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6

Mallory settled into an old armchair that was entirely too comfortable, not her idea of office d'ecor. The rug of many colors had probably been braided early in the last century, and a telephone with extension buttons was all that she could date to modern times.

She had a shortlist of blunt questions and demands for the man seated behind the carved wooden desk, but this Missouri sheriff was part of a cop’s lifeline that extended from coast to coast. Instead of asking why he had run from the caravan parents, she said, “Tell me what you didn’t t e ll Magritte.”

“Probably nothing the old man didn’t already know,” said Sheriff Banner. “Eighteen months ago, we found the remains of a little kid, and she wasn’t o ne of ours. I figured that’s why all those folks turned out tonight.”

“How old was the girl?”

“Oh, she could’ve been tall for five or small for seven. Can’t be a hundred percent sure of the sex, either. Female was just the coroner’s best guess. So when the town picked a name for the gravestone, we wanted something that worked for a boy or a girl.”

“Then the body was decomposed.” She could not ask if it was buried or missing a hand. That would be like an invitation to a round of give-and-take. “You didn’t find it in plain sight.”

“Hell, no. She was buried and way past decomposed. Probably been in the ground for years. Never would’ve found her at all, but this old fart from California, he took it into his head to build himself a retirement house on Route 66. Said his best memories were on that old road. So a contractor’s crew found the body-the skeleton. Idiots. They didn’t have the sense to leave it be and call the cops. They brought what was left of that child into town in a sack-a sack of bones.”

“Anything unusual about the bones?”

“Nothing to tell us how she died-if that’s what you’re asking. When the bones were all laid out, we couldn’t account for one of her hands. My men were all over that construction site looking for it. Never did turn up.”

“Any chips on the wrist bones you had?”

It took a moment for the import to settle in, and he did not like this ugly picture she had planted in his mind. “No tool marks-it wasn’t chopped off. Could be predators got at the body before burial, but there were no teeth marks, either.”

Mallory preferred her own theory of a killer revisiting the grave after the child had gone to bones. “Did you ever ask the feds for help?”

“Bastards. They turned me down. Said she was probably a runaway. Did you know there’s ninety thousand runaway kids on the road in any given minute of a day? I guess they thought that little tidbit might be helpful, ’cause that’s all I ever got from them. Not their kind of case, they said. Then, about four months back, the feds went out to the cemetery and dug her up. Pissed everybody off. They wouldn’t t e ll us nothin’. I don’t t hink there’s more’n two or three people in this town that didn’t c hip in for the burial and the stone.” He slumped forward, as if the weight of this day had bowed his back. “I hope you can tell me something useful-before all those folks come knocking on my door tomorrow, maybe thinking that little girl was one of their own.”

That was not going to happen. There were rules about giving up details of another detective’s case, and this one belonged to Kronewald. However, this sheriff could catch a crumb or two if he was quick, and she thought he might be. “Did you ever get any flyers from other police departments-something similar?”

“Not really.” The man straightened his back a little. He had caught the drift of a serial killer in those words-and now they had a game. “Got a fax from Kansas awhile back. But that was about a teenager or a woman on the young side. And the Kansas victim was laid out in the middle of the road. No decomposition at all. One hand was missing. That was the only thing that matched up.” He sat back in his chair and waited for her to toss him another piece of an old puzzle. By all appearances, he was a patient man.

There was no point in asking if the Kansas police had found a child’s hand bones left in place of the missing adult hand; it was a detail that would have been withheld from the Missouri sheriff. And neither would Chicago Homicide want this known. “Did the fax mention anything odd left behind at the scene? Maybe the cops in Kansas had a few questions?”

“All I know is what I told you.” He waited her out for a few seconds, and now he nodded, understanding that no more information was coming his way. “Well, I expect you’ll be meeting up with the feds. There’s a whole pack of ’em about twenty miles down the road. If you talk to those bastards, I’d appreciate if you’d tell ’em we’d like to get the kid’s remains back for reburial… if they can’t find her own people. Whenever I ask, all I get are damn form letters.”

Mallory stared at the bulletin board on the wall behind the man’s desk. It was a jumble of paperwork, duty rosters, letters and posters. Dead center was the snapshot of a gravestone, a grand affair of carved filigree and angels, but no dates of birth or death. So many flowers, heaps of them covered the ground.

