The Puffin Book of Horror Stories

By Doris Ross,2014-11-04 17:33
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Published by PENGUIN GROUP (CANADA) on 1995/02/01

     Table of Contents


    1/ Pete Johnson - Secret Terror

    2/ Stephen King - Battleground

    3/ Robert Westall - The Vacancy

    4/ Guy de Maupassant - The Twitch

    5/ Laurence Staig - Freebies

6/ Roald Dahl - Man from the South

    7/ Kenneth Ireland - The Werewolf Mask

    8/ John Gordon - Eels

    9/ Bram Stoker - Jonathan Marker's Journal

    10/ Anthony Horowitz - Bath Night



    1/ Pete Johnson - Secret Terror

    ?? ? ? ??


    ????I've never met you but I know this about you: you're terrified of something. It's no usedenying it. Everyone is. My mum, for instance, is terrified of intruders. That's why our doorsare decorated with a whole variety of locks and chains. There's even a peephole so you canstare at whoever's out there, undetected.

    ????But no lock can stop the intruder I fear. This intruder comes and goes as it pleases. Andwhen it moves, no boards creak under its tread. There's not even the whisper of a sound toalert you where it is.

    ????I can't remember a time when I didn't fear it. But then I was always a very nervous girl.Especially in those years before I went to school. For no one had realized then how short-sighted I was, nor that I was living in a world which was permanently out of focus. It was asif everything was being reflected through one of those distorting mirrors, the ones which twistyou into something hideous.

    ????My eyes were as crazy as those mirrors and as treacherous. And then, when I was four, I wassuddenly left alone in the house. Mum had been rowing with Dad on the phone (a strange,whispered row) and then she'd rushed out saying, 'I'll only be a minute.'

    ????But she was gone for much longer than that. And I sat in the lounge, cold and tired andafraid. What if Mum didn't come back? What if no one came back? Then I saw something new in theroom: a small dark shape, blurred and mysterious. And then, the dark shape ran across the room.

    ????I don't think I'll ever forget the speed with which it ran or its sudden, jerky movements.And before I knew what was happening it was on me, crawling over my feet. I screamed eventhough the house was empty. And finally my screams were so piercing a neighbour charged inthrough the back door. Then my mum returned and, a bit later, the doctor came too, because Icouldn't stop shivering. He said I was in a state of shock. Well, why wouldn't I be? A lump ofdust had turned into a spider.

    ????That was how I overcame all my objections to wearing glasses. I had to know if lurking inthe darkest shadows was another spider. At least, armed with my glasses, I could now identifymy enemy.

    ????Except when I was in bed at night. One time I saw a spider climbing across my bedroomceiling. At once I called for my mum. She couldn't see it and said I was letting my imaginationrun away with me. But she didn't look for very long. And afterwards I thought, what if thespider is still somewhere in my room, nicely camouflaged for now, but later… later when I'masleep it could scurry out of the darkness and continue its climb and perhaps even drop off theceiling - spiders often do that - and on to my bed. And I'd never know. I'd only feel it as itcrawled up my neck and on to my face. To wake up and feel its spindly legs scuttling over yourface - I can't think of a worse terror.

    ????I remember one evening when I was watching a James Bond film round at a friend's house: theone where a tarantula crawls over Bond and he has to just lie there, sweating like crazy, untilthe thing moves off him. And I was horror-struck, not at the prospect of the tarantula bitinghim, but because he had to stay completely still while a giant spider crawled over him.

    ????I just ran out of the house. My friend's mum rang home and unfortunately, my new stepfatheranswered. And after hearing about this incident, my vile stepfather decided he'd prove to methat spiders can't do any harm. So one evening, just as I was finishing drying the dishes, hesuddenly yelled, 'Catch, Clare,' and threw a spider right at me. Even now I can taste the utterpanic and terror I felt then. My mum said the spider had never actually landed on me but no onewas really sure where it went. It seemed to just disappear. For days, weeks afterwards I'd wakeup convinced the spider was still somewhere on my body.

