"Hello, Officer, can I help you?" said the tall, wide-shouldered man filling the doorway.
"Yes, Iím Lt. John McBain. Iím looking for Raymond Jones."
"Iím Raymond Jones." John took in the tailored shirt and slacks that didnít come off a rack. Raymond Jones was a man that from all appearances took care of himself; he wasnít just your regular guy. He was clean cut and the background said he was some kind of engineer. From the look of the house and neighborhood, the profession had paid off.
"Mr. Jones, could I talk to you for a few minutes?"
"Sure. Whatís this about Lieutenant?" Raymond said, leading John into what he thought must be the living room. He gestured for John to take a seat, which John declined, while he sat in a desk chair.
"Sir, do you know Evangeline Williamson?"
John showed him a picture and waited for a response. He got none. The man didnít react at all before taking a deep breath and then answering.
"Yes. Sheís that lawyer that got the bastard that killed my daughter off. Why do you ask?" Something sparked a response in John. He couldnít put his finger on it, but something felt off.
"Someone took a shot at her about a week ago."
"And you think that was me?" The smile that cracked Raymondís lips was humorless.
"I donít know. You did threaten her." John stood with his arms crossed leaning against the wall awaiting Raymondís comeback. As John studied the man, he didnít notice anything overt, but there was a tenseness present.
"I was just venting. My little girl was everything to me. When she got killed, I didnít know what to do. It hurt so much and all I could do was strike out at that lawyer. I didnít mean any of it. I was so mad at the police for not getting the evidence we needed or finding the right guy, but I couldnít get to them. She was an easy target. I felt bad after I sent the letters, but I was so angry. Since then, Iíve made peace with my daughterís death."
The tears that filled Raymondís eyes spoke of how much heíd loved his daughter and needed the killer found. John made a mental note to check on Melissaís case. Maybe he could help this man find closure Ė closure heíd never gotten with his fatherís murder.
"Mr. Jones, where were you last Tuesday night?"
"I was in New York City for a meeting. I was there from Monday until Wednesday. I can get you a copy of the schedule."
"Iíll have to check it out. Can you provide me with the names of some people who saw you there?"
"Yes, Lieutenant. Iíll write a few down for you right now," Raymond said turning around toward the desk and pulling a monogrammed note sheet from the stack on the deskís corner.
John finally took a moment to look around the room. The walls were covered with pictures of Melissa. It was almost like a shrine. Her loss must have devastated Ray. John couldnít imagine losing a child, but it had to be one of the most difficult things anyone could experience.
"Here you go Lieutenant."
"Thank you, sir," John said as he took the list from Mr. Jones.
"No problem and please tell Ms. Williamson that Iím sorry for sending her those letters."
"Iíll be sure to do that. Iím really sorry about your daughter."
"Thanks," Raymond said as he closed the door behind John.
Standing on the Jonesí porch, John sighed. Everything in him said that something was going on, but that Raymond Jones wasnít involved with Evangelineís shooting. He still had Alexander King to check out, but they hadnít been able to find him yet. Alex King has been released from prison when his appeal had come through and his verdict had been overturned 6 months before. He had disappeared. That worried John; he needed to solve this case, so he could get back to his main mission Ė getting Evangeline back.
As John got into his car, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed.
"LPD, Cerutti speaking," said the voice on the other end.
"Hey, this is McBain. Do we have anything on Alexander King, yet?"
"We have a background on him and itís pretty interesting. You might want to take a look at it. We donít have a location on him yet, but weíre on it."
"Good. Iíll stop by and pick up that file on my way to Evangelineís. Everything okay there?"
"Yeah, Vince called in a few minutes ago to check-in. The patrol in the area reported no suspicious activity. Everything looks fine."
"Iíll see you in a few."
"Ms. Williamson, is this alright?" Vince Jackson asked from where he was holding a painting for her.
"Thatís a great spot Vince and please call me Evangeline. How many times have we been over that?"
"A lot, but Iíd rather call you Ms. Williamson. I wouldnít want the Lieutenant on my case about being disrespectful to his lady."
"Vince, you know that Lieutenant McBain and I are broken up. He doesnít have anything to do with this."
"Well, Iíd just feel better keeping things the way they are."
"Okay, if you insist. Thank you for hanging that picture for me."
"No problem. I was just sitting around. I donít mind helping you while Iím here."
"Thatís very sweet. I really appreciate that," Evangeline said, before kissing Vince on the cheek. She smiled at Vince and was delighted to see him flush. Evangeline was about to comment on his bashfulness when she heard the door slam. Both she and Vince turned to the door and saw a frowning John McBain.
"Vince, how are you supposed to protect Evangeline when you didnít even hear me come in? What are you doing that has Evangeline kissing you?" The frown on Johnís face would definitely intimidate a suspect, but why was he using it on either of them? He couldnít possibly be upset about a little kiss on the cheek.
