Emery could feel her heart pounding in her ears. Had her story worked? Would Beastly let her live?
Minutes ticked by. Beastly's eyes flickered aimlessly around the room and tiny expressions darted across her face. It was as if her mind replayed Emery's story over and over. And each time, it ended with that tiny smile. Beastly was lost in a world with grass and trees and cats and rabbits.
At long last, Beastly sighed and focused her eyes in the room. She stared at Pansy's motionless form and hunched her shoulders as if shrugging out of an unwanted cloak. "We should put them in the Box." Her tone was matter-of-fact, and she pushed herself to her feet.
Emery drew back, waiting to see what the child meant. But Beastly moved quickly and determinedly like a man who knew what he wanted to do. Her short hair fell across her face as she bent over and grabbed Pansy's portly shoulders. Grunts escaped from her throat as she began to drag the unconscious body across the floor, inch by inch.
There was something heroic about the child's efforts, and Emery found herself coming alongside to help.
Appreciation flashed in Beastly's face, quickly hidden again. She jerked her head toward the hallway. "This way."
They dragged poor Pansy all the way to Beastly's room. The gas equipment still lay outside the door. Emery shuddered when she saw it.
But Beastly stopped and laughed, easing her load to the floor. She pointed to the tank and hoses. "I fooled them!" And she laughed again, looking up at Emery with eyes as bright as a four-year-old's, as if waiting for her approval.
But Emery didn't see anything to laugh about, let alone fool anyone with. "What do you mean?"
Beastly lowered her voice to a conspiratorial tone. "I held my breath." Triumph was etched on every feature. "Weren't they surprised!" She pushed the door to her room open with her foot. "I lay so still when they came in the room and picked me up." She giggled, almost hysterical in her delight. "And then...BOOM!"
Beastly glanced down at Pansy and her face fell. "Then IT did something." She shuddered. For a moment, she held still, chewing on her lip, and stared into the distance. Then she smiled up at Emery. "And then I put them all to sleep. Ha-ha!" She nodded toward the gas tank. Then she cocked her head at Emery, a puzzled look creeping across her face. "Did you go to sleep, too? It was a LOT of gas. I put on one of their masks."
A vague memory of a foggy confusion breathed somewhere in the back of Emery's mind, and she felt almost numb with this revelation. "Yes...I suppose I did."
Beastly seemed satisfied with her answer. She grasped Pansy again and, together with Emery, dragged her into the room and set her next to the back wall. Then she wiped her hands on her thighs. "Let's put them all in here," she said.