Twilight Eyes Page 42

Orkenwold himself had helped crack the infamous Yarbridge case, and according to the Register he had subsequently built a dazzling law-enforcement career with an unprecedented number of arrests and convictions. The general feeling was that Orkenwold richly deserved promotion to the highest office in the department. His suitability for the job was only confirmed by the swiftness with which he had brought the drifter, Walter Dembrow, to justice for the assassination of his predecessor.

Although I had killed Chief Lisle Kelsko, I had not given the long-suffering people of Yontsdown any respite by that act. Indeed the nightmarish political machine of goblin power had functioned smoothly, elevating another torture-master from the ranks to replace the fallen chief.

Rya turned away from the microfilm for a moment and stared up at one of the library’s high windows. Only pallid light as weak as moonbeams managed to pierce the frosted glass, and the glow from the microfilm machine did more to illuminate her troubled face. At last she said, “You’d think that, somewhere along the line, someone would have begun to suspect Orkenwold of having a hand in the endless so-called tragedies that took place around him.”

“Maybe,” I said. “And in an ordinary town perhaps another cop or a newspaper reporter or someone else of authority would decide to take a careful look at him. But here, his kind rule. They are the police. They control the courts, the city council, the mayor’s office. Very likely they own the newspaper as well. They have a tight rein on every institution that might be used as a vehicle for getting at the truth, so truth remains forever suppressed.”

Returning to the spools of microfilm and also to the hardcopy issues of the daily Register, we continued our research. Among other things, we learned that Klaus Orkenwold’s brother, Jensen Orkenwold, owned one-third of the Lightning Coal Company. The other partners, each one-third owners, were a man named Anson Corday, who was also the publisher and editor of the city’s only newspaper, and Mayor Albert Spectorsky, the florid-faced politician I had met last summer when I had come to town with Jelly Jordan on his mission as carnival patch. The web of goblin power was clear; and as I had suspected, the center of the web seemed to be the Lightning Coal Company.

When we were finally finished with our research in the library, we risked a visit to the Registrar of Deeds in the basement of the county courthouse next door. The place was crawling with goblins, though the clerks in the registrar’s office, occupying positions of no real power, were ordinary human beings. There we went through the big land-record books and, more to satisfy our curiosity than for any other reason, we confirmed what we had suspected: the house on Apple Lane, in which the Penfields had died and in which we were now ensconced, belonged to Klaus Orkenwold, Yontsdown’s new chief of police. He had inherited the property from Dora Penfield . . . after murdering her and her children.

Our landlord, in whose house we were plotting revolution against the demonkind, was one of them.

Here again was that glimpse of a mysterious pattern—as if there was such a thing as destiny, and as if our inescapable destiny included deep and perhaps deadly involvement with Yontsdown and its goblin elite.

We ate an early dinner in the city, bought a few groceries, and headed for Apple Lane shortly after nightfall, with Rya driving.

Over dinner, we had debated the wisdom of finding new quarters not owned by a goblin. But we had decided that we would call more attention to ourselves by abandoning the house after paying the rent in advance than we would by remaining there. Living in such a tainted place would perhaps require greater diligence and caution, but we believed we would be safe—as safe as we would be anywhere else in this city.

I still remembered the uneasiness that had filled me on our most recent visit to the house, but I attributed my qualms to frayed nerves and adrenaline exhaustion. Although the place disturbed me, I did not have any premonition that we would be putting ourselves in jeopardy by taking up residence there.

We were on East Duncannon Road, two miles from the turnoff to Apple Lane, when we passed through a green traffic signal and saw a Yontsdown police cruiser stopped at the red signal on our right. A mercury-vapor street lamp shed slightly purple beams through that car’s dirty windshield, providing just enough light for me to see that the cop behind the wheel was a goblin. The hateful, demonic face was vaguely visible beneath the human disguise.

However, with my special vision I saw something else, as well, and for a moment I was breathless. Rya had driven almost half a block before I was able to speak: “Pull over!”


“Quickly. Pull to the curb. Stop. Put out the headlights.”

She did as I demanded. “What’s wrong?”

My heart seemed to sprout wings, beat them, and swoop frantically within my chest.

“That cop at the intersection,” I said.

“I noticed him,” Rya said. “A goblin.”

