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Deucalion had taken Chrissy with him to Erika’s.


Carson and Michael changed into storm suits and ski boots.


In a zippered pocket of her suit, Carson tucked one of her photos of Scout, where she could get it quickly for a final look if things went bad.


Michael said, “Are you ready?”


She said, “I was born ready.”


They were checking out of the Falls Inn. For the time being, the Jeep Grand Cherokee would be their base of operations.


Before they had realized that Victor was far along in his new venture, when they thought they needed to smoke him out, they had booked the room under their names. Considering everything that had happened since dinner and considering what Deucalion had told them about the fleet of unmarked trucks and the grisly scene at the warehouse, they didn’t need to smoke out Victor. His creations were everywhere around them, and therefore he was everywhere around them. He would be coming for them soon.


Their task now was fourfold: against all odds, to survive, to convince the people of Rainbow Falls of the threat they faced, to fight back, and somehow to alert the world beyond this town that the first battle of Armageddon had begun here.


They had consolidated their spare ammunition, other weapons, and various tools of their trade in one large suitcase, which they stowed in the Jeep.


As Michael closed the tailgate, Carson held out the keys to him. “You want to drive?”


He shook his head. “Bad idea.”


“This might be one of the last times you have a chance.”


“Changing our routine now would be like the British people voting Churchill out of office halfway through World War II. They weren’t that stupid and neither am I.”


In the Cherokee, after Carson started the engine, Michael leaned across the console, put a hand against the back of her head, and drew her to him. Eye to eye, lips to lips, he said, “You know how those New Race people he built in New Orleans each had two hearts? Seems to me like you and I—we have just one. If I die tonight, it’s been a better life than I deserved, just having you.” He kissed her, and she returned the kiss as if it might be their last.


When they pulled apart, she said, “I love you, Michael. My God, do I. But if you ever say anything about dying again, I’ll kick your ass up between your shoulder blades.”


As she put the Jeep in gear, the first snow of the season began to fall. Flakes as big as half-dollars, as intricate as fern fronds, floated down out of the night and trembled across the windshield. To Carson, every flake seemed to be a reassuring omen, proof that out of darkness can come one bright grace after another.


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