Joan signaled her stepmother to stay seated while she took care of replenishing the tea. Elizabeth would need to be brought up to speed on everything said during the conversation with Brooklyn, and what they had arranged with Nikki, as well as the new suspicions she and Nikki had both come up with. Because of the constant experimenting with Dr. Carson's herbal treatments for Carter's condition, a new addition to the kitchen was a hot water tank. Near-boiling water was always ready, on tap. It was a matter of a few minutes for Joan to clean out and refill the infuser ball and rinse the teapot, then refill it with steaming water. She inhaled the first gush of spicy tea-scented steam and put the lid on, then wrapped the pot in the quilted cozy before carrying it back across the hall. Sophie was still talking, relating what they had discussed with Nikki.
"Should we call Nikki and tell her to bring Preston back with her?" Elizabeth said, after a few moments of silence once Sophie finished. "Brooklyn's brother," she explained, before Joan could ask.
"Sheriff Holmes is Brooklyn's brother?" Joan said, just to be clear.
"I think if the situation is bad enough…" Carter shook his head, still staring unseeing at the point in the air. "If it's bad enough to get out of there, it might be too dangerous for him to flee. That would be letting whoever is his enemy know that they have been detected. If they're able to get to Brooklyn's phone, and she fears she has been compromised, then they might have the power to strike. There might be innocent people he's protecting. After all," he added, finally blinking and raising his gaze to meet Joan's, "Brooklyn could have just left, as soon as she realized something was wrong. I fear the two of them are hip-deep in alligators, as the saying goes."
"Then Nikki shouldn't be going in there. She isn't trained for this."
"If Brooklyn and Preston are involved, you should feel sorry for the alligators," Elizabeth said. "If the situation was unsafe, they would have found a way to tell us not to let Nikki come. She'll arrive early enough, and she and Brooklyn can pack up and get out of there before anyone realizes what's happened." She rested a hand on Joan's and squeezed. "They'll both be fine."