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“I need you to bring the Humvee around and give me some light,” she said.

Daniel lurched away from the porch, a massive shadow hulking beside him: Khan still on duty. She wondered how Khan and Einstein had decided to switch assignments. She pulled off her tactical gloves and replaced her bloody latex gloves with a fresh pair. She was just injecting Lola with a mild sedative when the brilliant lights of the Humvee came shooting through the banister slats. She adjusted her position so the glare was out of her face and on the wound. It looked like a clean through-and-through. She waited for Lola’s eyes to droop before she started cleaning the wound. Lola’s leg twitched a few times, but she didn’t cry out. Antiseptic, then ointment, then gauze, then a splint and more gauze. It should heal well, if she could keep Lola off it.

She blew out a sigh. What were they going to do about all these dogs?

“What’s next?” Daniel asked when she was done. He was on the ground beside the porch, rifle in hands, scanning the dark plains around them.

“Can you throw a couple of stitches in my ear while I’ve got the stuff out?”

He balked. “I won’t get it right.”

“It’ll be easy,” she assured him. “Haven’t you ever sewn on a button?”

“Not through human flesh,” he muttered, but he slung his rifle over his shoulder and started up the stairs as he spoke.

She lit a match from the kit and sterilized the needle. It wasn’t the highest standard of medical technique, but it was the best she could do under the circumstances. She waved the needle quickly back and forth to cool it, then poked the suture thread through the eye and knotted one end.

She held it out to him along with a fresh pair of gloves. He put the gloves on and then reached slowly for the needle. He didn’t seem to want to touch it. She tilted her head back and poured antiseptic across the wound, waiting for the scorching sting to run the course of the cut all the way to her ear. Then she angled her jaw toward him, making sure she was in the brightest beam of light.

“Probably just needs three little ones. Start at the back and pull through.”

“What about a local anesthetic?”

“I’ve got enough painkiller in me already,” she lied. She could feel the slash across her jaw like a brand. But she was out of Survive, and anything else she could use would incapacitate her at least partially. This wasn’t an emergency, it was only pain.

He knelt down beside her. He put his fingers gently under the edge of her chin.

“This was very close to your jugular!” He gasped, horrified.

“Yeah, he was good.”

His face was out of her sight, so she couldn’t interpret the little hitching sound in his breath.

“Do it, Daniel. We have to hurry.”

He sucked in a deep breath, and then she felt the needle pierce her earlobe. She was braced for it – she kept it off her face and didn’t let her hands clutch into fists; she’d learned to localize her reactions. She clenched the muscles in her abdomen, letting the pressure vent there.

“Good,” she said as soon as she was sure she could keep her voice even. “You’re doing great. Now just fit the pieces together, and stitch them in place.”

While she spoke, his fingers moved quickly through the task. She couldn’t feel the needle in the severed bottom portion of her earlobe, so she only had to deal with the pain when he perforated the top half. Just three little stabs. It wasn’t too bad after the first.

“Do I… tie a knot or something?” he asked.

“Yes, in the back, please.”

She could feel the pull of the thread tightening as he worked.

“It’s done.”

She looked up at him and smiled. It tugged at her slashed jaw. “Thank you. I would have had a hard time managing that on my own.”

He touched her cheek. “Here, let me bandage this for you.”

She held still while he covered the wound with ointment, then taped a strip of gauze to her cheek. He wrapped her ear front and back.

“Probably should have cleaned it first,” he muttered.

“It will do for now. Let’s put Lola in the Humvee.”

“I’ll get her.”

Daniel gently lifted the sleeping Lola into his arms. Her long front paws and ears dangled out from his arms and wiggled with every step he took. Alex felt a bubble of inappropriate humor rising in her chest, and swallowed against it. There was no time for hysteria. Daniel laid Lola in the space behind the passenger seat. There were only the two front seats in the Humvee. Kevin had removed the rest to leave room for cargo, she guessed.

“What now?” Daniel asked as he walked back to where she was still sitting on the porch. He was probably wondering why she wasn’t doing something proactive. He didn’t know she was procrastinating.

She took a deep breath and steadied her shoulders. “Give me the phone. It’s time to talk to your brother.”

“Should we be moving?”

“There’s one thing more I need to do, but I want to tell him first.”


“We really ought to burn the house down.”

His eyes widened as he stared at her. Slowly, he pulled the phone from his vest pocket.

“I should make the call,” he said.

“He already hates me,” she countered.

“But this was my fault.”

“You weren’t the one who hired a team of hit men.”