I found Russell's trail leading away from the house and followed it up a small rise, into some trees. I called out when I felt her presence, for even then I knew when she was near me. "Russell?" I called, pausing. If she had the child, which I knew that she must, I didn't wish to frighten it.
"Here, Holmes," came her soft reply. A light flashed and I knew she was signaling me her position. She was situated on a small hill next to the road. This I climbed and found her sitting under one of the trees with a small girl on her lap. The child seemed to be asleep, her head resting against Russell chest. I looked at the scene they made, Russell and the child, Jessica. I could only think: Is this what Russ will look like as a mother? That thought brought on others of Russ and some faceless man laughing. The same faceless man playing with the child and its mother.
My reverie was broken when Russ said, "Holmes, I'm sorry if I - ." That was as far as she got, for the child woke up and became frightened. Of me, evidently as Russell prattled on and on, trying to calm the child. She will make some child a great mother someday, was my thought as I watched her. She handed me what appeared to be a bundle composed of rugs. We then set off down the hill, me carrying the bundle while Russ carried the child. I could almost see us as a happy family coming back from a picnic. Then I shook myself. What foolish nonsense; you must be losing it, Holmes.
When we got back to the caravan, Russ put Jessica in one of her old shirts, which reached the girl's ankles. I alerted the publican's wife and she brought over a hot mutton stew. Russ and I quickly ate our helpings, though the child seemed to do little more than pick at her own. And who could blame her, I thought as I put a kettle full of water over the fire that we had lit on reaching the caravan. She can't be sure if she's safe yet, and she won't be sure until her parents arrive.
As soon as the water was warm, I took up Russ's foot, which I could tell was either bruised or slightly broken. She seemed to have banged it at some point during her adventures of the night before. I bathed it carefully, rather enjoying the fact that I was able to touch her with out fear of anyone's rebuke.
As soon as her foot was bandaged, I set about using the remaining water for coffee and shaving. During all of this, the child kept her eyes locked firmly on me from her position in Russ's lap. I finished shaving and then proceeded to show her how my gold tooth came out. This seemed to be the cause of some deep consideration.
I then retrieved my pick locks from one of my pockets and spread then out on the table for her to see. While she was considering them, I asked her if she would like me to remove the chain from her leg. She cringed away from me at that, trying to curl more fully into Russell's lap. I was again forcefully reminded of Russ as a mother when her arms came around the little girl and she spoke softly in her ear. "Jessica, nobody's going to touch you if you don't want. If you like, I can take if off you, but you'll have to sit on the table – I can't do it with you in my lap."
She didn't reply to that, so after a while I reached out for my pick locks. She moved slightly, and one small foot came creeping out of its hiding place. I didn't comment as I quickly got to work, trying to touch her as little as possible. I knew that it must have taken a lot of courage to offer that foot to anyone except Russell. Even if that person was highly recommended by her rescuer.
It only took about two minutes and I had the shackles off of her leg and sitting on the floor. She gave me a look that was much too grave for a child her age. She then pulled the leg back into its sanctuary on Russell's lap and proceeded to suck on her thumb.
We sat like that for awhile, dozing and waiting, until there finally came another car down the road. It screeched to a stop in front of the caravan. I stood up and opened the door, to find the Simpsons. Russ put Jessica down, and the little girl flew to her mother. Mrs. Simpson scooped her up into her arms, where Jessica proceeded to glue herself.
Mr. Simpson then came up to them. Placing his arm around both of them, he ushered them into the waiting motor. At this point I had to blow my nose, and Russ seemed unable to see very clearly, for she was blinking rapidly. I glanced over at her, to find her watching the car fade into the distance. I kept wondering what Russ would have done if that had been her daughter, and she'd been kidnaped. That, however, made me think of the faceless man again.
To her children, I would probably be nothing more than "Uncle Holmes" just as Watson was "Uncle John" to their mother. I could just imagine little blond haired children with bright blue eyes.
Several years later, I found out who that "faceless man" was to be. I was finally able to ascribe a face to him. My face. Oh, happy day! Russ was mine, as she always had been and always will be. Any children she may have will be my children and mine alone. Even that thought doesn't bother me like it once would have. What made me change my mind? Russ. My Russ, mine. Surely there must be a God, for who else would have given her to me?