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Chapter Seven

It was much cooler outside. A wind had begun to pick up and Joanie shivered slightly. Lyle started to recover almost immediately, so much so that he—most gallant—shrugged off his jacket and placed it around those golden shoulders. They hurried each other across the parking lot, like a couple of homing pigeons, headed for the shadows in the trees across the way, someplace to get out of the wind. Now and then a fat drop of rain fell with a crash on the tarmac there.

"Whew!" exclaimed Dwyer as they reached the trees.

"Yeah," said Joanie.

"Little woozy there for a minute."

"You're telling me."

"Better now," said Dwyer. He smiled, leaning against the old tree trunk. He reached for Joanie, surprising her a little, but he was only uncoordinatedly going for the flask he had in his jacket.

"This good stuff," he said, uncapping, tipping, swallowing: "Remy."

"My mother's favorite," said Joanie, with an edge of sarcasm that Dwyer missed. She took the cognac from him, not without gratitude, for it was a cold night and, after all the dancing she was beginning to think about how she was going to get home. And she was a little confused about Rog. And she was kind of curious about whether she'd ever see Archie Meader again.

And she drank again, a little deeper this time, and as the tears started to come, she felt Lyle Dwyer's strong arms around her, pulling her to him, and he was going "there there, there there."

She was feeling miserable, all of a sudden. Like her whole world was inside out and upside down and there was no one to turn to who understood.

She was sobbing now. Her breaths came in big wracking waves, and it was suddenly much colder and the wind grew stronger and now she could hear rain coming down in the leaves of the trees and Mr. Dwyer pulled her deeper into the shadows, where it was warmer and quieter and safer. "There there," he said over and over, "there there, little Joanie."

She buried her face in his barrel chest. He smelled musty, like the lab, and alcoholly, like the Remy Martin, and his arm tightened around her shoulder. Still she sobbed, as though it were the end of the world, and she felt Mr. Dwyer turn her body slightly, so they were face to face now.

His belly pressed against her breasts, and his pelvis ground against her and Mr. Dwyer took his other hand and took her chin and pulled her head up to look at him and his eyes were tiny and very red and he breathed on her, "now now," he said, "there there." And before she could pull away, his lips were on hers and his mouth covered hers and it was hard to breathe. And he stuck his tongue in her mouth and it was rough and it hurt her all over, the way chalk will on a blackboard sometimes.

And Dwyer pulled his big head away at last, and he kissed her neck, making big sucking sounds, disgusting drunken sucking sounds, and she just knew there'd be big hickey marks on her neck and she tried to turn away but Dwyer held her and he went "there there there there," and his head went lower, down to her breasts and his hand came up and palmed her breast and she realized as he kissed her there that he was trying to pull down her gown and she tried to scream but Dwyer's hand covered her mouth and now the whole world exploded:

The lightning came right on top of them, and the rain, followed quickly by the thunder, and it was as if the storm gave Dwyer strength. He tore at her dress, managed to drag it down off her breasts to her waist and the rain came down in hard stinging pellets on her nipples and she screamed again, at last, forcing his hand from her mouth in the futile hope that somebody could hear her over the storm.

"Help! Please! Help!" She sobbed so loudly, so wholly, that she thought her body might burst with the effort.

And Dwyer's face was ghastly in the lightning strikes. He kissed her roughly again and again, and at the same time took her hand, forcing her to touch him, down there, where he was big and hard and disgusting and Joanie cried and the thunder cracked. Dwyer took her neck in his hands and he forced her down to her knees. The rocks and the pebbles and acorns under the tree hurt her knees and Dwyer pressed her head against him and held her tightly round the neck with one hand as he unfastened himself with the other and there was another flash of lightning and Dwyer's thing was loose, brushing against her cheek. And she was wet, so wet, from her tears and the rain and Dwyer and she cried again in agony:

"Please, won't somebody—"

"Take it!" said Dwyer, his eyes all evil and mad-like, forcing her mouth open. 'Take it now!"

"No!" screamed Joanie Snowland, "No—" but he pushed himself in, and she couldn't speak with her mouth full and as soon as it happened Dwyer felt his flesh caught between the sharp edges of her incisors and she held on tightly, like a bitch bred to kill, and Dwyer tried to pull himself away, but Joanie was truly animal now, twisting her head back and forth like a pit bull with a rag doll in its iron jaws.

And suddenly she was propelled away from Lyle Dwyer by Roger Davis, who descended on her attacker with more fury than even the storm could muster She rolled over and over in the wet leaves, and though she was afraid to look, she just had to, and she saw Rog pummel Dwyer again and again in the fat grossness of his naked gut and he kneed him in the crotch and Dwyer's ballooning yellowed boxer shorts were splattered with blood and Rog hit him over and over in the face.

"No!" screamed Dwyer, "Oh!"

