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Authors: Stephen King

Firestarter

BOOK: Firestarter
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Praise for
Firestarter

“In a special and startling way, King has created a small American gem of a story.”

—
Chicago Tribune

“The most tightly plotted of King's chillers, this is also the most terrifying. For the evil here is human and wholly credible. . . . His finest novel yet!”

—
Cosmopolitan

“Terrific!”

—
The New York Times

“Stephen King is superb. He has written
Carrie, The Shining, 'Salem's Lot
and
The Dead Zone
, among other bestsellers. . . . This is his highest Fahrenheit reading yet!”

—
Time

“Impressive . . . expert, fast-paced suspense . . . an exciting thriller!”

—
The Providence Journal

“Terrifying . . . . meticulously realized backgrounds and strong threads of human compassion . . . a gripping piece of entertainment!”

—
Miami Herald

“Heartstopping suspense!”

—
The Denver Post

“Relentless horror on a grand scale . . . a hefty adventure . . . exhilarating!”

—
New Haven Register

“Excellently plotted horror . . . the momentum never flags . . . the sweaty brow of the reader as he rapidly turns those pages makes it obvious that Stephen King has done it again!”

—
The Cincinnati Enquirer

“The master of the psychothriller deftly weaves his plot. . . . King at his best!”

—Associated Press

“Stephen King serves up a new sizzler . . . hot . . . King does this genre better than anyone else out there.”

—
Playboy

“Eerie, scary . . . goes beyond frightening!”

—
Publishers Weekly

“When the story gets going, it really cooks. . . . Boy, does he deliver!”

—
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

“Fired with imagination and protest.”

—
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“There is no question that in the contemporary realm of Horror and the Supernatural, Stephen King is, well, king of the genre.”

—
Houston Chronicle

“Intriguing, horrifying!”

—
Bestsellers

“You'll be bewitched by King's ingenious insights into human behavior, unique characterizations, and novel dialogue with its nuances of terror.”

—
The Columbus Dispatch

“Frightening, compelling!”

—
The Indianapolis Star

“Great reading!”

—
The Baltimore Sun

In memory of Shirley Jackson, who never needed to raise her voice.

The Haunting of Hill House

The Lottery

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The Sundial

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

—Ray Bradbury,
F
AHRENHEIT
451

New York/Albany
1

“Daddy, I'm tired,” the little girl in the red pants and the green blouse said fretfully. “Can't we stop?”

“Not yet, honey.”

He was a big, broad-shouldered man in a worn and scuffed corduroy jacket and plain brown twill slacks. He and the little girl were holding hands and walking up Third Avenue in New York City, walking fast, almost running. He looked back over his shoulder and the green car was still there, crawling along slowly in the curbside lane.

“Please, Daddy.
Please.

He looked at her and saw how pale her face was. There were dark circles under her eyes. He picked her up and sat her in the crook of his arm, but he didn't know how long he could go on like that. He was tired, too, and Charlie was no lightweight anymore.

It was five-thirty in the afternoon and Third Avenue was clogged. They were crossing streets in the upper Sixties now, and these cross streets were both darker and less populated.… But that was what he was afraid of.

They bumped into a lady pushing a walker full of groceries. “Look where you're goin, whyn't ya?” she said, and was gone, swallowed in the hurrying crowds.

His arm was getting tired, and he switched Charlie to the other one. He snatched another look behind, and the green car was still there, still pacing them, about half a block behind. There were two men in the front seat and, he thought, a third in the back.

What do I do now?

He didn't know the answer to that. He was tired and scared and it was hard to think. They had caught him at a bad time, and the bastards probably knew it. What he wanted
to do was just sit down on the dirty curbing and cry out his frustration and fear. But that was no answer. He was the grownup. He would have to think for both of them.

What do
we
do now?

No money. That was maybe the biggest problem, after the fact of the men in the green car. You couldn't do anything with no money in New York. People with no money disappeared in New York; they dropped into the sidewalks, never to be seen again.

He looked back over his shoulder, saw the green car was a little closer, and the sweat began to run down his back and his arms a little faster. If they knew as much as he suspected they did—if they knew how little of the push he actually had left—they might try to take him right here and now. Never mind all the people, either. In New York, if it's not happening to you, you develop this funny blindness. Have they been charting me? Andy wondered desperately. If they have, they know, and it's all over but the shouting. If they had, they knew the pattern. After Andy got some money, the strange things stopped happening for a while. The things they were interested in.

Keep walking.

Sho, boss. Yassuh, boss. Where?

