Chapters 19 and 20 Summary

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Max’s father decides that they will hide out in an abandoned building on the other side of the alley until Iggy gets them a car. The inside of the building, which has been gutted by fire, is “black and wet and dripping,” and the stairs to the basement are rotting away. Killer Kane forces Max down the treacherous steps and ties him up against “this old busted-up boiler.” He then puts a gag around his mouth so he cannot call for help and slips back up the stairs.

Left alone, Max attempts to get loose from his bonds, but his hands are swollen from the tightness of the ropes, and he is unsuccessful. After a while, he hears someone on the steps and is much relieved when Loretta Lee appears with a flashlight. Loretta removes the gag from Max’s mouth, then begins to work on the ropes around his hands and feet. The knots are tight, however, and her hands are shaking; Loretta finally is able to free Max by cutting his restraints on the ragged edge of the boiler.

Just when she manages to get Max’s feet loose, Killer Kane bursts out of the darkness and starts “squeezing [Loretta’s] neck . . . [with his] two big hands.” Even though Max knows “no one can stop him,” he tries anyway, desperately trying to push himself between them. Reality blurs in Max’s mind, and visions of his father’s hands around his mother’s neck juxtapose themselves with the scene before him. Unable to get his father to let go of Loretta, Max begins screaming:

I saw you kill Mom . . . I saw you do it! You killed her and I’ll never forget, not ever!

When Max’s words begin to register in Killer Kane’s head, he releases Loretta and puts his hands around Max’s neck instead. He tells his son that he couldn’t possibly remember those things because he had been only four years old, but Max insists, “I can’t ever forget it, no matter how much I try.”

To prove that he recalls everything, Max tells Killer Kane exactly what he had been wearing when he killed Max’s mother. Max describes how he had tried to stop him but could not and how Kane had carried him back into his room afterward and told him he had been dreaming. Realizing that his son really does remember what happened, Killer Kane reluctantly mutters, “I have to clean this up,” and tightens his hands around Max’s neck. Just when Max is about to lose consciousness, he hears Freak’s “faraway” voice commanding, “Put your hands up, villain!”

Killer Kane looks up to see little Freak pointing “a squirt gun, one of those big blaster models,” right into his face. Freak boldly announces that the gun is loaded with sulfuric acid and sprays Kane right in the eyes. When Killer Kane starts screaming and “scrubbing at his eyes,” Max grabs Freak and runs for the stairs as fast as he can. The moldering stairs are breaking under his feet, and Killer Kane is “howling in rage” right behind him, but Max manages to break through to sunlight, where about “a million cops” are waiting.

Triumphantly, Freak shouts, “It worked! He fell for it!” and reveals that the squirt gun had been filled with “soap and vinegar and curry powder,” not sulfuric acid. Killer Kane is still “rubbing frantic at his eyes” as he is taken away by the police. In all the confusion, Max finally gets the cops to understand that Loretta Lee is still down in the cellar; they bring her out and she is “still breathing.” Everyone is there, making “a big, sloppy fuss,” and as the Fair Gwen carries Freak away, he hollers, “Freak the Mighty strikes again!”

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Chapters 17 and 18 Summary


Chapters 21 and 22 Summary