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Song of Susannah


PAGE 40




"Maxed out," Jake said with satisfaction. They were still talking in those low mustn't-wake-the-baby tones, and this long, cavernous room was indeed very quiet. Jake guessed it would be bedlam at eight in the morning and five in the afternoon on working days, with folks coming and going from the subway station below, some of them storing their gear in the short-term coin-op lockers. Now there was just the ghostly sound of conversation drifting down the escalator well from the few shops still open in the arcade and the rumble of another approaching train.


Callahan slid the bowling bag into the narrow opening. Slid it back as far as it would go with Jake watching anxiously. Then he closed the locker and Jake turned the key. "Bingo," Jake said, putting the key in his pocket. Then, with anxiety: "Will it sleep?"


"I think so," Callahan said. "Like it did in my church. If another Beam breaks, it might wake up and work mischief, but then, if another Beam lets go - "


"If another Beam lets go, a little mischief won't matter," Jake finished for him.


Callahan nodded. "The only thing is...well, you know where we're going. And you know what we're apt to find there."


Vampires. Low men. Other servants of the Crimson King, maybe. Possibly Walter, the hooded man in black who sometimes shifted his shape and form and called himself Randall Flagg. Possibly even the Crimson King himself.


Yes, Jake knew.


"If you have the touch," Callahan continued, "we have to assume that some of them do, too. It's possible they could pick this place - and the locker-number - out of our minds. We're going to go in there and try to get her, but we have to recognize that the chances of failure are fairly high. I've never fired a gun in my life, and you're not - forgive me, Jake, but you're not exactly a battle-hardened veteran."


"I've got one or two under my belt," Jake said. He was thinking about his time with Gasher. And about the Wolves, of course.


"This is apt to be different," Callahan said. "I'm just saying it might be a bad idea for us to be taken alive. If it comes to that. Do you understand?"


"Don't worry," Jake said in a tone of chilling comfort. "Don't worry about that, Pere. We won't be."


Fifteen


Then they were outside again, looking for another cab. Thanks to the maid's tip-money, Jake reckoned they had just about enough remaining cash to take them to the Dixie Pig. And he had an idea that once they entered the Pig, their need for ready cash - or anything else - would cease.


"Here's one," Callahan said, and waved his arm in a flagging gesture. Jake, meanwhile, looked back at the building from which they had just emerged.


"You're sure it'll be safe there?" he asked Callahan as the cab swerved toward them, honking relentlessly at a slow-poke between him and his fares.


"According to my old friend sai Magruder, that's the safest storage area in Manhattan," Callahan said. "Fifty times safer than the coin-op lockers in Penn Station and Grand Central, he said...and of course here you've got the long-term storage option. There are probably other storage places in New York, but we'll be gone before they open - one way or the other."


The cab pulled over. Callahan held the door for Jake, and Oy hopped unobtrusively in right behind him. Callahan spared one final glance at the twin towers of the World Trade Center before getting in himself.


"It's good to go until June of two thousand and two, unless someone breaks in and steals it."


"Or if the building falls down on top of it," Jake said.


Callahan laughed, although Jake hadn't quite sounded as if he were joking.

"Never happen. And if it did...well, one glass ball under a hundred and ten stories of concrete and steel? Even a glass ball filled with deep magic? That'd be one way to take care of the nasty thing, I guess."


Sixteen


Jake had asked the cabbie to drop them off at Lexington and Fifty-ninth, just to be on the safe side, and after looking to Callahan for approval, he gave the sai all but their last two dollars.


On the corner of Lex and Sixtieth, Jake pointed to a number of cigarette ends mashed into the sidewalk. "This is where he was," he said. "The man playing the guitar."


He bent down, picked up one of the butts, and held it in his palm for a moment or two. Then he nodded, smiled cheerlessly, and readjusted the strap on his shoulder. The Orizas clanked faintly inside the rush bag. Jake had counted them in the back of the cab and hadn't been surprised to find there were exactly nineteen.


"No wonder she stopped," Jake said, dropping the butt and wiping his hand on his shirt. And suddenly he sang, low but perfectly on pitch: "I am a man...of constant sorrow...I've seen trouble...all my days...I'm bound to ride...that Northern railroad...Perhaps I'll take...the very next train."