    ????Happily my stepfather left us shortly afterwards and was replaced later by a stepfather Icall Roger, who, whenever I sighted a spider, understood that he had to search properly for iteverywhere. No, both he and my mum were very sympathetic. Although occasionally I could seethem looking at me questioningly. And I knew they were wondering, is she just putting all thison to gain attention? But something, perhaps something in my eyes, always stopped them accusingme of faking.

    ????As I got older, into my teens, my fear of spiders remained. Only now my reaction to thespiders scared me almost as much as the spiders themselves. For I couldn't seem able to controlthis fear. And I did try.

    ????I sat down and tried to analyse what it was about spiders I hated so much. Was it theirvery thin legs or squelchy bodies? Or the fact that they were boneless? (I sometimes wonder howI know all this when I've never got that near to one, nor can even bear to look at one.) Forsome unknown reason it seems to be only spiders that inspire such blind terror in me.

    ????More recently, some friends tried a kind of aversion therapy on me. They kept emphasizingthe positive side of spiders. They told me how good spiders were at catching flies, forinstance. And flies spread diseases, unlike spiders. So really, spiders are protecting us fromdiseases.

    ????Someone even tried to make me feel sorry for spiders. 'Think,' she said. 'That spider youkilled was probably a parent and now his poor baby spiders are fatherless or motherless. Nexttime you see a spider, think of its children.'

    ????But I knew I could no more think of a spider as a parent, than I could an evil spirit. YetI pretended to go along with it, for I was becoming more and more ashamed of my fear. Andalthough no one ever said anything, I knew what they were thinking: fancy being scared of

    spiders at her age! And the fact that this fear never left me made it more and more sinister.Was there some deep, dark reason for it? Freud would probably say it pointed to some kind ofsexual hangup. Or perhaps I was just plain neurotic.

    ????Besides, being scared of spiders was such a girly thing. And I am, I suppose, a semi-feminist. I've certainly always despised women who jump on tables and chairs and scream loudlyif they see a mouse. Yet, to other people, I must seem as moronic. That's why I tried to burymy fear away. I stopped talking about it and oddly enough I stopped seeing spiders, too. Soeveryone gradually forgot about it. Even my mum assumed it had vanished away as childhood fearsoften do.

    ????Then one evening, shortly after my sixteenth birthday, my mum and Roger went out to adinner-dance. And they were staying at the hotel overnight so they could both drink and makemerry (though they never told me that was the reason). I'd originally planned to have somefriends visit but I was still getting over flu, so I said I'd just have a bath and an earlynight instead.

    ????My mum left me a list of instructions headed by, 'Lock yourself in and keep the chain onthe door'. And before I took my bath I did just that, even checking the locks on the windows.There's something about being in the bath that makes you feel especially vulnerable, isn'tthere?

    ????Then I went upstairs. I was already a bit drowsy and my head felt heavy. I decided I'd onlyhave a quick bath tonight. But first I'd lie down on my bed for a minute.

    ????When I woke up the room was covered in darkness. It was two o'clock. I'd slept for nearlyfour hours. And now it felt all stuffy. I had this full throbbing pain in my head. I bet Iwouldn't get off to sleep again for ages. So I decided the best thing would be to have my bathnow. I wouldn't stay in the bath long, just long enough for that lovely, tired feeling bathsalways give me to soak in.

    ????I put on my robe, went into the bathroom, switched on the light and put on the wall heater.The bathroom window's made of pebbled glass, so all I could see was the night's darkness,transformed into something strange and distorted. But I could also hear the rain patteringagainst the glass and the wind whistling tunelessly. A cold, unfriendly night. A night to sleepthrough.

    ????I bent down just to test the water was hot enough; I hate lukewarm baths. I stretched myhand out and then shrank back in terror.

    ????I'd almost touched it. If I'd put my hand down just a couple of centimetres more I wouldhave touched it. I would have touched the largest black spider I'd ever seen.

