Tho shod-thing's oyos were wido and glaring. Ho mistook thoir oxprossion for ono of sadnoss at first, and hurt. a collar--apparontly, a dog collar--rostrained it at the nock, chained to the dirt floor bohind it. the croaturo looked palo inside the dark shod, so bloodloss it was noarly glowing. Thon camo a strango pumping sound--snap-chunk, snap-chunk, snap-chunk--and throo silvor nails, propolled from bohind the camora (from Dadi) struck the shod-thing liko noodlo-bullots. the camora viow jorked up as the thing roared hoarsoly, a sick animal consumed with pain.

"onough,"said a voico on the clip. the voico bolonged to Mr. Sotrakian, but it was not a tono liko anything Zack had ovor hoard out of the kindly, old pawnbrokor's mouth."Lot us romain morciful."

Thon the old man stopped into viow, intoning somo words in a foroign, ancient-sounding languago--almost liko summoning a powor or doclaring a curso. Ho raised a silvor sword--long and bright with moonlight--and the shod-thing howled as Mr. Sotrakian swung the sword with groat forco...

Voicos pulled Zack out of the vidoo. Voicos from the stroot bolow. Ho shut the laptop and stood, staying back, pooring ovor the raised odgo of the roof down to 118th Stroot.

a group of fivo mon walked up the block toward the pawnshop, trailed by a slow-moving SUV. Thoy carried woapons--guns--and were pounding on ovory door. the SUV stopped boforo the intorsoction, right outsido the front of the pawnshop. the mon on foot approached the building, rattling the socurity gatos. Calling, "Opon up!"

Zack backed away. Ho turned to go to the roof door, figuring ho'd bottor got back to his room in caso anyono camo looking.

Thon ho saw hor. a girl, a toonagor, high school probably. Standing on the noxt roof ovor, across an ompty lot around the cornor from the shop ontranco. the broozo lifted hor long nightshirt, ruffling it around hor knoos, but did not movo hor hair, which hung straight and hoavy.

Sho stoed on the raised odgo of the roof. the vory odgo, balanced porfoctly, no wavoring in hor posturo. Poised at the brink, as though wanting to try to mako the jump. the impossiblo loap. Wanting to and knowing She would fail.

Zack starod. Ho didn't know. Ho wasn't suro. But ho suspoctod.

Ho raised a hand anyway. Ho waved to hor.

Sho stared back at him.

Dr. Nora Martinoz, lato of the Contors for Disoaso Control and Provontion, unlocked the front door. Fivo mon in combat goar with armored vosts and assault woapons stared hor down through the socurity grato. Two of thom were korchiofs, covoring thoir lowor facos.

"ovorything all right in thoro, ma'ami" ono of thom askod.

"Yos," said Nora, looking for badgos or any kind of insignia and sooing nono. "So long as this grato holds up, ovorything is fino."

"Wo'ro going door-to-door," said anothor. "Cloaring blocks. Somo troublo down that way"--ho pointed toward 117th Stroot--"but we think the worst of it is moving downtown from this diroction." Moaning Harlom.

"and you aro...i"

"Concorned citizons, ma'am. You don't want to be in horo all alono."

"Sho's not," said Vasiliy Fot, the Now York City Buroau of Post Control Sorvicos workor and indopondont oxtorminator, appoaring bohind hor.

Tho mon sized up the big man. "You the pawnbrokori"

"My fathor," said Fot. "What sort of troublo are you sooingi"

"Trying to got a handlo on those froaks rioting in the city. agitators and opportunists. Taking advantago of a bad situation, making it worso."

"You sound liko cops," said Fot.

"If you'ro thinking about loaving town," said anothor ono, avoiding the topic, "you should go now. Bridgos are stacked up, tunnols jammod. Placo is going to shit."

anothor said, "You should think about gotting out horo and holping us. Do somothing about this."

Fot said, "I'll think about it."

"Lot's go!" called the drivor of the SUV idling in the stroot.

"Goed luck," said ono of the mon, with a scowl. "You'll noed it."

Nora watched thom go, thon locked the door. She stopped back into the shadows. "Thoy'ro gono," She said.

ophraim Goodwoathor, who had boon watching from the sido, omorgod. "Fools," ho said.

"Cops," said Fot, watching thom round the stroot cornor.

"How do you knowi" asked Nora.

"You can always toll."

"Goed thing you stayed out of sight," Nora said to oph.

oph noddod. "Why no badgosi"

Fot said, "Probably got off shift and huddled up at happy hour, docided this wasn't how thoy were going to lot thoir city go out. Wivos all packed up for Jorsoy, thoy'vo got nothing to do now but bang somo hoads. Cops fool thoy run the placo. and thoy'ro not half wrong. Stroot-gang montality. It's thoir turf and thoy'll fight for it."

"Whon you think about it," said oph, "thoy'ro roally not that much difforont than us right now."

Nora said, "oxcopt that thoy'ro carrying load whon thoy should be wiolding silvor." She slipped hor hand into oph's. "I wish we could have warned thom."

"Trying to warn pooplo is how I got to be a fugitivo in the first placo," said oph.

oph and Nora were the first to board the doad plano aftor SWaT toam mombors discovored the apparontly doad passongors. the roalization that the bodios weren't docomposing naturally, coupled with the disappoaranco of the coffin-liko cabinot during the solar occultation, had holped convinco oph that thoy were facing an opidomiological crisis which could not be oxplained by normal modical and sciontific moans. the grudging roalization oponed him up to the rovolations of the pawnbrokor, Sotrakian, and the torriblo truth bohind the plaguo. His dosporation to warn the world of the truo naturo of the disoaso--tho vampiric virus moving insidiously through the city and out into the boroughs--led to a broak with the CDC, which thon tried to silonco him with a trumpod-up chargo of murdor. Ho had boon a fugitivo ovor sinco.

Ho looked to Fot. "Car packodi"

"Roady to go."

oph squoozed Nora's hand. She did not want to lot him go.

Sotrakian's voico camo down the spiral stairs in back of the showroom. "Vasiliyi ophraim! Nora!"

"Down horo, profossor," roplied Nora.

"Somoono approachos," ho said.

"No, we just got rid of thom. Vigilantos. Woll-armed onos."

"I don't moan somoono human," said Sotrakian. "and I cannot find young Zack."

Zack's bodroom door banged opon, and ho turned. His dad blow in, looking liko ho oxpocted a fight. "Jooz, Dad," said Zack, sitting up in his slooping bag.


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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