A Worship

Detective Angie Ferguson wasn’t sure what she was looking at. The dead man’s skin appeared to hug his bones, taut as a mummy’s wrapping. As she pressed a gloved finger against his arm, it was met with dried flesh the consistency of jerky. Nothing soft or fluid remained in the body. If she’d had to guess, she’d say the man had been dead for years. But he hadn’t. The deceased was one Henry Van Patten, missing less than twenty-four hours. His wife reported him missing after he didn’t come home for dinner the previous evening. Henry had spent the day harvesting their Brussels sprouts crop. It was hard work, bending down, twisting the sprouts until they’d snapped off the stalk; it made a man hungry. So, his wife had prepared a hearty meal to match his appetite. She left it out on the table until the meat grew cold and the cheese on top of the macaroni hard. At that point, Mrs. Van Patten put everything into Tupperware containers to store in the refrigerator.

Then she called the police.

At daybreak, his field hand found the body, supine. His torso, arms, and upper legs were partially supported by the sturdy stalks, so only his feet touched the ground. Angie held a hand over her eyes to block the sun as she looked out over the farm. The stalks might’ve been pretty earlier in the year, but now all she saw was row upon row of dark-green butt-ugly plants. Dirt below, harsh sun above, a massive irrigation system—a bee landed on her arm—and insects. Angie blew on the bee and it whirred past her head as it flew away. Farmers’ lives were anything but glamorous.

While the coroner secured the body, Angie pulled off her gloves and scrolled through the missing person report on her phone. Nothing in the account, detailed by an Officer Benton, appeared abnormal. Benton went to the residence the previous evening to take Mrs. Van Patten’s statement, and found “the missus pacing on the porch wringing her hands.” The officer logged the finished document into the system upon completing his interview at 2030 hours. Angie flashed back to where she’d been at 2030, a local dive bar catching a buzz. Two beers and a shot of whiskey. Nightcap for an uneasy mind. These days, she wasn’t sure if her hyperactive mind led her to her career or if her career made it difficult to turn off her brain. It didn’t really matter; it was a chicken egg riddle. Besides, her habits weren’t in question here. She needed to find out what happened to Henry Van Patten while his wife worried the floorboards.

She glanced over to see the coroner zip the body bag then return to reading the report.

The officer’s line of questioning had continued in an orderly fashion.

“When did you last see your husband?” he’d asked.

“Lunchtime,” Mrs. Van Patten told him. “Henry never misses a meal.”

Which meant, Angie surmised, he was already dead by the time Officer Benton arrived at their home. Poor Mrs. Van Patten hadn’t known she was a widow when she’d called the police. In her mind, she was still the wife of Van Patten. Angie lingered; woman, wife, widow, why did all those nouns to describe females begin with double-ues? Coincidence? Probably, but those types of details plagued Angie. They were the minutiae that made her a good detective and also the things that kept her awake on nights when she should’ve been sleeping. She read on.

“Maybe something he ate disagreed with him?” Officer Benton asked.

That question wasn’t protocol, but Angie knew he’d been assessing whether the farmer’s wife/widow was guilty of any foul play. And though Angie hadn’t been present, she knew by the woman’s answer, that Mrs. Van Patten hadn’t liked the question one little bit.

“He ate the same thing he eats every day this time of year. Crop’s good. We eat off our farm.”

She’d probably scrunched her face into an unforgiving grimace, an expression Angie was all too familiar with. One thing she’d learned living in a farm community: don’t make disparaging remarks about anyone’s home cooking. Or, their land.

The officer then asked whether Mr. Van Patten had any enemies.

“For crying out loud,” Mrs. Van Patten said. “My husband’s a farmer. His only enemies are the soil the Good Lord gave us and the weather He sees fit to deliver. Piece of hell this land. Amazing Henry’s ever been able to get a crop off of it.”

Women like this farmer’s wife/widow peopled almost every farmhouse Angie had ever entered. Hard-working, no-nonsense women. Women who didn’t show their hands to strangers, who seldom smiled, and who certainly didn’t reveal any humor they’d secreted up their sleeves. And now, Angie would notify her of her husband’s death, reinforcing for Mrs. Van Patten that life was the godawful fight she’d always believed it to be.

Angie pocketed her phone and approached the coroner as he loaded the corpse into his van.

“What do you make of it?” she asked.

The coroner shrugged. “Strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”


The coroner climbed into the van. “I want to show you something.”

