ON THE RUN WITH A DEAD MAN – P.4. (Dodger/Bill/Nancy. Stephen King.)

Brydie

“That is not Will,” Brydie said without moving as soon as she heard the car door shut, “an’ you know it! I don’t know how he’s doin’ this, but dead people do not come back to life!   It just plain ain’t possible!

Yet as she spoke the words she could swear she was watching Will himself pace the road side,  biting down on his pipe stem with Cowan’s perfect white teeth,  brows furrowed deep in a trademark expression that was his alone.

Suddenly Danny wheeled around in his seat. “Who says it ain’t possible ?”  He demanded.  “Hell   -   it ain’t possible that I don’t have no goddam

(he punched the back of his seat with his fist)

birth certificate! It ain’t possible that I’ve never been to

(punch)

school! It ain’t possible that we got here as

(punch)

stowaways! It ain’t possible that Will had a brother who was

(punch)

rich! It ain’t possible that Will’s rich brother turned out to be a

(punch)

bloody psycho!  An’ it sure as hell ain’t possible that the two of you are my own goddam

(punch)

PARENTS! But now I’m supposed to believe all this, except the part where Will’s come back ?  Horseshit!” He pointed out the window, jabbing his finger hard in the air. “THAT IS WILLl!”

“Okay,” Brydie said simply, stunned at his sudden ferocity. “Okay.  I didn’t mean it.  I’ll stop.  I promise.”

She would stop   -   but Danny would not.

For the second time since the motel room,  he shut his eyes tight against the world,  and kept them that way.  Like he’d disappeared inside himself,  and wasn’t coming back.

Fifteen seconds,  he sat frozen with the world shut out.  Thirty. Forty-five.

“Danny, knock it off!  Right now!  I mean it,  you open your eyes!”  As a toddler he’d held his breath until he turned blue and passed out. Once he’d even given himself a seizure.

(God, and he wasn’t even a teenager yet.  One more year, and she’d have that to deal with.  She’d been so confident in her copper ring method of birth control,  and now here she was with a moody adolescent to show for it.)

“I said stop it! Danny!”  She shook him by the shoulders,  but he didn’t budge.

Back home she would have smacked him silly for acting like this.  And right now she had half a mind to do it again.  Very well might have, if not for Will….

No, goddammit,  she chided herself,  that is not Will!

God.  Cowan was such an expert bullshitter,  he was even pulling her into it.

Of course Danny wanted Will back.  Needed him, needed to believe this cruel lie.  And when it came right down to it,  did she really have the right to deny him this? It wasn’t like he had anything else to cling to.

“Well,”  she said,  hoping against hope that he wouldn’t hear any false note in her voice, “I do suppose it’s possible.  Just a bit much to swallow,  is all.”

Danny slowly opened his eyes.   For first one minute and then two, they stared unseeing,  vacant as the dead.

“It’s a bit much,”  he agreed when he regained his sight and voice,  “but you heard him talk. You saw his face.”

“Yes,”  she pretended   -   or thought she was pretending,  hoped she was pretending   -   to agree.  “I did.  An’ he certainly does look an’ sound like Will.”

“I just hope his leg ain’t hurtin’ him too bad, ” Danny observed as he gazed out the window. “He’s startin’ to limp.”

ON THE RUN WITH A DEAD MAN – P3. (A Dodger/Nancy/Bill inspired fanfic.)

Danny.

Danny had never heard the term ‘lucid dream’,  so whenever he had one,  his private term for it was ‘one of those dreams’.  This was what he drifted into now, as he gazed out the passenger window at the blur of telephone poles rushing by.

He dreamed he was back in the open doorway of the tavern,  looking in through the screen.  Could he control the dream?  Move objects around, make them disappear, make them fly?  Make himself fly  -  ?  Dreams were always fun when he could make himself fly….

But when he tried, no such luck.  There’d be no flying in this dream.

Around the cobweb-shrouded jukebox stepped a young man about Brydie’s age.  His hair and beard were shaggy like Christian’s, but jet black like Will’s.  And he had Will’s eyes, blue all the way across the dim and smoky room.

“I’ll answer your questions,”  the strange young  man said, “if you’ll step inside.  I’ll tell you anything you want to know,  if you’ll step inside.  I won’t come out there where you are, though.”  Suddenly his voice and his face changed to that of the Underwear Man.  “It’s a bad world out there where you are.”

_________________________________________________________________

Will.