Callahan, keyed up already, felt his nerves crank yet tighter. Of course he recognized the song. Only when Susannah had sung it that night on the Pavilion - the same night Roland had won the hearts of the Calla by dancing the fiercest commala many had ever seen - she'd substituted "maid" for "man."


"She gave him money," Jake said dreamily. "And she said..." He stood with his head down, biting his lip, thinking hard. Oy looked up at him raptly. Nor did Callahan interrupt. Understanding had come to him: he and Jake were going to die in the Dixie Pig. They would go down fighting, but they were going to die there.


And he thought dying would be all right. It was going to break Roland's heart to lose the boy...yet he would go on. As long as the Dark Tower stood, Roland would go on.


Jake looked up. "She said, 'Remember the struggle.' "


"Susannah did."


"Yes. Shecame forward. Mia let her. And the song moved Mia. She wept."


"Say true?"


"True. Mia, daughter of none, mother of one. And while Mia was distracted...her eyes blind with tears..."


Jake looked around. Oy looked around with him, likely not searching for anything but only imitating his beloved Ake. Callahan was remembering that night on the Pavilion. The lights. The way Oy had stood on his hind legs and bowed to thefolken. Susannah, singing. The lights. The dancing, Roland dancing the commala in the lights, the colored lights. Roland dancing in the white. Always Roland; and in the end, after the others had fallen, murdered away one by one in these bloody motions, Roland would remain.


I can live with that,Callahan thought.And die with it.


"She left something but it'sgone! " Jake said in a distressed, almost-crying voice. "Someone must have found it...or maybe the guitar-player saw her drop it and took it...this fu**ing city! Everyone steals everything! Ah,shit! "


"Let it go."


Jake turned his pale, tired, frightened face up to Callahan's. "She left us something and weneed it! Don't you understand how thin our chances are?"


"Yes. If you want to back off, Jake, now would be the time."


The boy shook his head with no doubt nor the slightest hesitation, and Callahan was fiercely proud of him. "Let's go, Pere," he said.


Seventeen


On the corner of Lex and Sixty-first they stopped again. Jake pointed across the street. Callahan saw the green awning and nodded. It was imprinted with a cartoon porker that was grinning blissfully in spite of having been roasted a bright and smoking red.
T HE DIXIE PIG was written on the awning's overhang. Parked in a row in front of it were five long black limousines with their accent lights glowing a slightly blurred yellow in the dark. Callahan realized for the first time that a mist was creeping down the Avenue.


"Here," Jake said, and handed him the Ruger. The boy rummaged in his pockets and came up with two big handfuls of cartridges. They gleamed dully in the pervasive orange glow of the streetlamps. "Put em all in your breast pocket, Pere. Easier to get at that way, all right?"


Callahan nodded.


"Ever shot a gun before?"


"No," Callahan said. "Have you ever fired one of those plates?"


Jake's lips parted in a grin. "Benny Slightman and I snuck a bunch of the practice dishes out to the riverbank and had a match one night. He wasn't much good, but..."


"Let me guess. You were."


Jake shrugged, then nodded. He had no words to express how fine the plates had felt in his hands, how savagely right. But perhaps that was natural. Susannah had also taken quickly and naturally to throwing the Oriza. That Pere Callahan had seen for himself.


"All right, what's our plan?" Callahan asked. Now that he had decided to go through it all the way to the end, he was more than willing to give leadership over to the boy. Jake was, after all, the gunslinger.


The boy shook his head. "Thereis none," he said, "not really. I go in first. You right behind me. Once we're through the door, we spread apart. Ten feet between us any time we have ten feet to give, Pere - do you understand? So that no matter how many there are or howclose they are, no one of them can get both of us at the same time."


This was Roland's teaching, and Callahan recognized it as such. He nodded.


"I'll be able to follow her by touch, and Oy will be able to by scent," Jake said. "Move with us. Shoot whatever asks to be shot, and without hesitation, do you understand?"


"Aye."


"If you kill something that has what looks like a useful weapon, take it. If you can scoop it up on the move, that is. We have to keep moving. We have to keep taking it to them. We have to be relentless. Can you scream?"


Callahan considered it, then nodded.


"Scream at them," Jake said. "I'll be doing the same. And I'll be moving. Maybe running, more likely at a good fast walk.
Make sure that every time I look on my right, I see the side of your face."


