Read Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane Online

Authors: William Peter Blatty

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Thrillers

Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane

BOOK: Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Epigraph

The Kept

Chapter 1

The Keepers

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

The Cure

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

“… This Place”

Chapter 14

Praise

Copyright

 

DEDICATION:
For E.T.G.T. and A.M.D.G.

 

… Hamlet … is mad and sent into England.… ’Twill not be seen in him there. There the men are as mad as he.…

Hamlet

Act V, Scene 1

The Kept

Chapter 1

Fog misted upward from rotted leaves, hugging the mansion like a fetid shroud, squeezing with the grip of demented love until the jaws of its gargoyles gaped with terror in silent, hysterical, never-ending shriek. Soft rain splattered. Ceased. Splattered. Dawn sifted in. Thin fall sunlight groped through trees, fracturing in dapples against the gabled, turreted, grotesque Gothic mansion and a breeze-blown shutter creaked once, twice, moaning for Duncan. A crow coughed hoarsely in a meadow far away. Then stillness—dense; oppressive; waiting … waiting for the wraith-like hooded figure in black that stalked silently through the dense forestation ringing the mansion. The long trailing folds of its heavy velvet robes slid whispering and scraping over decayed shards of darnel, hemlock and oak; rosemary, iris and flowering Judas. Trees ended. The figure halted. And eyes the color of broken dreams brooded across the barren quadrant of earth fronting the mansion; lifted to the moat; to the splintered, lowered drawbridge and the grinning bust of Belial rampant above the door; then fell, like a dying hope, to the gravestone at its feet:

BELA SLOVIK

1898-1959

A withered sigh, hopeless and aching, filtered like remembrance through the figure’s black veil, trickling onto the grave in melancholy rivulets. The apparition knelt. Alabaster fingers, the fingers of a woman, reached out to the headstone holding a pure white rose; then dropped it abruptly as the stillness was shattered by a military bugling. The crackling notes of “Assembly” raged across the courtyard, ripping into the fog with hooks of brass, and an American flag, fluttering defiance, leaped up in spangled majesty atop a mansion turret.

A man garbed in crash helmet, football face guard and Air Force fatigues exploded through the mansion door, fell sprawling to the ground and bellowed: “Everyone out of the whirlpool bath!”

The apparition started, rose up and fled.

Twenty-three men in Air Force fatigues burst like shrapnel through the door, shouting:

“Hurry, children, hurry, hurry!”

“Move it!”

“Scramble!”

“May Day! May Day!”

A green swarm of meteors, they hurtled to the center of the courtyard, muttering and mumbling, crooking their elbows in dress-right-dress. One wore a sword and golden earrings. One wore a peppermint-striped beret. From the head of a third bloomed a coonskin cap.

“Where’s my bra? I forgot my bra!”

“Captain Marvel, meet my urologist.”

“Move!”

“What’s a ‘U.F.O.’?”

“Well, Liberace, for example.”

“Sink the
Bismarck!

“Up your clyde!”

“Oons!”

“Who took my Green Hornet douche bag!”

“Who the hell
cares
about your douche bag!”

“Morris Fairbanks, have you no heart?”

“No! It is welded to my sword!”

“Yes! Which is presently slicing my
foot!

“Beastly fog! There’s no
color
in the air!”

As imprecations floated up from them like steam thick with sparks, they were fronted with authority by a dark-haired ramrod. He wore dirty white sneakers and an N.Y.U. blazer over his faded green fatigue tops. “Attention!” he commanded. “It is
I—Manfred Cutshaw!

The men raised their arms in the salute of ancient Rome. “Mighty Manfred, let us serve you!” they howled into the fog. Then they dropped their arms and froze, hushed and unmoving like the damned awaiting judgment.

Cutshaw’s eyes swept over them like the blue of arctic lights, flashing and mysterious, luminous and deep. And no bird sang. At last Cutshaw spoke: “Sergeant Dorian Zook! You may take three giant steps and kiss the hem of my garment! The
hem,
mind you, the
hem!

“Sah!” bawled Zook, a pudgy little man with a glistening bald head and a proud, jutting belly. He paced three steps forward and cracked his heels together resoundingly.

Cutshaw measured him with warm reserve, then said, “Smashing form, Dorian!”

“Thank you, sir! Thank you!”

“Do not allow it to go to your head, Zook. There’s nothing more vile than
hubris.

“Yes,
sah!
” responded Zook.

Cutshaw looked smartly to the group. “Now, then—baby steps
only!
” He whirled, turning his back to them. “Ready?
Green Light!

Behind him the men shuffled forward like electrified lead soldiers, taking rapid, tiny steps. Then, “Cool it! The ‘fuzz’!” bawled the one with the sword, and the men scuttled rapidly back to formation as out from the mansion, in angry stride, marched the starched and militant figure of an Air Force captain.

“Look where it comes,” burbled Cutshaw, “in the very form and figure of my father’s pet jackass!”

Zook nudged him. “Plan ‘A’?”

“No, ‘B’—‘Madden But Do Not Craze’!”

The Air Force captain irrupted before them, angry hands balled into fists. “Cutshaw, where’s Fromme?” he demanded severely.

“Heaven knows, Captain Groper.”

“Mighty Manfred has spoken!” chorused the men en masse.

Groper blanched and Cutshaw leaned forward. “Sir, I’ve
asked
them not to do that.”

“Sure, you asked us,” chided Zook, “but you didn’t ask us right.”

