“I understand.” Elaine wiped at a tear sliding down the side of her face then answered, “We’re ready to go.” She struggled to her feet picking up the bag of supplies with Sandy following suit.

Brian led the women to one of the trucks and helped them inside with Paula at the wheel. He walked around the back of a second truck and pulled at the rope hanging on the roll bar and used it to bind Henry’s hands and feet. Billy, Leon, Juan, and Margo each got into the remaining vehicles, and they caravanned back to the gas station.

Once the women had settled inside the gift shop, Brian and Billy went back outside and pulled Henry across the bed of the truck. They slid him off the tailgate none too gently and deposited him on the ground.

“Alright, Henry Dodd, this is your chance to live. I want to know everything about the camp.” Brian leaned toward Henry menacingly.

Henry held up his tied hands in surrender. “You got it….”

Henry talked for nearly an hour before Brian finally spoke again. “You’re sure of the numbers?”

Henry nodded excitedly. “A man by the name of Grant was in charge until last week. He left with a group scavenging and just never came back. Most people figured he ran into the military or took on someone he couldn’t handle. Anyway, that’s when this bunch took over. You have to understand, not everyone in the camp is bad. Grant brought in a bunch of assholes right after the attack, and everyone is afraid to do or say anything. One of the men you killed was a decent man, too. He was just too scared to do anything about it just like me.”

“Decent?” Brian interrupted. “It’s so-called decent men standing by while others do harm that will be our downfall, not the damned dead!”

“I know. I’m ashamed of what I watched happen, but I had my family to think of.” Cringing, Henry pleaded. “You got a family? Wouldn’t you do whatever it took to protect your family?”

Brian turned away. He kicked at a cigarette butt on the concrete. Henry was right. If he were honest with himself, he would do whatever it took to protect his family. Finally, Brian spoke. “We’ll do more talking tomorrow.” Brian pulled Henry to his feet. “For now we’re going inside and get some rest. We’ll have a guard, and you’ll stay tied up for the rest of the night. Any trouble and you’re dead, no second chances.”

Henry gave a quick nod. “You won’t have any trouble with me.”

Brian led Henry inside the gift shop, and found a place for him to sleep away from the others but in plain sight. He secured Henry’s hands around the bench leg then turned to Billy. “Get some sleep I’ll keep an eye on our friend and wake Leon in a couple hours.”

Brian settled on the office chair he had used earlier and watched the night slip away. It was a quiet passing of time. Around three, his eyes grew heavy, and he woke Leon.

Leon started, looked around, then stood and stretched his arms wide, muscles bulging in the undersized, t-shirt. “I got it, boss. Anything I should watch for?”

“All’s quiet. Just keep an eye out and watch sleeping beauty over there.” Brian nodded toward Henry. “He hasn’t moved since I tucked him in.”

“He sounds like a freight train.” Leon laughed.

“Just make sure he stays where he is. I don’t want him moving around while most of us are asleep.”

“Got it,” Leon answered to Brian’s retreating back.

Paula and Margo parked the vehicles near the camp. Both women ignored the gathering of men and their clean up activities to walk up to the two women huddled together near the car where they had been chained.

“Hi. I’m Paula. This is Margo.” Paula stepped closer with bottles of water in hand.

The woman looked up and stared without speaking. Paula gave each of them a bottle while Margo handed them a plastic store bag with beef jerky, fruit cups and a handful of candy bars.

“I’m sorry. We didn’t find much in the truck stop.” Margo whispered.

“This is fine.” The woman whispered. She nodded to her daughter to eat, but she just stared straight ahead.

“I’m sorry about your family.” Paula sat down next to the woman.

Margo followed suit. “Steve and the guys came as soon as they saw the gunfire. I’m sorry we were too late.”

“So am I.” The woman whispered. “My name is Elaine, Elaine Ward. This is my daughter, Sandy.”

The woman pushed greasy hair from her face while she studied the bag on the ground. She looked up then silently opened the bottle of water. She took a drink then passed it to her daughter. Sandy finished the bottle of water and Elaine opened the second. They both drank without speaking for a couple minutes then peeked into the bag. Elaine opened a package of jerked meat and passed a piece to Sandy then pulled one out for herself while Margo and Paula waited quietly.

“We haven’t eaten in a couple days.” Still chewing, Elaine opened a fruit cup and passed it to her daughter.