"LieutenantÖ" Vince started, but was cut off by Evangeline, who placed a hand on Vinceís arm to assure him. Johnís eyes narrowed and his glare intensified. She felt Vince shift and tense.
"Vince was helping me hang a painting. I just kissed him to say thank you." Evangeline didnít want Vince to get chewed out and John appeared to be ready to go on a rampage.
"You couldnít just buy him lunch?" Evangeline felt her body heat under Johnís burning gaze.
"John, this is ridiculous." She stepped away from Vince to stand near John.
"Youíre right it is. Vince, you can go. Iíve got it from here," John said, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Lieutenant, Iím sorry. I should have been paying more attention. I didnít mean to let you down." Remorse could be heard in Vinceís voice. Evangeline knew how important Johnís opinion was to his officers and felt for the young man.
"I can understand how you could get distracted. Iíve been there myself; just donít let it happen again."
"I wonít. Iíll see you back at the station."
"I probably wonít be in tonight."
"Okay, just call in if you need anything."
"Yeah, and Vince?" John finally looked away from Evangeline to glance at Vince. She felt relieved to be released from his gaze. Evangeline glanced at Vince and saw him nod; Johnís tone having changed to a calm one. "Thanks."
Evangeline watched the tenseness literally leave Vinceís body before a slight smile appeared on his face.
"Anytime, Lieutenant," Vince assured, ambling toward the door.
There had been some kind of undercurrents going on during the conversation that Evangeline couldnít decipher, but she could feel them. She waited until Vince was gone, before addressing John.
"What was that about?" she asked.
"What are you talking about?" John moved further into the apartment and took a seat on the footrest.
"That little display with Vince."
"Vince was distracted and if Iíd been the maniac whoís after you, it could have been a disaster. He canít afford to make that kind of mistake."
"The maniac canít just get in here. You had to get past the doorman and into the front door, which I know for a fact was locked. If the killer had gotten up here, he still wouldíve had to break the door in. That would have been enough notice for Vince to go into cop mode." Evangeline stood over John with her hands on her hips. Whatever had been going on had nothing to do with the shooter.
John stood and moved into her space, before saying, "Maybe, maybe not. We donít know that, but either way Vince knows the situation."
"What situation is that?"
"He knows that thereís a connection between us that hasnít gone away," John said leaning into Evangeline and taking her face between his hands. Her breath caught as he continued, "And that youíre off limits."
"What?" The word was uttered in a whisper.
"You heard me." John released her from his hold and moved away, sitting in an armchair near the fireplace. "Letís talk about the case. I think I have some news."
"Whatís the news?" Evangeline asked in an attempt to pull herself out of the place John had taken her, only to leave her craving more.
"It looks like Raymond Jones is off the hook. He has an alibi and he asked me to apologize for him sending the letters in the first place."
"I can understand how he would be angry at the world for the loss of his daughter. I canít imagine what he must have gone through."
"Yeah, he sounded pretty devastated. Anyway, we are still looking for Alexander King. It looks like heís gone underground. Weíll keep looking, but I got a file from the prison," John said handing Evangeline the file she hadnít seen in his hand when he walked into her apartment. "He had a really hard time in jail and it looks like he picked up some skills while he was there."
Evangeline looked through the folder. While in jail, Alex had gotten a second degree in chemistry and he apparently had a fascination with guns before going to jail.
"He has the background to be able to pull something like this off," John said.
"Yeah, but where is he?"
"Thatís what weíre working on. I just need you to stay low for a while longer and weíre going to find out whoís doing this."
"I know John. I trust you with my life."
"Thank you," he said and ran a hand over her head and pulled her to him. She went without protest, this time. "I would never let anything happen to you. You know that, right?"
"I know that you would do everything in your power to keep me safe. I, also, know there are no guarantees, John. You canít save everyone." She rested against him and relished the feeling of being in his arms. Evangeline had missed him so much and having him in her home only proved to emphasize that fact. She still loved him and didnít think that would change. The ache in her heart had gotten fainter, but it was still very much there.
John enjoyed the moment that Evangeline let him hold her. He wanted to kiss her, but resisted the desire. It was a constant yearning.
When John had walked in on Evangeline kissing Vince earlier, his first instinct had been to wipe the floor with Vince. But then sheíd stepped in as Vinceís protector. John hadnít liked that, but heíd understood that about her. Always defending the underdog. The fact that Evangeline could read him so well only emphasized the connection between them.
He had missed her more than he thought possible. John had no idea when Evangeline had told him it was over that she really meant it, but he needed her with him. He needed her to believe in him again. The fact that she trusted him with her life was a good step. Now if I can just get her to trust me with her heart.