Authors: John Saul
Muttering softly, his eyes blazing with fury, he started toward Mrs. Lewis, and began killing her
Alex remained still in the corner of the kitchen, his eyes glued to the scene that was being played out a few feet away.
He could feel the pain in Mrs. Lewis’s neck as the dark-skinned boy’s fingers tightened around it.
And he could feel the terror in her soul as she began to realize that she was going to die.
But he could do nothing except stand where he was, helplessly watching, for as he endured the pain Mrs. Lewis was feeling, he was also enduring the pain of the thought that kept repeating itself in his brain.
It’s me. The boy who is killing her is me.…
An excursion into absolute terror
by the bestselling master of fear
By John Saul:
SUFFER THE CHILDREN
PUNISH THE SINNERS
CRY FOR THE STRANGERS
COMES THE BLIND FURY
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS
THE GOD PROJECT
THE BLACKSTONE CHRONICLES:
Part 1-AN EYE FOR AN EYE: THE DOLL
Part 2-TWIST OF FATE: THE LOCKET
Part 3-ASHES TO ASHES:
THE DRAGON’S FLAME
Part 4-IN THE SHADOW OF EVIL:
Part 5-DAY OF RECKONING:
And now available
John Saul’s latest tale of terror
THE RIGHT HAND OF EVIL
A Bantam Book / August 1985
All rights reserved.
1985 by John Saul.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.
To Shirley Osborn, with love, affection and appreciation
The late-August sun blazed down on the parched hills with an intensity that was usually felt only much farther south, and south, the sixteen-year-old boy thought as he moved stealthily through the scrub-oak underbrush of his father’s vast
, was where he and his family should have gone long before now.
But his father had insisted on staying.
All year, since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been signed, his parents had been quietly arguing about what to do.
“They will drive us away,” his mother had said over and over. She had said it again only this morning, her tall figure held firmly erect as she sat on a ladderback chair in the shade of the eastern wall of the hacienda, dressed, as always, in black, despite the heat of the morning. Her hands, their long slender fingers betraying nothing of what she might be feeling, worked steadily at the needlepoint with which she occupied herself during the few moments of each day that the pressures of the
hacienda allowed her. But his father, as he had every other day, only shook his head.
“In Los Angeles they are honoring the Spanish grants. They will honor them here, too.”
Doña María’s eyes had flashed with impatience, and her mouth had tightened, though when she spoke it was with the respect she always paid her husband, and had taught her daughters to pay to both their father and their brother. “They have not found gold in Los Angeles. There, the land is worthless. Why not honor the grants? But here, even if there is no gold, they will take the land. In San Francisco the ships arrive every day, and the city is full. Where will they go?”
“To the goldfields,” Don Roberto de Meléndez y Ruiz had insisted, but Doña María had only shaken her head.
“Most of them will go to the goldfields. But not all of them, Roberto. Some will see into the future, and want the land. And those men will come here. Who will defend us?”
“The presidio at Monterey—”
“The presidio is theirs now. The war is over, and we have lost. Our troops have gone back to Mexico, and we should follow them.”
“No!” Don Roberto had replied. “We are not Mexicans. We are Californios, and this is our home. We built this hacienda, and we have a right to stay here! And stay here we shall!”
“Then we shall stay,” Doña María had said, her voice suddenly placid. “But the hacienda will not be ours. The
will be taken from us. New people are coming, Roberto, and there is nothing we can do.”
And now, this afternoon, they had come.
From a hilltop two hundred yards away, the boy saw a squadron of United States cavalry appear in the distance, making its leisurely way up the trail toward the whitewashed walls of the hacienda. Nothing in their manner indicated a threat, and yet the boy could feel danger. But instead of mounting his horse and riding
home, he tied the animal to a tree beyond the crest of the hill, then crouched down into the brush.
He saw his father waiting at the open gates, and could almost hear him offering the men the hospitality of his home. But the riders did not go inside. The squadron waited while one of the stable boys brought his father’s horse. Don Roberto mounted, and the squadron, with his father in its midst, started back down the trail toward the mission village a mile away.
The boy moved as swiftly as he could, but it was slow going. There was only the one trail, and all his instincts told him to stay off it, so he made his way through the tangle of dry brush, hiding himself as best he could in the clumps of oak.
He watched as the squad drew close to the mission, and for a moment his fear eased. Perhaps they were only taking his father to a meeting with the American commandant.
The squadron passed the mission, and continued another hundred yards down the trail to the enormous oak tree around which the village had originally been built. Under its mighty branches, Indians had camped for untold centuries before even the Franciscan
Suddenly the boy knew what the squadron was going to do, and knew there was nothing he could do to prevent it.
Nor could he leave. He had to stay, to watch.
As his father sat straight in the saddle, one of the men threw a rope over the lowest branch of the tree, while another tied Don Roberto’s hands behind his back. Then they led the black stallion under the tree and tied the free end of the rope around Don Roberto’s neck.
From his hiding place in the brush, the boy tried to see his father’s face, but he was too far away, and the shade of the oak was impenetrable.
Then one of the cavalrymen lashed the black stallions
flanks with a riding crop; the horse reared, snorting, and came stamping back to earth. A second later it was over.
The black horse was galloping up the trail toward the hacienda, and Don Roberto de Meléndez y Ruiz’s body was swinging under the embracing branches of the oak tree.
The cavalry squadron turned and at the same leisurely pace started back up the trail toward the hacienda.
The boy waited until the soldiers were out of sight before he picked his way the last fifty yards to the floor of the valley. He stared up into his father’s face for a long time, trying to read in the eyes of the corpse what might now be expected of him. But there was nothing in the twisted grimace of pain, or the bulging, empty eyes. It was as if, even as he died, Don Roberto still hadn’t understood what was happening to him.
But the boy understood.
He turned, and faded away back into the brush.
It was late in the afternoon, and as the sun dropped toward the western horizon, long shadows began their march across the hilltops. Far away, the boy could see the beginnings of a fogbank forming over the ocean.
Below him, the last of his family’s servants were drifting out of the open gates of the hacienda, their meager belongings tied up in worn
, their eyes fixed on the brown earth, as if they, too, might be in danger if they so much as glanced up at the guards who flanked the courtyard gates.
Against the inside of the western wall, still protecting herself from the fading heat, his mother sat calmly on her chair, her daughters flanking her, her fingers still occupied with her needlework. Every now and then, he could see her lips move as she offered words of farewell to the departing
, but none of them replied; only one or two even had the courage to nod toward her.
Finally the last of the servants was gone, and at a signal from their leader, the guards slowly swung the
heavy gates closed. The officer turned to face Doña María. His words carried clearly up the hillside.
“Where is your son?”
“Gone,” his mother replied. “We sent him away last week.”
“Do not lie, Doña María. He was seen yesterday.”
His mother’s voice rose then, and the boy knew her words were for him, as well as for the man she faced. “He is not here, señor. He is gone to Sonora, where he will be safe with our people.”
“We’ll find him, Doña María.”
“No. You will never find him. But he will find you. We are not afraid to die. But you will not gain by killing us. We will not leave our land, señor. My husband said we will stay, and so we shall. And you will kill us. But it will do you no good. My son will come back, and he will find you.”