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The severed hand hitched its way up the stairs in its relentless drive to kill the person it was directed to kill.
The hand was not human. It was a webbed humanoid thing. Long, scaly fingers with inch-long, needle-sharp claws deftly hooked into the carpet covering the stairs, again and again, until the hand flopped onto the landing. It scuttled across the Persian rug to the closed wooden door of the bedchamber. Catlike, the hand used its claws to dig into the wood and skitter up the door. The instant it reached the top, it released its grip and began falling. With a precision that spoke of long practice, it broke its fall by grabbing the handle. The maneuver turned the handle and jostled the door open a crack.
The hand dropped noiselessly onto the rug. Righting itself, it squeezed through the crack and scrabbled across the floor as though possessed. Clamping onto the wooden bedpost of the canopied four-poster, it wriggled up and flopped onto the bed.
The sleeper lay face up, under a satin sheet pulled up to just below the neck.
A few feet away, a tall man dressed in black stood beside the bed, watching the scene unfold through a pair of oversized goggles. A large glove on his right hand mimicked the movements of the beast with five fingers.
The hand clawed its way across the sheet with deadly purpose. Seconds later, it reached the exposed neck and clamped down.
The sleeper’s eyes shot open.
The tall man dropped his gloved hand to his side. “Cut!” he said.
The hand from some alien world squeezed harder.
The sleeper’s eyes widened in alarm.
“Cut, I said!” The tall man yanked off the glove.
The sleeper struggled to pull the hand off, moaning in pain as the tugging only made the maniacal thing tighten its grip.
After an intense battle the tall man managed to pry the hand loose and toss it to the floor. Its fingers twitched erratically for a few seconds, then made a wobbly effort to crawl back to the bedpost. As the man bent to grab it, the hand fell over on its back and lay still.
Looking back at the sleeper, the man saw spots of red where some of the claws had pierced the flesh.
Annoyed, the tall man stared at his glove. “We shall have to test it again. All must be in readiness for our guest. There will be no time for retakes.”
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