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He couldn't move, and he feared that if he did break his legs loose from their terror lock and start running, whatever was down there would be on him before he could make it the sixty feet back to where Vance waited.

He couldn't move, and he feared that if he did break his legs loose from their terror lock and start running, whatever was down there would be on him before he could make it the sixty feet back to where Vance waited.

He jammed the rifle barrel right up against the crook of the thing's elbow and pulled the trigger. Pulled it again. And again, and this time wrenched his arm away from her. There was a roar coming from the creature's mouth like air through a cracked steampipe.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

"Naughty boy" the thing shrieked, throwing up one arm over its face and the other swinging viciously at Rhodes.

"Naughty boy" the thing shrieked, throwing up one arm over its face and the other swinging viciously at Rhodes.

And the light caught something: a figure, jerking in and then out of the beam, way down at the far end of the tunnel.

He retreated, the light's beam spearing along the tunnel in front of him.

The thing's other hand closed on his left wrist. Two metal nails winnowed into his skin, and he knew that if he lost the light he was finished. He heard himself scream; the hand had a terrible, crushing power in it, and his wrist felt as if it was about to break.

And then a voice. An old woman's voice, singing: "Jeeesus loves the little chillllldren, allllll the chillllldren in the worrrlllld...." "Who's there?" Rhodes called. His voice shook. Smart move

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

Vance had heard an old woman's shout, the sound of rifle fire, and a scream that had made the hairs on the back of his neck do the jitterbug. Now he heard someone running down there-shoes squishing on that shit in the tunnel-and then the choked thunder of Rhodes's voice: "Get me out" The rifle was flung up, but Rhodes held on to the flashlight.

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

"Colonel?" It was Vance's voice, echoing through the tunnel from behind him. "You okay?" "You okay?" the awful voice in front of him mimicked. "Where you goin', Colonel Matt Rhodes United States Air Force? Love thy neighbor as thyself. Put out that hot wand of hell and let's have us a tea party." The flashlight, Rhodes realized. It's afraid of the flashlight.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

The flashlight's beam trembled. He aimed the rifle's barrel down the tunnel.

"I'm Colonel Matt Rhodes, United States Air Force" he said. "Who are you?" The silence stretched. He sensed a figure, standing just beyond the light. "God don't like naughty boys," the old woman's voice answered. "Don't like liars, neither. Who's the guardian?" It was the question that Vance had told Rhodes the Dodge Creech creature had asked, and now the colonel knew for sure it was no crazy old lady down there in the dark.

He couldn't move, and he feared that if he did break his legs loose from their terror lock and start running, whatever was down there would be on him before he could make it the sixty feet back to where Vance waited.

Vance had heard an old woman's shout, the sound of rifle fire, and a scream that had made the hairs on the back of his neck do the jitterbug. Now he heard someone running down there-shoes squishing on that shit in the tunnel-and then the choked thunder of Rhodes's voice: "Get me out" The rifle was flung up, but Rhodes held on to the flashlight.

He jammed the rifle barrel right up against the crook of the thing's elbow and pulled the trigger. Pulled it again. And again, and this time wrenched his arm away from her. There was a roar coming from the creature's mouth like air through a cracked steampipe.

And in the next instant there was the crack of earth splitting open and he whirled to see a flurry of dirt erupt in front of him and two gaunt arms with metallic saw-edged fingernails coming up from the floor. The thing scuttled up like a roach, white hair red with Texas dirt and flower-print press hanging in slimy tatters, the old woman's face slick and shining. Needle teeth glinted like blue fire in its mouth as Rhodes thrust the flashlight right into the dead and staring eyeballs.

The noise of either digging or tunnel travel again faded away. There was no telling how far this tunnel went-probably all the way under the river to the black pyramid-but Rhodes had seen and heard enough. He could feel the slimy excretion in his hair, and a strand of it was sliding slowly down his neck. It was time to get the hell out.

The singing had a metallic undertone, and it drifted past him like a half-remembered Sunday school song from a tinny record player. After a few more seconds, it stopped in midphrase, and the silence descended again.

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