Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

California driver’s license, Blue Cross-Blue Shield card, Amex and Diners’ Club cards, also identified him as Edward Paladin.

His trip from Studio C ended, at least temporarily, in a room in the Burbank PD’s “special security” area. The room was panelled with tough plastic that almost did look like mahogany and furnished with a low, round couch and tasteful chairs. There was a cigarette box on the glass-topped coffee table filled with Dunhills, and the magazines included Fortune and Variety and Vogue and Billboard and GQ. The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t really ankle-deep but looked it, and there was a CableView guide on top of the large- screen TV. There was a bar (now locked), and a very nice neo-Jackson Pollock painting on one of the walls. The walls, however, were of drilled cork, and the mirror above the bar was a little bit too large and a little bit too shiny to be anything but a piece of one-way glass.

The man who called himself Ed Paladin stuck his hands in his just-too-loud sport-coat pockets, looked around disgustedly, and said: “An interrogation room by any other name is still an interrogation room.”

Detective 1st Grade Richard Cheyney looked at him calmly for a moment. When he spoke, it was in the soft and polite voice that had earned him the only halfkidding nickname “Detective to the Stars.” Part of the reason he spoke this way was because he genuinely liked and respected show people. Part of the reason was because he didn’t trust them. Half the time they were lying they didn’t know it.

“Could you tell us, please, Mr Paladin, how you got on the set of The Tonight Show, and where Johnny Carson is?”

“Who’s Johnny Carson?”

Pete Jacoby – who wanted to be Henny Youngman when he grew up, Cheyney often thought – gave Cheyney a momentary dry look every bit as good as a Jack Benny deadpan. Then he looked back at Edward Paladin and said, “Johnny Carson’s the guy who used to be Mr Ed. You know, the talking horse? I mean, a lot of people know about Mr Ed, the famous talking horse, but an awful lot of people don’t know that he went to Geneva to have a species-change operation and when he came back he was – ”

Cheyney often allowed Jacoby his routines (there was really no other word for them, and Cheyney remembered one occasion when Jacoby had gotten a man charged with beating his wife and infant son to death laughing so hard that tears of mirth rather than remorse were rolling down his cheeks as he signed the confession that was going to put the bastard in jail for the rest of his life), but he wasn’t going to tonight. He didn’t have to see the flame under his ass; he could feel it, and it was being turned up. Pete was maybe a little slow on the uptake about some 168

things, and maybe that was why he wasn’t going to make Detective 1st for another two or three years…if he ever did.

Some ten years ago a really awful thing had happened in a little nothing town called Chowchilla. Two people (they had walked on two legs, anyway, if you could believe the newsfilm) had hijacked a busload of kids, buried them alive, and then had demanded a huge sum of money. Otherwise, they said, those kiddies could just stay where they were and swap baseball trading cards until their air ran out. That one had ended happily, but it could have been a nightmare. And God knew Johnny Carson was no busload of schoolkids, but the case had the same kind of fruitcake appeal: here was that rare event about which both the Los Angeles Times-Mirror and The National Enquirer would hobnob on their front pages. What Pete didn’t understand was that something extremely rare had happened to them: in the world of day-to-day police work, a world where almost everything came in shades of gray, they had suddenly been placed in a situation of stark and simple contrasts: produce within twenty-four hours, thirty-six at the outside, or watch the Feds come in…and kiss your ass goodbye.

Things happened so rapidly that even later he wasn’t completely sure, but he believed both of them had been going on the unspoken presumption, even then, that Carson had been kidnapped and this guy was part of it.

“We’re going to do it by the numbers, Mr Paladin,” Cheyney said, and although he was speaking to the man glaring up at him from one of the chairs (he had refused the sofa at once), his eyes flicked briefly to Pete.

They had been partners for nearly twelve years, and a glance was all it took.

No more Comedy Store routines, Pete.

Message received.

“First comes the Miranda Warning,” Cheyney said pleasantly. “I am required to inform you that you are in the custody of the Burbank City Police. Although not required to do so immediately, I’ll add that a preliminary charge of trespassing – ”

“Trespassing!” An angry flush burst over Paladin’s face.

” – on property both owned and leased by the National Broadcasting Company has been lodged against you. I am Detective 1st Grade Richard Cheyney. This man with me is my partner, Detective 2nd Grade Peter Jacoby. We’d like to interview you.”

“Fucking interrogate me is what you mean.”

“I only have one question, as far as interrogation goes,” Cheyney said.

“Otherwise, I only want to interview you at this time. In other words, I have one question relevant to the charge which has been lodged; the rest deal with other matters.”


“Well, what’s the fucking question?”

“That wouldn’t be going by the numbers,” Jacoby said.

Cheyney said: “I am required to tell you that you have the right – ”

“To have my lawyer here, you bet,” Paladin said. “And I just decided that before I answer a single fucking question, and that includes where I went to lunch today and what I had, he’s going to be in here. Albert K.


He spoke this name as if it should rock both detectives back on their heels, but Cheyney had never heard of it and could tell by Pete’s expression that he hadn’t either.

Whatever sort of crazy this Ed Paladin might turn out to be, he was no dullard. He saw the quick glances which passed between the two detectives and read them easily. You know him? Cheyney’s eyes asked Jacoby’s, and Jacoby’s replied, Never heard of him in my life.

For the first time an expression of perplexity – it was not fear, not yet

– crossed Mr Edward Paladin’s face.

“Al Dellums,” he said, raising his voice like some Americans overseas who seem to believe they can make the waiter understand if they only speak loudly enough and slowly enough. “Al Dellums of Dellums, Carthage, Stoneham, and Taylor. I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised that you haven’t heard of him. He’s only one of the most important, well-known lawyers in the country.” Paladin shot the left cuff of his just-slightly-too-loud sport-coat and glanced at his watch. “If you reach him at home, gentlemen, he’ll be pissed. If you have to call his club –

and I think this is his club- night – he’s going to be pissed like a bear.”

Cheyney was not impressed by bluster. If you could sell it at a quarter a pound, he never would have had to turn his hand at another day’s work. But even a quick peek had been enough to show him that the watch Paladin was wearing was not just a Rolex but a Rolex Midnight Star. It might be an imitation, of course, but his gut told him it was genuine. Part of it was his clear impression that Paladin wasn’t trying to make an impression – he’d wanted to see what time it was, no more or less than that. And if the watch was the McCoy…well, there were cabin-cruisers you could buy for less. What was a man who could afford a Rolex Midnight Star doing mixed up in something weird like this?

Now he was the one who must have been showing perplexity clear enough for Paladin to read it, because the man smiled – a humorless skinning-back of the lips from the capped teeth. “The air-conditioning in here’s pretty nice,” he said, crossing his legs and flicking the crease absently. “You guys want to enjoy it while you can. It’s pretty muggy walking a beat out in Watts, even this time of year.”

In a harsh and abrupt tone utterly unlike his bright pitter-patter Comedy Store voice, Jacoby said: “Shut your mouth, jag-off.”


Paladin jerked around and stared at him, eyes wide. And again Cheyney would have sworn it had been years since anyone had spoken to this man in that way. Years since anyone would have dared.

“What did you say?”

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Categories: Stephen King