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“Is Marti alright?” Skylar demanded as Manny rushed into the living room.

“Yeah, kid, yeah. I think so. A little, well, not perfect, but I think so. You’re Skylar, right?” Manny asked, sitting on the couch and checking Mrs. McNutt’s neck for a pulse. Finding none, he hissed, “Crap,” and searched for something to unbind the old woman’s arms. He grabbed a letter opener from the coffee table in front of the couch and then pushed the table aside.

“You okay, Skylar? My name’s Manny, your mom sent me. I think Mrs. McNutt had a heart attack. You okay?” he repeated, gently rolling the woman to the floor where he placed her face up.

“Yes? I think so. Did you shoot my dad?”

Manny closed his eyes, reopened them and, keeping his gaze on Mrs. McNutt and his chest compressions, replied, “Yeah, Skylar. I’m afraid I did. I’m sorry. Had to. He was really hurting Marti and… Well, I had to. Sorry.”

“I understand. I think I know why Mama told me he was dead. He kinda was. Inside I mean. Is he dead now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Lot going on. Marti’s in there. McNutt here’s not doing good. You okay? Cops should be here any second. They’ll untie you. Sorry, hands are full here,” he paused in his compressions, checked for a pulse and exhaled into Mrs. McNutt’s mouth twice before again checking her pulse. “Crap,” he whispered again.

Skylar writhed on the chair and screamed. “Manny! Manny! I’m cramping. My leg’s cramping! I gotta, I gotta stand up!”

“Jesus,” he hissed, quietly adding, “you gonna give me anything more tonight?

“Hang on, kid,” he said, grabbing the letter opener and slicing through the tape that bound Skylar’s hands. “There,” he said, thrusting the opener into her hands, “cut your feet free! I gotta stay with McNutt,” he explained, frantically returning to his CPR.

Skylar, screaming in agony, sliced through the tape around her ankles and sprang to her feet. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” she repeated at full volume.

“Walk it off, kid. Use your hands to massage it,” he commanded, mind and body focused on Mrs. McNutt.

Skylar limped around the room, the cramp’s agony showing on her face. “Wait, Skylar!” Manny commanded as she headed to the bedroom, “Don’t go in there. Don’t go in there!” he repeated as she continued to the bedroom.

“I gotta check on my dad,” she said. “And Marti!”

“Crap!” Manny said again, just as three of Pasco’s finest erupted into the room, guns drawn, sights on him.

“Down! Down! Get down! On your belly! Hands behind your back!” they demanded.

“Wait! Wait!” Manny yelled back, “Wait! I’m a co- Damn it! I’m a good guy!” He yelled, slamming himself face down against the carpet and throwing his hands behind him.