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Chapter One

Sibyl Johnson didn't own a rifle.

She wouldn't have known how to shoot one, if she had. And Tony Bartlett had vanished, apparently right off the edge of the world.

None of which stopped Sibyl from wanting to center his face in the sights of an honest-to-God, high-powered varmint gun. Sibyl had spent her formative years increasingly disgusted with small-town drunken quarrels that led to knifings and shootings on Saturday nights. But if she ever saw Tony Bartlett again . . .

She'd do a whole lot more than wish for a gun.

Sibyl banged a fist against the steering wheel. How could I have been so . . . so . . .  




Any number of scathing put-downs would be appropriate.

Another lightning strike jerked Sibyl back into the present reality of creaking VW Beetle and steaming Florida heat. She tightened sweaty hands around the cracked plastic of the steering wheel. Another searing flash momentarily erased everything beyond her car: the rutted dirt road, the dust-white trees clinging to the hillside like forlorn mushrooms, the looming storm that had boiled up out of a clear sky the way storms always did on summer afternoons.

An aftershock of thunder, shaking the very frame of her battered car, was louder than the assorted groans, screeches, and bangs issuing from the rear of the decaying vehicle. "C'mon, Nuggie, you can do it," she encouraged the faltering car.

Nuggie didn't want to climb the long, shallow grade. She was glad the old car was running at all, given the repairs it needed. If she'd lived in mountainous country, like West Virginia or Colorado, Nuggie would've gone to slag-heap heaven years ago—although things might have turned out very differently, if she had lived somewhere else. Tony Bartlett would've picked a different victim, for one thing.

Sibyl punched the gas pedal savagely. Lightning flared again, even closer. Thunder rattled side windows in their loose frames. Sibyl winced and glanced through the driver's window, the one that would roll neither up nor down all the way. The air trickling through was cooler than the inside of her car, but not much. Sweat dripped down the back of her neck and prickled under her bra strap. Hot as it was, it was little wonder the inevitable afternoon storm promised to be a dilly. The hotter the day, the crazier the storm, that's what Granny Johnson had always said.

Industrial Light & Magic, Inc., would have been proud to claim this storm. Greasy black clouds boiled across the sky, just clear of the treetops. Nonstop lightning—not bolts, but fantastic, sky-arching pink columns—jabbed the blackness to strike beyond the hill crest. Nuggie's headlights barely dented the gloom. Although it wasn't yet four in the afternoon, cattle egrets had already started to roost. Their wings flashed white against the backdrop of black clouds and dusty, cringing trees.

Sibyl Johnson had lived through a lot of Florida thunderstorms. But she'd never seen one like this and she still hadn't hit the worst of it. She hadn't even hit the leading edge of rain yet.

Her car wheezed and lost acceleration. "C'mon, Nuggie," she muttered again as she downshifted. Gears clashed and groaned somewhere in the VW's battered innards. The dying car wouldn't survive the summer. She wasn't even certain it would survive the trip to campus. She growled under her breath. Campus . . . Sibyl knew confronting those smug, lily-white fat cats wouldn't do any good. It was just something she had to do, to retain what was left of her battered self-respect. She would do it, get it over with, and leave the rest to fate.

Another sky-cracking column of lightning set roadside trees aflame, backlit with mad, pink light. She gripped the steering wheel harder and tried to ignore a frosty prickle of fear, left over from childhood tornadoes and the death of her parents. I am not afraid of thunderstorms. I am not. Really, I'm not . . .

She tried to focus on practicalities to distract herself from unreasoning fear. Driving straight into the storm like this, she didn't have much hope of avoiding the rain. Once it cut in . . . Nuggie's tires were balder than her department chairman. Eight-year-old tires just wouldn't cope with blinding rain on a washboarded dirt road. And there wasn't money—not now—to buy new ones or fix the roof on the house, either. She savaged her lower lip and blinked rapidly.

