Billy offered her a ride home from school one afternoon a week later and she accepted.
He was what the other kids called a white-soxer or a machine-shop Chuck. Yet something about him excited her and now, lying drowsily in this illicit bed (but with an awakening sense of excitement and pleasurable fear), she thought it might have been his car - at least at the start.
It was a million miles from the machine-stamped, anonymous vehicles of her fraternity dates with their ventless windows, fold-up steering wheels, and vaguely unpleasant smell of plastic scat covers and windshield solvent.
Billy's car was old, dark, somehow sinister, the windshield was milky around the edges, as if a cataract was beginning to form. The seats were loose and unanchored. Beer bottles clicked and rolled in the back (her fraternity dates drank Budweiser; Billy and his friends drank Rheingold), and she had to place her feet around a huge, grease-clotted Craftsman toolkit without a lid. The tools inside were of many different makes, and she suspected that many of them were stolen. The car smelled of oil and gas. The sound of straight pipes came loudly and exhilaratingly through the thin floorboards. A row of dials slung under the dash registered amps, oil pressure, and tach (whatever that was). The back wheels were jacked and the hood seemed to point at the road.
And of course he drove fast.
On the third ride home one of the bald front tyres blew at sixty miles an hour, the car went into a screaming slide and she shrieked aloud, suddenly positive of her own death. An image of her broken, bloody corpse, thrown against the base of a telephone pole like a pile of rags, flashed through her mind like a tabloid photograph. Billy cursed and whipped the fuzz-covered steering wheel from side to side.
They came to a stop on the left-hand shoulder, and when she got out of the car on knees that threatened to buckle at every step, she saw that they had left a looping trail of scorched rubber for seventy feet
Billy was already opening the trunk, pulling out a jack and muttering to himself. Not a hair was out of place.
He passed her, a cigarette already dangling from the corner of his mouth. 'Bring that toolkit, babe.'
She was flabbergasted. Her mouth opened and closed twice, like a beached fish, before she could get the words out. 'I-I will not! You almost k-you-almost-you crazy bastard! Besides, it's dirty!'
He turned around and looked at her, his eyes flat. 'You bring it or I ain't taking you to the fuckin fights tomorrow night.'
'I hate the fights!' She had never been, but her anger and outrage required absolutes. Her fraternity dates took her to rock concerts, which she hated. They always ended up next to someone who hadn't bathed in weeks.
He shrugged, went back to the front end, and began jacking.
She brought the toolkit, getting grease all over a brandnew sweater. He grunted without turning around. His teeshirt had pulled out of his jeans, and the flesh of his back was smooth, tanned, alive with muscles. It fascinated her, and she felt her tongue creep into the corner of her mouth.
She helped him pull the tyre of the wheel, getting her hands black. The car rocked alarmingly on the jack, and the spare was down to the canvas in two places.
When the job was finished and she got back in, there were heavy smears of grease across both the sweater and the expensive red skirt she was wearing.
'If you think-' she began as he got behind the wheel.
He slid across the seat and kissed her, his hands moving heavily on her, from waist to breasts. His breath was redolent of tobacco; there was the smell of Brylcreem and sweat. She broke it at last and stared down at herself, gasping for breath. The sweater was blotted with road grease and dirt now. Twenty-seven-fifty in Jordan Marsh and it was beyond anything but the garbage can. She was intensely, almost painfully excited.
'How are you going to explain that?' he asked, and kissed her again. His mouth felt as if he might be grinning.'
'Feel me,' she said in his car. 'Feel me all over. Get me dirty.'
He did. One nylon split like a gaping mouth. Her skirt, short to begin with, was pushed rudely up to her waist. He groped greedily, with no finesse at all. And something - perhaps that, perhaps the sudden brush with death - brought her to a sudden, jolting orgasm. She had gone to the fights with him.
'Quarter to eight,' he said, and sat up in bed. He put on the lamp and began to dress, His body still fascinated her. She thought of last Monday night, and how it had been. He had
Tune enough to think of that later, maybe, when it would do something for her besides cause useless arousal. She swung her own legs over the edge of the bed and slid into gossamer panties.
'Maybe it's a bad idea,' she said, not sure if she was testing him or herself. 'Maybe we ought to just get back into bed and-'
'It's a good idea,' he said, and a shadow of humour crossed his face. 'Pig blood for a pig.'
'Nothing. Come on. Get dressed.'
She did, and when they left by the back stairs she could feel a large excitement blooming, like a rapacious and night-flowering vine, in her belly.
