For the first time, Klinger looked at Salsbury with respect. “Incredible.”
“What about the drug? How will that be introduced?”
Salsbury finished his whiskey. He felt wonderful. “There are only two sources of food and beverage within the site. The lumber camp men get what they want from the mess hall. In town everyone buys from Edison’s General Store. Edison has no competition. He even supplies the town’s only diner. Now, both the mess hall and the general store receive their goods from the same food wholesaler in Augusta.”
“Ahhh,” the general said. He smiled.
“It’s a perfect commando operation for Holbrook and Rossner. They can break into the wholesaler’s warehouse at night and quickly contaminate several different items set aside for shipment to Black River.” He pointed to the cathode-ray tubes where the list of requirements for an ideal site was being reprinted. “Number four.”
Klinger looked at the screen to his left.
4A. SITE SHOULD HAVE RESERVOIR THAT SERVES NO LESS THAN
90 PERCENT OF TOTAL POPULATION
4B. BLACK RIVER RESERVOIR SERVES——100 PERCENT OF TOWN RESIDENTS
——100 PERCENT OF LUMBER
“Ordinarily, in a backwoods village like this,” Salsbury said, “each house would have its own fresh-water well. But the mill needs a reservoir for industrial purposes, so the town benefits.”
“How did you choose Black River? Where did you learn all of this stuff?”
Salsbury depressed a tab on the programming keyboard and cleared the screen. “In 1960, Leonard bankrolled a company named Statistical Profiles Incorporated. It does all the marketing research for his other companies—and for companies he doesn’t own. It pays for a trunk line to the Census Bureau data banks. \Ve used Statistical Profiles to run a search for the ideal test site. Of course, they didn’t know why we were interested in a town that met these particular requirements.”
Frowning, the general said, “How many people at Statistical Profiles were involved in the search?”
“Two,” Salsbury said. “I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry. They’re both scheduled to die in accidents well before we begin the field test.”
“I suppose we’ll send Rossner and Holbrook to contaminate the reservoir.”
“Then we get rid of them.”
The general raised his bushy eyebrows. “Kill them?”
“Or order them to commit suicide.”
“Why not just tell them to forget everything they’ve done, to wipe it from their minds?”
“That might save them from prosecution if things went badly wrong. But it wouldn’t save us. We can’t wipe from our minds all memory of what we had them do. If problems develop with the field test, serious problems that throw our entire Operation in the garbage, and if it turns out that Rossner and Holbrook were seen at the reservoir or left any clues behind—
well, we don’t want the authorities to connect us with Glenn and Peter.”
“What problems could arise that would be that serious?”
“Anything. Nothing. I don’t know.”
After he bad thought about it for a while, Klinger said, “Yes, I suppose you’re right.”
“I know I am.”
“Have you set a date yet? For the field test?”
“We should be ready by August,” Salsbury said.
Friday, August 26, 1977
TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT . . Since his experience with Brenda Mackim on Monday,
Salsbury had been able to resist temptation. At any time he could have taken full control of another good-looking woman, could have raped her and erased all memory of the act from her mind. He took strength from the knowledge that the bitches were his for the asking. Whenever he could honestly conclude that the field test was a smashing success, and that no danger of discovery existed, he would screw every one of them that he wanted. The bitches. Animals. Little animals. Dozens of them. All of them. Because he knew the future held an almost endless orgy for him, be was able to cop; if only temporarily, with his desire. He went from house to house, using the key-lock code phrase, interviewing his subjects, observing and testing. Denying himself. Working hard. Doing his job. So strict with himself. . . He was proud of his will power.
This morning his will power shattered. For the past four nights, his sleep had been disturbed by grotesque dreams that featured his mother and Miriam and sudden violence and blood and an eerie, indescribable atmosphere of perverted sex. When he came awake this morning, shouting and flailing at the bedclothes, he thought of Emma Thorp—deep cl**vage in an orange sweater—and she seemed to him like an antidote for the poisons that had churned through him while he slept he had to have her, was going to have her, today, soon, and to hell with self-denial.