Angie clambered up, her five-foot frame making it a more significant struggle than she wanted to admit. But once inside, she could stand straight, while the coroner needed to crouch down to avoid hitting the roof. Angie was relieved to get out of the sun. A dull throb in her temple reminded her she’d missed her morning coffee in her hurry to get to the farm, and standing in the sun exacerbated the pain. A double-whammy. On her way to see the widow, she’d grab some water and caffeine and bounce right back.

“What do you want me to see?” she asked.

The body lay on the gurney between them, she watched as the coroner slipped on a new pair of gloves before opening the bag. Even in the dim light, Angie remained struck by the oddness of the body.

“Almost doesn’t look human,” she said in a hushed voice.

“Watch this,” the coroner said, placing a hand against the corpse’s neck.

“I’m looking at…?”

“Not looking…listening.”

The gloves stuck for a moment as he pulled his hand away, sounding a bit like a Band-Aid being ripped off someone’s skin.

“What the…? He’s sticky?” Angie said.

The coroner nodded. “I noticed that when I got him into the bag. His body is covered in something like honey.”

Angie shivered. She loved honey. Now she knew she’d never be able to eat it again. The vision of this sticky corpse would flash before her any time honey was mentioned. Hell, everything about these remains would be indelibly inked in her memory forever. One of the hazards of the job and of her exquisite ability to recollect facts. Grabbing onto the side of the van’s door, she hopped back down to the ground.

“Let me know what you find. I’m heading out to the widow.”

He nodded and rezipped the bag. “I hope to have some kind of preliminary by end of day.”


Mrs. Van Patten sat on her porch swing staring straight ahead, as Angie pulled her car in front of the white clapboard farmhouse. Even when Angie slammed her front door, the woman gave no notice to her.

Gravel crunched beneath Angie’s feet. “Ma’am,” she said, stepping onto the first step.

“I told him not to buy this land,” the woman said. “When he first brought me to see it. I said, ‘Henry, it’ll be the death of you.’”

Angie stopped advancing, her hand resting on the wooden railing. One of her fingers picked at a fleck of loose paint. “How’d you figure?” she asked.

Mrs. Van Patten turned to look at the detective.

“My father was a farmer, corn mostly. Farming’s all I know. This land wasn’t meant for crops. Soil’s not rich enough. But Henry wouldn’t hear it. Said all she needed was his TLC.” She looked away from Angie and kicked against the porch planks with all her might, sending the swing careening. It wobbled, teetering to and fro beneath her ample girth. “He never should’ve listened to city folk about things they don’t know nothing about.” The rubber soles of her shoes squealed as she planted her feet down hard. The swing came to a stop. Mrs. Van Patten turned to face Angie again. “And now there’s a funeral to plan.”

Angie nodded, noting that this was the moment when Mrs. Van Patten officially changed from wife to widow, and Henry Van Patten’s life changed from present to past.

Anger was nothing new in Angie’s world. Those left behind were always angry. At their loved ones, at God, at the person responsible for their death, at themselves, hell sometimes at the food in the refrigerator (though never anything they’d already prepared). Angie had stopped taking it personally years ago around the time she realized she wasn’t their mother, or lover, or priest. Her job was to help them figure out where and on whom they should focus all their rage. Now she would do that for the widow Van Patten.

Angie slipped back into her driver’s seat and took a swig of lukewarm coffee. It was time for her to check in with Lou Fines, the field hand who’d found the body.

Mr. Fines lived in a one-room house in one of the region’s informal migrant camps. The house was freshly painted. Pots of tomatoes and basil and some other plants Angie pretended not to recognize surrounded it. She knocked, and a man in his mid-fifties opened the door. At least she guessed he was in his fifties, his weather-worn face might’ve aged him ten or twenty years. Angie tried to take those things into consideration, and though his age didn’t matter in this case, guessing it was a game she liked to play.

“This about Henry?” he said.

“Yes,” Angie said, flashing her badge.

He glanced down to where his seedling marijuana plants grew.

Angie smiled. “Too late to hide them, Mr. Fines. But at this point in their growth, I figure they could be just about any sprout. Except Brussels.”

Fines slipped outside, closing his door behind him.

“Got a cat. Coyotes kill it if he gets out.”

He gestured to one of the two wooden dining chairs set out on the porch facing the dirt road where she’d parked. They each took a seat. An ashtray filled with soot and roaches sat on the small metal table sandwiched between them. A dog barked in the distance. For a moment they appeared like two friends ruminating over the weather or the price of corn in a deflated economy.

