A Stitch in Time

Chapter 14

"Bloody 'ell," the kidnapper moaned, from his position on the ground. "Me leg's broken!" He added a few more things that were unprintable.

Bogg, holding the gun on him while Susan contacted the police from the nearest call box, eyed him with a total lack of sympathy. "Too bad it wasn't your neck," he said coldly. "Creeps who snatch little kids from their mothers' arms don't deserve any better."

The kidnapper's pale eyes narrowed to hostile slits. "Yeh? Wot about bints 'oo scarper wiv the kids and never let the dad see 'em?"

"What?" Bogg stared at the kidnapper in disbelief, equally confused by his meaning and his use of street cant.

"You 'eard me, you stupid sod! That Jones bitch's deprivin' 'er kid's dad of 'is legal rights." He emphasized the last two words with evident satisfaction.

"Mrs. Jones is married to her kid's dad!" Bogg snapped. "So why don't you shut your filthy mouth?"

The kidnapper hooted in derision. "An’ I'm the bloomin' Queen Elizabeth! 'Oo do you think 'ired me to get 'is son back for 'im from 'is ex and 'er new bloke?"

"How about the world's biggest liar?" Susan offered coolly, reappearing in the alley.

Bogg glanced at her. "How much did you hear?"

"Enough." Skirting the prone form of the suspect, she came to his side. "The police will be here soon."

"Good." Bogg fixed his glare on the kidnapper again. "Listen up, dirtbag," he snarled, "'cause I'm only gonna say this once. Whoever you're workin' for is lying through his teeth. I know those people whose kid you tried to grab today. I was at their wedding four years ago. Yeah, four," he added for emphasis as the man's eyes widened. "That little boy is all theirs. Neither of them was married to anyone else before."

"He's right," Susan confirmed. "I was at that wedding too, and those people are friends of ours." She gazed icily down at the suspect in her turn. "Pretty stupid of you not to check out that story first."

"I don't believe you!" The kidnapper glanced wildly from one to the other. "'E 'ad papers'n everything--"

"Documents can be faked," Susan informed him. "What did he show you? Marriage license, birth certificate?"

"Yeh." It came out as a sulky mumble.

"Any photos of the happy family together?" she continued. "Of Daddy holding Junior? Even a lock of hair, just to show they're related?"

The kidnapper's sullen silence was answer enough.

"Looks like you've been had," Susan said, with a faintly contemptuous smile. "A piece of paper doesn't prove a thing, but a picture really is worth a thousand words."

The kidnapper's shoulders slumped as the truth of her words sank in. "Bloody, lyin' bastard . . . "

"Tell me his name," Bogg ordered. "The man who hired you. What's he calling himself?"

"Wot's it worth ter yer?" the man asked with a fading spark of defiance.

"How about your other leg?" Bogg suggested, pointing the gun menacingly at the kidnapper's knee.

The man blenched, the change visible even in the waning light. "Mallard! 'E calls 'imself Mallard!"



Bogg supposed there was a chance in a hundred that it could be a coincidence. But he doubted it. And when he'd heard Susan's sharp intake of breath, he'd known that she didn't believe it was a coincidence either.

A few more threats had yielded "Mr. Mallard's" address and the information that the kidnapper had been en route to meet him before Bogg had pursued him into the alley. That had been all the Voyager needed to formulate his own plan.

Susan had objected strenuously to it at first, recommending that he let the police handle everything and pointing out that playing vigilante could very easily get him killed. Bogg had countered that this was the best chance of catching and stopping Drake, who would hardly hang around long enough to be arrested. The element of surprise would be on their side this time.

Finally, she had capitulated and slipped him a hairpin to help him pick any inconvenient locks. Subtlety and finesse would be required in dealing with Drake, she had reminded him tartly. Breaking down a door required neither.

Once the police had arrived and loaded the groaning kidnapper into their car, Bogg had slipped away, following the directions he had been given. It was possible that the suspect might have exacted a petty revenge by sending him on a wild goose chase but Bogg didn’t think so. The kidnapper was far more likely to turn on the man who'd gotten him into this mess in the first place and who would probably try to skip town without forking over a penny of the "five 'undred quid" he'd promised to pay.

How long, Bogg wondered, had this plan been in the making? Bill and Kathy were here for a semester--a good four or five months. Long enough to have fake documents made and to find some petty criminal capable of carrying out a kidnapping and greedy enough (or stupid enough) not to ask questions.

Bogg shivered, his blood running cold at the very thought of a helpless baby in Drake's power. And when that baby was Jeff . . .

What would the rogue Voyager have done next? Put the boy in an orphanage? Hidden him somewhere in time, so he might never know who he was or what he was supposed to become? Or simply killed him outright? As abhorrent as the last possibility was, Bogg could not rule it out where Drake was concerned. Although, he reasoned, Drake did not like to soil his hands, as a general rule. Most of his methods had been indirect, though highly damaging--as those thirty Voyagers convicted on false evidence could attest. Bryce had said that the changes in Jeffrey's timeline could be due to any significant divergence from his previous history. Taking the kid away from his parents would certainly count as significant!

He'd reached his destination at last: an unprepossessing block of flats that few passers-by would bother looking at twice. At a guess, though, it probably had some kind of security system. Fortunately, Bogg was saved from having to resort to Susan's hairpin by the timely appearance of a couple just exiting the building. Deep in conversation, the two spared hardly a glance for Bogg as he edged past them on the front steps and caught the knob just before the door closed.

Once inside the foyer, he made for the stairs. According to the kidnapper, "Mallard's" flat was on the second floor.-- number 2D, to be exact. Bogg slipped down the hall as stealthily as possible, praying that no one else would emerge from his or her apartment while he was in the process of breaking and entering.

Luck was with him, though, as he neared the door, its brass numbers gleaming dully in the dim light. He cast another quick glance around the hallway, then produced Susan's hairpin and set to work.

He'd first learned to pick locks in his early years as a pirate. To his relief, none of his old skill had deserted him: the tumblers soon yielded to his prodding, giving way with a tiny click. Bogg exhaled carefully, then eased the door open without a sound and slipped into the room.

All was dark and silent: in fact, the room appeared to be deserted. Had he come too late, after all? Cursing inwardly, his every nerve prickling with apprehension, Bogg took a cautious step forward and then another, thankful for the carpet that masked his footfalls.

He had gone perhaps another three steps into the room when he detected a flicker of movement out of the corner of his left eye . . .

His reflexes saved him. Flinging up an arm to protect his head, he caught the full force of the blow on his shoulder. The impact made him gasp and he lurched off-balance, falling to one knee. Through a haze of pain, he saw the object descending again and flung himself aside just before it could connect, thudding dully onto the carpet beside him. Some kind of heavy stick . . . a cane--or was it a club?

In the darkness, his assailant was visible only as a shadowy shape but Bogg could hear his harsh breathing, could sense him gathering strength for another blow. Quickly, Bogg lashed out with a lightning sweep of one leg, felt it collide with solid flesh and bone. Taken by surprise, his opponent grunted and staggered, losing his grip on the weapon. They both lunged for it but Bogg got there first, his fingers closing over the handle even as the other scrabbled and scratched at his hands. Bogg rammed an elbow into his opponent's midriff and was rewarded by a gasping, retching crow and then another thud as the other man crumpled to the floor.

Exulting silently, Bogg managed to clamber to his feet, still keeping a firm grip on the weapon. His shoulder screamed in protest but he ignored it as best he could, gritting his teeth as he lurched towards his fallen foe . . .

Only to find that he had vanished completely and without a trace. As only a Voyager could.

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