Morgan slept soundly after showing Alex proper appreciation for her patience. He sometimes wished he could go on missions, but it wasn't worth making her worry. In return for his promise to stay out of the field, she'd been super cool about all the time he spent in Castle. Besides, he was a lot better on planning and quarterbacking anyway. Even Beckman thought he did all right.
Although it was a trifle early at the crack of 7 AM when his phone chimed an incoming text, he wasn't as annoyed as he could have been. Sarah was due back soon. Maybe Chuck needed him to entertain Ellie a while so he could talk to Sarah. He grabbed his phone from the nightstand, hoping his quick attention kept Alex from waking.
But it wasn't Chuck. It wasn't Big Mike either. Morgan was quite surprised to see it was Jeff Barnes, ex-Nerd Herder, whose absence, along with Lester's, was still hurting his store. People might go online to shop these days, but the installation and repair side of business was as good as ever.
If it had been an actual call, Morgan would have declined it. Jeff and Lester were probably stoned silly and calling random numbers just to brag about their rockstar lifestyle. But it wasn't a call; it was a text. Expecting it to look like a cat walking on a keyboard, he hit display.
We saved Alex's life. U owe us. On the lam in Berlin, Germany. Phone dying. No way 2 charge. Send help plz. Not kidding. We harass Alex if U no help. U owe us.
Cute. Now I get international prank texts. However, he did notice they'd gone to lengths mentioning how they saved Alex and reminding him that their heroic deed put him in their debt. He was a little curious just what they expected him to do when he had no idea where they were besides "Berlin" and no way to call or text if the phone was dying.
Then came the picture. Jeff and Lester looked like constipated 'Sound of Music' rejects, standing in front of some random bakery. The street sign was also visible. That could help pinpoint their location. Did they do that on purpose, or was it an accident? Morgan couldn't help chuckling at the whole situation.
"What's so funny?" Alex muttered without opening her eyes.
"Nothing. Just Jeff and Lester. Go back to sleep."
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "Aren't they on tour in Europe?"
"Berlin, actually. It's just a text and a ridiculous picture." He held up the phone to show her the pic.
Alex laughed. "Is that lederhosen?"
"Looks like it, huh? Hey, they don't have your number, do they?"
She scoffed. "No. I think my dad might kill them."
Morgan nodded. "He almost killed me when he found your number."
"Why do you ask?" She was still looking at their sourpuss faces.
"Just something in the text. They said they were going to harass you if I didn't help them. They're probably drunk. Nothing to worry about."
"Help them, how? I thought they were big stars."
"Funny thing. They didn't even say. Just 'send help'. Jeff says they're 'on the lam' but last time they thought they were wanted, the police weren't even looking for them. I was more responsible for blowing up the Buy More than they were." He didn't like how that came out. "Not that I was responsible either. I mean, I didn't make the bomb or bring it into the store. I found the detonator. Dropping it was accidental."
"I'm just glad no one got hurt. Can I see the text?"
Morgan frowned. "What? You're not taking this seriously, I hope."
She snuggled into him. "Well, they did save my life."
"Yeah, but now they're never going to let you forget it."
She pulled on the phone in his hand. He resisted for a second, then let go. She'd see there was nothing they could do and drop the subject.
After a moment's silence she spoke. "Berlin is pretty close to Dresden."
"Oh no. You can't go bothering your dad with this."
"Why not? He's the one who told them to attack those people who kidnapped me. Besides, he's close."
"At least let me check first and see if they're really in trouble. If this is some practical joke, I don't want to bother your dad. He's got more important things to do than run after these morons."
After breakfast, Morgan tried the Internet. Casey's computer had a great set of bookmarks of little-known sites to get the best criminal intelligence all over the world. A lot of them required a password, which Morgan didn't have, but he still was able to get better info this way. Sure enough, Lester Patel and an 'unknown Caucasian in his fifties' were wanted in Berlin for fare fraud on the subway and assaulting a public transit officer. Why they had Lester's name but not Jeff's was a mystery. They did have a decent surveillance shot of the both of them, except they were in sweat pants and hoodies instead of lederhosen.
Once he determined they actually were wanted, Morgan looked up 'Jeffster' to see if they were performing anywhere. Maybe the police didn't know how easy these guys were to find. Dieter Schmidt Productions had canceled all performances after a no-show coinciding with the date of the subway incident. A lot of people had left angry messages on the public comment page, but when Morgan tried to use Google Translate, he found much of it wasn't coming through in English.
"Well, they are wanted," Morgan told Alex, "but it looks like minor stuff. I mean, assault is big, but the guy wasn't really hurt, just thrown to the ground. They might be able to get off with fines and getting deported. Are you sure you want to tell your dad about this? This could be your chance to be rid of Jeff and Lester forever."
Alex nodded. "I kinda miss them around here. And didn't you say you've been having trouble replacing them on the Nerd Herd? Besides, we should let Dad decide for himself if he wants to help."
"Do you want me to tell him?" None of this was remotely Morgan's fault, and Casey couldn't break any bones over the phone.
"No. I'll ask him to call me, then we can tell him everything."
"Okay. Lunch today?" He had to put in some time at the Buy More, but it was Alex's day off.
"You sure you can get away?"
He was pretty sure, but he'd almost lost her over being unreliable. "Call first?"
She smiled. "That's fair."