Curiosity renewed, the sheriff followed the track of her startled eyes to this photograph. “Oh God, you didn’t know.” Pushpins went flying as he ripped it from the corkboard, and an apology was in his voice when he said, “I thought you came on her account. I’m so sorry.” He handed her the photograph. “That’s the kid’s grave. We used that picture on the flyers. Like I said, we needed a name that would work as well for a boy or a girl. Now, that shot’s a little blurry. The line you can’t read-that one just says ‘Someone’s child.’ ”

But all the stone-carved text that she could make out was the largest lettering that spelled Mallory -just Mallory.

Near the southwest edge of Illinois, Detective Riker ordered a late supper at the roadside diner where, earlier in the day, a severed hand had been found in the trunk of a car. Their waitress, Sally, was recounting Mallory’s skill in flipping burgers and how the young cop had helped her to take down all the posters of missing children.

“It was enough to break your heart,” she said, “all those little kids.”

Riker carried his coffee cup back to the booth, where his traveling companion was poring over the contents of Savannah Sirus’s handbag.

“Sorry,” said Charles Butler. “If you’re looking for some connection between a suicide and serial murderer, it’s not in this purse.”

“Naw, t hat would’ve been too easy.” Riker looked out the window at the local remains of Route 66. “But I know that suicide has something to do with Mallory being on this road. I don’t b e lieve in coincidence. She’s hunting. And there’s gotta be a connection to Kronewald’s case. You know what’s really got me worried? She drove her car right through another cop’s crime scene. Now that’s rude.

“But hardly a solid connection.”

“Mallory lives for cases like this one. And it’s not like she’s got a life outside of the Job anymore.” Riker ducked his head in apology for raising a hurtful point.

Once, Kathy Mallory had been a regular fixture in Charles Butler’s life. This man had entered her small social orbit via the backdoor of friendship with Louis Markowitz. Lou, that crafty old man, had ruthlessly woven Charles into a safety net created for Mallory-so she would not be alone when he died. Lou had not been able to count on his foster child to make friends on her own. She would not know how.

But the introduction to Lou’s pretty daughter had come with a terrible cost. And sometimes Riker wondered if Charles’s one-sided love affair had also been part of the old man’s plan. No-call it faith-Lou’s cracked idea that Mallory could one day grow a human heart that could beat and love back.

He wanted to ask what she had done to drive this man away. Instead, Riker stared at the dead woman’s handbag on the table. “A woman dies in Mallory’s apartment, and the kid disappears the same day. At least there’s a solid connection there.”

“But you said it didn’t happen in that order. You told me that Mallory left town before-” And here Charles Butler faltered. He picked up Savannah’s round-trip airline ticket, proof of the woman’s b e lief in life after New York City. His expression abruptly changed to a gentleman’s equivalent of the “Oh, shit” response. “You think Mallory helped her over the edge? Yo u think she pushed this woman into suicidal ideation… and then left town, knowing what would happen? Did the gun belong to Savannah Sirus?”

This was not really a volley of questions; it was a mind-reading act. “Charles, sometimes you’re even stranger than Mallory.”

The empty store that bordered the caravan’s c ampsite stood open, and the long line had dwindled to a few men and women holding toiletry kits and towels, waiting for their turn at the restroom inside. The owner’s s o n had been patient while the hat was passed. Paul Magritte counted the dollar bills, the tens and fives as he laid them in the teenager’s hand.

“Oh, yes,” the older man assured him, “we’ll leave the restroom spotless.” He was walking away from this transaction when he heard a familiar voice.

“Stop right there, old man.”

He turned around to see Mallory coming up behind him with a slow stalking gait. Where had she come from? Strange girl-so stealthy. None of the dogs had barked.

Her voice had changed, no rising notes; it was almost mechanical, and this was more unsettling than malice when she said, “You forgot to mention some critical details of your little road trip.”

She was no taller than he was, no more than five feet ten. When she had closed the distance between them, their reflections in the dark glass of the store window showed two people of equal height. And yet he had the unshakable feeling that he was looking up at her. The old man wondered how she worked this trick upon him. He watched two other people exiting the small building. In passing, these larger men also appeared to be looking upward when they glanced her way.

Child, thy name is Paradox.