From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 45):
You know, I'm not as sorry about all of it as people seem to think I should be. Not that they say it right out; they're the ones who always say how dreadfully sorry they are. That's usually just before they ask for my autograph. But they expect you to be sorry. They expect you to get weepy, to wear a lot of black, to drink a little too much or take drugs. They say things like: 'Oh, it's such a shame. But you know what happened to her-' and blah, blah, blah.
But sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions. It's what you say when you spill a cup of coffee or throw a gutterball when you're bowling with the girls in the league. True sorrow is as rare as true love. I'm not sorry that Tommy is dead any more. He seems too much like a daydream I once had. You probably think that's cruel, but there's been a lot of water under the bridge since Prom Night. And I'm not sorry for my appearance before The White Commission. I told the truth - as much of it as I knew.
But I am sorry for Carrie.
They've forgotten her, you know. They've made her into some kind of a symbol and forgotten that she was a human being, as real as you reading this, with hopes and dreams and blah, blah, blah. Useless to tell you that, I suppose. Nothing can change her back now from something made out of newsprint into a person. But she was, and she hurt. More than any of us probably know, she hurt.
And so I'm sorry and I hope it was good for her, that prom. Until the terror began, I hope it was good and fine and wonderful and magic ...
Tommy pulled into the parking lot beside the high school's new wing, let the motor idle for just a second, and then switched it of. Carrie sat on her side of the seat, holding her wrap around her bare shoulders. It suddenly seemed to her that she was living in a dream of hidden intentions and had just become aware of the fact. What could she be doing? She had left Momma alone.
'Nervous?' He asked, and she jumped.
He laughed and got out. She was about to open the door when he opened it for her. 'Don't be nervous,' he mid. 'You're like Galatea.'
'Galatea. We read about her in Mr Evers' class. She turned from a drudge into a beautiful woman and nobody even knew her.'
She considered it. 'I want them to know me,' she said finally.
'I don't blame you. Come on.'
George Dawson and Frieda Jason were standing by the Coke machine. Frieda was in an orange tulle concoction, and looked a little like a tuba. Donna Thibodeau was taking tickets at the door along with David Bracken. They were both National Honour Society members, part of Miss personal Gestapo, and they wore white slacks and red blazers - the school colours. Tina Blake and Norma Watson were handing out programmes and seating people inside according to their chart Both of them were dressed in black, and Carrie supposed they thought they were very chic, but to her they looked like cigarette girls in an old gangster movie.
All of them turned to look at Tommy and Carrie when they came in, and for a moment there was a stiff, awkward silence. Carrie felt a strong urge to wet her lips and controlled it. Then George Dawson said:
'Gawd, you look queer, Ross.'
Tommy smiled. 'When did you come out of the treetops, Bomba?'
Dawson lurched forward with his fists up, and for a moment Carrie felt stark terror. In her keyed-up state, she came within an ace of picking George up and throwing him across the lobby. Then she realized it was an old game, often played, well-loved.
The two of them sparred in a growing circle. Then George, who had been tagged twice in the ribs, began to gobble and yell:- 'Kill them Congs! Get them Gooks! Pongee sticks! Tiger cages!' and Tommy collapsed his guard, laughing.
'Don't let it bother you,' Frieda said, tilting her letteropener nose and strolling over. 'If they kill each other, I'll dance with you.'
'They look too stupid to kill,' Carrie ventured. 'Like dinosaurs.' And when Frieda grinned, she felt something very old and rusty loosen inside her. A warmth came with At. Relief. Ease.
'Where'd you buy your dress?' Frieda asked. 'I love it.'
'I made it.'
'Made it?' Frieda's eyes opened in unaffected surprise. 'No shit!'
Carrie felt herself blushing furiously. 'Yes I did. I ... I like to sew. I got the material at John's in Andover. The pattern is really quite easy.'
'Come on,' George said to all of them in general. 'Band's gonna start.' He rolled his eyes and went through a limber, satiric buck-and-wing. 'Vibes, vibes, vibes. Us Gooks love them big Fender viyyybrations.'
When they went in, George was doing impressions of Flash Bobby Pickett and mugging. Carrie was telling Freida about her dress, and Tommy was grinning, hands stuffed in his pockets. Spoiled the lines of his dinner jacket Sue would be telling him, but fuck it, it seems to be working. So far it was working fine.
He and George and Frieda had less than two hours to live.
