape.

I did not want to go after her.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies