14

Jackie Wettington and Linda Everett were parked outside Food City. It was closing at five PM instead of eight. Randolph had sent them there thinking the early closing might cause trouble. A ridiculous idea, because the supermarket was almost empty. There were hardly a dozen cars in the parking lot, and the few remaining shoppers were moving in a slow daze, as if sharing the same bad dream. The two officers saw only one cashier, a teenager named Bruce Yardley. The kid was taking currency and writing chits instead of running credit cards. The meat counter was looking depleted, but there was still plenty of chicken and most of the canned and dry-goods shelves were fully stocked.

They were waiting for the last customers to leave when Linda’s cell phone rang. She looked at the caller ID and felt a little stab of fear in her stomach. It was Marta Edmunds, who kept Janelle and Judy when Linda and Rusty were both working—as they had been, almost nonstop, since the Dome came down. She hit callback.

“Marta?” she said, praying it was nothing, Marta asking if it was okay for her to take the girls down to the common, something like that. “Everything all right?”

“Well… yes. That is, I guess so.” Linda hating the worry she heard in Marta’s voice. “But… you know that seizure thing?”

“Oh God—did she have one?”

“I think so,” Marta said, then hurried on: “They’re perfectly okay now, in the other room, coloring.”

“What happened? Tell me!”

“They were on the swings. I was doing my flowers, getting them ready for winter—”

“Marta, please!” Linda said, and Jackie laid a hand on her arm.

“I’m sorry. Audi started to bark, so I turned around. I said, ‘Honey, are you all right?’ She didn’t answer, just got out of the swing and sat down underneath—you know, where there’s a little dip from all the feet? She didn’t fall out or anything, just sat down. She was staring straight ahead and doing that lip-smacking thing you told me to watch for. I ran over… kind of shook her… and she said… let me think…”

Here it comes, Linda thought. Stop Halloween, you have to stop Halloween.

But no. It was something else entirely.

“She said ‘The pink stars are falling. The pink stars are falling in lines.’ Then she said, ‘It’s so dark and everything smells bad.’ Then she woke up and now everything’s fine.”

“Thank God for that,” Linda said, and spared a thought for her five-year-old. “Is Judy okay? Did it upset her?”

There was a long pause on the line and then Marta said, “Oh.”

Oh? What does that mean, oh?”

“It was Judy, Linda. Not Janelle. This time it was Judy.”

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