“Langley checked out when you looked into him before.”
“Don’t remind me, please.” If that motherfucker was involved, I swear he was a dead man. Brynne and I needed to talk about her history with Langley, a prospect that felt even more unpleasant than last night’s fiasco. “Just see what you can find out. Any luck on the caller location to Brynne’s mobile?” I’d left it for Neil to investigate, determined to have a weekend without focus on her situation or my job.
“Some. The call was made from inside the UK. Whoever called her mobile was most likely watching you in real time and not on web cam from the States. I’m guessing you were thinking that was a possibility?”
“Fuck.” A smoke was sounding very appealing right about now. “A long shot, but I hoped. Well, it’s not Oakley then, he’s active duty in Iraq. Lurking around London would be a stretch when he’s dodging missiles in the desert. It’s not Montrose either, because he’s taking a well-deserved dirt nap. So that leaves the third in the video. That cocksucker is next on my list. We’ve got nothing on him yet. The file is accessible on the Q drive. His vitals are all there. Can you do a bit of digging on him? Find out what he’s been up to lately? Make sure he’s not been using his passport. Um . . . name is Fielding. Justin Fielding, twenty-seven, living in Los Angeles, if memory serves. I want to know if he went to the funeral for Montrose too. I’m betting he made scarce—”
“I got this, E,” Neil interrupted. “Have your weekend and try to let all this shit lie for a bit. I’ll get into it for you. Right now you have her safe and out of the loop. Nothing’s going to happen from Somerset.”
“Thanks. Appreciate it. Oh, yeah, can you toss some feed in for Simba?”
“He doesn’t like me,” Neil said dryly.
“He doesn’t like me either, but he does like being fed. And if you don’t he’ll start eating his tankmates.”
“All right. I’ll feed your surly and poisonous fish.”
“You don’t have to cuddle him, just throw in some krill.”
“Easier said than done. That creature is part piranha, I am sure.”
I laughed at that image. “Thank you, brave soldier, for going into battle for me by feeding my fish.”
“Hold down the fort for us, and you know how to reach me. We’ll be back in town Monday evening.”
I ended the call and headed out of the bedroom, eager to find Brynne. Time to face my girl and see what trouble I was in this morning from all of my bad behavior last night. I wasn’t really worried, though. My baby loves me, and I know how to give her what she needs . . .
I smirked to myself at my smug thoughts, opened the bedroom door and nearly stepped on my niece.
Zara was sitting on the floor, her back against the wall, waiting for me apparently. I caught my balance and crouched down to meet her at face level.
“Finally, you’ve come out,” she said disgustedly.
“Sorry. I had to make a telephone call, but I’m done now.”
She looked up at me hopefully. “Can we go get ice creams now? You said you would.”
“It’s morning still. Ice cream is for the afternoons, I’m sure.”
She wrinkled her cute little nose at me in response. I guess she didn’t share that pragmatic view.
I pointed to my cheek. “I did not get a nice welcome yet from my favorite princess.”
She reached up, put her little arms around my neck and kissed my cheek.
“That’s better,” I said. “Would you like a ride?” I gestured to my back.
“Yes!” She brightened her expression.
“Well, climb aboard then,” I told her.
She attached herself and hung her arms around my neck as I held her little legs tucked under my arms. I groaned, pretending to struggle to rise to my feet. I stumbled into the wall with exaggerated movements, being careful of her head. “God, you weigh a lot. Been eating a lot of ice creams, have you?”
She giggled and dug her heels into my sides. “Go, Uncle Ethan!”
“I’m trying to!” I grunted, pretending to crash into the walls as I stumbled along. “Feels like I have an elephant back there! Did you change from a princess into an elephant?”
“No!” she laughed at my antics and poked me harder. “Go faster than this!”
“Hold on tight,” I said, as we whooped and yelled our way down the grand staircase and into the family area.
My sister and Brynne were both waiting for us when we ducked into the homey kitchen. I’m sure all the screeching laughter preceded our arrival, but it was the look on Brynne’s face that gave me a kick. Her eyes widened at the sight of us, probably shocked to see me playing around like this.
“Hello, Han,” I said, going forward to kiss her cheek, Zara still clinging to my back and slightly choking at my neck.
“E.” She embraced me, her small form reaching to just under my chin as comforting as she had been for my whole life. For a boy who had lost his mum so young, I’d substituted for my older sister in some ways. She’d always mothered me anyway and we’d just adjusted our relationship in the only way we knew how to. I looked over at Brynne and winked at her. Zara giggled and bounced like she wanted her “horsey” to keep on going.
“Zara, did you wake up Uncle Ethan?” she asked her daughter with a raised brow.
I could feel Zara shake her head back and forth vigorously and had to bite back the incriminating grin threatening to spread over my face.
“He opened his eyes all by himself, Mummy,” she announced.
Brynne laughed. “That must have been interesting, I’m sorry I missed it.”
“Zara,” Hannah scolded gently, “I told you to let him sleep.”
“It’s all right,” I told my sister. “I didn’t lose more than a year or two off my life span, I’m sure.” I mock shuddered. “Remember those little girls in The Shining?”
Hannah laughed and delivered a punch to my shoulder. I turned to Brynne. “Morning, baby. I seem to have a little monkey on my back.” It felt good to be playful for a change.
“Oh, I’m sorry but we’ve not met before. I wonder if you might’ve seen my boyfriend around?” she asked. “Name’s Ethan Blackstone. A very serious fellow, rarely smiles and most certainly doesn’t tear around historic mansions shouting and crashing into walls with little monkeys on his back.” She tickled Zara’s ear and made her giggle some more.