Chapter 23: Got the Weary Blues

A change was coming. Evangeline felt a sizzle in the air the moment she woke up. She refused to believe the electric charge had anything to do with John's return to her life. She'd spent half the night and the early morning hours thinking about him and wondering how he found her. It wasn't fair that he had the power to upset her life. She'd finally come to place where she had some form of control. She couldn't let John's arrival take that power away from her.

Keesha moved around their tiny apartment in a distinct haze. Evangeline couldn't sit back and watch her best friend repeat mistakes that already cost them dearly. She joined Keesha in the kitchen and poured them both steaming cups of strong coffee.

"You came back pretty late last night."

Keesha paused as she brought the cup to her mouth. "Stone needed to talk."

"Every day, he's pulling you in deeper and deeper—"

"It's not what you think."

Evangeline smirked. "I think you're falling for him. Hook, line and sinker. Keesha, you're too smart for that. You know he'll never be able to give you what you really want."

"And what's that?"

"Respectability," Evangeline answered.

Keesha set the cup down hard on its saucer. Coffee splattered onto the table and on Keesha's hand. She jumped and more coffee spilled. Evangeline rushed to get the tub of butter from the icebox.

"Here put this on before it starts to blister."

"The butter makes it hurt worse." Keesha pushed her friend's offering away. She headed to the sink and stuck her hand under the cold, running water.

"Does it hurt?"

Keesha half smiled. "Not too bad. I've had worse. Can you chip off a piece of ice? I can put it on the back of my hand for a few minutes. The cold water is about to make my fingers freeze off."

Evangeline grabbed the ice pick from the hook on the wall. She stabbed the ice with all her might. A perfect size piece fell into her palm.

"Here, try this."

Keesha wrapped the ice in a dishcloth and placed it on the back of her hand. "Thanks."

"How is Stone now?"

"He lost his sister. He's in a very bad place." Keesha gave her a hard look. "He just needed a friend last night."

"He needed a friend, but he wants you. He wants you, Keesha, the way a man wants a woman. I know. I've seen that look before."

Keesha frowned. "I know, Evangeline. You're not telling me something I don't already know."

"He'll keep coming until you make him stop."

"He'd come back anyway," she said quietly.

"Don't confuse a white man's...or any man's want with love." Evangeline couldn't keep the harshness from her voice. John's visit evoked painful memories and wishful thinking. She wouldn't be any man's fool again.

"What man are we really talking about, Evangeline?"

"I'm just saying..."

"Don't lie to me. Who are we talking about? Did RJ come back after I left? Did he declare his love?"

"RJ didn't come back." She drew in a ragged breath as she gathered courage to make her confession. "John found me. He told me—he told me he loves me."

"Do you believe him?"

"He believes it and that's enough to turn my world upside down."

- - -

"Where have you been?"

John stiffened at the accusatory tone in Mac Scorpio's voice. "I've been here."

"I looked for you last night. You were nowhere to be found." Mac paused to run his hand through his hair. "Look, I don't mean to jump on you. Port Charles is about to explode."

"Why?" John frowned. After seeing Evangeline, he hadn't been able to think about much else. Of course, keeping the law was important, but one look into his woman's beautiful brown eyes and his soul found relief. "What's happened?"

"Corinthos is on the brink of war with Gannon."

"Black Bottom is pulling in too much revenue," John surmised. "I'll be damned." He started to pace. "What's Corinthos planning?"

"For now, Morgan is watching Black Bottom. They've probably figured out that the new singer is the big draw. Maybe Corinthos will offer her a gig at the Paradise Lounge. Maybe it will end with that."

John's chest tightened. Rage threatened to come to boil inside his veins. "Evangeline can't do that."

Mac's eyes widened. "You know her."

John forced himself to keep his emotions in check. "She's from Llanview."

Mac grabbed his arm. "Is that all there is to it?"

John knew Mac could be trusted, but he wasn't in the mood to hear the commissioner's words of warning. John already knew how it felt to lose her. He wouldn't go through that again.

He ignored the question. "Does Taggert know?"

"I warned him last night."

"He'll need back up just in case," John said.

"Neither of us can do the job."

"I know two men who can. There are a couple of boxers I know in Atlantic City. They'd fit in perfectly at Black Bottom. Corinthos or Gannon won't suspect a thing."

"Boxers, huh? Who?"

"Vega and Jones," John said. "Cristian Vega and Vincent Jones. Vega's brother and I used to run the streets together back in my wilder days. I'll give Cristian a call and see how soon he and Jones can get up here."

"Tell him the department will cover their expenses," Mac said.

John nodded. "Will do."

- - -

"Hi, Karen. Yeah, it's me, Stone. Is Jagger there?"

Sonny paused outside Stone's partially opened door. He came to offer his condolences, not eavesdrop. But hearing Stone reach out for his biological brother and not him, made Sonny as still as a statue.

"Jagger." Stone coughed once and cleared his throat. "Yeah, it's been awhile. No, I'm still playing sax. I like it, Jag. It keeps me sane. Listen, I didn't call to get into that with you again. I know you want us there, but... Listen, Jagger, that's why I'm calling."

Sonny watched as Stone fought for composure. The younger man gripped the long neck of the telephone and sat down hard on the edge of his bed. Sonny wanted to go in and finish the call for him, but all would break loose if he did that. Jagger hated his guts and Stone would never forgive him.

Sonny fought his strongest urges and looked down at the floor, waiting.

"Gina is dead, Jagger," Stone said, his voice clear and strong. "She died in my arms. I tr-tried to save her, but I was too late. I'm sorry."

Sonny reached for the doorknob. He was just about go inside when Stone shouted.

"Damn you, Jagger! I did everything I could. I begged her to stay with you. She wouldn’t do it! It's not my fault. Dammit, it's not my fault!"

Sonny rushed inside the room. He took the receiver from Stone and slammed it down on the hook. When Jagger called back with more accusations, Sonny would be ready for him.

"I held my sister as she drew her last breath," Stone said. "She's never coming back and all my brother can do is blame me."

When Stone's knees buckled and sobs overtook him, Sonny caught him. He didn't waste time with useless words. He simply held his friend.


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