Sample L04 from David Alexander, Bloodstain. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1961. Pp. 128-134 A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,005 words 161 (8.0%) quotesL04

Used by permission of David Alexander. 0010-1650

David Alexander, Bloodstain. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1961. Pp. 128-134

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His jowls were spiked by barbs of graying beard . His small , mean eyes regarded Marty steadily , unblinkingly . His eyes were threaded by little filaments of red as if tiny veins had burst and flooded blood into them . As he chewed his gum and exuded wheezing breath , Marty smelt the reek of bad whiskey .

Marty recognized the man . He had driven the car that passed them on the road outside Admassy's place . This was Acey Squire , proprietor of the juke joint .

Marty smiled at Squire pleasantly and said , `` There was a cab waiting for me here . Do you know where it might have gone '' ? ?

Squire chewed his gum , his jaw moving in a steady rhythm . He looked straight at Marty . He did not answer . Marty scanned the faces of the others nearest him , looked into their staring eyes .

`` Did anyone see my cab '' ? ? He asked , keeping his voice casual .

He avoided showing any surprise or annoyance when no one answered him .

`` I have to get back to Jarrodsville '' , he went on . `` I see there are some cars here . I wonder if one of you gentlemen could drive me back to town ? ? I'd be happy to pay for the favor , of course '' .

The seventeen men stood and stared at him for a moment longer . And then a startling thing occurred . It was so utterly unexpected that Marty stood for several moments with his mouth hanging open foolishly after it had happened .

There was no word spoken , no apparent signal given .

Yet the men all moved at the same instant .

They piled into the waiting cars , motors roared , the cars sped off .

The station wagon and the old Plymouth headed east toward Jarrodsville . The Ford and the pickup truck sped west toward Sanford's Run .

In seconds all four cars were out of sight .

Marty Land stood alone on a red-clay road as storm clouds gathered ominously in the sky again . From a great distance thunder growled and broke the silence .

Land looked back toward the dilapidated house . He thought he saw a pale face at a window . Perhaps it was Dora May . Perhaps she would be glad that they hadn't hurt him .

There were other farmhouses nearby . Across the road there was one no more than a hundred yards away . There was another on this side , a little further down . There were many more between here and Jarrodsville . Telephone poles lined the road . They reared tall and mocking . Their wires stretched out into infinity . Not a single strand of wire reached into the silent houses beside the red-clay road .

There was nothing he could do but walk . And Jarrodsville was more than three miles away , down an old dirt road that the rain had turned into a quagmire .

Marty faced east and started walking down the left side of the road . After he had proceeded a few feet , he paused and turned up the cuffs of his trousers , which were already damp and mud-caked . The viscous mud was ankle-deep , and in places great puddles spread across the road and reflected the murky light .

As he approached the first farmhouse , thunder sounded behind him again , closer now and louder , like a steadily advancing drum corps . There were several people on the porch of the farmhouse . There was a very old man and a young woman and a brood of children ranging from toddlers to teen-agers . For just an instant he thought of appealing to them for help . Perhaps they had a car or truck and would drive him into town . Then he realized the utter futility of the idea . They were staring at him in the same blank and menacing way that the men outside the gate had stared . Even the eyes of the smallest children seemed malicious .

On his side of the road there were two farm hands , well back in a field , leaning against a plow . They , too , stared at him .

The drums of thunder were right behind him now .

A foolish thought came into his head . He remembered a story he had read as a youth . It was probably one of Kipling's tales of the British Army . It concerned an officer who had been disgraced and drummed out . The steady roll of the drums had sounded behind him as he walked between the endless ranks of the men he had commanded , and each man about-faced and turned his back as the officer approached . Marty wished these poor farm people would turn their backs .

The fencing by the roadside ended . Now the dirt highway was bordered on either side by a fairly deep drainage ditch , too broad to leap over unless you were an Olympic star . The day's rain had been added to the stagnant water . He was trapped on the road when he heard the sound of an approaching car . It was coming toward him . The car was now in sight . Marty's heart skipped a beat when he recognized it . It was the station wagon that had passed his cab on the road , the station wagon that had been parked at the Burch farm . Acey Squire's station wagon . It had headed back toward Jarrodsville . That had only been a ruse to lure him out on the deserted road . Now Acey and his friends were returning to seek him out .

The station wagon came to a stop a couple of hundred feet in front of him , beside a fenced field . Then there was another sound . A second car was coming from the west , from the direction of Sanford's Run . It was the Ford that had been outside Burch's farm .