"You'll see it," Callahan said, and thought:Until one of them drops me, at least. "After we bring her out of there, Jake, am I a gunslinger?"


Jake's grin was wolfish, all his doubts and fears put behind him. "Khef, ka, and ka-tet," he said. "Look, there's the WALK light. Let's cross."


Eighteen


The driver's seat of the first limo was empty. There was a fellow in a cap and a uniform behind the wheel of the second, but to Pere Callahan the sai looked asleep. Another man in cap and uniform was leaning against the sidewalk side of the third limo. The coal of a cigarette made a lazy arc from his side to his mouth and then back down again. He glanced their way, but with no appreciable interest. What was there to see? A man going on elderly, a boy going on teenage, and a scurrying dog. Big deal.


When they gained the other side of Sixty-first, Callahan saw a sign on a chrome stand in front of the restaurant:


CLOSED FOR PRIVATE FUNCTION


What exactly did you call tonight's function at the Dixie Pig? Callahan wondered. A baby shower? A birthday party?


"What about Oy?" he asked Jake in a low voice.


"Oy stays with me."


Only four words, but they were enough to convince Callahan Jake knew what he did: this was their night to die. Callahan didn't know if they'd manage to go out in a blaze of glory, but they would be going out, all three of them. The clearing at the end of the path was now hidden from their view by only a single turn; they would enter it three abreast. And little as he wanted to die while his lungs were still clear and his eyes could still see, Callahan understood that things could have been much worse. Black Thirteen had been stuffed away in another dark place where it would sleep, and if Roland did indeed remain standing when the hurly-burly was done, the battle lost and won, then he would track it down and dispose of it as he saw fit. Meanwhile -


"Jake, listen to me a second. This is important."


Jake nodded, but he looked impatient.


"Do you understand that you are in danger of death, and do you ask forgiveness for your sins?"


The boy understood he was being given last rites. "Yes," he said.


"Are you sincerely sorry for those sins?"


"Yes."


"Repent of them?"


"Yes, Pere."


Callahan sketched the sign of the cross in front of him."In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus - "


Oy barked. Just once, but with excitement. And it was a bit muffled, that bark, for he had found something in the gutter and was holding it up to Jake in his mouth. The boy bent and took it.


"What?" Callahan asked. "What is it?"


"It's what she left for us," Jake said. He sounded enormously relieved, almost hopeful again. "What she dropped while Mia was distracted and crying about the song. Oh man - we might have a chance, Pere. We might just have a chance after all."


He put the object in the Pere's hand. Callahan was surprised by its weight, and then struck almost breathless by its beauty. He felt the same dawning of hope. It was probably stupid, but it was there, all right.


He held the scrimshaw turtle up to his face and ran the pad of his index finger over the question-mark-shaped scratch on its shell. Looked into its wise and peaceful eyes. "How lovely it is," he breathed. "Is it the Turtle Maturin? It is, isn't it?"


"I don't know," Jake said. "Probably. She calls it thesk?ldpadda, and it may help us, but it can't kill the harriers that are waiting for us in there." He nodded toward the Dixie Pig. "Only we can do that, Pere. Will you?"


"Oh yes," Callahan said calmly. He put the turtle, thesk?ldpadda, into his breast pocket. "I'll shoot until the bullets are gone or I'm dead. If I run out of bullets before they kill me, I'll club them with the gun-butt."


"Good. Let's go givethem some last rites."


They walked past the CLOSED sign on its chrome post, Oy trotting between them, his head up and his muzzle wearing that toothy grin. They mounted the three steps to the double doors without hesitating. At the top, Jake reached into the pouch and brought out two of the plates. He tapped them together, nodded at the dull ringing sound, and then said: "Let's see yours."


Callahan lifted the Ruger and held the barrel beside his right cheek like a duelist. Then he touched his breast pocket, which bulged and drooped with shells.


Jake nodded, satisfied. "Once we're in, we stay together. Always together, with Oy between. On three. And once we start, we don't stop until we're dead."


"Never stop."


"Right. Are you ready?"


"Yes. God's love on you, boy."


"And on you, Pere. One...two...three." Jake opened the door and together they went into dim light and the sweet tangy smell of roasting pork.


STAVE: Commala-come-ki,






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