Charles Campion had another fit of coughs and sneezes. His aches (he hurt everywhere) got a lot worse, as if his ribcage had been shattered and the lungs underneath punctured. His coughs had a deep booming note and he remembered Sally complaining, urging him to see a doctor. That was before she got sick along with Baby LaVon. Both were sleeping now.

He thought of turning back to Salt Lake City. Had he left there an hour ago or three days ago? The fever and headache had blotted his mind's calendar.

The car bucked violently and a terrible noise came from the front. Charles looked for the road but couldn't see it. He was driving through blond grass. Ahead was a stand of vine-draped trees. Charles stamped his feet, searching for the brake pedal which was nowhere to be found. He hit the gas instead.

The car drove between trees and plunged down the thick green ravine. Bushes crackled on impact and leafy branches slapped the windshield. The car sideswiped one tree, then another. Campion whined and tried to control the wheel. With a desperate input of strength he veered away from a big sycamore and plunged his car into a big pile of brush and reeds. The pile ruptured, exposing eggs.

The engine bucked and stalled. The car came to a stop with the driver's side wheels in a creek.

"Sally? LaVon? You okay?"

Neither answered. Instead, Charles heard a low rumbling growl from the creek. The beast that came out of the water looked eight feet long. Its big eyes glowed merrily and its grinning jaws were parted just enough to show teeth.

"Never smile at the crocodile," Charles said, and coughed again.

The beast opened wide and hissed. Charles thought he heard a clock ticking inside. But the ticking wasn't from that white throat, it was from the roof above Charles. It moved to the edge of the windshield, then a big black bird - a crow - slid to the wiper blade in front of Charles.

The reptile skittered back, hissing. The crow winked a red eye at Charles, then flew off and landed beside an egg. The crow calmly pecked the egg open as the beast growled and snapped and hissed ... then retreated to the water like it was trying to escape a plague.

Now I seen everything, Charles thought, then he decided to sleep with Sally and Baby LaVon in this blessed shade.

The crow took its omelet, then flew into the sycamore where it would digest and wait.