Yet a common clich'e was the first thing that came to mind, for here before him was the living illustration of someone larger than life; her sense of presence did not recognize the boundaries of her body. Her eyes were cold, and so was her stance, arms folded against him. The girl’s face was set with grim suspicion, and this was merely what she allowed him to see. At their previous meeting, that lovely face had been an impenetrable mask, and he had been able to discern nothing from it. Now he realized that Mallory was putting him on notice: she knew that he could tell her more, and, before they parted company-he would.

Though he saw every individual as a unique creature in the world, some of Detective Mallory’s q u alities sounded familiar warning bells. He could sense the tight control that checked her desire for expedient mayhem; she dwelt forever in that moment before the taut string snaps. He knew how truly dangerous she was-and she gave him hope.

“We’ll want some privacy.” Paul Magritte smiled and waved in the direction of his car on the other side of the campground. “I’ll tell you what I can.”

Oh, no, Mallory corrected him, but only with her eyes and the subtle inclination of her head. Silently she said to him, You’re going to tell me every damn thing you know.

Charles was behind the wheel again and crossing the state line into Missouri.

“We caught a break,” said Riker, returning the cell phone to his shirt pocket. “Mallory checked in with Kronewald. She turned up an old grave down the road. Another hundred miles and we can close the gap.”

“If she stays put,” said Charles.

“And if she doesn’t, we can outrun her.”

Miles ago, Riker had resolved his friend’s conundrum of time and distance relative to Volkswagens. He had blamed the computers that processed Mallory’s c redit-card purchases of fuel between New York and Chicago. “A computer glitch. You can’t t rust those damn machines.”

Charles seemed unconvinced, though he was usually the first in line to damn technology. But he did not pursue the problem. Instead, he picked up threads to another disagreement begun over dinner. “About that wall of telephone numbers in her apartment. I don’t t hink Mallory isolated herself to make all those calls. What if she made her connection to Savannah Sirus before she stopped showing up for work? That might’ve triggered the isolation-that first contact.”

Riker’s resistance to this idea was slow to wane. Miles down the road, he waved one hand to say maybe. The detective’s own theory was that the Job had derailed his young partner, or, more precisely, her work on a homicide squad had finished what was begun when she was only a wildly damaged child.

“Chicken and the egg,” said Charles. “Which came first, missing work or making phone calls? You could find out, couldn’t you? Check with the telephone company? Just ask them for the date when Mallory first called Savannah’s number. That wouldn’t have to go through NYPD, would it?”

“Okay.” Riker pulled out his phone, and his attitude made it clear that he was only humoring Charles. After identifying himself for the New York operator, the detective seemed almost bored as he waited for the records on Mallory’s home telephone. And then his expression changed. He thanked the operator, ended the call and closed his eyes. “Mallory made a lot of calls to Savannah. But her first contact was months ago-just before she started missing days from work. How did you know?”

“Everyone has a hobby,” said Charles. “Mallory’s is just a bit outside the norm-she makes phone calls. You said she was doing that as a child. I rather doubt that she ever gave it up. She’s compulsive that way. She had to work through all her numbers until she had a resolution. Given the numerals in a long-distance number, minus the four that she started with- oh, and then you have changed area codes and new ones. So, factoring in all the possible combinations, well, I doubt that she’d run out of telephone numbers anytime soon. That reinforced my theory of the calls as an ongoing thing-maybe a binge activity. Any sort of stress could set it off. Over the years, she’s probably tried many more numbers than the ones you saw on her wall.”

Riker lifted one hand like a traffic cop-stop-too much information. He liked his facts in small fragments that covered no more than a line in his notebook.

Mercifully, Charles cut to the summary. “She had a houseguest for three weeks, but what did Mallory do with the rest of her time? Do you know when she bought the new car?”

“A few months ago.”

“After the first telephone call to Miss Sirus. That’s when Mallory started laying plans for a road trip. Savannah’s hometown of Chicago was a likely destination long before Gerald Linden died. Detective Kronewald’s crime scene was simply in Mallory’s w ay when she passed through town. Adams and Michigan is the official starting point for Route 66.”

“Okay, you’re right,” said Riker, rubbing his eyes, wondering what else he had missed for lack of sleep. And now he had a headache-and a heartache. He reached into the liquor store sack, his idea of a first-aid kit, and pulled out a cold beer to kill the pain.

Following Paul Magritte, Mallory walked between hot coals in cook-stoves and bright flames of burning wood. She heard the humming, the same four notes, over and over, and turned to see the two children huddled on the blanket before an open campfire. Mallory hunkered down beside them, her eyes on the little girl when she asked, “What’s that song?”

