Robert hung up the car phone and tried to think over the shouting of Schmes's grandchildren.
Schmes had managed to talk his daughter into packing the things that her family would need for a couple of days. She had blanched and stared at Robert and Sterno but had followed her father's orders with little complaint. Robert couldn't help but think that she was a well trained German.
A company van had been supplied as soon as he had made the request. Control had phoned it in and the vehicle, driven by Sterno, had been delivered before Control had left Robert's apartment to go to Company headquarters. There had been a few uncomfortable moments when the truth about Schmes and his Nazi past was aired, but Robert had done his best to remain cordial. Schmes had responded in kind.
Driving to midtown at this time of day, from Schmes's home on Long Island, wasn't difficult. Most people were heading out of Manhattan. Robert let himself slip onto autopilot while he pondered his feelings about helping a former Nazi. Hearing the youngsters shouting with delight at their trip to them it had seemed like an adventure he knew that whatever else he felt, he would have no regrets for helping Schmes's daughter and her two raucous little boys.
Suddenly, he was nudged out of his contemplation; a car he had noticed before was behind them again. There could be no doubt, they were being followed.
"Sterno," he called over his shoulder, his eyes never leaving the rearview mirror, "Make certain everyone is buckled in. We have company."
"What is the matter? Schmes poked his head closer to Robert, "We are in danger? We are being followed?"
"Please make sure your family is secured in their seats, Herr Schmes." Robert tried to keep his voice calm. "Let me do my job."
Robert pulled off the Long Island Expressway and turned left onto a busy street. Four other cars immediately inserted themselves in front of the one following them. That gave Robert a little room to navigate.
He cursed himself under his breath. He had foreseen that the gypsies would have had Schmes's home under surveillance, and he had been extra careful, even sending Sterno to nose around the neighborhood as he packed the Schmes up to leave. No one had been detected watching the house or following them during their journey into the city.
"Sterno, is everyone secured?"
"Yeah, Mr. McCall," he heard Sterno's slightly breathless reply. "All secure."
"Boys! Boys, sit still! Behave. I'm telling you to do as I say!" Schmes's daughter, Frieda was shouting, her voice had an edge of hysterics to it and Robert hoped that she could keep in control of her emotions for what was surely going to be a bad few minutes.
Thinking quickly, Robert saw that taking the family to the usual midtown safe house was no longer an option. He'd never be able to shake the car following them. Also, there was a chance that Schmes had been followed to his own apartment that morning when Control brought him there, so now his home wasn't an alternative as a safe location.
Robert headed to Fifth Avenue. It was crowded, as usual, and he drove casually, following the street lights as if he hadn't a care in the world.
At 107th street he quickly turned into Central Park. Luckily it was the end of October and the park was almost deserted and quite dark. He spun up the East Drive past the Conservatory Garden, still not seeing the other car follow. He hoped they had missed the turn. He was just swerving past the skating rink when a harsh wind started to pick up and the night became even darker.
A chill was just starting to permeate Robert's chest when one of the streetlamps lining the drive lifted up out of its base and hurled itself in front of the van. Holding back any sense of shock, Robert pulled the steering wheel to set the vehicle neatly around the exploding light. He heard some shouting from the people behind him, with the wailing of one of the boys the loudest.
"I've got him!" Sterno's voice came through loud and clear, "Don't move from your seats! Stay buckled everyone. I've got him. Sit tight until Mr. McCall says otherwise!"
Good man Sterno!
An unnaturally severe wind was buffeting the car, making steering difficult. Outside, the air seemed filled with pebbles and blowing garbage raining all over the van, bringing Robert's ability to see very far in any direction down to almost nil.
Robert let his instincts take over the way that had best served him in the many car chases he had survived in his past. He narrowed his concentration to block any other sounds or sights except those from the now almost obscured road before him.
A sound like canon fire shook them. A tree suddenly descended from nowhere to aim itself at the van. Letting his eye-hand co-ordination take over, Robert managed to dodge out of its path by letting the van swerve over to the side and almost climb the bank of earth there. He felt the tires slip and lose contact with the ground for a moment, leaving them dangerously unbalanced. But the van righted itself and they hit the road again with a heavy thump.
By the curve in the road, he calculated that he was passing the Loch and hoped he could get out to Central Park North at 110th. Visibility was down to no more than three feet in front of him around the muted illumination of his head lights. The chill that had come upon him was painful now. He could see his breath in front of him, rising from his mouth in short puffs. His fingers on the wheel were almost without feeling other than the burning cold of the air. The heater had been working properly earlier, he couldn't think why it had stopped.
