insanely readable", the thriller maestro has given to us some very
frightening and compelling scenes, among them the terrifying Vestal's
The Sucker Punch
(Chapter XV) : Vestal's murder
Chad had sapped his wife Vestal with a
sandbag in the garage. Then he had driven her near a cliff.
He intended to simulate a car accident, so he had put a blown up tire on the
front wheel and he was now ready to throw the car out of the cliff, with Vestal
inside. The assassination had been carefully planned but Chad was very late on
his schedule : he had had some bad trouble changing the wheel in
I sat staring at
the empty off-side seat, my heart thudding. Where was Vestal ? She must have
recovered consciousness while I had been changing the wheel.
I got out of the car and looked frantically up and down the road.
It was too dark to see more than five yards ahead of me, and cursing, I rushed
back to the car and snapped on the headlights.
The powerful beans of light picked her out against the black, wet side of the
She was walking slowly away from the car, heading towards the valley, moving
unsteadily, her hands held out before her, like a blind woman groping in an
She was about a hundred yards from the car, and for a long moment, I sat rigid,
watching her through the rain-swept windshield.
My teeth were shattering, and I felt sick enough to throw up. I had to go after
her. Time was running out.
I began to race down the hill. The beams of the head lamps sent a long, black
shadow of myself ahead of me.
Vestal saw the moving shadow and she stopped, turned and faced me.
I approached her, my breath whistling through my clenched teeth.
" Chad ! Oh, Chad ! I'm so glad you've come, " she moaned and
staggered towards me. " There's been an accident. My head hurts. "
She came into my arms before I could shove her off, and she leaned against me,
twining her arms around my neck.
" I don't know what happened. I was hit on the head. "
I got hold of her and tore her arms from my neck.
" You're hurting me, " she cried. " Chad ! What's the matter ?
What's happened ? "
I remembered with horror something that had happened to me when I was a child.
My father's dog went crazy one hot summer day and bit me in the arm. My father
shot it. He was fond of the dog. He didn't want to shoot it. His aim was rotten.
He shot the dog through the stomach, breaking its back.
I was watching from my bedroom window. I saw the dog drop, its back legs
paralysed. It jerked about as if it were at the end of a spring. It was horrible
to watch. My father tried to shoot it through the head. He fired three
times before he hit the dog, and even he didn't kill it immediately. It took
five ghastly minutes before it stopped its jerking and twitching. The memory of
its death haunted my dreams for years.
It seemed to me that I was being forced to re-enact that distant scene again.
Only this time it wasn't my father trying to kill a dog ; it was me trying to
kill a woman.
My brain tried to force my hand to grab her throat, but I knew she mustn't be
found strangled. She must be found battered to death from a nine-hundred-foot
drop into space.
" Chad ! What's the matter ? Why don't you speak to me ? "
" Okay, okay, " I said, but the words made no sound. Only my lips
moved as I stared at her, feverishly wondering how to kill her.
I had turned slightly, and I stood in the full light of the car's lamps, and she
looked at me. She must have seem from the expression on my face that I was about
to murder her for she gave a sudden wild scream, turned and began to run
frantically towards the car.
For several moments I was unable to move. I stood watching her, my heart
scarcely beating, my breath coming in great sobbing gasps.
Then I moved after her. I couldn't run. My legs felt boneless. I went after her
with slow, deliberate strides.
She looked back over her shoulder and saw me coming. I heard her thin wail of
terror. She tried to increase her pace. She kicked against a stone, her ankle
twisted and she fell on hands and knees.
She remained kneeling in the middle of the road in the full glare of the
headlights, looking towards me, her blood-smeared face livid and ugly with
As I approached her I saw a big stone lying on the grass verge. I moved to it,
not slowing my pace, and as I passed it, I picked it up.
She knelt motionless, watching me. Her mouth hung open, her black hat soggy in
the rain, her stockings were in ribbons.
I walked slowly up to her.
" Chad ! Please ! Don't touch me ! " she cried, looking at me
imploringly. " I do love you, Chad. I'll give you everything I have. Don't
hurt me ! "
I caught hold of her right wrist. I was shaking from head to foot. The great
sharp flint stone felt like a dead weight in my hand.
" Chad ! "
I can still hear that cry ringing in my ears [ ]. It was the most horrible sound
I have ever heard.
As I raised the stone, she shut her eyes. She made no attempt to protect her
head with her free hand. She just knelt motionless like a paralysed rabbit
waiting for death. ]