The smooth stream of power in him was again transformed into a rhythmic, alternating current, crackling across countless arcs, a hundred million synapses. His thoughts ricocheted with great energy from one subject to another, submachine-gun thoughts: tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat
At 7:45 he left Pauline Vicker’s rooming house and went to the cafe on the square.
The sky was cloudy, the air humid.
At 8:25 he finished breakfast and left the cafe.
At 8:40 he reached the Thorps’ place, the Last house on Union Road, next to the river.
He rang the doorbell twice.
The chief of police himself answered. He hadn’t gone to work yet. Good. Wonderful.
Salsbury said, “I am the key.”
“I am the lock.”
“Let me in.”
Bob Thorp stepped out of his way, let him by, then closed the door after him.
“Is your wife here?” “Yes.”
“He’s here too.”
“Just you and me.” “Your son’s name?” “Jeremy.”
“Where are they?” “In the kitchen.”
“Take me to them.” Thorp hesitated.
“Take me to them!”
They went along a narrow but brightly papered hallway.
The kitchen was modem and stylish. Mediterranean cupboards and fixtures. Coppertone refrigerator and upright freezer. A microwave oven. A television set was suspended from the
ceiling in one corner and angled toward the big round table by the window.
Jeremy was at the table, eating eggs and toast, facing the hall. To the boy’s right, Emma sat with one elbow on the table, drinking a glass of orange juice. She was wearing a blue, floor-length corduroy housecoat. Her hair was as golden and full as he remembered it. As she turned to ask her husband who had rung the bell, he saw that her lovely face was still soft with sleep—and for some reason that aroused him.
She said, “Bob? Who’s this?”
Salsbury said, “I am the key.”
Two voices responded.
At 8:55, making the weekly trip into town to lay in a fresh supply of perishables, Paul Annendale braked at the end of the gravel road, looked both ways, then turned left Onto Main Street.
From the back seat Mark said, “Don’t take me all the way to Sam’s place. Let me out at the square.”
Looking in the rearview mirror, Paul said, “Where are you going?”
Mark patted the large canary cage that stood on the seat beside him. The squirrel danced about and chattered. “I want to take Buster to see Jeremy.”
Swiveling around in her seat and looking back at her brother, Rya said, “Why don’t you admit that you don’t go over to their house to see Jeremy? We all know you’ve got a crush on Emma.”
“Not so!” Mark said in such a way that he proved absolutely that what she said was true.
“Oh, Mark,” she said exasperatingly.
“Well, it’s a lie,” Mark insisted. “I don’t have a crush on Emma. I’m not some sappy kid.”
Rya turned around again.
“No fights,” Paul said. “We’ll leave Mark off at the square with Buster, and there will be no fights.”
* * *
Salsbury said, “Do you understand that, Bob?”
“You will not speak unless spoken to. And you will not move from that chair unless I tell you to move.”
“I won’t move.”
“But you’ll watch.”
“I’ll watch too.”
“Watch what?” Salsbury asked.
“Watch you—screw her.”
Dumb cop. Dumb kid.
He stood by the sink, leaned against the counter. “Come here, Emma.”
She got up. Came to him.
“Take off your robe.”
She took it off. She was wearing a yellow bra and yellow panties with three embroidered red flowers at the left hip.
“Take off your bra.”
Her br**sts fell free. Heavy. Beautiful.
“Jeremy, did you know your mother looked so nice?”
The boy swallowed hard. “No.”
Thorp’s hands were on the table. They had curled into fists.
“Relax, Bob. You’re going to enjoy this. You’re going to love it. You can’t wait far me to have her.”
Thorp’s hands opened. He leaned back in his chair. Touching her breasts, staring into her shimmering green eyes, Salsbury had a delightful idea. Marvelous. Exciting. He said, “Emma, I think this would be more enjoyable if you resisted me a bit. Not seriously, you understand. Not physically. Just keep asking me not to hurt you. And cry.”
