This statement made no immediate sense to me, but it was no more mystifying than a hundred other things she’d said, so I didn’t devote much effort to translation.
I wondered when she would stop squawking and come looking. Maybe Andre already had crept into the suite, searching, and her shouting in the corridor was intended to mislead me into thinking the ax was not already on the downswing.
As if she had read my mind, she said, “I don’t have to come searching for you, do I, Odd Thomas?”
After putting the shotgun on the floor, I wiped my face with my hands, blotted my hands on my jeans. I felt six-days dirty, with no hope of a Sunday bath.
I had always expected to die clean. In my dream, when I open that paneled white door and get the pike through the throat, I’m wearing a clean T-shirt, pressed jeans, and fresh underwear.
“No way I have to risk getting my head shot off looking for you,” she shouted.
Considering all the messes I get into, I don’t know why I had always expected to die clean. Now that I thought about it, this seemed self-delusional.
Freud would have had a grand time analyzing my have-to-die-clean complex. But then Freud was an ass.
“Psychic magnetism!” she shouted, getting more of my attention than I had recently been giving her. “Psychic magnetism works both ways, boyfriend.”
My spirits had not been high by virtually any measure, but at her words, they fell a little.
When I have a specific target in mind, I can cruise at random, and my psychic magnetism will often lead me to him, but sometimes, when I am thinking a lot about another person yet am not actively seeking him, the same mechanism operates, and he is casually drawn to me, all unaware.
When psychic magnetism works in reverse, without my conscious intent, I am without control…and vulnerable to nasty surprises. Of all the things about me that Danny could have told Datura, this might have been the most dangerous for her to know.
Previously, whenever a bad guy has found himself wandering into my presence by virtue of reverse psychic magnetism, he has been as surprised by this development as I have been. Which at least puts us on equal footing.
Instead of searching urgently room to room, floor to floor, Datura intended to remain alert but calm, to make herself receptive to the pull of my aura, or whatever the hell it is that exerts this paranormal attraction. She and Andre could cover the two staircases, periodically check the elevator shafts for noise, and wait until she found herself at my side—or at my back—drawn to me by virtue of the fact that, as in the Willie Nelson song, she was always on my mind.
No matter how clever I was about finding a way out of the hotel, before I got to freedom, I was likely to encounter her. It was a little like destiny.
If you’ve had a beer too many and are in an argumentative mood, you might say Don’t be an idiot, Odd. All you have to do is not think about her.
Imagine yourself running barefoot on a summer day, as carefree as a child, and your foot comes down on an old board, and a six-inch spike spears your metatarsal arch, penetrating all the way through your instep. No need to cancel your plans and seek out a doctor. You’ll be fine if you just don’t think about that big sharp rusty spike sticking through your foot.
You’re playing eighteen holes of golf, and your ball goes into the woods. Retrieving it, you’re bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake. Don’t bother calling 911 on your cell phone. You can finish the round with aplomb if you simply concentrate on the game and forget all about the annoying snake.
No matter how many beers you have consumed, I trust that you get my point. Datura was a spike through my foot, a snake with fangs sunk into my hand. Trying not to think about that woman, under these circumstances, was like being in a room with an angry naked sumo wrestler and trying not to think about him.
At least she had revealed her intentions. Now I knew that she knew about reverse psychic magnetism. She might fall upon me when I least expected it, but I would no longer be entirely surprised when she decapitated me and drank my blood.
She had stopped shouting.
I waited tensely, unnerved by the silence.
Not thinking about her had been easier when she was yammering than when she shut up.
A rattle and blur of rain on the window. Thunder. A threnody of wind.
Ozzie Boone, mentor and man of letters, would like that word. Threnody: a dirge, a lamentation, a song for the dead.
While I played hide-and-seek with a madwoman in a burned-out hotel, Ozzie was probably sitting in his cozy study, sipping thick hot cocoa, nibbling pecan cookies, already writing the first novel in his new series about a detective who is also a pet communicator. Maybe he would title it Threnody for a Hamster.
This threnody, of course, would be for Robert: full of lead shot and broken, twelve stories below.
