His sister was sitting on the cushion, doubled over in pain. "It - it's definitely labor," she said, her eyes squeezed shut tightly.
"What can I do?" Julian asked, the color draining from his face.
Sheridan raised her head slowly and opened her eyes. "I don't know," she said, her voice shaky. Then she took a deep breath. "It's gone now."
"They were about 15 minutes apart," Julian observed, looking at his watch. "They need to get you to the hospital. Where are those blasted clowns anyway?" He stood up and walked over to the center of the pit.
Julian began shouting at the top of his lungs for the kidnappers, but there was no response. He turned his attention back to Sheridan. "It's going to be all right," he said, trying to give her the reassurance she needed. "They'll come soon, and they'll get you the help you need. I'm sure they're not the monsters they seem to be..."
"I don't know, Julian," Sheridan said. "They haven't let me out yet; why would they now?"
Julian knelt back down beside his sister. "No matter what, I'm here," he said in a comforting tone. "You're not alone."
"Thank God for that," Sheridan replied, tears flowing down her cheeks. She grabbed his hand and held onto it. "I need my big brother now."
Minutes turned into hours. Sheridan's contractions increased in frequency and intensity. Her water broke during this time. Julian put a blanket on the cushion. He then covered Sheridan with another blanket as she prepared herself for the impending birth. She lay back down on the cushion, exhausted, with the blanket pulled up to her midsection.
Julian stayed by her side during each of her contractions, putting his hand on hers and at times wiping the sweat from her brow with his handkerchief. He looked back over his shoulder toward the top of the pit. "Where are those stupid clowns?" he wondered. "Why haven't they checked on us since this afternoon?"
Sheridan and Julian normally were visited by the larger of their two abductors toward evening. She had yet to show. "Stupid woman," he scowled. "She probably is off playing with that damn rifle somewhere."
He turned his attention once more to Sheridan. "Would you like some water, dear?" he asked. When she nodded, he opened a bottle of water and gave her a few sips.
Sheridan drank the water eagerly. "Thanks," she said. "I feel so hot."
"I am trying to do what I can for you," he said. "I don't know much about any of this, really," he admitted.
"You're trying, Julian," she said, giving him a tired smile. "That's all I can ask for." She lapsed into another contraction.
"They're getting closer," Julian said nervously, squeezing her hand tightly in his. "Six minutes apart now."
Just then a figure appeared at the top of the pit. It was the large woman with the clown mask. She looked down at the duo in the pit. For a moment, she was speechless. "What - what the heck's going on?" she asked finally, without accompanying her remark with her usual laugh.
"My sister is in labor," Julian explained quickly. "And you need to get her to a hospital fast."
Charlie snickered loudly. "I don't think so, Mr. Rich," she declared. "Blondie's staying right here."
"You don't understand," he said. "She needs a doctor; she's in labor. The contractions aren't far apart. She's much too early. This baby will be born prematurely."
"She looks far enough along to me," Charlie said, surmising the situation. "I think the baby'll make it."
"What are you going to do about it? How are you going to help her? Look at her! She needs a doctor."
"You'll have to do," Charlie said, shrugging. "Hey, I was delivered at home. I turned out OK."
"This isn't exactly a home - it's a pit," Julian said. "And I'm no midwife, or Aunt Martha for that matter."
"It was Aunt Sarah," Charlie said, thinking back to her childhood. "I hated the lady too. She was a blonde."
Julian held up his hands and sighed. "You're not going to do anything for her then? My sister is in labor, prematurely, and having a rough time of it, and you have planned for nothing!"
"What would you expect I do?" Charlie asked. "Look at the animal world. None of them go to a hospital to have a baby."
"This is not an animal we are talking about," Julian said calmly, but with a hint of anger. "It is my sister. She is in agony over there! Can't you see that? Now I would like for you to come up with a plan - immediately! You need to think of a way to help her."
Charlie shrugged. "I guess I could go speak to my partner about this."
"Well, why don't you go do that?" Julian said, his anger seething just below the surface. "Idiot," he muttered under his breath.
He turned his attention back to Sheridan once more and headed over to the cushion. She looked up at him. Her eyes were full of fear.
"Don't worry," Julian said. "It's going to be all right. They'll do something about it. You'll see."
