Goody Yates was a mess. He shambled along the side of the road, slump-shouldered and bleeding from the mouth, his head stuffed with cotton, pain and delirium duking it out in the pit of his mind. He didn’t know where he was or what he was doing, barely knew who he was, but the one thing he did know was this: if he didn’t get some relief soon, if the pain in his head continued to attack him like the firebreathing beast it was, he was going to throw himself under the wheels of a passing car, just go right ahead and end the whole damn thing.

There had been something keeping the agony in check, something that had numbed everything, settled over his brain like heavy mist, white and soothing, but now it seemed to be wearing off. Goody whimpered like a baby and swallowed a mouthful of blood.

A primer-gray El Camino pulled over next to him, spraying gravel. “Why are you standing in a ditch?” somebody inside the car wanted to know.

Goody hadn’t realized that he was in a ditch, but he looked …