The following morning (Tuesday) Harold was visited at the shop by the local police department, who wanted to ask him a few questions about Claudia Wildman. The coroner had determined that death had been caused by irreparable damage to the frontal lobes of the brain consistent with flash-freezing. A detective in an ill-fitting double-knit suit asked him if he kept any liquid gases at the cottage, oxygen or nitrogen. It was a stupid question, but Harold supposed he had to ask it for the sake of procedure.316Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9FG8DnsPWQ
"You don't keep any ice, either? Large quantities of ice?"
"No," Harold assured him. "No oxygen, no nitrogen, no ice."
"I find that hard to believe, since your mother-in-law died from freezing."
"Freezing or something like freezing," Harold corrected him.
"What's like freezing?" he wanted to know. "The pathologists say she was subjected to such intense cold that her eyeballs had actually pulverized. How does something like that happen?"
"I don't know."
"Don't tell me you don't know. You were there!"
"It must have been a freak of the weather. I saw her collapse on to the pathway, that was all."
"Then you went running off along the shoreline. Why?"
"To go for help."
"The nearest house to yours was only a hundred yards away, in the opposite direction. Besides, you had a telephone."
"I panicked, that's all," Harold told him. "Since when is it against the law to panic?"
"Don't get smart," the detective admonished, fixing his attention with relentless green eyes. "This is, what, the second weird death in which your name has come up in a week. Best keep your nose clean from hereon out. You're under suspicion in both incidents. Move out of line by a hair and I'll haul your ass down to the station so fast it'll blow your mind. You got that?"
"Yep. Got it."
The police interview irritated and depressed him, so half an hour later Harold closed the shop and drove over to Salem. He parked on Liberty Street and walked over to Street Mall to see Pauline. She was serving a blond-haired girl with a red floor-length gown as he walked in, but she smiled and she was obviously pleased to see him.
"Hey. Been thinking about you," she said, when her customer had left.
"Been thinking about you, too," he told her.
"Michael said that you had an interesting trip up to Tewksbury, and that old man Knight told you where the wreck might be located."
"That's right. I'm on my way to see Michael now."
"Well, you don't have to bother. Michael and I have a lunchdate at twelve; why don't you come and join us?"
"Miss Champion, it'd be my pleasure!"
They met Michael outside of the Peabody Museum and then walked down to Mr. Jee's restaurant on Piccadilly Wharf. "I felt a sudden urge to eat Chinese," said Michael. "I was spending the whole morning cataloging Asian prints, and the more I thought about Macao and Whampoa Anchorage, the more I thought about crispy noodles and butterfly prawns."
They were shown to a corner table, and the waiter brought them hot towels, and then a plate of Chinese hors d'oeuvres.
"Hubert and Emil both have their regular free day tomorrow," said Michael, "and I've decided to join them and take a little French leave, so that we can do some preliminary echo-soundings over the spot where old man Knight thought the wreck might be. Do you want to come?"
"I don't think so, not this time," Harold said. Much as he wanted to help locate the George Badger, he knew that his presence tomorrow wouldn't particularly help. The Julia would be sailing backwards and forwards for hours in a tedious parallel search, and even if the sea was calm,, which it would have to be for an accurate echo-sounding of the sea-bed, the trip would be very much less than enjoyable.
Michael picked up a morsel of paper-wrapped chicken with his chopsticks, and deftly opened it. "There's only one thing that bothers me," he said. "Why is old man Knight so insistent that only he take charge of this giant mummy thing once we've brought it up to the surface?"
"If it turns out to be as dangerous and as malevolent as he says it is, then how are we going to handle it?" Harold asked. "At least he seems confident that he can keep it in check."
"We only have his word for that. Whatever's inside that copper vessel may be incredibly valuable, and yet all we're supposed to do is deliver it unopened, right to his door, meek and mild-manner."
"What do you suggest?" Harold asked him. He suddenly found himself interested in keeping Supay away from old man Knight, for the simple reason that if I did decide to let the demon loose, it would be far easier to do so if it was in our custody.