Fines cleared his throat. “How can I help you?”

Angie leaned forward. Her chair wobbled.

Fines shook his head. “One day, I’ll get around to fixing that thing.”

“Can you tell me about Henry?”

“That’s not what I thought you’d ask.”

“His widow says he didn’t know what he was doing.”

Fines took off his cap and rubbed the top of his balding head. “Excuse me, but his wife’s a piece of work.” He slipped his cap back on.

Angie laughed, then said, “Yes. She does seem opinionated.”

“Look, I’m not a young man, but I’m willing to change with the times. Try new things. They got all kinds of new-fangled products to get rid of pests. Ways to amend the soil. She won’t hear nothing about it. Stubborn as sin, that one.”

“What kinds of new things was Mr. Van Patten trying?” Angie said.

Fines told Angie that every year different insects blighted the crops.

“I never knew Brussels were so tasty,” Fines said. “I mean why would you eat them when there’s corn fields a quarter mile away?”

Angie had to agree with him. She’d never developed a taste for the “tiny cabbages.”

Fines saw Van Patten right before lunch. When they parted ways, everything was normal. Except that Fines had a doctor’s appointment in town that afternoon, so he was taking the rest of the day off.

“Bad ticker,” he said. “I don’t have cell service out here, so I never got the missus’ messages, not that I could’ve done much.”

“What time did you find him?”

“Shortly after sun up. It sure didn’t look like Henry,” Fines shook his head, “Never going to get that image out of my head.”

Me either, Angie thought.

Other than the condition of the body, nothing out of the ordinary stood out in Fines’ recollection. But he gave Angie the name of the company where Van Patten purchased his cutting-edge insecticides. That would be her next stop, but not before she settled one thing.

One hand on her car door she turned back to Fines.

“Mind if I ask you your age?” she said.

He laughed a big hearty sound. “Sixty-three. Hah! You thought I was younger.” Fines winked at her. “Got my mom’s good looks.”

Angie winked. “You’re a lucky man. Thanks for the help.”


Pesticate’s facility was an hour drive from town. Angie logged the destination into her phone assuring both perfect satellite directions and a formal check in with her Captain.

En route, she busied herself counting things because in the quiet moments, whenever she stopped actively doing something, the image of Henry’s desiccated corpse popped into her mind, challenging even the basic task of driving. She passed thirty-four other vehicles on her drive…What could’ve done that kind of damage to the body? Four times, the two-lane highway opened up to passing lanes…Were they looking at something natural or some sort of Satanic ritual? She came to a stop at a red light before turning right onto Innovation Road, her destination close…Even his eyes were shrunken, all intraocular fluid gone. Angie focused on the odometer and watched it tick off the final mile as she passed corn fields.

Pesticate’s facility was massive and sprawling. Several nondescript single-story monoliths lay one after the other, strewn like a child’s carelessly thrown blocks. It looked like every industrial facility Angie had ever seen. Companies who valued profitability over aesthetics and this one’s edifice was particularly ugly.

She’d called ahead, so it wasn’t surprising when a tall man wearing a white lab coat over his blue button-down shirt and pressed khaki pants greeted her at the front entrance.

“Detective Ferguson,” he said, thrusting out his hand. “You’re shorter than I expected.”

Angie hated it when men commented on her height. Especially tall ones, and this man towered over her. She judged him to be about six-two and buff. He looked like a man who spent a lot of time in the gym pressing weights. Angie nodded and ignored his extended appendage.

Nonplussed, he laughed then said, “I’m Operation Manager Craig Stanford.”

“Mr. Stanford,” she said. “Thank you for meeting me.”

“Of course. We were sorry to hear about the farmer.” Stanford frowned and shook his head. “Always a tragedy to lose one of our locals.”

Especially, Angie thought, when they’re a customer.

A gust of wind carried the sweet smell of corn pollen with it. Angie sneezed and felt a jolt of pain above her left eye. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger and wished she’d had a second cup of coffee or taken one of the prescription migraine pills she kept in her glove box.

“Early for corn,” she said.

Stanford smiled. “My mother used to pinch her nose just like you’re doing. Follow me, Detective.”

He turned and took off at a fast pace away from the building where they’d met and angled down a dirt road. Dust kicked up from beneath his steps and Angie followed in his dirty wake until they came to a second building.

“We don’t get many visitors out here,” he said, opening the door using a key card on the lanyard around his neck.

