Chapter Thirty-Five

A raffle, for crying out loud.

But what a raffle!

A raffle like no other in Trinity’s history, in any school’s history.

Archie, the architect of the event, watched the proceedings — the stadium filling up, the kids streaming in, the slips of paper being sold, passed back and forth, the lights dispelling some of the cool of the autumn evening. He stood near the improvised stage that Carter and The Vigils had erected that afternoon under Archie’s direction — an old boxing ring resurrected from the bowels of the bleachers and restored to its former use except for the absence of ropes. The platform stood directly at the fifty-yard line close to the stands so that each kid would see everything and wouldn’t miss any of the action. That was Archie. Give them their money’s worth.

The athletic field was at least a quarter of a mile from the school and the residence where the brothers lived. But Archie had taken no chances. He had disguised the event as a football rally, strictly for students, without the inhibition of the teachers being present. They had arranged for the sweet-faced kid, Caroni, to ask for permission — Caroni who looked like a choir boy. What teacher could refuse him? And now the moment was at hand, the kids arriving, the air crisp and cool, excitement shivering through the crowd — and Renault and Janza there in the ring, glancing uneasily at each other.

Archie always marveled at things like this, things he had arranged and manipulated. For instance, all these guys tonight would be doing something else except for Archie who had teen able to alter their actions. And all it took was a little bit of Archie’s imagination and two phone calls.

The first call had been to Renault, the second to Janza. But Janza’s call had been simply routine. Archie knew he could shape Janza’s actions the way he could shape a piece of clay. But the call to Renault had required the right moves, resourcefulness and a little touch of Archie in the night. Shakespeare yet, Archie chuckled.

The phone must have rung, oh, fifty times and Archie hadn’t blamed the kid for not rushing to lift the receiver. But persistence paid off and finally there was Renault on the line, the quiet hello, the calm voice. but something else, something else. Archie had detected another quality in the voice — a deadly calm, determination. Beautiful. The kid was ready. Archie had soared with triumph. The kid wanted to come out and fight. He wanted action.

“Want to get even, Renault?” Archie goaded. “Strike back? Get revenge? Show them what you. think of their goddam chocolates?”

“How do I do that?” The voice was guarded but interested. Definitely interested.

“Easy, easy,” Archie responded, “if you’re not chicken, that is.” The needle, always the needle.

Renault was silent.

“There’s a guy named Janza. He’s really a rotten kid, no class at all. He’s not much more than an animal. And word has gotten around that he needed the help of a bunch of kids to make you fall in line. So I figure we ought to settle the matter. At an assembly at the athletic field. Boxing gloves. Everything under control. Here’s a way to get even with everybody, Renault.”

“With you too, Archie?”

“Me?” The voice innocent and sweet. “Hell, why me? I was only carrying out my job. I gave you an assignment — don’t sell the chocolates — and then I gave you another — sell them. You did the rest, kid. I didn’t beat you up. I don’t believe in violence. But you touched off the fireworks…”

Silence on the line again. Archie pressed on, softening his voice, cajoling, leading him on. “Look, kid, I’m giving you this choice because I believe in fair play. Here’s a chance to end it all and get on with other things. Christ, there’s more to life than a lousy chocolate sale. You and Janza alone in the ring, facing each other fair and square. And that’s it, finished, the end, all done. I guarantee it. Archie guarantees it.”

And the kid had fallen for it, hook, line and sinker, although the conversation had gone back and forth for a while. Archie had been patient. Patience always paid off. And he had won, of course.

Now, surveying his handiwork, the crowded bleachers, the frantic comings and goings as the raffle tickets were bought and sold and the directions scrawled on the tickets. Archie exulted quietly. He had successfully conned Renault and Leon and The Vigils and the whole damn school. I can con anybody. I am Archie.

* * *

Pretend you’re a spotlight, Obie told himself, a spotlight sweeping the place, stopping here and there, and lingering at other places, picking up the highlights of the thing, this momentous occasion. Because, let’s admit it, this is an important event and Archie, that bastard, that clever clever bastard, has done it again. Look at him down there near the fight ring, like he’s king of all he surveys. And he is, of course. He’s got Renault there, pale and tense as if he’s facing a firing squad, and Janza, the animal, a chained animal waiting to spring loose.

Obie, the spotlight, concentrated on Renault. Poor dumb doomed kid. He can’t win and he doesn’t know it. Not from Archie. Nobody wins from Archie. Archie, who’d been going down to defeat — what a great scene that had been, the last Vigils meeting when he’d stood there humiliated — but now he was on top again, all the chocolates sold, in charge once more, the entire school in the palm of his hand. All of which proves that the meek don’t inherit the earth. Not very original. Archie must have said it at one time or another.

* * *

Don’t move. Not a muscle. Just wait. Wait it out, wait and see.

