“Slade!” she cried, jumping to her feet and running to him. “‘I’m saved! Thank heaven! When Sam Columbine got back from torturing the Mexican border guards, he was going to feed me to his alligators!
You came just in time!”
“Damn right,” Slade gritted. “I always do. Steve King sees to that.”
Her firm, supple, silken fleshed body swooned into his arms, and her lush lips sought Slade’s mouth with ripe humid passion. Slade promptly clubbed her over the head with one sinister.45 and threw his Mexican cigar away, a snarl pulling at his lips.
“Watch it,” he growled, “my mom told me about girls like you.”
And he strode off to find Sam Columbine.
Slade strode out of the bunk-room leaving Sandra Dawson in the smoke-filled chamber to rub the bump on her head where he had clouted her with the barrel of his sinister.45. He mounted his huge black stallion, Stokely, and headed for the border, where Sam Columbine was torturing Mexican customs men with the help of his A No.1 Top Gun –
“Pinky” Lee. The only two men in the American Southwest that could ever approach “Pinky” for pure, dad-ratted evil were Hunchback Fred Agnew (who Slade gunned down three weeks ago) and Sam Columbine himself. “Pinky” had gotten his infamous nickname during the Civil War when he rode with Captain Quantrill and his Regulators. While passed out in the kitchen of a fancy bordello in Bleeding Heart, Kansas, a Union officer named Randolph P. Sorghum dropped a homemade bomb down the kitchen chimney. “Pinky” lost all his hair, his eyebrows, and all the fingers on his left hand, except for the forth, and smallest.
His hair and eyebrows grew back. His fingers did not. He is, however, still faster than greased lightning and meaner than hell. He had sworn to find Randolph P. Sorghum some day and stake him over the nearest anthill.
But Slade was not worried about Lee, because his heart was pure and his strength was as ten.
In a short time the agonized screams of the Mexican customs officials told him he was nearing the border. He dismounted, tied Stokely to a parking-meter and advanced through the sagebrush as noiselessly as a cat. The night was dark and moonless.
“No More! amigo!” the guard was screaming. “I confess! I confess! I am – who am I?”
“Fergetful bastid, ain’t ye?” Pinky said. “Yore Randolph P. Sorghum, the sneakun’ low life that blew off 90% 0′ my hand durin’ the Civil War.”
“I admit it! I admit it!”
Slade had crept close enough now to see what was happening. Lee had the customs official tied to a straight-backed chair, with his bare feet on a hassock. Both feet were coated with honey and Lee’s trained bear, Whomper, was licking it off with his long tongue.
“I can’t stand it!” the guard screamed, “I am theese whatyoumacallum, Sorghum!”
“Caught you at last!” Lee gloated. He pulled out his sinister Buntline Special and prepared to blow the poor old fellow all the way to Trinidad. Sam Columbine, who was standing far back in the shadows, was ready to bring in the next guard.
Slade stood up suddenly. “Okay, you two skulkin’ varmits! Hold it right there!”
Pinky Lee dropped to his chest, fanning the hammer of his sinister Buntline Special. Slade felt bullets race all around him. He fired back twice, but curse it – the hammers of his two sinister .45s only clicked on empty chambers. He had forgotten to load up after downing the three badmen back at the Rotten Vulture.
Lee rolled to cover behind a barrel of taco chips. Columbine was already crouched behind a giant bottle of mayonnaise that had been air-dropped a month before after the worst flood disaster in American Southwest history (why drop mayonnaise after a disaster? None of your damn business).
“Who’s that out there?” Lee yelled.
Slade thought quickly. “It’s Randolph P. Sorghum,” he cried. “The real McCoy, Lee! And this time I’m gunna blow off more than three fingers!”
His crafty challenge had the desired effect. Pinky rushed rashly (or rashly rushed if you preferred) from cover, his sinister Buntline Special blazing. “I’ll blow ya apart!” he yelled, “I’ll – ”
But at that moment Slade carefully put a bullet through his head.
Pinky Lee flopped, his evil days done.
“Lee?” Sam Columbine called. “Pinky? You out there?” A craven cowardly note had crept into his voice.
“I just dropped him, Columbine!” Slade yelled. “And now it’s just you and me…and I’m comin’ to get you!”
Sinister.45s blazing, a Mexican cigar clamped between his teeth, Slade started down the hill after Sam Columbine.
