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Erik

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If you want to disarm people, get yourself a cute, friendly dog or a hilarious toddler, but not both. When you have both people not only smile at you, they actually stop and chat. Andre has Miranda in her stroller, and Erik is walking Buddy, so together they are nearly irresistible. It’s not until they get to the park that they have a chance to really talk, which is the purpose of their outing. Marcus and Maribella are having a friendly grilling competition and Maddy is making the sides with Michael and Sarah, so they’ve been asked to get the dog and toddler out of the way. That’s the excuse, but by now everybody knows that Erik and Andre need to have their confidential talks. Andre has a long list of questions for this one.

To begin with, there’s Erik’s recovery from his ordeal. He looks good and he’d done well. Andre had noticed the straight-A report card on the Wattell fridge, and even if he hadn’t, his foster parents have done a bit of bragging. In addition to making the honour roll, Erik won grade awards for Mandarin and Acting, two areas of study entirely new to him, unless spy craft counts as acting. Andre is happy enough about this kind of credential-based success but his concern is with more delicate matters.

“Are you really doing okay? You seem to have thrown yourself into your work head first.”

“It was necessary, but I’m not ‘in denial’ as the expression goes. I’ve been working through things with Dr. Brock.”

“Successfully?”

Erik shrugs. “It’s a process. She gives me strategies, I practice them. It’s going to take a long time. That absurdity in March unearthed a lot of rotten old bones.”

“I bet it did. You’re doing okay, though?”

“Everyone says I’m coping remarkably well.”

That much is true. The rumours of a kidnapping in Lyons had gradually been downgraded to a missing person, then a runaway situation, and Erik’s name has been kept out of it so far. A few people outside the family circle had been given an abridged version of the truth. Sarah, Michael, Dr. Brock, Principal Harrison: they all credit him with great courage. His friends noticed that his temper was a little shorter than usual for a few weeks (or as Caleb said, ‘you’re being more of a dick than normal’), but they cut him sufficient slack. The really bad moments were unpredictable. He’d been hit with a wave of panic while having Seder dinner with J.T. 's family. Only Dr. Elkin (“call me Miriam”) had noticed and under her steady eye he’d powered through it. Outdoor Experience was tough, but the weekend gave him many chances to use his coping strategies and he’d come out of it stronger.

“What’s your assessment?”

“I’m managing. It’s a lot easier this time because I’m not on the run or a guest of the state. Stability helps, but it takes some getting used to, that’s all.”
Andre watches his daughter throw the ball for Buddy. Whether she manages to heft it eight feet away or drops it at her own feet, the dog gently drops it back in her hand.

“Do you think about revenge?”

“Of course.” Erik gives his guardian a sly smile. “You know, after I shot that bastard I had a moment to make a decision. I could have finished him off, taken out Pinker, and then ambushed Julia from the house. I had more than enough bullets.”

“And then you remembered the fine line between self-defence and a mad rampage of vengeance?”

“I remembered that I’m technically a child surrounded by protective dragons. I have no need to burn bridges these days.”

“Why should you, when you have Malcolm, and Doris, and Assiz?”

“And you, Andre. I know what you’re doing with Parthenon, and I approve.”

“If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you probably don’t want to know what’s happening with the Golden Mu jerks.”

“Being the bigger man doesn’t mean willful ignorance. I’ll content myself with quarterly reports.”

“Then here’s a preview of the next one. Kevin Pinker killed himself in prison last week.”

Erik actually laughs. “Like hell he did.”

“Hmm. Malcolm agrees with you.”

“Of course he does. ‘Bugger that, get off the grass.’” Erik can’t quite manage Browning’s deep rumble, but the imitation is otherwise exact.

“I can see why the government would want to use him but it would be highly illegal.”

“The government doesn’t care. And it’s not like he’ll see the light of day again, even if wherever he is now isn’t technically a prison.”

“Grenfell and Fox-Devereux are in prison, and not enjoying it. So many obstacles standing between them and their civil rights. They just keep adding up.”

“It’s just the beginning of the end for them.” Miranda’s ball rolls to his feet. Erik picks it up and hands it to her with exaggerated politeness to make her giggle. “No aspersions to Dr. Brock, but knowing that my kidnappers are descending into hell is itself very therapeutic. I actually use the knowledge as part of my guided imagery.”

“And you’re content with that? Not seeking anything further afield?”

“Hmm? Oh, you mean Mortimer and his detective friend? No. They might have pointed The Golden Mu idiots at me, but only after I pointed at them through Cooper and Cooper. As long as they stay out of my way I can leave it at that. Let them be fancy boyfriends in London and go after lesser criminals.”