The boy moved closer to his sister, and the hum was muffled as he enfolded her in his thin arms and held her close to his breast. Mallory turned her focus to him-interview subject number two. “What’s the name of that song?”

“My kids don’t t alk to strangers,” said a voice from behind her.

The detective rose to a stand and turned around to see the father. He was staring at his son and not liking that wary look in the child’s eyes.

Paul Magritte made the formal introduction to Joe Finn and his children, Peter and Dodie.

Mallory looked down at the girl as she spoke to the father. “Those four notes that Dodie hums-you know the song?”

“No, lady, I got a tin ear. I only know she hums when she’s uneasy.” And it was clear that he laid the blame for this on Mallory.

His face bore fight scars from cuts to the eyes and jaw, but, by stance alone-legs apart, fists at his sides-she knew she had made the right call back at the diner. Boxing was Joe Finn’s t rade, and he had taken a lot of punishment to feed his family. What might he do to protect them? Angry now, he moved between Mallory and his children, wordlessly telling her to go.

Mallory lingered a moment longer, for this man must understand that she did not take orders from civilians. Lessons learned from Markowitz, a lifer in Copland: “Better to take a beating, Kathy. Don’t ever embarrass the Job.” And now, in her own time, she moved on.

Charles Butler scanned the road ahead for signs of gas and lodging. “So we can definitely rule out the idea that she was just badly in need of a vacation.”

“Yeah,” said Riker. “This is definitely not about Mallory joyriding into springtime. She’s hunting solo, and she’s coming apart.” He counted up some of the early warnings for Charles-but not the worst of them. “One day, the little punctuality freak was late for work.”

And that had been the beginning of her slow good-bye. There had been a string of days when she had come in late-if she came in at all. And then she had ceased to answer phone calls, e-mails and knocks at the door. The squad’s commander, Lieutenant Coffey, had put it down to burnout. Other detectives in the squad had ceased to call her Mallory the Machine, for this was something human that they could connect with-lost time and down time, lying awake in the night with the shakes and odd thoughts that could not be driven off except by booze or pills or by eating the gun, muzzle to the mouth, top of the head blown off, so quick-all gone. Drowning cops were never pressured; they were watched over, and that had been Riker’s job from the distance of the curb outside her building. By long tradition, burnout cops were clocked in and out so that docked paychecks would not pile on more anxiety.

Sometimes they came back. Sometimes they died.

“Ta k e that exit,” said Riker. The overpass ahead would give him the high ground he wanted. As the Mercedes climbed the ramp, he lit a cigarette and rolled down a window. “You know what drives most people nuts?” And now the detective had to smile. Well, yeah. The man in the driver’s s e at would know that. Psychology was Charles Butler’s stock and trade. But, what a gentleman, he kept his silence.

“It’s all the things that just aren’t fair.” Riker shot a burnt match out the window. “Mallory’s e arly life was one long bad trick on a little kid.” He squinted into the darkness, as if he could see her as a child out there, cadging loose change from whores and eating out of garbage cans. “I think the kid’s on a mission. She’s counting up all the cheats, the stolen things, lost things. That’s what drives people crazy. Imagine the life she could’ve had- if her mother had lived. Funny thing is, I don’t t hink that other life would’ve measured up.”

“How can you say that?” Charles made a hard right turn at the top of the overpass. “If her mother hadn’t d ied, she wouldn’t have ended up homeless and lost.”

“Lost? Never,” said Riker. “The kid was a born survivor. But let’s say you’re right. In another life, she gets all the perks-two real-live parents, a dog and a swing set in the yard. You think she would’ve turned out better? I don’t. Lou and Helen had her tested when they took her in.”

“Louis told me.” Charles pulled up to a gas pump and turned off the engine. “Her gift was mathematics.”

“Yeah, a math whiz.” Riker stepped out of the car in a futile attempt to pay for the gas, but Charles already had his credit card in the slot. “So she was always meant to be a computer witch. No change there. And she’d still be real pretty. If you saw her on the street, you’d stare long and hard. But then you’d move on. Most every guy would, and you know why.”

Charles watched changing figures on the gas pump. He nodded. He knew. How many men could believe they had a shot with her? Hobbled by that matchless face, she would have been just as unapproachable as she was today.

