Chapter 4: WAR
I grin at Layla, whoís sitting across from me in my living room. With her face scrubbed free of makeup, her hair in two plaits and wearing a pair of Spongebob Squarepants boxer shorts and a yellow tank top, she looks like the little sister that I remember. Itís like she just grew into this amazingly beautiful woman overnight. Not that it stops her from wearing pajamas with cartoon characters on them. I really shouldnít talk, seeing as how my favourite pair of pajamas arenít pastel coloured and silky, but cotton Tweety and Sylvestor shorty PJís. John still hasnít stopped teasing me about it, and I suspect he never will.
"You are so lucky youíre my sister."
"Not that I donít think so, but why?"
I laugh. "If you werenít, I think John would have wanted to kill you for that stunt you pulled. As it is, he may still want to do so."
"What? You donít think it was my charm that encouraged him to see past my discrepancy?"
She grins back at me, sticking out her tongue, which is a very odd shade of...brown. Thatís because Layla has a sweet tooth worst than mine, and her thing is Jolly Ranchers. Particularly the green apple and cherry ones.
"Like I said, youíre lucky to be my sister."
"Vangie, I missed you so much. You wouldnít even believe it."
"I offered to come visit many times. You wouldnít let me, and you wouldnít come to visit in Llanview."
"Yeah well, I wanted to do it on my own. If I saw you, Iíd want to go home, and that is not an option. Williamsonís donít quit."
"No we donít Ms. Mighty Mouse, but we do accept help occasionally. And weíre allowed to crave human companionship once in a while."
Layla studies me for a moment. "Oh. Is that how you ended up falling in love with John? Donít take this the wrong way or anything, but he isnít the kind of person that you normally date."
"I know. We donít seem compatible, but our differences are what make us work. Falling in love was a pleasant surprise. Well... it wasnít always pleasant, but for the most part it has been."
"I spent maybe twenty minutes with the both of you in the same room, and I could see that you were happy and in love and so is John. Why canít Mom see?"
I ask myself that all the time. It hurts me that my mother canít accept that I love John for who he is and not despite of.
"I think she sees it and just doesnít want the same thing to happen to me and John that happened to her and Daddy."
"Yeah. You know, I think weíve done enough catching up for tonight. Iím about to fall out."
"Me too. Come on, let me help you make up your bed."
"Evangeline, we have to go to the grocery store tomorrow. Youíre out of cereal."
I look at her in confusion. "No Iím not. I just bought two boxes of Cheerios and one of Honey Bunches of Oats."
"Yeah. Like I said, youíre out of cereal. The good stuff anyway."
I laugh and hug her. "Iím glad you decided to come visit."
We get up and go into the guest room, and after I help make the bed, I get Layla all settled. As Iím about to leave she looks up at me and says, "Stay. Please, Evangeline? Just for tonight and I wonít kick. I promise."
"Alright. But you kick me and Iím going to kick your butt right off the bed. And you know Iíll do it too, so donít dare me."
I climb into the bed next to Layla, reliving memories of sharing the same bed when we spent summers at Granny Williamsonís with the rest of our cousins. We used to stay up late and Granny would tell us ghost stories that would scare us right to sleep.
I roll over onto my stomach and listen to Laylaís slow, even breathing and I know sheís fast asleep and decide to follow her lead....
I sit up straight in the bed, terrified at the continuing screeches, booms and crash coming from outside the slightly open bedroom door. I look around for a few seconds, trying to figure out where I am. I glance down at Layla, whoís still fast asleep and shake my head. That girl can sleep through an earthquake and normally itís sort of funny, but today itís a little scary.
I lay back down and struggle to catch my breath, ignoring the steady rise of bile in my throat. I cannot throw up, I will not cry and I can not make a sound. Iím not letting my fear get my baby sister killed. Obviously whoever it is doesnít know that anyoneís in the apartment...the door to the guest bedroom is off a hallway and looks like a secluded closet.
After a while the crashes stop and I reach over and wake Layla. Or try to. Shaking, whispering her name, nudging, pinching... nothing works. Finally I whisper, "Layla, if you make me have to slap you to wake up, so help me, I will do it."
She opens one eye crankily. "What is your problem? I havenít even gotten an hour of sleep yet. Iím a bit jet lagged you know."
"Get up and put your bra back on. And some pants while youíre at it. In about five minutes, my apartment is going to be over run with CSU members."
Layla looks at me like Iíve gone crazy. I donít blame her.
I get out of the bed and go to the closet, rummaging around. I finally find the piece of iron pipe that I knew was in there and emerge from the room, with Layla right behind me. I stand in the entrance to my living room, dumbstruck, but when I hear a noise behind me, I spin with the pipe, ready to beam it at someone. But a pair of strong hands grab my arms before I can swing.