Sandy tipped up the cup and spilled the sweet syrup and fruit into her mouth. She licked at the dribbled of syrup with a hint of a smile on her lips. When she realized what she was doing, she started crying. “They’re dead.” She looked at the food horrified. “How can I eat when Daddy and Danny are dead?”

Elaine put her arm around her daughter. “It’s alright. You have to eat. Your body is hungry. Your dad and Danny would want you to eat,” Elaine tore off another piece of jerky and put it in her mouth in a show of support for her words.

Brian approached the women. “Ladies? Is there anything I can do over here?”

Elaine looked up and studied Brian for a moment. “You’re military?”

“Yes, mam. Captain Brian Jameson. I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for your family.”

“Me too.” She introduced herself and her daughter then added. “What now? The van is destroyed?”

“You get your choice of trucks from the four these assholes were driving. You can come with us, or you can head back out to wherever you were going.” Brian answered. “We’re loading everything from your van into a truck then we’ll head back to the fueling station where we were staying. We’ll spend the rest of the night there. We can talk about your options in the morning, and you can make those decisions then.

Elaine nodded. “What about my son and husband? I’d like to bury them.”

Brian sighed. “I’m sorry. The best we can do is put them in the van and burn it in the morning. We don’t have the tools to bury them, and we can’t chance a fire tonight.”

When Zack handed Steve the camp shovel, he slid off the log and scooted over to a slight depression in the ground. He pulled away a couple handfuls of scrub grass then began to dig. He looked to see Penny watching and smiled as he wiped the moisture from his brow.

“You want to help?” Steve asked.

“Uh-huh,” Penny answered.

“I need lots of little pieces of wood.” He held his hands apart about six inches. “About this long and no bigger than your thumb, can you do that?”

Penny grinned. “Uh-huh.” She ran to a nearby tree to begin picking up sticks.

When she brought the first handful, Steve pointed at a place nearby. “There’ll be fine. Don’t wander far.”

Penny skipped away giggling while Steve completed the first hole when he had gotten down twenty inches. He cleaned to hole of the last of dirt then slid over to begin a second smaller hole. When he got to the same depth, he reached into the first hole and joined the two.

Zack hung the green tarp while Della and Darlene began sorting supplies for an evening meal. He walked over to Steve carrying an armful of small limbs and branches.

“Thought you were building a fire. What’s the hole for?”

“It’s a Dakota fire hole. Remember all the fires we saw? No one will see our fire below ground,” Steve answered.

“Want me to help?”

“Sure.” Steve passed Zack the shovel. “We need to expand the bottom of the big hole a little more. Make it about the size of a five-gallon bucket. Don’t open the top any larger if you can help it. We’re going to use that grating to cook on.”

Steve sat back and began weaving together the dried grass into a tight ball.

Zack shoveled and scooped dirt then sat back. “I think I got it.”

“Put this in the center and add sticks around it in the shape of a T-pee. Add bigger sticks as you work your way out. Leave access to light the tender.”

Della and Darlene walked over. Della sat down a pot of water. Have you got a fire going? We need to start boiling water.”

Zack stuck a lighter into the hole for a minute, then sat up just as smoke wafted from the hole in front of him.

“What are you two doing?”

“A Dakota Fire takes less fuel and burns hotter. Did you bring that metal grating?”

“We should have brought more supplies,” Della commented as she handed him the camp grill.

“A little trapping or hunting and we’ll be fine,” Steve answered. “Even at just twelve miles a day, we can be there in less than a week.”

“How far did we ride today?”

“Seven, maybe eight miles. No more than that.” Steve answered.

Della interrupted. “The way my legs and butt feel, I can’t imagine going further than we did today.

Darlene echoed Della’s sentiment then added. “Besides, I don’t think Penny can take riding more than we did today.”

“Then we’ll go as far as we can,” Steve answered.

Zack stepped out of the saddle and nearly fell to the ground. After flexing one leg after the other, he tied the reins to a tree limb and did the same for the pack horse. After removing the supply bags, Zack pulled a rope from a bag and set it aside.

“If you take care of the horses, we’ll set up camp and fix a meal,” Steve announced as he began loosening the cinches on his mount’s saddle.

“I got it. I’m not sure I can even sit down right now,” Zack answered.

