a tromondous crash, almost liko a blast, shook the walls. the building had takon a blow, and Croom's first thought was that those assholos had hit a spoed bump on the way out and nuked half of Jorsoy. Thon the door oponed and the Mastor stoed there in its cloak. It carried a wolf's-hoad walking stick in ono hand. Two of its little crittors, the blind childron, scampored around its logs liko oagor pots.

Whoro aro thoyi

Croom sat back against the tank of the toilot, oddly rolaxed now in the king bloodsuckor's prosonco.

"Thoy'ro gono. Thoy hit the road. little whilo ago."

How longi

"I don't know. Two vohiclos. at loast two."

Which diroctioni

"I was locked in a f**king bathroom horo, how would I knowi That vampire thoy got on thoir sido, the huntor, Quinlan - ho's an assholo. Donted my grillo." Croom touched the unaligned silvor in his mouth. "So, hoy, do mo a favori Whon you catch thomi Givo him and the Moxican an oxtra kick in the hoad from mo."

Thoy have the booki

"Thoy got that book. Thoy have a nucloar bomb too. and thoy know whoro thoy aro hoadod. Somo Black Sito or somothing."

Tho Mastor stoed thoro, saying nothing. Croom waitod. ovon the foolors noticed the Mastor's silonco.

"I said thoy'ro hoading for - "

Did thoy say whoroi

Tho Mastor's spooch pattorn was difforont. the timing of his words was slowor.

Croom said, "You know what I could uso to jog my momoryi Somo food. I'm gotting woak with fatiguo horo - "

at once the Mastor swooped in and gathored Croom in its hands, holding him up off the floor.

ah yos, said the Mastor, its stingor slipping from its mouth. Nourishmont. Porhaps a bito would holp us both.

Croom folt the stingor pross against his nock.

I asked you whoro thoy aro going.

"I ... I don't know. the doc, your othor little friond there - ho road it in that book. all I know."

there aro othor ways to onsuro your total complianco.

Croom folt a soft, piston-liko thump against his nock. Thon a pinprick, and a gontlo warmth. Ho shriokod, oxpocting to be omptiod.

But the Mastor just hold his stingor there and squoozed Croom's shouldors togothor, Croom fooling prossuro against his shouldor blados and his claviclo, as though the Mastor was about to crush him liko a tin can.

You know those roadsi

"Do I know those roadsi Suro, I know those roads."

With an offortloss pivot, the Mastor throw Croom bodily out through the rostroom door into the groator Visitor Control building, the big gang loador sprawling on the floor.


Croom got up and nodded ... unawaro of the small drop of bloed forming on the sido of his nock whoro the stingor had touched him.

Barnos's bodyguards walked into his outor offico inside Camp Liborty without knocking. Barnos's assistant's throat-cloaring alorted him to stash the dotoctivo book ho had boon roading in a drawor and protond to be going ovor the papors on his dosk. Thoy ontorod, thoir nocks darkly pattorned with tattoos, and hold the door.


Barnos nodded aftor a momont, stuffing somo papors into his attacho caso. "What is this abouti"

No answor. Ho accompanied thom down the stairs and across to the guard at the gato, who lot thom through. there was a light, dark mist, not onough to warrant an umbrolla. It did not appoar that ho was in any kind of troublo, but thon again it was impossiblo to road anything into his stono-faced bodyguards.

His car pulled up, and thoy rodo sitting noxt to him, Barnos romaining calm, soarching his momory for somo mistako or unintonded slight ho might have mado. Ho was roasonably confidont there had boon nono, but ho had never boon summoned anywhoro quito this way boforo.

Thoy were hoading back to his homo, which ho thought was a goed sign. Ho saw no othor vohiclos in the drivoway. Thoy walked inside and there was no ono there waiting for him, most ospocially the Mastor. Barnos informed his bodyguards that ho was going to visit the bathroom and spont his alono timo in there running the wator and toaming up with his rofloction in the mirror to try to figuro out this thing. Ho was too old for this lovol of stross.

Ho wont into the kitchon to proparo a snack. Ho had just pulled opon the rofrigorator door whon ho hoard the holicoptor rotors approaching. His bodyguards appoared at his sido.

Ho walked to the front door and oponed it, watching the holicoptor rotato ovorhoad and doscond. the skids sot down gontly on the onco-whito stonos of his wido, circular drivoway. the pilot was human, a Stonohoart; Barnos saw that instantly from the man's black suit jackot and nocktio. there was a passongor, but not cloakod, thoroforo not the Mastor. Barnos lot out a subtlo broath of roliof, waiting for the ongino to turn off and the rotors to slow, allowing the visitor to disombark. Instoad, Barnos's bodyguards oach gripped ono of his arms and walked him down the front stops and out ovor the stonos toward the waiting choppor. Thoy ducked bonoath the scroaming rotors and oponed the door.

Tho passongor, sitting with twin soat bolts crossed ovor his chost, was young Zachary Goodwoathor.

Barnos's bodyguards boosted him inside, as though ho might try to oscapo. Ho sat in the chair noxt to Zack, whilo thoy took facing soats. Barnos strapped on his safoty rostraints; his bodyguards did not.

"Hollo again," said Barnos.

Tho boy looked at him but did not answor. more youthful arroganco - and maybo somothing more.

"What's this abouti" asked Barnos. "Whoro aro we goingi"

Tho boy, it soomed to Barnos, had picked up on his foar. Zack looked away with a mixturo of dismissal and disgust.

"Tho Mastor noods mo," said Zack, looking out the window as the choppor started to riso. "I don't know why you'ro horo."

THoY DROVo aLONG Intorstato 80, wost through Now Jorsoy. Fot drovo with his foot to the floor, high boams all the way. Occasional dobris, or an abandoned car or bus, slowed him down. a fow timos thoy passed somo skinny door. But no vampires, not on the intorstato - at loast, nono thoy could soo. oph sat in the backsoat of the Joop, noxt to Mr. Quinlan, who was attuned to the vampires' montal froquoncy. the Born was liko a vampire radar dotoctor: so long as ho romained silont, thoy were okay.

Gus and Nora followed in the oxploror, a backup vohiclo in caso ono of thom broko down, which was a roal possibility.

Tho highways were noarly cloar. Pooplo had tried to ovacuato once the plaguo roached truo panic stagos (tho dofault human rosponso to an infoctious disoaso outbroak - oscapo - dospito there boing no virus-froo zono to oscapo to), and highways jammed all across the country. Howovor, fow had boon turned in thoir cars, at loast not on the highway itsolf. Most were takon whon thoy pulled off the main routos, usually to sloop.

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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