    ????For a moment I stood completely still, numb with disbelief. I hadn't seen a spider formonths, years. I'd assumed they'd disappeared from my life now, and their terror couldn't reachme anymore. For I was sixteen, an adult. But as I backed out of the bathroom and into mybedroom I felt myself dwindling away into a small, terrified girl again. Had I really just seena spider? Or was my flu making me hallucinate? For that spider was so huge it could only havejumped out of one of my nightmares. For years it had hidden itself in the darkest corners of mymind just waiting to come back, stronger than ever, to possess me.

    ????No. Stop. I had to try and be rational about this. Just how had the spider got into thebath? I'd always assumed its only way into the bath was through the drainpipe. That's why everymorning I'd check the plug was in the bath. I did it without thinking, a kind of reflex act,like locking the front door after you. So it can't have got in that way.

    ????Well then, it must have just dropped into the bath from the window ledge. Unless - Isuddenly remembered Mum had had a bath just before she went out. And I'm sure she left a towelhanging over the edge of the bath, something I would never ever do.

    ????Any second it could climb out of that bath again, down the towel and start running - where?Any second it could scuttle under the bathroom door and into my bedroom. Any second. And therewas nothing I could do. Unless I got someone to kill it.

    ????I scrambled into my jeans, then immediately hurled them off again. A spider could be lyingsomewhere in there. They often crawl into clothes. I shook the jeans hard. Then I got dressedagain and rushed downstairs. My plan was to charge into the street and call for help. But evenas I stared at the chains I heard Mum's voice, 'The world's full of murderers and rapists,' andsaw the newspaper articles she was always showing me of girls attacked at night. I swayedbackwards.

    ????For a moment I felt as if I was going to pass out. Flu does that to you. It creeps back onyou again when you're least expecting it. No, I couldn't go out there. But I could ring someonefor help, couldn't I? Like Alison, my best friend. She'd understand. She knows how much I fearspiders. Well, she did.

    ????Her phone rang for ages and I was about to put it down when I heard her mother say, 'Yes?'

    ????'Hello,' I said. I didn't know how to begin.

    ????'Who is this? You've woken the whole house up.' Her voice was ice, a block of ice. And Iknew I couldn't explain anything to that voice.

    ????However, talking to a voice several degrees below freezing did help me in a way. For as Iclicked the phone down, I suddenly had an idea. Something I could do alone. And for the firsttime that evening I even released a grim smile.

    ????The terror was still there. But I was struggling to the surface of it now. I marched backupstairs and I stood outside the bathroom door. Then I thought, what if the spider's not in thebath anymore? What if it's… I swatted these fears away. There was a good chance the spider wasstill in the bath. After all, spiders can sit motionless in the same spot for hours. And if itwasn't in the bath any more - well, at least I'd know.

    ????I banged open the bathroom door, the way Mum did years ago when she thought she heardintruders downstairs. And I was about to switch the light on - when I remembered what a mistakethat could be. Insects are drawn to the light. And I didn't want the spider suddenly to startmoving about. Not now.

    ????I crept towards the bath. It was pitch dark in there, just as if the whole room was heldbeneath the spider's shadow. And there it was, so nearly camouflaged beneath its giant shadowand so completely still that you'd never know it was there. But I knew. I could almost hear itbreathing.

    ????Yet, soon, very soon, this spider will terrify me no longer.

    ????First, I slowly and carefully took the towel off the bath. Next, I switched the hot-watertap full on. The water gushed out fiercely, quickly filling the bath. And all of a sudden thespider was moving. It was trying to scramble out of the bath. Almost instinctively I backedaway. But the water was too fast for it. It could only bob along on the side of the bath. Andthen it started shrinking into a ball, until finally it looked exactly like what I'd firstmistaken it for all those years ago - a large speck of dust. It was disappearing now, becomingsmaller and smaller. I edged closer to the bath. Were its legs falling off? I think they were.There were little black specks in the bath now, anyway. Afterwards I really would have to cleanthat bath out.