Car . . . house . . . career . . . Sibyl wanted to bawl like a baby. But with a gullywasher in the making, she couldn't afford to cry about it now. So she pushed the Beetle as fast as she dared and eyed the storm for tell-tale funnel shapes. She found herself muttering a snatch of music that matched her mood. When would Rod Serling step out from wherever it was dead TV MCs went and say something appropriate about the mess her life was in? Maybe he could tell her the last three months had been a nothing more than a terrible delusion, caused by some foreign germ to which she had no resistance.

Yeah, right. And Tony Bartlett really is the answer to your dreams.

Another column of nightmarish pink slammed into the crest of the hill. Sibyl jumped, so badly the car swerved toward a ditch. Cattle egrets took wing in a blur of pink-edged white as she dragged Nuggie back on course. The storm grew madder with each shaky breath. I'm not panicked, I'm not . . . But with the whole sky on fire like the edge of a Tesla ball, she could imagine driving over the top of this hill into anything at all: a black-sand beach beside an ammonia sea, even a stampeding herd of tyrannosaurs.

Come to think of it, a T. rex might be useful. One little enough to fit in Wilkins' office. Yeah, that'd be just about right.

Anger simmered to a boil again. Tony Bartlett's mocking grin floated in front of her eyes. She dragged the back of one hand over her cheek and said an ugly word aloud. At least her grandmother hadn't lived to see this. Had Sibyl not been Cora Johnson's granddaughter, the shattering end of everything she had worked for might have destroyed her. Granny not only would've understood, she probably would've been in Nuggie's passenger seat, ready, willing, and able to do battle.

And Granny Johnson would've had that rifle, too—the one Sibyl had sold right after the funeral so it wouldn't be in the house, the one she'd never understood the need for, propped so sinisterly in her grandmother's bedroom corner next to the quilt stand. She growled aloud another word which would've shocked her grandmother speechless. When Sibyl got to campus, there was going to be a storm in the chairman's office, one to match the gullywasher brewing overhead, and only an act of God would prevent it!

She gritted her teeth. I'd have saved myself a lot of grief if I'd lived up to my ancient namesakes. Rome's famous sibyls, priestesses of the Magna Mater—the Phrygian Great Goddess Cybele—had read portents that revealed the future.

"Some oracle I turned out to be." Sibyl wiped her cheek fiercely. "Displayed all the clairvoyance of a rock, didn't we, Sib?"

She should've seen through all that flattering swill Bartlett had fed her. She was a good student and motivated, but not brilliant—and overly eager. Her grip tightened down again on the steering wheel. Bartlett had set her up like the pro he was. And she'd walked right into his arms. Must be laughing himself sick, wherever he was by now. At the rate she was going, maybe life in the T. Zone would be a change for the better.

"Enough! First, you confront those tenured fat cats. Then, if they're stubborn, find a lawyer who works cheap and sue them."

Cora Johnson's granddaughter was not a quitter.

The car finally chugged the last few yards to the crest of the hill, slipping gears and wheezing like a foundered racehorse. Sibyl took the VW out of gear to coast downhill in the vain hope her transmission might last just a few hundred miles more. A brilliant flash lit the whole interior of her car with a hellish pink glow. All she could see was after image. Sibyl swore, hastily shifting into first gear—in case she had to do some quick maneuvering around a downed tree—then tapped the brakes until she could see.

There was a hole in front of her.

Not in the road.

In the air.

Sibyl stood on the brakes. Nuggie groaned a protest and fishtailed on the dusty road. The car lurched. She threw in the clutch to keep the engine running. Then she just stared, while the bottom fell out of her viscera and tried to crawl back up the hill without her.

A ragged puncture of brilliant white light was opening out of thin air. It was so bright she couldn't see anything: not through it, not around it, not beyond. Enormous columns of pink lightning crashed on all sides, arcing outward to strike the road, the trees, the clouds—

"Oh, My God . . ."

It widened, a doorway into hell.

"Ohmighod . . ."

Her hand slipped on the gear shift. She fumbled with clutch and accelerator, hunted for reverse by feel. Like a rabbit trapped in a glare of headlights, Sibyl couldn't look away. The rupture splitting open in front of her gaped wider than her house. Where it touched the ground, there wasn't any ground. Pink lightning sizzled out of it. The whole world sizzled, while Nuggie's gears groaned and something inside the engine made a sickening, snapping sound. Sibyl jammed the accelerator pedal against the floor.