I turned the rearview mirror so I could use it, and I saw that the traffic signal behind us had not yet changed. The police car was still waiting at the corner.

I said, “We’ve got to stop him.”

“The cop?”


“Stop him . . . from doing what?”

“From killing,” I said. “He’s going to kill someone.”

“They’re all going to kill someone,” she said. “That’s what they do.”

“No, I mean . . . tonight. He’s going to kill someone tonight.”

“You’re sure?”

“Soon. Very soon.”


“I don’t know. I don’t think he knows yet. But before long, within an hour or less, he’ll come upon . . . an opportunity. And he’ll seize it.”

Behind us, the traffic light winked yellow, blinked red. At the same time it changed to green in the other direction, so the police cruiser turned the corner, heading our way.

“Follow him,” I told Rya. “But for God’s sake, not too close. We mustn’t let him realize he’s under surveillance.”

“Slim, we’re here on a bigger mission than saving one life. We can’t risk it all just because—”

“We have to. If we let him drive away, knowing he’s going to kill an innocent person tonight . . .”

The cruiser passed us, eastbound on Duncannon.

Refusing to follow that car, Rya said, “Listen, stopping one murder is like trying to plug a huge hole in a dam with a piece of chewing gum. We’re better off laying low and doing our research, finding out how we can strike at the entire goblin network here—”

“Kitty Genovese,” I said.

Rya stared at me.

“Remember Kitty Genovese,” I said.

She blinked. She shivered. She sighed. She put the car in gear and reluctantly followed the cop.

Chapter twenty-three


He cruised through an outlying neighborhood of decrepit houses: ruptured sidewalks, swaybacked steps, broken porch railings, aged and weathered walls. If possessed of voices, they were structures that would groan, sigh bitterly, wheeze, cough, and feebly complain of time’s injustice.

We followed discreetly.

Earlier in the day, after signing the lease, we had bought tire chains at a Gulf station. The steel links clinked and clattered and, at higher speeds, sang shrilly. Now and then, the residue of winter crunched under our fortified tread.

The cop drove slowly past several closed businesses—a muffler shop, a tire store, an abandoned service station, a used bookstore—and shone the patrol car’s high-intensity spotlight along the darkened flanks of the buildings, searching for would-be burglars, no doubt, but scaring up nothing more than dervish shadows that whirled and leapt and were extinguished in the dazzling beam.

We stayed at least a block behind him, letting him turn corners and disappear from sight for long seconds, so he would not notice that it was always the same car following.

In time his path crossed that of a stranded motorist parked on the berm, against a snowbank, near the junction of East Duncannon Road and Apple Lane. The broken-down car was a four-year-old green Pontiac wearing a skirt of road grime, with short, blunt, muddy icicles hanging from sections of its rear bumper. It had New York State license plates, a detail which confirmed my feeling that this was where the cop would find his victim. After all, a far-traveler passing through Yontsdown would make safe and easy prey because no one could prove that he had disappeared in that city rather than elsewhere along his route.

The patrol car pulled onto the berm and stopped behind the disabled Pontiac.

“Drive past,” I told Rya.

An attractive redhead, about thirty years old, wearing knee-high boots and jeans and a thigh-length gray plaid coat, was standing in front of the Pontiac, her breath pluming frostily in the freezing air. Having raised the hood, she was peering quizzically into the engine compartment. Although she had removed one of her gloves, she did not seem to know what to do with the pale hand that she had bared; she reached hesitantly toward something under the hood, then drew back in confusion.

Clearly hoping for assistance, she glanced at us as we slowed for the intersection.

Just for a fraction of a second I saw an eyeless skull where her face should have been. Its bony sockets seemed of great depth, bottomless.

I blinked.

To my Twilight Eyes, her mouth and nostrils appeared to be teeming with maggots.

I blinked again.

The vision passed, and so did we.

She would die tonight—unless we did something to help her.

A restaurant-bar occupied the corner of the next block, and it was the last lighted place before Duncannon Road rose into the coal-dark, tree-shrouded foothills that ringed three sides of Yontsdown. Rya swung our station wagon into the parking lot, tucked it beside a pickup truck with a camper shell, and cut the headlights. From that position, looking westward beneath the lowest bristly branches of a massive fir that marked the corner of the restaurant property, we had a view of the intersection of Duncannon and Apple Lane, a block back. There, the goblin patrolman was standing at the front of the Pontiac, beside the redhead in the plaid coat, by all outward signs a champion of the lady in distress.

