TWO

As they neared the place where the path began to climb, Roland caught up to Eddie. The first time he put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder, Eddie shook it off. The second time he turned-reluctantly-to look at his dinh. Roland saw there was blood spattered across the front of Eddie’s shirt. He wondered if it was Benny’s, Margaret’s, or both.

“Mayhap it’d be better to let her alone awhile, if it’s Mia,” Roland said.

“Are you crazy? Did fighting the Wolves loosen your screws?”

“If we let her alone, she may finish her business and be gone.” Even as he spoke the words, Roland doubted them.

“Yeah,” Eddie said, studying him with burning eyes, “she’ll finish her business, all right. First piece, have the kid. Second piece, kill my wife.”

“That would be suicide.”

“But she might do it. We have to go after her.”

Surrender was an art Roland practiced rarely but with some skill on the few occasions in his life when it had been necessary. He took another look at Eddie Dean’s pale, set face and practiced it now. “All right,” he said, “but we’ll have to be careful. She’ll fight to keep from being taken. She’ll kill, if it comes to that. You before any of us, mayhap.”

“I know,” Eddie said. His face was bleak. He looked up the path, but a quarter of a mile up, it hooked around to the south side of the bluff and out of sight. The path zigged back to their side just below the mouth of the cave. That stretch of the climb was deserted, but what did that prove? She could be anywhere. It crossed Eddie’s mind that she might not even be up there at all, that the crashed chair might have been as much a red herring as the children’s possessions Roland had had scattered along the arroyo path.

I won’t believe that. There’s a million ratholes in this part of the Calla, and if I believe that she could be in any of them

Callahan and Jake had caught up and stood there looking at Eddie.

“Come on,” he said. “I don’t care who she is, Roland. If four able-bodied men can’t catch one no-legs lady, we ought to turn in our guns and call it a day.”

Jake smiled wanly. “I’m touched. You just called me a man.”

“Don’t let it go to your head, Sunshine. Come on.”

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