Something large and heavy hit the side of the van and it once again almost toppled over. From the corner of his eyes he saw a boulder bounce off the side of the vehicle and, incredibly, travel ahead of them to land in the middle of the road.
At the last moment, he swerved out onto the grass, dangerously close to a hillock that would tip them over if he didn't judge it just right.
He heard a scream of horror coming from right behind him. The van shuddered and Sterno bellowed, "I told you not to move!"
Long heart stopping seconds later, Robert finally felt the wheels on the paved road again then, increasing his speed, he took the next curves without incident.
When they were just about to leave the park, he spotted other headlights behind him through the rearview mirror.
Where had they come from?
He aimed for the exit, not thinking beyond the idea of safety on a bright city street when, astonished, he saw a crowd of ghoulish shadows line up across the road ahead of him.
He could see pale white faces with black holes for eyes staring at him.
Robert had to stop a feeling of unreality that threatened to overtake his mind, numbing his senses. The wind grew stronger, but this time it wailed as if filled with the cries of the shadows on the road. He could detect a song being moaned inside the howling wind. There was a gypsy sound to the melody! A vision of people falling into a great pit suddenly rose up in front of his eyes. Hardly noticing that he was doing it, he began to slow down.
"Gott im Himmel! Why are you stopping?" Hermann Schmes shouted to him.
That brought him out of his fugue and he pressed down on the gas. It came to him that to stop for the phantoms would mean disaster. If he succumbed to their siren song, all would be lost.
Concentrating on what might lie behind the crowd of shadows that were lined up in front of him, Robert took a deep breath and kept to the center of the road. As he got closer to the specters their song became louder and the chill that had encompassed the van grew worse. Ice began to appear on the inside of the windshield and the instruments.
Pressing on the gas, he sped up and steeled himself for impact with the apparitions.
As if a curtain of fog lifted, the van swam through the shadows. Robert felt a wall of warmth replace the cold and his ears almost rang with the deep quiet that suddenly surrounded the van.
Little by little he became aware of people weeping and shouting behind him. He could make out the boys calling to their mother and the mother's weeping. He heard Schmes moaning and Sterno speaking in a calm voice. He looked at the rearview mirror, and was jolted to see the shadows still there He also noted the weak light of the other car, now looking to be standing still, surrounded by the ghostly people on the road.
All of a sudden Manhattan felt too small to hide Schmes and his family. He'd take them to a safe house that he rarely used, farther away and more deserted, one on the outskirts of the Bronx.
Robert kept his eyes on the road and aimed for the exit.
Stopping the van across the street from the address he had discovered in the immigration files, Mickey looked over at the house. The lot was huge. The building stood away from the road surrounded by trees. Even though it was dark out, there were no lights on inside. He shrugged, maybe there was no one home.
Taking a pair of binoculars from the glove box he studied the house. If he had an infra red scope, that would have told him if there was anyone inside. But the moon was huge and full, and he decided it would have screwed up the delicate night sight anyway.
As he was driving to get there he had noticed that a couple of the houses in the neighborhood had pumpkin lanterns, glittering black cats and large witches standing outside. This house didn't have any Halloween decorations. He was glad that there wouldn't be any kids around doing trick or treating this late.
Opening the van door, he was immediately aware of how much colder it had grown since he sat in the park that afternoon. Shivering slightly, he zipped up his jacket and pulled on his black watch cap.
Going around to the back of the van he opened the doors and pulled out a tool box and a clipboard with some Con Edison paper work on it. If anyone challenged him, he might as well have an excuse for snooping. Making sure the van was locked securely he wasn't sure why he felt that it was so important he headed around the side of the lot.
Among the trees at the back, he could see into the property. The back windows were as dark as those out front. Looks like no one's home.
Hunkering down, he waited. He'd only been there ten minutes when the wind began to pick up, blowing the tree branches about and making leaves fall all around him with dry crackling noises. He didn't like it, something felt out of kilter. There was still nothing from inside the house and he was just about to make his move when lights appeared in two of the downstairs windows.
Damn! He hadn't heard a car arrive.
He took the pair of binoculars from his inside pocket and focused on the lighted rooms. One was clearly a kitchen and the older woman was there, he recognized her from the records. There seemed to be two or three people in the other room.
