Second Dead

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Chapter 11: Improvised plan

“Boys. Work,” Dad growled when we entered the house.

“Oh, right,” Chris said and motioned for Theo to follow him outside.

Mom and Susan huddled around Klara, who lay unconscious on the couch. Her shoes and socks were on the floor. Susan, in the process of removing Klara’s pants, stopped and glared at Chris and Theo until they left. Mom removed Klara’s sweater and heaped it on the floor next to the shoes.

“Anna, get some cloths. And a couple of belts,” Dad said, his eyes fixed on Klara.

I gathered up a pair of Susan’s pajamas and a roll of socks. I returned and handed the clothes to Susan. She and Mom started to dress Klara.

“Belts. Small belts,” Dad reminded me.

I returned with two of George’s belts. Theo and Chris came inside with the last of the ammunition. I let them pass, and then swept into the foyer to close and lock the door. Dad grabbed the belts out of my hands when I at last made it to the couch.

“Boys,” Dad yelled. Both watched Klara being dressed. “Check all the windows. And please keep out of the room until we’re done.”

Mom finished dressing the young woman, lifted a thick blanket from the banister and leaned over to cover her.

“Not yet,” Dad barked.

He bent over Klara and tied her ankles together before wrapping the other belt around her knees. She would not be walking anywhere for a while.

“Susan, go and get the belt off your mom’s bathrobe,” he said.

When Susan returned, Dad snatched the soft velvet belt and tied Klara’s hands together. He tied the other end of the belt to the couch. He leaned back on his heels and stared at Klara. Chris and Theo came back to the living room and stood next to me. We watched Mom clean Klara’s fingers. Susan hovered over her.

“What happened to her hands?” Theo asked.

“I don’t know,” Dad replied.

“Dave,” Mom said, “She’s burning up.”

Dad sighed. “I know.”

“What’s wrong with her, Dad?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Exposure, infection, trauma, shock. Dehydrated too, I expect.”

“Dad, what happened up there?” Chris asked.

“I-- don’t-- know.”

“What are we going to do, Dad?” Susan demanded with an edge of panic and a hint of accusation in her voice.

“I don’t--fucking-- know.” Dad glared at us, a wild expression on his face.

A sense of loss flooded over me. I gazed with fresh eyes at my father. We all expected Dad to have answers, to somehow know what to do. He was just as helpless as the rest of us. Shock settled over me. I realized he was adrift in this new reality. He knew it, too.

“I just don’t know,” Dad whispered.

After a few moments he pointed at the three of us and said, “Get ready. We’re going back out. It’ll be some more flashlight work.”

He pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket and tossed them to Mom. “Here’s some antibiotics. Take two of these and a couple of aspirin. Grind them up and add it to some juice. Make her drink and keep at it until she drinks it all.”

Dad rubbed his eyes and thought for a minute. “Susan, you’re going to have to cover us. There won’t be anyone to back you up, so be careful. We’re going up to the drug store. After we leave, stay in the tree, no matter what. Understand?”

Susan nodded. She trembled. With good reason. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to be outdoors alone with those things, tree or no tree.

“But there’s nothing up there,” Mom pleaded.

“We don’t know that.” Dad turned away to end the discussion.

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