“You’re a close friend of the family,” she said, shaking a finger at him. “We give discounts to all close friends of the family. Sam would be angry if you didn’t accept that. You put those quarters in your pocket.”
“Well . . . thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Buddy.”
“Is Sam here?”
‘She pointed to the curtained doorway. “Upstairs. He’s getting dinner.
“I ought to tell him.”
“Tell him what?” she asked.
“About this thing I saw.”
“Can’t you tell me?”
“Well . . . Better him.”
“You may go up and see him, if you like.”
The invitation frightened him. He was never comfortable in other people’s houses. “You have cats up there?”
“Cats? No. No pets at all.”
He knew she wouldn’t lie to him—but then, cats turned up in the most unexpected places. Two weeks after his mother died, he was asked to visit the parsonage. Reverend Potter and Mrs. Potter had taken him straight to the parlor where she had served homemade cakes and cookies. He sat on the divan, knees together, hands in his lap. Mrs. Potter made hot chocolate. Reverend Potter poured for everyone. The two of them sat opposite Buddy in a pair of wing-backed chairs. For a while everything was so nice. He ate the gingerbread and the little cookies with red and green sugar on them and he drank the cocoa and smiled a lot and talked a little—and then a big white furry cat leaped over his shoulder, onto his lap, claws digging in for an instant, from his lap to the floor. He didn’t even know they had a cat. Was that fair? Not to tell him? It had crept onto the window sill behind the divan. How long had it been there? All the while he ate? Paralyzed with fear, unable to speak, wanting to scream, he spilled his chocolate on the carpet and wet himself. Peed in his pants right on the preacher’s brocade divan. What a stain. It was awful. An awful day. He never went back there again, and he stopped going to church as well, even if he might go to hell for that.
She startled him. “What?”
“Do you want to go upstairs and see Sam?”
Picking up his magazines, he said, “No. No. I’ll tell him some time. Some other time. Not now.” He started toward the door.
He glanced back.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
“No.” He forced a laugh. “No. Nothing. World’s treating me okay.” He hurried out of the store.
On the other side of Main Street, back in his two-room apartment, he went to the bathroom and peed, opened a bottle of Coca-Cola, and sat down at the kitchen table to look at his magazines. First thing, he paged through both of them, search. ing for articles about cats and pictures of cats and advertisements for cat food. He found two pages in each magazine that offended him, and he tore them out at once, regardless of what was on the backs of them. Methodically, he ripped each page. into hundreds of tiny pieces and threw the resultant heap of confetti into the wastebasket. Only then was he prepared to relax and look at the pictures.
Halfway through the first magazine, he came across an article about a team of skin divers who were, it seemed to him, trying to uncover an ancient treasure ship. He couldn’t read more than two words out of five, but he studied the pictures with great interest—and suddenly was reminded of what he had seen in the woods that night. Near the mill. When he was taking a pee. At a quarter of five in the morning, on the day he’d so carefully marked on his calendar. Skin divers. Coming down from the reservoir. Carrying flashlights. And guns. It was such a silly thing, he couldn’t forget it. Such a funny. . . such a scary thing. They didn’t belong where he had seen them. They hadn’t been hunting for treasure, not at night, not up in the reservoir.
What had they been doing?
He’d thought about that for ever so long, but he simply couldn’t figure it out. He wanted to ask someone to explain it, but he knew they’d laugh at him.
Last week, however, he realized that there was someone in Black River who would listen to him, who would believe him and wouldn’t laugh no matter how silly the story was. Sam. Sam always had time for him, even before his mother died. Sam never made fun of him or talked down to him or hurt his feel-
ings. Furthermore, so far as Buddy was concerned, Sam Edison was easily the smartest person in town. He knew just about everything; or Buddy thought he did. If there was anyone who could explain to him what he had seen, it was Sam.
On the other hand, he didn’t want to look like a fool in Sam’s eyes. He was determined to give himself every chance to work out the answer first. That was why he had delayed going to Sam since he had remembered him last Wednesday.