Impossibly, the car lurched forward.

The brilliant rupture swooped hungrily toward her, vast as the surface of the sun. Sibyl screamed and fought the gear shift. It was frozen in place, solid as a mountain. Lightning caught the VW and danced over the hood, spraying pink hell across the windshield.

Then blinding white light swallowed Nuggie whole.

Sibyl threw her arms across her face and screamed again, high, ragged. The brilliance was so intense it burned. A flash of disorienting nausea tore through her, along with the sensation of falling forever. The last thing she remembered was the vile smell of vomit.


Logan didn't outrun the storm.

Not that he really tried. He was enjoying the view across the lake and the clean, green scent of the wind far too much to seek shelter. He'd sat here since early morning, knitting more of that hideous sweater he'd begun several months ago, just to keep his restless hands occupied. While he knitted, Logan watched tall, ungainly wading birds stalk fish for their dinner—and 'gators stalk birds for theirs. So far the 'gators had gone hungry. Logan's belly rumbled in hollow sympathy.

All through the day a steady parade of college kids, outrageous in pink jeans and orange hair, had hiked down from main campus. Most ignored him, much as they might have ignored a lizard sunning on a log. That was all right. He ignored them, too. Others, though . . .

Logan glanced up as a foursome made their noisy approach down the wooded path to the observation deck where he sat. Nice-looking kids. Or they might have been, if their clothes hadn't been artistically ripped to shreds, their hair chopped off apparently by machetes, and their faces painted with inch-thick purple and orange makeup.

At least, the girls' were, if he was interpreting the bulges correctly. There wasn't much evidence on which to base a determination, since all four wore at least some makeup, a number of massive, unmatched earrings, and clothes loose enough to disguise even the most tell-tale anatomy. The cloying scent of clove cigarettes filled the air. The cloying sameness of their "rebellious look" blurred them into a whole generation with the same face, the same hair and clothes.

Had Logan's "Me-Generation" of Jim Morrison, LSD, and 'Nam Babies been just as indistinguishable?

"I can't believe he said that, I mean, everybody knows to activate a crystal you've got to bury it under an oak tree, not a stupid pine—"

"Syn, Jez, get a look at the crackerman!"

The girls (he assumed) obediently swiveled their heads to stare at Logan. One of them flipped ash from her cigarette in Logan's general direction. "You'd think the hospital wouldn't let those creeps out without an armed guard. I mean, Jeezus, they're all crazy, what are they doing running around loose?"

"They can't even dress themselves right! And they shuffle around and stare and drool on themselves every time a girl walks by." The other girl shuddered delicately. Her earrings jangled.

"God, one of them's going to pull a real crazy one of these days and kill another bunch of people. Let's get out of here."

They went. He listened as they disappeared back toward the road, still arguing the merits of keeping the "Ward Two" residents locked up. He sighed. He couldn't blame them, really, for being scared, not after the campus murders. Then he tightened his lips. Logan held no illusions, not about himself, at any rate. He knew perfectly well what that foursome saw when they looked at him.

He found, to his surprise, that he didn't really mind.

At first he was wryly amused. Logan Pfeiffer McKee overlooking an insult? Then, gradually, he felt a little lonelier. An osprey sailed out across the water. It dove, struck at a fish and missed, and lifted slowly into the air again. He watched until it disappeared into the woodline across the lake, then shook himself.

Logan couldn't hide from the truth, any more than he could hide from the plastic band on his wrist. He had become one of those grey old men in shabby clothes, the ones kids made fun of and parents watched with wary distrust. He felt old for the first time in his life. Somehow, he couldn't muster enough social consciousness to cut his greying hair or shave his scraggly cinnamon-and-salt beard every day, or even replace the twenty-year-old, olive-drab military "blouse" (aka, British Commando jacket), his t-shirt with time-worn holes through the soft cotton, and much-patched jeans that were his most comfortable clothes. A little hot, true, but he'd been trapped in hotter.

