Kathy slipped back into the room so quietly that Bogg almost didn't hear her. Over her arm was draped a faded square of blue flannel, its satin binding worn and frayed with use. Crossing to the sofa, she covered her son with the blanket, then brushed back his curls to kiss his forehead. "Sonno bene, bambino mio," she whispered.
Sleep well, my baby.
Stepping away, Kathy joined Bogg on the other side of the room, but her gaze still lingered on Jeffrey.
Bogg touched her arm gently. "Want me to bring the tea things out here? You could keep a closer eye on him that way."
She flashed him a grateful smile. "I'd like that, thanks."
The kettle was just beginning to whistle when Bogg stepped back into the kitchen. Turning off the gas ring, he made tea for himself and Jeffrey's mother, then carried the steaming cups out to the living room. Seating themselves on the rug before the electric fireplace, they drank their tea and quietly began to catch up on things.
"Still working for the same firm?" Kathy inquired.
"Uh, yeah," Bogg replied after only a split second's pause to recall the story he and Susan had set up four years ago. "Still traveling, still troubleshooting. How about you?" he added, quickly changing the subject. "You haven't quit singing, have you?"
"Not at all," Kathy assured him. "I still practice every day, and I sing with the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society on weekends--but right now, being Jeffrey's mom takes up most of my energy." She smiled. "And to tell the truth, I wouldn't have it any other way."
"How has Bill taken to being a dad?"
"Oh, like a duck to water. I think he was born for this. " She paused, her smile growing wistful. "They say your whole life changes once you become a parent. I didn't know the half of it until I had Jeffrey. Nonna told me that having a child was like having your heart walk around outside your body. And she's right. I love him. I love him so much. And even more because--" she broke off with that little shake of her head he remembered so well.
Sometimes Jeffrey's eyes were sad enough to break Bogg's heart. Seeing a shadow of that sadness now, in Kathy's eyes, awoke the same impulse to try to make things better somehow.
"Because?" he prompted gently
"I miscarried," she confessed. "Once before Jeffrey, once after. Last time it was--pretty serious. Bill doesn't think it would be safe for us to try again." She sighed. "I really wanted to have others, not just for my sake, but for Jeffrey's. It's lonely being an only child."
"Maybe he'll have cousins," Bogg suggested. "Doesn't Bill have a sister?"
Kathy's mouth twisted slightly, as if she'd bitten into something sour. "I don't think Elizabeth cares much for kids," was all she said.
Bogg winced inwardly. Future knowledge could be a curse as well as a blessing. How could he even think of telling Kathy that her misgivings about her sister-in-law were not unfounded? Jeffrey spoke even less about his aunt than about his parents but what little he had let slip had not reflected well upon their relationship. Even more chilling was the realization of what lay ahead, some ten years distant, for the whole family . . .
Suppressing a shiver, Bogg took a swallow of cooling tea before he could say something he shouldn't.
"But enough about me," Kathy resumed, more brightly. "What else has been going on with you these last four years? You mentioned you had the same job. Are you and Susan still--together?"
"Yeah, kind of. We're gonna be meeting up later." That too was true, or would be, Bogg supposed. Susan had said she would join him at his new destination as soon as she dropped off the cigar to be analyzed at the VHQ lab. He wondered if she would have the results by the time they met up again.
Kathy's brows arched. "Susan's in London too?"
"Shared vacation," Bogg improvised hastily.
Jeffrey's mother gave him a knowing smile. "Sounds promising. Thinking of settling down someday?"
Bogg felt his face heat and not from the tea. "Maybe someday," he replied, giving her a quelling look.
Kathy chuckled, looking only slightly repentant. "Sorry! I guess I'm just pulling for my friends to be as happy as Bill and I have been."
"I'm just glad you and Bill are happy," Bogg said, smiling back. "No problems with this move to England?"
She shook her head. "I've really enjoyed the experience of living in a different country for a while. Not that I'm not looking forward to going back to New York in the fall, because I am, but this has been an adventure. Although," she added, her face clouding again at the memory, "I could've done without what happened this afternoon."
"Couldn't we all," Bogg agreed. Especially the kid, he thought.
There was the rattle of a key in the lock, and Kathy sprang to her feet. "That'll be Bill," she said. "Let me handle this, Phineas."
Bill Jones looked scarcely changed himself after four years-- a little heavier maybe and better dressed, but his handshake was as warm, his manner as friendly as ever when he greeted Bogg. His whole demeanor changed when Kathy broke the news of Jeffrey's near-kidnapping to him. For the first time, Bogg saw Bill truly angry, his face darkening, his eyes growing hard as flint. He did not yell, he barely raised his voice, but the quiet menace in his tone as he asked for further details made Bogg's scalp prickle. Even the air around him seemed charged with barely controlled fury.
Kathy tried to put as positive a spin on the situation as possible: Jeffrey was safe, the police had a full description of the suspect, everything seemed to be under control. Bill, however, was all for calling in the friend of a friend, who worked as a private investigator. Or at least hiring someone to follow Kathy around until the would-be kidnapper had been caught. Privately, Bogg thought the idea had some merit but Jeffrey's mother disagreed.
