Page 27 of Night Chills

“To the east end,” one of them said.


“A hundred yards short of the turn at the mouth of the valley, you’ll park the cruiser across the highway and block both lanes as best you can.”


“A roadblock,” one of them said, obviously pleased with the way the game was developing.


“Exactly,” Salsbury said. “If anyone wants to enter Black River—logging trucks, local citizens, maybe visitors from out of town, anyone at all—you’ll let them in. However, you’ll send them here, straight to this office. You’ll tell them that a state of emergency has been declared in Black River and that they absolutely must, without exception, check in with the chief of police before they go on about their business.”


“What kind of emergency?” “You don’t need to know.” One of them frowned.


The other said, “Everyone we stop will want to know.”


“If they ask, tell them that the chief will explain it.” Both men nodded.


Thorp distributed a dozen shotgun shells to each of them.


“If anyone tries to leave Black River,” Salsbury said, “you’ll also direct them to the chief, and you’ll give them the same story about a state of emergency. Understood?”


“Yes.”


“Yes.”


“Every time you send someone to see Bob, whether they were coming into town or trying to get out of it, you’ll radio this office. That way, if they don’t show up within a few minutes, we’ll know that we’ve got some renegades on our hands. Understood?”


They both said, “Yes.”


Salsbury took his handkerchief from his hip pocket and blotted the perspiration from his face. “If anyone leaving town tries to run your roadblock, stop them. If you can’t stop them any other way, use the guns.”


“Shoot to kill?”


“Shoot to kill,” Salsbury said. “But only if there’s no other way to stop them.”


One of the men tried to look like John Wayne receiving orders at the Alamo, shook his head solemnly, and said, “Don’t worry. You can count on us.”


“Any questions?”


“How long will we be in charge of this roadblock?”


“Another team of men will relieve you in six hours,” Salsbury said. “At eight o’clock this evening.” He jammed his handkerchief back into his pocket. “One other thing. When you leave this room, you will forget that you ever met me. You’ll forget that I was here. You’ll remember everything I’ve said to you prior to what I’m saying to you now, every previous exchange of this conversation we’ve just had—but you’ll think that Bob Thorp gave you your instructions. Is that perfectly clear?”


“Yes.”


“Perfectly.”


“Then get moving.”


The two men went out of the room, forgetting him the moment they set foot in the corridor.


A fiercely white pulse of lightning washed over the town, and a crack of thunder followed, rattling the windows.


“Close those blinds,” Salsbury said irritably.


Thorp did as he was told.


Salsbury sat down behind the desk.


When he had drawn the Venetian blinds, Bob Thorp returned to the desk and stood in front of it.


Salsbury looked up at him and said, “Bob, I want to seal this burg up tight. Real tight.” He made a fist with his right hand by way of example. “I want to make damned sure that no one can get out of town. Is there anything else that I should block in addition to the highway?”


Scratching his beetled brow, Thorp said, “You need two more men at the east end of the valley. One to watch the river. He should be armed with a rifle so he can pick off anyone in a boat if he has to do that. The other man should be stationed in the trees between the river and the highway. Give him a shotgun and tell him to stop anyone who tries to sneak out through the woods.”


“The man at the river—he’d have to be an expert with a rifle, wouldn’t he?” Salsbury asked.


“You wouldn’t need a master rifleman. But he would have to be a fairly good shot.”


“Okay. We’ll use one of your deputies for that. They’re all good with a rifle, aren’t they?”


“Oh, sure.”


“Good enough for this?”


“No doubt about it.”


“Anything else?”


Thorp thought about the situation for almost a minute. Finally he said, “There’s a series of old logging roads that lead up into the mountains and eventually hook up with a second series of roads that come from the lumber operations around Bexford. A lot of that route has been abandoned. None of it’s paved. A few sections may be graveled if they haven’t been washed out this summer, but mostly it’s just dirt. Narrow. Full of weeds. But I guess if a man was determined enough, he could drive out that way.”