Much hotter. Logan shivered at memories crowding the forefront of his mind like teenagers trying to get seats at a rock concert. Facing the truth was bad enough. Even worse was the cold realization he had no one to jolly him out of his mood.

Growing old in a loony bin didn't do much for a man's self-esteem.

Hell, there were a lot of people who would have denied him even this one-day pass, after . . .

Logan shied away from those memories. What people thought or didn't think about him was no longer his concern. Legally he had been relieved of any further need to worry about such things. So he wouldn't. He glanced down and found he'd clenched his fingers into white-knuckled fists. He swore softly, then deliberately uncurled his fingers one by one until his hands lay still and dead on the rough wooden bench next to the "commando" jacket he'd shed earlier.

Slowly Logan emptied his mind. He watched the lake and the birds and the sky. The sweep of dark water beyond his bench reflected dark clouds scudding in low above the treetops from the west. Massive arches of lightning discharged through the clouds every few seconds. He smiled to himself, a bitter, wistful little smile, as the lake changed hue from sunny blue to algae green to slate and finally to the murky black of the lowering storm. A snowy egret launched itself from the shallows and flew off into the rising wind, its wings flashing starkly white against sky and water. Farther away, a flock of little cattle egrets or maybe white ibis settled earthward to escape the rising storm.

He drew a deep breath that smelled of dark water and rustling cattails and the thick, unmistakable scent of alligators and slowly allowed the furrows in his brow to smooth out. Dr. Brandon would lecture him on responsibility when he showed up soaking wet—Logan snorted wryly at the very idea—but he didn't consider moving from his seat. The wind was sharp and cool against his face, refreshing after the steaming heat of afternoon. The black lake began to froth as wind tore miniature whitecaps from its surface. Lightning blazed in the seething clouds, crackled through the wind like some living thing seeking its mate in the ground.

Logan breathed in the storm smell through dilated nostrils, through the very pores of his skin. Even plate glass windows closed a man in, if they were never opened to the sweet, living air.

He winced, inwardly, where no one could see. The temptation to start walking and never go back hurt him worse than any gunshots ever had. He shut his eyes, then sat listening to the storm's whistling, moaning descent. It came shrieking across the lake, driving a wall of water before it. Logan could hear the rain smash down into the black lake long before the first drops touched his skin. Lightning flashed starkly against the backs of his eyelids, blazing pink through the blood vessels in the thin membranes. A bull 'gator grunted in the reeds nearby.

Logan sighed as the rain burst over the observation platform. The deluge soaked him to the skin in a matter of seconds. Toadstranglers, he'd called them when he was a kid, these afternoon storms that swept across the land, sheeting down to flood the wet, low lands and fountain up through storm drains too choked with runoff to hold the excess. Wistfully, he wondered if bass still lurked in the deep, hidden holes along the Suwannee and Santa Fe, back under the overhanging cypresses. It had been too many years since he'd haunted those banks, cane pole in hand, his old reliable .22 propped nearby in case he surprised a water moccasin.

Reluctantly Logan opened his eyes. Hair streamed wetly into his face. He pushed it back onto his forehead. The very thought of going back left him physically ill. But lightning could be dangerous, out in the open like this. Well, he could always wander over to the state museum or take shelter at the student union. He didn't have to go back just yet. Slowly Logan hauled himself to his feet.

His leg felt stiffer than usual. He winced when his weight came down on it. Probably the rain and a whole day spent sitting in one place. God, he was getting old. Logan favored the old injury slightly as he reached for his rip-stop nylon satchel and the much-tattered jacket that had gone everywhere he had over the past couple of decades. That jacket had seen more combat than most soldiers saw in a lifetime. Like his leg, it was the worse for wear. He shrugged it on over his wet t-shirt and hoisted the pack onto one shoulder. Then, watching his footing, Logan started back along the winding path that led to the bus stop.

He didn't get far.

