Evangeline barged into the psychiatrist's office.  He had been
avoiding her for days.  She'd left almost a dozen messages with his
receptionist, and he hadn't even given her the false courtesy of
calling her back at a time when he knew she wouldn't be available.
And each minute he had ignored her, the ire inside of her grew.

Dr. Crosby looked up from his notes and grimaced when he saw her.
"Ms. Williamson," he said.

"Whatever you're doing, it's not working.  You're hurting him," she
said, wagging her finger at the doctor.  "John and I may not be a
couple anymore, but I'll be damned before I let you kill him."

Crosby put down his pen and took off his glasses.  "You know very
well, counselor, that I can't talk with you about a patient.  However,
if you feel that Lt. McBain is a danger to himself or to others, then
"

"He is not a danger to others," Evangeline interjected.  "And John
would never hurt himself.  He would never do that to me to the
people in his life."

"Well, if that is true, then I'll reiterate: I can't talk about his
case with you," Crosby said, returning his attention to his notes.

Evangeline slammed her hand down on the desk.  "Listen to me.  He's
being eaten alive from the inside.  You're supposed to be helping him.
So, help him.  Sign off on his return to the job."

"He was suspended for a reason, counselor.  He narrowly avoided being
thrown off the force.  Had it not been for the good will of Chief
Buchannon, he would have been," Crosby said, standing.  "I can not, in
good conscience, put him back out on the streets right now.  There's
no telling what he could do."

"You don't know John like I do.  His job is his life.  If you'd just
sign off on him getting back to his work, he'd get better," she said,
suddenly drained.

Crosby sat on the corner of his desk and indicated for Evangeline to
sit in a nearby chair. "Don't you think it's a problem for his job to
be his life?  I'm trying to help him get to a point where his life is
his life," he said.

Evangeline rubbed her forehead with her hand.  She had seen John two
days earlier in Rodi's.  He was sitting in the corner, by the jukebox,
alone, with a beer in front of him.  He had been staring into space,
and when she'd approached him, he didn't see her for five minutes.  He
had jumped slightly when he had finally noticed her sitting next to
him.

John's eyes were glassy from the drink, and his speech had been slow
and slurred, when he managed to greet her.  He had felt her hair
between his fingers, like he'd never touched her before.  "Can you see
me?" he had said.  "How can you see me?  I'm nothing."

He laughed abruptly, and Evangeline had felt as though she was going
to cry.  She went to the bar and ordered two waters.  She sat with
John until he had downed both glasses, and she had managed to get him
back to his room at the hotel where she had suffered a sloppy kiss for
her trouble.

She had dumped him into the bed, fully clothed, only taking his shoes
off, when she saw a piece of paper on his nightstand with her name on
it.  The letter was weighted to the desk by a full bottle of
anti-depressants.   The pills had been prescribed a month earlier.
John had not yet taken one.

As he was snored and rolled over in the bed, Evangeline picked up the
letter and began reading.  It said good-bye in too many final ways,
and it had scared her.  He was dying right in front of her, and she
felt helpless.

"I can't get pulled into this again," she had thought to herself, and
in the next thought, she had known she'd never been out of it
completely.

Evangeline had sat on his bed for an hour, watching John wrestle the
lot of demons pursuing him so doggedly, then she had gone to sleep on
the couch. She'd planned to make some arrangement with him the next
morning whereby she'd help him get it together enough to pass his
psych exam.  And then she'd be out of it.  She'd get out of his life.

By the time she'd opened her eyes to the sunrise, he was gone.  He had
slipped by her, without her noticing, and she hadn't seen him since.
Michael hadn't seen him, and Eve hadn't heard from him.  Evangeline
had begun to worry.

"Are you alright, Ms. Williamson?" Crosby said, as Evangeline stood.

Her face had paled some, and she was unsteady.  She sat back down
again and took a deep breath.  Evangeline smiled sheepishly at the
doctor.

"I forgot to eat.  That's all," she said.

"For how long?"

"I forgot breakfast, and I've been so busy.  I forgot lunch too," she
lied.  She hadn't had a bite to eat since John had disappeared.

"That calls for a real meal, then," Crosby said, touching her elbow
lightly.  "I don't have another client for two hours.  Why don't I
take you to get a late lunch?"

"Don't think I'm going to let up on you.  John needs his job back,"
she said, standing with Crosby's help.

"I know you won't, counselor.  But you should know that Lt. McBain is
on the precipice of a big breakthrough.  It's always darkest before
the dawn."

Evangeline nodded.  "Then he's told you about his father?

"Has he told you about his father?" Crosby asked.

"I couldn't get him to open up about it."