Michael said, "Why don't you try the aromatic crispy duck? It's especially good here. Do you know how they make it?"
Harold said, "Yes, I know how they make it, but I think I'd rather have the chicken in black bean sauce."
"We'll share," said Pauline.
Michael said, "We don't have to take the copper vessel out to Tewksbury right away. We can always rent a refrigerated truck and have it ready at the wharf when we raise the wreck of the George Badger, and take the copper vessel down to ACME Cold Storage. Then we can open it ourselves and see just what it is we've got."
"You actually believe what Mr. Knight said about that Incan mummy?" asked Pauline. "Pardon my language, but it sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. Smells like it, too."
"Was what happened to us at the Hawthorne Inn a bunch of bullshit?" Harold asked her.
"Well, no, but---I don't know. A demon. Who believes in demons these days?"
"It's just a convenient word to use," Michael explained. "I don't know what the hell else to call it. An occult relic? I don't know. Demon is just a handy word, that's all."
"All right then, call it a demon," said Pauline. "But I don't think it's going to help anybody to believe in and sympathize with what you're trying to do, do you?"
"We'll see," said Michael. Then, to Harold, "Did you have any luck with your father-in-law, as far as finance goes?"
"Not yet. He's still thinking it over."
"Keep pressing you, won't you? We can just about afford those echo-soundings, but not much else. I've already emptied my investment account at the bank, not that that amounted to much. $2,100."
"Have you seen any more manifestations?" Pauline asked Harold. "Any more spooky apparitions? Michael told me what happened to you on Saturday night; that must have been so scary."
"You still don't really believe it, do you?" Harold asked her.
"I'd like to," she said.
"But you can't," Harold supplied.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I guess I'm too pragmatic, too down-to-earth. I see these girls screaming in horror films whenever they're threatened by a monster or a vampire, and I just know that I wouldn't react that way. I'd want to know what the monster was, and what it wanted, or maybe if it was somebody dressed up to look like a monster. I'm not denying that what happened at the Hawthorne was scary. It could even have been occult. But I think if it was occult it came from inside your own mind; it was you doing it yourself. I've been changing my opinion once every five minutes for the past few days, do I believe in ghosts or don't I, and I think I've come out on the side of the unbelievers. People are seeing them; all right; you're seeing them. I believe that. But that doesn't mean to say that they're really here."
"Well, well, little Miss Realist," said Harold. "Here's the beef in ginger, help yourself."
"Am I being too direct?" she asked.
"Did I say that?" Harold responded with his own question.
"Not in so many words."
"Then keep my opinions to yourself."
After lunch, Harold bought a large bouquet of flowers and drove back to Ol' Spithead to present them to Suzy, and tell her how sorry I was for forgetting to show up for dinner. He had looked into the Broken Heart earlier, but she hadn't been there. It was obvious from the way the rest of the staff had stared at him, however, that she had told them what had happened. As he drove along West Shore Drive, he decided to drop into the Ol' Spithead Market, and pick up a fresh bottle of whiskey and maybe a bottle of wine for Suzy, to go with the flowers. It was a bright, springlike afternoon, and lunch with Pauline and Michael had cheered him up. He whistled as he parked the car and walked across the parking-lot to the market door.
Wilbur wasn't there, but his part-time assistant Sy was serving behind the counter, a good-natured teenage boy with bright red spots and what was likely the final crewcut on the Eastern Seaboard. He went to the liquor shelf and picked out a bottle of Chivas and a bottle of Moulton Cadet red.
"Isn't Wilbur here?" Harold asked Sy, as he withdrew his wallet.
"He went out," said Sy. "I mean, like, he really rushed out."
"Wilbur rushed? I don't think I've ever seen Wilbur rush in the whole time I've been here."
"He surely did this time. He went out of that door like a bat out of the netherworld. He said something about Jerry."
