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watch where you point those things."
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He had his sword in his hand, and while there wasn't much in the universe you
could count on, you could count on being able to follow the point of your
sword out into the night.
You had to.
He took the stairs two at a time, then forced himself to slow aown. This
wasn't a time to be tripping down tne stairs and breaking a leg.
The bolt on the outside door was intact, and the landlord's damn dog was
nowhere to be seen. Not that Torrie blamed it. He would rather have been
somewhere else. Almost anywhere else.
He didn't wait for Billy and Maggie he wanted them behind him, not ahead of
him as he pushed on the door. Damn thing had frozen shut; he hit it hard with
his shoulder once, twice, then took a step back and kicked at it, flat-footed,
right under the lock.
Wood splintered and ice cracked as it gave. He had expected the door to fly
open when it gave, but it stuck, again, only a few inches open, probably on
some hunk of ice or snow, so he kicked it again, harder.
As he lunged out into the backyard behind the point of his sword, bright
lights came on overhead, dazzling his eyes. The asshole of a landlord had put
motion-sensor lights not just on the apartment building itself but also on a
post of the backyard fence, although Torrie couldn't imagine why anybody would
want to.
The gate to the fence hung open, which was not the way it had been left
before dark Dad had made sure it was latched and he dashed through, counting
on Maggie and Billy to deal with anything that he had left behind him. There
were times to go slowly and carefully, and there were times when you just had
to launch yourself headfirst into things.
With any luck, this was one of those times.
He slid on ice that lined the wheel ruts of the alley, barely keeping his
balance, riding in and out of the ruts like a skier on a set of moguls, his
feet solidly underneath him. He hadn't questioned why Dad had had them spar
outside sometimes during the winter, but he hadn't thought much about why,
either.
Thanks, Dad.
Dark, backlit faces peered over the edge of the fence across the alley, and
somewhere off in the distance a car alarm was hooting. He held his sword down
and out, the flat of the blade pointing skyward. With no light flashing off it
at them, it was unlikely that the bystanders would even notice that he had a
sword.
But where had the scream come from? He had thought that the sound had come
from down the alley, and he wasn't doing any good standing here freezing in
the cold, so he broke into a quick trot down the alley.
Nothing here, and no sound, other than shouts in the distance, and the
pounding of Maggie's and Billy's feet behind him. He turned. Maggie looked
ghastly pale in the harsh green mercury light, or maybe it wasn't just the
light.
"There," she said, pointing with her free hand, her pistol down at her side,
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hidden behind her right thigh the way Dad had taught her.
"There's something there," she said again, pointing to a pool of shadow in
front of the next apartment's garage door. The only thing that Torrie could
see there was the outline of the large, blocky plastic garbage cans that the
city provided.
Billy was jingling his keys for some reason, but then a flash of light,
strong and actinic, came from his direction, illuminating the shadowed region
under the eaves.
It was silly, but the first thing that registered on Torrie's eyes was the
plastic bag of garbage that had been broken open on the snow-packed ground,
widely scattering eggshells and Melitta filters filled with coffee grounds and
bits of crumpled paper and discarded food.
It was only when Maggie gasped that the gray lump lying on the ground next to
the garage door resolved itself into the shape of a woman, dressed only in the
sort of shapeless gray sweats that nobody seemed to wear in the city, crumpled
and smashed like a broken doll.
There was a dark spot beyond her, beyond the edge of the garage that could be
hiding something, somebody, anything, but when he lunged past her and into it,
yet another one of the motion-sensor lights came on, cutting through the
darkness.
Nothing.
Torrie dropped painfully to his knees on the ice, the woman's still-warm
blood warming his knees and legs. His probing fingers found not only blood but
also flesh, but when he reached through the long hair for the neck, he must
have pulled at her somehow, and she tumbled over onto her back, thick yellow
worms of intestine spewing out and onto the dirty ice, the horrible shit-stink
almost physically pushing him back, gagging.
He only noticed the blue and red lights flashing off the ice and snow and the
garage wall when a loud voice barked, "Police. Don't move.Partner, he's got a
knife."
"Fuck the knife. The other two have guns."
Torrie Thorsen was still rubbing at the red marks on his wrists as he waited
at the battered, aged front-desk counter, resolving to add a handcuff key to
his keyring and sew another one inside the seam on the back of his belt.
He really hadn't liked being handcuffed.
No, that was the polite, Hardwood way to put it the truth was that he hated
it, that it made him feel helpless and furious and it was all he could do to
control himself, even now. It wouldn't have taken a Son to kill him, not with
his hands locked behind his back, leaving him open and vulnerable from toes to
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