Chapter 7: Deliverance – part 18
Daniel reflected on his impromptu meeting with Chairmen Carlyle and Butler as he strode to his suite. Whatever his superiors had done to Myers and Addison had worked, perhaps too well. If Ri hadn’t alerted security to the altercation in Myers’ office, he might have been down two department heads and inherited two children.
Ashlynn’s shrill voice just barely carried through the reinforced door to Daniel’s quarters. “I want to see Mummy!” While his retina and thumbprint were scanned, Daniel steeled himself for the cacophony. The door slid open, loosing the shrieks of Addison’s offspring. “Wanna see Mummy now now now!”
“Ashlynn, please–” Jacob’s cries cut Svetlana’s reprimand short.
Daniel gritted his teeth and entered, a bulldozer plowing through debris. His shrugged-off suit jacket landed on the foyer table and was forgotten. He entered the living room unbuttoning his shirt sleeves and wincing from Ashlynn’s latest shriek. Svetlana paced with Jacob crying in her arms. His big sister thrashed on the floor in a full-on tantrum. Spoiled, ungrateful brat. She’s as bad as her mother. Thanks to Carlyle’s magic the thought carried more frustration than venom toward the little girl. “Ashlynn!”
The girl silenced. Ashlynn momentarily froze in place, legs up in the air. Daniel took a deep breath and bit back the words he’d like to use on the stubborn child. Instead he turned to the nanny. “Svetlana, why don’t you and Jacob go visit the conservatory? Ashlynn and I are going to talk for a few minutes.”
Although annoyance flickered across Svetlana’s face, her reply was polite and deferential. “Of course, Dr. Gibson.” She headed toward the door, cooing into the blanket that held Jacob.
Daniel sat on the side of the leather sofa closest to Ashlynn, who still lay on the floor on her stomach. Her arms and hands were folded and tucked beneath her head. When she noticed him looking at her, she buried her tear-streaked face in the carpet. “Don’t want to talk to you. Want to see Mummy.”
“Your mother is resting now, Ashlynn.” Daniel leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs, wrinkling his crisp linen pants. He steepled his fingers, studying the little girl. The sight of her prompted conflicting emotions: protectiveness, affection, and a hint of dread. It was easier now that Ashlynn was older than Ryan had been. Usually Daniel was glad to have been given a second chance. Like so many things with Triptych, one didn’t get a choice. He chided, “The sooner you stop this nonsense and calm down, the sooner you’ll see her.”
Ashlynn peered at him, her face scrunched with concentration. Thanks to Chairman Butler’s training, Daniel felt the girl’s fumbling mental probe. He kept in mind that Addison truly was resting. The girl didn’t need to know how her mother had been rendered unconscious.
Ashlynn sat up. “When?” she sniffled, wiping her nose on the back of her hand.
Daniel crossed his arms. “Ashlynn, do we wipe our noses on our hands?”
The little girl glanced at her hand, then held it out as if diseased. “It was an accident,” she pouted. “I didn’t do it on purposeful.”
“Purpose,” Daniel corrected. “You didn’t do it on purpose.” He gestured at the tissue box on the console table. “Get a tissue, then come and sit with me.”
Ashlynn stared at the cardboard box. It shimmied, then hopped across the table. After rewarding herself with a grin, the girl focused again. The box rose into the air and shot across the room, narrowly missing a vase of calla lilies before bouncing off the wall and to the floor.
“That’s enough,” Daniel snapped. He snatched up the box before Ashlynn got a hold of it again.
Despite her petulant expression, Ashlynn took a tissue from the proffered box. “I’m getting better.” She dabbed at her nose in imitation of her mother.
“You are,” Daniel agreed. “No destruction in sight. Not even a shredded tissue.” A few months ago a tantrum meant liquid exploding out of glasses and pillows popping stuffing. A flying tissue box was a vast improvement.
Ashlynn beamed. The pint-sized devil was now an angel. “Are you still mad at me, Daddy?”
Daniel sat down, tossing the tissue box on the console table. “No.” He rolled his shoulders to release some tension.
His daughter got to her feet, then wove her way to the trash pail hidden behind the credenza. After depositing her tissue, Ashlynn toddled to Daniel’s side. “Are you mad at Mummy?”
Daniel hesitated before answering. He hadn’t given any thought to Addison since being summoned by the Chairmen. Frustration ranked high, along with grudging respect for the woman’s attempts to stay one step ahead of him. “No,” he replied, patting the couch cushion to his right. “I’m too tired to be angry at anyone right now. Daddy’s had a rough day.”