She stared at him.
“Could you cry for me, Emma?”
“I’m so scared.”
“Good! Excellent! I didn’t tell you to relax, did I? You should be scared. Damned scared. And obedient. Are you frightened enough to cry, Emma?”
She shivered. “You’re very firm.” She said nothing. “Cry for me.” “Bob..
“He can’t help you.” He squeezed her breasts. “My son . .
“He’s watching. It’s all right if he watches. Didn’t he suck these when he was a baby?”
Tears formed at the corners of her eyes.
“Fine,” he said. “Oh, that’s sweet.”
Mark could only carry the squirrel and the cage for fifteen or twenty steps at a time. Then he had to put it down and shake his arms to get the pain out of them.
“Cup your br**sts with your hands.” She did as she was told.
“Pull on the nipples.”
“Don’t make me do this.”
“Come on, little animal.”
At first, upset by all the jerking and shaking and swinging of his cage, Buster ran in tight little circles and squealed like an injured rabbit.
“You sound like a rabbit,” Mark told him during one of the rest stops.
Buster squealed, unconcerned with his image.
“You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re not a dumb bunny. You’re a squirrel.”
In front of Edison’s store, as he was closing the car door, Paul Saw something gleam on the back seat. “What’s that?”
Rya was still in the car, undoing her safety belt. “What’s what?”
“On the back seat. It’s the key to Buster’s cage.”
Rya squirmed into the back seat. “I’d better take it to him.”
“He won’t need it,” Paul said. “Just don’t lose it.”
“No,” she said. “I’d better take it to him. He’ll want to let Buster out so he can show off for Emma.”
“Who are you—Cupid?”
She grinned at him.
“Unzip my trousers.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Enjoying yourself, Bob?”
He laughed. “Dumb cop.”
By the time he reached the edge of the Thorp property, Mark had found a better way to grip the cage. The new method didn’t strain his arms so much, and he didn’t have to stop every few yards to rest.
Buster had become so upset by the erratic movement of his pen that he had stopped squealing. He was gripping the bars with all four feet, hanging on the side of the cage, very stiU and quiet, frozen as if he were in the woods and had just seen a predator creeping through the brush.
“They’ll be eating breakfast,” Mark said. “We’ll go around to the back door.”
“Squeeze it.” She did.
“Don’t hurt me.” “Is it hard?”
Sobbing, shaking, begging him not to hurt her, she did as she had been told. Her face glistened with tears. She was almost hysterical. So beautiful...
Mark was passing the kitchen window when he heard the woman crying. He stopped and listened closely to the broken words, the pitiful pleas that were punctuated by long sobs. He knew at once that it was Emma.
The window was only two feet away, and it seemed to beckon him. He couldn’t resist. He went to it.
The curtains were drawn shut, but there was a narrow gap between them. He pressed his face to the windowpane.
Sixteen Days Earlier:
Wednesday, August 10, 1977
AT TRREE O’CLOCK in the morning, Salsbury joined Dawson in the first-floor study of the Greenwich house.
“Have they begun already?”
“Ten minutes ago,” Dawson said.
“What’s coming in?”
“Exactly what we’d hoped for.”
Four men sat on straight-backed chairs around a massive walnut desk, one at each side of it. They were all household servants: the butler, the chauffeur, the cook, and the gardener. Three months ago the entire staff of the house had been given the drug and treated to the subliminal program; and there was no longer any need to hide the project from them. On occasion, as now, they made very useful tools. There were four telephones on the desk, each connected to an infinity transmitter. The men were referring to lists of Black River telephone numbers, dialing, listening for a few seconds or a minute, hanging up and dialing again.
The infinity transmitters—purchased in Brussels for $2,500 each—allowed them to eavesdrop on most of the bedrooms of Black River in perfect anonymity. With an IF hooked to a telephone, they could dial any number they wished, long distance or local, without going through an operator and without leaving a record of the call in the telephone company’s computer. An