Lydia was in very bad condition. Once Isaac had managed to get her off the floor, he had carried her carefully to their bed, laying her down with hands still clutching the money. She seemed determined to keep hold of it but eventually the pain took over and all of her attention was focused on suffering. Placing the bills into a bucket, Issac had poured water over them before returning to care for his wife. It took him over three hours to get all of her clothing off, as he was forced to carefully cut around many places where the dress had burned into her skin. Once this was completed he could see that about twenty percent of her body was covered with significant burns and another twenty percent in smaller, less serious patches of damage. Lydia was in and out of consciousness during this time, delirious and raving when awake, twitchy and moaning when not. Isaac understood that he lacked the knowledge to properly care for his wife’s injuries and that she was in serious danger of dying if he did not get her treatment as quickly as possible. Going for the doctor was of course the obvious thing to do, but then what was that going to bring down upon him? He knew he was in a dilemma.
The doctor would of course want to know how such serious burns had occurred, and the only obvious thing Issac could think of was that either the house or the cabin needed to be set on fire. He did not really feel like the house was a good option, especially since that would mean losing all of their possessions. The cabin was definitely better. The story could easily be that Lydia had been trapped inside and that he had bravely rescued her. But there was also now likely to be police involvement and someone, either the doctor or a detective, was going to end up talking to Claudia. What would the girl say had happened? Whatever it was, there was little chance that any of it could be made to match up to any story that made sense about his wife’s injuries. And that of course meant that Claudia simply could not be there. He considered that carefully for a long time, that one simple and unavoidable idea. It meant that he needed to act again, and the thought made him scared but also excited. He was already missing the rush of the moment he had felt when he had killed his father. It was going to take another murder to clear this mess up. His actions after that were driven by that simple fact.
Cleaning up the wounds as well as he could, efforts that only seemed to put his wife in more pain, he then left her in the bed and returned to the kitchen area. He had made no effort to speak to Claudia during the time he had been caring for Lydia, and it now took him several minutes to find her. She was curled up next to the pantry door, asleep and with a half-eaten piece of bread lying next to her on the floor. He woke her with a shake.
“Get up Claudia. All is better.” A howl came from the bedroom and he gave the girl a rueful grin. “Well, maybe not all better, but you and I don’t need to worry about that right now. Let’s get something to eat. I can see that you must have been hungry.”
Claudia got up slowly and followed him to the kitchen table. As she watched he prepared two sandwiches and filled a jug with water.
“Grab a couple of those glasses and follow me.”
They walked outside and across the property, sitting down under an oak tree about one hundred feet from the house. Claudia was quiet but was constantly looking at Isaac, her eyes full of questions. He was content to let them stay there, trapped in those youthful eyes, especially since he was not sure he had any answers that were going to make any sense to the girl anyway. Finally she spoke.
“Unc really gone? Dead?” Her eyes were teared up but she was holding it together, so he answered her.
“Yes. He’s dead. I’m sorry.”
“Sometimes people just die. He was pretty old you know.”
“It’s the same answer as the other Claudia. He was just old.”
“Why did I leave cabin?”
“We didn’t want you to see his body.”
She stared back at him and then continued eating her sandwich. The morning was passing quickly, at least for Isaac, and he was surprised to see the sun so high in the sky. At least that would make the waiting less, which was good because he knew what had to be done and was plenty nervous about it. The rush was great but thinking about it still made his stomach sour. He needed to keep himself busy.
“Well, I’m done. You stay here until you finish that and then you can walk back over to the house. I’ve got work to do.”
Isaac began splitting wood as soon as he got back to the house, the thunking and banging sounds drowning out his wife’s cries. He worked at it longer than he ever had before, hours and hours of splitting wood, his muscles aching and sore, his body wet with sweat. He checked on Lydia whenever his back locked up badly enough that he could not swing the axe, tending to her as well as he could, and then returning as quickly as he could to his labor. During this time he also finished burning the mattress, cleaning up the area where the fire had been with a rake. Claudia did walk over when she was done but refused to enter the house, instead choosing to sit by the side door and watch, trancelike, as Isaac swung the axe. Eventually it was time to eat again and Isaac fed them both at the kitchen table, more sandwiches but this time with some fruit and cheese. Once that was done, and with another check on Lydia, Isaac spoke to Claudia.
“I hope you are rested girl. We need to walk into town this evening.”
…to be continued