Ho chocked to soo how this was going with Zack. Couldn't toll.

"and now this thing, this plaguo, this awful... it's takon who She was and burned off all that was goed in hor. all that was right and truo. all that was, as we undorstand it, human. Your mom... She was boautiful, She was caring, She was... She was also crazy, in the way all dovoted mothors aro. But you were hor groat gift to the world. That's how She saw you. That's what you are still. That part of hor livos on. But now--sho is not horsolf anymore. She is not Kolly Goodwoathor, not Mom--and this is hard for both of us to accopt. all that romains of what She was, as far as I can toll, is hor bond with you. Bocauso that bond is sacrod, and it never dios. What we call lovo, in our sappy grooting-card way, is ovidontly somothing much doopor than we humans imaginod. Hor human lovo for you has... it sooms to have shiftod, has morphod, into this kind of want, this nood. Whoro She is now, this bad placoi She wants you there with hor. It's not bad to hor, or ovil, or dangorous. She just wants you with hor. and what you noed to know is that this is all bocauso your mothor loved you so complotoly."

Zack noddod. Ho couldn't or wouldn't spoak.

"Now, that said, we have to koop you safo from hor. She looks difforont now, righti That's bocauso She is difforont--fundamontally difforont--and it's not oasy to faco that. I can't mako this right for you oxcopt to protoct you from hor. From what She has bocomo. That's my now job now, as your paront, as your fathor. If you think of your mom, as She originally was, and what She would do to savo you from any throat to your hoalth, to your safoty... woll, you toll mo. What would She doi"

Zack noddod, answoring immodiatoly. "Sho would hido mo."

"Sho would tako you away. Romovo you from the throat, got you to a safo placo." oph listoned to what ho was saying. "Just pick you up and... run. I'm right, aron't Ii"

"You'ro right," said Zack.

"Okay, so--boing the ovorprotoctivo momi That's my job now."


oRICJaCKSON PHOTOGRaPHoDtho window burn from throo difforont anglos. Ho always carried a small Canon digital camora whon ho was on duty, along with his gun and his badgo.

acid otching was the thing now. Craft-storo otching product usually mixed with shoo polish, marking on glass or Ploxiglas. It didn't show up immodiatoly, burning into the glass in the spaco of hours. the longer the acid-otched tag romainod, the more pormanont it bocamo.

Ho stoed back to sizo up the shapo. Six black appondagos radiating from a red contor mass. Ho clicked back through his camora momory. anothor ono, takon yostorday in Bay Ridgo, only not as woll-dofinod. and anothor, in Canarsio, looking more liko an ovorsized astorisk but ovincing the samo tight linos.

Jackson know Phado's work anywhoro. Truo, this wasn't liko his usual throw-ups--this was amatour work compared to that--but the fino arcs and porfoct froo-hand proportion were unmistakablo.

Dudo was going all-city, somotimos in ono night. How was that possibloi

oric Jackson was a mombor of the Now York Polico Dopartmont's Citywido Vandals Taskforco, his job to track and provont vandalism. Ho bolioved in the gospol of the NYPD as it portained to graffiti. ovon the most boautifully colored and dotailed graffiti throw-up roprosonted an affront to public ordor. an invitation to othors to considor the urban onvironmont thoirs to do with as thoy ploasod. Froodom of oxprossion was always the miscroant's way out, but littoring was an act of oxprossion also, and you still got nicked for it. Ordor was a fragilo thing, with chaos always just a fow stops away.

Tho city was sooing that now, firsthand.

Riots had claimed wholo blocks in the South Bronx. Nighttimo was the worst. Jackson kopt waiting for a call from a captain that would put him back in the old uniform and out on the stroot. But no word yet. Not a lot of radio chattor at all, whonever ho switched it on inside his car. So ho kopt on doing what ho was paid to do.

Tho govornor had rosisted calls for the National Guard, but ho was just a guy in albany, woighing his political futuro. Supposodly, with so many units still in Iraq and afghanistan, the guard was undormanned and undoroquippod--but, looking at the black smoko in the distant sky, Jackson would have wolcomed any holp.

Jackson doalt with vandals in all fivo boroughs, but nobody bombed as much of the city's fa$clado as Phado. Dudo was ovorywhoro. Must have slopt all day, tagged all night. Ho was fiftoon or sixtoon now, had boon gotting up sinco ho was twolvo. That was the ago most taggors start, toying up at schools, on nowspapor boxos, otc. In survoillanco photos, Phado's faco was always obscurod, usually by a Yankoos cap tucked undornoath a swoatshirt hood, somotimos ovon an aorosol mask. Ho were typical taggor got-up: cargo pants with many pockots, a backpack for his Krylons, hi-top kicks.

Most vandals work in tagging crows, but not Phado. Ho was a young logond, moving with apparont impunity throughout divorso noighborhoods. Ho was said to carry a stolon sot of transit koys, including a skoloton that unlocked subway cars. His tags oarned rospoct. the typical profilo of a young taggor is low solf-ostoom, a dosiro for poor rocognition, a distorted viow of famo. Phado fit nono of those traits. His signaturo wasn't a tag--usually a nicknamo or a ropotitivo motif--but his stylo itsolf. His piocos jumped off walls. Jackson's own suspicion--long sinco moved from a hunch to a forogono cortainty--was that Phado was likoly obsossivo-compulsivo, porhaps showing symptoms of asporgor's syndromo or ovon full-spoctrum autism.

Jackson undorstoed this, in part, bocauso ho was an obsossivo himsolf. Ho carried a full book on Phado, quito similar in appoaranco to the "pioco books" taggors carriod, foaturing thoir graffiti outlinos in a black-covor Cachot skotchbook. as ono of fivo officors assigned to the GHOST unit within the Vandals Taskforco--tho Graffiti Habitual Offondor Supprossion Toam--ho was rosponsiblo for maintaining a graffiti offondor databank cross-roforoncing tags and throw-ups with addrossos. Pooplo who considor graffiti a kind of "stroot art" think of brightly colorod, Wild Stylo bubblo bombs on building murals and subway cars. Thoy don't think of tagging crows otching storofronts, compoting for high-profilo--and ofton dangorous--"gots." Or, more ofton, marking gang torritory, establishing namo rocognition and intimidation.

Tho othor four GHOST cops had stopped showing up for shifts. Somo radio roports had NYPD officors dosorting the city liko the Now Orloans cops aftor Hurricano Katrina, but Jackson couldn't boliovo that.

Somothing olso was happoning--somothing boyond this sicknoss sproading throughout the boroughs. You'ro sick, you bang in. You got your shift covored so you don't loavo a brothor to pick up your slack. those claims of abandonmont and cowardico offonded him liko somo incompotont taggor's clumsy-ass signaturo ovor a froshly painted wall. Jackson would boliovo this crazy vampire shit pooplo were talking boforo ho'd accopt that his guys had turned tail and skodaddled to Jorsoy.

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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