Chapters 19 and 20 Summary
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 agains “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 awhile, 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 she 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...
(The entire section is 638 words.)