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datatime: 2022-11-30 05:32:09 Author:RBclsoVo

It took Sister about two more seconds to make up her mind. "Wait a minute" He stopped. "Okay. We'll come with you, Mr.-"

"You broke my screen door," a woman's voice said in the gloom. The pistol did not waver.

"Sounds like the makings of a stew to me. My cabin's about two miles north of here, as the crow flies. If you want to go back with me, you'll be welcome. If not, I'll say have a good trip to Detroit."

"Sounds like the makings of a stew to me. My cabin's about two miles north of here, as the crow flies. If you want to go back with me, you'll be welcome. If not, I'll say have a good trip to Detroit."

Josh had just put his hand on the knob when the door flew open and the barrel of a pistol looked him in the eyes.

Sullivan, Josh thought. Whatever Sullivan had once been, it was dead now.

"Uh... I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't think anybody was here."

"I doubt it," the man countered. "Not from a scratch like that. It'll freeze up pretty soon, but you'll have a blood smell on your clothes. Like I say, they'll come out of the mountains with knives and forks between their teeth. But you do what you want to do; I'm hitting the trail." He shrugged into his pack, wrapped the cord around his shoulder and picked up his rifle. "Take care," he said, and he started gliding across the snowy highway toward the woods.

"Leona" a weak voice called from inside the house. "Leo-" And then it was interrupted by a strangling, terrible spasm of coughing.

Josh was stiff with cold, and he knew Swan must be freezing, too. She held onto that Cookie Monster doll like life itself and occasionally flinched in her tormented sleep. He approached one of the houses but stopped when he saw a body curled up like a question mark on the front porch steps. He headed for the next house, further along and across the road.

"Sounds like the makings of a stew to me. My cabin's about two miles north of here, as the crow flies. If you want to go back with me, you'll be welcome. If not, I'll say have a good trip to Detroit."

Something moved at the corner of his vision. He looked to the side, and something small-a jackrabbit? he wondered-darted out of sight behind the ruins of the caf®¶.

The woman was silent. Josh could see the outline of her head, but not her face; her head angled toward Swan. "A little girl," she said softly. "Oh, my Lord... a little girl..."

The dark town-just a scatter of wind-ravaged buildings and a few widely spaced houses on dusty lots-beckoned him onward. He saw no cars, no hint of light or life. There was a Texaco station with one pump and a garage whose roof had collapsed. A sign flapping back and forth on its hinges advertised TUCKER'S HARDWARE AND FEEDS, but the store's front window was shattered and the place looked bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard. A small caf®¶ had also collapsed, except for the sign that read GOOD EATS Every step an exercise in agony, Josh walked past the crumbled buildings. He saw that dozens of paperback books lay in the dust around him, their pages flipping wildly in the restless hand of the wind, and to the left were the remains of a little clapboard structure with a hand-painted SULLIVAN PUBLIC LIBRARY sign.

They had spent last night in the windbreak of an overturned pick-up truck; bound-up bales of hay had been scattered around, and Josh had lugged them over to build a makeshift shelter that would contain their body heat. Still, they'd been out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wasteland and dead fields, and both of them had dreaded first light because they knew they had to start walking again.

"Uh... I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't think anybody was here."

Josh was stiff with cold, and he knew Swan must be freezing, too. She held onto that Cookie Monster doll like life itself and occasionally flinched in her tormented sleep. He approached one of the houses but stopped when he saw a body curled up like a question mark on the front porch steps. He headed for the next house, further along and across the road.

They had no choice but to hurry after him. Artie looked over his shoulder, terrified of more lurking predators coming up behind him. His ribs ached where the beast had hit him, and his legs felt like short pieces of soft rubber. He and Sister entered the woods after the shuffling figure of the man in the ski mask and left the highway of death behind.

They had spent last night in the windbreak of an overturned pick-up truck; bound-up bales of hay had been scattered around, and Josh had lugged them over to build a makeshift shelter that would contain their body heat. Still, they'd been out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wasteland and dead fields, and both of them had dreaded first light because they knew they had to start walking again.

"Leona" a weak voice called from inside the house. "Leo-" And then it was interrupted by a strangling, terrible spasm of coughing.

"Why'd you think the door was locked, then? This is private property"

Something moved at the corner of his vision. He looked to the side, and something small-a jackrabbit? he wondered-darted out of sight behind the ruins of the caf®¶.

"Why'd you think the door was locked, then? This is private property"

"You broke my screen door," a woman's voice said in the gloom. The pistol did not waver.

The woman was silent. Josh could see the outline of her head, but not her face; her head angled toward Swan. "A little girl," she said softly. "Oh, my Lord... a little girl..."

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