Riker smiled at the frog-eyed, eagle-beaked man who loved Kathy Mallory. “You think she would’ve turned out more human, Charles? The kind of girl who could see her reflection in mirrors? Well, maybe she’d be a vain little snot, and you wouldn’t w aste six minutes having a beer with her.”

Oh, this was heresy in Charles Butler’s u niverse, where Mallory stood at the exact center, and all else revolved around her. “No,” said Mallory’s apologist. “She would’ve had a real childhood instead of all those feral years. It would’ve made all the difference in how-”

“A lot of her talent came from those years on the street,” said Riker. “Your alternate Mallory wouldn’t be able to open pick-proof locks. So she might let you call her Kathy, but she wouldn’t have the makings of an even better cop than her old man-and I mean back when Lou was in his prime.” And now he played to the other man’s s e nses. “Oh, and the way she walks. You can see it all coming at you, the badge and the gun and all that power. If she’d gotten that other life, she’d be ordinary-or worse.” The detective exhaled a cloud of smoke. “Not the kid that Lou and Helen raised, the one who fascinates you-not my Kathy.”

Riker dropped his cigarette butt on the ground and crushed it with his shoe. “I wouldn’t c hange a minute of her history… not one screwed-up brain cell in her head… nothing. You look at her and see all that potential. And me? I only wish I could make her see what a great kid she is.” And maybe she was a sociopath with the eyes of a stone killer, but Riker had never expected perfection from those near and dear.

Dr. Paul Magritte led Mallory to a Lincoln Town Car. He held the back door open so that she could enter first, but this was not to be. Of course not, and he smiled at his error; she would hardly trust a stranger at her back. Tr ust was not in her stars, her style or her pathology.

He entered first. When she closed the door for privacy, he braced himself.

“Your missing camper,” she said. “Gerald Linden? He’s dead. His body was found at the beginning of the road.”

The doctor closed his eyes. “It can’t be connected. The FBI has been finding bodies along Route 66 for more than a year now, but they’re all children.”

“And you know this how ?”

“The Internet. I ran several online therapy groups for parents of missing children.”

“And murdered children,” said Mallory. “You left that part out.”

“Yes,” he said, “forgive me.” Oh, what a foolish idea that was. Forgiveness would be anathema to the likes of her. “I have five therapy groups, twenty-eight patients all told.”

“I counted forty-two people when you stopped at the diner in Illinois.” Detective Mallory said this as if she had caught him in a lie. She turned to the window and the rows of parked cars to one side of the field. “How many more people have joined up since then? Twenty? More than that?”

“Parents have been joining us all along the road. Obviously, not all of them are my patients. The rest came from other Internet connections. A year ago, the FBI located the graves of a few children and told the parents where the remains had been found. The fathers of two of those children were in one of my therapy sessions. Now that got my attention, two children, both buried near roads. Odd behavior for a murderer-to risk being seen burying a victim. Most bodies are found in remote areas with more concealment and less-”

Oh, he could see she was losing patience with him. He was telling her things that she already knew, and he should not make that mistake again; that much was clear as she leaned toward him-just a touch of menace to train him properly.

A quick learner, he continued. “The graves were on different roads, but an acquaintance told me that they were both segments of old Route 66. He’s something of an expert on this road. And he has a gift for seeing connections and patterns. When he explained the odds of this happening to-”

“What’s his name?”

When he hesitated, she leaned in close-too close-saying, “Now we’ve established that ‘acquaintance’ and ‘gift’ are code words for ‘patient’ and ‘crazy.’”

Paul Magritte chastised himself and vowed to choose his words more care- fully. “I contacted psychologists with other Internet groups. I found more parents of murdered children with roadside graves. Some of the bodies turned up years ago-all Route 66 burials, all little girls, aged five to seven.”

“You knew you were dealing with a serial killer.” This was an accusation.

He nodded. “According to my sources, the FBI hasn’t c o ntacted any parents in the past ten months, but rumor has it that they’re still digging up the remains of children on this road. One grave was found not three miles from here.”

“Why would you bring all these people into a serial killer’s t e rritory?”

“Adults won’t fit his pattern.”

“Gerald Linden.” Detective Mallory wielded this name as a hammer.