The dirt track was a slippery river of mud, made even slicker by last year's pine straw and decaying leaves. He was moving cautiously, head bent against the solid wall of water beating down on him, when the world erupted into a pink hell. Logan jerked his head upward. Great, sizzling fingers of lightning stabbed into an ancient, towering magnolia along the edge of the path. Gigawatts of electricity poured earthward like some demonic waterfall. Brilliance burned his eyes. Instinctively—uselessly—he threw up a shielding arm.

The tree's crown exploded forty feet above his head, then deadly rivers of raw lightning branched and slammed into the ground on all sides of him, trapping him inside a cage of crawling pink hellfire. Searing blue afterimages left him half blind. Logan felt a tremendous overpressure as thunder bruised his chest, bloodied his ears. He saw the tree begin its long, toppling crash to the ground, tried to hurl himself out of the way . . .

His bad leg twisted. He lurched sideways. Then started down, directly beneath the smashing weight of the tree. Time crawled like cold syrup and held him motionless. He could do nothing but watch the tree kill him. Logan felt the sizzling electric tingle of lightning as it crackled around him again. Blinding light shut out the image of the rushing tree trunk—

Then he was falling, faster than the magnolia. Faster than the rain. His stomach tried to meet his lungs, as though he'd stepped into an empty elevator shaft. Logan yelled and twisted in midair. He should have hit the ground by now—should have been crushed into bloody mud—

He got his eyes open. Icy cold mist had somehow formed beneath his feet and risen up to swallow him. He twisted backwards, then sideways through freezing air, and wondered why he hadn't felt the pain of dying.

Logan sprawled headlong into something cold and wet. He jarred every bone in his body, so hard he couldn't breathe. Instinctively he covered his head with both arms.

The tree didn't crush him.

In fact, he realized slowly, it hadn't even fallen. At least, not anywhere that Logan could hear. Cold, dead silence gripped the air. Which was curiously dry.

It wasn't raining.

Slowly Logan lifted his head.

He lay face down in a snowdrift.

—A snowdrift?

Logan blinked. Then picked up a freezing fistful of white wetness. Snow. In Florida? In July? At four o'clock in the afternoon? He looked up . . .

Towering, stark conifers rose blackly into a night sky. Millions of frozen stars glittered like ice chips tossed carelessly aside by a giant ice crusher. God . . . Logan hadn't seen so many stars since—

He winced, despite a heroic effort not to.

"Well, this sure as hell ain't Ethiopia, now, is it?"

The bite of air in his lungs convinced him the temperature was somewhere down around thirty degrees Fahrenheit. He lowered his gaze to the snow-covered ground. Creeping, ghostly white mist had formed in low-lying areas, obscuring tree trunks and blending in with the snow.

The silence was deafening.

Badly shaken, Logan sat up. Broken bits of magnolia branch lay scattered across crusted snow. Beneath him, Logan found the crushed body of an immature male skink. He picked up the little lizard. Its smooth skin was still faintly warm from the sun it had been basking in just before the rain hit. He stared at it, at his surroundings, for a long, impossible moment.

Then slowly began to wonder just where he was.

Logan snorted wryly. Given his luck, it would turn out to be one of the lower reaches of hell. He'd always figured hell for a Florida boy would be some godforsaken, frozen wasteland. Florida summers were generally hot enough to fry even Satan's ass.

Trouble was, Logan didn't really feel dead.

Which left him with some unpleasant alternatives. Either he was trapped under the tree, maybe bleeding to death or running out of air and hallucinating . . . or he was elsewhere. He'd never had much respect for those sci-fi transdimensional novels where the hero falls into another universe invariably peopled either with naked, big-breasted women who'd been waiting all their lives to be bedded by a real man, or crammed full of ghoulies and goblins anxious to oblige the hero in his task of proving a twentieth-century man could hack and hew with the best of the bloody barbarians, using weapons that hadn't been seen in centuries—if ever.

Logan snorted again. He didn't see any half-naked ladies or ghoulie-goblins lurking in the trees. All he saw was trees. And lots of snow. And since he didn't think dead men were supposed to get frostbite, Logan decided he didn't have the faintest idea what had happened to him.

That realization didn't bring much comfort.