Crosby's eyes shone with respect.  "Neither can I, but we seem to be
the only two in his life who even know where the precipice is," he
said.

"And that's part of the answer to the puzzle."
____________________________________________________________________________

John had gone to his friend Bobby Collins for help.  He and Bobby had
run the streets together as teens looking for trouble.  They had taken
different paths in life as John had gone off to university and Bobby
had moved to New York to join The Westies in Hell's Kitchen. The men
had always kept in touch.

A still-green Agent John McBain had been the first to make contact,
when low-level enforcer Bobby Collins had been pinched for running
cocaine on the Upper East Side.  Kevin Kelley and Kenny Shannon had
been expanding The Westies' rackets outside of Hell's Kitchen, and
Bobby had been asked to drive one of the cars for that one day,
instead of breaking someone's legs for not paying gambling debts.
Bobby didn't like drugs and had often wished he could have joined The
Westies when Mickey Spillane had run the organization, when there had
been a no-drug law.  Kelley and Shannon were sloppy coke addicts in
Bobby's opinion, and he didn't hide his disdain well.  He had agreed
to drive the car as a way to make up for his bad attitude.

John had gotten Bobby off by classifying Bobby as a secret informant
who had been a vital part of making this arrest.  John had saved Bobby
from jail, but he'd put Bobby's life in jeopardy with The Westies.
Bobby was sure that if there was ever a leak that he was a snitch,
he'd be murdered.  He was still grateful for the help.

Bobby had returned the favor a few years later when John had gotten in
trouble on one of his cases.  John and his team had been following
this suspect for months on a wiretap for racketeering.  One night,
when John had been listening to the tapes, he'd heard the suspect talk
about his new girlfriend's daughter and how the developing 13-year-old
was going to get a visit from a different kind of tooth fairy that
night.

John had lost it and had rushed to the girlfriend's home to find her
splayed on the floor with a bloodied face.  She was still trying to
get up somehow and crawl to her daughter's room.  John asked where the
daughter's room was, and the girlfriend pointed to a room down the
hall.  When John burst into the girl's bedroom, he found the petite
teen a wiry tomboy holding a bat in her hands.

John identified himself as FBI and pulled a gun on the suspect, who
was holding his side where the young girl had hit him.  The girl began
crying and dropped her weapon to run out to her mother.  John yelled
after her to call 911.

"You got nothing.  Nothing," the suspect laughed.

"I got you for assault and attempted rape."

"You think that bitch out there is gonna say something against me?
She'll keep her mouth shut and so will her little brat, if she knows
what's good for them."

John knew the bastard was right.  The woman and the girl would
disappear before the suspect was even booked.  He wouldn't have been
surprised if they hadn't left the apartment already.  The perp would
get away with it, and he'd find another woman to abuse and another
young girl to rape.  How many young girls had he raped already?  The
thought of it drove John mad.  He thought of his cousin Shannon, back
home, just about ready to leave high school.  He wondered how many
perverts had made designs on her when she had been playing with dolls.

"Why don't you go get yourself a cup of coffee and some doughnuts,"
the perp said, throwing a few hundred dollar bills in John's
direction.

"Get up," John said, putting away his gun.

"Oh, you're a tough guy?"

"Yeah, I'm a tough guy, a lot tougher than a 13-year-old girl," John said.

"What do you care for?  I was just having fun.  She ain't no virgin no way."

John didn't hear what the suspect said after that.  There had been a
rush of blood in his ears, as he had beaten the man nearly to death.
He'd only stopped when he caught sight of his bloodied hands.  He left
the unconscious perp laying on the floor and went into the living room
to check on the women.  They were gone.  His victims were gone the
ones who could vouch for him, who could explain why he'd done what
he'd done.

His career would go down the drain over a worthless perp, John thought
to himself.  A criminal rapist would cost him everything.  He needed
help, and his team was full of boy scouts and do-gooders.  He called
Bobby, and Bobby had come.

"You don't have to worry about this guy no more, Johnny," Bobby had
said, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder.   "You take my car and
you go to my place and get yourself cleaned up.  I'll meet you there,
and we'll go get us a nice breakfast.  I'm thinking you could buy me
some sausage and scrambled eggs."

John had followed Bobby's instructions, and they'd gone out to
breakfast as planned.  A few days later, John had gotten the wire tap
shut down when evidence showed up, indicating the perp had skipped
town, never to return.

Now John found himself in need of Bobby's help again.  He sat in
Bobby's kitchen, drinking Guinness, after they'd hidden John's
Firebird in the garage.

"I'm screwed up in the head, Bobby," John said, picking at the
cracking, yellow Formica surface of the kitchen table.