Jerry’s left leg had fallen asleep.

How can your leg fall asleep when you’re standing up?

I don’t know. But it’s asleep.

Nerves, maybe. Tension.

At any rate, small darts stung his legs and he had to fight to keep from moving. He didn’t dare move, afraid he would fall apart if he moved.

He knew now that it had been a mistake coming here, that Archie had faked him out, tricked him. For a few moments while Archie’s voice whispered enticingly of sweet revenge, suggesting the fight as a way of ending it all, Jerry had actually believed it was possible, possible to beat Janza and the school and even Archie. He had thought of his father and the terrible look of defeat when he had listened on the phone the other night and finally placed the receiver on the table, giving up. I’m not giving up, Jerry had pledged, listening to Archie’s goading voice. He also ached for a chance to confront Janza. Janza who had called him a fairy.

So, he had agreed to meet Janza in a fight and already Archie had doublecrossed him. Had doublecrossed Janza as well. He’d allowed them to be led onto the platform, stripped to the waist, shivering slightly in the evening air, given boxing gloves. And then Archie, his eyes sparkling with triumph and malice, had explained the rules. Those rules!

Jerry had been about to protest when Janza opened his mouth. “It’s okay with me. I can beat this kid any way you want.”

And Jerry saw, to his dismay, that Archie had counted on. Janza’s reaction, had counted on the guys filing into the stadium. He had known that Jerry couldn’t back away now — he had come too far. Archie had bestowed one of his sickly sweet smiles on Jerry. “What do you say, Renault? Do you accept the rules?”

What could he say? After the phone calls and the beating. After the desecration of his locker. The silent treatment. Pushed downstairs. What they did to Goober, to Brother Eugene. What guys like Archie and Janza did to the school. What they would do to the world when they left Trinity.

Jerry tightened his body in determination. At least this was his chance to strike back, to hit out. Despite the odds Archie had set up with the raffle tickets.

“Okay,” Jerry had said.

Now, standing here, one leg half asleep, nausea threatening his stomach, the night chilling his flesh, Jerry wondered if he hadn’t lost the moment he had said okay.

* * *

The raffle tickets were selling like dirty pictures.

Brian Cochran was amazed but he shouldn’t have been — he was getting used to being amazed where Archie Costello was concerned. First the chocolate sale. And now this — this wacky raffle. Never anything like it at Trinity. Or anywhere. And he had to admit that he was kind of enjoying himself even though he had protested when Archie approached him this afternoon, asking him to take charge of the raffle. “You did great with the chocolates,” Archie said. The compliment melted Brian’s opposition. Besides, he was scared stiff of Archie and The Vigils. Personal survival, that’s what Brian believed in.

He had been seized by doubt again when Archie explained how the fight and the raffle would work. How are you going to get Renault and Janza to do it? That’s what Brian wanted to know. Easy, Archie assured him. Renault’s looking for revenge and Janza’s a beast. And they can’t back down with the whole school looking on. Then Archie’s voice had gone cold again and Brian had shriveled inside. “You just do your job, Cochran, sell the tickets. And leave the details to me.” So Brian had lined up a bunch of kids to do the selling. And Archie had been right, of course, because there they were, Renault and Janza up there on the platform, and the tickets were selling like there was no tomorrow.

* * *

Emile Janza was tired of being treated like one of the bad guys. That’s the way Archie made him feel. “Hey, animal,” Archie would say. Emile wasn’t an animal. He had feelings like everybody else. Like the guy in the Shakespeare thing in English I, “Cut me, do I not bleed?” All right, so he liked to screw around a little, get under people’s skin. That was human nature, wasn’t it? A guy had to protect himself at all times. Get them before they get you. Keep people guessing — and afraid. Like Archie with his rotten picture that didn’t even exist. Archie had convinced him that there was no picture, after all. How could there be a picture, Emile, Archie’d reasoned. Remember how dim it was in the john that day? And I didn’t have a flash. And there wasn’t any film in the camera. And if there had been, I didn’t have time to focus. The truth had both relieved Emile and made him mad as hell. But Archie had pointed out that Emile should be mad at people like Renault. Hell, Emile, guys like Renault are your enemy, not guys like me. They’re the squares, Emile, they’re the ones who screw it up for us, who blow the whistle, who make the rules. Then Archie had provided the climax, the door-slammer — besides, the guys are starting to talk about how Renault was beaten up, how you needed the help of others and couldn’t do it yourself…

Emile looked across the stage at Renault. He longed for combat. To prove himself in front of the whole school. The hell with that psychology crap Archie had made him use — telling Renault he was a fairy. He should have used his fists, not his mouth.

He was impatient to get started. To wreck Renault in front of everybody, no matter what was written down on the raffle tickets.

And in a corner of his mind, there still lurked the doubt — did Archie have that picture of him in the john, after all?

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