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."Mr.Hollis? Is that a werewolfskunkdeer?" Cecil asked, pointing at something in the woods.Hollis shook his head to clear it.The fantasies were getting more and more real.The medication wasn't working like it should."It's not?" Cecil asked."What are you pointing at, Cecil?""That thing, with the horns.""You mean the tree?""No, the.oh, yeah.The branches looked like horns."And then the transformation began.For real this time? Hollis bit down on the inside of his mouth as hard as he could.It hurt like hell--this was definitely real.Those little bastards were about to see what a true werewolf could do.The scouts stared at him.Their jaws dropped as one.The inside of his cheek was bleeding pretty badly.He shouldn't have bit so hard."That's right," he said."Just like I've been hinting over and over, I am a werewolf! And on this night of the full moon, I shall enjoy a Cub Scout gore feast!"Cecil screamed.Hollis laughed and then, transformation complete, let out the howl of the beast he had become."That's it?" asked Billy."What?""You're not very furry.""My arms are hairy!""Not that hairy.My dad's arms are hairier.""Look at my ears! Those aren't normal ears anymore.Look at my fingernails! And my nose sort of looks like a snout now!""I thought werewolves were supposed to be a lot scarier," said Theolonious."You know what? You kids suck! It's not my fault that the werewolf who bit me didn't break the skin all the way, and that I don't do a complete change! You should still be terrified! When's the last time you saw somebody's fingernails grow a full half-inch within ten seconds? Never, that's when? You've never seen somebody's nose change shape like that!""My sister got hit in the face with a basketball and--""Shut the hell up! I have killed hundreds of Cub Scouts, and if you think your ridiculous werewolfwolfskunkdeermoosepygmy fucker is the height of terror, then you can all just.just." No, no, no, I promised myself I wasn't going to do this again.Please, not again.Don't let it happen again.It happened again.Hollis succumbed to tears.There was a long, uncomfortable silence."Mr.Hollis, can we go home and play Nintendo?""Yes." Mr.Hollis wiped the tears from his eyes."Yes, we can."THE ENDSerialA Bonus Short Story by Blake Crouch & J.A.Konrath1The hardest thing about killing a hitchhiker is finding one to pick up.Donaldson could remember just ten years ago, when interstates boasted a hitcher every ten miles, and a discriminating killer could pick and choose who looked the easiest, the most fun, the juiciest.These days, cops kept the expressways clear of easy marks, and Donaldson was forced to cruise off-ramps, underpasses, and rest areas, prowl back roads, take one hour coffee breaks at oases.Recreational murder was becoming more trouble than it was worth.He'd found this one standing in a Cracker Barrel parking lot.The kid had been obvious, leaning against the cement ashtray near the entrance, an oversize hiking pack strapped to his back.He was approaching every patron leaving the restaurant, practicing his grin between rejections.A ripe plum, ready to pluck.Donaldson didn't even have to initiate contact.He walked in to use the bathroom and strolled out car keys in hand, letting them jingle a bit.The kid solicited him almost immediately."Excuse me, sir.Are you heading up north?"Donaldson stopped, pretending to notice the man for the first time.He was young, maybe mid-twenties.Short, reddish hair, a few freckles on his face, mostly hidden by glasses.His clothing looked worn but of good quality.Donaldson was twice his age, and damn near twice his weight.Donaldson rubbed his chin, which he knew softened his harsh features."In fact I am, son."The boy's eyes lit up, but he kept a lid on his excitement.Any hitcher worth his salt knew to test the waters before sealing the deal."I am, too.If you'd like some company, I can chip in for gas." He hooded his eyes and quickly added, "No funny stuff.I'm just looking for a ride.I was hoping to get to Ogden by midnight.Got family up there.My name's Brett, by the way."Well played, Donaldson thought.Friendly, a little desperate, making clear this wasn't a sexual hookup and that he had people waiting for him.As if any of that would keep him safe."How do I know you're not some psycho?" Donaldson asked.He knew that was pushing it, but he liked the irony."There's a gas station across the street.I can top off the tank, pay with a credit card.All gas stations have cameras these days.Credit card is a paper trail.If anything happens to you, that would link me to your car, and I'd get caught."Smart kid.But not that smart.The really smart ones don't hitchhike."Won't need gas for a few hundred miles." Donaldson took off his Cubs baseball hat, running a hand over his gray, thinning hair.Another way to disarm the victim.No one feared grandfatherly types."Until then, if you promise not to sing any show tunes, you got yourself a ride."Brett smiled, hefted his pack onto his shoulders, and followed his ride into the parking lot.Donaldson unlocked the doors and the kid loaded his pack into the backseat of Donaldson's 2006 black Honda Accord, pausing when he saw the clear plastic covers on the front seats."My dog, Neil, usually rides up front with me," Donaldson said, shrugging."I don't like him messing up the upholstery."Brett flashed skepticism until he noticed the picture taped to the dash: Donaldson and a furry dachshund."Sheds like crazy," Donaldson said."If you buy a dog, stick with short-haired breeds."That was apparently reassurance enough, because Brett climbed in.Donaldson heaved himself into the driver's seat, the car bouncing on its shocks."Buckle up for safety." Donaldson resisted the urge to lick his lips, then released the brake, started the car, and pulled onto the highway.The first ten miles were awkward.Always were.Strangers tended to stay strangers.How often did a person initiate conversation on a plane or while waiting in line? People kept to themselves.It made them feel safe.Donaldson broke the tension by asking the standard questions.Where'd you go to school? What do you do for a living? Where you headed? When'd you start hitchhiking? Invariably, the conversation turned to him."So what's your name?" Brett asked."Donaldson." No point in lying.Brett wouldn't be alive long enough to tell anyone."What do you do, Donaldson?""I'm a courier."Donaldson sipped from the Big Gulp container in the cup holder, taking a hit of caffeinated sugar water.He offered the cup to Brett, who shook his head.Probably worried about germs.Donaldson smiled.That should have been the least of his worries."So you mean you deliver packages?""I deliver anything.Sometimes overnight delivery isn't fast enough, and people are willing to pay a premium to get it same day [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]