Forty-Three - Linkin

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The trip back was a bit longer, despite the fact I had left early. There was a bag which sat beside me as my passenger and stunning beautiful diamond earrings. I spent too much on myself, but I had to justify to Stuart why I drove to Luxembourg. He didn't often question my outrageous purchases due to sheer annoyance with me.

Just as I was pulling into the driveway, chimes started to go off. I reached over and grabbed my phone from the cupholder. At one in the morning I knew only one person who would be calling me. "You got news?"

"Not good news, unfortunately," Thierry replied solemnly. I kept the car running and sighed, waiting for an answer. "I found her for a while. I managed to find out that she was in New York for another three days before she started to head south. She took a weird path, along the coast and stopped in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina." 

So far I wasn't hearing any bad news, which was making me anxious. 

"Eventually your girl changes course after a week since that drowning." I didn't know why I was surprised that Thierry made the connection between the questions I was asking. "She went inland to Charlotte, North Carolina and ended up at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport."

My mouth suddenly went dry and I reached up a shaky hand to turn off the car so the headlights didn't wake anyone. I had a feeling they could use their sleep because if Thierry said what I feared, we'd have to leave in the morning. 

"She landed in Russia and we lost her there." It wasn't good news, but it could have certainly been much worse. I let out a breath that I had been holding. "What do you want me to do?"

The porch light came on and I spoke quickly, "Find her." With that, I rushed to hang up the phone as the front door opened. I couldn't get caught on a phone call like that.

I had expected to see Ira, but there was almost a sense of pride when I saw Stuart. I was smiling as I grabbed the bag on the passenger seat and swung it over my shoulder and got out. Even in the moonlight, I knew I was in trouble, but seeing him outside was enough to distract me from that fact. 

"Linkin," Stuart started with a scolding grumble, looking tired.

"You're outside!" I said gleefully and rushed over to him.

Stuart raised a hand to stop me, making me frown. "Where were you? You've left before, but not all day like that! Not without even a proper goodbye or information of where you were going."

"I left a note," I said and rolled my eyes, but knew I was in the wrong.

I reached out to place a hand on his shoulder and he swatted it away. "Where were you?" he demanded from me again. His tone was calm, but body language read anxious as he shifted from foot to foot. I didn't know if it was because of me or just being outside, probably both.

Speaking in a calm tone, I looked him in the eyes. "I was in Luxembourg-"

"Luxembourg?" I thought he was about to have a heart attack right then and there.

I pointed to my earrings and smiled a bit. "Famous for diamonds."

Stuart started breathing heavily, "You went.... You went to Luxembourg for diamonds the day after Ira finally comes back?"

Raising my hand, I frowned at him. "And to place a phone call. I called home, Stuart." He started hyperventilating and I added, "I know where Celestia is." That didn't make it better. This time when I reached out to place a hand on his arm, he didn't fight me. I smiled weakly as I ran a calming hand along his arm and eventually to his back as he attempted to find his breath. "I have friends I New York still but I knew better than to call them from here. So yes, I figured two birds with one stone."

"... I need a drink. Ira's in the living room. Go join her, I'll be there when I can actually handle looking at you again." 

That hurt more than I thought it would. I frowned and slowly nodded as he pulled away to turn around to go inside. 

Stuart paused at the bottom step to glance back at me. "I thought you left," he breathed, his eyes sad and hurt before he walked inside.

Needless to say, I felt like shit. My heart sank and I was hesitant to go inside. I should have given Stuart more; by trying to protect him, all I had done was hurt him. The bag on my shoulder carried a different weight now, but it was too late to go back. I sighed and walked inside and headed straight for the living room.

Ira was there, laying on the floor in a tank-top and shorts. There was a small bead of sweat on her brow as she turned to look at me. "Linkin," Ira almost seemed shocked. I didn't know why that felt like a knife in my back. I knew I screwed up when the runaway was judging me.

Walking over to her, I dropped the bag beside her. "You got it gambling, got it?"

"What?" She dropped the plank she was holding with an audible sigh.

"Poker," I spoke condescendingly like she was an idiot.

Ira frowned, but didn't give a response as she sat up, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. After a second glance up at me, she finally opened it and gasped. "Where did you...?"

There was a million euros in the bag. "You got it, playing poker. You brought it here." I repeated myself and tilted my head. "You also got yourself five fake passports all from different countries with different names, three burner cells. One is in a pink case with a number on it. Something ever happens to me, you call that and you and Stuart are safe."

Ira started to flip through the passports and poke at the phones. After a minute, she stared at me with her lips slightly parted. "Linkin," she started to question me but looked like she didn't know what to ask.

"I failed you, all of you before. I won't let that happen again, even if I'm dead. You're safe with us Ira, no matter what." She was at a loss for words. "Go run upstairs and hide that bag somewhere you can get to it quickly if need be then come back downstairs. I found Celestia." 

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