Angie sneezed again and dabbed at her nose with a tissue she’d pulled from her pocket.

“Lots of security,” she said. “What exactly is it that you do?”

She’d read over their official website before driving out, so she knew the basics of their pest control mission statement. At least, what they told the public.

“If I had a dollar…” he said and, holding the door open, he gestured for her to go inside. “As I said, I’m happy to answer questions, as long as they don’t breach confidentiality. Our competitors would pay a fortune for inside information. But, honestly, I don’t know how anything I can tell you would help in your investigation.”

The door closed behind with a whoosh. Angie swore it felt like the air tightened around them.

“What the hell?” she said.

“Airlock,” Craig said. “I don’t even feel it anymore. Developing pesticides necessitates these types of precautions. Our labs are safe, but we’re required by law to make sure that in the unlikely scenario of a laboratory breach, hazardous components…” Craig pointed to the posted hazardous waste sign. “…won’t escape the building. Hence the airtight seals and pressure locks. As we edge away from toxic chemicals toward safer alternatives, we hope that one day, such safeties won’t be necessary.”

Angie waited in silence, wondering whether Craig’s public relations spiel was memorized or off the cuff.

Craig nodded, then clapped his hands together like a child excited for a treat and said, “Come on.”

He headed down a long corridor. The heels of Angie’s shoes clicked against the polished linoleum floor as she followed, passing a dozen closed doors. When they came to the end of the hallway, Craig used his card key to open the final one. What was he going to show her? What kinds of secret experiments lay inside? Her pulse quickened as she stepped past him and into an ordinary looking conference room.

“Make yourself comfortable,” Craig said, gesturing to one of the black plastic chairs that surrounded a long white table.

Angie took a seat as Craig strode to a bar on the far side of the room. While he grabbed a tray with a pitcher of water and a couple of glasses, Angie looked around. The walls, floors, and ceiling were all the same shade of white. She’d seen homier interrogation rooms. Craig situated himself directly across from her, setting the simple refreshment between them.

“May I?” He gestured to the water.

She nodded. He smiled and poured her a glass. His confidence and ease were agreeable enough, and he certainly wasn’t acting like a man guilty of anything. But Angie wondered what lay behind his affable demeanor or all the doors they’d passed on their way to this room?

“So…,” he said. “People die all the time. Heart attacks, strokes, all manner of deaths. Why’s this one got you out on a goose chase?”

“Wild goose,” Angie said, her voice catching.

Craig furrowed his brow. “I’m sorry?”

She cleared her throat and said, “The expression, it’s wild goose chase.”

Angie raised the glass of water. As it touched her lips, Craig’s pupils dilated, raising alarms in her mind. Pesticate made pesticides. Something killed Henry Van Patten, maybe the company made a mistake, misjudged the strength of one of their products? If so, what lengths would they go to cover it up? Craig smiled at her. Water was an excellent vehicle transmitter. A single sip of this water might contain more than hydrogen and oxygen. She lowered the glass. He watched intently. Too intently.

“That’s right, wild goose,” Craig said. “Working for an industry like Pesticate, I forget anything wild remains.” He winked, took a deep pull on his water and smacked his lips. “From our own wells. Best water around.”

Something wasn’t right about this man. The more time she spent with him, the more Angie felt like he was hiding something.

“You joke,” she said. “Given the circumstances of Mr. Van Patten’s death, I don’t think there’s anything funny about it.”

He shrugged again. His “Aw-Shucks,” mannerisms grew more disingenuous by the minute. “I wouldn’t know since you haven’t told me about the circumstances.”

There it was. Lie number one, and he’d walked right into it. Anton Fines mentioned that a representative from Pesticate paid him a visit before she’d been out to question him.

“Mr. Van Patten used some of your products in his fields. Do you have records that can tell us what he purchased?”

“Of course, we do.”

Angie nodded. “Great. Can I access them?”

Craig Stanford shook his head. “Nope.”

Angie interlaced her fingers and stared directly into the eyes of the man across from her. “What are you trying to hide, Mr. Stanford?”

He returned her gaze without blinking. “Nothing, Detective.”

She lifted her water glass. She watched his pupils dilate again as she brought the rim closer to her mouth. Some things just can’t be hidden, she thought, and, without taking a sip, returned the glass to the table.

