Frostbite- Chapter 57

Her arm grew tired with alarming quickness. It wouldn’t hold her weight for long. She looked down and saw a three- meter drop to muck and probably submerged rocks. Her feet kicked wildly, looking for purchase that just wasn’t there. They knocked and hit against the side of the overturned truck. Maybe—maybe if she could get them inside the driver’s window, which she saw was rolled down—maybe then she could—

The truck rumbled as if it were coming back to life. She heard clattering footfalls above her and knew that Balfour had climbed up on top of the dead vehicle. He stopped suddenly as the truck dipped forward. It had been dumped unceremoniously on the heap with no effort given to finding balance or stability. Now, disturbed after a long rest of many winters, it rocked in its bed.

With a creaking, tearing sound, as of metal being pulled to pieces, it lurched a few centimeters forward. The motion was enough to send Chey swinging. She clutched hard to the side mirror but knew she had only seconds before she would have to let go. Already her palm and all the joints of her fingers burned. Her left hand flailed to find something to hold onto.

One last effort. It was all she had in her. She brought her legs up as if she were on a trapeze and swung, hard, for the window of the truck. Her feet went through into darkness and then the lower half of her body followed. Her hand let go without warning and she nearly fell, but she braced herself with her legs and slithered inside the truck’s cab like a mouse disappearing into a hole.

The truck moaned and slid forward again, dipped forward a millimeter at a time, with rocks and bits of debris pattering away with every grudging incremental motion. Then it stopped. Was Balfour still on top of it, clutching on for dear life? She was sure he must be.

The inside of the cab was almost warm compared to the outside world. The windshield remained intact except for one long diagonal crack, and it cut off the frigid breeze, at least. As a result, though, the air inside was close and it stank of mildew. There had been leather on the truck’s seats once, but it had succumbed entirely to rot. Now Chey, lying on the ceiling of the cab, looked up into sharp- edged springs that poked down at her like coiled snakes ready to strike. The steering wheel, cracked and peeling, and the gearshift and controls looked all wrong from where she lay, but she didn’t have time to think about it. She lay there gasping for breath with her mouth wide open, trying not to make too much noise.

She could not have gotten up at that moment, could not have moved from that spot, even if Balfour had climbed in beside her with his rifle and his silver knife.

Slowly she recovered herself. Very slowly. The truck had stopped moving—perhaps it had settled down into something approaching equilibrium. She heard a footstep from above her, a clattering noise. Balfour must have been wearing steel- toed boots. That first step sounded almost hesitant, as if he weren’t sure of his footing. Then he clambered forward, moving steadily closer to her. She somehow found the energy to hold her breath. She heard him step almost directly above her—and then stop.

Then nothing happened. Her lungs complained. She let the breath out and still nothing happened. He must not have seen where she’d gone. He must be looking around up there, trying to follow her trail. He would not be able to see her, even if he were standing outside the cab looking in—the darkness where she lay was almost absolute.

She waited, and listened. And finally she heard the footsteps moving away.

Slowly Chey let herself relax, let her body shift into a more comfortable position inside the truck’s cab. Finally she let herself exhale the breath she’d been holding.

Instantly Balfour surged forward. He must have been waiting for her to give herself away—waiting in ambush. His footfalls clattered on the underside of the truck and then he was climbing down the grill, using the bars there like a ladder. His feet swung into view through the windshield and then his legs. He dropped to the tailing pile in front of the truck, his whole body silhouetted in the windshield. Then he lifted a flashlight and switched it on and pointed the beam inside the cab. The light blinded Chey and she raised her hands to fend it off.

He drew a pistol from a pocket of his jacket. She had no way of knowing if the bullets inside were silver or lead—it didn’t matter. He had her. She couldn’t get out of the cab, not quickly enough to get away from him.

Check out the previous chapters of Frostbite right here.

Excerpted from Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington. Copyright © 2009 by David Wellington. Published in the Unites States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Published in the UK as Cursed by Piatkus Books, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.

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