The boy awoke so violently in the seat beside him  that it made Will jump.

“What is it lad, what’s the matter!  I’m tryin’ to drive here  so spit it out!”

“Nothin’.  I was dreamin’. “

“No shite ya were, but that wasn’t my question!”

Instantly Will regretted his tone   –   but he thought better of correcting it.  The boy would have to learn some time to stop being afraid, and he might as well start  now.

“Well – ?”  Will urged, fighting the mounting  irritation that made it increasingly difficult to  concentrate on driving the right side of the road. “Out with it already, lad! Christ I can’t hear it rattlin’ around in your head ya know!”

“I think the dream was about your brother David. I saw him.  He looked like Christian,  only dark like you,  with blue eyes like you. Does that sound right…?”

“It sounds exactly right,” Will nodded  -  and fought to maintain the road. 

“I was standin’ outside the door of the tavern.  He said he wouldn’t come outside,  because outside it’s a bad world.”

Will swerved sharply to the shoulder of the highway and slammed the car into park,  jabbed his middle finger at a horn-blaring trucker.

“Can’t hardly argue that point,” he said as the traffic sped past them.

“But then he changed,  an’ all of a sudden he was that guy Cowan, that you got your new body from.”

Will grunted.  “That guy Cowan,  is proof that it’s a bad world.  I don’t think you understand just how bad.”   His voice trailed off now,  or wanted to,  tried to.  But this time,  just this once,  the notorious Will O’Graidy forced out the words of his heart.

“Leastways I hope ya don’t.  I sure as the hell never wanted ya to.”

He switched off the ignition and pocketed the key.  “But listen.  I want you to stay right here in the car for now,  d’ya  understand ? Both of you. I’m gonna walk around a bit an’ try to think.  An’ I don’t want to be disturbed !”

______________________________________________________________


ON THE RUN WITH A DEAD MAN – P2. (A Dickens-inspired fanfic.)

Brydie.

In the front passenger seat,  Danny wheeled around.

“I’m right here! It really is Will!  He’s alive,  he’s come back!  I don’t know how,  but it’s him,  it’s really him!”

Brydie narrowed her eyes to pure hate at the back of Cowan’s head. If  only she’d had a knife on her she’d have slit his throat at the nearest stop light.  There were no warrants for her in this country yet, she could probably get away with it….

(Shame she and Danny couldn’t keep the car,  though.  Smooth and quiet,  plus it was big enough they could live in it.)

There was no blood in Cowan’s hair.  She could have sworn she’d split his scalp with the blow from that lamp.

But of course she had to concede,  as the vise around her skull tightened its grip and the car’s interior swam gray again,  that this was all just a dream.  There was no other explanation.  It had all been a dream from the moment Will placed that call to Christian.  Maybe even from the moment Will punched Danny  -  after all, he’d certainly hit the boy before, but it had never led to anything like this.

She leaned back into the softness of the seat,  and momentarily gave in to the urge to  stop thinking and just close her eyes.

__________________________________________________________

Danny.

(Pinch her!)     

came a voice to Danny out of nowhere,  inside his head yet clearly audible.  The same voice that had spoken to him at the motel, the one that had told him to shoot the Underwear Man.

And a fat lot of good that had done him.

(Pinch her hard!)

the voice urged again.

“No!”  Danny shouted out loud to the voice,  looking all around in the front seat as if he could discover its hiding place.  “I’m not gonna do it!  I’m not gonna do anythin’  til you tell me who you are!”

He felt a puzzled look from Will,  but for once he managed not to flinch away.

“Well,  if it’s who I think it is,”  Will said without taking his eyes off the road,  “that would be your uncle,  an’ my younger brother.  David’s his name,  an’ I wish you could’ve met him while he was alive.   You’d have liked him.  An’ he’d have liked you.”

“So….I’m talkin’ to a ghost.”

Will nodded.

“Geez. This country is weird.”

As they drove on in silence,  Danny observed Will  sitting there using another man’s body and driving another man’s car.  He’d always secretly  thought of Will as a bit super human, but this….this was over the top, even for Will O’Graidy.

No one back home would ever believe it.  Not even if they saw it,  would they believe it.

In the past, to stare (or even gaze) too long at Will O’Graidy  had been ill advised.  Even for Brydie and Danny   -  and sometimes especially for Brydie and Danny.  But if ever there had been a new day,  this was it. And on this new day Danny could watch Will drive without being afraid.

