Second Dead

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Chapter 30: Sad interlude

Dad dragged Anthony from the truck and pushed him toward Chris. Susan stood on the other side of the vehicle, her pistol pointed into the SUV.

Jane jumped from the vehicle. “He’s dead,” she cried.

“It’s not over,” Dad yelled. He glared into the vehicle.

Dad walked toward the passenger side, stopped, turned to Jane and said, “There’s nothing you can do here. We have this. Please, see what you can do for my daughter.”

Me? I’m fine. Well, not exactly fine, but I’ll be okay. Jane walked past, oblivious to my presence.

I jerked my gaze to Susan. Shit! I ran to our white SUV. I slowed to a crawl when I turned the corner of the vehicle.

Laura lay on the backbench of Mom’s truck. Blood was everywhere. Jane cut Laura’s clothes from her wound. Her hands trembled and she cried while she worked. Laura wasn’t crying. She didn’t even appear to be conscious. I held my breath, terrified she might be dead.

“It’s her shoulder,” Jane told Mom while she probed the wound. “We need to get her back to my truck so I can work on her.”

Mom and I carried Laura to the back of Jane’s SUV. Jane kept her gaze straight ahead when we walked past Phillip’s body.

Jane inspected Laura’s wounds, looked up and said, “She should make it. There’s no broken bones and no buckshot seems to have penetrated the chest cavity. There is a lot of bleeding but I can’t see that any major arteries were hit. I need someone to boil water and make bandages so I can dress her wounds. The bleeding will stop, but I need to get the wounds covered as soon as possible.”

Maria left to boil water and make bandages from an old tablecloth in the back of Dad’s truck.

“Where’s George?” Mom asked, stone faced, her eyes fixed on Laura.

“In the tow truck,” I said.

“Let’s get him. He’ll want to be with Laura.”

Together we walked, my mother and I, each lost in our shared worries about Laura. She put her arm around my waist. A small creek ran along the tracks, not too far from the base of the berm. Klara kept guard next to an electrical enclosure. I waved to her when we reached the truck and then opened the door and helped George out of the vehicle.

“Come on, George, let’s get something to eat,” Mom said, fussing with his hair. She stopped when she caught sight of the notebook.

Mother’s reaction puzzled me. She froze and turned pale, a rare sight in a Vietnamese woman. Shocked, I stared at her. She appeared frightened, like some schoolgirl caught in a misdeed.

Mom opened her mouth to speak, but didn’t. She refused to make eye contact with me. George in tow, she hurried away, our shared moment gone, like a leaf in the wind. I glanced at the book, and then at my mother. I pushed the door closed and wondered what frightened such a cold, hard woman so.

I walked toward the vehicles and noticed Susan had taken up a guard position on the other end of the tracks. High up in a tree, she scanned the terrain with Chet’s old binoculars. Susan and Klara amazed me. With no need for instructions, they took up positions to guard the rest of us whenever we stopped.

Quite a good team, I admired, not for the first time. Now though, I wondered if this was such a good thing. What if one time they forgot? Would the rest of us remember to do that rather thankless duty?

The men stood around Phillip, on guard for the inevitable. With no wish to be part of this gruesome reanimation watch, I passed them on the other side of the vehicles and made my way to the Spell’s SUV.

Mom sat on the bumper. A steaming pot of water filled with makeshift bandages at her feet. Laura had ugly pellet holes on her shoulder and several of the wounds oozed blood. She had also taken some buckshot to her lower neck. I wasn’t a doctor, but even I knew it was a miracle Laura lived. An inch either way--

“When she wakes up, I’ll start her on some antibiotics and a little something for the pain,” Jane advised us when she finished applying the bandages. “I removed several pellets near the surface, but I’m afraid a few will be with her for life. She’ll be uncomfortable for a while. I’m sorry to say she’ll never be completely free of pain.”

A commotion erupted on the other side of the vehicle. Theo raised his bat and thrust down. Jane gasped, jumped from the bumper and ran to Anthony. They embraced, sharing in the grief only family members could truly feel.

Dad and I hurried over to Phillip, second dead and no longer a threat. Dad draped a blanket over the body.

“We must give him a proper burial,” Jane sobbed.

“Yes, I believe we owe him that. But how?” Dad looked around for ideas.

I said, “Dad, up past the tow truck there is a creek with fairly large rocks. We could gather some up and stack them over Phillip. It would be something.” Everyone looked to the Spell’s for approval.

Anthony shrugged his shoulders. Jane hesitated and then nodded.

“Jane, when we’re ready, we’ll call you down for the final ceremony. Right now, I need you to keep an eye on our patients. Especially her,” Dad said with a nod toward Jenny. “Phillip turned pretty quick. She’ll turn even faster. The younger they are the speedier the reanimation process seems to be.” He gave Jenny a worried stare.

Anthony and Chris wrapped Phillip in the blanket and carried him down the tracks. Jane made Theo sit on the bumper of her truck so she could examine his wounds. She redressed his leg, then turned on me and told me off for not giving Theo his medicine.

“These antibiotics do not work as well as they once did,” she explained rather harshly. “If he gets an infection, I have no way to determine which antibiotic to use. If we, and by we, I mean you, don’t prevent infection from setting in, I may well have to amputate his leg. Do you want a one-legged boyfriend?”

I gave her my word I would give Theo his medicine. Jane softened a little and resumed inspecting his stitches.

“I know, I know. But this could be life or death for him. God only knows what was in the river water,” Jane grumbled while she finished with Theo’s face.

Theo eased off the bumper and limped toward the burial party. We passed Dad’s truck and I picked up an aluminum bat.

I handed him the bat and suggested he use it as a cane. To judge by his expression, he did not think much of my idea. However, he moved easier and much quicker.

“That’ll work,” he mumbled his approval. “Thanks.”

We walked past Mom. She lashed two tree limbs together to make a cross. Just like the cross she had made for Chet. As Theo and I walked past, Mom looked up but refused to make eye contact. She would never say it, but I knew. She again blamed me for Chet’s death.

Theo and I stood on the berm above the burial party while they placed the last of the boulders over Phillip. Jane came up behind us with the cross. We watched her fix the cross into the stones. She and Anthony held hands, bowed their heads and faint words of prayer wafted up to us.

“He was just a kid. You know?” I said and held Theo’s hand.

“Not really. Phillip was older than me.”

“No. The person I killed. He was a boy, younger than Susan.”

“They meant to kill us. Or worse,” Theo said, his soft brown eyes gazing at me.

“Why did they do it?”

“Hungry. Desperate. Who knows? Maybe they just like killing people. We’ll never know.” He put his arm around me. “Understand this, it was us or them. That’s the way it is now.”

I had nothing to say. I remained silent while we watched the ceremony below. Finished, the burial party made their way back up the snow-covered embankment. Dad reached the top first and used his ski cap to wipe perspiration from his face.

“Warming up,” he grunted.

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