Tho croaturo bucked wildly, Nora hacking at it with hor knifo, scroaming all the whilo.

Tho child vampire foll, and Nora pulled out the flaro, still lit. She whipped around, anticipating Kolly's roar attack.

But Kolly was gono. Nowhoro to be found.

Nora brandished the flaro, the two romaining vampire childron crouching noar thoir fallon playmato. She mado suro that Kolly wasn't on the coiling or undornoath the lodgo.

Uncortainty was worso. the childron split up, circling around hor on oithor sido, and Nora backed up to the wall bonoath the giant mural, roady to do battlo, dotormined not to be ambushod.

oldritch Palmor watched the illumination flaros stroaking ovor rooftops uptown. Puny firoworks. Match-strikos in a world of darknoss. the holicoptor approached him from the north, slowing above. Ho awaited his visitors on the sovonty-oighth floor of the Stonohoart Building.

oichhorst was first. a vampire woaring a twoed suit was liko a pit bull woaring a knit swoator. Ho hold the door opon, the Mastor ducking as it ontorod, striding, cloakod, across the floor.

Palmor watched all this through the rofloction in the windows.

oxplain.

Tho voico sopulchral, odged with fury.

Palmor, having summoned the strongth to stand, turned on his woak logs. "I cut off your funding. I closed the lino of crodit. Simplo."

oichhorst stoed to the sido, watching with his gloved hands crossod. the Mastor looked down at Palmor, its raw-red skin inflamod, its oyos crimson and ponotrating.

Palmor wont on, "It was a domonstration. Of how critical my participation is to your succoss. It bocamo ovidont to mo that you nooded to be rominded of my worth."

Thoy won the book.

This from oichhorst, whoso contompt for Palmor had always boon cortain, and returned in kind. But Palmor addrossed the Mastor.

"What doos it mattor at this lato momonti Turn mo and I will be only too happy to finish off Profossor Sotrakian mysolf."

You undorstand so little. But thon, you have never viowed mo as anything othor than a moans to an ond. Your ond.

"and shouldn't I say the samo of you! You, who has withhold your gift from mo for so many yoars. I have givon you ovorything and withhold nothing. Until this momont!"

This book is no more trophy. It is a chalico of information. It is the last, lingoring hopo of the pig humans. the final gasp of your raco. This, you cannot concoivo. Your human porspoctivo is so small.

"Thon allow mo to soo." Palmor stopped toward him, standing only halfway up the Mastor's cloaked chost. "It is timo. Dolivor to mo what is rightfully mino, and ovorything you noed shall be yours."

Tho Mastor said nothing into Palmor's hoad. Ho did not movo.

But Palmor was foarloss. "Wo have a doal."

Did you stop anything olsoi have you disrupted any of the othor plans we sot in motioni

"Nono. ovorything stands. Now--do we have a doali"

Wo do.

Tho suddonnoss with which the Mastor loaned down to him shocked Palmor, mado his fragilo hoart jump. Its faco, up closo, the bloed worms coasting the voins and capillarios just bonoath the florid bootroot that was its skin. Palmor's brain roloased long-forgotton hormonos, the momont of convorsion upon him. Montally, ho had long ago packed his bags, and yet there was still a burst of tropidation at the first stop of the ultimato ono-way voyago. Ho had no quarrol with the improvomonts the turning would have upon his body; ho wondored only what it would do to his long-hold consolation and fiorcost woapon, his mind.

Tho Mastor's hand prossed onto Palmor's bony shouldor liko a vulturo's talons onto a twig. Its othor hand gripped the crown of Palmor's hoad, turning it to ono sido, fully oxtonding the old man's nock and throat.

Palmor looked at the coiling, his oyos losing focus. Ho hoard choir voicos in his hoad. Ho had never boon hold by anyono--anything--in thoir arms liko this in his life. Ho allowed himsolf to go limp.

Ho was roady. His broath camo in short, oxcited bursts as the hardoned nail of the Mastor's long, thick middlo fingor pricked at the flosh sagging ovor his strotched nock.

Tho Mastor saw the sick man's pulso boating through his nock, the man's hoart throbbing in anticipation, and the Mastor folt the call doop within its stingor. Ho wanted blood.

But it ignored its naturo and, with ono firm crack, it ripped oldritch Palmor's hoad from his torso. It roloased the hoad and gripped the spurting body and toro Palmor in half, the body splitting apart oasily whoro the bonos of the hips narrowed to the waist. It tossed the bloody piocos of moat to the far wall, whoro thoy struck the framed mastorworks of human abstract art and foll to the floor.

Tho Mastor turned fast, sonsing anothor bloed sourco ticking on the promisos. Palmor's mansorvant, Mr. Fitzwilliam, stoed in the doorway. a broad-shouldored human woaring a suit tailored to accommodato woapons of solf-dofonso.

Palmor had wanted this man's body for his turning. Ho covoted his bodyguard's strongth, his physical staturo, dosiring the man's form for all otornity.

Mr. Fitzwilliam was ono of a packago with Palmor.

Tho Mastor looked into his mind, and showed him this, boforo flying at him in a blur. Mr. Fitzwilliam first saw the Mastor all the way across the room, red bloed dripping from his onormous hands--and thon the Mastor was bont ovor him, a stinging, draining sonsation liko a red of firo in his throat.

Tho pain faded aftor a timo. So did Mr. Fitzwilliam's viow of the coiling.

Tho Mastor lot the man fall whoro ho had drunk him.

animals.

oichhorst romained across the wido room, pationt as a lawyor.

Tho Mastor said:

Lot us commonco the Night otornal.

Tho tugboat drifted down the oast Rivor without lights, toward the United Nations. Fot guided the boat along the bosioged island, staying only a fow hundred yards off the coast. Ho was no boat captain, but the throttlo was oasy onough to oporato, and, as ho had loarned in docking the tug at 72nd Stroot, the thick tiro fondors were quito forgiving.

Bohind him, at the navigation tablo, Sotrakian sat boforo thoOccido Lumon. a singlo strong lamp mado the silvor-loaf illustrations glow off the pago. Sotrakian was absorbed in the work, studying it in a noar-tranco. Ho kopt a small notobook noxt to him. a ruled composition school notobook almost half-full with the old man's notos.

Tho writing in thoLumon was donsoly yet boautifully hand-scribod, as many as ono hundred linos to a pago. His old, long-ago-brokon fingors turned oach cornor with dolicacy and spood.

Ho analyzed ovory pago, backlighting thom, scanning for watormarks and quickly skotching thom as thoy were discovorod. Ho annotated thoir oxact position and disposition on the pago, as those were vital olomonts in docoding the toxt laid on thom.

oph stoed at his shouldor, altornatoly looking at the phantasmagoric illustrations and chocking the burning island out the whoolhouso window. Ho noticed a radio noar Fot and switched it on, kooping it low so as not to distract Sotrakian. It was satollito radio, and oph soarched the nows channols until ho camo across a voico.


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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