Needful Things

Needful Things by Stephen King

Book: Needful Things by Stephen King Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen King
would have done it even if it meant wrapping her in a straitjacket and shooting her full of sedative to get her out there.
    But it wasn’t just a matter of money. Ultrasound as a treatment for degenerative arthritis was in its infancy. It might eventually turn out to be as effective as the Salk vaccine, or as bogus as the science of phrenology. Either way, it didn’t make sense right now. The chances were a thousand to one that it was a dry hole. It was not the loss of money he dreaded, but Polly’s dashed hopes.
    A crow—as limber and lifelike as a crow in a Disney animated cartoon—flapped slowly across his framed Albany Police Academy graduation certificate. Its wings lengthened and it became a prehistoric pterodactyl, triangular head cocked as it cruised toward the filing cabinets in the corner and out of the spotlight.
    The door opened. The doleful basset-hound face of Norris Ridgewick poked through. “I did it, Alan,” he said, sounding like a man confessing to the murder of several small children.
    â€œGood, Norris,” Alan said. “You’re not going to get hit with the shit on this, either. I promise.”
    Norris looked at him for a moment longer with his moist eyes, then nodded doubtfully. He glanced at the wall. “Do Buster, Alan.”
    Alan grinned, shook his head, and reached for the lamp.
    â€œCome on,” Norris coaxed. “I ticketed his damn car—I deserve it. Do Buster, Alan. Please. That wipes me out.”
    Alan glanced over Norris’s shoulder, saw no one, and curled onehand against the other. On the wall, a stout shadow-man stalked across the spotlight, belly swinging. He paused once to hitch up his shadow-pants in the back and then stalked on, head turning truculently from side to side.
    Norris’s laughter was high and happy—the laughter of a child. For one moment Alan was reminded forcibly of Todd, and then he shoved that away. There had been enough of that for one night, please God.
    â€œJeez, that slays me,” Norris said, still laughing. “You were born too late, Alan—you coulda had a career on The Ed Sullivan Show.”
    â€œGo on,” Alan said. “Get out of here.”
    Still laughing, Norris pulled the door closed.
    Alan made Norris—skinny and a little self-important—walk across the wall, then snapped off the lamp and took a battered notebook from his back pocket. He thumbed through it until he found a blank page, and wrote Needful Things. Below that he jotted: Leland Gaunt, Cleveland, Ohio. Was that right? No. He scratched out Cleveland and wrote Akron. Maybe I really am losing my mind, he thought. On a third line he printed: Check it out.
    He put his notebook back in his pocket, thought about going home, and turned on the lamp again instead. Soon the shadow-parade was marching across the wall once more: lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Like Sandburg’s fog, the depression crept back on small feline feet. The voice began speaking about Annie and Todd again. After a while, Alan Pangborn began to listen to it. He did it against his will . . . but with growing absorption.
4
    Polly was lying on her bed, and when she finished talking with Alan, she turned over on her left side to hang up the telephone. It fell out of her hand and crashed to the floor instead. The Princess phone’s base slid slowly across the nighttable, obviously meaning to join its other half. She reached for it and her hand struck the edge of the table instead. A monstrous bolt of pain broke through the thinweb the painkiller had stretched over her nerves and raced all the way up to her shoulder. She had to bite down on her lips to stifle a cry.
    The telephone base fell off the edge of the table and crashed with a single cling! of the bell inside. She could hear the steady idiot buzz of the open line drifting up. It sounded like a hive of insects being broadcast via shortwave.
    She thought of picking the telephone

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