“Diaper change!” Antonio shouted, and Rebecca pushed a branch aside to carry him back to the house.
“He can wait,” Marcus called down from his perch in the tree. “He’s probably already been sitting in it for half an hour.”
“I don’t want to give him a rash, Marcus. Your parents wouldn’t like it, and I’d have to find a new after school job.”
Marcus jumped to the ground right behind them, and whispered in Rebecca’s ear. She twitched. It felt like a little gnat buzzing by the side of her head. “Okay. Take it off, then. I’ll go get you a new one, but you have to stay here in the trees, and you both have to stay quiet. The bad guys can’t see you here, that’s the game, right?”
“Sure,” Rebecca said, and flipped Antonio onto the ground with his pants pulled down in one swift move.
“You have to give me five minutes,” Marcus hissed, and then dashed across the lawn to the back door.
Rebecca looked at her watch, and then remembered that Marcus didn’t have one. He probably doesn’t even know what five minutes really feels like, she thought. I’ll give him three.
She put Antonio’s soaked diaper, folded, at the base of the stump, and brought Antonio back up onto her knee. He fidgeted at having nothing between his bottom and the cloth of his pants, so she played a finding game to distract him.
“Shhh. You have to whisper. Antonio, where is the slide?” Antonio scratched his ear and shrugged his shoulders before smiling pointing to the wooden playground set at the corner of the house.
“Good! Now, can you show me a window?” Antonio began to scratch his ear again, but jerked his head suddenly to look at Rebecca’s face as a loud bang came from the inside the house. Rebecca automatically pulled Antonio to her chest and crouched down on the ground, checking to see if he was okay. He looked scared, but did not cry.
“Big boom,” he whispered.
“Time’s up – stay here!”, Rebecca said sternly, placing Antonio on the stump ran into the house as fast as she could.
Calling for Marcus, she searched the first floor in a quick circle, but she saw and heard nothing. The house was silent.
In a panic, she bolted upstairs, taking three steps at a time. She searched every room, now shouting for Marcus, begging him to say something so she could find him. Yet, every room was empty and in order.
There was nowhere else in the house to go but in the basement, a place she had never been. All she knew of the basement was a door in the front hall, a door she had been told to leave locked. Marcus had been down just once before, his mother warned Rebecca, and came up covered with cobwebs and filth from a crawlspace.
Now, as Rebecca ran into the the front hall, she saw quite clearly what she had been too hurried to notice before. The doorway to the basement was open, framing a stairway that led to pitch blackness below.