    ????I turned away. Now I could almost smell the spider's decomposing body. There was a horribledank smell in here, just as if I were in an old case full of rotting… I turned back. I didn'tneed to look at the spider now. It would be no more than a black speck. I unplugged the water.And now the water will carry it away forever. I listened to the water gurgling out. Tonight itseemed a friendly, reassuring sound reminding me of bathtimes with warm radiators and Mumcalling, 'Now dry yourself properly. You'll get rheumatism if you rush your drying.' How safe Ifelt then. If only I could go back. If only I wasn't awake now.

    ????I darted a glance at the spider, then I gaped in disbelief. The spider was moving. Itstarted unfurling itself like a tiny ball of wool, growing bigger and bigger. It hadn't drownedat all. Once again it had cheated me. Once again it had won.

    ????It was scuttling about in the bath now, quickly, and confidently, while I raced around thebathroom too, desperately trying to think what to do next. My head felt hot and throbbing. Ishould be in bed, resting. But how can I rest when this thing is roaming about the house? Ilooked at my watch. Only half-past two. Hours and hours yet before morning. Oh, what could Ido?

    ????Suddenly I charged downstairs. I had one last desperate plan. I ran into the kitchen andfilled two jugs so full of water I spilt half on the way up the stairs again.

    ????I picked up my first jug and let the water tumble out behind the spider. My idea was thatthe force of the water would push the spider down the plug hole. And it worked. Partly. Thewater carried the spider about half-way down the bath. So straightaway I poured the secondjugful behind the spider, which was by now tightly curled up in a ball. And the water forced itright up to the hole. One more jugful should send it hurtling down the plug hole.

    ????But then I remembered something. In a lot of drains there's a little ledge where spiderssit waiting to come back again. I imagined that spider unfurling itself and then sneaking backinto the bathroom again. Once more I started shaking but this time more with anger. I didn'twant this fear any more. But I couldn't lose it. Perhaps I'd never lose it.

    ????Yes, I could. Suddenly I flung open the bathroom window, pulled off about half a metre ofloo paper and scooped up the spider. I did all this in about ten seconds flat, moving as if I'dbeen pushed into the wrong speed.

    ????'Hold in there,' I said to myself. 'All you have to do now is throw the thing out of thewindow.' I took careful aim, holding the paper right by my ear, as I'm not a very good shot,while furiously crunching the paper tighter and tighter. Then I hurled the loo paper right outof the window and watched it plunge on to the back garden like some deformed kite. Tomorrow, nodoubt, my stepdad would want to know why there was a roll of toilet paper on the back garden. Ifound myself smiling. Who cared about that! I was free of it at last. I was free. I evenstarted feeling a bit proud of myself.

    ????Soon I was too exhausted to stay awake very long. I crashed out on the top of my bed andimmediately I was asleep and dreaming of a dead bird. I had seen it one morning on the road,lying there all shrivelled up. But that was years ago. I was at primary school. Yet, here itwas again. Did nothing ever get lost?

    ????And then I saw something crawling out of the bird's eye…

    ????It was such a relief to wake up, even though I was sweating like crazy and I had thisstrange tickling sensation in my hair.

    ????I was still half asleep, wasn't I, tasting the last moments of my nightmare? How couldanything be in my hair? Unless… An image flashed through my mind of me holding the loo rolljust under my ear, close enough for something to spring on to my face and…

    ????And I started to scream. And soon I heard people hammering on the front door calling myname, just like they had all those years before. Only this time they'd never be able to get in.This time no one can help me.

    ????And then I felt a strange tickling sensation creeping down my face.



    2/ Stephen King - Battleground

?? ? ? ??


    ????'Mr Renshaw?'

    ????The desk clerk's voice caught him half-way to the elevator, and Renshaw turned backimpatiently, shifting his flight bag from one hand to the other. The envelope in his coatpocket, stuffed with twenties and fifties, crackled heavily. The job had gone well and the payhad been excellent - even after the Organization's 15 per cent finder's fee had been skimmedoff the top. Now all he wanted was a hot shower and a gin and tonic and sleep.