More lights appeared in the house and as suddenly as it had sprung up, the wind died. The sudden silence seemed more threatening. A feeling of being watched made Mickey look around. The trees surrounding him seemed to grow taller as he looked, making him feel small and insignificant. Telling himself not to be an idiot, he glanced over at the house again. A couple of the men had come out into the yard now, they seemed to be studying the sky. The stark moonlight made them seem almost inhuman, their movements were jerky, like the figures in old home movies.
Mickey felt a prickling sensation on the back of his neck. The feeling of being watched was back and much stronger. In one movement he stood up and spun around, his hand going instinctively for his gun. Off balance, he almost fell, then he saw the girl standing motionless behind him.
"Shit!" Her sudden appearance unnerved him. No one had been able to creep up on him like that before not even McCall. "Who are you? Why are you sneaking up on me?"
She smiled and he felt himself drawn to her. She was gorgeous, with a lush body, a sensuous face and full lips that were touched with a mysterious smile. Her eyes glowed with an inner light that mirrored the color of the moon, contrasting with her olive skin and the dark hair that tumbled around her shoulders. He recognized her at once from her immigration picture. She was the youngest of the group, only nineteen. Lamya Banga.
The silence grew heavy between them and he had almost given up on her talking to him when she said, "I should ask the question. Why are you here?" She spoke with an unfamiliar accent, Polish mixed in with another language, making her voice sound exotic.
"I asked first." He smiled at her, hoping to charm his way out of an embarrassing situation. He had acted like an amateur and let her get behind him. That worried him a lot.
Something in her stare made him want to leave, but he couldn't. Instead, as she drew closer, his attention was drawn to her mouth and the sharp white teeth that were revealed when she smiled at him. "I am called Lamya." Her voice was warm and caressing and it stroked down his spine.
Her eyes were hypnotic and he was attracted to her even though she was too young for him. He caught himself before he could admit that he already knew that information. "It's an unusual name."
That's it, Kostmayer, keep her talking and she might not realize that you haven't answered her question.
"It is." She laughed and her gaze seemed to reach into his soul. "It means, having beautiful dark lips." The longer she stared, the harder it was for him to break away. There was something about her that intoxicated him, a heady scent that seemed to perfume the air. He was reacting to her, becoming aroused and he couldn't do a damn thing about it.
Finally, drawing on all his willpower, he managed to drag his eyes away.
He caught a glimpse of her stunned expression before she spoke again. "You still have not explained what you are doing here."
He didn't understand what was going on, it was as though there had been some sort of test and he had just passed. Then he remembered she had asked a question. "Power lines." His voice came out sounding thick and he cleared his throat. "We had a report about some outages and when I saw the house was dark I came to look around."
She nodded and moved away from him, heading back to the house. "Of course." She spoke over her shoulder, "Until we meet again." Then she was gone.
Damn, if he hadn't been watching her closely he wouldn't have seen her move.
"Get a grip, Kostmayer."
He hadn't intended to speak aloud.
Back inside the van he picked up his cell phone and dialed McCall's number without thinking.
Feeling completely unsettled he said, "It's Kostmayer. I should be there in forty minutes, depending on the traffic."
McCall's voice was strange when he said, "There's been a change of plan. We're at the place in the Bronx. How long until you can get here?"
The Bronx? What the hell? Mickey knew something strange must have gone down. "I can be there in twenty minutes. What's up?"
"I'd rather not talk about it over the phone. I need you here to look after Herr Schmes and his family while I go out."
"Isn't Sterno there?"
"Yes but he needs to see a doctor."
With a sudden sense of urgency, he started the engine, "I'll see if I can't make it fifteen."
Though McCall hadn't mentioned the address, Mickey knew the Bronx safe house. Using it told Mickey that something unexpected had happened and that McCall was worried. Then there was Sterno needing to see a doctor, that didn't sound good either.
The wind picked up again, buffeting the van around so he took it slowly. No point in losing control and turning over. He'd be no help at all then. Besides he hated hospitals
Yet another light flicked to red in front of him and he slowed to a stop, banging the wheel in annoyance. He couldn't believe it! He'd hit every single red light so far.
When the light changed, he pulled away, no way he was going to get to the Bronx in under twenty minutes now. Accelerating harder, he tried to make up some time. Suddenly, in his peripheral vision, he saw movement low down alongside the van. Spooked, he pulled too hard on the wheel and the van swerved clean across the street.
