Chapter 23

Before he locked her in for the rest of the night, Hallam told Evangeline, "Killing time is right around the corner." Then he threw the bolt on the door at the top of the stairs and shut out the light.

Evangeline’s mind and heart were racing. She could still smell the death coming out of Hallam’s pores. The back of her scalp ached where he had grabbed her by the hair. She remembered how tenderly John would cradle the back of her head, burying his hands in her hair. She recalled the desperation in John’s voice – "Just tell me where you are" – and felt the tears welling up again. Hallam saw her as a trophy and as bait. He planned to chalk up her murder as another victory in his private race war, but he also planned to use her to lure John to his death. "Ha! I’m such a twofer!" she thought bitterly. The sick joke shifted a gear in her head. She clenched her fist and took deep breaths. As her mind began to clear, she could hear her mother saying, "God gave you that big brain for a reason. Now use it."

When she could no longer hear Hallam moving around overhead, she felt her way over to the freezer chest and propped the door all the way open. A wedge of white light illuminated two thirds of the dank room. In the gloom she could see a glint of reflected light bouncing off the bare bulb hanging from a cord in the ceiling. If she could put out the light, she might have a chance to ambush Hallam.

Still wearing the silver high-heeled sandals she’d had on the night she was stolen from the Palace, Evangeline was nearly six feet tall. But the bulb swung at least another four feet over her head. She couldn’t reach the plate where it was wired into the ceiling. Her only hope was to break the bulb.

She glanced around for something to throw at the bulb. Hallam had done a good job of sweeping the room for potential weapons. She pulled off her sandals, held one by the toe and aimed it spike first at the bulb. The shoe grazed the wire and sent the bulb swinging wildly. The shoe thudded softly against the packed earth floor. She held her breath, listening for some movement overhead. Nothing. When the bulb hung still again, she flung the other shoe, this time missing the wire completely. She had been a good basketball player in junior high and she still played horse with John from time to time, but this was a lot harder than throwing a big ball into a bigger hoop. The cold crept up through her bare feet and she plunged her hands into her pockets to still the shivering. Her fingers closed around something cool and heavy and solid in the right pocket of the filthy barn jacket she was wearing. She pulled out the bullet. How many times had she clenched it in her fist, wishing she’d had a gun to wrap around it? The bullet was about the size of a green OB tampon. Definitely hard enough to break a light bulb. But if she threw it and missed, she’d never be able to find it in the dark recesses of the basement.

She started humming, "Jesus is on the main line…." She shrugged off the jacket so her arm could move freely, took a good look at the glinting reflection and aimed the bullet at the bulb. The faint "crink" of the thin glass shattering, then the clunk of the bullet as it bounced on the floor. "Yes!" she whispered, leaping skyward, fists in the air. She patted her belly, looked down and said, "Baby, your mama’s got mad game!"

* * * * *

Before Dennis or Bo could stop him John was on Randall Muxworthy like a tiger on a hare. He flung open the door to Bo’s office and leapt at Randall, who was sitting in a chair. Randall fell backwards in the chair, John straddling him and grabbing him by the collar. "Who are you working with you lying sack of shit!" John hollered. "What have you done with my woman!"

Randall stared up in horror. He was still trying to get his mind around the DNA report and that strange meeting with his father several hours earlier. Over Lt. McBain’s shoulder he could see Commissioner Buchanan and Dennis Lloyd trying to pull John off of him. "McBain! McBain! What’s gotten into you?" Bo yelled. Dennis grabbed John around the waist and Randall was able to roll away, gasping for air.

John jabbed a hard elbow into Dennis’s ribs to break his hold. "Get off of me!" He reached for his cell phone and held it up. "Whoever has her just made her call me. She’s alive."

"Did you get a trace on it?" Dennis asked. John looked at him like he wanted to smack him.

"No. No I didn’t have a chance to hook up a trace on my cell. She wasn’t on that long."

Bo helped Randall to his feet. "John, what did she say? Anything we can use?"

John’s eyes were rimmed with red and his hair was wild. His shirt was hanging out of his pants and he looked like he was halfway to Bedlam. When he spoke, his voice was as deep as hell: "Someone forced her to sing ‘Rockabye Baby’. Someone knows she’s pregnant. What do you know about this Muxworthy?"

Randall swallowed hard, remembering hearing Natalie Vega quizzing a couple of the detectives about the rumor that Evangeline Williamson was pregnant. Before he could answer, there was a knock on the door. It was Natalie with a file.

"Natalie, not now…" Bo began in exasperation.

"But Uncle Bo, it’s from the DNA lab," she said handing him the file. She glanced at John and Randall breathing hard in their respective corners, and backed out the door without another word.

Bo pulled the two-sheet report out of the manila envelope marked "Urgent". The room was silent as he scanned the secondary results.

He glanced up at Randall. "Says here they found cancer cells in the phlegm samples on the dress. Does this make any sense to you?"

Randall went white under his tan. Dennis could almost see the pieces sliding into place in his old partner’s mind. But what was he thinking?

Randall reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief clotted with his father’s black sputum. He recalled the brittle feel of his shoulder and the way he’d seemed so ready to attack that Latina waitress. Hallam was dying. Did he love the man? He couldn’t say, but the realization that he might have seen his father for the last time sent a cold wind blowing through his soul. And what had Hallam said to him about the Williamson case? Hallam’s words floated back to him: "If you could get a break on this case, is that the kind of thing that could get you promoted to detective?"

Was Hallam behind all this mayhem? Had he set it up thinking he was helping his only living son?

"Oh Jesus," Randall whispered, holding out the soiled handkerchief. "I’m afraid my father is behind all this."