A Read of The Dark Tower

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Drawing of the Three, The Prisoner: Chapter 5

Three. This is the number of your fate.

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time.

When we last saw Roland at the end of Chapter 4 in the section of The Drawing of the Three called “The Prisoner,” he was on a ride-along in Eddie’s head as they went inside The Leaning Tower, drug czar Balazar’s restaurant.

This week, we’ll look at the fifth and final chapter of “The Prisoner,” entitled “Showdown and Shoot-Out.”

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 1

Five minutes before Eddie/Roland enter the restaurant, Henry Dean is still being subjected to a rousing Trivial Pursuit game while, down the hall, Balazar builds his tower of cards. Since Henry’s using “Johnny Cash,” the original man in black, as his answer to all questions, Balazar’s wise guys decide to ask him who the name of the singer is who’s known as the man in black? (Just in case any of us missed the in-joke.) After a long pause, Henry says, “Walter Brennan.”

Henry asks for a fix, so George, one of the gentlemen wise guys, pulls a hypodermic needle from a cigar box and sticks it in the vein above Henry’s elbow. And Henry dies.

What Constant Reader Learns: As Henry goes to the final drug deal in the sky, Balazar’s working on Level No. THREE of his tower of cards. Of course.

Having Henry die would seem to break Eddie’s last ties to his world and free the way for Roland to take him along on a journey. I doubt Eddie would have gone willingly as long as Henry was living. Plus this should raise the stakes when Eddie/Roland show up. After all the chapter title is “showdown and shoot-out.”

Pretty funny bringing Walter Brennan into the story. He played in a bazillion old westerns back in the day.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 2

As Eddie/Roland gets out of the van at the restaurant, Jack presses a button under the dash to let Balazar know they’re coming in. Balazar wants Eddie to think no one is there except himself and Claudio — everyone else will hide in the storeroom with dead Henry. While he waits, Balazar starts building level four of his tower.

What Constant Reader Learns: I’m betting Balazar doesn’t finish level four.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 3

Eddie tells Roland to let him handle Balazar, and Roland agrees — until it’s necessary for him to come forward. Eddie immediately demands to see Henry; Claudio tells him not until he’s talked to Mr. Balazar. 

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland observes the restaurant as they pass through the lower level, noting the glass especially — he hasn’t seen so much glass since he was a child, because the rebel forces under Farson had broken down the supply lines. We get the sense again that Roland would like to stick around and marvel at all the things in Eddie’s world, but he doesn’t have the time.

Though publicly loyal to a fault, Eddie recognizes how weak and easy to control Henry is. He acknowledges that Balazar wouldn’t even have to tie Henry up; all he’d have to do is get him stoned. It’s a clear-eyed, unsentimental statement of fact — another example of Eddie’s inner strength.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 4

As soon as they enter Balazar’s office, the big guy tries to play the concerned patron, but Eddie wants none of it. He tells Balazar he isn’t working with the Feds, but Balazar still can’t understand how Eddie ditched two pounds of cocaine on a plane. Eddie’s being vague. He says he doesn’t have the drugs on him, but he didn’t ditch them. He tells Balazar he’s already delivered them and for a moment, Balazar is shaken — and both Eddie and Roland see it.

Balazar finally tells Eddie to tell him where the coke is or he’ll hurt him — and then hurt Henry. Roland realizes all anyone has to do to get to Eddie is mention Henry’s name, that “it’s like poking an open sore with a stick.”

Eddie says he’ll walk in Balazar’s bathroom by himself and come out with half of the cocaine. Then, when he knows Henry has gotten home, he’ll produce the other half.

Before he’ll agree, Balazar tells Jack to go in and search the bathroom — and tells him there’s a secret panel on the back of the medicine cabinet. And then Balazar tells Eddie to strip, to see if he has the drugs on him.

What Constant Reader Learns: As soon as they enter Balazar’s office, Roland sees the tower of cards and thinks: “Another sign.” Well, yeah.