He shivered violently. A little ruefully, Logan realized he was still soaking wet. The water in his hair and clothes was beginning to freeze. Wherever he was, he couldn't sit stupidly in a snowbank all night. He had to get warm and dry—and he hadn't exactly been dumped here with an abundance of survival gear. Logan spat a few choice oaths into the icy air.

"Now this is just a peachy goddamn mess, ain't it?"

He started searching pockets and backpack, knowing what he'd find, but making certain he hadn't overlooked anything. The doctors—and courts—hadn't allowed him to carry so much as a penknife. The most useful tool he currently possessed was the small pair of blunt plastic scissors in his pack, the kind kindergartners used to cut construction paper.

Plastic scissors were jim-dandy for therapeutic crafts projects, which even Logan had finally grown accustomed to carting around, but in a survival situation, kiddie scissors were about as helpful as a truckload of popsickles. Hell, with that many popsickle sticks, he could've at least built a roaring fire. Logan growled something incoherent in the Ethiopian dialect Marifa had taught him. Logan's breath steamed wetly, hanging on the air an instant before dissipating.

"Fat lot of good plastic scissors are going to do."

Well, he didn't have much choice, did he?

Gathering wood wasn't easy, since he had to dig to find deadwood. Snow stung his hands until the bite of cold vanished into dangerous numbness, but he finally had a respectable pile. Fortunately he seemed to have landed on the side of a mountain, with plenty of available cover among the massive boulders and cliff-faces that towered in the darkness behind his landing point.

He dragged the wood under the lip of an overhanging rockface he discovered nearby. The overhang didn't quite form a cave, but it sheltered him from the freezing wind. That alone would provide minimal warmth until he got a fire going. He used one edge of the scissor blade to scrape enough bark to provide tinder, having to pause now and again to blow on his fingers or beat them against his thighs to force warm blood into them until they would bend a little again. He'd begun shuddering so hard it was difficult to control his hands and arms.

Logan finally rummaged in his satchel for the matches he'd picked up at the cafe where he'd eaten breakfast. He didn't smoke, but old habits died hard. There'd been a time when he never went out without a minimum amount of survival gear. He grimaced as he struck the match with shaking fingers and lit the tinder. The heat from the match sent prickles of agony through his fingertips. What he really needed was a pair of gloves. And a heavy coat. Some GI boots, a good, sharp knife . . .

Goddamned doctors.

Within a relatively few minutes, Logan had a roaring fire under the overhang. He stripped off wet clothes and tennis shoes and all but crawled into the fire. The warmth, delicious against most of him, sent white-hot needles through his hands. Bad sign. Logan held his sodden garments over the fire as best he could and waited for the hot fire to work its life-saving magic. Bare rock, sharp and cold under his feet, warmed more slowly than he did. He huddled, shivering, with his toes practically touching the growing pile of embers, and fed the fire while waiting for his t-shirt and undershorts to dry.

He felt a little less vulnerable once he'd shucked on his underwear. Logan patiently scraped points on several sticks, which he jammed into loose gravel beneath the overhang, then tied cross-sticks in place with odd bits of yarn from his knitting. He grinned, then adjusted his jeans and jacket across the make-shift frame for more efficient drying. He warmed his hands again and reached for his satchel.

He'd started the sweater nearly three months earlier, just to give himself something to do. Even learning to knit beat vegetating in front of a TV set. He didn't know how people could sit and watch hours and hours of that stuff.

He shook his head. Some of the men on his floor might have sat in front of their TVs, but they hadn't seen anything but . . . memories. Grimly he had to acknowledge that being stranded in another universe, half-frozen to death, was better than that.

Thanks to three months of practice, followed by that long day at the lake, the sweater was nearly finished. All it lacked was most of a left sleeve. It was acrylic instead of wool, in a jumbled mess of scarlet, purple, and several shades of greeny and orangey yellow (he recalled with a grin how he'd stuck defiantly to his color choices, made specifically to piss off the hospital's crafts instructor), but regardless of color or fiber content, it was a sweater.

Any sweater would be warmer than what he had on now.

