STRATAGEM Chapter 33
“SOMEONE NEEDS TO TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON, RIGHT NOW.” Derek only realized he was shouting because of Hulk and Paige’s reaction. “Sorry,” he said to her. “I’m just surprised.”
“Beenie!” Mom ran over to hug Sabine. “What are you doing here?”
Before could say another word, the man behind her gasped and collapsed to the floor. Sabine went over and knelt by him. “Blake!”
Without missing a beat, Mom found the light switch, flipped it on, and went over to check on them. Paige let out a frightened whimper and wrapped her arms around Derek’s leg. Hulk curled around her legs empathetically.
“It’s going to be all right, Paige. You stay here with Hulk, I’m going to be right there helping out.
She nodded, and sat in the chair next to her, stroking Hulk’s back.
“Inside that cabinet,” Mom said, pointing to the kitchenette. “Red duffle bag. Get the first aid kit.”
The man—Blake—started convulsing on the floor. Derek went over and pulled out the red duffle bag. From within, he found a rectangular bag with the First Aid symbol and brought it over to Mom.
“What’s wrong with him?” Mom said.
“He’s been shot,” Sabine answered and pointed to the tourniquet on his arm.
Mom examined it, turned him over on his side. “Looks like the bleeding’s under control.”
Blake’s shivering subsided. The interval between his breaths lengthened and his entire body relaxed.
“Let’s get him onto the sofa,” Mom said, nodding over to the one on the right of the room. Derek and Sabine helped him up and walked him over.
“You okay?” Sabine said to Blake, pulling the dusty white sheet off the sofa.
He tried to answer but only a groan came out as he dropped across the cushions like a tree felled by a lumberjack.
“He needs to rest,” Sabine said straightening up and stepping aside, “it’s been rough.”
Derek went over and gave her a hug. “Sorry,Sis. It’s good to see you and all, but I’m confused as hell.”
Hulk came running over, panting with excitement.
“Hulk!” Sabine knelt down to meet him. “Come here, you little stinker!”
Tail flailing, he bathed her face in kisses and she welcomed it.
“Gross,” Derek said. “All right, I still need an explanation. Mom, Sabine? Who wants to go first?”
“What are you doing here?” Sabine said to Derek, incredulity painted on her face. “And why did you bring Hulk?”
Mom brushed aside a lock of Sabine’s hair and examined her face. “If you’re here, you…and Blake must be in trouble.”
Derek gave the man a once over, then turned to Sabine. “Not judging, but isn’t he a bit old for you?”
“He’s a coworker,” Sabine said. Then to Mom: “I have to assume you’re in trouble too.”
“Hold on,” Derek said. “Am I the only person who didn’t know about this place? What else have you been hiding?” A quick glance to the opposite side of the room revealed little Paige fast asleep on another sofa.
“Who’s the kid?” Sabine said.
“All right,” Mom said, gesturing for them all to take seats around the table in the kitchenette, at which Derek sat last. She set her gun down on the counter next to the table and spoke. “Before the suspense kills us all, we should tell our stories. Derek, why don’t you begin?”
“But I need to know how—why…all these secrets.”