Jack awakened to a crisp clean morning. The tiles of the kitchen floor were cold under his feet as he went to make coffee for he and Eva. It was clouding up to the north. He studied them through the window a moment hoping it wouldn’t rain for the morning commute. He helped Eva get Jeffrey ready for pre-school, their usual mad, half panicked rush to get out the door and off to work and school. At the sidewalk, Jeffrey holding tightly to his mother’s hand, they said goodbye as they did every morning. He kissed Eva quickly then ran a hand across Jeffrey’s wild curly blond hair and kissed the top of his hair.
“Have fun today, champ,” he told the boy,” and I’ll see you tonight, okay?”
“Dad, how come you have to go to work all the time?” Jeffrey asked innocently.
Jack knelt and gave him a hug, feeling himself swept up in a wave of emotion. “I wish I knew sometimes, pal. But I’ll think of you all day, and I can’t wait to see you tonight.”
“Me too,” the boy replied.
Jack stood and kissed Eva, exchanging all too quick “I love yous” quickly and turned up the street. At the corner he paused and looked back at them, but they were already gone. With a sigh he started for the bus stop.
Jack made the bus and then caught the El right away, marveling at his good luck. The train was crowded as usual, but he managed a single seat near the back of the car. As the city went by in a mottled blur of dreary and tarnished hues Jack’s attention was on his phone, checking work emails to get ahead of the day a bit. He was almost downtown when the phone rang. It was Eva.
“Hi, babe,” said Jack, unsuspecting.
“Jack, oh my god!” there was a strange tone to Eva’s voice. It sounded like, well, betrayal. “Jack, the police are here. A lot of police.”
“What?” he replied, disbelieving. “Police?”
“Jack, they found things.”
“Money, drugs…a gun. My god, Jack, what is going on?”
The words hit him like a brick. “ Where? Eva, I have no id…”
Eva’s voice rose with emotion and nominally restrained rage. “We have a child! Jack, you need to come home right now and face this.
Jack’s thoughts erupted into a million shards, scattered and confused. He almost felt dizzy, and found himself sweating suddenly.
“Eva, you know me. How long have we been married? And Jeffrey? How could I risk all that?”
“There was a phone with the gun hidden in the plant under the window. They said there are numbers for massage parlors and more on that.”
All of this thundered in Eva’s mind, charging at her rationality, swirling like a hurricane driven by a thousand different emotions. But she knew this man, probably better than she knew himself. Not that this didn’t quickly have her questioning all of that, but something about it all gave Eva enough pause, enough to give Jack at least the benefit of a doubt, shrinking though that was at the moment. Maybe it was a quality to his voice or their history, but it was, at least for the moment, impossible to abandon him completely.
“You have to believe…how could I…?”
Eva’s voice lowered to a whisper, as if she’d turned away from someone. Jack could almost picture her surrounded by angry police officers. “Jack, do you swear to me that you didn’t do this?”
“Eva, I swear on my life.” He could hear men talking in the background.
“How would all of this…where did all this come from?”
There were more voices behind her, urging her to something.
“I don’t know, Eva, but I’m being set up.”
“I don’t know that either, but I have an idea where I can start looking.” He paused. “But if I come home now they’ll take me to jail and…”
Eva’s voice settled and was deadly serious and absolute. “Jack the police want you to come home. But if what you are saying is true, Jeffrey and I will be okay.”
He knew exactly what she was saying, but still it destroyed his heart. The line went dead. The phone rang again a moment later, and Jack knew that it was the police. They’d be tracking him soon enough through the phone. Steeped in privacy and civil rights issues, he knew a thousand ways the state could track someone electronically. He thought a moment as the train began pulling into the Wells Street station. Suddenly his thoughts settled and were crystal clear. Jack stood and headed for the door as it opened. There was a woman by the door chattering away on her cell phone. Her shoulder bag was open enough that Jack dropped his phone inside without alerting her. His ipad was next to go in the trashcan on the corner beside the station.
A patrol car passed. He doubted they were looking for him, at least not yet. Jack shoved his hands in his pockets as it went by. Quite by accident his gaze met the officer’s and he managed a non descript smile and as casual a nod as he could muster. when is turned the corner and was gone, he allowed himself to breathe again.
In a few hours, and with a bit of luck he would disappear into the underbelly of the city. From there he’d find a way of clearing his name and getting back to his family. Above all he would find out who and why had done this to him. For now, going underground was of paramount concern.