“Can’t go nowhere now. Gonna be dark in quarter of an hour. And believe me, girl, you don’t want to be out after dark around here.” Cradling Duy in his arms, he climbs the iron and concrete steps leading to the first floor apartments. In the old days, they would have had a view of the swimming pool.
He nudges one door open with a sneaker-clad foot. “This place is in pretty good shape.” He must have done some exploring, I realize, while looking for first aid supplies. “No electric, but the roof’s solid, and so’s the lock on the door.”
I step into what had been the living room. It’s been totally stripped of furniture, aside from a broken dinette chair in one corner. The looters even tore up the carpets, exposing the rough wooden planks underneath. Through the uncurtained picture window beside the door, I can look across the courtyard to the corresponding apartment on the other arm of the U. Behind the building, palms make graceful silhouettes against a purple-streaked sky.
“Throw the bolt,” Steel orders, already headed for the bedroom with my unconscious brother. I follow his instructions, then join him. There’s no bed, either, but a tangle of towels, sheets and blankets cover the floor.
“Found these in a locked closet,” he says with a grin as he arranges Duy’s body on the nest of moderately clean fabric. “Guess the looters were too lazy to get it open.”
I sink to my knees next to the plump three year old. He lies on his back, the improvised splint resting on his chest. Although he’s totally motionless, his breathing is deep and even. “How long will he sleep?”
“Dunno. Don’t usually give oxy to kids. We carry it in case something happens on a foraging run.” He reads the concern in my face, even in the dim light. “Don’t worry, Linh. He’ll be okay.”
It’s the first time he’s called me anything but “girl” or “bitch”. Shows he’s paying attention, too. It turns me strange for a moment, soft. And that sets alarm bells ringing in my head.Back to Books