Prisoners by Samina_Blink

Chapter 15

When Evangeline Williamson disappeared from the Woman of the Year banquet, rumors rippled through the crowd, but the band kept playing and people kept dancing and drinking. Even though Todd killed the article on her unplanned "vacation" and John’s APB, bits of the story made their way into the rumor mill and plenty in the audience figured this was just more of the same: lady legal eagle unmasked as a drama mama. Some, like Dorian Lord Vickers, were even pleased by this seeming confirmation of their suspicions that Evangeline Williamson really was too good to be true.

Of course, Lisa and Clay, who had never heard the whole story of Evangeline’s flight to Grace’s and the turmoil it set off in Llanview, were furious when Bo Buchanan told them he would have to wait 48 hours before issuing a search alert for their "Cookie". They couldn’t imagine what would make Evangeline willingly walk away from her big night: she was too much in control, too respectful of ceremony to disappoint her family and the event organizers.

Before Lisa could scream the Palace down, Nora took her to a suite and told her what she knew about the last time Evangeline had disappeared. Armed with a focus for her rage, Lisa demanded that John be brought to her. If he wasn’t responsible for her daughter’s flight from the Palace, she was going to hold him responsible for bringing her back.

When he left Evangeline on the terrace, John headed back to his apartment to change out of his evening wear. Feeling lucky to have had a few moments alone with her, blessed that she had let him close enough to clasp the pearls around her lovely neck, he hadn’t wanted to push the situation and decided to leave the Palace on a high note. He was about to leave for the LPD when Nora rang his cell.

"John? It’s Nora. Have you seen Evangeline this evening?"

"Hey Nora. Why do you ask?"

Caught between Evangeline’s nearly hysterical mother and her cagey ex, Nora Colson found her patience wearing thin. "John, just answer the question."

John still hadn’t forgotten how Nora had slapped him upside the head the day Evangeline returned to the LPD in handcuffs, but he was taken aback by the sharpness of her tone. "Yeah…we spoke for a few minutes on the terrace tonight."

Nora glanced at Lisa and wandered into the next room – "Mrs. Williamson, I’m just heading over here to get better reception." Her voice dropped to a whisper:

"What did you say to her? We can’t find her anywhere. She’s been missing for over an hour. Her mother is in the next room and she’s about to lose it. This is no time to be coy, McBain."

"What do you mean you can’t find her?"

"You heard me the first time. I was in the middle of introducing her award when I got word she was nowhere to be found. I vamped for several minutes while people searched the grounds and the ladies rooms, but there wasn’t a trace of her anywhere. We’ve called her home, her cell, her office, nothing. It’s not like her to just vanish."

"Well, it’s not the first time this has happened."

"Come on, John – that was because you hurt her. What did you do to her tonight?"

John thought about what Nora was saying. She was right: it wasn’t like Evangeline to leave a room full of people waiting. She glowed in the spotlight – that was a trait he didn’t share. But had their encounter on the terrace really been enough to make her run again?

"We didn’t talk for long. She tried to return the pearls I gave her for her birthday and I told her to keep them. I guess you could say it was an emotional moment, but she didn’t seem like she was in a mood to leave her own party."

"What do you mean ‘an emotional moment’?" Nora fought to keep her voice and temper in check.

John sighed. He knew he was in deep shit as far as Nora was concerned. "Look, there was no yelling. We didn’t really argue. It was the first time we’d seen each other since she…since she broke up with me and it was tough on both of us. She let me fasten the pearls around her neck and then I left her on the terrace. I didn’t go there to upset her – the last thing I want is to hurt her anymore than I already have."

"Then what were you doing at the Palace in the first place?"

"I had to see her."

Nora silently counted to ten before responding. She was sick of John’s weak-assed behavior towards her best friend. If he couldn’t give her the love she deserved, why wouldn’t he leave her in peace?

"Well, now you have to see her mother. Lisa Williamson is beside herself. You may have been the last one to see Evangeline and she wants some answers."

John wasn’t sure if the sinking feeling that came over him was because he was afraid something had happened to Evangeline or of having to face her beautiful, imperious mother. He swallowed hard. "Okay, I’ll be there in ten."

* * * * *

Early the next morning.

Even though his niece’s car was still in the apartment garage, Clay set off for Grace’s beach cottage on the off chance Evangeline had hired a car service to return her to a place where she’d recently sought solace. He was furious that the podunk Llanview police wouldn’t issue a search warrant until she had been missing 48 hours. He didn’t care that she’d run off earlier in the month – anyone who really knew Evangeline knew she never would have left an event in her honor without making some kind of apology. Wanting to show Lisa someone was willing to search for their girl, he slept a couple of hours before taking off for the coast.

Brittle with worry and anger, Lisa kept a lonely vigil in Evangeline’s apartment, watching the sun rise and wondering where her child had spent the night. She prowled like a caged wildcat, unable to light for more than a few minutes at a time. She saw the matched set of burnt orange Tumi luggage and the Kate Spade weekender in Cookie’s hall closet. She fingered her daughter’s perfume bottles and straightened the evening shoes she’d left in a pile near the chaise in her bedroom. She thought back to just a few hours before when they were getting ready to go to the Palace. She’d gasped when she saw Evangeline in Grace’s Adrian goddess gown. Lisa loved both her girls, but her first-born was everything she’d ever dreamed of: beautiful, bright, talented, generous and ambitious. And so good. Evangeline had never given her a sleepless night. Until now. Tears streaking her lovely, dark cheekbones, Lisa ran her hand over the pillows on Cookie’s bed – too cool and plump for this hour of the


She thought about the flare of anxiety she’d seen in John McBain’s eyes when he came to her at the Palace. Those eyes. Is that what had attracted Cookie to this closed off man, some promise she imagined in those pale blue eyes? Why couldn’t she have fallen for a brown-eyed man like her daddy, or the parade of beaus who had followed her home, or even that charming Kevin Buchanan?

Even though John tried to say all the right things, she knew he was as sure as she was that there was something wrong with Cookie just vanishing the way she did. She’d noticed her teary eyes and how on edge she’d seemed at the beginning of their visit. But by the time Kevin Buchanan’s limo arrived, her daughter was poised and glorious. Now that she’d heard the back story behind Cookie’s earlier flight – and how that made it even harder to get the police to waive the 48-hour rule – she was livid with John McBain. But she also recognized that he was the most powerful person in Llanview to share her fears. She had no doubt he was using whatever sources and influence he had to track down her Cookie.

If she could have seen John McBain at that early hour, Lisa’s faith would have been confirmed. When he hadn’t been able to convince Bo to let him issue an APB, he’d spent the night monitoring police and hospital calls within a 100-mile radius. He’d called area hospitals and hotels, looking for anyone matching Evangeline’s description, but nothing. And when he’d done all he could on the phone and the Internet, he’d driven around for hours, retracing the circuit he’d traveled nearly three weeks earlier when he last thought he’d lost her. As the sun broke over Llanview, the sense of dread grew inside of him like hunger. There was still a killer on the loose – but was there a connection between the Killing Club and Evangeline? Or had he really upset her so badly she’d gone back into hiding?

Across town at the Palace, a janitor swept a crushed fuschia camellia from the terrace. He didn’t notice the single pearl caught in the bristles of his broom.