“You can’t c o nnect that to-”

“Can’t I? You’re a shrink. You know the victim profile can change at any minute in a murderer’s d ay. So don’t e ven try to hide behind that. Now back to my question. Why would you put all these people in danger?”

“The parents were suffering too publicly. I wanted to get them off the Internet.”

“So you know he’s in one of the therapy groups,” said Mallory, “probably all of them. You had to know he was fixated on the parents.”

Though all her traps for him were laid with words, he envisioned Mallory digging a deep pit and covering it over with twigs and branches. “I’m not so talented,” he said. “I never foresaw a prolific child killer making the jump to murdering adults. But I could see the danger of the Internet. What an opportunity for someone who feeds off the pain of others.”

“You’re holding out on me. You’ve had contact with this freak.” She leaned closer to drive this point home. “You just diagnosed him.”

He turned to his windshield and the lights of the caravan city. Mallory’s hand was on his arm, and her grip was tight. No escape.

“Gerald Linden was part of your core group,” she said, “the people you met up with in Chicago.”

“Yes.” He watched the Finn children as they walked by, hand in hand. Dodie had been announced by her humming. Those four notes were almost a mantra to him.

Mallory’s e yes were also on Dodie Finn. “You have to get these people off the road before the next one dies.”

“They can’t go home. If the killer could find Gerald Linden before he ever joined the caravan-well, you see what that means.” He looked out over his flock, mindful of the humming child. She was always in his thoughts-his sights. “The killer knows their names and addresses.”

“Not all of them.” Mallory lost interest in Dodie Finn and turned her eyes back to him. “He knew Linden’s movements, where the man lived, what kind of car he drove. He would’ve learned all of that when he stalked Linden’s d aughter. The killer only knows the parents of his victims. And so do you.”

Dodie’s humming had stopped.

He looked around nervously, searching every window of his car. Ah, there they were. Peter and Dodie had wandered back to their own camp-fire, where their father still struggled to set up their tent. Paul Magritte’s interest in the Finn children was not lost on Mallory. She looked at him as if she had caught him in some obscene act. Did she take him for a child killer, or did she only share a suspicion about that insane little girl?

“Back in Illinois,” she said, “you told me Joe Finn had a missing daughter. How old was she?”

“A teenager. I really can’t s ay more than that.” But did he have to? She was nodding, adding this to her store of evidence against him. And now she turned back to look at that little family only yards away. Her interest should have waned with the information that Ariel Finn had not been a child. But no, her focus on the Finns was keener now.

Canny Mallory.

She pointed toward Joe Finn and his children. “So you’re not worried about them?”

As she searched his face for telltale furrows and maybe tics, he found her method of extrapolating information was something akin to vampirism. She had bled him until she was satisfied, and now he was almost certain that young Dodie’s secret belonged to Mallory.

“Tell me about April Waylon,” she said. “I know that woman was invited to the meeting in Chicago. When were you planning to tell me that she was missing?”

“Oh, but she’s here. April arrived an hour ago.” He observed a slight fault line in Mallory’s facade, a look of surprise, fleeting-gone now.

“Make a shortlist,” she said. “All the parents who make likely targets. Then get them off the road and off the killer’s radar.”

“By sending them back home? If the killer is targeting parents, they’re safer here. What chance would they have isolated in their own houses? You think they’d e ver see it coming?”

“It,” said Mallory. “You mean the killer, don’t you? Interesting word for a shrink to use. But then you know him better than I do.”

He shook his head, and the line of the detective’s mouth dipped on one side to tell him that denial was wasted on her. And just when he thought the inquisition was about to begin in earnest, she opened the door of the car, preparing to leave him.

“The sheriff will be back in a little while,” she said, one hand resting on the chrome door handle. “He’s arranging a guard of deputies to get you through the night. The locals have a personal interest in this case.” She stepped out of the car. “So maybe you’ll tell Sheriff Banner what you wouldn’t t e ll me.” The door slammed in anger.

He thought that she had vanished, but then her face appeared in the open window, startling him.

“Something else to think about,” she said. “What if it was the road trip that made him decide to kill one of the parents? If you’d left them on the Internet, he might’ve been satisfied with that-feeding on all their misery… but then you cut off his food supply.”

After so neatly slaying Paul Magritte with words, she wiped her hands together, seeming to shed his problems along the ground as she left him behind. And yet he was still hopeful as he watched her walk away. In this new century, he had regained his faith in gods and monsters-and she was both.


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