Chapter 16

There Goes My Baby

Monday showed up much too soon for John as he sat in bed drinking coffee. He hadn’t yet found the right game face that he could hold firmly in place whenever he heard someone mention Evangeline, what would happen when he actually saw her? If he saw her. He had bothered Bo most of last week to let him tie up a few out of state cases, but Bo needed him at the station to step up and command while the Buchanan’s tried to anticipate and reel in any machinations Asa was brewing to get BE back in the family’s financial portfolio. Bo couldn’t afford the luxury of letting a friend leave town to avoid heartache.

Stuck John finally made the best of it by calling in a marker with an FAA acquaintance to know the exact second the Jacks corporate jet landed in Llanview. He wouldn’t be caught totally unaware if he should smell familiar perfume or hear tinkling laughter that made you smile before knowing just why you were suddenly so happy. With tacit understanding Blair had become unavailable to him after a shared dinner Thursday night. They’d traded emails and voice messages through the weekend but she had subtly pulled back from him...just in case.

Grimacing John swallowed the reality that everyone was expecting something to happen when he faced Van for the first time after four long years of silence. But he wasn’t fixated on her; not really, he was stuck on the kid. A boy named John, after Jax’s father, the son Evangeline had created with her husband.

Nothing told him the marriage hadn’t been a convenient rebound for her quite as effectively as bringing a child into the world. Van wouldn’t do that on a whim or to hold together a disintegrating marriage, no, she’d loved Jax deeply, completely, the way she had offered herself to John once so long ago when he was still too sad and frightened to believe in the hope she held out to him. He could gulp down seeing her but to see their son?

Setting the cup on the night stand John flopped back down on the pillows and wondered if he felt a sore throat coming on, possibly the flu, certainly it was something contagious that required bed rest and no visitors. He would go to the hospital and strong-arm Mikey into giving him a medical out. He’d pay for a room out of his own pocket, if it meant avoiding Evangeline during her Llanview stay. Giving the pillows a hard punch John turned over to try and close his eyes and ignore the day for a bit longer. Drifting off he thought about John Jax Jacks, another fatherless boy, just a baby who probably had already forgotten his dad.

“Are you nuts? John, medically there’s nothing wrong with you and no, you can’t hide out here.” Michael didn’t know whether to laugh at his big brother or hold him close. Standing in the hospital corridor he figured neither would be quite appropriate, certainly not appreciated by the stressed and wary detective. “You can’t avoid the woman forever, well, maybe you can but you probably shouldn’t. Best to confront your feelings and issues, you’re too old for avoidance mode, John. I thought your time with Dr. C had taught you a few things about changing patterns, achieving positive outcomes.”

“I’m not in avoidance, I told you I’m sick, you’re a physician you’ve taken an oath just like I did and yours is take care of the sick and needy. I’m both. Just some broom closet off the traveled path will do, oh, and phone Bo and let him know I’m on a medical absence for, for, well, as long as it takes to discover what ails me and cure it.” Putting his hands on his hips John glowered at Michael, “To say that you owe me is to be very kind. Who covered for you with mom when you sent that ball careening through the picture window? Practically burned the house down when you’d been instructed NOT to touch the stove, I could go on.”

“Well, don’t, go on and tell mom. I have some stuff on you, you know this swings both ways, bro.”

“Yeah, what?”

“We’ll begin with carrying the torch for a woman that you may still have a chance with but at some point, brother, you have to—and really I’m so over this saying but it’s so damn true, STEP UP!! Yeah, it’ll take time to get what you had back but…”

“Shut up damn it Mike, there’s nothing to be said, and nothing can be undone. Everyone’s lives are different, we’ve all changed and I’m not carrying around any feelings beyond feeling bad that Evangeline and her family have had such a rough, rough time. I’m happy with Blair.”

“Ah yes, you scored big bouncing back into the social whirl with a real femme fatale on your arm and seemingly quite devoted to you. You both look like you’re having a really good time. Must be easy when no one’s heart’s on the love line since you’re both in love with other people, people who conveniently aren’t Llanview residents, so no day-by-day interface and trying to control what you really feel. Good and easy, not that Blair isn’t a blast; I’m in awe and a little scared of her myself. She’s a lot of woman; she’s just not Evangeline now is she?” Looking at his brother Michael choose not to call him on the struggle against pain, despair and even fear he saw in John’s eyes. And that hidden behind all that was a ragged well-worn hope, maybe; maybe there was still a chance for happiness, real happiness. “Go to the station John, you can’t hide from your life in the hospital. Go bust some bad guys, you’ll feel better.” Ignoring the whoosh and automated voice of the elevator banks Mikey stepped forward to offer John that hug he clearly needed.

“Excuse me doctor, but where is pediatrics? I took a wrong turn…Michael??!! It IS you, and John. So wonderful to see you both!” and Evangeline Williamson Jacks was in front of them smiling widely, reaching to hug them both laughing as she realized they couldn’t reach quite right over the stroller, then bending down to pick up a fidgeting baby John. Nestling her son’s head on her shoulder Van stepped around the stroller and they carefully hugged and kissed her then stepped back and gawked at her son.

“I know I know me with a kid, who would’ve imagined it in a million years?” Evangeline said as she beamed her happiness at them “Talk about a different turn in my life and outlook on the world! Let me introduce you to my boy here….”

John could see them and on some level he heard them and knew he was responding in an acceptable way but he was outside himself taking it in with a weird vision. Evangeline holding a baby whose blue eyes weren’t McBain blue after all but they were as luminous and large as his mother’s just like John had imagined their child’s eyes would be. And his skin WAS a Carmel-coated glaze with rich honey under tones just like John knew their son’s skin would be. But his hair was so blond it was almost platinum instead of such a dark brown to almost black. A truly compelling beautiful child that would grow into a devastatingly handsome man but probably not a silent brooder, Jax had been wide-open, laughing and carefree or so he seemed. And little John’s mother understood and embraced happiness.

John was aware of delicately shaking little John’s fingers by way of introduction, he caught the whiff of Evangeline’s perfume mixed with baby powder from the boy, a baby whose mom often held him and close to her body, an adored baby. John struggled back to the present as laughter erupted around him, “I think they’re having a stare-down, Michael,” said Van “Now that I think about it my John probably hasn’t met anyone with such intense blue eyes as your brother’s before, clearly they’re both fascinated by this.”

Then even the baby was gurgling and giggling at him and John released the tiny hand and tried to look anywhere but into his mother’s all-seeing eyes.

“You look good; you wear ‘baby’ very well.” John said softly his horse voice nearly faltered but Van didn’t give any indication of noticing, just smiled swiftly at him while turning her attention to Michael “I really do need to find pediatrics, he has a little eye infection and the plane ride wasn’t a happy one. I’d phoned to see a doctor…”

“Yeah, we moved some units around since you were here last, keep going down this hall and you’ll see…”

John knew he’d zoned out again when suddenly they were all saying goodbye and agreeing they needed to see each other before Evangeline and John left Llanview. John watched Van push the stroller in front of her as she kept her son nestled in the crook of her arm, his little head lifted from her shoulder as they walked away and he seemed to be staring at John then he gurgled again and waved a tiny hand his fingers splayed open in farewell.