Heart pounding he steered back to the right side of the road and let out a shaky breath. If there had been oncoming traffic, he would have been road pizza. When he looked closer, down at the side of the van, there was nothing there. What the hell was going on with him?
He thought back to his meeting with Stefan. Maybe his friends words were preying on his mind and he was imagining things?
When he finally drew up in front of the safe house, his back ached with strain. He let go of the wheel and made a conscious effort to relax the tension in his arms and shoulders. The whole journey had been full of stops and starts and the constant feeling that someone, or something, was following him. Mickey felt as though he was going crazy, he'd tried every evasive maneuver he knew, and then some he made up on the spot. But he still couldn't shake the feeling that he was being tailed.
Climbing out of the van he had a good look around before he headed up the pathway. McCall didn't like using this house it was too isolated. To move the Schmes's here meant that something real bad had gone down.
He stopped at the front door, rapped on it and said, "It's me, McCall." Not wanting to have his back unguarded, he turned and faced the street.
After a couple of seconds he heard the sound of a deadbolt being moved and then the door opened. Soft glowing light flowed out over the porch and at once he felt dumb. He'd been freaking out over some shadows.
"Come in quickly, Mickey." The tension in McCall's voice was easy to hear and then he didn't feel quite so stupid. He slipped inside, took off his hat, scarf and gloves before undoing his jacket. At least it was warm inside.
McCall led the way into the living room. "Herr Schmes," he said, "this is Mickey Kostmayer. He is going to be here with you while I go out for a short time." Robert pointed towards Mickey. "And it's hiscar phone number that's on the emergency list I gave you. You can trust him. I do."
Mickey peered into the living room. He nodded to Sterno, who had a bandage over one eye and was sitting on the living room couch holding his side. Then he glanced at Schmes. Somehow he didn't look like Mickey expected an ex-Nazi to look. The guy was about sixty with a neatly trimmed white beard.
"Yes, thank you." Schmes's voice was small and polite.
Mickey didn't feel like making small talk so he looked at McCall and said, "Where're the others?"
Robert pointed upstairs, "Frieda and the boys are in a bedroom, she is trying to put them to bed."
Mickey sniffed, he smelled coffee. Dropping his jacket on a chair, he walked into the kitchen and searched through the cupboards until he found a mug. McCall followed him. Helping himself from the coffee pot, he took a mouthful and swallowed, the hot liquid warmed him a little.
"What have you got for me?" McCall seemed distracted, and that bothered Mickey more than anything he'd seen so far.
"Not much. The gypsies are living in a big old house in Westchester and are what they seem to be. The money for the house came from a Swiss account which will be untraceable; you know those guys in Zurich won't give anything away. The passports and visas are all valid as far as I can tell. If they're fakes they're good ones the best I've ever seen."
Something made him leave out his meeting with Lamya and he wasn't sure why.
"What about your friend, the NYU professor? What did he say?"
He stared at the dark brown liquid in his mug, he wasn't sure what he should tell McCall about Stefan's warning. "Like I said earlier, he told me that as far as he knew, all of the family were wiped out during the war. They were slaughtered by a Nazi squad and buried in the forest in a mass grave."
"That ties in with the information I have."
"I've got pictures from the immigration files if you want to show them to Schmes."
McCall looked thoughtful, "Maybe later. He's still shaken."
"Shaken? That guy shaken? Look, I know he's your client but do you know what that nice old man in there did during the war?"
McCall rubbed his eyes and nodded, "Yes I know, Control told me most of it."
"Did he also tell you that everyone in his old platoon and all their immediate families are dead?"
Robert's face showed surprise. "All of them?"
"Yeah. And a lot of them went in mysterious ways." He held the coffee mug in both hands. Suddenly he felt cold again. "What's this all about, McCall?"
"I'm not sure but I think it's an attempt at revenge."
"Looks like more than an attempt to me, Sterno looks like a mess."
"To be honest, Mickey, I'm not sure what it was. Something did its damndest to get at Schmes and his family. It was only my instinct that saved us. Sterno was protecting the children when the van almost rolled over."
"I can't explain. But I know that I saw a vision of people falling into a mass grave. That means this is connected to the events of 1945."
Visions? Of all the people in the world, McCall would have been the last one Mickey would have thought had visions and paid attention to them.
"Stefan told me to be careful. Said the family had a reputation and that I didn't know what I was getting into." The most worrying thing for Mickey was that McCall wasn't dismissing any of it out of hand.