"You've always been screwed up, Johnny.  You've just been
white-knuckling it all these years.  You're not a cop.  You're not
like your old man."

"Don't bring him into it."

"What are you going to do?  Beat me up?  I'm not afraid of you," Bobby laughed.

"I didn't come here to fight," John said, taking a swig of his drink.
He couldn't even taste it any more he'd drunk so much of it in the
past two days.

"Yeah, but you want to fight just the same.  What are you running
from?  You need me to clean something up so you can play hero like
your dad."

"He wasn't a hero."

Bobby furrowed his brow and inched his rickety metal chair closer to
the table.  "What the hell happened, Johnny?  I was just teasing you.
You know I'm here for you.  Whatever do you need done, I'll do it," he
said.

"I just need to disappear, Bobby, for good, like that lowlife perp did
years ago.  You remember that, don't you?  I need you to make me go
away like he did."

Bobby started peeling at the label on his bottle.  "What are you
talking like that for?  Why would you say something like that to me?"

"You were wrong, Bobby.  I'm just like my old man, except he died in
the line of duty," John said.  "I've been suspended.  I've got
nothing.  I am nothing now, least of all any kind of hero."

Bobby went to his cupboard and pulled out a tin of potato chips.  He
popped the lid open and pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills the
size of a hammy fist.

"This is fifteen thousand, give or take a few hundred.  It's not much,
but we can get you a new life.  You can start over, or go underground
while I clean up whatever it is you did.  You tell me who I have to
make disappear not you, smart ass to fix it," Bobby said, pressing
the money into John's hand.

John shook his head and put the roll of money back on to the table.
"You've been a good friend to me, Bobby.  All these years."

"Talk to me, man," Bobby screamed, pounding his fist on the table and
standing.  "Damn, I mean, what do you want me to do here?  You came to
me because you know I'm not going to double tap you in the head.  You
know I'm not going to cut your throat."

Bobby turned around and sighed.  He kicked the cabinet under the sink,
rattling the door.  He reached on top of the refrigerator and pulled
down a pack of Marlboros.

"What?  Is that what you wanted to hear, Johnny?  You want to get your
job back, so you wear a wire.  You wanna take me down?"

John ripped open his shirt.  "Does it look like I'm wearing a wire?
You think bringing you in would get me my job back.  Don't make me
laugh."

"Then, tell me what you need,"  Bobby said, lighting up a cigarette.

"I'm so tired.  I'm tired of hurting the people I love.  I'm tired of
letting everybody down."

Bobby looked his friend over and then blew his cigarette smoke out of
the small window just above the sink.  He took his seat at the table
again and started tapping out an indiscriminate rhythm with his free
hand, unsure of exactly what to say.

"Hey, I saw that lady from the old neighborhood the other day," Bobby said.

"Which lady?"

"You know her.  The widow of your dad's partner.  I can't remember her name."

"Sylvia?  Sylvia is back?"

"Yeah," Bobby said.  "She cut her hair.  It's all gray now and short
around her ears."

John sat back in a daze.  He could get his life back, if he could talk
with Sylvia.  He could get Evangeline back. He could finally tell her
everything, and he could get her back.

"Where'd you see her?  I need to talk with her," John said.

"She's working for a bookie in New York, on 35th and 8th.  I guess she
fell back into her natural crowd.  I never knew how she hooked up with
a cop in the first place, no offense."

John nodded and stood.  He told Bobby he was going to take a shower,
and he did.  He washed away two days worth of grime and alcohol, two
days of obsessing over the memory of Evangeline sleeping on his couch.

He finally had a way to get his life back, to get Evangeline back.  He
knew he should call her, so she wouldn't worry, but he wanted to wait,
wait until he could tell her everything.  It would start with Sylvia.
Sylvia with the long, brown hair that had gone white since the last
time he'd seen her.

That was the day his father had died, the last time he saw Sylvia.
She had run off with the baby, after having made John promise to take
care of her, take care of her and the baby, take care of his father's
second family.  They were all family, she had said.  Then she had run
off with John's little brother, Gavin.

The last time he'd seen Gavin, the baby had been in Sylvia's arms,
crying like he knew their father was dead.  John had promised Gavin
that he'd always protect him, that he'd always take care of them.  And
then they'd disappeared.

John turned off the water that he'd let run hot over his skin.  He'd
find Sylvia tomorrow.  He'd make her tell him where Gavin was.  He
would make her give him permission to tell Eve and Mikey who she and
Gavin were, who they'd been to his father, who they'd been to him.  He
would break his promise to his father and tell Eve and Mikey the truth
and tell Evangeline.  God, how he wanted her back.

John wanted to live again.