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Vance had heard an old woman's shout, the sound of rifle fire, and a scream that had made the hairs on the back of his neck do the jitterbug. Now he heard someone running down there-shoes squishing on that shit in the tunnel-and then the choked thunder of Rhodes's voice: "Get me out" The rifle was flung up, but Rhodes held on to the flashlight.

"Colonel?" It was Vance's voice, echoing through the tunnel from behind him. "You okay?" "You okay?" the awful voice in front of him mimicked. "Where you goin', Colonel Matt Rhodes United States Air Force? Love thy neighbor as thyself. Put out that hot wand of hell and let's have us a tea party." The flashlight, Rhodes realized. It's afraid of the flashlight.

Rhodes could stand no more. His nerve snapped, and he fled.

"Colonel?" It was Vance's voice, echoing through the tunnel from behind him. "You okay?" "You okay?" the awful voice in front of him mimicked. "Where you goin', Colonel Matt Rhodes United States Air Force? Love thy neighbor as thyself. Put out that hot wand of hell and let's have us a tea party." The flashlight, Rhodes realized. It's afraid of the flashlight.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

And the light caught something: a figure, jerking in and then out of the beam, way down at the far end of the tunnel.

He backpedaled and fired the rifle. It bucked against his shoulder and almost knocked him flat; the bullet tore a gash across a gray cheek. He fired again, missed, and then the creature that looked like an old woman was charging him, an arm still covering its eyes and its head thrashing with what was either rage or pain.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

He backpedaled and fired the rifle. It bucked against his shoulder and almost knocked him flat; the bullet tore a gash across a gray cheek. He fired again, missed, and then the creature that looked like an old woman was charging him, an arm still covering its eyes and its head thrashing with what was either rage or pain.

He couldn't move, and he feared that if he did break his legs loose from their terror lock and start running, whatever was down there would be on him before he could make it the sixty feet back to where Vance waited.

"God chews up liars and spits 'em out Who is it?" "I don't know," he said, and he began to back away again. The ooze squished underfoot.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

"Naughty boy" the thing shrieked, throwing up one arm over its face and the other swinging viciously at Rhodes.

There was silence, except for a slow dripping noise.

"Colonel?" It was Vance's voice, echoing through the tunnel from behind him. "You okay?" "You okay?" the awful voice in front of him mimicked. "Where you goin', Colonel Matt Rhodes United States Air Force? Love thy neighbor as thyself. Put out that hot wand of hell and let's have us a tea party." The flashlight, Rhodes realized. It's afraid of the flashlight.

Something's down there, he thought. Watching me. I can feel the sonofabitch. Just beyond the light. Waiting.

Rhodes's legs locked up. The breath froze in his lungs.

Rhodes's legs locked up. The breath froze in his lungs.

The thing abruptly turned and, its eyes shielded and back bowed with a dowager's hump, scurried away from Rhodes down the tunnel. It flung itself to the floor, began to frantically dig itself down with feet and fingers, throwing damp dirt backward upon Rhodes. In about five seconds it had burrowed halfway into the earth.

The noise of either digging or tunnel travel again faded away. There was no telling how far this tunnel went-probably all the way under the river to the black pyramid-but Rhodes had seen and heard enough. He could feel the slimy excretion in his hair, and a strand of it was sliding slowly down his neck. It was time to get the hell out.

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

"Praise the Lord" "Step into the light," Rhodes said. "Let me see you." "Hot hot hot" It occurred to him that it might really be an old woman, fallen down here and gone crazy in the darkness.

The thing abruptly turned and, its eyes shielded and back bowed with a dowager's hump, scurried away from Rhodes down the tunnel. It flung itself to the floor, began to frantically dig itself down with feet and fingers, throwing damp dirt backward upon Rhodes. In about five seconds it had burrowed halfway into the earth.

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