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 132):
The White Commission's stand on the trigger of the whole affair - two buckets of pig blood on a beam over the stage - seems to be overly weak and vacillating, even in light of the scant concrete proof. If one chooses to believe the hearsay evidence of Nolan's immediate circle of friends (and to be brutally frank, they do not seem intelligent enough to lie convincingly), then Nolan took this part of the conspiracy entirely out of Christine Hargensen's hands and acted on his own initiative ...
He didn't talk when he drove; he liked to drive. The operation gave him a feeling of power that nothing could rival, not even fucking.
The road unrolled before them in photographic blacks and whites, and the speedometer trembled just past seventy. He came from what the social workers called a broken home; his father had taken off after the failure of a badly managed gas-station venture when Billy was twelve, and his mother had four boyfriends at last count. Brucie was in greatest favour right now. He was a Seagram's 7 man. She was turning into one ugly bag, too.
But the car: the car fed him power and glory from its own mystic lines of force. It made him someone to be reckoned with, someone with mana. It was not by accident that he had done most of his balling in the back seat. The car was his slave and his god. It gave, and it could take away. Billy had used it to take away many times. On long, sleepless nights when his mother and Brucie were fighting, Billy made popcorn and went out cruising for stray dogs. Some mornings he let the car roll, engine dead, into the garage he had constructed behind the house with its front bumper dripping.
She knew his habits well enough by now and did not bother making conversation that would simply be ignored anyway. She sat beside him with one leg curled under her, gnawing a knuckle. The fights of the cars streaking past them on 302 gleamed softly in her hair, streaking it silver.
He wondered how long she would last. Maybe not long after tonight. Somehow it had all led to this, even the early part, and when it was done the glue that had held them together would be thin and might dissolve, leaving them to wonder how it could have been in the first place. He thought she would start to look less like a goddess and more like the typical society bitch again, and that would make him want to belt her around a little. Or maybe a lot. Rub her nose in it.
They breasted the Brickyard Hill and there was the high school below them, the parking lot filled with plump, glistening daddies' cars. He felt the familiar gorge of disgust and hate rise in his throat. We'll give them something
(a night to remember)
all right. We can do that.
The classroom wings were dark and silent and deserted; the lobby was lit with a standard yellow glow, and the bank of glass that was the gymnasium's east side glowed with a soft, orangey light that was ethereal, almost ghostly. Again the bitter taste, and the urge to throw rocks.
'I see the lights, I see the party fights,' he murmured.
'Huh?' She turned to him, startled out of her own thoughts.
'Nothing.' He touched the nape of her neck. 'I think I'm gonna let you pull the string.'
Billy did it by himself, because he knew perfectly well that he could trust nobody else. That had been a hard lesson, much harder than the ones they taught you in school, but he had learned it well. The boys who had gone with him to Henty's place the night before had not even known what he wanted the blood for. They probably suspected Chris was involved, but they could not even be sure of that.
He drove to the school minutes after Thursday night had become Friday morning and cruised by twice to make sure it was deserted and neither of Chamberlain's two police cars was in the area.
He drove into the parking lot with his lights off and swung around in back of the building. Further back, the football field glimmered beneath a thin membrane of ground fog.
He opened the trunk and unlocked the ice chest. The blood had frozen solid, but that was all right. It would have the next twenty-four hours to thaw.
He put the buckets on the ground, then got a number of tools from his kit. He stuck them in his back pocket and grabbed a brown bag from the seat. Screws clinked inside.
He worked without hurry, with the easeful concentration of one who is unable to conceive of interruption. The gym where the dance was to be held was also the school auditorium, and the small row of windows looking toward where he had parked opened on the backstage storage area.
He selected a flat tool with a spatulate end and slid it through the small jointure between the upper and lower panes of one window. It was a good tool. He had made it himself in the Chamberlain metal shop. He wriggled it until the window's slip lock came free. He pushed the window up and slid in.
It was very dark. The predominant odour was of old paint from the Dramatic Club canvas flats. The gaunt shadows of Band Society music stands and instrument cases stood around like sentinels. Mr Downer's piano stood in one corner.
Billy took a small flashlight out of the bag and made his way to the stage and stepped through the red velvet curtains. The gym floor, with its painted basketball lines and highly varnished surface, glimmered at him like an amber lagoon. He shone his light on the apron in front of the curtain. There, in ghostly chalk fines, someone had drawn the floor silhouette of the King and Queen thrones which would be placed the following day. Then the entire apron would be strewn with paper flowers ... why, Christ only knew.