He had gene into the bank at noon because his radar had been alerted—that funny hunch that they were getting close again. There was money in the bank, and he and Charlie could run on it if they had to. And wasn't that funny? Andrew McGee no longer had an account at the Chemical Allied Bank of New York, not personal checking, not business checking, not savings. They had all disappeared into thin air, and that was when he knew they really meant to bring the hammer down this time. Had all of that really been only five and a half hours ago?

But maybe there was a tickle left. Just one little tickle. It had been nearly a week since the last time—that presuicidal man at Confidence Associates who had come to the regular Thursday-night counseling session and then begun to talk with an eerie calmness about how Hemingway had committed suicide. And on the way out, his arm casually around the presuicidal man's shoulders, Andy had given him a push. Now, bitterly, he hoped it had been worth it. Because it looked very much as if he and Charlie were going to be the ones to pay. He almost hoped an echo—

But no. He pushed that away, horrified and disgusted with himself. That was nothing to wish on
anybody.

One little tickle, he prayed. That's all, God, just one little tickle. Enough to get me and Charlie out of this jam.

And oh God, how you'll pay … plus the fact that you'll be dead for a month afterward, just like a radio with a blown tube. Maybe six weeks. Or maybe really dead, with your worthless brains leaking out your ears. What would happen to Charlie then?

They were coming up on Seventieth Street and the light was against them. Traffic was pouring across and pedestrians were building up at the corner in a bottleneck. And suddenly he knew this was where the men in the green car would take them. Alive if they could, of course, but if it looked like trouble … well, they had probably been briefed on Charlie, too.

Maybe they don't even want us alive anymore. Maybe they've decided just to maintain the status quo. What do you do with a faulty equation? Erase it from the board.

A knife in the back, a silenced pistol, quite possibly something more arcane—a drop of rare poison on the end of a needle. Convulsions at the corner of Third and Seventieth. Officer, this man appears to have suffered a heart attack.

He would have to try for that tickle. There was just nothing else.

They reached the waiting pedestrians at the corner. Across the way,
DON'T WALK
held steady and seemingly eternal. He looked back. The green car had stopped. The curbside doors opened and two men in business suits got out. They were young and smooth-cheeked. They looked considerably fresher than Andy McGee felt.

He began elbowing his way through the clog of pedestrians, eyes searching frantically for a vacant cab.

“Hey, man—”

“For Christ' sake, fella!”

“Please, mister, you're stepping on my
dog
—”

“Excuse me … excuse me …” Andy said desperately. He searched for a cab. There were none. At any other time the street would have been stuffed with them. He could feel the men from the green car coming for them, wanting to lay hands on him and Charlie, to take them with them God knew where, the Shop, some damn place, or do something even worse—

Charlie laid her head on his shoulder and yawned.

Andy saw a vacant cab.

“Taxi! Taxi!” he yelled, flagging madly with his free hand.

Behind him, the two men dropped all pretense and ran.

The taxi pulled over.

“Hold it!” one of the men yelled. “Police! Police!”

A woman near the back of the crowd at the corner screamed, and then they all began to scatter.

Andy opened the cab's back door and handed Charlie in. He dived in after her. “La Guardia, step on it,” he said.

“Hold it, cabby. Police!”

The cab driver turned his head toward the voice and Andy pushed—very gently. A dagger of pain was planted squarely in the center of Andy's forehead and then quickly withdrawn, leaving a vague locus of pain, like a morning headache—the kind you get from sleeping on your neck.

“They're after that black guy in the checkered cap, I think,” he said to the cabby.

“Right,” the driver said, and pulled serenely away from the curb. They moved down East Seventieth.

Andy looked back. The two men were standing alone at the curb. The rest of the pedestrians wanted nothing to do with them. One of the men took a walkie-talkie from his belt and began to speak into it. Then they were gone.

“That black guy,” the driver said, “whadde do? Rob a liquor store or somethin, you think?”

“I don't know,” Andy said, trying to think how to go on with this, how to get the most out of this cab driver for the least push. Had they got the cab's plate number? He would have to assume they had. But they wouldn't want to go to the city or state cops, and they would be surprised and scrambling, for a while at least.

“They're all a bunch of junkies, the blacks in this city,” the driver said. “Don't tell me, I'll tell you.”

Charlie was going to sleep. Andy took off his corduroy jacket, folded it, and slipped it under her head. He had begun to feel a thin hope. If he could play this right, it might work. Lady Luck had sent him what Andy thought of (with no prejudice at all) as a pushover. He was the sort that seemed the easiest to push, right down the line: he was white (Orientals were the toughest, for some reason); he was quite young (old people were nearly impossible) and of medium intelligence (bright people were the easiest pushes, stupid ones harder, and with the mentally retarded it was impossible).

BOOK: Firestarter
3.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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