"Emergency?" Colby asked.
Charlie smiled. "Emergence. Cognitive Emergence Theory. I'm still developing this, but I believe the research I have done already can greatly improve our understanding of this case. With the data you've gathered for me, I should be able to have a preliminary finding by tomorrow afternoon."
"Isn't that kind-of soon?" asked Megan. "Or are you going to get someone to let you in on the school's super computer tonight?"
They were all walking to the bullpen from the conference room.
"No, actually, I can use a program I'm designing myself. I'm still beta testing, and this will be a perfect run for that."
"Congratulations, then," offered David, slapping him on the back and grabbing the jacket off his chair. "And welcome back, Charlie. Nice working with you again."
Don waited until the rest of the team had left, then looked at Charlie. Six weeks. He had been back as long as he had been gone, but he still hadn't offered up any details. He was back at everything — teaching, research, consulting — and he seemed to be happy at all of it. But sometimes he caught him looking out a window, a far-away look in his eye.
"I'll give you a ride home," Don said, putting on his jacket, then groaned. "I'm sorry. I keep forgetting you have a car now."
"Me too," Charlie laughed. "Since I still ride my bike at least half of the time. I can never remember by the end of the day which way I got to school. I wander around the bike rack for a while and if I can't find my bike, I head for the parking lot to look for my car."
Don laughed at the image. "So which was it today?"
Charlie held up his keys. "Car." The two began walking toward the elevator. "Why don't you follow me home, though? I'll make us something for dinner."
Don agreed, and the two were soon standing in Charlie's kitchen. "Dad!" called Charlie, and Alan looked up from the chair in the living room. He looked at his watch and put down the book he had been reading.
"Hey, Charlie, lost track of time," he said. As he came into the kitchen he saw his other son. "Donnie! This is a nice surprise."
"Yeah," Don caught the bottle of beer his brother tossed from the refrigerator. "Charlie invited me over for dinner."
Charlie was taking something else out of the refrigerator. "That's ok, isn't it Dad?"
"Of course," Alan said, sitting at the table. "I got your note that you'd like to cook tonight. You found something special at the store today?"
"Right, I went to the fish market," Charlie answered.
"Oh, right," Alan suddenly remembered something. "There's a package for you, on the counter. Came from Oregon today."
By now Don was sitting at the table too, and Charlie grabbed a small box and joined them. Ripping it open, he saw a letter lying on top of packing material, and he quickly opened it. As he read, he smiled, laughed out loud once. Don and Alan just watched. Charlie carefully folded the letter, put it on the table and rustled around the packing material. His hand came out of the box with an 8 x 10 picture frame. He stared at it for a while, placed his fingers softly on the glass in one or two places. His eyes took on that far-away look again. Finally he handed it to Don. "A Jenna Carver original," he said. Alan crowded around the end of the table so that he could see it as well.
"My G-d, Charlie, that's you!" exclaimed his father.
Don looked at the pencil sketch. Two men, one of them obviously Charlie, hip dip in a river, lines cast. In the background, between them but slightly closer to the other man, a woman looking down at a sketch pad sat on the bank.
"The detail is incredible," continued his father. "It looks like that first postcard you sent."
Don continued to look at the picture for a long time, and wondered if his brother would ever tell him anything about when he had been gone. It looked like a good story. "It's beautiful," he said, handing it back to Charlie. His brother put it carefully back in the box, along with the letter, and got up from the table again to wash his hands, look out the window. Turning toward the stove, he began talking.
"I found some pretty good looking salmon fillets," he said, "although they won't be as good as fresh. I'll have to modify Jenna's campfire recipe, too," he added, routing through a cupboard.
"Would you like me to make a salad to go with that?" Alan asked.
"Sure, Dad, if you want. I could do it," answered Charlie.
Alan purposely brushed an arm as he passed behind him. "I've got it," he said. "Donnie? Charlie's doing the fish, I'm doing the salad, what are you doing?"
"I'm doing the beer," said Don, taking another swig, and Charlie laughed.
"You should taste Spring Chinook, over a campfire," he said. Then he added, "Donnie, you and I should go fishing, next spring. Take a long weekend or something, go to Oregon. You would love this river. Might take you a day or two to shake off the city, but I promise you, you'd love it."
"If I caught any fish," Don said, "then you would cook them?"
"Of course," Charlie said, his back to his brother. "Which means you will be cleaning and filleting them first."
"Hey! That's part of the cooking!" protested Don.
"Is not," Charlie assured him. "Fisherman cleans his own catch."
Alan just kept working on the salad. He listened to his sons bicker, and he smiled.