He craned his neck and shone the beam of his light up into the shadows. Overhead, girders crisscrossed in shadowy lines. The girders over the dance floor had been sheathed in crepe paper, but the arm directly over the apron hadn't been decorated. A short draw curtain
obscured the girders up there, and they were invisible from the gym Floor. The draw curtain also hid a bank of lights that would highlight the gondola mural.
Billy turned off the flashlight, walked to the left-hand edge of the apron, and mounted a steel-runged ladder bolted to the wall. The contents of his brown bag, which he had tucked into his shirt for safety, jingled with a strange, hollow jolliness in the deserted gymnasium.
At the top of the ladder was a small platform. Now, as he faced outward toward the apron, the stage flies were to his right, the gym itself on his left. In the flies the Dramatic Club props were stored, some of them dating back to the 1920��s. A bust of Pallas, used in some ancient dramatic version of Poe's 'Me Raven,' stared at Billy with blind, floating eyes from atop a rusting bedspring Straight ahead, a steel girder ran out over the apron. Lights to be used against the mural were bolted to the bottom of it.
He stepped out on to it and walked effortlessly, without fear, over the drop. He was humming a popular tune under his breath. The beam was inch-thick with dust, and he left long shuffling tracks. Halfway he stopped, dropped to his knees, and peered down.
Yea. With the help of his light he could make out the chalk lines of the apron directly below. He made a soundless whistling.
He X'd the precise spot in the dust, then beam-walked back to the platform. No one would be up here between now and the Ball; the lights that shone on, the mural and on the apron where the King and Queen would be crowned
(they'll get crowned an right)
were controlled from a box backstage. Anyone looking up from directly below would be blinded by those same lights. His arrangements would be noticed only if someone went up into the flies for something. He didn't believe anyone would. It was an acceptable risk.
He opened the brown bag and took out a pair of Playtex rubber gloves, put them on, and then took out one of two small pulleys he had purchased yesterday. He had gotten them at a hardware store in Boxford, just to be safe. He popped a number of nails into his mouth like cigarettes and got the hammer. Still humming around his mouthful of nails, he fixed the pulley neatly in the corner above the platform. Beside it he fixed a small eyehole screw.
He went back down the ladder, crossed backstage, and climbed another ladder not far from where he had come in. He was in the loft - sort of a catchall school attic. Here there were stacks of old yearbooks, moth-eaten athletic uniforms, and ancient textbooks that had been nibbled by mice.
Looking left, he could shine his light over the stage flies and spotlight the pulley he had just put up. Turning right, cool night air played on his face, from a vent in the wall. Still humming, he took out the second pulley and nailed it up.
He went back down, crawled out the window he had forced, and got the two buckets of pig blood. He had been about his business for a half hour, but it showed no signs of thawing. He picked the buckets up and walked back to the window, silhouetted in the darkness like a farmer coming back from the first milking. He lifted them inside and went in after.
Beam-walking was easier with a bucket in each hand for balance. When he reached his dust-marked X, he put the buckets down, peered at the chalk marks on the apron once more, nodded, and walked back to the platform. He thought about wiping the buckets on his last trip out to them - Kenny's prints would be on them, Don's and Steve's as well - but it was better not to. Maybe they would have a little surprise on Saturday morning. The thought made his lips quirk.
The last item in the bag was a coil of jute twine. He walked back out to the buckets and tied the handles of both with running slipknots. He threaded the screw, then the pulley. He threw the uncoiling twine across to the left, and then threaded that one. He probably would not have been amused to know that, in the gloom of the auditorium, covered and streaked with decades-old dust, grey kitties flying dreamily about his crow's nest hair, he looked like a hunched, half-mad Rube Goldberg intent upon creating the better mousetrap.
He piled the slack twine on top of a stack of crates within reach of the vent. He climbed down for the last time and dusted off his hands. The thing was done.
He looked out the window, then wriggled through and thumped to the ground. He closed the window, reinserted his jimmy, and closed the lock as far as he could. Then he went back to his car.
Chris said chances were good that Tommy Ross and the White bitch would be the ones under the buckets; she had been doing a little quiet promoting among her friends That would be good, if it happened. But, for Billy, any of the others would be all right too.
He was beginning to think that it would be all right if it was Chris herself.
He drove away.
From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 48):
Carrie went to see Tommy the day before the prom. She was waiting outside one of his classes and he said she looked really wretched, as if she thought he'd yell at her to stop hanging around and stop bugging him.
She said she had to be in by eleven-thirty at the latest, or her momma would be worried. She said she wasn't going to spoil his time or anything, but it wouldn't be fair to worry her momma.
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