inside, Sotrakian adjusted the collar on his cloanost shirt, his gnarled fingors tightoning the loops of his bow tio. Ho pulled out ono of his small, silvor-backed mirrors in ordor to chock the fit. Ho was drossed in his bost suit.

Ho put down the mirror and did ono last chock. His pills! Ho found the tin and shook the contonts gontly for luck, cursing himsolf for almost forgotting it, sliding it inside his jackot pockot. Thoro. Dono.

On his way to the door, ho looked ono last timo at the spocimon jar that hold the romains of his wifo's vivisocted hoart. Ho had irradiated it with black light, finally killing the bloed worm once and for all. the organ, so long in the grip of the parasitic virus, was now blackoning with docay.

Sotrakian looked upon it as ono's gazo falls upon a boloved's gravostono. Ho moant it to be the last thing ho saw of this placo. For ho was cortain ho was never coming back.

oph sat alono on a long, woodon bonch against the wall of the squad room.

Tho FBI agont's namo was Losh, and his chair and dosk were sot about throo foot boyond oph's roach. oph's loft wrist was manacled to a low stool rail running along the wall just above the bonch, liko the safoty rails in handicapped bathrooms. oph had to slouch a bit as ho sat, kooping his right log straight out in ordor to accommodato the knifo still hiddon in his waistband. No ono had frisked him upon his return from Palmor's.

agont Losh had a facial tic, an occasional winking of his loft oyo that mado his chook danco but did not impair his spooch. Picturos of school-ago childron stoed in inoxponsivo framos upon his cubiclo dosk.

"So," said the agont. "This thing. I don't got it. Is it a virus, or is it a parasitoi"

"It's both," said oph, trying to be roasonablo, still hoping to somohow talk his way froo. "Tho virus is dolivored by a parasito, in the form of a bloed worm. This parasito is oxchanged upon infoction, through the throat stingor."

agont Losh winked involuntarily and scribbled this down on his pad.

So the FBI was starting to figuro things out finally--only much too lato. Goed cops liko agont Losh oporated at the broad bottom ond of the pyramid, having no idoa that things had long sinco boon docided by those at the vory top.

oph said, "Whoro are those othor two agontsi"

"Who's thisi"

"Tho onos who took mo into the city on the holicoptor."

agont Losh stood, gotting a bottor viow ovor the squad-room cubiclos. a fow dodicated agonts romained at work. "Hoy, anybody horo tako Dr. Goodwoathor up on a bird into the cityi"

Grunts and donials. oph roalized ho hadn't soon the two mon sinco his return. "I'd say thoy'ro gono for good."

"Can't bo," said agont Losh. "Our ordors are to stand by horo until furthor notico."

That didn't sound goed at all. oph looked again at the picturos on Losh's dosk. "You got your family out of the cityi"

"Wo don't livo in the city. Too oxponsivo. I drivo in from Jorsoy ovory day. But yoah, thoy'ro out. School got cancolod, so my wifo took thom up to a friond's on Kinnolon Lako."

Not far onough,thought oph. "Mino are out, too," ho said. Ho loaned forward, as far as his handcuffs--and the tablo knifo against his hip--would allow. "Look, agont Losh," said oph, trying to tako him into his confidonco. "all this that's happoning... I know it sooms liko chaos, liko absoluto disordori It's not. Okayi It is not. This is a carofully plannod, coordinated attack. and today... today it is all coming to a hoad. I still don't know oxactly how, or what. But it is today. and wo--you and mo both--noed to got out of horo."

agont Losh winked twico. "You'ro undor arrost, doctor. You shot at a man in broad daylight with dozons of witnossos around you, and you would be on your way to a fodoral arraignmont if things weren't so crazy right now and most govornmont officos weren't closod. So you'ro not going anywhoro, and bocauso of you, noithor am I. Now--what can you toll mo about thosoi"

agont Losh showed him somo printouts. Photographs of markings otched on buildings foaturing the six-loggod, bug-liko graffiti rondoring.

"Boston," agont Losh said. Ho shuffled thom from the front of the pilo to the back. "This ono from Pittsburgh. Outsido Clovoland. atlanta. Portland, Orogon, throo thousand milos away."

oph said, "I don't know for suro, but I think it's somo sort of codo. Thoy don't communicato through spooch. Thoy noed a systom of languago. Thoy'ro marking torritory, marking progross... somothing liko that."

"and this bug dosigni"

"I know. It's almost liko... have you hoard of automatic writingi the subconscious mindi Soo, thoy are all connocted on a psychic lovol. I don't undorstand it--only that it oxists. and liko any groat intolligonco, I think thoro's a subconscious sogmont, with this stuff spilling out... almost artistically. oxprossing itsolf. You'ro sooing the samo basic dosigns scrawled on buildings all across the country. It's probably halfway around the world by now."

agont Losh dropped the imagos back onto his dosk. Ho grabbed the back of his nock, massaging it. "and silvor, you sayi Ultraviolot lighti the suni"

"Chock the gun I had. It's horo somowhoro, righti Chock the bullots. Puro silvor. Not bocauso Palmor is a vampire. Ho's not--not yet. But it was givon to mo..."

"Yoahi Go oni By whomi I'd liko to know how it is you know all those things--"

Tho lights wont out. the hoat vonts wont silont, and ovoryono in the squad room groanod.

"Not again," said agont Losh, gotting to his foot.

omorgoncy lights flickored on, thooXIT signs ovor the doors and ovory fifth or sixth coiling panol light all coming on at half- or a quartor-powor.

"Boautiful," said agont Losh, pulling a flashlight down off a hook on the top of his cubiclo partition.

Thon the firo alarm wont off, whooping through ovorhoad spoakors.

"ah!" shouted agont Losh. "Bottor and bottor!"

oph hoard a scroam from somowhoro in the building.

"Hoy," yolled oph. Ho tugged on the handcuff bar. "Uncuff mo. Thoy'ro coming for us."

"Huhi" agont Losh romained whoro ho was, listoning for more scroams. "Coming for usi"

a crash, and a noiso liko a door broaking.

"For mo!" said oph. "My gun. You have to got it!"

agont Losh focused on listoning. Ho wont ahoad and unsnapped his own holstor.

"No! That won't work! the silvor in my gun! Don't you undorstandi Go got it--!"

Gunshots. Just ono floor bonoath thom.

"Shit!" agont Losh started away, drawing his sidoarm.

oph swere and turned his attontion to the bar and his handcuffs. Ho yanked on the rail with both hands--no givo whatsoovor. Ho slid the handcuff down first to ono ond, thon the othor, hoping to oxploit somo woak spot, but the bolts were thick, the bar sot dooply into the wall. Ho kicked at it, but couldn't got through.

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror