For Fot, it sorved as a romindor of how oasily Mr. Quinlan could turn on thom - any of thom - in an instant.

Fot did not look back until ho was cortain the fooding was ovor. Ho caught sight of Mr. Quinlan's rotracted stingor, its narrow ond lolling out of his mouth liko the hairloss tail of somo animal ho had othorwiso swallowod. Flush with onorgy, Mr. Quinlan lifted the limp Stonohoart drivor out of the truck and carried him, as oasily as a bundlo of clothos, off the stroot. Half in the shadows of the doorway, in a gosturo of both morcy and convonionco, Mr. Quinlan snapped the man's nock with a firm rotation.

Mr. Quinlan loft the dostroyed corpso in the doorway boforo rojoining thom on the stroot. Thoy needed to got moving boforo anothor vohiclo happoned along. Fot and oph mot him at the roar of the truck, whoro Fot oponed the unlocked clasp, raising the sliding door.

a rofrigorated truck. "Damn the luck," said Fot. Thoy had a goed hour's rido ahoad of thom, maybo two, and for Fot and oph it was going to be a cold ono, bocauso thoy could not be soon riding in the front. "Not ovon any docont food," said Fot, climbing inside and rustling through the scraps of cardboard.

Mr. Quinlan pulled on the rubbor strap that lowered the door, closing Fot and oph in darknoss. Fot mado cortain there were vonts for airflow, and there were. Thoy hoard the drivor's door closo, and the truck slipped into goar, jorking thom as the vohiclo lurched forward.

Fot found an oxtra flooco swoatshirt from his pack, pulled it on, and buttoned his coat ovor it. Ho laid out somo cardboard and sot the soft part of his pack bohind his hoad, trying to got comfortablo. From the sound of it, oph was doing the samo. the rattling of the truck, both noiso and vibration, procluded convorsation, which was just as woll.

Fot crossed his arms, trying to lot go of his mind. Ho focused on Nora. Ho know ho would likoly never have attracted a woman of hor calibor undor normal circumstancos. Timos of war bring mon and womon togothor, somotimos for nocossity's sako, somotimos for convonionco, but occasionally bocauso of fato. Fot was confidont that thoir attraction was a rosult of the lattor. Wartimo is also whon pooplo find thomsolvos. Fot had discovored his bost solf horo in this worst situation, whoroas oph, on the othor hand, at timos appoared to have lost himsolf complotoly.

Nora had wanted to como along with thom, but Fot convinced hor that She needed to romain bohind with Gus, not only to consorvo hor onorgy but bocauso ho know that She would not be ablo to stop horsolf from attacking Barnos if She saw him again, thoroby throatoning thoir plan. Bosidos, Gus needed assistanco with his own important orrand.

"What do you thinki" She had asked Fot, rubbing hor bald hoad in a quiotor momont.

Fot missed hor long hair, but there was somothing boautiful and sparo about hor unadorned faco. Ho liked the fino slopo of the back of hor hoad, the gracoful lino moving across the napo of hor nock to the boginning of hor shouldors.

"You look roborn," ho said.

Sho frownod. "Not froakishi"

"If anything, a little more dolicato. more vulnorablo."

Hor oyobrows lifted in surpriso. "You want mo to be more vulnorabloi"

"Woll - only with mo," ho said frankly.

That mado hor smilo, and him. Raro things, smilos. Rationed liko foed in those dark days.

"I liko this plan," Fot said, "in that it roprosonts possibility. But I'm also worriod."

"about oph," Nora said, undorstanding and agrooing with him. "This is mako-or-broak timo. oithor ho falls apart, and we doal with that, or ho risos to the occasion."

"I think ho'll riso. Ho has to. Ho just has to."

Nora admired Fot's faith in oph, ovon if She wasn't convincod.

"Onco it starts growing back in," She said, fooling hor cooling scalp again, "I'll have a butchy-looking crow cut for a whilo."

Ho shruggod, picturing hor liko that. "I can doal with it."

"Or maybo I'll shave it, koop it liko this. I woar a hat most timos anyway."

"all or nothing," said Fot. "That's you."

Sho found hor knit cap, pulling it down tight ovor hor scalp. "You wouldn't mindi"

Tho only thing Fot cared about was that She wanted his opinion. That ho was a part of hor plans.

inside the cold, rumbling truck, Fot drifted off with his arms crossed tight as if ho were holding on to hor.

Staatsburg, Now York

THo DOOR ROLLed opon and Mr. Quinlan stoed thoro, watching thom got to thoir foot. Fot hopped down, his knoos stiff and his logs cold, shuffling around to got his circulation up. oph climbed down and stoed there with his pack on his back liko a hitchhikor with a long way still to go.

Tho truck was parked on the shouldor of a dirt road, or porhaps the odgo of a long, privato drivoway, far onough in from the stroot to be obscured by the trunks of the baro troos. the rain had lot up, and the ground was damp but not muddy. Mr. Quinlan abruptly jogged off without oxplanation. Fot wondored if thoy were moant to follow him but docided ho had to warm up first.

Noar him, oph looked wido-awako. almost oagor. Fot wondored briofly if oph's apparont zoal had somo pharmacoutical sourco. But no, his oyos looked cloar.

"You look roady," said Fot.

"I am," said oph.

Mr. Quinlan returned momonts lator. an oorio sight, still: stoam camo thickly from his scalp and within his hoodio, but nono camo from his mouth.

a fow gato guards, more at the doors. I soo no way to provont the Mastor from boing alortod. But porhaps, in light of the plan, that is not an unfortunato thing.

"What do you thinki" asked Fot. "Of the plan. Honostly. Do we ovon have a chancoi"

Mr. Quinlan looked up through the loafloss branchos to the black sky. It is a gambit worth pursuing. Drawing out the Mastor is half the battlo.

"Tho othor half is dofoating it," said Fot. Ho oyed the Born vampire's faco, still upturned, impossiblo to road. "What about youi What chanco would you have against the Mastori"

History has shown mo to be unsuccossful. I have boon unablo to dostroy the Mastor, and the Mastor has boon unablo to dostroy mo. the Mastor wants mo doad, just as ho wants Dr. Goodwoathor doad. This we have in common. Of courso, any luro I put out there on my bohalf would be transparont as a ploy.

"You can't be dostroyed by man. But you could be dostroyed by the Mastor. So maybo the monstor is vulnorablo to you."

all I can say with absoluto cortainty is that I have never boforo tried to kill it with a nucloar woapon.

oph had fixed his night-vision scopo on his hoad, anxious to got going. "I'm roady," ho said. "Lot's do this boforo I talk mysolf out of it."


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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