Home Chapter 32
“Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum,”
(As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end)
A red beam illuminated the concrete tunnel with a glow that flattened depth but kept Snow’s night vision. He’d need his eyes if he were going hand-to-hand or hand-to-claws again.
He wished for his MCP. Unlike the crimson light of this half-broken headlamp, his thermal goggles wouldn’t give up his location. But they ended their usable life in a river of shit, along with the rest of his gear.
Even if he had them, he might not be able to get them on his face.
That bitch broke his nose.
Snow continued his slow stalking of the underground, coming to an antique gate that swung wide at his pull. In the tunnel ahead, smooth concrete transitioned to carved stone.
As easily as he got through to this new area, he couldn’t deny, he was compromised. Searing shoulder from where the beast-man slashed him, senses hampered—blood-clogged nostrils, though the reek of the sewer somehow snuck past to lodge in his soft palette. His eyes watering on and off from the pain and the stench weren’t great either.
But he could still hear.
“I know you’re out there!” His voice echoed through the branching halls.
For a long breath, nothing in return.
Then a growl.
Snow spun, trying to isolate direction, but the warning rumble seemed to emanate from everywhere, reverberating over the retreating noise of rushing wastewater.
Adrenaline surged, suffusing limbs, speeding heart, and sharpening Snow’s brain out of a haze of pain, energizing the parts of him that only lived in the hunt.
Find her, you find him.
It tracked her, protected her, like Pope said.
And while ogling the freak show, his girlfriend head-butted you before he sliced you up like a wildebeest on the Serengeti.
Thank Christ for his tactical vest and the extra Glock he stashed next to his heart, or the monster would have carved out his spinal cord.
He should leave. Let the beast and his bitch have this round. Fight another day.
A million lessons from the game warned that one pistol with seventeen, no, fifteen rounds, and a few flash-bangs added up to insufficient odds against the real-life Predator who could probably sniff him out in the dark.
Plus, there might be others. The hobo guard with the staff had been easy pickings, but meant the thing wasn’t alone down here.
He should escape, go back the way he came.
Instead, Snow listened.
All quiet on the Western front except for the clanking of some steam pipes.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are. I’m tired of playing ring-around-the-rosy.”
No response this time. Snow walked on.
If he left now to regroup and resupply, Chandler and her demon would flee … disappear.
No, this was the endgame.
“Chandler!” he shouted. “No matter where you hide, I’ll be there.”
Rather than a woman’s pleading in response, a man answered. A voice, deep and graveled as his own, ricocheted off the walls.
“You should not have come here.”
The creature could talk? Will wonders never fucking cease?
“Oh yeah?” Snow replied as he arrived at a junction of two passages. Glock at the ready, he inspected corners and down passageways. “And where is here?”
Keep him talking. Zero in.
“The maze of tunnels and caves beneath the city. A sanctuary—freedom from the madness above.”
Under the city where he learned to stifle his screams and to murder without pity, he would be set free.
No more debts. No more Gabriel.
“You have no power here,” the thing stated. It sounded closer, as if the voice came from the left hall.
Snow went right.
“Really?” he questioned but kept the rest to himself.
I think I shot you. How’s that for power?
Snow scanned behind, then padded forward along a path of descending grade.
“Names are power, Vincent…”
More hollows to check for threats. It was slow going.
“I know about you, not just your name. You’re a hunter like me, a killer.”
Snow inched into another cave, this one with dripping wet walls. He knelt, and even in the muted light, he could discern the impression of spaced, partial footprints in the sand. They told of a frantic run this way.
He raised his head.
“Do you learn their names, Vincent? The ones you kill?”
Will he answer?
Every killer, whether steeped in glory or guilt, appreciated their own significance.
“I know their faces,” the thing wheezed.
Definitely behind him.
A quick look to check his six again, but no movement in the gloom.
He stalked onward and asked, “Do you remember my brother’s face?”
“I remember him, yes.”
Snow stood, pinpointing what he was listening for while the monster kept talking.
“He died because he took her,” the lion man added, but with a pant between sentences. “He underestimated her, just as you have.”
The beast was right.
“I won’t make that mistake again.”
Cathy Chandler was dangerous … but scared, hampered by her spawn … and by the sound of it, Snow wasn’t the only one hurt in their little tussle.
“Do you know who I am?” he called to everyone in earshot. “I’m the cold, I’m the storm, a force of fucking nature. There’s nothing you can do about me. As soon as you accept that, you’re better off.”
The creature held, because of his injuries, or waiting for Snow to drop his guard, or some other reason known only to him. And in the silence between…
A shift of grit.
And over steam knocking through the pipes, he heard a muffled squeal, as if from under a person’s hand.
Snow reached into his vest.
Chandler would fight.
Hell, she might kill.
But she wouldn’t kill her baby to keep it quiet.
Snow lobbed a flash-bang behind him, and then, aiming above the area of the squeak, he shot. The ceiling exploded.
From the shrouding shadows in a hidden fissure, a baby cried.