Chapter 17

By sundown in Llanview, Nora realized it was a toss-up as to who was more crazed with anxiety Ė Lisa or John.

Lisa, who had barely been holding it together since her daughter disappeared the night before, came completely undone when Clay called from the beach house shortly after noon to say Evangeline hadnít been there. After watching John at LPD snapping like a pit bull with a burr up its ass, Nora stopped by Evangelineís apartment after work to see how Lisa was coping. There were lavender and cream threads all over the carpet where Lisa had been worrying to pieces a woven throw Evangeline kept on the sofa. Thinking that having a project might calm Lisa, she suggested they search Evangelineís desk and briefcase for clues. Sorting through the file folders, the two women were stunned when they found a pamphlet and print-outs from several websites on pregnancy.

Eyes flashing, hands trembling, Lisa turned an accusatory glare at Nora. "Did you know my baby was expecting?"

Nora gasped. "Mrs. Williamson, Iím as stunned as you are. But we donít know for certain Evangeline is pregnant. Maybe she wasÖmaybe she was thinking about getting pregnant. Maybe this is just research."

As soon as the words were out of Noraís mouth, both she and Lisa knew how false they sounded. Evangeline was a planner but she wasnít a woman who would plan to have a baby before she had a husband. Nora recalled Evangeline telling her she admired her stamina and cooperation with her ex raising Matthew. "All those years before you married Daniel, it must have been hard," Evangeline had said. "I donít think I could handle something like that."

Lisa started sobbing and shaking. "Lord, where is my child? What has happened to her?"

For several minutes Nora sat beside Lisa and held her, fighting back her own urge to run screaming over to the police station and wring John McBainís neck. If Evangeline was pregnant, Nora had no doubt he was the father. Had they fought over this? Could this be why Evangeline disappeared?

Lisa seemed to have absorbed Noraís thoughts. Suddenly she stopped crying and said in an icy voice, "Do you think John McBain is behind all of this?"

For a moment Nora struggled with what to say. How much could she safely reveal to her friendís mother? While she shared Lisaís suspicions, she knew that at heart John was a good man. If he knew Evangeline was carrying his child, she had no doubt heíd want to marry her. But for the sake of a child would Evangeline agree to marry a man who wouldnít tell her he loved her?

Nora took a deep breath. "IF Evangeline is pregnant, Iíd stake my life that John is the father. But in my gut I just donít think he knows any more than we do. Let me talk to him and see what I can find out."

The thought that John McBain would knock up her baby and leave her on her own enraged Lisa. But why wouldnít Cookie come to her if that was the case?

Lisa stood up and placed her hands on her hips. In that moment, Nora almost smiled because the gesture reminded her of Johnís favorite pose. "But perhaps Cookie and McBain fought over this pregnancy? Maybe thatís what they were talking about before she disappeared from the Palace."

Nora could see where Lisaís mind was going. "Mrs. Williamson, there have been some serious strains in Evangeline and Johnís relationship, but if he knew she was pregnant, he would stand by her. He has his issues, but he is a good man. Iím just not sure Evangeline would want to marry John as a result of an unplanned pregnancy."

Lisa was well aware of Evangelineís reluctance to marry. Her daughterís experiences handling divorce cases Ė and watching the disintegration of some of her cousinsí marriages Ė had made her altar-shy. But Lisa also knew Ė or she thought she knew -- that no daughter of hers would seriously consider bearing and raising a child out of wedlock. The thought that Evangeline was somewhere in hiding, thinking her way through this predicament alone saddened and angered Lisa, but that was better than imagining her dead or hostage to the madman who had been terrorizing Llanview.

"I could strangle John McBain for what heís put my baby through," Lisa hissed through gritted teeth. "Iím going with you."

Nora imagined Lisa bursting into LPD and accusing John of dishonoring her Cookie in front of everyone. No matter how angry either of them was at John at that moment, neither he nor Evangeline deserved to have something so personal released in public Ė especially if, as Nora suspected, John didnít have a clue.

Nora picked up her purse and headed for the door. "Please, Mrs. Williamson, I know youíre scared and furious and worried about Evangeline, but you need to stay here. I think it would be better if you let me handle this. You can tear off Johnís head after heís finished using it to find Evangeline. Believe me -- heís a wreck over this. Let me talk to Bo. Heíll know how to proceed with John. Iím sure weíll get to the bottom of this and have Evangeline home soon."

Hugging Nora as she was leaving, Lisa said, "Iím going to trust you on this. You do whatever it takes to find my girl."

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