A Face in the Crowd

A Face in the Crowd by Stephen King, Stewart O’Nan, Craig Wasson Read Free Book Online

Book: A Face in the Crowd by Stephen King, Stewart O’Nan, Craig Wasson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen King, Stewart O’Nan, Craig Wasson
and Grandfather Lincoln with his cane and Martha and Ellie and his mother and father and all the people he’d ever wronged in his life. As they filed into his row from both sides, he stuck his phone in his pocket and took his seat again, pulling off the foam finger as he did. He propped it on the now unoccupied seat to his left. Saving it for Kaz. Because he was sure Kaz would be joining them at some point, after seeing him on TV, and calling him. If Evers had learned anything about how this worked, it was that the two of them weren’t done talking just yet.
    A cheer erupted, and the rattle of cowbells. The Rays were still hitting. Down the right field line, though it was far too early, some loudmouth was exhorting the crowd to start the wave. As always when distracted from the action, Evers checked the scoreboard to catch up. It was only the third and Beckett had already thrown sixty pitches. The way things were looking, it was going to be a long game.

Turn the page for a preview of Stephen King and Peter Straub’s
    Black House
    Coming soon in hardcover, paperback, and ebook from Scribner and Pocket Books

ONE
    WELCOME TO COULEE COUNTY

1
    Right here and now, as an old friend used to say, we are in the fluid present, where clear-sightedness never guarantees perfect vision. Here: about two hundred feet, the height of a gliding eagle, above Wisconsin’s far western edge, where the vagaries of the Mississippi River declare a natural border. Now: an early Friday morning in mid-July a few years into both a new century and a new millennium, their wayward courses so hidden that a blind man has a better chance of seeing what lies ahead than you or I. Right here and now, the hour is just past six A.M., and the sun stands low in the cloudless eastern sky, a fat, confident yellow-white ball advancing as ever for the first time toward the future and leaving in its wake the steadily accumulating past, which darkens as it recedes, making blind men of us all.
    Below, the early sun touches the river’s wide, soft ripples with molten highlights. Sunlight glints from the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad running between the riverbank and the backs of the shabby two-story houses along County Road Oo, known as Nailhouse Row, the lowest point of the comfortable-looking little town extending uphill and eastward beneath us. At this moment in the Coulee Country, life seems to be holding its breath. The motionless air around us carries such remarkable purity and sweetness that you might imagine a man could smell a radish pulled out of the ground a mile away.

    Moving toward the sun, we glide away from the river and over the shining tracks, the backyards and roofs of Nailhouse Row, then a line of Harley-Davidson motorcycles tilted on their kickstands. These unprepossessing little houses were built, early in the century recently vanished, for the metal pourers, mold makers, and crate men employed by the Pederson Nail factory. On the grounds that working stiffs would be unlikely to complain about the flaws in their subsidized accommodations, they were constructed as cheaply as possible. (Pederson Nail, which had suffered multiple hemorrhages during the fifties, finally bled to death in 1963.) The waiting Harleys suggest that the factory hands have been replaced by a motorcycle gang. The uniformly ferocious appearance of the Harleys’ owners, wild-haired, bushy-bearded, swag-bellied men sporting earrings, black leather jackets, and less than the full complement of teeth, would seem to support this assumption. Like most assumptions, this one embodies an uneasy half-truth.
    The current residents of Nailhouse Row, whom suspicious locals dubbed the Thunder Five soon after they took over the houses along the river, cannot so easily be categorized. They have skilled jobs in the Kingsland Brewing Company, located just out of town to the south and one block east of the Mississippi. If we look to our right, we can see “the world’s

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