A Stitch in Time

Chapter 12

Without a second thought, Bogg ran towards the voice. He almost didn't need to see the young woman lying in the street, her dark hair tumbling free in wild curls, her dark eyes huge with terror as she struggled to rise, a child's shoe clutched in one hand.

"Which way?" he barked, coming to a halt before her.

"There!" Kathy pointed, and Bogg took off in the direction indicated, without another word spoken.

The kidnapper had had a head start but fortunately not too much of one. And the adrenaline pumping fiercely through Bogg's veins helped him close the distance between them. In a matter of seconds, he spotted the culprit--a man in a dirty pea jacket, a cap pulled low on his head--making for one of the side streets. His flight, however, was considerably hampered by the toddler struggling in his arms.

Bogg caught his breath when he glimpsed the child's familiar face, just visible over his captor's shoulder: pale, frightened, and big-eyed. Renewed determination surged through him and he lengthened his stride until he was no more than ten feet behind. Then, gathering his strength, he launched himself forward in a mighty leap--and tackled his quarry about the knees. They crashed to the pavement, Bogg, kidnapper, baby and all.

The would-be kidnapper swore, wriggling and twisting to free himself from Bogg's grip on his legs. Jeffrey, meanwhile, was screaming like a banshee, in mingled fear and outrage. Bogg lunged forward to grab hold of the kid, twisting to avoid a knee in his gut and, in the process, getting his first look at whom he'd been chasing.

The shock nearly took his breath away: he had never seen this man before in his life. Youngish, perhaps still in his twenties, with pale hair falling lankly over his forehead, and pale blue eyes glaring down into Bogg's. He was unshaven too and his breath reeked of stale beer--he could not have been less like the foppish, immaculate Drake.

Cursing again, the kidnapper lunged for Jeffrey but Bogg wrapped his arms more tightly around the boy, shielding him with his own body. Hanging on to Jeff was the most important thing, even more important than catching this guy. Shouts and the sound of running footsteps reached their ears. The kidnapper stood for a moment, irresolute, then tore off down the street, with another snarled obscenity.

Bogg sat up dazedly, feeling the reaction begin to set in, for himself and for Jeffrey. No longer screaming, the little boy buried his face in his rescuer's shoulder as he whimpered and shook. Bogg didn't blame him one bit.

"Shhh," he soothed, patting the child's back. "It's okay, Mommy's coming, Mommy's coming--"

And suddenly she was there, eyes wide and wild in her pale face, her son's missing shoe still clutched in one hand. Jeffrey cried out and immediately reached towards her, and Bogg just as hastily, passed his precious burden into her waiting arms.

Clasping her son for dear life, Kathy burst into tears. Jeffrey, witnessing his mother's distress, promptly followed suit, and the two clung to each other, sobbing. Bogg, his arms stretched around them both, felt an almost primitive rush of fury. If anyone, anyone at all, tried to hurt them . . .

"'Ere now, miss," a new voice broke in, and Bogg glanced up to see a uniformed figure standing over them, looking deeply concerned. "Wot's the trouble?"

The nearest police station, to which the constable escorted them, was just a short distance away. With the grit Bogg had come to expect from her, Kathy pulled herself together to give a coherent account of what had happened, to the sergeant on duty. Walking through Covent Garden on the way back to their flat, mother and son had stopped to watch the juggling. Suddenly, a man had appeared beside them, shoved Kathy to the ground, grabbed Jeffrey and taken off. No, she hadn't gotten a good look at his face, he'd moved too quickly for that.

Fortunately, Bogg could fill in some of the blanks. He gave as complete a description of the suspect as he could manage, the sergeant noted it all duly, asked Bogg and Kathy a few more questions, then kindly phoned for a taxi to take Mrs. Jones and her son home.

"You'll come with us, won't you, Phineas?" Kathy asked. It was almost the first thing she'd said to him since they'd met up again. "Bill won't be home for at least another hour."

"I'll come," Bogg promised. "Sure you don't want to call him?"

"I'd rather tell him about this, face to face. And our son is safe now, thanks to you." She gave him a wavery smile. "Guess I'm lucky it's such a small world--and that you're still a Good Samaritan! You look great, by the way," she added, "hardly a day older since I saw you last."

"Clean living," Bogg explained, with an offhand shrug.

That made her smile, as he'd intended. "But what are you doing here, in London?"

Bogg shrugged again. "Short vacation." It seemed the most believable cover story. "What about you? I thought you and Bill were pretty much settled in New York."

"We are. It's just that Bill got the opportunity to teach abroad for a semester--a history course at London University. We thought it would be a nice change." Kathy shivered. "I never expected anything like this to happen! Stupid of me--kidnappings can happen anywhere."

Bogg reached out and tentatively patted her shoulder. "I'll stay with you until Bill comes. You and the kid shouldn't be alone right now."

"Thanks." Kathy tightened her hold upon her son, whom she had refused to relinquish to anyone the entire time she had been at the police station. For his own part, Jeffrey had clung to his mother like a limpet, unwilling to be dislodged.

