“That’s my father down there, a potentially flesh-eating maniac!” Anna burst into tears all over again. “How could I be calm?”
“I do know—”
“I don’t think you really do,” she said angrily, cutting him off. “If it were your dad...just try to put yourself in my shoes for once. My dad is a freakin’ cannibal, or he would be, if he got loose!”
Jared knew Anna was much closer to Jack than he was with his own father. His own father didn’t really care that Jared had hardly been home for the last week. His own father, in fact, hadn’t even checked to see if Jared was truly staying with friends or not.
He shook away these thoughts. It didn’t matter. What mattered right now was Anna. Jared’s job was to keep Anna calm, and stop her from doing anything rash. Above all, he was to keep her away from the cellar. Away from her father. He chided himself that he’d only accomplished two out of three goals, but he wasn’t going to give up now.
Carla needed something to occupy herself, get her mind off of all of this. After Mike left, she went to the kitchen to make something for the three of them to eat. She could hear Jack downstairs. Raging. Struggling to escape.
She couldn’t help wondering how much damage he was causing to himself. She was concerned that he’d really injure himself. She also worried about him somehow getting free.
That would be very, very bad.
They’d barricaded the door from the outside, but Carla didn’t think that would stop Jack if he chewed through his own hand or something. Carla shuddered at the thought. Lord help us all.
More than anything, his imprisonment in the basement would only buy her time. Time to get Anna out and all of them safely away.
Everything is going to be fine.
This was becoming Carla’s mantra, and she repeated it every time she heard Jack grunt or pull at his cuffs. Still, a piece of her heart broke off every time she imagined that he was never again going to be the Jack she had known.
She finished making the tuna sandwiches as quickly as she could, doing her best not to flinch each time she heard Jack grunt through the basement door, and quickly went up to Anna’s room. She tapped on the door and pushed it open.
“You guys know this door is supposed to be left open, right?”
“Sorry,” Anna said in a teenage sarcastic manner that meant she wasn’t really sorry. “Thanks for the food.”
“You’re welcome.” Carla casually sat down in a chair and waited until Anna ate her sandwich, and Jared ate the two that she’d made for him—growing boy and all that.
Carla considered. Anna deserved the truth, but her life had also been turned upside down. The girl was barely containing herself. Did she need to know that Mike would have to face two of these monsters? That he might very well die trying to save her uncle? No, she decided. Anna didn’t need to know everything, but Anna was smart, and she would want an answer.
“Mike’s going to the base for your Uncle Joe. He’s walking into a dangerous situation,” she explained to the fourteen year old. “We decided that it would be best if you weren’t there. And besides, how could we leave your dad all alone?”
“Good point,” Anna said. “I don’t want to leave my dad for a second.”
“I could have gone with Mike,” Carla continued, “I could have but you have to realize that you haven’t been...well, you haven’t done exactly as your father wanted you to in the last few days. And, as much as you might not like it, I’m in charge for the moment.”
Carla regarded Anna with a tenderness she’d never felt before. “Honey, I care about your father. You know that, right?”
“I know.” She rolled her eyes. Anna wanted to hear about her father’s romantic life about as much as she wanted to hear about zombies.
Carla dismissed the eye roll. “So if I care about your father you know I care about you. And Jared, of course.”
Jared was getting used to staying out of this family’s domestic and dramatic affairs. He’d been listening, watching Anna, but he’d held his tongue so far.
“Thank you,” was all he said. It seemed to him that nobody understood he was under pressure as well. It was all about Anna, Anna’s dad, Anna’s uncle, Carla and even Mike. He understood only one thing: he loved Anna with all his heart and he wasn’t going to leave her. No matter what.
Carla continued, “Mike and I discussed this at length.” She held a hand up when Anna started to protest. “I know, I know. You love your dad. You love your uncle. This is a lot, hon, I understand. But if we’re going to help your dad, Mike has to cure your uncle.”
“How is he going to do it? Will Uncle Joe suffer? Will it work?”
Jared automatically handed her another tissue as the tears welled up again.
“Mike’s one of the good guys now,” Carla replied. “He’s on your uncle’s side, and more importantly, he’s on your dad’s side. After all, your dad saved his life.”
Anna sobbed quietly and nodded.
“Anna, if we can get your uncle and your dad better, then maybe we can help others, too.”
“But if you think that...that drowning is the cure, then why didn’t you just do it to...” She couldn’t finish but Carla knew Anna was referring to her father.
“Listen to me, Anna, listen to reason.” It was the closest Carla had come to an order with the teen. “Joe has been infected longer than your dad. We have no idea how this condition will play out. But we’re sure, pretty sure, that this is what helped Mike. Joe may not have much time. And if it helps him, it’s better to help him first because your father is only in the first...stage.” Stage of what, Carla still wasn’t sure. But she knew her logic was sound.
“So, it’s not time to...do it yet?”
It being, of course, drowning her father. Carla shook her head and Anna’s face creased in understanding.
It was then that Jared finally took Anna’s hand. Anna held on tight. Carla’s reaction was a mixture of joy and concern. Yes, they were both so young, but Carla could tell by their connection that this was no puppy love.
Mike had time to think during the drive down to Sunset Beach. He knew it would be smarter to take on Joe alone, and recalled again about how powerful he himself had been in that blood-thirsty state.
“A man’s got to know his limitations,” he said to himself, thinking of Clint Eastwood. In spite of the circumstances he smiled a little at the quote. It would have been good to have Bad Ass Clint with him now. Or good ol’ Bruce Willis.