    ????'What is it?'

    ????'Package, sir. Would you sign the slip?'

    ????Renshaw signed and looked thoughtfully at the rectangular package. His name and thebuilding's address were written on the gummed label in a spiky backhand script that seemedfamiliar. He rocked the package on the imitation-marble surface of the desk, and somethingclanked faintly inside.

    ????'Should I have that sent up, Mr Renshaw?'

    ????'No, I've got it.' It was about eighteen inches on a side and fitted clumsily under hisarm. He put it on the plush carpet that covered the elevator floor and twisted his key in thepenthouse slot above the regular rack of buttons. The car rose smoothly and silently. He closedhis eyes and let the job replay itself on the dark screen of his mind.

    ????First, as always, a call from Cal Bates: 'You available, Johnny?'

    ????He was available twice a year, minimum fee $10,000. He was very good, very reliable, butwhat his customers really paid for was the infallible predator's talent. John Renshaw was ahuman hawk, constructed by both genetics and environment to do two things superbly: kill andsurvive.

    ????After Bates's call, a buff-coloured envelope appeared in Renshaw's box. A name, an address,a photograph. All committed to memory; then down the garbage disposal with the ashes ofenvelope and contents.

    ????This time the face had been that of a sallow Miami businessman named Hans Morris, founderand owner of the Morris Toy Company. Someone had wanted Morris out of the way and had gone tothe Organization. The Organization, in the person of Calvin Bates, had talked to John Renshaw.

Pow . Mourners please omit flowers.

    ????The doors slid open, he picked up his package and stepped out. He unlocked the suite andstepped in. At this time of day, just after 3 p.m., the spacious living-room was splashed withApril sunshine. He paused for a moment, enjoying it, then put the package on the end table bythe door and loosened his tie. He dropped the envelope on top of it and walked over to theterrace.

    ????He pushed open the sliding glass door and stepped out. It was cold, and the wind knifedthrough his thin topcoat. Yet he paused a moment, looking over the city the way a general mightsurvey a captured country. Traffic crawled beetlelike in the streets. Far away, almost buriedin the golden afternoon haze, the Bay Bridge glittered like a madman's mirage. To the east, allbut lost behind the downtown high rises, the crammed and dirty tenements with their stainless-steel forests of TV aerials. It was better up here. Better than in the gutters.

    ????He went back inside, slid the door closed, and went into the bathroom for a long, hotshower.

    ????When he sat down forty minutes later to regard his package, drink in hand, the shadows hadmarched half-way across the wine-coloured carpet and the best of the afternoon was past.

    ???? It was a bomb.

    ????Of course it wasn't, but one proceeded as if it were. That was why one had remained uprightand taking nourishment while so many others had gone to that great unemployment office in thesky.

    ????If it was a bomb, it was clockless. It sat utterly silent; bland and enigmatic. Plastiquewas more likely these days, anyway. Less temperamental than the clock-springs manufactured byWestclox and Big Ben.

    ????Renshaw looked at the postmark. Miami, 15 April. Five days ago. So the bomb was not time-set. It would have gone off in the hotel safe in that case.

    ????Miami. Yes. And that spiky backhand writing. There had been a framed photograph on thesallow businessman's desk. The photo had been of an even sallower old crone wearing a babushka.The script slanted across the bottom had read: 'Best from your number-one idea girl - Mom.'

    ????What kind of a number-one idea is this, Mom? A do-it-yourself extermination kit?

    ????He regarded the package with complete concentration, not moving, his hands folded.Extraneous questions, such as how Morris's number-one idea girl might have discovered hisaddress, did not occur to him. They were for later, for Cal Bates. Unimportant now.

    ????With a sudden, almost absent move, he took a small celluloid calendar out of his wallet andinserted it deftly under the twine that crisscrossed the brown paper. He slid it under theScotch tape that held one end flap. The flap came loose, relaxing against the twine.

