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The Dark Tower-Part 3#-4#-5#

By:Stephen King

The Dark Tower-Part 3#-4#-5#
Stephen King

 
ONE

The fact of his own almost unearthly speed of hand never occurred to Jake Chambers. All he knew was that when he staggered out of the Devar-Toi and back into America, his shirt-belled out into a pregnant curve by Oy's weight-was pulling out of his jeans. The bumbler, who never had much luck when it came to passing between the worlds (he'd nearly been squashed by a taxicab the last time), tumbled free. Almost anyone else in the world would have been unable to prevent that fall (and in fact it very likely wouldn't have hurt Oy at all), but Jake wasn't almost anyone. Ka had wanted him so badly that it had even found its way around death to put him at Roland's side. Now his hands shot out with a speed so great that they momentarily blurred away to nothing. When they reappeared, one was curled into the thick shag at the nape of Oy's neck and the other into the shorter fur at the rump end of his long back. Jake set his friend down on the pavement. Oy looked up at him and gave a single short bark. It seemed to express not one idea but two: thanks, and don't do that again.

"Come on," Roland said. "We have to hurry."

Jake followed him toward the store, Oy falling in at his accustomed place by the boy's left heel. There was a sign hanging in the door from a little rubber suction cup. It read WE'RE OPEN, so COME IN 'N VISIT, just as it had in 1977. Taped in the window to the left of the door was this:

COME ONE COME ALL
TO THE 1ST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
BEANHOLE BEAN SUPPER

Saturday June 19th, 1999

Intersection Route 7 amp; Klatt Road PARISH HOUSE (In Back)

5 PM-7:30 PM

AT 1st CONGO

"WE'RE ALWAYS GLAD TO SEEYA, NAYiAH!"

Jake thought, The bean supper will be starting in an hour or so. They 'II already be putting down the tablecloths and setting the places.

Taped to the right of the door was a more startling message to the public: ist Lovell-Stoneham Church of the Walk-Ins Will YOU join us for Worship?

Sunday services: io AM

Thursday services: y PM

EVERY WEDNESDAY IS YOUTH NIGHT!!! 7-9 PM!

Games! Music! Scripture!

NEWS OF WALK-INS!

Hey, Teens!

"Be There or Be Square!!!".

We Seek the Doorway to Heaven-Will You Seek With Us?"

Take found himself thinking of Harrigan, the street-preacher on the corner of Second Avenue and Forty-sixth Street, and wondering to which of these two churches he might have been attracted. His head might have told him First Congo, but his heart-

"Hurry, Jake," Roland repeated, and there was a jingle as the gunslinger opened the door. Good smells wafted out, reminding Jake (as they had reminded Eddie) of Took's on the Calla high street: coffee and peppermint candy, tobacco and salami, olive oil, the salty tang of brine, sugar and spice and most things nice.

He followed Roland into the store, aware that he had brought at least two things with him, after all. The Coyote machine-pistol was stuffed into the waistband of his jeans, and the bag of Orizas was still slung over his shoulder, hanging on his left side so that the half a dozen plates remaining inside would be within easy reach of his right hand.

TWO

Wendell "Chip" McAvoy was at the deli counter, weighing up a pretty sizable order of sliced honey-cured turkey for Mrs. Tassenbaum, and until the bell over the door rang, once more turning Chip's life upside down (You 've turned turtle, the oldtimers used to say when your car rolled in the ditch), they had been discussing the growing presence of Jet Skis on Keywadin Pond …

or rather Mrs. Tassenbaum had been discussing it.

Chip thought Mrs. T. was a more or less typical summer visitor: rich as Croesus (or at least her husband, who had one of those new dot-com businesses, was), gabby as a parrot loaded on whiskey, and as crazy as Howard Hughes on a morphine toot.

She could afford a cabin cruiser (and two dozen Jet Skis to pull it, if she fancied), but she came down to the market on this end of the lake in a battered old rowboat, tying up right about where John Cullum used to tie his up, until That Day (as the years had refined his story to ever greater purity, burnishing it like an oft-polished piece of teak furniture, Chip had come more and more to convey its capital-letter status with his voice, speaking of That Day in the same reverential tones the Reverend Conveigh used when speaking of Our Lord). La Tassenbaum was talky, meddlesome, good-looking (kinda …  he supposed …

if you didn't mind the makeup and the hairspray), loaded with green, and a Republican. Under the circumstances, Chip McAvoy felt perfectlyjustified in sneaking his thumb onto the corner of the scale …  a trick he had learned from his father, who had told him you practically had a duty to rook folks from away if they could afford it, but you must never rook folks from the home place, not even if they were as rich as that writer, King, from over in Lovell. Why? Because word got around, and the next thing you knew, out-of-town custom was all a man had to get by on, and try doing that in the month of February when the snowbanks on the sides of Route 7 were nine feet high. This wasn't February, however, and Mrs. Tassenbaum-a Daughter of Abraham if he had ever seen one-was not from these parts.