Logan pulled the garment out of his pack and rescued the remaining remnants of his yarn, then slipped thick plastic needles out of the sleeve and began knitting. A moment later Logan had to chuckle. He hoped nothing was watching. His old buddies would've razzed him for months if they'd seen Logan Pfeiffer McKee knitting in his skivvies, in the middle of somebody's winter.

Icy wind blasted under the overhang, sending a shower of sparks flying. A massive shudder caught him as the wind sucked away all warmth. Logan's laughter faded. He concentrated on the job at hand—survival—and worked as fast as his chilled fingers would move. Sooner than he expected, he had it finished. It wasn't pretty. And thanks to his basic lack of talent, it was miles too big; but the sweater was warm. He didn't mind at all that he had to roll up an improvised cuff on the right sleeve, or that the "hem" hung halfway to his knees. After a few moments, he even managed to stop shivering.

Who said crafts classes for mental cases were a complete waste of time? (He had a vague recollection that someone named Logan McKee had said so, forcefully and frequently, but dismissed the notion as the short-sighted nonsense it was.)

Logan put away knitting needles, scissors, and scrap balls of yarn, then checked his clothes. Socks, jeans, and jacket were dry. He pulled them on gratefully (jacket over the sweater), and checked the condition of his decaying Adidas. Nearly dry. Good. Not the best footgear he'd ever seen for hiking through snow, but a damn sight better than the sandals he'd almost worn instead.

Which reminded him how long it had been since he'd eaten. Breakfast was—subjectively, since he had no idea what "time" it was here—hours in the past. He'd skipped lunch in order to stay at the lake. And, of course, he hadn't stuffed a single, edible thing into his pack. Stupid. . . . He eyed the dead skink.

Logan didn't care what the experts said. He'd seen cats who'd survived eating them. Crazy he might be, but brain damaged he wasn't and didn't intend to be. He just hoped he could identify something here as safely edible.

Logan told his stomach to go to sleep and wished the rest of him could snooze, too. He was dead tired, but if he fell asleep, he was likely to be dead, period. God alone knew what kind of predators—two-legged, four-legged, or otherwise—might investigate his scent or his fire before dawn. Until he could risk exploring for a more sheltered place to hole up, Logan didn't dare fall asleep.

He sighed philosophically. This wouldn't be the first night he'd gone without sleep to preserve his skin. The odds of keeping body and soul together this time around were a little difficult to judge, considering his appalling lack of basic information, but he'd been in situations that were—on a scale of urgent immediacy—far deadlier. At least, so far. He'd come through them unscathed.

Relatively speaking.

His thoughts shied away from that, too.

Instead he peered skyward, trying to see constellations between tall treetops. The sky was familiar, although recognizable constellations had shifted considerably southward. High latitude, then. He felt a little less lonely, having placed the Dippers above him and Orion far down on the horizon. There wasn't any noticeable distortion in shape, so he probably hadn't been dumped fifty thousand years into the past, at least.

Logan hugged his knees to his chest and wondered if he'd ever manage to get home again. Home. . . . What the hell was home for a man nobody wanted walking the streets? And what would Dr. Brandon do when he failed to report back? Probably call the FBI.

Logan grinned into the darkness and wondered if the crackling firelight turned his expression as delightedly evil as it felt. His disappearance would cause panic in certain circles. Logan chuckled rustily and spat into the snow. He wasn't genuinely dangerous. Hell, he hadn't been dangerous when they'd locked him up, not really. He wasn't Ted Bundy or Charlie Manson or the Gainesville Campus Serial Killer. All he'd done was break the SOB's arms. And legs. And . . .

Well, he couldn't have just walked the other way, could he? That mealy-mouthed, silk-suited piece of slime would have killed her if Logan hadn't been there to stop him. And no seven-digit bank account or scowling judge would ever convince him otherwise.

Logan glared at his fire. Street people had no business playing knight-errant to rich men's wives. He'd been military long enough to know that survival was what counted. Dead heroes were just assholes too stupid to duck. Next time he saw a man beating his own wife to death in their own driveway, he'd just shuffle on by in the night and pretend he hadn't seen a thing.

Right. And birds flew north for the winter.

Logan grunted. It wasn't easy, being crazy.


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