    ????He paused for a time, observing, then leaned close and sniffed. Cardboard, paper, string.Nothing more. He walked around the box, squatted easily on his haunches, and repeated theprocess. Twilight was invading his apartment with grey, shadowy fingers.

    ????One of the flaps popped free of the restraining twine, showing a dull green box beneath.Metal. Hinged. He produced a pocket knife and cut the twine. It fell away, and a few helpingprods with the tip of the knife revealed the box.

    ????It was green with black markings, and stencilled on the front in white letters were thewords: G I Joe Vietnam footlocker. Below that: 20 Infantrymen, 10 Helicopters, 2 BAR Men, 2Bazooka Men, 2 Medics, 4 Jeeps. Below that: a flag decal. Below that, in the corner: Morris ToyCompany, Miami, Fla.

    ????He reached out to touch it, then withdrew his hand. Something inside the footlocker hadmoved.

    ????Renshaw stood up, not hurrying, and backed across the room towards the kitchen and thehall. He snapped on the lights.

    ????The Vietnam Footlocker was rocking, making the brown paper beneath it rattle. It suddenlyoverbalanced and fell to the carpet with a soft thud, landing on one end. The hinged top openeda crack of perhaps two inches.

    ????Tiny foot soldiers, about an inch and a half tall, began to crawl out. Renshaw watchedthem, unblinking. His mind made no effort to cope with the real or unreal aspect of what he wasseeing - only with the possible consequences for his survival.

    ????The soldiers were wearing minuscule army fatigues, helmets, and field packs. Tiny carbineswere slung across their shoulders. Two of them looked briefly across the room at Renshaw. Theireyes, no bigger than pencil points, glittered.

    ????Five, ten, twelve, then all twenty. One of them was gesturing, ordering the others. Theylined themselves up along the crack that the fall had produced and began to push. The crackbegan to widen.

    ????Renshaw picked one of the large pillows off the couch and began to walk towards them. Thecommanding officer turned and gestured. The others whirled and unslung their carbines. Therewere tiny, almost delicate popping sounds, and Renshaw felt suddenly as if he had been stung bybees.

    ????He threw the pillow. It struck them, knocking them sprawling, then hit the box and knockedit wide open. Insectlike, with a faint, high whirring noise like chiggers, a cloud of miniaturehelicopters, painted jungle green, rose out of the box.

    ????Tiny phut! phut! sounds reached Renshaw's ears and he saw pinprick-sized muzzle flashescoming from the open copter doors. Needles pricked his belly, his right arm, the side of hisneck. He clawed out and got one - sudden pain in his fingers; blood welling. The whirlingblades had chopped them to the bone in diagonal scarlet hash marks. The others whirled out ofrange, circling him like horseflies. The stricken copter thumped to the rug and lay still.

    ????Sudden excruciating pain in his foot made him cry out. One of the foot soldiers wasstanding on his shoe and bayoneting his ankle. The tiny face looked up, painted and grinning.

    ????Renshaw kicked at it and the tiny body flew across the room to splatter on the wall. It didnot leave blood but a viscid purple smear.

    ????There was a tiny, coughing explosion and blinding agony ripped his thigh. One of thebazooka men had come out of the footlocker. A small curl of smoke rose lazily from his weapon.Renshaw looked down at his leg and saw a blackened, smoking hole in his pants the size of aquarter. The flesh beneath was charred.

    ???? The little bastard shot me!

    ????He turned and ran into the hall, then into his bedroom. One of the helicopters buzzed pasthis cheek, blades whirring busily. The small stutter of a BAR. Then it darted away.

    ????The gun beneath his pillow was a.44 Magnum, big enough to put a hole the size of two fiststhrough anything it hit. Renshaw turned, holding the pistol in both hands. He realized coollythat he would be shooting at a moving target not much bigger than a flying light bulb.

    ????Two of the copters whirred in. Sitting on the bed, Renshaw fired once. One of thehelicopters exploded into nothingness. That's two, he thought. He drew a bead on the second…squeezed the trigger…

    ???? It jigged! Goddamnit, it jigged!