Rog said nothing, preferring to let his fists and his feet do the talking. And Joanie thought maybe she heard bones breaking, she wasn't sure, and she turned away.

And when she looked up again, Roger was standing over the biology teacher, who was crumpled in a heap, and Allen Palumbo was there saying "Jesus Rog, come on, you'll kill him, man! Come on!"

And Roger was so out of breath and he looked like he wanted to kill Dwyer and maybe deep down in her heart she wanted him to kill Dwyer but Dwyer was so small there in a pile of bloody clothes and his face was bloody and the rain was washing it into the ground at the foot of that tree and Roger was breathing so hard...so hard...like he'd just returned a punt for ninety yards, like they'd just made love for the first time, and the three of them were there, standing over Dwyer, silhouetted by the lightning bolts and Palumbo yelled and Joanie felt herself being picked up.

She let herself be picked up and the wind and the rain were in her face and she was carried, she knew, by a hero, by her savior, by her lover, away from the most awful place in the world, away from the tree and the drunken beaten Lyle Dwyer and no matter what happened next she would be safe and she could breathe and she could be free and she wouldn't have to do anything she didn't want to do with a man who didn't care anything about her and only wanted her body.

And her body hurt where Dwyer had held her so tight and she saw that she was inside now. She was safe now. It was the Bosch interior. It was Rog's car. She was inside the Deathmobile now and she was safe and they would all take care of her and everything was going to be all right again and Rog had saved her.

It was miraculous.

And as a kind of darkness washed over her, she could taste blood in her mouth and she knew that it was not her blood but rather it was his, the dreadful Lyle Dwyer, and she remembered where it had come from and the thought made her nauseous, but she controlled herself. And she felt warm again. And glad. Because it was over now. And maybe Lyle Dwyer was dead, like he deserved to be.

The rain fell in awful torrents, and Roger Davis swiped at the windshield with the back of his hand. It was his fury that made him unable to see the road, though the Deathmobile was still cold, and the defroster wasn't working yet.

"Easy, Rog," said Palumbo, who was reaching over to help Rog clean the windshield. "Take it easy, man, it's OK now. We got him."

"The prick!" screamed Davis, "I shoulda frigging killed him!"

"It's OK, man, let's just drive now, hunh? Rog?" Like take it easy, OK?"

"But Rog," said Roberta Eliot after some little while, with only the rain on the roof and the thunder to listen to. "Rog, don't you think we ought to go back and see—"

"Screw him!" yelled Rog. "They'll find the sorry fuck there in the morning with his teeth knocked out!"

"And good, I say," added Palumbo, realizing the worst of it was over and reaching for a brew. "I mean what would've happened if we weren't there, hunh?"

"Yeah." Davis glanced in the rearview to see if Joanie was listening. "I mean if it wasn't for the rain we'd've split by now."

Palumbo looked at the digital clock on the dashboard

"If we hadn't held the goddamn plane, Joanie'd be—" Rog slammed the steering wheel in frustration, as if the idea were too painful to even speak about. "She'd...that fuck Dwyer would...Shit!"

"OK, Rog. OK," said Palumbo, "take it easy. Here, have a beer, man. Let's just drive a while and pretty soon we'll meet the plane, man. Just like we planned."

Palumbo reached for the joint Roberta had fired up, inhaled it like it was the last joint he'd ever smoke, exhaled deeply, stared at the rain on the windshield and went on at last: "Yeah. Let's just get high, friends. It all worked out OK."

Roger punched in a cassette tape. Three thousand dollars worth of stereo poured out an oldie but a goodie—maybe a bestie—The Rolling Stones doing Sympathy for the Devil.

"Yeah," grinned Roger at last, as he gave the Deathmobile the gas. "Party hearty, die high."

Their headlights picked up the deer, a huge buck, in the same instant that the lightning struck again. The deer stood there, terrified. There wasn't time enough for anybody to do anything. Roger hit the brakes but all they did was postpone the inevitable for a fraction of a second longer.

Palumbo braced himself against the dashboard, but the Deathmobile caught the buck full in the haunches. The deer flew up and through the windshield. Joanie screamed as its head snapped into the car. Its full set of antlers levered into Rog's face, catching him in the right eye and driving further, right through his head.

The Deathmobile careened off the road, down a shallow gully and head-on into an ancient oak. There was the sound of breaking bones and lacerating flesh, and then the thunder cracked again, and the lightning fell upon the Deathmobile as it and its passengers came to a final horrid rest.

And the Stones played on in the rain that dreadful Friday night.

Next: Archie's phone rings very bad news


telephone, for thee!
one thing you don't want is a thaw
our little life is rounded with a sleep "Those suckers are alive!"
In the darkness the undead quarterback
highway to hell in a handbasket
fill 'er up and check the oil
hell hounds on my trail
are you on drugs or just having one of those days?
Freeman and me and the rest of the world

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