“Then we’ll block it,” Salsbury said, getting up from the chair. He paced nervously to the windows and back to the desk. “This town is mine. Mine. And it’ll stay that way. I’m going


to keep my hands on every man, woman, and child here until I’ve solved this problem.”


The situation had gotten incredibly far out of hand. He would have to call Dawson. Sooner or later. Probably sooner. Couldn’t be avoided. But before he placed that call, he wanted to be certain that he had done everything that he could possibly do without Leonard’s help, without Klinger’s help. Show them he was decisive. Clever. A good man to have around. His efficiency might impress the general. And that Christ-kissing bastard. Impress them enough to compensate for his having caused the crisis in the first place. That was very important. Very important. Right now the trick was to survive his partners’ wrath.


2:30 P.M.


The air in Sam’s library was stale and humid.


Rain drummed on the outside window, and hundreds of tiny beads of dew formed on the inside.


Still numb from the discovery of his son’s body, Paul sat in one of the easy chairs, his hands on the arms of the chair and his fingertips pressed like claws into the upholstery.


Sam stood by one of the bookcases, pulling volumes of collected psychology essays from the stacks and leafing through them.


On the wide window ledge, an antique mantel clock ticked hollowly, monotonously.


Jenny came into the room from the ball, letting the door stand open behind her. She knelt on the floor beside Paul’s chair and put her hand over his.


“How’s Rya?” he asked.


Before they had gone to the Thorp house to search for the body, Sam had given the girl a sedative.


“Sleeping soundly,” Jenny said. “She’ll be out for at least two more hours.”


“Here!” Sam said excitedly.


They looked up, startled.


He came to them, holding up a book of essays. “His picture. The one who calls himself Deighton.”


Paul stood up to have a better look at it.


“No wonder Rya and I couldn’t find any of his articles,” Sam said. “We were looking through tables of contents for something written by Albert Deighton. But that’s not his name. His real name’s Ogden Salsbury.”


“I’ve seen him,” Paul said. “He was in Ultman’s Cafe the day that waitress drove the meat fork through her hand. In fact she waited on him.”


Rising to her feet, Jenny said, “You think that was connected with the rest of this, with the story Buddy Pellineri told us— with what they did to Mark?” Her voice faltered slightly on those last few words, and her eyes grew shiny. But she bit her lip and held back the tears.


“Yes,” Paul said, wondering again at his own inability to weep. He ached. God, he was full of pain! But the tears would not come. “It must be connected. Somehow.” To Sam he said, “Salsbury wrote this article?”


“According to the introductory blurb, it was the last piece he ever published—more than twelve years ago.”


“But he’s not dead.”


“Unfortunately.”


“Then why the last?”


“Seems he was quite a controversial figure. Praised and damned but mostly damned. And he got tired of the controversy. He dropped out of his lecture tours and gave up his writing so that he’d have more time to dedicate to his research.”


“What’s the article about?”


Sam read the title. “‘Total Behavioral Modification through Subliminal Perception.’” And the subtitle: “‘Mind Control from the Inside Out.’”


“What does all of that mean?”


“Do you want me to read it aloud?”


Paul looked at his watch.


“It wouldn’t hurt if we knew the enemy before we went into Bexford to see the state police,” Jenny said.


“She’s right,” Sam said.


Paul nodded. “Go ahead. Read it.”


2:40 P.M.


Friday afternoon H. Leonard Dawson was in the study of his Greenwich, Connecticut, house, reading a long letter on lavender paper from his wife. Julia was one-third of the way through a three-week trip to the Holy Land, and day by day she was discovering that it was less and less like she had imagined and hoped it would be. The best hotels were all owned by Arabs and Jews, she said; therefore, she felt unclean every time she went to bed. There were plenty of rooms in the inns, she said, but she would almost have preferred to sleep in the stables. That morning (as she wrote the letter) her chauffeur had driven her to Golgotha, that most sweetly sacred of places; and she had read to herself from the Bible as the car wended its way to that shrine of both sorrow and everlasting joy. But even Golgotha had been spoiled for her. Upon arriving there, she found that the holy hill was literally swarming with sweaty Southern Negro Baptists. Southern Negro Baptists, of all people. Furthermore.


