She was a pretty little thing about five years old. She knew she was not supposed to move from this spot. She didnít understand why she was left and tears were streaming down her beautiful brown tan face. Two fat plaits were sticking out of her green hat. Now she was getting cold, shivering slightly as the wind hit her over and over again. Her green coat didnít seem to be keeping out the cold. She clutched the note that she was to give to the lady. As she stood on the doorstep, her little heart beat faster. All she could hear was her heart and her own sobbing quietly in the winter night.
Evangeline had just finished filing a restraining order on one of her clientsí husbands and was heading toward her car. She got in and found her cell phone and speed dialed John McBain.
"Hey, stranger," She said.
"Hey, beautiful. I hope you are calling to let me know we are still on for tonight?"
He asked her hopefully.
"Yes, I am. Iím stopping by the store to pick up some chops and salad. You up for that?" She asked.
"Well, only if I can have dessert before dinner. You know we have missed each other for two days now. Iím going through some serious withdrawal, here. Do you understand me?" He asked in his sexiest voice.
"I do. You can have an appetizer, but the rest will have to wait. Youíre going to have a good meal first," She said with her signature laugh.
"Okay, but you better have those chops on low. Look, I got another call. See you around seven; and you get out that brown thing you wear so well," He said.
"Why, John, do you mean the dark brown one or the light brown or the one that is mixed with light and dark brown?" She asked coyly.
"Donít try it. You know which one I mean, just have it ready to put on and donít even think you will wear it for more than a minute. See you," He said.
"See you later," She said and ended the call.
Evangeline stopped by the market and made sure she had everything on the list. Suddenly, she got quite chilled, as if someone had walked over her grave. Shaking it off, she thought about John and then dismissed it. She gathered her groceries and proceeded to get them in the car.
Meanwhile somewhere in Llanview a woman needed helpÖ
Sam could feel her life slipping away, he kept pounding and pounding and every bone is breaking. He kept asking where did she take his child. She wouldnít tell him, she loved her child more than her life. All she can hold on to was the memories of her little girl. When Annie took her first step, said her first word, before the bad things hurt her too. She was slipping and as she let out her last gasp she uttered her daughters name, as if in a prayer. "Annie," and she was gone.
Just as she approached her driveway, her headlights caught a little figure shivering at her door. Hurriedly, she went to find out what was going on.
Approaching her front step, she realized it was a little girl. Going to the little girl carefully, Evangeline said. "Hey. Little one are you lost?" she asked trying not to frighten her. She noticed that the child had been crying.
The little girl said nothing just handed Evangeline the note she had been clutching for about 30 minutes while she waited for the angel lady. Evangeline gently took the note and then said, "How about we go inside? Itís cold out here."
She reached out her hand and the little girl grabbed it. Evangeline keyed in her security code and gently let go of the little girlís hand to use her key to open the door, all the while keeping an eye on the little one. Taking her hand, Evangeline led her inside the house. Cutting on the lights, she told the little one to wait while she cut the heat up to warm it up, and went to the closet and pulled out a blanket to wrap around the little girl to get her warmed up.
"How about I make you some cocoa to help warm you up?" She asked the little girl.
The little girl only nodded yes, so Evangeline replied, "Okay, let me make it for you now; then Iíll read the note."
Evangeline proceeded to the kitchen and the little one followed her with the blanket and all. Evangeline put a cup of water in the microwave and then began to read the note.
This is my little girl Annie, I never told you about her because we parted on such bad terms. She is the dearest little girl you will ever meet, and Iím not saying that just because she is mine. She is your niece and I need you to take care of her right now. I canít because some bad things are happening and I donít want Annie to get hurt while I fix this mess. I know you probably think this is my fault, and I know that I donít have any right to ask you to take care of Annie, but I need your help. Please do this for me; I donít have anywhere else to turn. Annie is five and she doesnít speak, I will explain later. I will get in touch as soon as I can. Help me Vangie, I promise this will be the last time.
After reading the note, Evangeline looked at the little girl and she could see the dark eyes shaped like almonds, the little pointed nose, and the round chin. She looked a little like Sam and she had the coloring of their father. Just then, Evangeline realized that she was looking at herself at about six or seven. Why didnít I see it? Taking the water out of the microwave, Evangeline fixed the cocoa.
"Annie, I have to get the groceries out of the car, you wait right here, Iíll be back. Give me a few minutes. Donít touch the cocoa I want it to cool a bit, okay?" she asked.
Annie nodded yes.
Evangeline got the groceries and found Annie just where she left her, at the kitchen table staring at the cocoa.
"Go ahead it should be ready, just sip a little," Evangeline said. While she drank the cocoa, Evangeline washed her little face wiping her tear stained face.
