Now Eddie, still dazed from the shock, was running two characters just fast enough to keep ahead of their pursuers. It was an incredible strain. Even with two fingers on his map he was having trouble keeping track of them. But he couldn’t just make them vanish … he had to lead Lupo to his apartment, and at the same time he had to keep the two thugs as far away from him as possible for as long as possible.
God, he was tired.
By now Gary was only two blocks from Eddie’s apartment door. He looked behind to make sure Lupo was still following.
Lupo was. But there was also someone following him, and gaining. A big blonde with a broken nose. The fourth snatcher.
How the hell—? But then Eddie remembered that the bald thug had made a phone call not long after Lupo had gotten away. Gary ran faster, hoping Lupo could keep up.
But even if he could … they were all heading straight for Eddie’s home. He needed help, and fast. If only he had Zip in play … Could he handle four characters at once?
Eddie opened his eyes and reached for his sketchpad.
It wasn’t easy drawing Zip while also keeping his other characters in motion. But finally the hyperactive little hamster coalesced into existence on Eddie’s kitchen floor. He shook himself, then squeezed out through the window and shot off across the city toward Fort Freak. Zip had no criminal record, and with his speed he could plausibly claim to be a witness to the situation going down near Eddie’s apartment.
Assuming he could make himself understood, and that the cops would listen to a football-sized manic hamster with a squeaky machine-gun voice. Eddie had to hope that Jokertown cops were prepared to handle a crime report from anything .
Then Eddie’s attention was jerked back to Mister Nice Guy, as Scarred Ear picked him up by the neck. Fish-Face was there too, grinning a vicious, toothy grin. Electricity began to crackle …
… and The Gulloon, who’d been plodding along unattended this whole time, slammed into all three of them. He wasn’t going very fast, and he didn’t actually weigh very much, but he was big, and he sent the whole group tumbling like bowling pins.
Eddie took the opportunity to direct his attention to Zip, who had just arrived at Fort Freak. Even at this hour the station was brightly lit. Zip careened in the door, past the desk sergeant, and into the wardroom, looking for Beastie, or Stevens, or …
There! Detective Black!
“Franny!” Zip squeaked, waving his little paws. The detective looked around, his gaze passing well over the hamster’s head. Zip stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing, almost supersonic whistle. “Down here, fuckhead!”
That got his attention.
“It’s the snatchers!” Zip squeaked like a CD on fast-forward. “The snatchers! They’re chasing Lupo! You have to come right away!” He gave Eddie’s address.
And Mister Nice Guy looked up to find Fish-Face’s heavy boot coming down toward his head.
Eddie swore and made both Mister Nice Guy and The Gulloon vanish. Clutching his head from the pain, he returned his attention to Gary Glitch and the wolf at his door.
Gary had just reached Eddie’s apartment building. With a great effort he squeezed his way under the front door and collapsed, panting, inside.
Lupo came charging up. Seeing Gary through the glass, he pounded on the door with both fists. Eddie paused with his finger on the door buzzer. What the hell was he doing?
“You peeping asshole!” Lupo yelled, his voice muffled by the thick security glass. “I’m gonna get you if it’s the last thing I…”
Behind Lupo, Gary saw the fourth kidnapper.
Eddie pressed the door buzzer and sent Gary scrambling away, up the steps.
Lupo snarled and snatched the door open, tearing after Gary.
Gary paused for just a moment on the first landing, looking back, hoping against hope …
… but the door, swinging gently closed on its hydraulics, did not click shut. A moment