“I never knew you had a brother named David.”

“Well I did,”  Will said in a conversational tone Danny had scarcely ever heard him use.  The big man had never seemed comfortable enough to hold a relaxed conversation.  “I did, an’ I think that’s who’s talkin’ to you now.”

“How did he die ?”

Will’s answer was so long in coming,  that Danny started to fear he had stepped out of line with the question.

“Christian killed him.  There at the compound.  Killed him just before we arrived.”

“Oh.”  Danny found himself at a loss for words.  But remembering the  manners Brydie had taught him,  he added,  “I’m sorry.”

This drew a half smile from Will.  “You’re a good lad,”  he said.  “Your mother’s taught you well.”

Danny turned and stared out the passenger window,  feigned interest in the passing telephone poles. To cry had been a sin in Will O’Graidy’s household,  and now Will O’Graidy was back.

CHAPTER THREE, ON THE RUN WITH A DEAD MAN – P1.

Brydie.

As the blackness all around her swam gray, Brydie realized she’d fainted there on the motel bed.

Now she heard a car screech to a stop outside the window. Vaguely through her thundering headache she heard a key turn in the lock,  saw the door fly open.

“Come on!” she heard Will shout,  though Will was dead.  “Get in and let’s go!”

She heard herself let out a long groan, couldn’t even focus on the room around her yet, much less stand. She felt Will  (but no, Will was dead and this was some trick of Cowan’s)  pick her up and carry out the door.  (And what a cruel trick,  his arms  felt just like Will’s….)

“Put me down!”  she tried to scream,  but it came out a croak.

He put her down  -  into the  plush leather back seat of a big silver car with four doors.  And now the car was pulling away with her.

Where was Danny  -  ?

Suddenly Brydie recalled a forgotten phrase from her childhood.  A silly thing she’d actually once substituted for swear words,  back when Brydie Phelps did not swear.

The old silly phrase was gosh darn it.

Gosh darn it, there was a very good chance Danny had gotten away.  After all,  he was Will O’Graidy’s son.  Smart,  and tough as nails he was.

But gosh darn it, if Cowan had harmed the boy in any way, then she would just have to kill him.  Not hit him over the head with a lamp, but really kill him.  She’d never killed anyone before, but she’d always assumed the day would come.  Maybe today was the day,  when she would become a killer.

Well, wherever Will was, she hoped if she killed Cowan she would make Will proud.

Slowly she pulled herself up in the back seat,  her brain pounding bass notes against her skull.

“You should lie down,”  came Will’s voice from the driver’s seat in front of her.

“You tell me what you’ve done with my boy!”

CHAPTER TWO, A ROOM WITH BRYDIE – P7

Brydie.

At first Brydie froze,  could not make herself move.

But the next second she snapped back, as Will had taught.  Feverishly she worked, hogtying Cowan as best she could with his own necktie and his belt.  Her mouth was sandpaper, her breath hot ragged gasps.  She found her own small strength intoxicating, hadn’t felt this fully alive since her early days with Will.  Since back before Danny had come along.

Danny!

He knelt in the middle of the ball of sheets, still gripping the gun in both hands, keeping it trained on Cowan.  He was drained of color, pouring sweat and shaking, teeth bared like a vicious dog.

And in his eyes, Brydie saw Will.

“Danny, luv,”  she coaxed, “you  can put that ‘ere gun down.  Ain’t nobody gonna hurt ya.  Look here,”  she kicked at Cowan, tied up on the carpet.  “He’s out cold,  I promise.”

“Brydie,”  the lad pleaded without averting his stare,  “you wouldn’t have let him….would you ?”

“Danny.  Of course not.  How could you even think it.”

“Because we need the money !”

“Oh,  luv,  please.” 

At last he let the gun barrel drop an inch, and then two.  He looked used up, spent.  Less like a child than a very small, very old man.

Brydie crawled onto the bed with him   -   with not the slightest idea how to be any kind of a mother.   On impulse she reached out and brushed his sweat-soaked bangs back from his forehead.  That at least was a gesture she thought she could master….

“I’m sorry,”  she forced the words out in a rush before she could change her mind,  “but I’ve got somethin’ to tell ya, an’ I want you to listen hard.”

And listen hard he did.  Just as he’d been taught   -   just as they’d both been taught.

“Will was your very own father.”

She paused to let the words sink in,  and watched his face as they did.

