Murray Longworth’s desk intercom buzzed softly. He pressed the “talk” button.
“What is it, Victor?”
“Sir, I thought you’d want to know that something came in over the web.”
Murray felt his pulse quicken. “When?”
“Less than an hour ago, sir.”
“Where is the client?”
“Ann Arbor, Michigan, sir.”
“Bring me the info immediately.”
Victor entered the office with a sealed folder. The computer boys were under strict orders to print any web info that came through, then delete all traces of the data from the system. Murray didn’t like using the Internet, but he agreed with Montoya that it was one way to possibly reach victims without raising the press’s attention. Apparently the hunch had paid off.
Victor left the room, and Murray broke the seal.
Ann Arbor, Michigan. Perry Dawsey. Dew was already there, had already had a run-in with one of the infected freaks, as had Otto and Margaret. It was a slam-dunk home run. Margaret’s work had put Dew close. Dawsey listed no contacts — that was good. That made things easier. Apartment complex — that wasn’t good. No description of Dawsey’s condition.
Dew was already there. So was Margaret, and she had an analysis facility ready and waiting. Finally, it was the break that Murray needed.
THE TRUTH The voice tickled his thoughts, teased his muddled mind.
Wh e r e a r e they?
It was the voice of the Triangles: mechanical, and yet still alive.
Are yo u there? Anoth e r i s missing.
The voice of the Triangles, and yet it was different. Somehow almost . . . feminine. Not a woman’s voice, but a woman’s concern, a woman’s depth of feeling.
Why don’t they answer?
Wh e r e are they?.
His eyes fluttered sleepily. The voice was something important, something he knew he needed to think about. The pain hung on his body like a weighted suit. Every inch seemed to throb and pulse in a muted symphony of complaint.
They won’t make it,they won’t make it, he i s too strong.
Perry blinked again, clawing his way to consciousness. Triangles, but not his. Were these the ones his own infectors had mentioned when they said that strange phrase: we do that without telephones talk to Triangles.
He felt the Three Stooges stirring. The female voice faded away. Perry wasn’t ready to get up. He lay on the couch, weight on his left side, wondering if he should just spend the rest of his life there, on his good side, not bothering to get up and suffer any more pain or wonder what fabulous secret the Stooges might deal out next.
His ass still burned; it felt as if he were still sitting on the stove. A truly nasty smell filled the air. So this is what burning human flesh smells like? Wonderful. There was another smell, something more pungent, more . . . dead-smelling. But it wafted in and out and couldn’t compete with the all-encompassing smell of Perry’s Home-Cooked Rump Roast.
Why do y ou figh t us?
And there they were. No mistaking that voice. Male, arrogant, bossy.
His own beloved Triangles.
“Who was that other voice?” Perry asked, ignoring their question.
“There’s someone else infected, isn’t there? Who is it? Does he live in
We won ’ t tell y ou.
Why do y ou keep killing us? W e ’ r e the only ones who can sav e yo u now.
“What the hell are you talking about? Save me? I know I’m as good as
No , it ’ s the others who want to kill y ou, not us. N ot us , P err y . W e would nev er hur t you. The Triangles weren’t trying to kill him? Bullshit. They were going to
burrow out his insides and wear him like a coat, or take over his mind
and dance him around the street like a fucking human Muppet.
S o meone is coming.Is it Columbo?
Perry heard nothing. Was their hearing better than his? How strong were they now?
“You hear someone out in the hall? Is it the neighbor who was here before?”
N o . F ootsteps are
lighter, it’s Columbo
“It’s not Columbo!”
Perry painfully picked himself up off the couch, using the table to help him stand. Every movement brought fresh waves of pain. “Why the hell do the police scare you so bad?”
B ecause the y ar e co m ing
to get us.
M en ar e looking for us, to kill us . Why don ’ t y ou understand?
“Take it easy. Don’t get excited and start screaming in my head again, okay?” Perry breathed slowly. He tried to project his calmness, hoping that if the Triangles could overflow emotion into him, he could do the same in reverse. “Why do you think they’re coming to get you now?”
D on ’ t y ou get it? If the y kill y ou, the y kill us.
It hit him like a bullet between the eyes.
Perry’s analytical process stopped dead-still as the truth suddenly rocked home. The truth that had been there from the start, and all he’d had to do was ask.
The Soldiers weren’t coming to save him.
They were coming to kill him.
To keep the Triangle larvae from hatching. It made perfect sense, although part of his mind still fought against it. If the Soldiers wanted to kill him, then there was truly no way out, no escape, no chance.
He talked in barely a whisper. “Do you mean . . . do you mean that the Soldiers are coming to kill me?”
Yes y es stupid!
Yes coming to kill YOU!
He was fucked. He was completely and utterly fucked. The Triangles