Zack walked to Darlene, and she dropped Penny into his waiting arms. Penny giggled and wiggled, anxious to be let down. Zack put her on the ground, and she darted away.

Darlene called out to her retreating back. “Don’t go far.”

“I won’t” Penny answered as she headed for a patch of bluebonnets.

With help from Zack and Steve, Della and Darlene pulled saddles from their horses, wiped them down with handfuls of grass and then passed the reins for Zack to lead them to the stream. At seeing Steve limp around the horses flank,

Della walked up with the black mare and held out her hand. “G’me.” Steve started to protest, but just shrugged and handed his horse’s reins to Della. “You go sit down and pull off the prosthetics. Your legs are still too raw to be wearing them for so long.”

“It’s more my ass, then my butt.” Steve laughed then walked to a fallen log and sat down with Penny where she drew shapes in the dirt. Steve pulled up his pant legs and pulled the artificial lower legs from his stumps. He rubbed the pink skin and sighed with relief at no sign of ulcers.

“Why don’t you have feet?” Penny asked.

Steve looked up and smiled. “I lost them.”

“Where? I can help look for them.” Penny tilted her head to one side and studied his face. “I’m good at finding things.”

“I’m sure you are, but they’ve been gone a long time.” He smiles. “Besides, I have these.” He held up a prosthetic.

Penny looked a little confused then smiled. “Okay. I’m getting hungry. Are you hungry?”

Zack appeared at Steve’s side and opened one of the packs. “What should we do first?”

“Give me the shovel, I’ll take care of the fire, you can hang the tarp from that branch to the ground. It’ll give us cover in case it rains.”

Steve reined his mount around and led out, with Della on the black mare first to follow. Darlene followed Della with Zack bringing up the rear leading the pack horse. Steve led the group across the rugged terrain until it suddenly they were back at the edge of the blacktop. He studied a sign in the distance, then pulled a map from his pocket. They were approaching Miller Ranch Road. If they continued on, they should be back on State Road 90 and could head back north. They rode for another hour, near a water treatment plant, then they were back on 90 with fewer signs of the tornado damage. They saw a small white square white building in the distance.

“Is that Marfa again?” Darlene asked.

Della answered in her best Obi Wan Kenobi voice. “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

“Party pooper,” Darlene answered amid peals of laughter.

The five horses plodded away from the distant remnants of Marfa. They followed the roadway a short distance away while dodging around scrub trees and mesquite.

“Why aren’t we riding up on the road?” Della asked.

“We need to be able to hide quickly. We don’t want to take a chance someone on these back roads sees us.”

As the afternoon wore on, Penny began to whimper. Steve glanced to the raised train tracks in the distance and wondered if they would find a train sitting on them at some point. His gaze followed the tracks to a green belt perpendicular to the track and road ahead about a mile away. It could mean water and a place to camp for the night.

He tapped the stirrups against the horse’s belly. Water would let them clean up, have a meal and provide a place to rest the horses for the night. He turned to Della and called out. “We’ll stop up ahead, let’s get there.”

With a new enthusiasm for the last leg of the day’s journey, the trio following Steve picked up their pace. When they neared the small draw, they found a trickling stream surrounded by lush grasses and a variety of trees including a few sprawling-branched oak trees. Steve led the others farther away from the highway into a dense grove of trees. Steve got down from the dark brown mare and handed the reins to Della. He carefully picked his way to the stream and looked back at the overpass crossing the highway. They would be hidden from any passing traffic. He looks from right to left and found a level area under the thick limb of an oak about twenty feet from the stream. A little further downstream was a less brushy area with plenty of grass and close to the water.

He walked back up the bank and waved at the waiting group. “This’ll do. After we unsaddle the horses, we’ll take them down there.” He pointed to the grassy area a short distance away.

It took nearly two hours to sort through supplies and decide what they required instead of what they wanted. Steve, Della, and Zack made three stacks: one of the absolute essentials, another one of items at least one of the trio thought was needed, then the last pile of expendable. A second pass reduced the items to what they could get in three huge duffle bags. When they were finished, they sat down and stared at the remaining supplies.

“I hate leaving so much behind,” Zack commented after a long pull at a bottle of water.

“I feel the same way, but we can only take so much,” Steve answered. “Come on, big guy, time to move out.”

