'Is there nothing else?' Chris asked.

'One thing,' she remembered. 'Fire.'

Chris looked over at the dwindling flame in the fireplace. 'See if you can find something to use for a torch. I'll watch the doorway.'

Karyn ran to the bathroom and took Roy's long-handled shower brush from its hook over the tub. She wrapped two heavy towels around the bristle end, fastening them with adhesive tape. From the cupboard under the sink she took a can of lighter fluid and poured it over the towels. From out in the living room came the sound of shots. She ran back and saw two more wolves down on the floor.

Chris took the makeshift torch from her hand and touched the wrapped end to the fire. Flames enveloped the towels immediately.

'Stay close to me,' he said, and led her out the front door.

Wolves were everywhere. They backed away when Chris thrust the torch at them, but just far enough to avoid the flame. He fired at one and killed it.

As they inched across the clearing the wolves circled them like a city gang of juveniles waiting for an opening to attack.

Chris handed her the gun. 'You take this. I'll try to scatter them with the torch while you make for the car. There's one bullet left. If you have to use it, make it count.'

'What about you?'

'Once you're inside the car, be ready to whip the door open for me. When I come, I'll come fast.'

Karyn squeezed his arm, then gripped the pistol firmly and started running. She forced herself to look nowhere but straight ahead at the car. With every step she expected to be pulled down from behind by powerful jaws. Behind her she could hear the frenzied growling of the wolves as Chris menaced them with the torch.

The blood pounded in Karyn's temples as she covered the last yards to the car. Just two steps away from safety a lithe black wolf sprang between her and the car. For a frozen moment the woman and the beast were face to face. The green eyes of the wolf blazed with hatred. The timeless hatred of the female.

'I should have known it was you, Marcia,' said Karyn.

The she-wolf gathered herself and leaped at her. At the same instant Karyn fired. One of the green eyes burst like a ripened grape as the bullet pierced it and sank into the brain. The black wolf screamed once and tumbled lifeless to the ground at Karyn's feet.

She stepped over the animal's body and snatched open the door on the passenger's side of the Camaro. Without looking back she dived inside and slammed the door behind her.

As Karyn pulled herself upright she saw Chris running toward the car with the torch held out in front of him. He slammed into the fender, did a body roll across the hood, and came down on the driver's side still gripping the torch. Karyn banged the door open for him, and he levered himself inside, hurling the torch back at the raging wolves.

The burning torch traced a fiery spiral arc through the night and landed in the dry grass. The wind caught the flame, and in seconds it had spread across the clearing to the oily chapparal at the edge of the forest.

Chris got the car going, swung around, and sped back toward the road leading out. Behind them they could hear the growing roar of flames and screams that were neither animal nor human.

They did not slow down until they reached the crest of the mountain. There Chris pulled to a stop and they looked back. Below them in the valley the red-orange glow of the fire spread into the village of Drago, whipped on by the desert wind.

'Some of them will get away,' Karen said.

Chris did not answer.

She looked down at the fire as it ate through the wooden buildings and thought of the long-dead village of Dradja. 'Some of them always get away.'

A sudden deep chill made her shudder. Chris put an arm around her shoulder and drew her close to him. In a little while the chill subsided.

'Can we go away from here?' she said. 'Far away?'

'Yes,' he said. He pulled the car back onto the road and drove on over the mountain.

Just as they started down the other side Karyn heard it. She clapped her hands over her ears, but could not shut it out. The howling.

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