Eddie and Roland do some mental consulting during the conversation with Balazar. Roland warns him to keep Balazar off-balance because he’s dangerous. Eddie’s well aware of that fact. Eddie’s crafty — had Balazar been willing to see the deal through, which I suspect he isn’t, and had Henry not already been dead (I don’t think Balazar knows this yet) — Eddie’s way of handling things would have worked. But it’s going south fast, I fear.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 5

Balazar’s sweating as he waits for Jack to search the bathroom. He thinks Eddie left town looking like a junkie but he’s come back like “somebody poured two quarts of fresh guts down his throat,” even while Claudio is giving him a very thorough body-cavity search. He doesn’t understand that while there are clearly no drugs in the bathroom or on Eddie, Eddie is standing there perfectly confident that he can produce the goods.

What Constant Reader Learns: Balazar somehow believes Eddie, even though he can’t figure out how Eddie’s going to do what he says — and it disturbs the crap out of him. That tower of cards is going to fall. I just haven’t figured out how yet.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 6

Back in the storeroom, George realizes that Henry has died and has an “oh shit!” moment.

What Constant Reader Learns: It’s obvious these guys are afraid of Balazar. So how is Henry being dead going to impact how all this plays out?

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 7

Jack comes out of the bathroom and announces there are no drugs in the bathroom, but Eddie says otherwise. Eddie reminds Balazar of a kind of Houdini or magician — but if Eddie has a magic trick to produce his drugs, he wants to know how it works. He tells Eddie to go on in the bathroom and get the drugs — but that Jack has to go with him. Eddie starts to tell him no, but Balazar insists.

What Constant Reader Learns: Oh this will be interesting. So big Jack will watch Roland produce the cocaine and it will magically appear in Eddie’s hands? Uh-huh. That will go well.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 8

Roland tells Eddie it’s okay — to let Jack come into the bathroom with them. Eddie wants to argue — he’s jittery, worried about Henry, and needs a hit. But Roland insists, and tells Eddie his plan. Eddie listens.

What Constant Reader Learns: Henry’s “cool turkey” should be getting pretty “cold” by now, shouldn’t it? He had a little snort in the plane but he’s had to do without for a while now — although how much time has actually passed is probably only three or four hours because Stephen King can nurse a scene like nobody’s business.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 9

As Eddie’s listening to Roland, the others are watching him. Balazar thinks he looks like he’s listening to a voice only he can hear. Jack thinks he looks like the dog on the old RCA Victrola records, and remembers Col trying to tell him something about Eddie’s eyes.

Finally Eddie looks up and tells Jack to come on and see “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” and his smile doesn’t appeal to either Jack or Balazar. Jack pulls his gun and follows Eddie into the bathroom.

What Constant Reader Learns: Sheesh, Stephen King, drag out the tension in this scene already!

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 10

After Jack follows Eddie into the bathroom, Eddie yells at Balazar to make Jack close the door or no dope. Balazar, getting fed up, yells at Jack to shut it. Jack raises his gun, intending to hit Eddie in the head with it, but freezes when he sees Roland’s eyes looking back at him. He hears a voice saying “Grab him” from Eddie’s mouth, but it isn’t Eddie’s voice.

As soon as Eddie grabs his shoulders, Jack can see the door. He starts praying. Through the door, he can see things moving on a dark beach. Before he can fight back, Eddie propels them both through the door.

What Constant Reader Learns: OMG!! They’re going to feed Jack to the lobstrosities!

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 11

Roland tells Eddie that if he doesn’t move fast “we’ll find ourselves basted in a hot oast,” which Eddie translates as if he didn’t “shuck and jive at damn near the speed of light, their gooses were going to be cooked.”

Jack and Eddie tumble down on the beach, struggling for Jack’s gun. Roland barely has time to wonder what a “cosmic joke” it would be if he arrived back only to discover his physical body had died.

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, not much. Although Roland does pose an interesting question. I’d be surprised if his physical body is dead, however.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 12

Jack isn’t sure what’s happened, but he sees the door and realizes that it might be possible to get off this beach and back to his own world. He starts fighting back. Eddie cries “Roland, help me!” And when Jack looks around, he sees a man who looks more like a ghost — a ghost wearing a pair of guns.

Jack realizes he needs to take care of Roland first, so he lets Eddie go just as Roland aims — and his gun misfires. Jack raises his own gun and tells Roland to kiss his ass goodbye.

What Constant Reader Learns: Once again, we get a rare look at Roland from someone else’s point of view. He’s haggard and white-faced, with a tattered shirt and a filthy rag wrapped around his right hand — yet still tough enough “to make Andolini feel like a soft-boiled egg.”