Marty looked helplessly in both directions . It was a narrow road , barely wide enough for two cars to pass . He could not leave the road because of the water-filled drainage ditch . When the two cars were equidistant from him , the station wagon started up again and the Ford gathered speed . They bore down on him . There was nothing he could do except jump into the ditch .

He jumped , and sank to his knees in muddy water .

As the two cars roared by , there was a high-pitched eerie , nerve-shattering sound . Marty knew how the Union soldiers must have felt at Chancellorsville and Antietam and Gettysburg when the ragged gray ranks charged at them , screaming the wild banshee howl they called the Rebel yell .

For moments he stood in water , shivering and gasping for breath . He had turned his ankle slightly , and it pained him . The cars , with their load of howling men , had disappeared in the distance . There had been two more cars parked at the farm , a Plymouth and a pickup truck . They would be coming for him next , bearing down on him from both directions . And then the station wagon and the Ford would seek him out again . He would be harassed repeatedly and would escape death by inches time after time , all the way to Jarrodsville . He still had three miles to go . Back East the more affluent juvenile delinquents , who could afford hyped-up autos instead of switch blades as lethal weapons , played this same game and called it `` Chicken '' .

He could not go through the fields . That way was barred on both sides of the road by a high barbed-wire fence . He had to make for the section of road just ahead that was bordered by the rail fence , the section by the farmhouse . At least he could climb up on the fence when his tormenters roared by again . The Admassy place could not be far now . He would go in there , climb through the window , and at least be safe for a little while and able to rest . There was even a bare chance that the phone had not been disconnected .

He did not dare climb back up to the road . He was deep in water , but at least they could not reach him there . He splashed on , mud sucking at his feet with each step , until he reached the end of the drainage ditch and the beginning of the fence that enclosed the farm . He climbed back to the road , and he felt utterly exhausted . He stood , panting , for a moment . And then he saw something that he had not seen before , and panic gripped him again .

The fence , his only refuge when the metal death came roaring at him , was made of rails , all right , but the rails were protected by a thick screening of barbed wire that would rip his flesh if he pressed against it . He lurched on down the road despairingly , because there was no place else to go .

He lost all sense of dignity . You could not stand on dignity when you were soaked and muddied and your life was at stake . Probably people were watching him from the porch or from behind the windows of this farmhouse , too , but he did not bother to look . He broke into a dogtrot , breathing heavily , streaming with sweat . He had to reach Admassy's place . It was his only sanctuary . The fences on both sides of the road bristled with the barbed wire . The fences stretched on endlessly .

And then he heard them .

And now he saw them .

The Plymouth was coming at him from the east , the pickup truck from the west . They had timed it better this time . They would reach him at almost exactly the same instant . He stopped stone-still . If he backed against the fence , one of the cars would brush him as it passed , and he would be cruelly lacerated by the wire .

He stumbled to the middle of the road and simply stood there , waiting for them , a perfect target .

The cars must have had their gas pedals pushed down to the floor boards . They were coming on at reckless speed for such old vehicles . They thundered at him . He held his arms close to his sides and made himself as small as possible . When the Plymouth neared , it veered toward him and seemed about to run him down . He forced himself to stay frozen there . If he moved , he would be in the path of the other car . He thought the fender of the Plymouth brushed his jacket as it went by . In a fraction of a second the pickup truck hurtled by on the other side .

The weird , insane sound of the Rebel yell reverberated again and echoed from the distant hills .

He did not leave the middle of the road . He did not try to run . He trudged on , his aching eyes focused straight ahead . He was nearing the Admassy house . He was going to make it , he told himself . And then he heard a car coming from the east , and he felt as if he would break down and weep .

`` Oh , no , not again '' , he said aloud . `` Not again so soon '' .

There was a new sound , a sound as piercing as the Rebel yell , yet different . It was the sound of a siren . Now he saw that the approaching car was painted white , and he began to wave his arms frantically . It was the prowl car from the sheriff's office .

The car drew up alongside him and stopped .

`` Get in '' , Charley Estes said brusquely .

He staggered into the back seat and lay back , fighting for breath . There was someone in front with the sheriff . It was Pete Holmes , the cabdriver .

Pete turned around and said to Marty , `` I guess you think I'm a yellow-bellied hound . But there wasn't no use in me staying there . I couldn't fight a dozen or so of 'em . If I'd stayed , all that I'd have got was four punctured tires and one busted head . Why didn't you wait at the Burch house ? ? You must've known I'd gone to get the sheriff . I was lucky they let me go , I guess '' .

The sheriff was occupied with maneuvering the car around in a very narrow space . When it was finally pointed east , he said , `` You should never have come out here alone . This is redneck country . Every man in every one of these houses is a Night Rider .