Harold felt that familiar, unsettling prickle. "Jerry? You mean his dead son Jerry?"
"I don't think so," said Sy. "It couldn't have been. He said he'd seen him. 'I just saw him!' he said, and then he rushed out of the door like crazy."
"Which way?" Harold demanded.
"Which way?" said Sy, surprised. "I don't know which way. Well, maybe kind of up that way, past the parking-lot and up the hill. I was serving, I didn't take too much notice."
Harold pushed his two bottles to the side of the counter. "Keep these here for me, will you?" Harold told him, and then wrenched open the market door and ran out into the parking-lot. He shaded his eyes against the afternoon sun and started up the hill, but he couldn't see any sign of Wilbur. However, he was fat, and unfit, and he couldn't have gotten far. He ran across the parking-lot and started climbing the hill as fast as he could.
It was a long, hard climb. Up there, the range of hills of which Harvest Mills was the southernmost were steeper and rougher than anywhere else. He had to cling on to the rough grass to hold his balance, and several times his foot slid on the crumbling soil, and he scraped his ankles.
After four or five minutes, panting and sweating, he reached the crest of the hill and looked around. Off to the northeast, Harold could see Ol' Spithead Village, and beyond that, the glittering North Atlantic. To the west he could see Salem Harbor and Salem itself, strung along the shoreline; to the south he could see Harvest Mills and Harvest Mills Cottage, and off to the southwest, Angel Hill Cemetery.
It was breezy and cold up here, despite the sunshine. His eyes watered as he looked frantically around for any sign of Wilbur. He even cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted, "Wilbur! Wilbur Price! Where are you, Wilbur?"
Harold descended the gentler slope that eventually led down towards the sea. The grass whipped against his legs, and whistled in the wind. He felt chilly and very alone up there, and even the smoke that rose from Chesterfield Industrial Park, right next to Piccadilly Wharf, didn't seem to assure that there was any human life around here. He could have been alone, in a world suddenly deserted.
Not much further down the slope, however, Harold caught sight of Wilbur. He was jogging through the grass, heading diagonally towards the shoreline, his shoulders bunched, his white apron flapping like a semaphore signal. He shouted out, "Wilbur! Wait, Wilbur! Wilbur!" but either he didn't hear Harold or he was hellbent on ignoring him.
Although he was already out of breath, Harold ran as fast as he could down the slope, and finally caught up to him. Wilbur didn't even turn to look at him, and Harold had to keep on running just to stay abreast of him. His cheeks and jowls were white with effort, and his forehead glistened with sweat. As he ran, his breasts jogged up and down under his checkered shirt.
"Wilbur!" Harold shouted at him. "What are you running for?"
"You stay away, Mr. Winstanley!" he gasped. "You stay away and leave me alone!"
"Wilbur, for God's sake, you'll have a heart attack!"
"None of your goddamned business! Stay away!"
Harold stumbled on a rock, and almost fell, but then he caught up with Wilbur again and yelled, "He's not real, Wilbur! He's an illusion!"
"Don't gimme that shit!" puffed Wilbur. "He's real and I've seen him. I prayed for God to bring him back and now God's brought him back. And if I get Jerry back, then Madge will come back, too. So stay away, you got me? Don't question miracles."
"It is a miracle," Harold panted. "But it's not God's miracle."
"What are you talking about?" Wilbur slowed down to a hobbling, jerky walk. "Who else does miracles, besides God?"
Harold pointed to the northwest, to the sparkling stretch of water about a 1/2 mile south of Starlin Island. "Wilbur, under the ocean---right there--where I'm pointing---lies the wreck of a 300-year-old ship. Inside that ship are the remains of some kind of demon, a devil, do you understand me? An evil spirit, like in The Amityville Horror, only ten times worse."
"You're trying to tell me it was that which raised up my Jerry?"