"Evangeline, itís me."
Well, damn. If it was the killer, I wouldnít have stood a chance.
"John. Someone broke into my apartment. While I was sleeping. And Layla was right here with me."
He doesnít get a chance to answer, because by then a few CSU members have begun looking around for clues and one calls us over. "Lieutenant, Ms. Williamson, I think you should see this."
Upon closer inspection, I see exactly what has him so worried. On one of my end tables are a few pictures of John and I together, in frames. The glass has been smashed out of all of them and in my face is crossed out and tears are drawn on Johnís face in all of those pictures. Which leads me to wonder how long the killer was here before I wake up. Because it is obviously the Killer.
I go into my bedroom and find that trashed as well. The vase that sits on my bedside table normally holding whatever white flowers are in season is smashed. I sink down to my knees, regardless of the glass shards probably in the carpet and burst into tears. I canít help it, that vase meant so much to me. It was priceless, made specially for me by my father. He made it once while he was on some retreat. Layla got a decorated mirror. He always said that his girls deserved to look at beauty always. Iíve kept that vase filled with flowers near my bedside since I was 12, and when he died, I started putting white flowers in the vase, so I could be reminded of the beauty of my fatherís life. And now itís all gone.
John tries to comfort me and Layla kneels on my other side and holds my hand.
"I woke up. I hear him, I could have knocked him out and tied him up when I had the chance. If I did, now that Iíve seen this, I wouldíve killed him. In cold blood."
"You would have ended up dead, and you knew that. Donít let him get to you Evangeline. He wants to see us weakened."
Well if he wants to see me weakened, heís certainly succeeded. Being kidnapped and tied to burn at the stake was bad enough. But now this guy is taunting us, showing us how much smarter than us he is. And bad enough that I was here, but Layla? If anything happened to my little sister, I would never be able to live with myself.
"Layla, you have to go back to L.A., itís not safe here."
"If itís not safe for me, then itís not safe for you. Either we stay in Llanview together, or we both go back to L.A."
I sigh. There is no getting through to Layla when sheís pulling this Two Musketeer stuff. And if I keep arguing with her, Johnís going to try and convince me to go to LA for the time being. Like the killer doesnít know how to get on a plane and fly across the country.
"You know what? For tonight, we can just go to the Palace."
Layla looks down. "There arenít any rooms at the Palace. I checked because I wasnít sure if you would want me to stay with you."
"Okay. We can stay at the Bayberry Inn."
"No rooms there either."
"Stay with me." I turn to John with an odd look. I had almost forgotten he was here.
"At the Angel Square Hotel?"
"See now Iím insulted. You and Layla can stay in my room and Iíll stay across the hall in Michaelís room. That way I can keep an eye on both of you."
I push my hair out of my face. "Iím too tired to argue with the both of you at once. Fine."
I stand and go to my closet and pull out the few outfits still on their hangers and grab a pair of jeans and a T-shirt from off the floor before heading into the bathroom to change. This is way beyond embarrassing. Not only has half the LPD seen me in my nightgown, but my room is strewn with every article of my clothing. And yes, that includes my underwear. And theyíre going to have to rifle through everything to look for clues.
And just that thought alone makes me mad enough to forget my embarrassment. As a matter of fact, why should I be embarrassed because some sicko creep decided to completely invade my privacy? Itís like John said, this is what he wants from us, so this is what he isnít going to get.
I emerge from the bathroom and say, "Okay, can we get going now? I would really like to go to sleep. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow."
"Why... you know what? Now is not the time. Let me just get my bag and we can go."
I look at John, whoís wearing a baffled expression. "What?"
"When we get in the car, ask Layla. I canít ask you without being a hypocrite."
But as soon as we get in the car, Layla stretches out in the back seat and falls asleep. I turn to John. "Looks like your ticket out just conked out, so youíre going to have to talk."
I watch as Johnís hands clinch on the steering wheel and he tightens his jaw. "I really donít think right now is a good time for this conversation."
"John donít do that."
"Ok fine. Itís just that, you bottle up your emotions so easily. I know that I do it too, but still. This is hard on all of us, but especially you. I know that youíre feeling terror at the thought that the Killer can come back again. And I know that even your shadow frightens you sometimes. You havenít said anything, but I watch you. I know that you feel guilty that you got away and Natalie didnít. And now you feel guilty because the Killer ransacked your apartment and your sister was with you. Keeping it all to yourself is going to eat you alive."
"One could say the same for you. John, Iím fine."
"Evangeline, ten minutes ago, you were on your hands and knees crying, heartbroken about that vase being broken. I think that you have the right to be upset, but apparently you donít. You went to change your clothes and within a minute, you were calm and collected, like nothing ever happened. I want to be able to be there for you like you are for me and so does Layla, Iím sure, but you keep shutting us out. Trying to prove that you can do it all on your own."