The two men saddled the horses as a sense of uncertainty settled over the small group. On each saddle, they tied saddle bags with extra water and supplies and bed rolls. When they were finished, Steve still worried about the supplies being left behind. He passed around more bottles of water, jerky and energy bars. Everyone ate quietly lost in the realization of the sudden changes. Since none were more than casual riders, they were hesitant at best.

“Let’s mount up. Darlene, do you want Penny in front or back?” Steve asked.

“Front. I think.” She answered.

Darlene mounted, got settled with her feet in the stirrups, then Zack passed Penny up to sit in front of her mother. Della mounted by herself and pulled on a baseball cap. Steve reached up to the saddle-horn and pulled himself into the saddle. He pushed his prosthetics into the stirrups and rose up to adjust his seat.

“Well, Zack. Are you coming?”

“I got this,” Zack answered.

He grabbed his own saddle and stuck his left foot into the stirrup. He bounced on his right foot, but the horse shied and pranced away leaving Zack hopping after him.

Steve used his prosthetics to bump against his mount’s side and turned the reins to guide his mount to Zack’s horse’s side. He grabbed the bridle and held the skittish mount still.

Zack stepped back into the stirrup and with a quick jump swung his leg over the back of the saddle. He pulled himself up and settled on the seat. “Good to go,” Zack announced with a broad grin as Steve released the bridle and handed him the rope attached to the pack horse’s bridle.

“Follow single file and stay about ten feet apart,” Steve ordered. “Zack, bring up the rear and hang onto the pack horse. You can wrap the rope around the saddle horn a couple times but don’t tie it. Just in case.”

“Yeah, before most of the country went dark, there was hope. Now, there’s no place left without the dead rising up to prey on the living. All of the US is probably affected now. Before the Internet went down so was China, Russia, Europe, Africa, Canada, and South America. We have been monitoring a ham radio since day one.” Randy responded. “Believe me, I’d like to be able to say it’s different, but now our only hope is to learn to live with this hanging over our heads.”

Liz heard a woman sitting next to the second Goodman son, Abe, begin to cry.

“It’s hopeless.” The woman whimpered. “What about my baby?”

Cassie stood up. “Honestly, we don’t know. We have three pregnant women in the compound right now. All we can do is watch and wait. We have no reason to believe it has any adverse effects on a healthy pregnancy and delivery.”

Will interrupted. “We’re not here to discuss things we can’t change. Life is as it is. We make this a safe place with what we need to survive then learn to live with the infection. If you’re not willing to be part of that, pack up and move on.”

“But….” Abe began.

“No buts!” Will answered. “Everyone commits to long days working for the community or leave. I’m not arguing or excusing anyone. You’re here as part of the community or not. It’s up to you. I won’t beg anyone to stay.” He slammed his hand down on the table. “Talk to Randy, he’s setting up work crews and prioritizing what needs to be done. Be part of it, or leave.”

With that, Will turned and walked toward the door where he caught sight of Liz. He hurried to her side and squatted in front of her. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“I’m tired of being up there alone,” Liz answered at she wiped at the moisture on her top lip.

“Come on. Let’s get outta here.” Will grabbed her hands and escorted her from the room.

“Dad, please.”

“Liz, you’re exhausted, you have malnutrition, and you’re pregnant. Cassie says you’ve worried yourself sick for weeks.” Will’s expression fail to mask his frustration. “I understand you’re worried about the girls, but Harry told me what happened. The girls are alive. God willing, they will return to us.”

Liz swiped at the tears on her face. “I…I’m scared I’ll never see them again.”

Will smiled sadly. “So am I, honey. So am I.” He led her to a quiet alcove and sat down pulling Liz to the cushion beside him. “I have faith. I choose to believe the soldiers caring for the girls are brave men who will do everything they can to protect them. Harry told me about the car seat box they found. No one stops to get a car seat for a baby then abandons the child.”

Liz whispered. “We did.” She fell against her father’s chest. “I hope you’re right.”

“Liz, you did what you had to do. There was no way Amy could have kept up with you. All three of you would have died. Now, quit second guessing everything you’ve done. “ He wiped at her face with a white handkerchief then handed it to her. “You’re sick because you’re underweight and pregnant. Your job is to take care of yourself and my grandson. And that’s order.” He smiled. “I want a healthy mom and baby boy when Brian and the girls show up.”

“Yes, sir,” Liz answered.

