As soon as Kip, Emily, and their families landed at the airport, Rob suggested they head straight to his house. "We have to let the kids know what's going on," he pointed out, when Kip started to protest.
Half an hour later, they were all seated around the Howes' kitchen table.
"I have something to tell you," Rob said in preface, looking at the children. "I don't want you to be afraid…"
"Not the best way to start out," Kip whispered in dismay to Emily.
"What Rob means is," Emily broke in after Kip's comment, "is that we've found out something about what happened to your grandparents."
Beth frowned. "They were killed by a bad guy. We know that."
"Yes, they were," Rob said, taking back the reins from his wife. "The problem is… okay do you know what 'random' means?"
All the kids nodded. "It means it wasn't planned, right?" Jamie asked.
"Basically, yes. Well, in this case, the man who killed your grandparents did plan it. Your Granpa saw him do something very bad. The man didn't want him to tell the cops, so he killed him."
"Like on TV," Tommy said, looking excited.
"Yes, but this is real life, not a story." Rob glanced at Emily with a pleading 'help me' look.
Emily patted his arm. "What he's saying is"—she smiled at the kids—"you don't have to go back to school for at least a week, until the police are certain the man isn't going to… oh dear." She sighed.
"All right, guys," Kip said when the kids looked fearfully at Emily, "I'm going to be straight out with you. The police believe there's a very slim chance this man might think Granpa told me or Emily what he looked like—or something else that could help the cops find him. If he doesn't try to come after us in the next week, we're safe, but until then, Rob is going to give us protection. Now before you get too scared—because I know you are now—remember I said it was only a tiny chance. I seriously doubt this man is stupid enough to try anything."
"Exactly," Rob said firmly. "Just so you know, I've already arranged for Officer Smith to stay here during the day, and Jamie you'll be here too. At night, I'll be home and I'm going to have Officer Caldwell to stay at your apartment with you and Jamie, Kip."
Kip blew out a breath. "We've only got the two bedrooms."
"He won't be sleeping while he's there."
"Ah, right. Okay."
"Do any of you have any questions?" Rob asked the children.
Tommy quickly asked, "Can we play outside?"
"I think that would be safe enough, in the backyard."
"Yippee. Let's go." Tommy hopped up, heading to the back door, Beth right behind him.
Jamie got up too, but only to come over to Kip. "I'm scared, Dad. I don't want that bad man hurting you."
Kip hugged him. "Nothing's going to happen. All this is just a precaution."
"Being careful. Rob and the police are just being careful. Everything is going to be fine and"—Kip grinned, ruffling Jamie's hair—"you get a vacation from school, starting now. So take advantage of it. Go play." He wanted to add, 'and stay away from the fence' but he had the feeling that would scare Jamie even more than he was already.
"Okay." Jamie started away, came back and hugged Kip. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you too." More than life itself. He tried to smile when Jamie ran to the door, stopped to wave at him, and vanished outside to join his cousins.