“Such growth, Mr. Ostrovsky.” Andre decides to drop the subject rather than mention something one of the Silver Birch office ladies had let slip, that one of Erik’s “relatives” in England had ordered a copy of the Guys and Dolls video.

“Indeed. See what a model citizen I am? See how good I look on paper? You must be so incredibly proud to have me as a ward.”

Andre snorts derisively, which is exactly the reaction Erik was aiming at. Still, Andre is pleased with Erik’s surface behaviour and (apparently) genuine appreciation for his family. There are two pink and white tree peonies flanking a bench in the Wattell garden, Erik’s Mother’s Day gift to Maddy. Marcus said that since he got his license, Erik has been helpful with errands almost to the point of officiousness, not that he had used that word. Erik needs to take action, so they let him take action. Besides, the kid is a careful, confident driver and the minivan has already survived the two Wattell kids.

Miranda is getting bored so they decide to make a full round of the park and have her meet the geese and ducks. Andre puts his daughter back in her “taxi” and they resume their walk.

“Hey, are you going to be at the cabin for Father’s Day? What’s the plan?”

“We already gave Marcus his gift. I got him a bread of the month to accompany Sarah’s cheese of the month and Michael’s wine of the month. You see the theme.”

“Did you plan that?”

“We planned it together. We’ll all be going to the cabin next week, but then I’m going to Vermont with Kate Liu for Michael’s official opening, then back to the cabin. Michael and Sarah will be in and out all summer, so I’ll see them when I see them.”

“Who all is going to France, or have you figured that out?”

“Maddy and Marcus are taking me to Paris, then Maddy is meeting with her publisher and Marcus will drop me off in Brest. Don’t want to miss the maritime festival.”

“Ah. That is quite the attraction.”

“It will be very good to see Noelle again. She’s made a lot of plans.”

“And then you come to New York in August, just in time for the peak humidity.”

“Just in time for Caleb’s birthday. I owe him that. And I’m curious to see what kind of place his mother has picked out. I’m hoping for something extravagant and extremely feminine. He’d hate that. And there’s something I haven’t mentioned: Michael and Rosalie Sharkey will be in town getting their youngest daughter settled at Columbia.”

“Michael Sharkey? Oh, right. You’re going to meet him?”

“Yes. In character, of course. I’ll be very discreet.”

“Sure, why not? Your old buddy would appreciate that. Columbia is a good school.”

“Columbia law, no less. Apparently Sabra wants to be a public defender. I can’t decide if that’s ironic or merely fitting.”

“That’s a lot of travel for a single summer.”

“I suppose. I’m still trying to arrange a side trip to England.”

Andre cannot hide his displeasure at that. “What on earth for? I thought you had given up on Blake and Mortimer.”

“Not them. I want to visit Tommy Delaney in Surrey. He’s getting old and I might not have another chance.”

“If he’s as sharp as you say he is, you’ll have to be careful.”

“He’ll figure it out in a minute. I don’t mind. Tommy has been holding my secrets for fifty years. And I want to see London as a tourist. I’m very curious to see how it feels to walk about freely in that city.”

“I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s a great place to visit.”

“I hope to find out. There are a number of places I want to revisit as a civilian. Japan, naturally. I’d like to see the Mitsumotos again soon.* Greece, Germany, maybe even Egypt. Now that would be a test. How do you feel about accompanying me to Japan, just the two of us?”

“Are you serious?”

“You are my guardian, Andre, you might as well get some perks out of it. You’ll have to take me for college visits soon anyway.”

“Very soon. Wow. You must be thinking about that all the time now.”

“Starting to. With Michael and Sarah traipsing all over the world, I was thinking I might want to stick close to home at first. Columbia, maybe Cornell? Or I could study abroad. Study what, though? There are so many intriguing options.”

“You can afford to play with that a bit.”

“I can. I could become a bush pilot for that matter. I could join the space program, which is actually very appealing.”

“Sure, if you want to scare the bejesus out your whole family”

“Or I could study languages and archeology, maybe do some writing. There must be some legitimate niche where my abilities can be put to use.”

“There are ways to live an adventurous life without skirting the law. You’ll see.”

“I’ve noticed that. Such a variety of ways to get into trouble apart from outright criminality. You have many late night emergency calls to look forward to.”

“Jesus. Fine. As long as you make an attempt to stay safe.”

“And stay free, which is much more important.”

Andre knows better than to argue, and Miranda is loudly listing all the things she wants for dinner. They leave the park and head home where loved ones are waiting.