No, Mrs. Tassenbaum and her rich-as-Croesus dot-com husband would be gone back to Jew York as soon as they saw the first colored leaf fall. Which was why he felt perfecdy comfortable in turning her six-dollar order of turkey into seven dollars and eighty cents with the ball of his thumb on the scale. Nor did it hurt to agree with her when she switched topics and started talking about what a terrible man that Bill Clinton was, although in fact Chip had voted twice for Bubba and would have voted for him a third time, had the Constitution allowed him to run for another term. Bubba was smart, he was good at persuading the ragheads to do what he wanted, he hadn't entirely forgotten the working man, and by the Lord Harry he got more pussy than a toilet seat.

"And now Gore expects to just …  ride in on his coattails!"

Mrs. Tassenbaum said, digging for her checkbook (the turkey on the scale magically gained another two ounces, and there Chip felt it prudent to lock it in). "Claims he invented the Internet! Huh! I know better! In fact, I know the man who really did invent the Internet!" She looked up (Chip's thumb now nowhere near the scales, he had an instinct about such things, damned if he didn't) and gave Chip a roguish litde smile. She lowered her voice into its confidential just-we-two register. "I ought to, I've been sleeping in the same bed with him for almost twenty years!"

Chip gave a hearty laugh, took the sliced turkey off the scale, and put it on a piece of white paper. He was glad to leave the subject of Jet Skis behind, as he had one on order from Viking Motors ("The Boys with the Toys") in Oxford himself.

"I know what you mean! That fella Gore, too slick!" Mrs.

Tassenbaum was nodding endiusiastically, and so Chip decided to lay on a little more. Never hurt, by Christ. "His hair, for instance-how can you trust a man who puts that much goo in his-"

That was when the bell over the door jingled. Chip looked up. Saw. And froze. A goddamned lot of water had gone under the bridge since That Day, but Wendell "Chip" McAvoy knew the man who'd caused all the trouble the moment he stepped through the door. Some faces you simply never forgot. And hadn't he always known, deep in his heart's most secret place, that the man with die terrible blue eyes hadn't finished his business and would be back?

Back for him?

That idea broke his paralysis. Chip turned and ran. He got no more than three steps along the inside of the counter before a shot rang out, loud as thunder in the store-the place was bigger and fancier than it had been in '77, thank God for his father's insistence on extravagant insurance coverage-and Mrs. Tassenbaum uttered a piercing scream. Three or four people who had been browsing the aisles turned with expressions of astonishment, and one of them hit the floor in a dead faint. Chip had time to register that it was Rhoda Beemer, eldest daughter of one of the two women who'd been killed in here on That Day. Then it seemed to him that time had folded back on itself and it was Ruth herself lying there with a can of creamed corn rolling free of one relaxing hand. He heard a bullet buzz over his head like an angry bee and skidded to a stop, hands raised.

"Don't shoot, mister!" he heard himself bawl in the thin, wavering voice of an old man. "Take whatever's in the register but don't shoot me!"

"Turn around," said the voice of the man who had turned Chip's world turtle on That Day, the man who'd almost gotten him killed (he'd been in the hospital over in Bridgton for two weeks, by the living Jesus) and had now reappeared like an old monster from some child's closet. "The rest of you on the floor, but you turn around, shopkeeper. Turn around and see me.

"See me very well."

THREE

The man swayed from side to side, and for a moment Roland thought he would faint instead of turning. Perhaps some survival-

oriented part of his brain suggested that fainting was more likely to get him killed, for the shopkeeper managed to keep his feet and did finally turn and face the gunslinger. His dress was eerily similar to what he'd been wearing the last time Roland was here; it could have been the same black tie and butcher's apron, tied up high on his midriff. His hair was still slicked back along his skull, but now it was wholly white instead of salt-andpepper.

Roland remembered the way blood had dashed back from the left side of the shopkeeper's temple as a bullet-one fired by Andolini himself, for all the gunslinger knew-grooved him. Now there was a grayish knot of scar-tissue there. Roland guessed the man combed his hair in a way that would display that mark rather than hide it. He'd either had a fool's luck that day or been saved by ka. Roland thought ka the more likely.

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