For the first time since The Gunslinger, we see Roland’s hands taking on their customary role, his draw “as it had always been, sick or well, wide awake or still half asleep: faster than a streak of blue summer lightning.” Too bad the ammo got wet.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 13

Poor naked Eddie hears Roland’s gun misfire and reacts on instinct. He grabs a big rock and throws it at Jack’s head, which makes Jack’s shot go wild and miss Roland.

What Constant Reader Learns: Where are the lobstrosities? All this to-do must be happening far enough away from the tide line that they aren’t in snapper range. I want some lobstrosity action, damn it.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 14

Roland takes advantage of his reprieve and aims at Jack again. This time, the bullet fires. Since Jack’s in the process of falling from Eddie’s rock to the head, Ro’s shot gets him in the arm. Jack still has his gun and decides if he’s going to die, he’s damned well going to take Eddie Dean with him.

What Constant Reader Learns: Good grief, Stephen King. You’re killing me. Milk the scene, why don’t you?

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 15

Roland fires again and hopes the gun doesn’t misfire.

What Constant Reader Learns: *Sigh.*

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 16

To quote the entire section: “It was no misfire.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Stephen King is just screwing with us now.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 17

Jack was about to shoot Eddie, so Roland aims at Jack’s gun, thinking they might need him later. But since Jack was off-kilter, the shot blew off Jack’s hand instead — along with his face. “Bad luck for you, fellow,” Roland thinks as Jack staggers off toward the beach, bleeding profusely. Eddie watches, stunned. He tells Roland to shoot Jack and put him out of his misery, but Roland notes that it’s too late. The lobstrosities are eating him.

Roland tells Eddie, who’s still freaking, to get a pound of the cocaine to take back through the door to make their deal. Only this time, Roland is going with him, body and all. He tells Eddie to take the gun from his right holster — he can’t shoot with it anyway. Eddie doesn’t want to take it, and Roland doesn’t want to give it to him, but he says “there’s going to be shooting.” 

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland, thankfully, explains exactly what happened to Jack, because it wasn’t clear. Ro’s bullet hit Jack’s gun just as Jack fired it, which caused the gun to explode.

The lobstrosities finally get a meal! Eddie’s sickened by it, and more than a little scared by how indifferent Roland is to the sight of the lobbies tearing off Jack’s Gucci loafers — with the feet still inside them. Dad-a-chack? Did-a-chick?

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 18

Outside the bathroom, Balazar is getting antsy. He thinks he hears shots in the distance — maybe on the next block. He yells for Jack and gets no answer, so he opens his desk drawer and pulls out a .357 Magnum — and doesn’t even notice that he’s knocked over his own tower of cards. (Prophetic much?)

He calls his wise guys in.

What Constant Reader Learns: Balazar is really coming unglued, and I think Roland’s right (isn’t Roland always right?) — there’s going to be a lot of shooting. Kind of funny that he hears the gunshots and shouting coming from the beach and thinks it’s normal neighborhood noise.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 19

Eddie finds himself drawn to the gun — he realizes it’s special without having to know its history. With Roland’s wrist in his hand and an arm around his shoulders, they step through the door together. Eddie remembers the secret panel behind the medicine cabinet and looks in it. He finds some kiddie porn and a bunch of packets of Keflex, an antibiotic. Through the door, Eddie hears one of the “Gentlemen” telling Balazar that Henry is dead.

What Constant Reader Learns: Uh-oh. I have a feeling Eddie is about to go berserk. And how convenient WAS it for there to be piles of Keflex in the secret compartment with the kiddie porn?

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 20

Balazar realizes this situation has just gotten too weird (really?) and shouts for Jack to kill Eddie, not knowing, of course, that Jack’s just been dinner for a beachful of mutant lobsters. He hears Eddie say, “They killed my brother,” and knows it isn’t Jack he’s talking to. So he tells Cimi to get all the gentlemen. They’re going to kill Eddie, and then Balazar is personally going to chop of Eddie’s head.