"Not just your Jerry, Wilbur, but my wife, too, and the wives and husbands and brothers and children of scores of other people in Ol' Spithead. Wilbur, Ol' Spithead is cursed because of that demon. The dead of Ol' Spithead are never allowed to rest, and your Jerry is the same."
Wilbur stopped, and stared at Harold for a very long time, while he caught his breath. "Why are you telling me this? he said at last. "Is it true?"
"As far as I know it. I'm working with several other people, including three custodians from the Peabody Museum. We're doing what we can to raise that ship off the bottom, and get rid of this demon forever."
Wilbur wiped his mouth with his hand, and narrowed his eyes towards Angel Hill Cemetery. "I don't know what to say, Mr. Winstanley. I saw him, and he was real. Real and alive as I am."
"I know, Wilbur. I've seen Nancy the same way. But, trust me, it's not the Jerry you used to know when he was alive. He's different, and he's dangerous."
"Dangerous? I used to take my belt to that boy, when he misbehaved himself."
"That was the Jerry you knew when he was alive. This Jerry is something else altogether. Jerry, he's controlled by that demon, and he's out to kill you."
Wilbur sniffed, and then cleared his throat. He looked at Harold and then looked down towards the graveyard.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know what to believe. You, or my own eyes."
It was then that they both heard calling. A boy's voice, carried on the wind. They both strained their eyes to see where it was coming form, and at last Wilbur said, "There----look, over there!" and when Harold followed Wilbur's stubby pointing finger he saw Jerry, young Jerry Price, standing on a small grassy promontory, waving to us as freely and cheerfully as if he were alive.
"Dad..." he was calling. "Come on, Dad...."
Wilbur immediately started jogging again, down the hill.
"Wilbur, for God's sake!" Harold shouted, and ran after him, trying to catch his arm. "Wilbur, that isn't Jerry!"
"Don't give me that, look at the boy," Wilbur puffed at Harold. "Look at him, the same as always. It's a miracle, that's all. A plain miracle, just like they used to happen in the Bible."
"Wilbur! He'll kill you!"
"Well, maybe I deserve it!" Wilbur shouted. "Maybe I deserve it, for buying him that motorcycle. Get away, Mr. Winstanley, I warn you. Leave me alone."
"Mr. Winstanley, I can't be any unhappier than I am now, dead or alive."
That last shouted remark stopped Harold in his tracks. He watched Wilbur Price galloping fatly down that hill, waving as he ran to the slender boy in denims who stood just a little way away from him, waving back; and Harold knew that there was nothing he could do. He could have football-tackled Wilbur, I supposed, or tried to knock him out. But what was the point of that? He'd never be able to watch over him day and night, to make sure that Jerry didn't come back to get him; and besides which, if he did knock him out, he wouldn't even want to talk to Harold again.
Harold stood where he was, his hands down by his sides, as Wilbur ran further and further away. Soon he was a tiny fat figure in the distance, his white apron blinking at him from almost 1/4 of a mile away.
Harold decided to go back to the market, and pit up his car, and maybe drive around to the cemetery to see if there was anything he could do; but then he saw Jerry run down from his promontory, and disappear, only to reappear much nearer the cemetery gates, almost the same distance away as Harvest Mills Cottage. Wilbur kept after him, and he knew then that however hopeless it was, he was going to have to chase up behind and see if there was anything he could do to make him change his mind.
Harold ran down that hillside as fast as he used to run at high school, when he was swimming and running every day and generally considered himself to be a junior edition of Johnny Weissmuller. He was exhausted by the time he was within hailing distance of Wilbur, and he could barely croak, let alone shout, but he kept on running at a slow and even pace, until there were only twenty yards between them.
"Dad!" came the cry on the southwest wind. "Come on, Dad!" And the sound of it was all the more chilling because it was so young. He saw Wilbur reach the cemetery gates, and open them, and disappear inside, somewhere behind the tombstones.
