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The house was over a hundred years old, and the solid stone walls were at least a meter thick, which meant that she probably didn’t need to insulate them, but she wanted to be absolutely sure.
To the left of the living room was a small corner room that she had been using as a combination workroom and guest bedroom.
Leading off of it were a small toilet and a fair--sized closet.
The room was perfect, with its single window and nothing but the unused attic above.
No more nonchalance, no more taking anything for granted.
Nothing would be left to chance. Fate was a dangerously unreliable accomplice. Sometimes your friend, but just as often an unpredictable enemy.
The dining table and chairs ended up shoved against one wall, which opened up a large space in the middle of the living room.
Then it was just a matter of waiting.
The first sheets of polystyrene arrived at ten o’clock, as arranged, carried in by four men. Three of them were in their fifties, but the fourth couldn’t have been more than twenty. His head was shaved and he wore a black T--shirt with two crossed Swedish flags on the chest, under the words “My Fatherland.” He had tattoos of spiderwebs on his elbows, and some sort of Stone Age design on his wrists.
When she was alone again she settled onto the sofa to plan her work. She decided to start with the floor, since that was the only thing that was likely to be a problem. The old couple downstairs might have been almost deaf, and she herself had never heard a single sound from them over the years, but it still felt like an important detail.
She went into the bedroom.
The little boy was still sound asleep.
It had been so odd when she met him on the local train. He had simply taken her hand, stood up, and obediently gone with her, without her having to say a single word.
She had acquired the pupil she had been seeking, the child she had never been able to have.
She put her hand to his forehead; his temperature had gone down. Then she felt his pulse.
Everything was as it should be.
She had used the right dose of morphine.
The workroom had a thick, white, wall--to--wall carpet that she had always thought ugly and unhygienic, even if it was nice to walk on. But right now it was ideal for her purpose.
Using a sharp knife, she cut up the polystyrene and stuck the pieces together with a thick layer of flooring adhesive.
The strong smell soon made her feel dizzy, and she had to open the window onto the street. It was triple--glazed, and the outer pane had an extra layer of soundproofing.
Fate as a friend.
Work on the floor took all day. Every so often she would go and check on the boy.
When the whole floor was done she covered all the cracks with silver duct tape.
She spent the following three days dealing with the walls. By Friday there was just the ceiling left, and that took a bit longer because she had to glue the polystyrene first, and then wedge the blocks up against the ceiling with planks.
While the glue was drying she nailed up some old blankets in place of the doors she had removed earlier. She glued four layers of polystyrene onto the door to the living room.
She covered the only window with an old sheet. Just to be sure, she used a double layer of insulation to block the window alcove. When the room was ready, she covered the floor and walls with a waterproof tarpaulin.
There was something meditative about the work, and when at last she looked at what she had accomplished she felt a sense of pride.
The room was further refined during the following week. She bought four small rubber wheels, a hasp, ten meters of electric cable, several meters of wooden skirting, a basic light fitting, and a box of light bulbs. She also had a set of dumbbells, some weights, and an exercise bike -delivered.
She took all the books out of one of the bookcases in the living room, tipped it onto its side, and screwed the wheels under each corner. She attached a length of skirting board to the front to conceal the fact that it could now be moved, then placed the bookcase in front of the door to the hidden room.
She screwed the bookcase to the door and tested it.
The door glided soundlessly open on its little rubber wheels. It all worked perfectly. She attached the hasp and shut the door, concealing the simple locking mechanism with a carefully positioned lamp.
Finally she put all the books back and fetched a thin mattress from one of the two beds in the bedroom.
That evening she carried the sleeping boy into his new home.