Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

Its face was an even split: half black, half white. The dividing line ran from the top of its flat skull and down its nose to its mouth, straight-57

arrow. Its eyes were huge in the gloom, and caught in each nearly circular black pupil was a prism of firelight, like a sullen coal of hate.

And the thought echoed back to Halston: We know each other, you and I. Then it passed. He put the gun away and stood up. “I ought to kill you for that, old man. I don’t take a joke.”

“And I don’t make them,” Drogan said. “Sit down. Look in here.”

He had taken a fat envelope out from beneath the blanket that covered his legs.

Halston sat. The cat, which had been crouched on the back of the sofa, jumped lightly down into his lap. It looked up at Halston for a moment with those huge dark eyes, the pupils surrounded by thin green-gold rings, and then it settled down and began to purr.

Halston looked at Drogan questioningly.

“He’s very friendly,” Drogan said. “At first. Nice friendly pussy has killed three people in this household. That leaves only me. I am old, I am sick…but I prefer to die in my own time.”

“I can’t believe this,” Halston said. “You hired me to hit a cat?”

“Look in the envelope, please.”

Halston did. It was filled with hundreds and fifties, all of them old.

“How much is it?”

“Six thousand dollars. There will be another six when you bring me proof that the cat is dead. Mr. Loggia said twelve thousand was your usual fee?”

Halston nodded, his hand automatically stroking the cat in his lap. It was asleep, still purring. Halston liked cats. They were the only animals he did like, as a matter of fact. They got along on their own. God – if there was one – had made them into perfect, aloof killing machines.

Cats were the hitters of the animal world, and Halston gave them his respect.

“I need not explain anything, but I will,” Drogan said. “Forewarned is forearmed, they say, and I would not want you to go into this lightly.

And I seem to need to justify myself. So you’ll not think I’m insane.”

Halston nodded again. He had already decided to make this peculiar hit, and no further talk was needed. But if Drogan wanted to talk, he would listen. “First of all, you know who I am? Where the money comes from?”

“Drogan Pharmaceuticals.”

“Yes. One of the biggest drug companies in the world. And the cornerstone of our financial success has been this.” From the pocket of his robe he handed Halston a small, unmarked vial of pills. “Tri-Dormal-phenobarbin, compound G. Prescribed almost exclusively for the terminally ill. It’s extremely habit-forming, you see. It’s a combination painkiller, tranquilizer, and mild hallucinogen. It is 58

remarkably helpful in helping the terminally ill face their conditions and adjust to them.”

“Do you take it?” Halston asked.

Drogan ignored the question. “It is widely prescribed throughout the world. It’s a synthetic, was developed in the fifties at our New Jersey labs. Our testing was confined almost solely to cats, because of the unique quality of the feline nervous system.”

“How many did you wipe out?”

Drogan stiffened. “That is an unfair and prejudicial way to put it.”

Halston shrugged.

“In the four-year testing period which led to FDA approval of Tri-Dormal-G, about fifteen thousand cats…uh, expired.”

Halston whistled. About four thousand cats a year. “And now you think this one’s back to get you, huh?”

“I don’t feel guilty in the slightest,” Drogan said, but that quavering, petulant note was back in his voice. “Fifteen thousand test animals died so that hundreds of thousands of human beings – ”

“Never mind that,” Halston said. Justifications bored him.

“That cat came here seven months ago. I’ve never liked cats. Nasty, disease-bearing animals…always out in the fields…crawling around in barns…picking up God knows what germs in their fur…always trying to bring something with its insides falling out into the house for you to look at…it was my sister who wanted to take it in. She found out. She paid.” He looked at the cat sleeping on Halston’s lap with dead hate.

“You said the cat killed three people.”

Drogan began to speak. The cat dozed and purred on Halston’s lap under the soft, scratching strokes of Halston’s strong and expert killer’s fingers. Occasionally a pine knot would explode on the hearth, making it tense like a series of steel springs covered with hide and muscle.