"Caro, I don't need a bodyguard!" Kathy protested. "I'll just be extra-careful from now on. Maybe I can get a child-harness to make sure Jeffrey doesn't wander off when we're out together."
Her husband shook his head. "A harness won't stop a kidnapper. Six foot two of muscle might!"
"No arguments, Kathy! When it comes to keeping you and Jeffrey safe, I'm going to do whatever it takes," Bill said grimly. "Even if that means hiring all of Scotland Yard to watch our flat!"
"Want Daddy," a small, sleepy voice suddenly announced from the depths of the sofa.
Some of the tension left Bill's face at that. His shoulders relaxed and he turned with a smile towards the sofa and his son, who was sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes with tiny fists.
"Hey, champ!" Bill scooped the boy into his arms, blanket and all. "Your mommy tells me you've had a pretty rough day."
Jeffrey nodded solemnly as he wrapped his arms around his father's neck and his legs about his father's waist, clinging like a barnacle.
"Everything's going to be okay now," Bill told his son. "I promise."
From the look on the kid's face, it was plain to see that he thought his father could do anything. Watching them together made Bogg's chest feel strangely tight.
"Phineas, what do you think?" Kathy appealed to him.
"I think," Bogg began, "that this is something you and Bill need to work out between yourselves." He glanced from one to the other of Jeffrey's parents. "But I also think he has a point about your not going out alone, at least for a while."
Kathy sighed, then nodded in reluctant agreement. "Safety in numbers. Okay--maybe I can talk a friend or two into coming with us when we run errands." She glanced over at her husband and made a further concession. "And if the police don't make any satisfactory progress with this case, maybe we can consider a private investigator too."
Bill's expression remained grave, but his posture seemed to relax slightly. "All right," he said, making a small concession of his own. "We'll let the police handle things for now." He freed an arm and held it open to her, and Kathy walked into his embrace, slipping her own arms about her husband and her son.
Bogg swallowed, moved by the sight of the three dark heads so close together. "I should--I should get going," he said at last. "Susan's expecting me."
Bill looked up at that. "Thank you, Phineas," he said quietly. "We owe you for this--all of us."
"I was glad to help," Bogg told him with perfect truth. "And I hope the police catch this guy soon."
"Yeah, me too." Bill bent his head over Jeffrey's again. "Can you say 'thank you' to Mr. Bogg?" he asked the boy.
"There's no need for that," Bogg assured him. "Besides,Kathy mentioned that he was shy of strangers." It seemed odd to think of the Jeffrey he knew as ever having been shy.
"So come to dinner tomorrow night--you and Susan--and become less of a stranger," Bill retorted.
Bogg smiled. "I'll have to talk to Susan about it, first."
"Tell her we won't take no for an answer," Kathy chimed in. "And don't worry, it won't be anything too fancy." She laughed a little. "It'll be English food, after all--fish and chips or maybe a steak. Do say you'll come!"
"I'll get back to you on that," Bogg promised. He glanced over at Jeffrey, who had turned his head to stare at him with those solemn dark eyes, and gave him his best smile. "Ciao, bambino."
He thought he saw the corners of Jeffrey's mouth turn up, just a little, before the boy hid his face against Bill's shoulder once more.
Bidding the Joneses a good evening, Bogg let himself out of the flat, closing the door on their intimate family reunion.
The sky was darkening, he noticed as he stepped out onto the street again, and he thought he could even see a few early stars appearing. No sign of Susan, though. Uneasily, Bogg unhooked the Omni and flipped it open again. Red light, still. Reclipping the device to his belt, he looked around, hoping to see his partner somewhere in the vicinity.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move, and he turned his head hopefully in that direction--and then caught his breath sharply.
A short figure in what looked like a dirty pea jacket, a cap pulled down low on its head, was skulking around the building next to the one housing the Joneses' flat.
Coincidence? Damned unlikely. But how had the kidnapper found out where Bill and Kathy were staying?
He could ask questions later--after he had caught the creep. Abandoning caution, Bogg began to trail the suspect, trying to keep enough distance between them so he could duck behind something if necessary. All the same, he did not dare to take his eyes off his quarry.
The suspect quickened his pace but did not look back. Encouraged, Bogg lengthened his own stride, pulled up short when he saw the shorter man suddenly dart around another building and vanish from sight.
An escape route? Bogg wondered. Or could he be meeting someone?
Bogg hesitated for a moment, but he had come too far to turn back now. Quickly, he resumed his pursuit, rounded the building in his turn . . .
And found himself in a narrow alley, with a high brick wall blocking his view. He was just about to turn around, when he heard a step behind him and then, more ominously, the metallic click of a gun being cocked.
A voice spoke, thickly accented, holding a note of gloating triumph. "'Ands up, you bastard!"
Bogg silently cursed his own recklessness. Desperation was no excuse for falling for this guy's trap. Now he had to find a way out--and fast. Raising his hands very slowly, he let his gaze move from side to side, seeking some means of escape, or delay at least.
Then, quite suddenly, he heard it: a high-pitched whine like an incoming mortar shell that he recognized all too well.
The cavalry didn't always come riding over the hill, Bogg reflected. Sometimes they dropped right out of the sky and landed with an audible splat on the bad guys.
As Susan did now.