Home > Most Popular > The Outsider

The Outsider
Author:Stephen King

The Outsider by Stephen King



For Rand and Judy Holston



Thought only gives the world an appearance of order to anyone weak enough to be convinced by its show.

Colin Wilson

“The Country of the Blind”





THE ARREST


July 14th





1


It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was. The two in front were wearing blue uniforms. The one in back was wearing a suit, and he was as big as a house. A pair of black boys standing on the sidewalk, one with a foot on a scuffed orange skateboard, the other with a lime-colored board under his arm, watched it turn into the parking lot of the Estelle Barga Recreational Park, then looked at each other.

One said, “That’s Five-O.”

The other said, “No shit.”

They headed off with no further conversation, pumping their boards. The rule was simple: when Five-O shows up, it’s time to go. Black lives matter, their parents had instructed them, but not always to Five-O. At the baseball field, the crowd began to cheer and clap rhythmically as the Flint City Golden Dragons came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, one run down.

The boys didn’t look back.





2


Statement of Mr. Jonathan Ritz [July 10th, 9:30 PM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]

Detective Anderson: I know you’re upset, Mr. Ritz, it’s understandable, but I need to know exactly what you saw earlier this evening.

Ritz: I’ll never get it out of my mind. Never. I think I could use a pill. Maybe a Valium. I’ve never taken any of that stuff, but I sure could use something now. My heart still feels like it’s in my throat. Your forensic people should know that if they find puke at the scene, and I guess they will, it’s mine. I’m not ashamed, either. Anyone would have lost their supper if they saw something like that.

Detective Anderson: I’m sure a doctor will prescribe something to calm you down when we’re done. I think I can arrange for that, but right now I need you clearheaded. You understand that, don’t you?

Ritz: Yes. Of course.

Detective Anderson: Just tell me everything you saw, and we’ll be finished for this evening. Can you do that for me, sir?

Ritz: All right. I went out to walk Dave right around six o’clock this evening. Dave is our beagle. He has his evening meal at five. My wife and I eat at five thirty. By six, Dave is ready to take care of his business—Number One and Number Two, I mean. I walk him while Sandy—my wife—does up the dishes. It’s a fair division of labor. A fair division of labor is very important in a marriage, especially after the children have grown up, that’s the way we look at it. I’m rambling, aren’t I?

Detective Anderson: That’s okay, Mr. Ritz. Tell it your way.

Ritz: Oh, please call me Jon. I can’t stand Mr. Ritz. Makes me feel like a cracker. That’s what the kids called me when I was in school, Ritz Cracker.

Detective Anderson: Uh-huh. So you were walking your dog—

Ritz: That’s right. And when he got a strong scent—the scent of death, I suppose—I had to hold him back on his leash with both hands, even though Dave’s just a little dog. He wanted to get at what he was smelling. The—

Detective Anderson: Wait, let’s go back. You left your house at 249 Mulberry Avenue at six o’clock—

Ritz: It might have been a little before. Dave and I walked down the hill to Gerald’s, that grocery on the corner where they sell all the gourmet stuff, then up Barnum Street, and then into Figgis Park. That’s the one the kids call Frig Us Park. They think adults don’t know what they say, that we don’t listen, but we do. At least some of us do.

Detective Anderson: Was this your usual evening walk?

Ritz: Oh, sometimes we change it up a little so we don’t get bored, but the park is where we almost always end up before heading home, because there’s always lots for Dave to smell. There’s a parking lot, but at that time of the evening it’s almost always empty, unless there are some high school kids playing tennis. There weren’t any that night, because the courts are clay and it rained earlier. The only thing parked there was a white van.

Detective Anderson: A commercial van, would you say?

Ritz: That’s right. No windows, just double doors in the back. The kind of van small companies use to haul stuff in. It might have been an Econoline, but I couldn’t swear to that.

Detective Anderson: Was there a company name written on it? Like Sam’s Air Conditioning or Bob’s Custom Windows? Something like that?

Ritz: No, uh-uh. Nothing at all. It was dirty, though, I can tell you that. Hadn’t been washed in some time. And there was mud on the tires, probably from the rain. Dave sniffed at the tires, then we went along one of the gravel paths through the trees. After about a quarter of a mile, Dave started to bark and ran into the bushes on the right. That’s when he got that scent. He almost dragged the leash out of my hand. I tried to pull him back and he wouldn’t come, just flopped over and dug at the ground with his paws and kept on barking. So I snubbed him up close—I have one of those retractable leashes, and it’s very good for that kind of thing—and went after him. He doesn’t bother about squirrels and chipmunks so much now that he’s not a puppy anymore, but I thought he might have scented up a raccoon. I was going to make him come back whether he wanted to or not, dogs need to know who’s boss, only that was when I saw the first few drops of blood. They were on a birch leaf, about chest-high to me, which would make it I guess five feet or so off the ground. There was another drop on another leaf a little further on, then a whole splash of it on some bushes further on still. Still red and wet. Dave sniffed at that one, but wanted to keep going. And listen, before I forget, right about then I heard an engine start up behind me. I might not have noticed, except it was pretty loud, like the muffler was shot. Kind of rumbling, do you know what I mean?

Detective Anderson: Uh-huh, I do.

Ritz: I can’t swear it was that white van, and I didn’t go back that way, so I don’t know if it was gone, but I bet it was. And you know what that means?

Detective Anderson: Tell me what you think it means, Jon.

Ritz: That he might have been watching me. The killer. Standing in the trees and watching me. It gives me the creeps, just thinking about it. Now, I mean. Then, I was pretty much fixated on the blood. And keeping Dave from yanking my arm right out of its socket. I was getting scared, and don’t mind admitting it. I’m not a big man, and although I try to stay in shape, I’m in my sixties now. Even in my twenties I wasn’t much of a brawler. But I had to see. In case someone was hurt.

Detective Anderson: That’s very commendable. What time would you say it was when you first saw the blood-trail?

Ritz: I didn’t check my watch, but I’m guessing twenty past six. Maybe twenty-five past. I let Dave lead the way, keeping him snubbed up so I could push through the branches he could just go under with his little short legs. You know what they say about beagles—they’re high-toned but low-slung. He was barking like crazy. We came into a clearing, a sort of . . . I don’t know, sort of a nook where lovers might sit and smooch a little. There was a granite bench in the middle of it, and it was covered in blood. So much of it. More underneath. The body was lying on the grass beside it. That poor boy. His head was turned toward me, and his eyes were open, and his throat was just gone. Nothing there but a red hole. His bluejeans and underpants were pulled down to his ankles, and I saw something . . . a dead branch, I guess . . . sticking out of his . . . his . . . well, you know.