“What is ‘right’?” demanded Cutshaw. “Don’t talk interlocking puzzles.”

“You didn’t say ‘Simon Says’!”

“Is that the rule?”

“Well,
sure
it’s the rule!”

“Nobody told me.”

“Nobody
told
you! Listen, what the hell
are
you, a baby? You couldn’t
check?
You couldn’t
research?
You couldn’t just ask a cop on the—?”


Simon Says
‘TENNNNNNN-
HUT!
’” Groper’s interruption was a furious roar.

The men snapped to attention. Silence, total silence. And into it Groper spat words that were distinct blobs of acid quietly sizzling on porous rock. “You stinking, crawling, garbage-headed scum! Think you’re kidding
me
with your phony little squirrel act? Sure, you’ve broken Ryan! But we’ll have you ready to fly again or break every one of your legs!”

His speech was not a total success. The men roundly hissed.

“Quiet!” raged the captain.

The hissing grew louder.

“Knock it off!”

And louder.

“Simon Says ‘shut up!’”

An unqualified success.

Groper regarded the men with a savage contempt. “Hissing—
that
you’re good for, you slimy little snakes!”

“Bra-
vo!
Bra-
vo!
” breathed Cutshaw quietly but with feeling.

Groper acknowledged the insolence with a darting, hateful glance. “But,” he continued doggedly, “until headquarters ships you a fresh human sacrifice,
I
am in command! Now pull your heads out of your barracks bags and give poor Colonel Ryan just a
little
better send-off than you gave him a
greeting!
Just
once
try to act like
airmen!

“Banzai! Banzai!” crowed a man in the second rank.

Groper chose to ignore it. He looked to the mansion door. Two airmen were emerging, bearing a man on a stretcher. His hair was iron-gray. He whispered incessantly, incoherently and to no one: to the wind; to the fog; to his limp and crumpled spirit; to a vital mission aborted.

Groper faced the men. “Attennnnnnn-
hut!
Present—
h’ahms!
” He about-faced and saluted. The stretcher bobbed past.

“Hail, Caesar!” croaked the men. The one with the sword extended it smartly.

One of the bearers tripped on a pebble. He rebuked it with a glance, recovered, moved on. The vacant-eyed colonel on the stretcher fell silent. Then abruptly he sobbed—a single, wrenching sob. Cutshaw’s gaze never left him.

The astronaut lowered his arm. Some infinite sadness, some haunting regret fluttered its shadow across his face like the dark wings of pain but briefly remembered. Abruptly, crisply, he lifted his hand in proper salute. And murmured, “Simon Says ‘get well.’” He barely heard it himself over the slam of the ambulance door.

The Keepers

Chapter 2

Has madness a color? A particular tone of voice? What is its uniform? What is its rank?

They strode along squabbling, the Senator and the General, their accents turning heads along the Pentagon corridor. A messenger on a bicycle nearly bumped into them, smiled apologetically, then pedaled on past them deeper into the labyrinth, squeaking to infinite out-baskets.

“The
Moon,
General Lastrade! I want to talk about the
Moon!

Lieutenant General George M. Lastrade, large-boned and hulking Chief of the Strategic Air Command, shifted a shortened, soggy cigar stub to the drier corner of his mouth. His jowled face was wrinkled with the care of boundless skies, and beneath the jagged lightning of his black-billed cap gleamed the two intense and probing pearls of gray that were his eyes. Unreadable as a basilisk’s, they struggled to communicate a look of ageless wisdom. Yet they were better equipped by nature to communicate with sharks. Their owner’s sleep was dreamless. But he was willing to endure the insufferable in order to get his way.

“But,
Senator!
” pleaded Lastrade in what he devoutly hoped was a whine.

Senator Nolan D. Hesburgh, longtime Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Appropriations Committee, wheeled on Lastrade and whipped a flaky, freckled hand out of the right-hand pocket of his new vicuna coat. Then he waggled a preachy finger under the General’s broad nose.


You’re
the one who started this! Wasn’t this supposed to be a sightseeing tour?” He spoke in a flat, expressionless drawl, laced with gravel and nasal twang.

“Yes, but—!”

“So far all I’ve seen is the Field Officers’ Men’s Room and your thickly coated wild blue tongue wig-wagging pleas for money!”

“Good image!” sparkled the General.

“Good
grief!
” muttered the Senator. His hand stabbed into his pocket again and he trudged ahead down the corridor on stubby, muscular legs, eyes glaring balefully out of a deadpan face. He adored baiting the brass. The Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard had rejected him for service in World War II.

“Too short!” said the Marines. “Bad eyes!” said the Army. “Try the Coast Guard!” said the Navy. The Coast Guard said nothing, which proved most disturbing of all. Hesburgh had never forgotten it; would never let
them
forget it.

But Lastrade he found exasperating, impervious to insult. Nothing could dent his hide. Is it an act? wondered Hesburgh. Is the man putting me on? Earlier that day he had taunted Lastrade by relating in sober detail how he had once seen a flying saucer “swooping low” over the CIA building. “It lowered a ladder,” he’d lied to him brazenly, looking him straight in the eye, “and someone on the roof climbed up into the ship.” Then he had waited. “Yes, my wife saw something similar,” the General had replied. “I think there’s something out there.” Lastrade’s expression, at the time, had been one of unalloyed sagacity. The Senator was baffled. He scratched a wart on his neck. “Too short,” he muttered bleakly.

“About the money!” puffed Lastrade, catching up to him quickly.

BOOK: Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane
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