McCall nodded, "Fine. We'll be careful. But I have given my word that I will protect Herr Schmes and his family and I will. Whoever is behind all this will have to go through me to get to them."
Mickey smiled, that sounded more like the man he knew so well, "So what do you want me to do now?"
McCall looked at his watch, walked to a hall closet and picked his coat out. "I want you to stay here and look after them. I need to get Sterno checked out by a doctor, he might have a concussion and a damaged rib. Also, I have a friend who might be able to shed some light on how they got their money."
"Okay, I'll be here."
"Take care my friend, we'll be back as soon as possible."
Sterno was standing keeping watch out of the window. The big guy looked rumpled as usual, but the bandage on his forehead had blood seeping through it. "Come on, Sterno," McCall said, "you need to get seen by a doctor."
"Awww, I really don't need to, Mr. McCall, I feel fine." He tugged at his bushy black mustache and pulled at his ill fitting jacket.
McCall put on his overcoat and began to button it, "No arguments, man, I will need you here tomorrow, fit and well. Come on now." He turned to Mickey, "We'll take your vehicle now. The van is locked up securely in the garage, the keys are on the table near Schmes. Give me your keys and Sterno and I can get going."
Mickey handed them over and watched as they left the house. After locking the door behind them carefully, he looked over at Schmes, who was sitting in a chair pretending to be engrossed in a book.
Things were way strange and getting stranger. His parents had told him too much about what happened in Poland during the war for him to be completely comfortable with this job, or with the man sitting in front of him.
It was warm in the house; Mickey took off his sweater and hit the john. He was on his way to get a refill for his coffee mug when he heard something outside. From the way Schmes shot up in his chair and dropped his book, he had heard it too.
Mickey headed over to the window and, keeping his body hidden to one side of the glass, looked out between the slats of the wooden shutter. He couldn't see anything but he could hear the sound of something running around out there. Claws were clicking on the concrete, the dead leaves on the ground were rustling as though they were being moved around and it didn't sound like the wind.
Hell it was probably a dog!
He heard and saw nothing for a few more minutes when a woman screamed on the second floor. He rushed up the stairs and kicked open the bedroom door.
"What?" He couldn't see any sign of danger in the room, just the woman and two kids, still only half awake in the big bed.
The woman looked at him. "Who are you? Help! Poppa! Help!" Her eyes were wide with terror and she screamed again, shrill and long.
"I'm here to help protect you!" Mickey shouted, cutting through her shrieks. He couldn't help the anger in his voice, "What are you screaming at?"
"There was something outside, I saw its shadow against the shutters but it couldn't get through the bars." She pointed a shaking hand at the window but he couldn't see a thing.
"Stay here with the kids." He raised his voice, "Schmes! Check the shutters on all the windows downstairs, make sure they're done up tight."
Staying upstairs, Mickey ran from room to room, testing the shutters, checking the window locks and trying to follow the exterior noises .
Whoever was outside kept pushing at the windows but couldn't get inside. And from the frequency of the attempts, Mickey was sure there was only one person one person with a dog he corrected himself. If there had been two or more it would have made sense to make a feint at a window while someone else hit the door downstairs. Also, he was pretty sure they weren't armed. No one had taken a shot at the shutters to test them. Damn! This wasn't like any hit he'd ever seen or heard about.
The night became silent. Other than the noise of Schmes's daughter and grandkids weeping, he didn't hear a thing. Taking three steps at a time, he headed downstairs. Opening one of the inside, living room shutters, Mickey looked outside. Everything was quiet and still. Shit! He was going to have to go after whoever it was out there. If the person outside decided to set fire to the house, they were sitting ducks.
Checking his gun, he went to the front door. "Schmes, lock this door behind me and don't open it unless you hear from me or McCall."
The old man came over and stood behind him by the doorway, "Are you sure that this is what you should be doing? Maybe it is better for you to wait."
Mickey lifted his gun, "I'll be okay. If I'm not back in ten minutes, phone McCall. Just keep the damn door locked." He opened the door a crack, slipped out and closed it tight behind him.
The moonlight was bright and visibility was good, but it was a cold, dead light that formed deep shadows where anything could hide. In the open he was a clear target, but in the darkness he was well hidden.