After Annie finished her cocoa, Evangeline took her hat and coat. She checked her nose and finding it warm, she walked the little girl into the living room.
"So you are my niece and Iím your Aunt Van. Your mommy said you donít talk but I look into your eyes and I see so much there," She said.
All Annie could do was look at the angel. She was just like her picture. She looked beautiful and Annie liked to hear her talk. It sounded like someone singing, gentle and caring. Maybe it wouldnít be so bad to stay here for a while and then Annie jumped at hearing the doorbell.
"Donít worry. Thatís my friend John. Youíll like him," she said with a smile, before continuing, "He was coming over to eat. I promise he wonít hurt you. Iíll go let him in."
Checking the peephole, Evangeline confirmed it was John and opened the door.
John grabbed her and thoroughly kissed her hello before she could stop him. She pulled away to look up into his puzzled face.
"John, we have company," she said.
"What?" he asked.
Evangeline moved away so he could see into the living room and he saw the little girl with the prettiest black eyes staring at him, looking so lost. His heart was instantly taken.
"John this is my niece, Annie. Sheís staying here for awhile," she said.
"Your niece, I didnít know you hadÖ," he stopped.
He moved forward away from Evangeline and went over to the little girl. He knelt down and said, "Hello, Iím John. Whatís your name?"
"John, she wonít speak, but her name is Annie," Evangeline answered for her.
"Annie, pleased to meet you," John said holding out his hand.
Amazingly, Annie reached out her small arms and wrapped them around his neck. She burrowed into him as if she had come home. Evangeline could only watch and quietly wipe tears from her cheeks. Annie and John seemed to connect like two lost souls. She saw John reach and pick Annie up and head for his thinking chair. He just sat with her. John and Evangelineís eyes connected and she knew it would be okay. She and John would sort this out and somehow figure out what happened to this little angel. They would make it right.
"She is finally asleep. She wouldnít let go of my hand," John said coming into the living room from the guest room where theyíd put Annie.
"I know she took to you so quickly. Must be that Irish charm," Evangeline said, sitting with him on the couch.
"Did you see her put that food away, like she hadnít eaten for a long time?" He asked, thinking about the sadness he saw in her little eyes.
"Yes, and her clothes are worn. Iíll need to go buy her some things tomorrow. Iím glad I had a tee shirt for her to sleep in after her bath. She loves the water. I donít think she wanted to get out," Evangeline said smiling.
"Well, I was too busy washing the dishes, which I havenít received a thank you for yet, by the way," John, said with a grin.
"Well thank you," said Van and gave him a small peck on the cheek.
"I want a real kiss. Come here," he said and reached up, brought her face close to his and finished the kiss he started when he first arrived.
Breathless as usual, Evangeline finally backed away, looked at her Irishman and sighed, "Well, what do we do now, Lieutenant? Seems we have a little one to take care of," She said.
"Yeah, let me see that note. Now, tell me how all of this happened?" He asked.
"My sister Sam and I had a huge disagreement, years ago. According to her, I was always the favored one and she blamed me. When she got into a bad relationship, she asked me for help. I was younger, I knew she was making a huge mistake, but she couldnít see it," Evangeline said sadly.
"So, according to this note she is in trouble again. You two must have gotten along at some point for her to trust you with her child," he said.
"When we were little, before all the stuff happened, we were inseparable. We even used to finish each other sentences. She had such a great personality. She could find the humor in most anything. Then it all changed when our parents split. She sided with mom and, as you know, I sided with my father," she said reflectively.
"So, when was the last time you heard from her?" He asked.
"John, almost eight years ago. How sad is that? To go from being the closest of sisters to not even knowing a thing about your sisterís life," she said.
"Hey, donít beat yourself up. Weíll figure this out. When we work together, we are unbeatable. You know that."
"Yeah, but this one is personal John. I felt something had happened before I got home. Call it a premonition or foreshadowing, I donít know, but at first I thought it was about you. Only now after finding Annie, it could have something to do with Samantha," She said.
"Look, donít borrow trouble. Samantha was okay when she brought Annie here. So whatever is going on, she had enough good sense to bring her little girl to a safe place; your home. So what weíve got to find out is what led your sister to this time and place? Then, we figure out how we can help her, okay?" He said.
"Lieutenant, did I tell you today how much I adore you?" She asked.
"No, you havenít. Why donít you do that now?" He said with a smirk.
"I adore you," she responded and kissed him passionately before pulling back and resting her head on his comforting shoulder. He gently rubbed her arm, and both of them sat quietly thinking about Annie and how they were going to solve this mystery.
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