Bogg cleared his throat. "Um--would you like me to take him for you, at least as far as the taxi? Your arms must be getting pretty tired."

Kathy shook her head vehemently. "Thanks again, but no! I'm not letting him out of my sight. Besides, Jeffrey's a little shy around strangers. Although," she paused to give Bogg a thoughtful look, "he doesn't seem to have minded you holding him when you got him away from that man."

"Probably because I told him Mommy was coming," Bogg explained. He glanced at his future partner, whose face was still hidden against Kathy's neck. "So, how old is he?"

"He'll be two years old in October." Kathy reached up to stroke her son's hair. "Jeffrey, caro--this is Mr. Bogg, the man who saved you. Can you say 'hello' to him?"

The little boy raised his head at last. Beneath a thatch of tousled black curls, a pair of dark eyes regarded Bogg curiously. Then, apparently overcome by shyness, he put his head down again without saying a word.

Bogg found himself smiling. "Pretty easy to see whose kid he is."

Kathy managed a little laugh. "So I've been told. But when he frowns, he looks just like Bill." She stood up, balancing Jeffrey's weight on one jeans-clad hip. "Can you get the stroller for me? I'm sure the taxi must be here by now."

They did not have very far to ride. The taxi deposited them outside a block of flats on Holborn Street, and they made their way up two flights of stairs, Kathy carrying Jeffrey, Bogg transporting the stroller and the few purchases Kathy had made at Covent Garden.

"Home, sweet home," Jeffrey's mother remarked with a sigh, closing the front door behind them and locking it for good measure. "We couldn't afford any place too expensive, but it looks like heaven right about now."

"I'll bet it does." Setting down his burdens, Bogg glanced around the flat, which was indeed modest but clean and well kept. "You want me to fix you a cup of tea or something? You look like you could use it."

"Tea would be just great," Kathy said fervently. "But I don't want to trouble you, I can make the tea--"

"It's no trouble. Besides, you," Bogg pointed at her, "need to take care of him," he pointed at Jeffrey. "Which is a lot more important. Is he usually this quiet?"

"No," she admitted, glancing worriedly at her son. "Only when he's tired, or sick, or scared. Otherwise, I can't get him to stop talking."

"Well, he's had a heck of a scare today," Bogg pointed out. "We all did. Do you let him have tea too?"

"Just a little, and with a lot of milk in it. Cambric tea, I think it's called." Kathy kissed the top of Jeffrey's head. "His eyes are practically shut--maybe a nap would help."

"Worth a try. Where's the kitchen?"

Kathy tilted her head to the left. "Over that way. You sure you can manage?"

"It'll be just fine," Bogg assured her, as he set off.

Fortunately, it was. The stove proved easy to operate, and before long, Bogg had the kettle filled and simmering away on the range. He located tea bags and cups without too much difficulty as well, and found a bottle of milk and half a lemon in the refrigerator. From the living room, he could hear Kathy singing softly in what sounded like Italian--probably a lullaby. Returning to check on mother and son, he found the former gently laying the latter down on the sofa.

"He's just dozed off, but he sleeps much better with his 'blankie,'" Kathy explained, sotto voce. "Could you watch him, while I go get it?"

"Sure thing," Bogg promised, keeping his own voice low.

Smiling, Kathy tiptoed out of the room. On the sofa, Jeffrey continued to slumber, looking remarkably like one of those curly-headed little angels found on church ceilings. It was a look that Bogg knew well and he felt a surge of fierce protectiveness.

That too was familiar. He was used to feeling protective and even tender towards Jeffrey. As smart and gutsy as the boy was, he was still a kid, at least physically, and vulnerable. And never more so than now, when he was just a baby.

Not even two years old yet. Damn Drake.

If it were Drake who was responsible for what happened that afternoon . . .

Bogg frowned, struck by sudden misgivings. Had he been mistaken, after all? He'd been so sure, back in 1968, that he was tracking the rogue Voyager. Susan had taken the cigar back to HQ to be analyzed; she'd promised to let him know the results as soon as they were available. Bogg had been pretty confident, though, that they would only confirm his suspicions.

Yet even if that proved to be the case, he realized, those results would not incriminate Drake in today's incident. The child-snatcher had been a stranger, whom Bogg had never seen before. Oh, it was possible that Drake might have hired someone to do his dirty work, and it was certainly in character. But as far as the burden of proof went, in the absence of a smoking gun--or another smoking cigar--Bogg was back to square one.

And there were other possible motives for kidnapping, he acknowledged reluctantly. His stomach roiled queasily as he considered the ugliest of those motives, and he swallowed hard, fighting down the resulting nausea. The thought of any child being abused like that . . .

Snatching the Omni from his belt, he flipped the device open and noted without surprise the still-blinking red light. Unlike his assignment in 1968, he did not need to speculate as to the cause of the problem. This time, the answer was crystal-clear.

He'd prevented a kidnapping. But Jeffrey's abductor--whoever he might be--was still out there, waiting for another chance.

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