“Also, I’m your mother.  It wasn’t like we could tell you! With the kind of enemies Will had ?  You’d have been dead in a week!  You understand, don’t ya?”

Nothing.  Silence.

“All right now, you look here! I know we shoulda done right an’ let you go to a good home,  but dammit we just couldn’t make ourselves !”

Now Danny was looking at her with an expression she’d never seen on  him before.

You mean,” he gasped, “you wanted me ?”

It was a bad moment to laugh, she knew.  But unfortunately, that was what she did.  She supposed it was a reflex.

But now a shadow slid across the sheets.   Brydie looked up, startled  – into not Greg Cowan’s eyes   –    but Will’s!

“He had a heart attack,” came Will’s voice out of Cowan’s mouth.   “The coca-ina will do that.  But yeah, Danny.  We wanted you.   Make  no mistake about that.  An’ your mum did a right good job on those knots.”

CHAPTER TWO, A ROOM WITH BRYDIE – P6

Danny.

The underwear man had Brydie by the shoulders.

Slowly, silently, in increments too small to attract attention, Danny got himself into a kneeling position on the bed, realized he was holding his breath and forced himself to exhale.  The guy wasn’t hurting her yet,  not yet….

The words hate him with a passion whispered in Danny’s mind.

“Look, the kid won’t even know!”  the man bellowed into Brydie’s face,  like that would be the very thing to persuade her.  “It’s not like we hurt them,  for cryin’ out loud   -   in fact some of them enjoy it!”

Kill him,  whispered a quiet,  deadly voice in Danny’s brain.  Not outside his ears  -  yet he heard it as plainly as if someone had switched on a radio.  You took Will’s gun from the Compound  -  it’s still in your pants pocket.  Get it.

[But who are you -- But I don't want to go to prison  --  But but but  --  I've never shot a gun before!]

Too late.  The voice was gone.  Evaporated so completely that Danny already wondered if he hadn’t imagined it.

People in this country shoot guns all the time,  he told himself,  so how hard can it be ?

He drew in a long slow breath, and crept to the foot of the bed.  He slipped one of the guns out of his trouser pocket,  pointed it at Mister  Underwear’s head and pulled the trigger.

Click.

No shot came out.

Click.  Click.  Click.

Nothing!  Oh God, there was nothing!

Now in a dreamlike slow-motion, Mister Underwear was lunging at Danny,  his face dark with rage.

And Brydie was gracefully bringing a large lamp down to meet Mister Underwear’s cranium,  and  now Mister Underwear was crumpling ballet-like to his knees.

CHAPTER TWO, A ROOM WITH BRYDIE (P5)

Danny.

“I could set you up in business,” Danny heard Mister Underwear say. He opened his eyes and  realized he’d been sleeping,  wondered for how long.

He could hear Brydie’s bracelets clinking. Instantly the small sound relaxed him.

“Business minded girls like you are always a good investment.  I could put you and the boy up in a little place,  send him to school….”

Suuure,  Danny thought.  That old pimp line was almost cliche.  Right up there with, You could work your way through college.

“Of course,”  he rattled on,  oblivious to what kind of criminal history Brydie Phelps already boasted,  “we’d set you up a small business as a cover.  The same way I’ve got some legitimate business interests of my own.  For instance,  I own this motel,  did you know that ?”

Danny seriously doubted he owned much of anything. Manager, he guessed  -  if that.  Low-level manager, amateurish pimp.

“And I own the market where you just bought groceries.  But I also have a few girls and their kids working for me on the side,  because, you know,  a man’s got to have some kind of tax-free income.  Also,”  he said in a voice that sounded like he was giving her a wink,  “I’ve been known to deal a little of the coca-ina.”

He sounded impressed at his own use of the cartel term for cocaine.

“But where I really rake in the money, is the kids.  Pictures and movies of kids.  Now before you rush to judgment, hear me out….”

Any time a man says hear me out, he’s full of shite an’ he knows it.  This had been a genuine Will O’Graidy pearl of wisdom, yes sir.

“Remember!  These kids are in private schools.  They have the best of everything.  All you’ll have to do, is slip the boy a mickey and get him to pose.  No more johns,  no more strangers.  No more working the streets.  He’ll never remember a thing about it,  it’s just like seeing the dentist.”

Surely Brydie wasn’t thinking of doing this !

Danny sat up,  his heart pinched in his chest,  and pulled the sheets tight around him.  Not even Will, the  baddest of the bad,  had pimped out kids.

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