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Contents Copyright by Bruce Durham unless noted otherwise

Minutes later they came upon the second van. Marconi slowed the vehicle and peered out the window, his brow creasing in puzzlement. “Do you see anyone, Alex?”


Bell had remained quiet during the trip, slumped in the passenger seat, chin resting on his chest, face half buried in his expansive beard. Pouting, he said, “Maybe they’re taking a whiz.”


“All at the same time?” Coming to a stop beside the other van, Marconi noted the wide open sliding door on the passenger side. “Hello? Anyone there?” Hearing no response, he threw the gearshift into park, opened the door, and stepped from the vehicle. “Hello?” he called again. His voice echoed faintly in the distance. Something glistening on the floor of the van caught his eye. Placing a booted foot on the running board, he leaned forward to inspect the wet smear. It was blood. Quickly he stepped back and cast about, suddenly alert, his senses picking out further signs that things were not right. He spotted additional splatters of blood along the ground, nearly blending in with the rust-colored earth. And footprints. Human and —


Marconi turned white, his mouth going dry. Racing to the safety of the van, he slammed the door shut and let out a great shuddering sigh.


Bell regarded him askance. “What is it?”


“He— he— hell-hounds. And no sign of the crew. They must have got to them.”


Bell sat up. “Hell-hounds? Out here? Can’t be.”


Marconi stared at his white-knuckled hands, gripping the steering wheel. “Blood. Tracks. Go see for yourself if you want.”


“Nah, I’ll take your word for it.” There was a pregnant pause as Bell chewed on his beard. He said, “Shouldn’t we get going then? Report this to the authorities?”


Marconi nodded slowly at first, then vigorously shook his head. “Maybe they’re not dead. Maybe they’re trapped and need our help.”


Bell stared at him for long seconds. “You’re shitting me, right?”


“No. No, I’m not. We can’t just leave. We have to know for sure if they’re safe, or not.”


“Sure we can leave. In fact, I insist.”


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