Sheridan called out in pain yet again, even louder than before. "They're...getting...worse!" she cried, out of breath.
Julian heard the sound of someone running above him. He looked up and saw both of his abductors, faces hidden behind their masks.
"Are you sure she's in labor?" Beth whispered to Charlie.
"Well, look at her!" Charlie exclaimed. "What do you think we should do?"
"I thought you were going to deliver the baby, Charlie. You said you would," Beth said quietly. "Charlie, you have delivered babies before, haven't you?"
"Well, not exactly," Charlie admitted. "You see, I never really worked in a delivery room, but I have watched people giving birth on TV."
"Well, why on earth did you make me think you could deliver a baby? Charlie, this is serious!" Beth whispered more loudly than before.
"I would have tried to do it, Bethie, if it weren't for Blondie's brother there. But now, what would we do with him while I'm down there trying to help Sheridan give birth? It's not like I can point the rifle at him the whole time I'm trying to catch the baby, and I don't think you could keep a weapon on him, for what could be hours."
"Then what do you suggest?" Beth asked nervously.
"I think we should let Blondie's brother do it," Charlie said. "Why not? He's halfway through it already."
"I suppose so," Beth agreed hesitantly. "We'll have to send some things down to him of course - water, towels, that sort of stuff."
"Sounds good to me, Bethie," Charlie said, putting her arm around Beth's shoulder.
Beth moved out from under Charlie's arm. "Let's go round up the stuff."
During the kidnappers' conversation, Julian had been tending to his sister, whose contractions were now five minutes apart. When he looked up and realized the abductors were gone, he couldn't believe it. "Hey!" he yelled. "We need an ambulance - fast!"
His pleas went unheard as Beth and Charlie rummaged through the house getting the necessary supplies.
Sheridan moaned as she felt tremendous pain shoot through her body once more. Her hair was completely wet with sweat now. She was totally exhausted. "Julian," she said, "I don't know how much more of this I can take."
"There, there, dear," Julian said, wiping sweat from her brow. "It won't be much longer. You're holding up really well. Just breathe, Sheridan. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly."
Sheridan did as Julian directed and exhaled slowly. "You seem to know a little bit about childbirth," she said once the contraction had passed.
"Well, I wasn't there for the births of any of my children, as you well know. I have had the opportunity to watch some deliveries on television, however. Those real-life medical programs are actually quite entertaining," he explained.
Time continued to roll by with more and more contractions for Sheridan. Julian helped her focus and breathe through an especially painful one. "I can tell that was a particularly rough one. You did well, Sheridan."
"Thank you, Julian," Sheridan said wearily. Her head fell back on the cushion in exhaustion. "It's too soon though...the baby...too soon."
Julian grew more worried by the minute. He wet his handkerchief with the bottled water and laid it on Sheridan's forehead. Her body tightened with yet another contraction. "Come on, Luis," Julian thought. "Come on, anyone."
A few minutes later, Beth and Charlie returned to the edge of the pit, their arms full of items for the birth. "Here you go!" Charlie called down. "Everything you need!" She tossed clean towels, blankets, and sheets down into the pit. Julian jumped up and caught what he could of the pile and put the items on his blanket.
Beth put a lantern in the picnic basket and lowered it down by pulley. Julian grabbed the basket and removed the lantern. "Do you have matches to light it with?" he asked.
Beth tossed him down a box of matches.
"One match - we want the rest back!" Charlie yelled.
Julian lit the lantern and tossed the matches back up to Charlie. He had more important things to do than argue over matches.
He set the lantern near Sheridan. It would be getting dark soon, and they would need all the light they could get. Julian took a deep breath and assessed the situation. His sister was in pretty bad shape, he realized, and it looked like he was all she had.
Sheridan cried out in pain once more, "Luis!" she called. "Get me Luis!"
Julian put his hand on her forehead. "She's burning up!" he cried. Standing up, he looked around helplessly for something to help his sister. He knew a wet handkerchief was not enough. "She needs to get to the hospital, damn it!" he yelled to the abductors above. He got no reaction from them.
Walking over to the center of the pit, Julian fell to his knees and placed
his head in his hands. "I can't do it," he said in a defeated tone.
"I don't have the strength to help her. God, please give me that strength.
Help me do what I need to save my sister and her baby."