Outside the wind whined around the big stone house far out in the Connecticut countryside. There was winter in that wind’s throat. The old man’s voice droned on and on. Seven months ago there had been four of them here-Drogan, his sister Amanda, who at seventy-four was two years Drogan’s elder, her lifelong friend Carolyn Broadmoor (“of the Westchester Broadmoors,” Drogan.said), who was badly afflicted with emphysema, and Dick Gage, a hired man who had been with the Drogan family for twenty years. Gage, who was past sixty himself, drove the big Lincoln Mark IV, cooked, served the evening sherry. A day maid came in. The four of them had lived this way for nearly two years, a dull collection of old people and their family retainer. Their only pleasures were The Hollywood Squares and waiting to see who would outlive whom. Then the cat had come.


“It was Gage who saw it first, whining and skulking around the house.

He tried to drive it away. He threw sticks and small rocks at it, and hit it several times. But it wouldn’t go. It smelled the food, of course. It was little more than a bag of bones. People put them out beside the road to die at the end of the summer season, you know. A terrible, inhumane thing.”

“Better to fry their nerves?” Halston asked.

Drogan ignored that and went on. He hated cats. He always had.

When the cat refused to be driven away, he had instructed Gage to put out poisoned food. Large, tempting dishes of Calo cat food spiked with Tri-Dormal-G, as a matter of fact. The cat ignored the food. At that point Amanda Drogan had noticed the cat and had insisted they take it in. Drogan had protested vehemently, but Amanda – had gotten her way. She always did, apparently.

“But she found out,” Drogan said. “She brought it inside herself, in her arms. It was purring, just as it is now. But it wouldn’t come near me. It never has … yet. She poured it a saucer of milk. ‘Oh, look at the poor thing, it’s starving,’ she cooed. She and Carolyn both cooed over it.

Disgusting. It was their way of getting back at me, of course. They knew the way I’ve felt about felines ever since the Tri-Dormal-G testing program twenty years ago. They enjoyed teasing me, baiting me with it.” He looked at Halston grimly. “But they paid.”

In mid-May, Gage had gotten up to set breakfast and found Amanda Drogan lying at the foot of the main stairs in a litter of broken crockery and Little Friskies. Her eyes bulged sightlessly up at the ceiling. She had bled a great deal from the mouth and nose. Her back was broken, both legs were broken, and her neck had been literally shattered like glass.

“It slept in her room,” Drogan said. “She treated it like a baby … ‘Is oo hungwy, darwing? Does oo need to go out and do poopoos!’ Obscene, coming from an old battle-ax like my sister. I think it woke her up, meowing. She got his dish. She used to say that Sam didn’t really like his Friskies unless they were wetted down with a little milk. So she was planning to go downstairs. The cat was rubbing against her legs. She was old, not too steady on her feet. Half asleep. They got to the head of the stairs and the cat got in front of her.. tripped her…”

Yes, it could have happened that way, Halston thought. In his mind’s eye he saw the old woman falling forward and outward, too shocked to scream, the Friskies spraying out as she tumbled head over heels to the bottom, the bowl smashing. At last she comes to rest at the bottom, the old bones shattered, the eyes glaring, the nose and ears trickling blood.

And the purring cat begins to work its way down the stairs, contentedly munching Little Friskies…


“What did the coroner say?” he asked Drogan. “Death by accident, of course. But I knew.”

“Why didn’t you get rid of the cat then? With Amanda gone?”

Because Carolyn Broadmoor had threatened to leave if he did, apparently. She was hysterical, obsessed with the subject. She was a sick woman, and she was nutty on the subject of spiritualism. A Hartford medium had told her (for a mere twenty dollars) that Amanda’s soul had entered Sam’s feline body. Sam had been Amanda’s, she told Drogan, and if Sam went, she went. Halston, who had become something of an expert at reading between the lines of human lives, suspected that Drogan and the old Broadmoor bird had been lovers long ago, and the old dude was reluctant to let her go over a cat.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Categories: Stephen King