Alice couldn't remember being more uncomfortable while driving. Leo had taken the passenger seat, and kept so still Alice sometimes forgot he was there. Only the rumble of a cage he'd brought to the back seat reminded her of the ridiculous thing she was about to do. She tried to spark a conversation once or twice, but the man replied only in monosyllables. Alice's purse still hung from her shoulder, resting on her lap. While her right hand steered the wheel, her left hand didn't lift from the mace. If the guy tried anything, she'd attack him. Leo seemed to understand that, as he kept so still it looked unnatural.
Darkness fell before they arrived at the hospital. Alice parked her car as close to the door as she could, and turned it off. Leo rushed out of the car, leaving Alice inside to fumble with her keys. He followed her to Marianne's room, concealing the cage inside a cloth bag. Alice's mother lay on her bed, propped up by three pillows, watching TV. Alice saw her and stopped Leo from going into the room.
"Stay outside," she told him. "I don't want to explain you to my mom. I'll call you when she falls asleep." Alice counted on her mother's insomnia pills to keep her from noticing the strange man in her room. Drawing a deep breath, Alice entered her mother's room.
"Alice! I've been asking for you, the nurses don't know where you've been." Marianne sighed. "Alice, you can't leave me alone with these people, I barely understand a word of Spanish and their English is a joke."
"I'm sorry, mom, I had some errands to do. What are you watching?" Alice sat down on the bed next to Marianne and grabbed her hand. Her mother's bony fingers gave her a tender squeeze.
"It's a romantic comedy. Watch it with me."
Even though she enjoyed the time spent with her mother, Alice felt relieved when the nurse came in to give Marianne her meds. Five minutes later, a soft snore had replaced the constant chatter in Marianne's lips. Alice carressed her mother's forehead and kissed her before going to the hall to look for Leo. She found him sitting at the reception, reading a newspaper. Alice went over to him and touched his shoulder.
"Come on. Mom's asleep."
"Good," he said. "The tzitzimime will be there any moment now." Alice looked around herself in panic.
"Don't speak so loud! I'm mad enough to have let you come here, but I'm not going to let them know what you're up to." He didn't say another word. They entered Marianne's room, and Alice covered her mother with the sheets, she didn't want an inch of her mother's skin exposed to the stranger.
Without a word, Leo set to work. He took out a piece of chalk and began drawing highly stylized suns on all the windows. Alice sat down on the sofa and watched him work, amazed.
"Give me the amulet," he said. Alice took out a sun-shaped amulet with a blood red stone in its center and handed it to Leo. The trinket had turned out to be prettier than she imagined; she thought of keeping it for herself when everything was over.
Leo didn't use the amulet. He sat down on the only chair in the room and leaned back. Again, Alice felt the urge to start any sort of conversation, but couldn't find anything that might interest him. The minutes passed, and Alice felt herself drifting away into sleep. Leo's voice startled her back to reality.
"It's here," Leo said, standing up. "Don't move."