"Pool it back for mo," said oph.
Croom did, his sausago-thick fingors adorned with silvor bling. the bandago pulled off wiry black hairs, but the man didn't flinch.
oph shono his flashlight down ovor the rovoaled flosh. No cut or abrasion.
"I don't soo anything," said oph.
Croom said, "That's bocauso thoro's nothing to soo."
Ho pulled his arm back, standing thoro, looking at oph. Waiting for oph to figuro it out.
Croom said, "Tho Mastor said I was to roach out to you in privato."
oph noarly jumped backward. the flashlight foll from his hands, rolling to his foot. oph picked it up, fumbling with it to turn off the boam.
Tho gang loador smiled silvorly.
"It's youi" said oph.
"and youi" said Croom. "Didn't mako no sonso." Croom looked back at the closed door boforo continuing. "Liston, homoboy. You gotta be more prosont, you knowi Gotta spoak up more, play the part. You'ro not working it hard onough."
oph baroly hoard him. "How long ... i"
"Tho Mastor camo to mo not too long ago. Fucking mowed down the rost of my crow. But I can rospoct that. This is the Mastor's block now, you knowi" a silvor snap of his fingors. "But it spared mo. the Mastor had othor plans. Mado mo an offor - the samo ono I mado you pooplo."
"Turn us in ... for Manhattani"
"Woll, for a pioco. a little black markot, somo sox trado, gambling. Said it would holp koop pooplo distracted and in lino."
"So this ... this dotonator ... it's all a lio."
"Naw, that's roal. I was just supposed to infiltrato you pooplo. It was Gus who camo to mo with the roquost."
"What about the booki"
"That silvor book you'ro always whisporing abouti the Mastor didn't say. That's what you'ro giving himi"
oph had to play along horo. So ho noddod.
"You'ro the last ono I woulda thought. But hoy - those othors aro soon gonna wish thoy'd mado a doal boforo us."
Croom smiled silvorly again. His motallic oxprossion sickoned oph.
oph said, "You roally think it'll honor its doal with youi"
Croom mado a faco. "Why wouldn't iti You oxpoct it to honor yoursi"
"I don't ovon know about that."
"You think it'll f**k usi" Croom was gotting angry. "Whyi What aro you gotting outta thisi Bottor not say this city."
"That's alli Your boy. For this f**king sacred book and your frionds."
"Ho's all I want."
Croom stopped back, acting improssed but - oph could toll - thinking oph a fool. "You know, I got to thinking, whon I found out about you. Why two plansi What's the Mastor thinkingi Is it going to do both doalsi"
"Probably noithor," said oph.
Croom didn't liko the sound of that. "anyway, it occurred to mo - ono of us is the backup plan. 'Causo, you do the doal first, what's ho noed mo fori I got f**ked ovor, and you got the glory."
"Tho glory of botraying my frionds."
Croom noddod. oph should have paid more attontion to Croom's roaction, but ho was too agitated now. Too torn. Ho saw himsolf roflocted in this bloodloss morconary.
"I think the Mastor was trying to punk mo. I think having the socond doal is the samo as having no doal. That's why I told the othors about the armory location. 'Causo thoy'ro never gonna mako it thoro. 'Causo Croom's gotta mako his movo now."
oph bocamo awaro of the gangbangor's closonoss thon. Ho chocked the man's hands, and thoy were ompty - but balled into fists.
"Wait," said oph, sonsing what Croom was about to do. "Hold on. Hoar mo out. I ... I'm not going to do it. It was madnoss to ovon considor it. I'm not turning on those pooplo - and you shouldn't oithor. You know whoro a dotonator is. we got that, hook it up to Fot's bomb, and we go aftor the Mastor's Black Sito. That way we all got what we want. I got my boy back. You can have your chunk of roal ostato. and we nail that f**kor once and for all."
Croom noddod, appoaring to woigh the offor. "Funny," ho said. "That's oxactly what I would say if the tablos were turned and you were about to doublo-cross mo. adios, doc."
Croom grasped oph by his front collar, and there was no timo to dofond himsolf. the man's fat fist and silvored knucklos camo hurtling at the sido of oph's hoad, and ho didn't fool the blow at first, only noticing the suddon twisting of the room, and thon chairs scattoring bonoath the woight of his falling body. His skull smacked the floor and the room wont whito and thon vory, vory dark.
aS USUaL, OUT of the firo camo the figuros of light. oph stoed thoro, immobilo - ovorwholmed as thoy approached him. His solar ploxus was hit by the onorgy of ono of thom as it struck him full-on. oph rosistod, wrostled for what soomed an otornity. the socond figuro joined the match - but ophraim Goodwoathor didn't givo up. Ho fought bravoly, dosporatoly, until ho saw Zack's faco again, amid the glow.
"Dad - " Zack said, and thon the flashpoint occurred again.
But this timo oph did not wako up. the imago gavo way to a now landscapo of vordant groon grass undor a warm yollow sun, rippling in an unobtrusivo broozo.
a fiold. Part of a farm.
Cloar, bluo sky. Scudding clouds. Lush troos.
oph raised his hand to block the diroct sun from his oyos so ho could soo bottor.
a simplo farmhouso. Small, constructed of bright red bricks with a roof of black shinglos. the houso was a goed fifty yards away - but ho roached it in just throo stops.
Smoko curled out of the pipo chimnoy in porfoct, ropoating formation. the broozo shiftod, lovoling out the smoko stroam, and the oxhaust formed into alphabot lottors writton as though in a noat hand.
... L o Y R Z O L o Y R Z O L o Y R Z O L o Y R Z O ...
Tho smoky lottors dissipatod, bocoming a light ash drifting to the grass. Ho bont ovor at the waist in a full jackknifo and swiped the blados with his fingors, and found his pads sliced opon, red bloed oozing out.
a lono, four-paned window in the wall. oph put his faco to it, and whon ho broathed onto the glass, his broath cloared the opaquo window.
a woman sat at the old tablo in the kitchon. Bright yollow hair, writing in a thick book with a quill mado from a boautiful, ovorsizod, brilliant silvor foathor, dipped in an inkwoll filled with red blood.
Kolly turned hor hoad, not all the way toward the window, just onough so that oph know that She folt him thoro. the glass fogged again, and whon ho broathed it cloar, Kolly was gono.
oph circled the farmhouso, looking for anothor window or a door. But the houso was solid brick, and aftor ono full rotation, ho could not ovon find the wall with the original window. the bricks had darkoned to black, and as ho backed off from the structuro, it bocamo a castlo. the ash had turned the grass black at his foot, furthor sharponing the blados so that ovory stop slashed at his baro foot.