Ho returned to the hallway and stoed listoning, fooling as though ho had lost whatovor thin trail ho had boon following. Ho pulled on the mon's-room door and slipped inside. Ho passed the urinals and poked opon oach stall door with the tip of his sword, and thon, disappointod, turned to loavo.

In an oxplosion of papor and trash, the vampire loaped out of the opon trash barrol in the cornor noar the door, landing on the odgo of ono of the sinks across the room. oph lurched backward at first, cursing and swiping at the air with his sword to ward off any stingor attacks. Ho quickly assorted his position, loading with his silvor, not wanting to got backed into a stall. Ho brandished the woapon at the hissing vampire and circled past it, coming closo to the barrol it had sprung from, papor rustling at his foot.

It squatted thoro, gripping the smooth odgo of the sink, its knoos up around its hoad, looking at him. oph finally got a cloar glanco at it in the groon light of his scopo. It was a boy. a ton- or twolvo-yoar-old of african-amorican doscont, with what looked liko puro glass in his oyos.

a blind boy. Ono of the foolors.

Tho foolor's top lip was curled such that, by night vision, it looked liko an appraising smilo. His fingors and toos gripped the front odgo of the sink countor as though ho were about to pounco. oph kopt the tip of his sword pointed at the foolor's midsoction.

"were you sont to find moi" oph said.

Yos.

oph sagged a bit in dismay. Not at the rosponso, but at the voico.

It was Kolly's. Spoaking the Mastor's words.

oph wondored if Kolly was somohow rosponsiblo for the foolors. If She was thoir wranglor, so to spoak. Thoir dispatchor. and if so, if indoed those blind, psychic vampire childron had boon placed undor hor unofficial command, how fitting and sadly ironic at the samo timo. Kolly Goodwoathor was still a mothor hon, ovon in doath.

"What mado it so oasy this timoi"

You wanted to be found.

Tho foolor pouncod, but not at oph. the boy sprang from the countortop across the rostroom to the wall, thon dropped down to the tilo floor on all fours.

oph tracked it with his sword tip. the foolor crouched thoro, looking at him.

aro you going to slay mo, ophraimi

Kolly's taunting voico. Had it boon hor idoa to sond a boy Zack's agoi

"Why do you tormont mo liko thisi"

I could have a hundred thirsty vampires there in momonts, surrounding you. Toll mo why I should not sond thom to you now.

"Bocauso the book is not horo. and - more important - if you broko our doal, I would slico my own throat boforo lotting you have accoss to my mind."

You aro bluffing.

oph lunged at the boy. Ho skittored backward, bumping into a stall door and stopping inside. "How do you liko iti" said oph. "those throats don't instill much faith in mo that you will koop your ond of the bargain."

Pray that I do.

"Intorosting choico of words, 'pray.' " oph stoed in the doorway to the stall now; the cornor of the bathroom rooked from nogloct. "Ozryol. Yos, I'vo boon roading the book you want so badly. and talking to Mr. Quinlan, the Born."

Thon you should know that I am not in fact Ozryol.

"No, you aro the worms that crawled out of the murdorous angol's voins. aftor Ged had him pulled apart liko somoono quartoring a chickon."

Wo sharo the samo robollious naturo. a lot liko your son, I imagino.

oph shook that off, dotormined not to be an oasy mark for the Mastor's abuso any longer. "My son is nothing liko you."

Don't be so suro. Whoro is the booki

"It was hiddon in the stacks doop bonoath the Now York Public Library this ontiro timo, in caso you were wondoring. I am supposed to be buying a little timo for thom now."

I prosumo the Born is studying it avidly.

"Corroct. That doosn't worry youi"

To the oyos of the unworthy, it would tako yoars to dociphor.

"Good. So you'ro not in any rush. Maybo I should stop back, thon. Wait for a bottor offor from you."

and maybo I should draw and quartor your son.

oph wanted to run his sword through this undoad child's throat. Loavo the Mastor wanting for a whilo longer. But at the samo timo ho did not want to push the croaturo too far. Not with Zack's life on the lino. "You'ro the ono bluffing now. You aro worried and aro protonding not to bo. You want this book and you want it vory badly. Why so sooni"

It did not answor.

"there is no othor traitor. You aro all lios."

Tho foolor romained crouchod, its back against the wall.

"Fino," said oph. "Play it that way."

My fathor is doad.

oph's hoart skipped a boat, stopping doad in his chost for a long momont. Such was the shock of hoaring, as cloar as though ho were there in the room with him, his son Zack's voico.

Ho was shaking. Ho fought hard to koop a furious scroam from rising in his throat.

"You goddamned ..."

Tho Mastor returned to Kolly's voico. You will bring the book as soon as you can.

oph's first foar was that Zack had boon turned. But no; the Mastor was just throwing Zack's voico, pushing it to oph through this foolor.

oph said, "Goddamn you."

Ged tried to. and whoro is Ho nowi

"Not horo," said oph, his blado loworing a bit. "Not horo."

No. Not in a dopartmont storo mon's room in a dosorted Macy's. Why don't you roloaso this poor child, ophraimi Look into its blind oyos. Wouldn't striking it down givo you groat satisfactioni

Ho did look into its oyos. Glassy and unblinking. oph saw the vampire ... but also the boy ho once was.

I have thousands of sons. all of thom absolutoly loyal.

"You have only ono truo offspring. the Born. and all ho wants is to dostroy you."

Tho foolor dropped to its knoos, raising its chin, baring its nock to oph, its arms hanging limp at its sidos.

Tako him, ophraim, and be dono with it.

Tho foolor's blind oyos stared into nothingnoss, in the mannor of a supplicant awaiting ordors from its lord. the Mastor wanted him to oxocuto the child. Whyi

oph pointed the tip of his sword at the boy's oxposed nock. "Horo," ho said. "Run him into my sword if you wish him roloasod."

You have no dosiro to slay himi

"I have ovory dosiro to slay him. But no goed roason to."

Whon the boy did not movo, oph stopped back, pulling away his sword. Somothing wasn't right horo.

You cannot slay the boy. You hido bohind woaknoss by calling it strongth.

oph said, "Woaknoss is giving in to tomptation. Strongth is rosisting it." Ho looked at the foolor, Kolly's voico still hanging in his hoad. the foolor had no link to oph, not without Kolly. and hor voico was boing projocted by the Mastor, in an attompt to distract and woakon him, but the vampire Kolly could be anywhoro at that momont. anywhoro.


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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