A while ago in the store, he finally was ready to let Sam take over his thinking for him. But Sam was upstairs, in rooms that were unfamiliar to Buddy, and that raised the question of cats.
Now he had more time to puzzle it out on his own. If Sam was in the store the next time Buddy went there, he would tell him the story. But not for a few days yet. He sat in the patterned late-afternoon sunlight that came through the curtain, drank Coca-Cola, and wondered.
Eight Months Earlier:
Saturday, December 18, 1976
IN THE COMPUTER CENTER of the sealed wing of the Greenwich house, seven days before Christmas, the monitor boards and systems bulbs and cathode-ray tubes and glowing scopes, although they were mostly red and green, had not reminded Salsbury of the holiday.
When he entered the room, his first time there in months, Klinger looked around at the lights and said, “Very Christmasy.”
Strangely enough, it was rather Christmasy.
However, because he hadn’t perceived something which had registered with the general in mere seconds, Salsbury felt uneasy. For almost two years now, day and night, he had been telling himself that he must be quicker, sharper, more cunning, and more forward-thinking than either of his partners—if he was to keep his partners from eventually putting a bullet in his head and burying him at the southern end of the estate beside Brian Kingman. Which was surely what they had in mind for him. And for each other. Either that or slavery through the keylock program. Therefore, it was quite disturbing to him that Klinger-hairy, flat-faced gorilla that he was—should make, of all things, an aesthetic observation before Salsbury himself had made it.
The Only way he could deal with his own uneasiness was to
put the general off his stride as quickly as possible. “You can’t smoke in here. Put that out at once.”
Rolling the cheroot from the center of his thick lips to one side, Klinger said, “Oh, surely—”
“The delicate machinery,” Salsbury said sharply, gesturing at the Christmasy lights.
Klinger took the slender cigar from his mouth and appeared to be about to drop it on the floor.
“The waste can.”
When he had disposed of the cheroot, the general said, “Sorry.”
Salsbury said, “That’s all right. You’re not familiar with a place like this, with computers and all of that. You couldn’t be expected to know.”
And he thought: Score one for me.
“Where’s Leonard?” Klinger asked.
“He won’t be here.”
“For such an important test?”
“He wishes it weren’t necessary.”
Looking at the ceiling as if he could see through it, Klinger said, “Up there washing his hands.”
Salsbury wasn’t about to take part in any conversation meant to dissect or analyze Dawson. He had taken every measure to protect himself from any attempt on Dawson’s part to plant bugs in his work area. He didn’t believe it was possible for anyone to spy on him while he was in here. But he couldn’t be positively, absolutely certain of that. Under the circumstances, he felt that paranoia was a rational vantage point from which to view the world.
“What all have you got to show me?” Klinger asked. “For a start, I thought you’d want to see a few print-outs from the key-lock program.”
“I’m curious,” the general admitted.
Picking up a sheet of computer paper that was folded like an accordion into dozens of eighteen-inch-long sections, Salsbury said, “All three of our new employees—”
“Yes. All three of them were given the drug and then shown a series of films, ostensibly as evening entertainment: The Exorcist, Jaws, and Black Sunday, on successive nights. These were, of course, very special copies of the films. Processed right here on the estate. I did the work personally. Printed each of them over a different stage of the subliminal program.”
“Why those three movies in particular?”
“I could have used any I wanted,” Salsbury said. “I just chose them at random from Leonard’s film library. The movie is simply the package, not the content. It merely establishes a reason for the subjects to stare at the screen for a couple of hours while the subliminal program is running below their recognition threshold.” He handed the print-out to Klinger. “This is a second-by-second verbal translation of the images appearing on the screen in the rheostatic film, which begins simultaneously with the movie. Wherever the computer prints ‘This Legend’ it means that the visual subliminals have been interrupted by a block-letter message on the rheostatic film, a direct command to the viewer.”
