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Authors: Tristan Egolf

Kornwolf (48 page)

BOOK: Kornwolf
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Never veering, the vehicle shot through the ecotone, crashing through thickets and limbs. One of its wheels caught a rut in the soil. It launched through the flames on an angle, then came down, kicked to the left, inside of the plot, out of view of the mob, encircled by fire.

Fortunate not to have rammed a chestnut (or to have blown the tanks) coming through, Jack leapt out of his driver's seat. At once, the heat was nearly unbearable. Hiking his collar up past his ears, he darted ahead toward a break in the trees. On every side, he could hear them shouting: “
Get the hell out of there!”—“Crazy!
”—and, one and all: “
Who was that?
”—in a garbled roar. But they wouldn't come after him. Not in these flames. They were out of the picture.

He looked around.

A fallen chestnut lay in the clearing before him, etched in a haze of smoke.

As could only emerge from the starkest reality, there it was. Crouched on the trunk, its outline black in the flaring heat … It was panting. Wild-eyed. It looked to be wounded. And burned …

It was glaring right at him.
Jesus
…

It really
did
look like Richard Nixon.

Jack had spent all evening chasing this thing, always lagging behind by a critical step. He had been all over Lamepeter Town-ship—from Bontrager's home to the Schlabach estate to the Hostler address to Cry in the Dark—and now that he'd found it, the blighted one didn't appear to sense anything different about him.

Good.

This would be tricky enough. In its present condition—wounded, cornered and frightened—it would be at its most dangerous. This would take perfect timing. And accuracy …

And here it came, down the length of the trunk at a scurry, lunging directly for Jack: as quickly as he could sit down on a right-handed bomb up the middle.

The impact was flush.

The blighted one dropped like a sack of apples.

Jack hovered over the motionless figure to make sure it wasn't playing possum.

While doing so, he waited for the pain to creep into his hand. But it never materialized.

He straightened up gradually, breathing.

Scarlet would be impressed.

He That Still Wallops
.

He should have just done this to start with—skipped the formalities and simply abducted the kid. They would have been in much less trouble now, all of them—especially Jarret, the sorry bastard.

As it stood, they were placing themselves at risk of exposure on too many fronts. And if either man were
ever
connected with this, they would both go to prison for years.

In which case, essentially, there was no telling what might become of the boy …

Still, he couldn't be left to die. The Crow was dead. And Jack wasn't God.

The Coach had spent most of the second half of his life atoning for much of the first. And, as part of it, this matter wasn't for him to decide. The rest would be up to Ephraim.

He crept back over to his truck, still shielding his face with his collar. He opened the cab door and reached inside. He dragged out the wolf girdle … Here was the fruit of the farrier's labor: two hundred pounds of iron plating welded into a body harness. Once strapped in, there was nothing alive that could ever bust out of it. Even a kornwolf.

Jack was locking the bridle in place when, above the roar, he heard a sharp, insistent yapping. He looked around.

A spotted terrier was stamping its paws in the dirt before him. It snapped at the blighted one. Then it challenged Jack. It was fearless.

No other creature had braved these flames.

It followed him back to his truck, still yapping.

The bridle was latched and bolted down. The arms and legs were chained to the floor. Jack was moving to lock and bolt the door the moment he noticed the watch …

He didn't know how to believe his eyes. He wouldn't have thought there was anything left to this month, on the whole, that might have surprised him. But here was the damnedest thing he had seen: the blighted one wearing his watch—the watch that had disappeared from his office, the watch he had blamed on Franklin Pendle …

Now
this
would take some figuring out.

Almost choking to death in the meantime, he slammed, locked and bolted the cab. The terrier followed him into the driver's seat.

Of course it did.

Saint Jack.

He turned, craning his neck for a glimpse through the hatch-back window. Already, it stunk.

This young man was in for a wild ride: the next twenty hours would crawl by as a veritable hell on earth of unparalleled intensity: probably the most excruciating ordeal he would ever undergo.

And no walk in the park for Jack either. He had packed ear-plugs, incense and Lysol.

And plenty of Benny Goodman, of course.

And Randy Newman.

And Call of the Whale.

But first, he would have to get out of here: back through the wall of flames without slamming headlong into one of these oaks, or igniting his fuel tanks—or killing some fool on the other side, maybe.

From there, he could make it across the field without snapping an axle, or blowing his tubes—keeping one step ahead of the mob, all the while.

The nearest lane was a hundred yards through the forest, and led directly to the highway.

Once on the road, with a jump on the gun and his mojo in form, he could outrun these honkies …

 

this story never ends …

BOOK: Kornwolf
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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