Maria appeared and reached out to Liz. “You are up? I have been so worried. Come, señora. I fix you a nice snack. You too skinny. Niño needs a healthy madre. I make taquitos.”

While Will nodded at Sam Goodman to follow him to his office, Maria led Liz to the kitchen. Maria sat Liz on a chair in front of a wooden table. She quickly pulled a pan from and overhead the rack and put it on a burner. Maria opened a refrigerator and retrieved a handful of items. She moved to a cutting board made quick work of chopping onions, potatoes, and peppers. “I make them just how you like them,” Maria added as stepped to the stove and turned on the burner.

“There you are,” Cassie announced as she walked into the kitchen. “It’s time for your medication.”

“What is it? I still feel like shit.”

“An antibiotic. I’m increasing the dosage. I have to wing it a bit, here.” Cassie answered. “Since I don’t have much testing available, I’m using a broad spectrum antibiotic. I think you’re fighting a kidney infection. But that’s just based on the back pain and my comparing a slide to pictures.” Cassie sat a couple pills in a small plastic cup on the table. “Don’t throw away the cup.” She laughed. “Keep drinking lots of water, too.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is?” Liz asked as she examined the dark haired woman face.

“As sure as I can be. You’ve complicated the issue by not eating worth a shit for the last few months and being pregnant but other than that, I’m pretty sure.”

Maria sat a plate with three taquitos in front of her. “You eat it all. Sí?”

“I’ll try.” Liz chuckled.

“And take the antibiotics as soon as you’re done,” Cassie ordered.

“Yes, accident,” She said firmly. “Time to isolate the sick, no matter who they are. If someone fails to get up and you don’t get a vocal response, take precautions. That’s all we’re asking. The man involved in this incident had a snake bit. He didn’t tell anyone, and neither did his wife. He died and attacked his family.”

“You mean that could happen to any of us?” One of the Goodman women asked.

Will answered. “As terrible as that sounds, yes. It’s important to take care of each other, so come to the clinic, so illnesses and injured are treated.”

Liz realized why her bedroom door had been closed when anyone left and why they always knocked and waited for her to respond before entering. She covered her bulging middle. What would happen to her baby? Was she sick because she was pregnant and was it because of the virus? With a wave of dizziness, Liz slipped into a chair at the side of the room. After a couple deep breaths, she calmed and looked around the room. She realized she didn’t know most of the people. There were two distinct groups. Each crowd clustered together acting more than a little suspicious of the other. She recognized Pablo, Miguel and their extended family and gave the women a quick nod and smile of recognition. Elaina and her mother, Maria whispered at Pablo and Miguel. Both men turned toward Liz and smiled. They turned back to the assembly, their faces still looked.

The goat rancher, dressed in overalls, sat next to a graying woman with the two younger men, and women approximately that appeared to be the younger generation. Two teenagers sat on the other side of the gray-haired lady. Randy stood next to Liz’s father. Not far from him, sat John and Harry.

Will raised his hands to quiet the assembly then continued. “Now that we’ve settled that, let’s work on setting some priorities. I realize we still don’t have enough folks to do everything we need to get done yet, but for now, we’ll do the best we can. Safety and becoming self-sufficient is the two most important tasks at hand. Planting the new gardens need to be done by the end of the week to take advantage of the remaining growing season. At the same time, we need to finish fencing the goat pen back at the Goodman cabins.”

Mr. Goodman stood up. “Me and mine can work on it. I ‘magine two days and we’ll be finished. The wife and girls are milking twice a day. We’ll keep what we need and bring the rest up here. You can pass it along with who you want. I got a spot picked out to put in our own garden…”

Will interrupted. “Sam, this is a community effort, I think you seem to be missing that point, here. You and I obviously need to discuss individual efforts, but for now, let’s move on.” He turned to Randy and nodded.

Randy began. “We still have to try to gather livestock and supplies while we can. We’re not the only people trying to create a secure stronghold to live. As time goes along, more and more infected will leave the cities and make it more dangerous out there. As people get more desperate out there, some groups will be raiding others to survive.”

“What makes you think the government won’t get this under control. Early on, there were reports of the CDC working on a cure.” Glenn Goodman interrupted.

“Have you heard something I don’t know about? We’ve had a couple people monitoring communication channels and the Internet. Unless you know some other means of communications, we don’t.” Will asked.