“Mr. Fines could’ve been describing you when he told me about the man from Pesticate who came looking for answers.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Seemed the most burning question wasn’t about how the farmer might’ve died, but whether there’d been anything out of the ordinary about his body. So, you’ll have to appreciate the fact that I think you’re lying when you tell me you don’t know anything.”

“There’s nothing in the water,” he said.

“I never said there was.” She reached across the table; she picked up his glass and in three big gulps finished it.

Stanford stared at her slack-jawed for a moment until interrupted by a buzz from his phone. He glanced at the screen and then answered. “Yes?” He listened while keeping watch on Angie the entire time. “Yes. Yes. I see. Yes.” He hung up the phone. “It seems I’m to show you room 14.” He stood. “This way.”

Angie followed him back down the hallway until they stopped at a door that looked identical to all the rest. It lacked any identifying number.

“Room Fourteen?” she said.

“Yes, Detective,” Stanford said, holding it open for her to pass.

Craig hit a switch, and halogen lights made the room as bright as the noonday sun. Angie squinted and threw a hand up to shield her eyes. Photophobia meant a migraine was definitely in the works, she needed to finish this interview, she could return later with a warrant and proper backup.

“Does it need to be so bright?” she said.

Turning back to Stanford, she saw that he’d donned sunglasses.

He smirked. “I wouldn’t want you to miss anything. Welcome to where it all begins, Detective.”

Floor to ceiling glass cages or aquariums, Angie wasn’t sure what to call them, ran along two of the walls. Along the third, a long counter stood, covered with beakers, tubes, and a bunch of equipment Angie didn’t recognize. A freestanding industrial sink took up the middle of the room. It had what looked like a shower head attached to a long arm and a drain directly in the floor.

“This a lab?” she said.

“Of a kind. We call it The Nursery.” Craig gestured toward the glass. “Have a look.”

She stepped closer to peer inside.

Insects. Hordes of insects and bugs.

It made sense. Pesticate’s biggest sellers targeted vermin, that much was evident on their website. She didn’t recognize the critters, but bugs weren’t her specialty.

“Sap beetles,” Craig said.

Angie jumped. While she’d been focusing on the fauna, Stanford crept up. His breath tickled the hairs on her neck, like little critter feet. She shivered.

He laughed. “Reaction of most people. They get the willies.”

As if to prove to her he was fine with them, he opened an offset door and stuck one of his arms up to his elbow inside. The beetles swarmed, quickly covering every bit of naked flesh.

“You ever feed them?” she asked.

“Watch this.”

With the hand still outside the enclosure, he pressed a button. A mechanism released a single spritz of mist. The beetles scurried as far from Stanford’s arm and the spray as they could manage in their confines.

“What is that?”

He removed his hand. “One of our projects. It’s a deterrent.” He licked his hand. “Non-toxic, safe for any crop.”


“Whatever pest the farmer has difficulties with.” Craig rubbed his hands together.

She peered into the next glass “cell.” All these creatures held against their will to live out their lives in tiny clear torture chambers. Inside this one, she saw masses of undulating aphids. They were amassed on some food source, which Angie couldn’t make out because the sheer volume of bugs was too great.

“I’ve never seen so many,” she said.

“A Worship.”

“What’s that?”

“What we call a lot of aphids,” Stanford said.

Angie rubbed her eyes. Flashing zig-zagging lights pulsed in her peripheral vision. Just a few more questions and she’d get out and to her car where she could pop Sumatriptan and get on the other side of this headache. She looked away from the aphids.

“The Worshipers—?”

“Just Worship, singular,” he corrected.

“Worship. They receiving the same deterrent?”

“No. Different protocol. Two-fold really. We’re attempting to create a sterile male—”

“Given the number in there, I’d say that’s not working.”

He waved his hand dismissing her. “Different strain than the ones in here. These ones are bred not to target plant juice.” He turned toward the aphids.

The room closed in. Not really, Angie reminded herself. It was the auras, creating tunnel vision, but if it got bad enough, she’d be virtually blind. She opened her mouth to speak when the first wave of nausea hit her. She swallowed hard, willing herself to stay calm.

“I’m afraid I need to be back at the precinct,” she said, reaching a hand to tap Craig’s shoulder.

He startled, which was when she glimpsed that he’d reached into the aphid’s prison to remove the remnants of their food. At least, that was what she thought he was doing, but everywhere she looked white spots danced, making it difficult to focus on anything. She thought he held something in his hand as he reached for her.

“You ask too many questions,” he said, grabbing her with a sticky hand.

