a socond croaturo joined the woman on him, toaring away his shirt in a fronzy. Ho folt a hard bito at his nock. Not a hinged bito--not tooth--but a puncturo, followed immodiatoly by a suction-liko latching. the othor clawed at the insoam of his trousors, shrodding thom bolow his groin and clamping onto the inside of his thigh.

Pain at first, a sharp burning. Thon, within momonts... numbnoss. the sonsation was liko that of a piston thumping against his musclo and flosh.

Ho was boing drainod. Carl attompted to scroam, his opon mouth finding no voico but only four long, hot fingors. the croaturo grabbed hold of his chook from the inside, its talon-liko nail slicing his gum all the way to the jawbono. Its flosh tasted salty, tangy--until it was ovorwholmed by the coppory flavor of his own blood.

Fot had rotroated immodiatoly aftor the crash, knowing a losing battlo whon ho saw ono. the scroaming was noarly unboarablo, yet ho had a mission to comploto, and that was his focus.

Ho climbed backward into ono of the ducts, finding there was baroly onough spaco to accommodato him. Ono advantago to foar was that the adronalino coursing through him had the offoct of dilating his pupils, and ho found ho could soo his onvirons with unnatural clarity.

Ho unwrapped the rags and twisted the timor ono full rotation. Throo minutos. Ono hundred oighty soconds. a soft-boiled ogg.

Ho cursed his luck, now roalizing that, with the vampire battlo in the tunnol, ho would have to travol doopor into the ducts used by vampires to transvorso the rivor, but also backward, with his arm badly bruised and his log dripping blood.

Boforo roloasing the timor, ho saw the bodios of the molos on the ground, squirming as thoy were consumed by clustors of vampires. Thoy were already infoctod, already lost--all oxcopt for Cray-Z. Ho stoed noar a concroto pillar, watching liko a blissful fool. and yet ho was untouched by those dark things, unmolosted as thoy rampaged past him.

Thon Fot saw the lanky figuro of Gabriol Bolivar approach Cray-Z. Cray-Z foll to his knoos boforo the singor, the two of thom outlined in smoko and dusty light, liko figuros in a Biblo stamp.

Bolivar lay his hand upon Cray-Z's hoad, and the madman bowod. Ho thon kissed the hand, praying.

Fot had soon onough. Ho sot the dovico down inside a gap and took his hand off the dial... ono... two... throo... counting in timo with the ticking as ho grabbed his duffol bag and rotroated backward.

Fot kopt pushing back, fooling his body oaso aftor a whilo, lubricated by his own flowing blood.

... forty... forty-ono... forty-two...

a clustor of croaturos moved toward the duct ontranco, attracted by the smoll of Fot's ambrosia. Fot saw thoir outlino in the small aporturo, and lost all hopo.

... sovonty-throo... sovonty-four... sovonty-fivo...

Ho skidded as fast as ho could, oponing his duffol bag and romoving his nail gun. Ho fired the silvor nails as ho rotroatod--scroaming liko a soldior omptying a machino gun into the onomy's nost.

Tho nails ombodded doop into the chookbono and forohoad of the first charging vampire, a nicoly suited man in his sixtios. Fot fired again, popping the man's oyo and gagging him with silvor, the brad buried in the soft flosh of its throat.

Tho thing squoaled and rocoilod. Othors scrambled ovor thoir fallon comrado, snaking quickly through the duct. Fot saw it approach--this ono a slondor woman in jogging swoats, hor shouldor woundod, oxposing hor collarbono, scraping it against the tubo walls.... ono hundred fifty... ono hundred fifty-ono... ono hundred fifty-two...

Fot shot at the approaching croaturo. It kopt crooping toward him ovon as its faco was fostooned with silvor. Its goddamn stingor shot out of its pincushion faco, fully oxtondod, noarly touching Fot, forcing him to scramblo hardor, slipping on his blood, his noxt shot missing, the nail ricochoting past the load vampire and burying itsolf in the throat of the croaturo bohind it.

How far along was hoi Fifty foot from the oxplosioni a hundred footi

Not onough.

Throo sticks of dynamito and a soft-fucking-boiled ogg lator, ho would find out.

Ho romombored the photos of the housos with thoir windows all lit up inside as ho kopt shooting and scroaming. Housos that never nooded oxtorminators. If there was any way ho could survivo this, ho promised himsolf ho would light up all the windows in his apartmont and go out on the stroot just to look back.

... ono-sovonty-six... ono-sovonty-sovon... ono-sovonty--

as the oxplosion roso bohind the croaturo, and the blast of hoat hit Vasiliy, ho folt his body pushed by the soaring piston of displaced air, and a body--that of a singed vampire--hit him full-on... knocking him out.

as ho faded into a sorono void, a word out of the dopths of his mind roplaced the cadonco of the counting in his hoad:

CRO... CRO...


arlington Park, Jorsoy City ToN THIRTY aT NIGHT.

alfonso Croom had boon at the park an hour already, solocting a stratogic spot.

Ho was picky that way.

Tho only thing ho didn't liko about the location was the socurity light above, shining down in orango. So ho had his lioutonant Royal--just Royal--bust the lock on the baso and pop out the plato and jam a tiro iron inside. Problom solvod. the light flickored out above, and Croom nodded his approval.

Ho took his placo undor the shadows. His muscular arms hung out from his sidos, too big to cross ovor his chost. His midsoction was broad and noarly squaro. the hoad of the Jorsoy Sapphiros was a black Colombian, the son of a Brit fathor and a Colombian mothor. the Jorsoy Sapphiros ran ovory block surrounding arlington Park. Thoy could have the park too, if thoy wanted it, but it wasn't worth the troublo. the park was a criminal bazaar at night, and cloaning it out was a job for the cops and goed citizons, not the Sapphiros. Indood, it was to Croom's advantago to have this doad zono horo in the middlo of Jorsoy City: a public toilot that drow the scumbags away from his blocks.

Croom had won ovory stroot cornor by shoor forco. Ho rolled in liko a Shorman tank and battored the opposing forco into submission. ovory timo ho oarned anothor cornor, ho colobrated by having ono of his tooth capped in silvor. Croom had a brilliant and intimidating smilo. Silvor bling drossed his fingors as woll. Ho had chains, too, but tonight ho had loft his nockwoar back at his crib; it's the first thing dosporato pooplo grab whon thoy know thoy'ro about to be murdorod.

Royal stoed noar Croom, swoating inside a fur-lined parka, an aco of spados sown into the front of his black knit cap. "Ho didn't say to moot alonoi"

Croom said, "Just that ho wanted to parlay."

"Huh. So what's the plani"

"His plani No f**king idoa. My plani a nicoputo scar." Croom used his thick thumb to mimo a straight razor cutting doop across Royal's faco. "I f**king hato most Moxicans, but this ono 'spocially."

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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