SUBJECT CODED——KEY LOCK
REVISED PROGRAM/STAGE ONE
PROGRAM STORED: 8/6/76
THIS PRINT: 12/18/76
SECONDS SUBLIMINAL CONTENT
0001 NO CONTENT
0002 NO CONTENT
0003 VISUAL——WOMAN’S BREASTS
0004 VISUAL——WOMAN'S BREASTS
0005 VISUAL——WOMAN’S BREASTS
0006 VISUAL——WOMAN’S BREASTS
0007 VISUAL——WOMAN’S BREASTS
0008 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH
0009 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH
0010 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH
0011 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH
0012 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH THIS FILM
0013 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH THIS FILM
0014 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH THIS FILM
0015 VISUAL——DETUMESCENT PENIS
0016 VISUAL——DETUMESCENT PENIS
0017 VISUAL——DETUMESCENT PENIS
0015 VISUAL——PENIS IN WOMAN’S HAND
0019 VISUAL——WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0020 VISUAL——WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0021 VISUAL——WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0022 VISUAL——WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0023 THIS LEGEND——YOU WATCH THIS FILM
“The first sixty seconds do nothing but insure that the subject will pay close attention to the rest of the movie,” Salsbury said. “Beginning with the second minute and continuing throughout the movie, he is very carefully, very gradually primed for stage two of the program and for eventual, total submission to the key-lock behavior mode.”
“Carefully and slowly—because of what happened to Brian Kingman?” the general asked.
“Because of what happened to Brian Kingman.”
0061 VISUAL——WOMAN FONDLING TESTICLES
0062 VISUAL——WOMAN FONDLING TESTICLES
0063 VISUAL——WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0064 VISUAL——WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0065 VISUAL—-WOMAN STROKING PENIS
0066 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0067 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0068 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0069 VISUAL——ERECT PENIS
0070 VISUAL——ERECT PENIS
0071 VISUAL——ERECT PENIS
0072 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0073 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0074 VISUAL——WOMAN SMILING AT ERECT PENIS
0075 VISUAL——WOMAN SMILING AT ERECT PENIS
0076 VISUAL——WOMAN SMILING AT ERECT PENIS
0077 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0078 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0079 VISUAL——DOG STYLE INTERCOURSE
0060 VISUAL——DOG STYLE INTERCOURSE
0081 VISUAL——DOG STYLE INTERCOURSE
0082 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0083 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0084 VISUAL——MALE DOMINANT INTERCOURSE
0085 VISUAL——MALE DOMINANT INTERCOURSE
0086 VISUAL——MALE DOMINANT INTERCOURSE
0087 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0088 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0089 VISUAL——WOMAN’S FACE EXPRESSING ECSTASY
0090 VISUAL——WOMAN’S FACE EXPRESSING ECSTASY
0091 VISUAL——WOMAN’S FACE EXPRESSING ECSTASY
0052 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0093 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0094 VISUAL—-EJACULATION ON WOMAN’S PUBIC HAIR
0095 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0096 VISUAL——EJACULATION ON WOMAN’S PUBIC HAIR
0097 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0098 VISUAL——WOMAN’S FACE EXPRESSING ECSTASY
0099 THIS LEGEND——OBEDIENCE TO THE KEY—SATISFACTION
0100 VISUAL——EJACULATION ON WOMAN’S PUBIC HAIR
Klinger said, “The penis doesn’t become erect until the viewer is to]d that obedience to the key equals satisfaction.”
“That’s right. And you’ll notice that both the man’s and woman’s orgasms are represented. This program would be effective with either sex.”
“Was all this taken from some porno movie?”
“It was shot especially for me by a professional pornographic-film maker in New York City,” Salsbury said, pushing his glasses up on his nose and wiping his damp forehead. “He was instructed to use only the most attractive performers. He shot everything at regular light intensity, but I used a special process to print below the recognition threshold. Then I intercut the sex footage with the block-letter messages.” He unfolded some of the print-out. “This first sequence lasts another forty seconds. Then there is a two-second pause, and another message is presented in the same fashion.”