“I’m a detective. Release me before I charge you with assault.”

“A right-handed, detective. There was never anything in the water, just a way to learn about you,” he said.

Damn it, she thought. He’s smarter than I thought. She needed to maintain control, pulling her weapon with her left hand, especially when she couldn’t see well, would be a mistake.

He tightened his grip. Gone was any semblance of the glad-handing front man. Through her blurred vision, she thought the arm that held her pulsed with thousands of aphids. She felt them begin to crawl onto her. Stanford hadn’t been holding anything in his hand except the Worship.

The first bites felt like tiny pinpricks. Struggling to pull free, Angie lunged at him with her left hand, but he met her move, catching her wrist.

“Let me go!” she said, struggling to break free, but all her combat training was useless against a foe as big as Craig.

“The deterrent spray prevents the Worship from biting me. It doesn’t make them flee, but it does seem to keep them from smelling the juices.”

The Worship of aphids crawled faster than she’d imagined they could move, off of Craig’s arms onto hers.

Craig laughed. “Their appetites surprised us.”

More of the aphids moved up her arms. Angie felt them crawl beneath her shirt sleeves. This was how Van Patten died, she was sure of it.

“My Captain knows I’m here,” she said.

“He’ll be too late.”

“They’ll arrest you.”

“No, they won’t,” Craig said. “The government has shown interest in our Worship. They want us to weaponize other insects as well. Already, one of their agents has taken over the farmer’s autopsy. His official results will lay any questions to rest.”

“A cover-up won’t work.”

She sucked in air. Her head pounded, but the pain of hundreds of tiny mouths sucking her flesh was excruciating. The aphids bit her neck and moved steadily toward her head. Her stomach roiled.

“Painful? I noticed your sensitivity to light, Detective. My mother used to get migraines. It’s a bad one, isn’t it?”

Angie heaved with no external warnings. The contents of her stomach covered Craig, who instinctually released his hold on her to cover his face with his arms. Angie fell forward, her knees crashing onto the floor.

“No!” Craig screamed, rushing to the sink to wash the vomit off.

Angie rubbed her hands together and then ran them back and forth against her arms, squashing as many aphids as she could. She would’ve rolled on the floor, but she knew she only had moments to make a move before Craig was back in the game. She turned her head until she could see him in the center of her remaining vision, pulled her weapon, and leveled it at his chest.

“I can’t see, I can’t see,” he wailed, rinsing cold water over his face.

Excellent, Angie thought, taking a few steps closer. The bites continued to punish her flesh, but she held her revolver with both hands.

“Welcome to my world,” she said. “At least I’ve got some practice being blind.”

Craig lifted his gaze, water streamed from his face. Though he squinted, she knew he saw her gun.

“Keep your hands where I can see them and move away from the sink.”

Craig stepped away. Keeping her gun trained on Craig, she put the phone on the counter, hit speed dial, and as the call went through, she began to wash as many of the aphids off her body as she could one arm at a time.

“Ferguson?” her Captain’s voice clear through the phone’s speaker. “You okay?”

By the time her backup arrived, she’d moved Craig outside, taken her prescription, and was starting to feel better. At least her head. Her skin felt like she’d suffered a bad sunburn, and an occasional prick told her she hadn’t killed all of the Worship yet.

A row of bystanders stood outside the facility watching as Angie led Craig to the squad car. Angie was sure that the CEO and other corporate heads were among them. No doubt plotting their next move.

She covered Craig’s head as she shoved him into the back seat.

He smirked. “I’ll be out before sunset.”

“We’ll see,” Angie said.

“You threw up on me,” he said. “If that hadn’t happened, this ending would’ve been different.”

“I call it a Cavalry of Puke,” she said.


“I think so,” Angie said, “Tell me something. I assume lots of farms received your product. Why’d the aphids target Van Patten?”

Craig Stanford gave her a look that made her wish she’d stayed in bed that day. Then he started to laugh.

“That’s your question? I have no idea. You’ll have to ask the Worship.”

“Asshat,” she said and, slamming the door, she hit the top of the roof twice. Once to say he was inside and once for good luck. She watched along with the other spectators as the squad car pulled away.

When it disappeared from sight, Pesticate’s troops headed back inside to continue creating their monsters of destruction. But wasn’t that the bottom line with monsters, Angie thought? Weren’t they by definition destructive? Angie pushed up her shirt sleeves. A single aphid sucked greedily near her elbow. Tiny monster. She smacked it dead.