“We left the guns at the house,” Rya said.

“We didn’t think the war had started already. But after tonight neither of us goes anywhere without a pistol,” I said shakily, still unnerved by the image of the maggot-riddled skull.

“But right now,” she said, “we don’t have weapons.”

“I have my knife,” I replied, patting my boot where the blade was concealed.

“Not much.”



At the intersection the redhead was getting into the patrol car, no doubt relieved to have the assistance of a smiling and courteous officer of the law.

A few cars had passed, headlights glinting off patches of snow, bits of ice, and crystals of road salt on the pavement. For the most part, however, Duncannon was little traveled at this rural end of town and at this hour, for traffic to and from the upland mines had virtually ceased for the day. And now, except for the patrol car that pulled out from the berm and came in our direction, the highway was deserted.

“Get ready to follow him again,” I told Rya.

She shifted the car into gear but did not yet switch on the lights.

We slumped far down in the seat, our heads barely above the dashboard. We watched the cop as if we were a pair of cautious Florida sand crabs with eyestalks barely poking above the surface of the beach.

As the patrol car passed us, accompanied by the keening and rhythmic ticking of its own tire chains, we saw the uniformed goblin driving. There was no sign of the redhead. She had gotten into the front passenger seat; we had observed that much. But she was not to be seen there now.

“Where is she?” Rya wondered.

“Just after she got into the car, the last traffic on Duncannon passed them. They were unobserved, so I’ll bet the bastard saw his chance and took it. He probably slapped handcuffs on her, forced her down onto the seat. Maybe he even clubbed her, knocked her out.”

“She could already be dead,” Rya suggested.

“No,” I said. “Go on. Follow them. He wouldn’t have killed her that easily, not when he could take her somewhere private and kill her slowly. That’s what they enjoy if they can arrange it—leisurely death rather than the sudden kind.”

The patrol car had almost disappeared along Duncannon by the time Rya swung the station wagon out of the restaurant lot. Far ahead, the red taillights rose, rose, rose, and for a moment seemed suspended in darkest midair high above us—then vanished over the brow of a hill. No traffic followed in our wake. With a brief, hard stutter of chains biting macadam, Rya accelerated, and we pursued the patrol car at all possible speed, while Duncannon narrowed from a three-lane street to a two-lane county road.

As we followed the rising land, half glimpsed pines and spruce—apparitional, somehow threatening, cloaked in their robes and cowls of evergreen needles—loomed close on both sides.

Although we soon closed to within less than a quarter-mile of the patrol car, we were not worried that the goblin policeman would spot us. In those foothills the county road followed a serpentine course, so we seldom had him in our sight for more than a few seconds at a time, which meant we were only a distant pair of headlights to him and unlikely to be perceived as a danger. In each mile, perhaps half a dozen driveways—mostly dirt, a few graveled, fewer still paved with macadam—led away through ice-encrusted trees, presumably to houses unseen because there was usually a mailbox on a post at the turnoff. When we had gone four or five miles, we topped a steep rise and saw the patrol car below us, nearly drawn to a complete stop as it swung right into another of those driveways. Without reducing our speed, pretending indifference, we passed the turnoff, where the stenciled name on the gray mailbox was HAVENDAHL. When I peered past the box, into the tunnel of evergreens, I saw the taillights rapidly dwindling in a sheltered darkness so perfect and deep that for a moment my senses of distance and spacial relationships (and my equilibrium) were jolted, confused: it actually seemed as if I was hanging in the air while the cop’s cruiser was moving not along the surface of the earth but straight down into the ground below me, boring toward the planet’s core.

Rya parked along the road two hundred yards beyond the private drive, at a place where the highway department’s plows had pushed the huge banks of snow entirely clear of the berm to provide a turnabout.

When we got out of the car, we discovered that the night had grown colder since we had left the supermarket in town. A damp wind swept down from higher reaches of the Appalachians but felt as if it came from a more northerly clime, from bleak Canadian tundra, from fields of Arctic ice; it had a sharp, clean, ozone smell of polar origins. We were both wearing suede coats with imitation fur lining, gloves, and insulated boots. We were still cold.

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