Starting out front, he checked around, kicking at the bushes marking the front of the property from the sidewalk. Next, he made his way around the side of the house and searched the yard. He checked the window into the kitchen but apart from some strange scrabbling marks in the earth underneath he couldn't see anything and the bars were still secure.
All the time he had the feeling that he was being watched it reminded him of earlier when he met Lamya.
By the time he had finished at the back of the house he was more jumpy than he could ever remember. He headed along the west side of the building, past the one-story garage. Still nothing. He was wasting his time here, he was going to go back inside with the old man and wait for McCall to get back or wait for daylight whichever came first.
He had just reached midway along the garage wall when he caught a movement from the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw a dark shape launch itself off the roof with a speed almost too fast to follow. Before he could lift his weapon, it hit him in the shoulder, spinning him around and knocking him down hard. His head hit the concrete driveway and his gun went flying away into the bushes.
Dazed, he couldn't understand why he couldn't see anything until he put his hand up to his eyes. Blood! It covered his hand, looking black in the moonlight. He must have cut his head when he fell. He rolled over and tried to stand but his legs were not cooperating. Shit! He had to get inside. He had managed to get his knees under him when another blow tipped him over flat onto his back. He couldn't get up. Through his wavering vision, he watched the biggest dog he had ever seen slinking back towards him.
My God! It was a wolf!
The pointed ears were flattened back against its head and the powerful jaws were exposed. It halted next to him and howled in victory. His heart threatened to pound out of his chest. There was nothing he could do! The beast rested both front paws on his chest, pinning him down.
It put its muzzle close to his face and bared its gleaming, terrible teeth, growling deep in its throat. Its eyes were the color of moonlight. Mickey almost lost it, but then his ego screamed that there was no way he'd let a damn animal finish him off!
Gathering his wits, he beat down his fear and let his sense of survival take over. He could just see the dull gray of his automatic glinting in bushes to his left. Throwing a punch at the wolf's muzzle, he tried to move but it was too big and the blow had no effect. The beast sneezed twice, lifted its huge paws and brought them down again, making the air wheeze out of his lungs.
Mickey's blood ran cold. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt so helpless. He had no weapon and his fists had no effect on the animal. It could rip out his throat in a second. He had to do something. Grabbing at the thick fur around its neck, he tried to force it away. It shook its head to get loose and clashed skulls with him. The impact made him dizzy and his head fell back. Seeing nothing but bright pinpricks of light he closed his eyes and felt the weight of the animal's paws on his arms as more blood from his forehead dribbled down over his face.
He struggled again, hearing his shirt rip as the animal's claws caught in the fabric. Pain flared in his chest as the claws scraped into his skin.
This was it! He was going to die!.
He felt hot breath, smelling of carrion, against his cheek. He remembered that some animals played dead and could escape that way. He made himself go limp and steeled himself for more pain to come
But it didn't.
When he cracked open his eyes, the wolf was standing over him. Now that he wasn't struggling, it seemed content just to watch him. He heard a deep rumble coming from the beast's chest. At that moment it began snuffling around his neck. It almost tickled. Its muzzle moved down his chest sniffing at the rips in his shirt.
Mickey called on all of his training to stay calm. He reminded himself that playing dead was better than being dead.
When the huge animal moved lower still, and began to sniff between his legs he couldn't help it, he lost his nerve.
There was no way he was going to let this monster rip his balls off.
In a sudden move he sat and punched at the beast, putting all his weight behind the swing and making his head spin. The wolf fell to one side. For a split second he was free!
Rolling, he had barely gotten to his feet when it jumped him again. Suddenly it felt like hot knives were embedded in his skin. The wolf had sunk its teeth into his shoulder! It shook him like a rag doll. White hot pain filled his consciousness. His arms swung limply at his sides and he felt his flesh tear and hot blood running down his back and chest. The jaws released him and he went down again. This time he knew he wouldn't get up.
From a great distance he heard moaning and cries of pain. Was that his voice? Fighting back the darkness took all his strength and concentration. He couldn't let himself give in! He had to look after the old man and his family!
The pain was overwhelming. He tried to move, but his body betrayed him, his limbs wouldn't respond. The monster's teeth must have severed something in his spine! Oh God! It was no use. He felt a deep calmness spread over him. Slowly he closed his eyes again.
Just before he let himself fall into the dark abyss, he felt something warm and wet against his torn shoulder. He realized the wolf was tasting him, getting ready to tear him apart and there was nothing he could do. He heard himself saying the rosary.
Then the blackness swallowed him whole.