[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.Was it Betty Jewell he saw in there or his own daughter — rotting, terrified and strapped to an autopsy trolley?“Where were you coming from?” he asked.“We need to know where you were.”Betty stared at them, wide eyes full of hate and terror.She screamed, one long, ragged note.She stopped only to draw a deep breath, then hit the ragged note again.“Please,” Amos said.“Stop this.We’re trying to help you.”“Amos, that’s enough,” Margaret said.She reached to the control panel and hit a button, sending fifty milligrams of propofol through one of the IV needles taped to Betty’s feet.Amos put both of his gloved hands on the glass.He and Margaret silently watched as Betty’s screams slowed, faded and stopped.“She’s out,” Margaret said.“Then let’s get her wheeled into Trailer A,” Amos said.“I want to operate immediately.”MIXED MESSAGESThe neural net stretched through Betty’s frontal lobe, but it was still very thin.Too thin to send the signal.It needed more connections.For hours Betty’s crawlers had fought the dissolving chain reaction, struggling to reach her brain.The WDE-4-11 injection turned out to be a lifeline for the crawlers — combined with their own apoptosis antidote secretions, it stalled the chain reaction before it grew so bad that they couldn’t even move.As Margaret and Amos wheeled Betty through the collapsible walkway and into the autopsy room, some of the muscle fibers coalesced at the center of her brain, tore themselves to bits and formed a ball.Where Chelsea’s ball of fibers was a thousand microns wide, Betty’s was closer to six hundred, just over half the size.It was enough to send a weak signal.And enough to receive a response.That response signal wasn’t for the crawlers.It was meant for the host.The remaining crawlers stopped producing the apoptosis antidote and started flooding Betty’s brain with neurotransmitters.They had to wake her up, wake her up so she could receive the signal.CHEFFIE’S OPEN DOORNeither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.The phrase is attributed to Herodotus and refers to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire.Many people incorrectly think this is the motto of the United States Postal Service.The phrase is inscribed over the James A.Farley post office in New York City, but it’s not an official slogan.Official or not, John Burkle figured it was a pretty dead-nuts on-target description for driving a white postal truck in weather fifteen goddamn degrees below freezing, complemented by goddamn thirty-mile-per-hour winds that were blowing thin sheets of snow right across the goddamn back roads.Who drives in this weather?Postal workers.That’s who.He drove the truck’s right wheel into a frozen rut in front of the Franklin place.Yesterday this had been a mud puddle filled with chunks of brown ice.That was because it had been fifty degrees for two straight days.If you don’t like the weather in Michigan.John stuffed the Franklins’ mail into their metal mailbox, then drove to the next house.Houses were pretty spaced out around here, at least a couple of acres apart.The next house belonged to Cheffie Jones.Cheffie had always been a little off.Hit in the head in an industrial accident or something.Pretty much kept to himself.Plenty of time to buy shit on eBay, though — John put four small boxes into Cheffie’s supersize mailbox.Sometimes Cheffie came out to get his mail and say hello.John looked toward the house, but didn’t see any movement.He started to drive on, then stopped short and looked back.Was the front door open?It was.He was a good hundred feet away, and it was a little hard to see, but it looked as if something covered in snow was blocking the door.Fifteen below zero, and the front door was open.John put the postal van in park.He reached into his bag and pulled out his Taser.Could be a burglar in there.Did Cheffie have a dog? John couldn’t remember.He had a schedule to keep, but he didn’t feel right ignoring an open door in weather like this.He cautiously approached the house.“Cheffie?” he called.Out here you really didn’t want to approach a house quietly.People took gun rights seriously in northern Michigan.You made a lot of noise and let them know you were coming, so as not to be mistaken for a robber if the home owner was sober, or for a deer if he was exceedingly drunk.The door was open about eight inches.Underneath a light coating of snow, something long and thin and black blocked the door.John walked up on the porch for a closer look.It was a hand.A black, skeletal hand.Despite a thick layer of blue post-office winter wear, John Burkle sprinted back to the van in near-Olympic-qualifying time.BETTY JEWELL’S FACEBetty Jewell picked the worst possible time in the history of mankind to wake up.Eyes still closed, she wondered how many flavors of pain there were.Baskin-Robbins didn’t have shit on her.Stay still.She didn’t know where those words came from.Not her ears.With her ears she heard the clinking of instruments and the muffled voices of a man and a woman.Those voices were connected with one of the new flavors.They were cutting into her face, for fuck’s sake.Agony, pure hell, but was it any worse than the fire rippling through her entire body? Shit, did it even matter which was worse? Either one was enough to make her put a gun in her mouth and pull the trigger if it meant the pain would stop.Betty, you have to save your soul.Her soul? Couldn’t she just save her face? You don’t need a soul for senior pictures.Oh, gawd, did it hurt.So much pain.Kill them, Betty.Kill the people who are hurting you.Then all your pain will go away.That voice.So beautiful.Was it the voice of God? If not, how else could she hear it? But really, it didn’t matter who was speaking, because the voice promised her that the pain would stop.For that, Betty would do anything.Her right cheek rested on a hard pillow.They had put her on her right side, left arm still behind her in the cuff.The man and the woman hovered over her, fucking with her face, her once-beautiful face.She felt them cutting.Which one was hurting her this bad? Dr.Braun? That Mexican bitch? It didn’t matter, they were in it together.They would pay together.She slowly opened just her right eye.She saw nothing but blue.They had covered her face with a napkin or something.It felt as though the napkin also covered her left eye.Could she open it? She decided not to—she had an advantage only as long as they thought she was out.Whatever the napkin was, it didn’t quite reach to the table.If she looked down the table with only her right eye, she could see just under the napkin all the way down her right arm, all the way down to the leather cuff that held her fast [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]