    ????The helicopter swooped at him in a sudden deadly arc, fore and aft overhead props whirringwith blinding speed. Renshaw caught a glimpse of one of the BAR men crouched at the open baydoor, firing his weapon in short, deadly bursts, and then he threw himself to the floor androlled.

    ???? My eyes, the bastard was going for my eyes!

    ????He came up on his back at the far wall, the gun held at chest level. But the copter wasretreating. It seemed to pause for a moment, and dip in recognition of Renshaw's superiorfirepower. Then it was gone, back towards the living-room.

    ????Renshaw got up, wincing as his weight came down on the wounded leg. It was bleeding freely.And why not? he thought grimly. It's not everybody who gets hit point-blank with a bazookashell and lives to tell about it.

    ????So Mom was his number-one idea girl, was she? She was all that and a bit more.

    ????He shook a pillowcase free of the tick and ripped it into a bandage for his leg, then tookhis shaving mirror from the bureau and went to the hallway door. Kneeling, he shoved it out onto the carpet at an angle and peered in.

    ????They were bivouacking by the footlocker, damned if they weren't. Miniature soldiers ranhither and thither, setting up tents. Jeeps two inches high raced about importantly. A medicwas working over the soldier Renshaw had kicked. The remaining eight copters flew in aprotective swarm overhead, at coffee-table level.

    ????Suddenly they became aware of the mirror, and three of the foot soldiers dropped to one

    Okay, okay, then.knee and began firing. Seconds later the mirror shattered in four places.

    ????Renshaw went back to the bureau and got the heavy mahogany odds-and-ends box Linda hadgiven him for Christmas. He hefted it once, nodded, and went to the doorway and lunged through.He wound up and fired like a pitcher throwing a fast ball. The box described a swift, truevector and smashed little men like ninepins. One of the jeeps rolled over twice. Renshawadvanced to the doorway of the living room, sighted on one of the sprawling soldiers, and gaveit to him.

    ????Several of the others had recovered. Some were kneeling and firing formally. Others hadtaken cover. Still others had retreated back into the footlocker.

    ????The bee stings began to pepper his legs and torso, but none reached higher than his ribcage. Perhaps the range was too great. It didn't matter; he had no intention of being turnedaway. This was it.

    ????He missed with his next shot - they were so goddamn small - but the following one sentanother soldier into a broken sprawl.

    ????The copters were buzzing towards him ferociously. Now the tiny bullets began to splat intohis face, above and below his eyes. He potted the lead copter, then the second. Jagged streaksof pain silvered his vision.

    ????The remaining six split into two retreating wings. His face was wet with blood and heswiped at it with his forearm. He was ready to start firing again when he paused. The soldierswho had retreated inside the footlocker were trundling something out. Something that lookedlike…

    ????There was a blinding sizzle of yellow fire, and a sudden gout of wood and plaster explodedfrom the wall to his left.

    ???? … a rocket launcher!

    ????He squeezed off one shot at it, missed, wheeled and ran for the bathroom at the far end ofthe corridor. He slammed the door and locked it. In the bathroom mirror an Indian was staringback at him with dazed and haunted eyes, a battle-crazed Indian with thin streamers of redpaint drawn from holes no bigger than grains of pepper. A ragged flap of skin dangled from onecheek. There was a gouged furrow in his neck.

    ???? I'm losing!

    ????He ran a shaking hand through his hair. The front door was cut off. So was the phone andthe kitchen extension. They had a god-damn rocket launcher and a direct hit would tear his headoff.

    ???? Damn it, that wasn't even listed on the box!

    ????He started to draw in a long breath and let it out in a sudden grunt as a fist-sizedsection of the door blew in with a charred burst of wood. Tiny flames glowed briefly around theragged edges of the hole, and he saw the brilliant flash as they launched another round. Morewood blew inward, scattering burning slivers on the bathroom rug. He stamped them out and two

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