Ashlynn climbed up beside him, wiggling up close. Daniel wrapped an arm around her as she rested her cheek on his chest. “Because Mummy and Shane hurt each other?”
Hearing Myers’ first name name roll off his daughter’s tongue grated on Daniel’s already frayed nerves. “Yes, because your mother and Dr. Myers had a disagreement.”
Daniel felt Ashlynn’s head bob up and down in response. “But it wasn’t their fault. They didn’t mean it.”
Daniel suppressed a groan. “Ashlynn, sweetheart, I know that it’s hard to understand, but sometimes grown ups do things and say things that don’t make a lot of sense. Not even to other grown ups–”
“No!” Ashlynn pulled back, glaring at Daniel. “That’s not it! It’s not because I’m little. It’s because I know! It wasn’t them! It was the dark, twisty thing. It got to them. I saw it and no one else did and no one believes me but it was real. It made them mad and now everything’s wrong!”
Renewed tension knotted Daniel’s back. She saw the Chairman’s magick?
Tears rolled down Ashlynn’s face. As much as Daniel hated dealing with little girl tears, he pulled his daughter close and let her cry. Her tears dampened his shirt while he stroked her back and murmured reassurance. Once she’d calmed down, Daniel settled the girl on his lap. “Princess, we need to talk about what you saw.”
“You don’t believe me either,” Ashlynn sniffled. One small fist bunched up his shirt, and she worried her lower lip with her teeth.
“I believe that you saw something,” Daniel said truthfully. “I’m just not sure that you saw what you think you saw.”
“I did! It was the–”
“I know, I know,” Daniel hushed her, smoothing her dark curls. “It was something twisty and scary. But I don’t think it was a monster. I think…” Daniel chose his words carefully, shifting Ashlynn and speaking softly into her hair. “I think that you are a gifted and talented girl. All of your gifts, the ones from your mother, they’re still new to you, though. You have to learn to work with them like your mother did when she was little, and that’s going to take time.
“I think you saw a premonition. Do you know what a premonition is?”
Ashlynn noded. “It’s like a vision. You see something that’s going to happen.”
Daniel rewarded her with a hug. “That’s my smart girl. I think you saw that something bad was going to happen–”
“Uh-uh. Mummy’s prenomutions aren’t like that.”
Daniel didn’t correct her this time. “But some are. Some people don’t see things like a movie. Some people see symbols. They have to learn to read their visions. Translate them. And I think that you had that kind of premonition. You saw a dark thing as a symbol of all the bad feelings that your mum and Dr. Myers were experiencing.”
Ashlynn lay quietly against him. After a few long moments she said, “It made them see bad things that weren’t real.”
“Grown ups are really complicated. It’s hard to make sense out of what they think and do. I think–” Daniel paused. When Ashlynn looked at him, he continued, “–that whatever your mother and Dr. Myers saw was a lot of adult guilt. I told you, we’re complicated.” Daniel touched the tip of his index finger to her nose. “I wish I was four. You’ve got it easy.”
A smile tugged at Ashlynn’s mouth. She shook her head in protest. “Uh-uh. Mummy makes me eat broccoli. And floss my teeth.”
“Really? I’ll have to talk to her about that.”
The girl’s eyes lit up. “Yeah?”
“No,” Daniel chuckled. “Broccoli is good for you and so is flossing. Maybe we can balance it out with an extra trip to the park every week.” Easy for him to say, since he probably wouldn’t be the one taking her. “Are we good? Is everything okay now?”
Ashlynn shook her head. “I want to see Mummy. You promised.”
“You’re right, I did. And you’ve upheld your part of the bargain.” Daniel lifted Ashlynn from his lap on to the sofa. “Go wash your face and find Svetlana in the conservatory. I’m going to look in on your mother first. Then I’ll send for you.” Ashlynn threw her arms around Daniel’s neck and hugged him. Then she scampered out of the room, curly ponytails bouncing behind her.
Daniel didn’t get up right away. He scrubbed his hands over his face, replaying the conversation in his mind. All of it would go in his report. With Ashlynn’s control growing rapidly, he’d have to tread much more carefully around her. As for her obstinate mother, the talisman Carlyle had given him should be protection enough. He’d bring a security detail to their meeting just in case.