What Constant Reader Learns: Dear Mr. Balazar: I don’t think it’s going to work out that way. Just guessin’

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 21

Roland realizes the packets in the sink are what he needs, or at least what Eddie thinks he needs. Roland asks him what he wants to do about his brother, and Eddie calmly says, “I want to go to war.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Grrrr.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 22

Balazar had expected Eddie or Jack to come bursting out of the bathroom, but not a tall man with “a face that looked as if it had been chiseled from obdurate stone by some savage god.” Cimi shoots at Eddie, but Eddie sees him and moves aside, praying that he won’t die “naked and needing a fix.” Roland shoots Cimi, and here come some more of the gentlemen. There’s much fighting and bloodshed. Balazar is shrieking for them to kill Roland and not worry about Eddie. Then Ro’s gun misfires again, and Eddie steps up, shooting Balazar in the shoulder. Then a nimwit named Tricks comes in with a machine gun and fires wildly, helping kill his own guys.

What Constant Reader Learns: Wise guys ain’t.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 23

Roland continues to mow down mobsters with help from Eddie, and spares a moment to admire how well Eddie is fighting considering he’s naked. Roland slips up behind Balazar and shoots him four times (why not three?) with an automatic he’s lifted from one of the dead gangsters.

Suddenly, it’s quiet, and Balazar’s office is a bloodbath: “another deadhouse, stinking of gunpowder and raw meat,” thinks Roland. They thought all the men were dead, but one last guy, Kevin, suddenly appears in the hallway and lobs Henry Dean’s severed head through the door at Eddie. The young man goes into utter crazy mode, firing and shrieking at Kevin, not even realizing when the gun misfires or hearing when Roland yells at him. Kevin is ready to fire.

As Eddie aims at the door while he thinks Roland is unarmed, Ro has a spot of guilt: “Here’s another one ready to die for you, Roland. What great wrong did you ever do that you should inspire such terrible loyalty in so many?” I suspect he’s talking not about Jake’s sacrifice but maybe others who have died for him in the past, and we’ll find out more about this as time and the world move on.

Eddie seems to have what’s known in combat as the thousand-yard stare, and it’s something Roland recognizes: “the wide, wondering eyes of a very young man seeing something like this for the first time.” And that was before Henry’s head came rolling through the door.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 24

Roland sees that Eddie’s going to be killed, so he steadies his left hand on his right fist — or what’s left of its bloody stump, ignoring the pain — and “as always,” Roland’s hands take over and Kevin is dead. Eddie still stands over him, dry-firing. It’s finally over, and Roland reaches for the gun to take it away from Eddie. On reflex, Eddie hits Roland on the side of the head, and knocks him unconscious.

What Constant Reader Learns: There are sirens in the distance already, so I hope Roland isn’t out too long or he’ll be eating tooter-fish in Rikers.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“Showdown and Shoot-Out”), Section 25

Roland wakes up in a couple of minutes and Eddie’s sitting on the floor holding Henry’s head. Ro’s gun is lying on the chest of the dead man, Kevin. Roland stops and picks up some of Eddie’s clothes and tries to get through to him while Eddie babbles about how Henry always took care of him. The SWAT team is at the door, and Roland’s running out of time.

Finally, Ro tells him to “throw that rotten piece of meat away and stop puling” — which finally gets Eddie’s attention. “What’s on the other side of that door for me?” Eddie asks him, and repeats words Roland said to him earlier: “If you lie, I’ll know it.”

Ever the soul of reassurance, Roland answers: “Probably death. But before that happens, I don’t think you’ll be bored.” Well, who can argue with that?

Finally, Eddie decides he has nothing better planned, and they step through the door. As soon as he sets foot on the beach, he starts the muscle cramps that signal heroin withdrawal. He wants to run back to search Balazar’s office for the heroin he’d been promised, but Roland won’t let him. “That part of your life is over, Eddie,” he says, and closes the door. As soon as the door shuts, it falls into the sand and the portal is closed. While Eddie writhes on the sand, Roland dry-swallows two of the Keflex and more “astin” (aspirin). He lays on the beach next to Eddie, wraps his arms around him, and they sleep.

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland, ever perceptive, recognizes that it wasn’t Henry who took care of Eddie, but the other way around.

Roland has called Eddie “prisoner” a few times, and it annoys Eddie even though he doesn’t understand it.

Roland tells Eddie more of what’s ahead than I’d have expected: that there will be four of them on a quest in a strange place, and they’ll probably all die. But if they “win through,” they’ll “see something beyond all the beliefs of all your dreams” — “The Dark Tower, a central linchpin that holds all of existence together. All existence, all time, and all size.”

And that pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it?


That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll read the next section of The Drawing of the Three, called “Shuffle.”

citation

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