Harold summoned up a final burst of effort, and reached the cemetery gates just in time to see Wilbur making his way down the center aisle of tombstones. He was walking now, holding his chest with both hands because he was so deeply out of breath, but not stopping to rest, not even for a moment, not while Jerry was waiting for him at the end of the aisle, his arms outstretched, smiling, welcoming his father so warmly, and with such encouragement, that he knew he would never be able to persuade Wilbur to turn around.
"Wilbur!" Harold shouted, in a strained voice. "Wilbur, for one minute, wait!"
Harold wrestled with the wrought-iron cemetery gates, but somehow they refused to open. They weren't bolted; and they couldn't be locked, because Wilbur had walked through them so easily. But no matter how violently he shook them and kicked at them, he couldn't get them to budge.
"Wilbur!" Harold screeched at him. "For one second, Wilbur, just listen! Don't go near him, Wilbur! Don't go near! Wilbur, it's not Jerry! Stay the hell away!"
Harold rammed against the gates with his shoulder, but they weren't going to budge. There was nothing he could do but stand there and shout, while Wilbur plodded slowly between the gravestones towards the son he thought he had lost.
It was then that Harold heard a deep, gravely, grating noise. It sounded like a ton of rock being dragged slowly across a cement floor; and he wasn't sure if he was hearing it through his ears or through the soles of his feet. Then there was another noise, grittier than the first, and louder.
Was it an earthquake? Was something shifting under the ground? Harold had heard there were caverns underneath parts of Ol' Spithead, where the ocean had eroded the softer subsoil. He peered into the cemetery through the bars of the gates, and tried to see if anything was happening there.
To his horror and astonishment, Harold saw that one of the tombs, a large white-marble catafalque with an engraved marble catafalque with an engraved marble coffin atop it, had somehow slid across the aisle in front of Wilbur, and was now separating him from his son. Wilbur turned around, bewildered, and he heard him shout, "Harold! Harold, what's going on here? Harold, answer me!"
Before he could walk back towards the gates, another huge tomb began to slide across the aisle behind him, boxing him in. It moved with a slow, grinding sound, and it blocked the aisle totally, a wall of solid Barre granite.
"Wilbur!" Harold yelled. "Wilbur, get your ass out of there! For God's sake, Wilbur, get out!"
The tombstones pressed further and further into the space that was left, until Harold heard above the grinding noise they were making a sudden high-keyed shout for help.
"Mr. Winstanley, my sleeve's caught! Mr. Winstanley!"
Harold furiously at the cemetery gates but there was nothing he could do to get in there. He could only watch in horror and disbelief as Wilbur tried to claw his way up the polished side of the marble catafalque, desperate to escape the two huge upright gravestones which ground their way in towards him on either side. They must have weight nearly a ton each, those stones, decorated with stone lilies and sobbing cherubs; and they moved like giant funeral carriages, des chars funebres, gray and grotesques, faceless and unstoppable.
"Oh, God!" shrieked Wilbur. "Oh my God! Harold! Help me! Oh God, somebody help me!"
By some unimaginable effort, Wilbur managed to heave his bulky body halfway out of the relentlessly closing space. His face was crimson with fear, his eyes starting out of his head. He raised one arm towards Harold, but then the massive tombstones closed in on him, trapping him between two upright faces of solid granite.
Without hesitation, the tombstones crushed him. Harold heard the bones in his legs snapping like a fusillade of pistol shots; and then he soundlessly opened his mouth for a moment in utter agony, before a fountain of blood surged from between his lips and darkly splattered the tombstones all around him. He was pinned upright for a moment, jerking and writhing, and then he mercifully collapsed.
Harold closed his eyes, still clutching the bars of the wrought-iron gates. He was shivering all over, and he could hear the blood pumping through his veins like the rushing traffic to hell itself. Then, without looking towards Wilbur any more, he turned around, and began to walk back up to the hillside.
Behind him, there was a shuddering, screeching, scraping sound, as the tombstones moved back into their proper places. It was a sound that crawled in Harold's bones, as Yiddish people sometimes say. He knew that he would wake up at night for years to come and think that he could hear that grating noise of an impossible and unpreventable death.