"Iím not Natalie, John. I donít need you to dry my tears."
"Forget I said anything then."
I can feel the beginnings of a really bad migraine coming on. My eyes hurt, my head feels like itís going to explode and I feel nauseous. I rest my hand on Johnís leg, but when he starts to pull away, I take my hand off.
I glance back at Laylaís sleeping form and smile slightly before turning back to John. "You know if Layla werenít here, I would totally make out with you in the back seat of your car."
John glances at me, then starts to laugh. "Thanks for sharing."
"Iím sorry. I knew that saying that would hurt you and itís not fair to make digs about Natalie when we donít even know if sheís alive."
"Itís okay. Weíre all going to be okay."
"Are we really, John?"
He reaches over with his free hand and caresses the back of my hand with his thumb. I watch him silently as he nods. "Yes. In the end, weíll all be okay. Weíve got each other and ..."
"Natalieís got us and half of Llanview." I smile as John pulls into his parking space and then turn back to Layla. "Layla, come on. Weíre here."
John gets out of the car to get our bags and Layla opens her eyes and flashes me a mischievous grin. "You want me to leave so you two can make out in the backseat?"
My mouth drops open, but before I can respond, she gets out of the car and races up the sidewalk to help John with the bags. I walk slightly behind them, watching them joke around and grin, glad to see that theyíre getting along. Itís great to know that at least one person in my family thinks that John is a great person and good for me. Come to think of it, Layla was the one person in my family that thought that Dennis was wrong for me.
When we get inside, we make a quick introduction to Roxy, because as nosy as she is, she might start speculating and that wouldnít be a good thing. John opens the door to his room, and the sight that greets us is shocking to say the least. It looks almost as bad as my place does, except nothing here is smashed and his pictures are intact. Almost as if reading my mind, John says, "It wasnít the killer. It was Michael."
He bangs on Michaelís door loudly and after a few seconds, it opens. "Dude, I was asleep. Whatís the problem? Oh, hey E. Whatís up?"
Layla sighs and stretches her hand out. "Hi. You must be the Michael Iíve heard so much about. Iím Layla Williamson, Evangelineís sister."
He shakes. "Michael McBain. Sooo... Evangeline talks about me? More than my brother?"
I smile and John rolls his eyes.
"No, not more than John, but apparently, youíre like adopted into my family. Which is great, because I donít have a big brother."
"And I donít have a little sister. Hey, does this mean I get to boss you around?"
"Nope. But you can try if you want. Thatís always fun."
John grabs Michaelís shirt and drags him across the hall. "Excuse me Layla. Come here, Doctor Dimwit."
"Hey John, you think you could lighten up a little? Just enough so I can breathe?"
"What did you do to my room? Evangeline nearly had a heart attack when the door opened."
"I did not!"
"See, John. She did not. I was just looking for your chrome tie. You said I could borrow it."
"I also said donít make a mess. How do you ransack a room looking for one measly little tie?"
"It wasnít where you said it was. I found it in one of the desk drawers. I was in a rush, so I guess I did leave a bit of a mess."
"Thereís nothing on the bed, so is it okay if I go to sleep now?"
John nods and she pulls off her sneakers, goes into the bathroom and returns a couple of seconds later with just her tank top and sleep shorts on. She drapes her jeans on the chair beside the bed, tells every one goodnight and crawls under the sheets. Within seconds, her chest is rising and falling steadily. I have always envied Laylaís ability to just let go and relax. Itís going to take a while before I can get back to sleep tonight, if I get back to sleep.
"You know, I think Iím going to get ready for bed too."
I retreat into the bathroom, going through all the motions again. Washing my face, brushing my teeth, changing into my night clothes. By the time I come back out, I can tell John has caught Michael up on the current situation.
"I got a call while you were in the bathroom. Iíve got to go down to the station for a few hours, Michaelís going to stay with you until I come back."
"You want Michael to watch us sleep until you come back?"
"He can sleep if he wants. Itís just that, heís a lighter sleeper than you and Iíll feel better if someone is with you and Layla. Thereís a guard downstairs patrolling the lobby, but it never hurts to be cautious. Okay?"
"Iíll be back soon. I love you."
I kiss him lightly. "I love you too." I smile as he goes out the door. Itís still taking me a while to get used to saying ĎI love you tooí instead of just plain ĎI love youí.
"Lookís like itís just you and me kid."
I sit on the couch next to him and turn on the TV. "Looks that way."
We watch in silence for a few minutes. "Hey, do you think John will let me out of cleaning back up his room if I stay up with you?"
"Yeah. I didnít think so either, but it was worth a shot."