After a while, I checked the luminous face of my wristwatch. I consulted it every few minutes until a quarter of an hour had passed.
I wasn’t enthusiastic about returning to the corridor. On the other hand, I didn’t have any enthusiasm about staying where I was, either.
In addition to Kleenex, a bottle of water, and a few other items of no value for a man in my fix, my backpack held the fishing knife. The sharpest blade wasn’t a match for a shotgun, assuming she had one, but it was better than attacking her with a packet of Kleenex.
I couldn’t carve anyone, not even Datura. Using a firearm is daunting, but it allows you to kill at some distance. Any gun is less intimate than a knife. Killing her intimately, up close and personal, her blood pouring back along the handle of the knife: That required a different Odd Thomas from a parallel dimension, one who was crueler than I and less worried about cleanliness.
Armed with only my bare hands and attitude, I finally returned to the living room of the suite.
The corridor—where she had recently prowled, shouting—was deserted.
The shotgun blasts had brought her at a run from the north end of the building. Most likely she had been monitoring those stairs, and had now returned to them.
I glanced at the south stairs, but if Andre waited anywhere, he waited there. I might have attitude, but Andre had gravitas. And for sure, in a fistfight, he would leave me in the condition of a pack of saltines after he had crushed them to put in his soup.
She hadn’t known where I was when she had stood here shouting, had not known with certainty that I could hear her. But she had told me the truth about her plan: no search, just patience, counting on a chilling kind of kismet.
WITH THE STAIRS AND ELEVATOR SHAFT OFF-LIMITS, I had only those resources that the twelfth floor offered.
I thought of the kilo of gelignite, or whatever they called it these days. A quantity of explosives that could reduce a large house to matchsticks ought to be of some use to a young fellow as desperate as I was.
Although I’d received no training in the handling of explosives, I had the benefit of paranormal insight. Yes, my gift had gotten me into this mess; but if it didn’t get me in deeper, it might get me out.
I also had that can-do American spirit, which should never be underestimated.
According to the history I’ve learned from movies, Alexander Graham Bell, fiddling around with some cans and wire, invented the telephone, with the help of his assistant Watson, who was also an associate of Sherlock Holmes, and achieved great success after enduring the scorn and naysaying of lesser men for ninety minutes.
Weathering the scorn and naysaying of a remarkably similar set of lesser men, Thomas Edison, another great American, invented the electric lightbulb, the phonograph, the first sound movie camera, and
the alkaline battery, among a slew of other things, also in ninety minutes, and looked like Spencer Tracy.
When he was my age, Tom Edison looked like Mickey Rooney, had invented a number of clever devices, and already exhibited the self-confidence to ignore the negativism of the naysayers. Edison, Mickey Rooney, and I were all Americans, so there was reason to believe that by studying the components of the now dismantled bomb, I might tinker together a useful weapon.
Besides, I didn’t see any other prospects.
After slinking along the main corridor and slipping into Room 1242, where Danny had been held captive, I switched on my flashlight and discovered that Datura had taken away the package of explosives. Maybe she didn’t want it to fall into my hands or maybe she had a use for it, or perhaps she just wanted it for sentimental reasons.
I didn’t see any healthy purpose in dwelling on what use she might have for a bomb, so I switched off my light and moved to the window. By the pallid lamp of the fading day, I examined Terri’s phone, which Datura had hammered against the bathroom counter.
When I flipped the phone open, the screen brightened. I would have been heartened if it had presented a logo, a recognizable image, or data of some kind. Instead, there was only a meaningless blue-and-yellow mottle.
I keyed in seven digits, Chief Porter’s mobile number, but they did not appear on the screen. I pressed SEND and listened. Nothing.
Had I lived a century earlier, I might have fiddled with scraps of this and that until, in the can-do spirit, I jury-rigged a nifty communications device, but things were more complicated these days. Even Edison could not have, on the spot, tinkered up a new microchip brain board.
Disappointed by Room 1242, I returned to the corridor. Much less daylight penetrated from the rooms with open doors than had been the case even half an hour earlier. The hallways would go dark at least an hour before dusk actually arrived.