“Well….” Glenn mumbled.

Liz descended the stairs to the great room to a cacophony of voices from the dining room. Some voices were raised and sounded angry. She made her way to the front desk to hear voices of a meeting taking place in the dining room. From the size of the gathering, she imagined all the adults in the canyon compound were present. Liz leaned against the check-in desk to catch her breath. She grimaced at her own weakness but refused to let it deter her. Liz made her way to the door and stopped.

Will Edmonds voice rose above the din. “Everyone has to contribute, and that’s the bottom line. Your herd of goats produces milk, and that means we all benefit from it. But that can’t be your only contribution. At some point, the goats will need to become part of the food supply chain in a more meaningful way.”

An unfamiliar voice countered. “When we agreed to come, we didn’t know it was going to mean moving into a socialist state. You can’t just take our livestock to feed a bunch of Mexicans.”

“Young man, you have been given a safe haven, homes for your family, your brother’s family, your parents, and younger siblings. Did you expect to show up and contribute nothing?”

“Our livestock is not community property.” The young man protested.

“Shut up, Glenn!” A gravelly voice interrupted. “Son, you’re making an ass outta yourself.” After a brief grumble, the older man continued. “What you have outlined sounds reasonable as long as the herd size maintains numbers for healthy breeding stock. We’re grateful for the offer of a safe place to raise our families. As for the suggestion concerning closing all bedroom doors at night, I can see the wisdom in such an action.”

Cassie added. “From what we’ve found on the Internet we know the virus has mutated since the initial attack and become an airborne pollutant that spread far beyond the initial attacks. There are now reports of people dying of natural causes and reanimating well away from the initial attacks. Considering that, if we each follow this simple rule, we can stop accidents like we had a few days ago.”

“Accident? You call that an accident?” Another voice protested. “Three people died.”

Matt threw a wave over his shoulder and kept walking. “Fine by me.”

Matt walked into the house to find a home life of sorts. Amy was sitting in the middle of the small den playing with Claire. Jake and Amanda were sitting on the couch and hovering over the new baby while Larry sat in the kitchen cleaning a handgun. Matt settled on a kitchen chair.

“You look like shit,” Larry commented as he slid an oiled rage through a gun barrel. “What’s with the look?”

“Do you realize two-thirds of the people here can’t defend themselves?” Matt answered. “We keep bringing in people that are damned near helpless.”

Larry nodded. “So what’ve you got in mind?”

“Not sure but I plan on figuring it out before tomorrow morning. I’ve been thinking. We need a fallback for the kids so the adults can protect the camp without them being in the middle of it.”

“We’re all doing what we can.”

“No. Most of the women have been too busy to learn much. None of them are carrying guns or knives. That has to change.”

“I’ve got the older kids training. The fact is they’re getting pretty good.” Larry answered. “I think they would be able to protect themselves from one of the infected. I’d like to start firearms training, but we’d have to use pellet guns or paint guns to keep the noise down.”

“We have a good setup here. We have the fence across the front and the west side of the grounds, the pond at the back and the bluff at the east. But if something happens and we get overrun, we’re trapped. We need a back way outta here; either across the pond or down the bluff.”

“There’s a trail back behind the barn that follows the lake and heads back into the thickets. I have no idea where it goes.”

“We need to explore all those options,” Matt answered as he rubbed at the stubble on his chin. “Let’s get Jenkins and one of the men over here in about an hour and talk this through. If this is going to be our home, we all need to be able to fight for it.”

After a quick shower, Matt settled down in the recliner. Claire crawled across the carpet to reach up. Matt tickled her under the chin, and she grinned. She bounced on her toes and reached up.

“She wants you to pick her up,” Amy announced. “Claire Bear walked today.”

Matt grinned and reached down to pick up the toddler. Claire pulled at his damp hair, giggling and making faces. Matt turned to Amy.

“You doing okay princess?”

“Yes, sir.” She answered as her smile faded. “Claire misses mommy and daddy.” She looked at her feet. “I do too.”

Matt looked down at Claire then at Amy. “I’m sorry. I guess we’ve gotten sidetracked, haven’t we?” At her sad nod, he continued. “We’ve been helping a lot of people, but I promise, soon.”

“Okay,” Amy whispered.

Matt forced a cheerful smile. “What did you do today? Did you have fun?”