Harold could have reported Wilbur's death to the police. He could have knelt beside him until somebody came. But he was already tangled up in enough fear and enough complications. How could he possibly explain Wilbur's crushing to anybody who hadn't seen it for himself? He couldn't even believe it himself, the way those massive tombs had moved of their own horrible volition. He kept on walking up the hill, past the end of Harvest Mills, and back at last to the Ol' Spithead Market.
It seemed to take Harold three times as long to get back to the store as it had to run down to the cemetery, and he was bushed when he walked back in there to collect his liquor.
"Find him?" asked Sy.
"Not a trace," Harold lied through his teeth.
"You worried about him?" Sy wanted to know.
"There was something I wanted to tell him, that's all. But I guess it can wait."
"The way you ran out of here, like another bat out of the netherworld...."
"Forget it, okay?" Harold said, more sharply than he meant to. He picked up his wine and his whiskey. "I'm sorry. Thanks for taking care of the booze."
"Don't mention it," said Sy, looking puzzled.
Harold drove into Ol' Spithead. Somebody had taken his favorite parking spot and so he had to go all the way down to the municipal lot by the harbor. By the time he had trudged back uphill to the square, he wasn't in the best of moods: shocked, tired, and edgy. He walked into the Broken Heart with a scowl on his face like Quasimodo with a hunch-ache.
"Well," said Suzy, "you've actually dared to show yourself."
By the simple fact that she was speaking to Harold he knew that he was halfway forgiven. He set the flowers and the bottle of wine on the counter, and said, "The flowers mean I'm sorry. The wine we should have shared last night. If you want to pitch out the flowers and drink the wine by yourself, I'll understand."
"You could have called me," she said, resentfully.
"Suzy, I don't know what else I can say to you. I feel like a total jerk."
She took the bottle of wine and scrutinized the label. "All right," she said, "since you have such good taste, I forgive you. But just barely. If it happens again, I might un-forgive you very fast."
"Whatever you say, Suzy."
"You could look as if you're sorry."
"I'm just upset, that's all."
"You're upset?! I'm upset!"
"At least when you're saying 'I'm sorry' you might look as if you truly are."
"What am I supposed to do?!" Harold demanded. "Sing I'm Sorry and pour ashes all over my head?"
"Oh, go fuck off! You're about as sorry as-----I don't know what!"
"You don't even know what it is I'm as sorry as, and you're telling me to get out?"
"I mean it!"
"All right," Harold told her. "I'm going."
"And take your wine and flowers with you," she said.
"Keep them. Just because you don't know what it is I'm as sorry as, that doesn't mean that I'm not sorry."
"Yeah. About as sorry as Gary Gilmore," she snapped.
"As I recall, his famous last words were, 'Let's do it.'"
Harold walked out of the Broken Heart and left Suzy to her justified anger. He liked her, he didn't want to upset her. Maybe he'd call her later this evening and see whether she'd cooled off. He knew that, sure as hell, he wouldn't have been very happy if he'd spent all evening preparing an Italian meal for somebody who couldn't be bothered to show up.316Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡK8UKW7LwDK
Harold was crossing the cobblestones of Ol' Spithead Square when he thought he glimpsed the girl in the hooded brown cape on the other side of the street just turning in Acorn Lane. He changed direction, and followed her, determined this time to catch up with her and find out who she was. Maybe she was nobody special at all; maybe her frequent appearances had been coincidence. But after Wilbur's death and Claudia's death, he was determined that he was going to lay the ghost of the George Badger down, and that meant he was going to have track down anything and everything that could help him.316Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡX1pA7tFGe2
He turned the corner into Acorn Lane: a little narrow cul-de-sac lined with fashionably chintzy shops. The girl was standing in front of the Ol' Spithead Bookmart, staring into the window, either at the books that were displayed within, or at her own reflection.ns220.127.116.11da2