Halfway down the slope, Sam Columbine let loose such a volley of shots that Slade had to duck behind a barrel cactus. He could not get off a clear shot at Columbine because the wily villain had hidden behind a convenient, giant bottle of mayonnaise.
“Slade!” Columbine yelled. “It’s time we settled this like men! Holster yore gun and I’ll holster mine! Then we’ll come out an’ draw! The better man will walk away!”
“Okay, you lowdown sidewinder!” Slade yelled back. He holstered his sinister.45s and stepped out from behind the barrel cactus. Columbine stepped out from behind the bottle of mayonnaise. He was a tall man with an olive complexion and an evil grin. His hand hovered over the barrel of the sinister Smith & Wesson pistol that hung on his hip.
“Well, this is it, pard!” Slade sneered. There was a Mexican cigar clamped between his teeth as he started to walk toward Columbine.
“Say hello to everyone in hell for me, Columbine!”
“We’ll see,” Columbine sneered back, but his knees were knocking as he halted, ready for the showdown.
“Okay!” Slade called. “Go fer yore gun!”
“Wait,” Someone screamed. “Wait, wait, WAIT!”
They both stared. It was Sandra Dawson! She was running toward them breathless.
“Slade!” she cried. “Slade!”
“Get down!” Slade growled. “Sam Columbine is – ”
“I had to tell you, Slade! I couldn’t let you go off, maybe to get killed!
And you’d never know!”
“Know what?” Slade asked.
“That I’m Polly Peachtree!”
Slade gaped at her. “But you can’t be Polly Peachtree! She was my one true love and she was killed by a flaming Montgolfier balloon while milking the cows!”
“I escaped but I had amnesia!” she cried. “It’s all just come back to me tonight. Look!” And she pulled off a blond wig she had been wearing.
She was indeed the beautiful Polly Peachtree of Paduka, returned from the dead!
Slade rushed to her and they embraced, Sam Columbine forgotten.
Slade was just about to ask her how things were going when Sam Columbine, evil rat that he was, crept up behind him and shot Slade in the back three times.
“Thank God!” Polly whispered as she and Sam embraced “At last. he’s gone and we are free, my darling!”
Yeah,” Sam growled. “How are things going Polly?”
“You don’t know how terrible it’s been,” she sobbed. “Not only was he killing everybody, but he was queerer than a three-dollar bill.”
“Well it’s over,” Sam said.
“Like fun!” Slade said. He sat up and blasted them both. “Good thing I was wearing my bullet proof underwear,” he said, lighting a new Mexican cigar. He stared at the cooling bodies of Sam Columbine and Polly Peachtree, and a great wave of sadness swept over him. He threw away his cigar and lit a joint. Then he walked over to where he had tethered Stokely, his black stallion. He wrapped his arms around Stokely’s neck and held him close.
“At last, darling,” Slade whispered. “We’re alone.”
After a long while, Slade and Stokely rode off into the sunset in search of new adventures.
THE BLUE AIR COMPRESSOR
A gruesome short story King wrote when he was in college and then revised a decade later for a reprint in Heavy Metal. First published in Onan in 1971.
The house was tall, with an incredible slope of shingled roof. As he walked up toward it from the shore road, Gerald Nately thought it was almost a country in itself, geography in microcosm. The roof dipped and rose at varying angles above the main building and two strangely-angled wings; a widow’s walk skirted a mushroom-shaped cupola which looked toward the sea; the porch, facing the dunes and lusterless September scrubgrass, was longer than a Pullman car and screened in. The high slope of roof made the house seem to beetle its brows and loom above him. A Baptist grandfather of a house.
He went to the porch and after a moment of hesitation, through the screen door to the fanlighted one beyond. There was only a wicker chair, a rusty porch swing, and an old discarded knitting basket to watch him go. Spiders had spun silk in the shadowy upper corners. He knocked.
There was silence, inhabited silence. He was about to knock again when a chair someplace inside wheezed deeply in its throat. It was a tired sound. Silence. Then the slow, dreadfully patient sound of old, overburdened feet finding their way up the hall. Counterpoint of cane: Whock…whock…whock… The floorboards creaked and whined. A shadow, huge and unformed in the pearled glass, bloomed on the fanlight. Endless sound of fingers laboriously solving the riddle of chain, bolt, and hasp lock. The door opened. “Hello,” the nasal voice said flatly. “You’re Mr. Nately. You’ve rented the cottage. My husband’s cottage.”