The white telephone rang. Its soft, throaty burrrr-burrrrburrrr was instantly recognizable.


The white phone was the most private line in the house. Only Ogden and Ernst knew the number.


He put down the letter, waited until the telephone had rung a second time, picked up the receiver. “Hello?”


“I recognize your voice,” Salsbury said guardedly. “Do you find mine familiar?”


“Of course. Are you using your scrambler?”


“Oh, yes,” Salsbury said.


“Then there’s no need to talk in riddles and be mysterious.


Even if the line is tapped, which it isn’t, they can’t make sense of what we’re saying.”


“With the situation what it is at my end,” Salsbury said, “I think we should take the precaution of riddle and mystery and not trust solely in the scrambler.”


“What is the situation at your end?”


“We’ve got serious trouble here.”


“At the test site?”


“At the test site.”


“Trouble of what sort?”


“There’s been one fatality.”


“Will it pass for natural causes?”


“Not in a million years.”


“Can you handle it yourself?” “No. There are going to be more.” “Fatalities?” Dawson asked. “We’ve got people here who are unaffected.” “Unaffected by the program?” “That’s right.”


“Why should that lead to fatalities?” “My cover is blown.”


“How did that happen?” Salsbury hesitated.


“You’d better tell me the truth,” Dawson said sharply. “For all our sakes. You’d better tell me the truth.”


“I was with a woman.”


“You fool.”


“It was a mistake,” Salsbury admitted.


“It was idiotic. We’ll discuss it later. One of these unaffected people came upon you while you were with the woman.”


“That’s right.”


“If your cover is blown it can be repaired. Undramatically.”


“I’m afraid not I ordered the killer to do what he did.” Despite the riddle form of the conversation, the events in Black River were becoming all too clear to Dawson. “I see.” He thought for a moment. “How many are unaffected?”


“Besides a couple of dozen babies and very young children, at least four more. Maybe five.”


“That’s not so many.”


“There’s another problem. You know the two men we sent up here at the beginning of the month?”


“To the reservoir.”


“They were seen.”


Dawson was silent.


“If you don’t want to come,” Salsbury said, “that’s okay. But I have to have some help. Send our partner and—”


“We’ll both arrive tonight by helicopter,” Dawson said. “Can you bold it yourself until nine or ten o’clock?”


“I think so.”


“You had better.”


Dawson hung up.


Oh Lord, he thought, You sent him to me as an instrument of Your will. Now Satan’s gotten to him. Help me to set all of this aright. I only want to serve You.


He telephoned his pilot and ordered him to fuel the helicopter and have it at the landing pad behind the Greenwich house within the hour.


He dialed three numbers before he located Klinger. “There’s some trouble up north.”


“Serious?”


“Extremely serious. Can you be here in an hour?”


“Only if I drive like a maniac. Better make it an hour and a quarter.”


“Get moving.”


Dawson hung up again.


Oh Lord, he thought, both of these men are infidels. I know that. But You sent them to me for Your own purposes, didn’t You? Don’t punish me for doing Your will, Lord.


He opened the lower right-hand drawer of the desk and took Out a folder thick with papers.


The label on it said:


HARRISON-BODREI DETECTIVE AGENCY


SUBJECT: OGDEN SALSBURY


Thanks to the Harrison—Bodrei Agency, he understood his partners almost better than they understood themselves. For


the past fifteen years he had kept a constantly updated file on Ernst Klinger. The Salsbury dossier was comparatively new, begun only in January 1975; but it traced his life all the way back through his childhood, and it was undeniably complete. Having read it ten or twelve times, from cover to cover, Dawson felt that he should have anticipated the current crisis.


Ogden was neither stark-raving mad nor perfectly sound of mind. He was a pathological woman-hater. Yet periodically he indulged in lascivious sprees of whoring, using as many as seven or eight prostitutes during a single weekend. Occasionally, there was trouble.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com