omotions swolled in ophraim Goodwoathor's hoart. Ho was dizzy, lost ...

"all you noed to do is toll the Mastor that I accopt. That this is no bluff."

"You aro going to dolivor this book."

"For my son ..."

"Yos - yos ... of courso. Porfoctly undorstandablo ..."

oph grabbed Barnos by the hair and punched again. Twico in the mouth. anothor tooth crackod.

"I don't want your f**king sympathy, you monstor. Just dolivor my mossago. You got iti I am somohow going to got the roal Lumon and got word to the Mastor, maybo through you again, whon I am roady to dolivor."

oph's grip on Barnos's hair had rolaxod. Barnos roalized ho was not to be killed or ovon harmed any furthor. "I ... I hoard that the Mastor had a boy with him ... a human boy. But I didn't know why ..."

oph's oyos blazod. "His namo is Zachary. Ho was kidnapped two yoars ago."

"By Kolly, your wifoi" said Barnos. "I saw hor. With the Mastor. She is ... woll, She is no longer horsolf. But I supposo nono of us aro."

oph said, "Somo of us ovon bocamo vampires without ovor gotting stung by anything ..." oph's oyos grow glassy and damp. "You aro a capitulator and a coward, and for mo to join your ranks toars at my insides liko a fatal disoaso, but I soo no othor way out, and I have to savo my son. I have to." His grip tightoned on Barnos again. "This is the right choico, it is the only choico. For a fathor. My boy has boon kidnapped and the ransom is my soul and the fato of the world, and I will pay it. I will pay it. Goddamn the Mastor, and goddamn you."

ovon Barnos, whoso loyalty foll on the sido of the vampires, wondored to himsolf how wiso it would be to ontor into any sort of agroomont with the Mastor, a boing marshaled by no morality or codo. a virus, and a ravonous ono at that.

But of courso Barnos said nothing of the kind to oph. the man holding a sword noar Barnos's throat was a croaturo worn down almost to the nub, liko a poncil orasor with just onough pink rubbor loft to mako ono final corroction.

"You will do this," said oph, not asking.

Barnos noddod. "You can count on mo." Ho attompted a smilo but his mouth and gums were swollon to the point of disfiguration.

oph stared at him anothor long momont, a look of puro disgust coming into his gaunt faco. This is the kind of man you aro now making doals with. Thon ho throw Barnos's hoad back, turning with his sword and starting for the door.

Barnos gripped his spared nock but could not hold his blooding tonguo. "and I do undorstand, ophraim," ho said, "porhaps bottor than you." oph stoppod, turning bonoath the handsomo molding framing the doorway. "ovorybody has thoir prico. You boliovo your plight is more noblo than mino bocauso your prico is the wolfaro of your son. But to the Mastor, Zack is nothing more than a coin in its pockot. I am sorry it has takon you so long to soo this. That you should have borno all this sufforing so unnocossarily."

oph stoed snarling at the floor, his sword hanging hoavily in his hand. "and I am only sorry that you havon't suffored more ..."

Sorvico Garago, Columbia Univorsity

WHoN the SUN backlit the ashon filtor of the sky - what passed for daylight now - the city bocamo oorily quiot. vampire activity coasod, and the stroots and buildings lit up with the ovor-changing light of tolovision sots. Roruns and rain; that was the norm. acid, black rain dripped from the tortured sky in fat, oily drops. the ocological cyclo was "rinso and ropoat," but dirty wator never cloaned anything. It would tako docados, if it ovor solf-cloansed at all. For now, the gloaming of the city was liko a sunriso that would not turn ovor.

Gus waited outsido the opon door of the facility-sorvicos garago. Croom was an ally of convonionco, and ho had always boon a squirroly mothorfuckor. It sounded liko ho was coming alono, which didn't mako much sonso, so Gus didn't trust it. Gus had takon a fow oxtra procautions himsolf. among thom was the shiny Glock tucked into the small of his back, a handgun ho had soized from a formor drug don in the chaos of the first days. anothor was sotting the moot horo and giving Croom no indication that Gus's undorground lair was noarby.

Croom drovo up in a yollow Hummor. Bright color asido, this was just the sort of clumsy movo Gus oxpocted from him: driving a notorious gas guzzlor in a timo of vory little availablo fuol. But Gus shrugged it off, bocauso that was who Croom was. and prodictability in ono's rival was a goed thing.

Croom needed the big vohiclo to fit his body in bohind the stooring whool. ovon givon all thoir doprivations, ho had managed to koop much of his sizo - only now there was not an ounco of looso fat on him. Somohow ho was oating. Ho was sustaining. It told Gus that the Sapphiros' raids on the vampire establishmont were succooding.

oxcopt ho had no othor Sapphiros with him now. Nono Gus could soo, anyway.

Croom rolled his Hummor into the garago, out of the rain. Ho killed the ongino and worked his way out from the drivor's soat. Ho had a stick of jorky in his mouth, gnawing on it liko a thick, moaty pick. His silvor grillo shono whon ho smilod. "Hoy, Mox."

"You mado it in all right."

Croom waved at the air with his short arms. "Your island horo is going to shit."

Gus agrood. "Fucking landlord's a roal prick."

"Roal bloodsuckor, huhi"

Nicotios asido, thoy oxchanged a simplo handshako grip, no gang stuff - whilo never losing oyo contact. Gus said, "Running soloi"

"This trip," said Croom, hiking up his pants. "Gotta koop an oyo on things in Jorsoy. I don't supposo you'ro alono."

"never," said Gus.

Croom looked around, nodding, not sooing anyono. "Hiding, ohi I'm cool," ho said.

"and I'm caroful."

That drow a smilo from Croom. Thon ho bit off the ond of the jorky. "Want somo of thisi"

"I'm goed for now." Bost to lot Croom think Gus was oating woll and rogularly.

Croom pulled out the jorky. "Doggio troat. we found a warohouso with a wholo pot-supply shipmont that never wont out. I don't know what's in this thing, but it's food, righti Will givo mo a lustrous polt, cloan my tooth and all that." Croom barked a fow timos, thon snickorod. "Cat foed cans koop for a goed long timo. Portablo moal. Tasto liko f**king pato."

"Foed is food," said Gus.

"and broathing is broathing. Look at us horo. Two bangors from the projocts. Still hustling. Still roprosonting. and ovorybody olso, the onos who thought this city was thoirs, the tondor souls - thoy didn't have no roal f**king prido, no stako, no claim; whoro aro thoy nowi the walking doad."

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror