Quinn mind raced as he tried to come up with some way to explain who he was and what he was doing. The little girl continued to regard him curiously through the screen door. She didn't appear to be afraid of him, which Quinn thought was odd. Surely he was the first man she'd ever encountered.
He carefully returned the stuffed dog to where he had found it, and smiled at the dark haired little girl. She looked to be around 3 1/2 or 4, although she was pretty tall for her age. It was clear she strongly resembled Quinn--she even quirked her eyebrows the same way he did when he was puzzled. She looked him up and down, her curiosity growing stronger by the minute.
"Mommy says I'm not supposed to come outside without her," she said as she opened the screen door and stepped out onto the porch. "So don't tell her I did, 'kay?" She picked up her stuffed toy and hugged it with both arms.
"I swear," Quinn responded, solemnly holding up his hand. "Scout's honor." He was trying not to stare at her. He didn't want to frighten her, but he couldn't help it. The resemblance to him was pretty uncanny.
The little girl giggled and turned back to the screen door. She struggled to open it, but the handle was sticking. Quinn stood up and reached for the handle.
"Let me help you with that," he said, jiggling it. The handle gave way and Quinn swung the door open. The little girl walked through, then turned to look at him.
" Are you comin' in?" she asked, as Quinn stood awkwardly outside the door.
Quinn knelt down again, so that he was on eye level with the little girl. "I don't know---I mean, won't your Mommy get mad if you let strangers in the house?"
"You're not a stranger, silly," the little girl responded, pulling on Quinn's elbow. "You're my daddy. But Mommy said she didn't think you were coming back. If she sees you, maybe I won't have to take a bath. I hate that," she said, squishing her face in apparent distaste for bathtime.
"So that explains it," Quinn thought to himself. Jane had insisted on taking a picture of him, so that one day, she could show it to their child and explain who his or her father was. That was why the little girl showed no fear toward him--she recognized him from the picture.
"Megan!" Jane's voice echoed from down the hallway. "Come on, it's time for your.....oh my God," she exclaimed, dropping her shampoo bottle as she came into the hallway and saw Quinn. She rushed for the door, grabbing Quinn by the arm and quickly pulling him inside before shutting the heavy wooden door behind him. "Are you crazy? If the BRP saw you....and what are you doing....I mean, how did you..... are you really....?" She looked at him, not believing it was him.
"It is," Quinn said, shifting his feet uncomfortably. He'd never imagined having to be in this situation.
"What are you doing back here? I thought you said..." Jane asked, as she picked up the bottle she'd dropped.
"It's complicated," Quinn said, running a hand through his hair. "Somehow, we just landed back here and ...and I hate to ask, but I need your help."
Jane looked at him, still not believing he was actually in front of her. She shook herself back to reality. "Come on in," she said, walking down the hallway, indicating he should follow. "Can I get you anything to eat or drink?"
"Umm..no thanks," Quinn said, following her, Megan close at his heels. "I do need you to do me a favor though. Could you please call the Dominion Hotel for me? Rembrandt's there, and I'll need to go back and get him...if that's OK with you," he said, suddenly realizing that he shouldn't assume Jane would want them there.
"Of course," she answered. "But you can't go back and get him. You'd be caught for sure. Give me your room number--I'll call and go get him, as soon as I get her off to bed," she said, smiling reassuringly at Quinn.
"Aww...no," cried Megan. "I don't wanna go to bed," she pleaded with her mother.
"Sorry," Jane said firmly. "It's past your bedtime as it is." She scooped the child up in her arms and headed toward the stairs. Megan started to cry.
"Tell you what," Jane said. "If you go to bed quietly,we can forget the bath and I'll read you any bedtime story you want. How's that?"
"Can Daddy read it to me?" the child asked, sniffling.
"Well..." Jane said, looking questioningly at Quinn. "Quinn? Would you mind? I mean, you don't have to."
"Sure," Quinn said, smiling at them. "No problem." He crossed over to the stairs and gently pushed some of Megan's hair off her tearstained face. Despite himself, he couldn't help becoming attached to her, and didn't mind that she so easily referred to him as her father. "I just have to make this phone call, then I'll be up, OK?"
Megan nodded solemnly. "I'll pick out a story," she said, squirming out of her mother's arms and hopping up the rest of the stairs.
Jane smiled as she watched her daughter make her way up the stairs. "She takes after you a lot," she said to Quinn. "She's so smart it scares me sometimes. Its hard to believe she's as young as she is."
Quinn nodded. " I know. She's got a pretty good vocabulary for being so young."
" Well, I always read to her, even when she was just a baby. And our nanny, Mrs. Davis, is also a retired schoolteacher, so she teaches Megan quite a bit," Jane explained, as she crossed to the telephone and dialed the Dominion. She didn't know why she felt she needed to explain all this. Perhaps she just wanted to reassure Quinn that his daughter was happy, healthy, and well taken care of, despite the absence of a father.
Jane asked the desk clerk to be connected to Room 285, and handed the phone over to Quinn. Rembrandt picked it up on the first ring, but said nothing.
"Remmie, it's me," Quinn said to the silent line.
"Whew!" Rembrandt replied. "I was starting to get worried when it took you so long!"
"Yeah..well, things are a little complicated here," Quinn answered, looking toward the stairs. "Look--Jane is going to come and get you. Think you can sneak out of the hotel without being seen?"
"Yeah, I think so," Rembrandt replied. "I can head out the fire escape."
"OK," Quinn said. "Watch out the window. Jane will pull her car up outside our window and flash her lights. When she does that, come down. OK?"
"Got it," Rembrandt said.
"Anything else about Wade on the news?" Quinn asked.
"Not that I've seen. It's like the story just died or something," Rembrandt said worriedly.
"Well, we'll have to deal with this tomorrow. Jane's on her way, so keep an eye out. And don't forget the timer," Quinn reminded him.
"Gotcha. See ya in a few," Rembrandt replied, before hanging up the phone.
Quinn gave Jane directions on where to go so she could be seen by Rembrandt. She promised to be back as soon as she could, and headed out the door. Quinn headed up the stairs to read to Megan, as he'd promised.
A few minutes later, Jane stepped back through the front door. She'd left her keys upstairs. As she retrieved them, she could hear laughter coming from Megan's room. She peeked inside and saw Quinn, lying as best he could on Megan's small bed. Megan was curled up next to him, pointing to and asking questions about the pictures in the storybook.
Jane stood outside her daughter's room, listening to them for a few moments. It was obvious that Megan was already quite attached to Quinn. Jane closed her eyes and sighed.
Quinn was going to leave eventually, she thought. How in the world could she ever explain that to her daughter?