Evelyn banged on the vending machine that was refusing to disgorge her coffee. The familiar sounds of a busy police station filled her ears, making it hard to think. She closed her eyes, trying to tune out the noise.
She trusted Paul. She did. Besides, the police had already chased down the most promising lead they had among known sex offenders, and they'd found a whole lot of nothing. Redirecting them to track down Paul's hunch made sense. Paul's hunches had an uncanny tendency to be more accurate than most people's educated guesses. He had a keen intuition and insight into people's motivations and emotional states - if he thought Matty had been kidnapped by a woman grieving the loss of her own son, then he was probably right.
And she trusted Paul. She just had to keep reminding herself that.
They'd find Matty. They would.
God, her baby...!
A strong hand captured her own, preventing her from punching the abused vending machine once again. She dimly realized that her hand ached, sending a dull, throbbing tide of pain up her arm.
"Evie, are you all right?"
"I'm fine," she said automatically, then took a deep breath and consciously willed herself to relax. "I'm fine." She opened her eyes.
"Are you?" Alva was watching her with kind, concerned eyes, and if Alva was fussing over her, she must be in pretty bad shape.
She considered the question. "Well. I'm scared, angry, worried that I just sent the police on a wild goose chase, and terrified that I'll never see Matty again. But, other than that--"
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
She smiled. "Something like that." She rubbed her forehead and her brief smile faded away like it had never been. "God, Alva, what am I going to do if--" Her voice broke.
"Shhh, it's all right," Alva said, and quickly ushered her to a nearby bench and helped her sit down. "Let's get you that coffee. The heat and the sugar will help." He went to the vending machine, punched a button, and out came her coffee, simple as that. "Here you are, nice and hot."
She took the cardboard cup from him and cupped her cold hands around its warmth gratefully. "Thank you." She sipped at the beverage. It tasted awful, but in a comforting, familiar way - cop shop coffee always tasted awful.
Alva was watching her closely. "Evie...I know you're probably finding it difficult to trust Paul right now--"
She cut him off. "No, I do. I do trust him. What I said earlier, about him not being safe...I'm not at my most rational right now. But I do trust him. This wasn't his fault."
"He doesn't think so."
"That doesn't surprise me. He thinks everything is his fault." She took another sip of her bad cop coffee, and grimaced at the bitter flavor. "But, Alva...this is going to sound awful, but I just don't have the energy to worry about Paul right now. He's a grown man, he can take care of himself." Matty can't, she didn't say, but she knew Alva heard it anyway.
He laid a gentle hand on her arm. "Evie...do you want to know how Paul came by his information?"
She hesitated, distracted. "I was wondering about that."
He regarded her steadily. "Tommy told him."
"What? Tommy? Paul saw him again?"
She put her coffee cup down. "I thought communication between the living and the dead was difficult and usually came out distorted. That's why Tommy couldn't be more clear at the park."
"Yes, that's true. So Paul--" He couldn't finish.
Evelyn suddenly realized that she did have the energy to worry about Paul after all. Worry seemed to be a never-ending resource, much to her dismay. She was sick to death of worry, sick of feeling cold and small and helpless. "What did he do? Alva? What did Paul do?"
"He killed himself." Evelyn gasped, her hand flying to her mouth, shocked at how unsurprised she was. Alva continued unsteadily, "He lowered his body temperature with a bath of ice, and then a doctor friend of mine administered a cocktail of drugs that stopped his heart. He was dead for four minutes before we were able to bring him back." His voice wobbled.
"And you let him? Alva, how could you! Why didn't you stop him?"
Alva rose to his feet, eyes blazing. "And how do you propose I do that? If I'd denied him my help, he would have done it on his own! He was so determined to fix this, to find Matty. He would have gone off who knows where and stuck a, a needle in his arm, and who knows if he would have come back to us? I couldn't...Evie, I couldn't let--"
Evelyn was on her feet without remembering standing up. She reached out with trembling hands and pulled Alva into an embrace. He shook under her touch, but his cheeks were dry. "It's all right, Alva," she murmured. "I understand. I get it. It's okay. Shhh." He made a strange, choked sound and pressed his face against her neck, hiding from the world. She stroked lazy, calming circles on his back -- just like she did for Matty after a nightmare, she realized, and had to close her eyes. "God, he's an idiot," she said, and recognized the unshed tears in her voice.
That surprised a weak laugh out of Alva. "And we love him for it," he said into her shoulder. His breath ghosted over the bare skin of her neck just above the edge of her collar, hot and moist.
For the first time all this long, agonizing day, she felt warm. "Yes," she said. "We do." She ran a hand over his head, smoothing his hair, and felt him give a small, almost inaudible sigh. His hands had been hanging loose at his sides, like he was unsure what to do with them; now he brought them up and around her and, in an uncharacteristically tentative gesture, hugged her back. "We'll just have to make sure he knows that. I don't think he does."
"Yes," Alva said, voice still muffled against her.
She stroked his hair again. After a moment, she said, voice quiet, "Alva...you know, don't you?" He made an inquiring sound, but didn't move. "That we...love you, too."
Evelyn quailed momentarily, but then thought of Matty - her sweet beautiful boy - thought of how she might not be able to say these words to him ever again, and she felt ashamed of the fear that would prevent her from saying them now to this man. "We do." Her voice was shaky, but the words were clear enough, so she pressed on. "I do. I love you, Alva. You're my dearest friend."
A moment passed, and she thought he wasn't going to respond at all. Then he pulled away and looked at her. His face was pale, eyes intense, full of some emotion Evelyn didn't know how to read. She hadn't ever seen that particular look in his eyes before. "Thank you," he said, and touched her face, fingertips soft as a kiss.
She smiled back at him, and felt the stirrings of hope.
Then Alva cleared his throat, and the moment passed. "Well," Evelyn said. "I should probably go talk to Paul before he spontaneously combusts with worry over there."
"That might be a good idea," Alva said, but he caught her hand when she turned to go. "Evie," he said.
"I - we will get him back, you know. We'll get Matty back."
She nodded, honestly believing him. "I know," she said, and went to find Paul.