Gertrude and John were having a nice dinner out. They both put their phones on silent, but he wouldn't turn his off unless she did, and Gertrude had far too many legitimate business concerns to turn hers off completely. However, she was very selective and only glanced at the incoming notifications. Only the most important callers would ever get through on a night like this. On texts, she barely even took note of the name before simply turning off the vibration.
A text came through to Gertrude's phone for John from his daughter, Alex. Again. She still kept texting multiple times a day even though her father was receiving less than half of what she sent. This one asked for a voice call. Not wanting to spoil the evening, she approved the text, but set it to delayed delivery. He wouldn't get it until midnight, when they'd both be asleep. He could call his daughter back tomorrow.
Alex texted her father three times, waiting ninety minutes between attempts. She was getting a bit sick of him not answering and planned to tell him so the next time they talked. If he couldn't call right away, couldn't he at least send a text saying what time he would call? Was that too much to ask? She wavered between anger and patience. Dad did dangerous work in places where it was awkward or impossible to call. He could be dressed like a bush and crouched in the rain, unable to move while always ready to shoot some bad guy. She shouldn't be too hard on him before she heard his side.
It wasn't like this Jeffster thing was life and death. She just couldn't stop thinking about what if one of these days it was important? What if she and Morgan were in a car crash and nobody could tell him? It was just... frustrating.
She gave up after the third text. Maybe it was her carrier. She'd tell Morgan at lunch and have him try. Noon in Los Angeles was 9 PM in Dresden. Surely even bad guys packed it in for the night. Dad wouldn't get mad as long as she was there to talk to him. Besides, he liked Morgan a lot better than he did when she'd first met him. He was the one who suggested she give him another chance after the breakup-by-text fiasco.
Alex asked Morgan to send his text as soon as she arrived at the Buy More, lest it become awkwardly late in Germany. He agreed and started typing on his phone, then showed her the screen. "How's this?"
Alex has been trying to get a hold of you. Could you please call her ASAP? Not an emergency, but she's worried about you. Text back if this is a bad time for voice.
"Take out that 'worried about you' part," she told him.
"But you are."
"I don't want to be the paranoid daughter." Whining, clingy women were probably why the government staged his death before she was born. If she couldn't be cool about his work, he'd cut her out of his life for good. Above all, that couldn't happen.
Morgan sighed, but he altered it as she'd asked and hit send.
Three texts from the daughter and then a fourth from Grimes finally convinced Gertrude this attempt to talk to John was urgent, or at least something she couldn't keep ignoring. Actually, it was good that they'd changed phones. If the subject came up, John would just assume Alex had a defective phone or bad networks. They were home at the apartment she'd rented for the two of them, so she might as well let him get his business over with. At 21:04, she forwarded Grimes' text to John's phone.
He looked at it with a frown. "I've gotta make a call," he said.
"All right." She waved him off, pretending the interruption was of no consequence. In fact, she couldn't really decide if it was or not. She had poured on the seduction tonight and he had hardly responded. He kept wanting to talk about her associates and her clients and all she wanted was to light his fire, then get him home and tear his clothes off. But after all his rebuffing and now the intrusion of the daughter and her troll boyfriend, the mood was more than a bit ruined.
John took his phone behind a closed door to make the call.
Alex normally had a rule about no cell phones in a restaurant, but Morgan would understand why she wasn't putting it away this time. Her b.f. was a little obnoxious when he started talking about video games and he was a bit obsessed with science fiction movies, but on the whole, he was very understanding and sweet.
They had just ordered some fish tacos when the phone chimed and her dad's picture lit up her display. She pounced on it. "Dad?"
"Hey, honey. What is this about you trying to call me?"
"Oh, it's silly. That's what I get for having a cheap phone."
"Wait. How many times a day do you text me?"
She forced a chuckle. "About six. I just want you to know I'm thinking about you."
"Alex, I have only been getting one or two a day. Why didn't you say anything?"
"Because it was nothing important. Chunky or smooth peanut butter. Wool or cotton socks. Stupid stuff."
"Alex, it is never stupid that you want to get to know me. Smooth peanut butter and cotton socks. Now what did you think was important enough to bring Grimes into it?"
"He got a text from Jeff and Lester. They're in trouble in Berlin—on the run from the cops over some incident in a subway. Anyway, I thought maybe since they saved my life that one time, and they're kinda close to where you are, that maybe you'd want to look into it."
"Did Grimes put you up to this?"
"No, Dad. He didn't even want to bother you. And it's all right if you don't want to help them. I just thought you should know."
"No. You did the right thing to tell me. Put Grimes on."
She handed the phone to Morgan. He forwarded the picture from his own phone while he told him all about the stuff he had found online. He always got so cute when he talked to her dad, calling him 'sir' and acting all formal. There were very few things that turned her on more.
Morgan spoke into her phone: "If you help those two losers, you should make them squirm and let them know this settles the score. Oh, and if it makes any difference, I'm willing give them their jobs back at the Buy More."
A short silence.
"Yeah, but don't tell them that. Make it sound like you bullied me into it. After this, they should owe you."
A short pause.
"Yeah, of course. Won't it be like 4AM there?"
A longer pause.
"Yes sir, on the nose. You can count on me."
He handed the phone back to Alex. She put it up to her ear. "Thanks, Dad."
Dad's voice was soft and caring. "Hey, it's nothing. Listen, I want you to know I answer every text I get. They aren't stupid. I haven't been ignoring you. I've missed you."
"I miss you too, Dad."
"I'd better go. You take care. I love you."
"Love you too."