Guests finally gone, Susan retrieved Liz and Will from the basement, Bud going to check on the presumably still-sleeping Einar. Liz put a hand on his arm, stopped him.
“Better let me do it, don’t you think? He can wake up pretty hard after this sort of thing, and maybe if he hears my voice…”
“Oh, no ma’am don’t you worry about any of it, he’s perfectly harmless. No danger at all.”
Liz couldn’t tell whether he was joking, or serious. Hoped he was joking, for otherwise it must mean that Einar was still out after all that time, which seemed a rather bad sign for him, and she hurried after Kilgore, Susan following.
Footsteps drawing nearer, stopping outside the door to the hut, light seeping in and Einar lunged at the dark figure in the doorway, still weaponless but ready to make best use of his hands, knew how to do it…but nothing happened. Other than a quick fall back to the hard floor, where he lay scrambling and scrabbling to get his legs back beneath him so he could make a run for it, but without success. Meanwhile Bud opened the blind, flooding the room with a soft, spruce-filtered sunlight that left Einar blinking in wonderment and confusion. It was gone, the jungle, the stinking, steaming water beneath his cage, the ropes, vanished before that flood of dappled, dancing sunlight, and Einar’s relief was tempered only by a deep, persistent ache at the remembrance that he’d been so close to escape, to perhaps finding a way to do something for Andy…
But all that was gone now, and he smiled wistfully at the green-golden light streaming in the window, beautiful sight and he might have become entirely lost in it, but had to drop his eyes for he was growing terribly dizzy. Did not at all understand, in the absence of the cage with its dreaded ropes, what could be making his body so heavy, useless, unresponsive. Figured it might simply be the lingering effects of the dream—he’d experienced that before, the thing manifesting itself in a number of different ways—but really, that ought to be fading by then. And it wasn’t. Still couldn’t get anything to cooperate. He looked in confusion at the nearest person, who happened to be Susan.
“Can’t walk. Can’t… What happened here?”
Susan took his arm, helped him up but saw that he genuinely couldn’t stand; she was supporting nearly all of his weight, lowered him back to the floor, looking concerned. “I did it,” she confessed. Gave you a real solid whack to the spine with my .45. You were going after Bud. I had to protect him. I’m sorry…”
Faint hint of a smile from Einar as he allowed himself to slump over against the wall, thoroughly worn out from his efforts at standing. “He’s got…good woman. Don’t be sorry. But I ought to be able…”
Not able to do much at all just then it seemed, for again his legs collapsed under him when he tried to rise, rest of him following so that he lay flat on the floor on his stomach, and Liz watched, growing increasingly worried. She didn’t like the way his voice sounded, words indistinct, almost slurred, and wondered if Susan’s quick action with the pistol might have caused some graver injury than they had at the time realized. Bud knew better, and what was more, he had the answer. Didn’t want Einar to know it, but figured Liz and Susan might as well stop their worrying—especially his Sue, who was now needlessly concerned that she might have caused the man some permanent damage—so he pulled the thing from his pocket and showed them.
“A dart!” Susan was aghast. “You could have stopped his breathing, you know? Or his heart. The way he was already compromised and barely getting by…it’s a wonder he woke up at all!”
“Hey now, settle down there girls. It’s not as bad as all that. See, I figured it’d take six or seven of him to make up one decent-size bear, so I was real careful to only give him part of the thing this time, instead of two full darts, like I had to do that time out in the hills. He was already down this time, not going anywhere and not even moving around yet after that blow to the spine, so it didn’t take nearly as much. He’ll be alright, and should get over it a lot quicker than before. Just gonna be groggy for a while, and probably pretty weak and clumsy, but I figured hey, won’t do him any harm if he ends up lying around for a day or two, anyway…”
Einar, meanwhile, had remained silent and unmoving in his position against the wall, drifting again, near something like sleep, but taking in every word, and understanding more than the trio—Liz excepted—would have expected him to be capable of, given the circumstances. But most of all he was cold, the extent of the thing suddenly seeming to overwhelm him and add to the difficulty he'd been having getting his limbs to work, so that all he could do was to lean against the wall and shiver and glare at Bud, furious, but unable to do much about it. They tried to help him back into bed then, Susan and Liz, but he didn’t want to go, resisted, so they dragged him. Pulled the blankets up over him and held them down so he couldn't go anywhere. He fought it for a while, but nothing was happening except that the world was dimming as he felt himself close to losing consciousness, so after a time he stopped. Gathering his strength for the next attempt.
Susan went away and returned shortly with warm broth which she tried to talk him into drinking, but he adamantly refused. Which did not please any of them, but it was Bud who responded, leaning over him, face grim, threatening. “Still got some of those darts, you know. Want me to hit you with another one, and then we can stick a tube down your nose for this stuff and there won’t be anything you can do about it? Is that the way you want this to go?”
“Bud!” Susan didn’t even leave time for Liz to express her outrage.
“Well, do you see a better way? You gals want him to live, don’t you?”
Liz was on her feet then, angry. “No! No, not like that, I don’t. Not if you have to… I think you should leave the room now, both of you. We need to be alone.”
Susan hurried to do it, holding out her arms for Will, and Liz—though with some misgivings—allowed him to go with her. Bud, a bit more reluctant, followed.