By Clare Bautista
Jack walked into the Irish pub. It looked promising from the outside. He only hoped that it wasn't filled with couples celebrating Valentine's Day. Fortunately, as he glanced around, he saw that the people in this bar were mostly either single men or big groups of friends. Apparently, it wasn't the type of place for couples to hang out. Not on Valentine's Day anyway.
Sighing with relief, he made his way to the bar. It had been a long day and he was a long way from home. Boston was nice enough city, but it wasn't home and after the day he had, Jack could only wish was back in New York.
Unfortunately, he couldn't do that. He was stuck in Boston for at least one more day. He and the Boston deputy DA had their work cut out for them if they were to have any hope of pinning the murders in both their counties to one guy. Well that was what tomorrow was for. In the meantime, he was going to get himself a stiff Scotch.
The bartender, a tall, burly man with white hair approached him. "Hi there," the bartender said. "You're not from around here huh?"
"How did you know that?" Jack asked.
The bartender shrugged. "Just a wild guess."
Jack grinned. "Good guess. You're right, I'm from New York actually."
"New York huh? Must be a nice change of pace for you being here." The bartender commented.
"I wish. Except I'm here on business."
"That's too bad, I mean it being Valentine's and all."
"Yeah." Jack replied, but inside he was thinking he hadn't really had a Valentine's in almost six years...not since Claire.
"Well, I'm Max. I own this joint. What can I get you, buddy?"
Jack shook Max's hand and replied, "Jack. Nice place you got here, Max. And yeah, scotch. On the rocks."
"Welcome to Boston, Jack." Max said. "And I'll be right back with that Scotch of yours."
Jack looked around the bar while he waited for Max to come back with his drink. It was a nice place. Warm atmosphere. It was the type of place he'd probably become a regular, if he resided here in Boston.
Max came back with the drink and said, "Here you go, Jack."
"Thanks, Max. Can you start a tab?"
"Sure." Max replied jovially.
"You know my old man would have loved this place of yours."
"Yup. So you've been doing this a long time, Max?"
"Actually, I just bought the joint several months ago. I used to be a cop. When I retired, I found out that retirement isn't all it's cut out to be. So I bought the place."
"Ex-cop, eh?" Jack remarked, taking a drink of his Scotch. "How many years?"
"Thirty." Max told him.
"My old man was a cop, too. Chicago."
"I see. How about you Jack? What do you do back in New York?"
"I'm a lawyer. An ADA actually."
"Ah. A fellow civil servant."
"You got it."
"So what brings you..." Max stopped speaking when he was interrupted by someone behind Jack who said loudly, "Hey, Dad!"
Jack turned around to see the person who spoke and almost dropped his glass of Scotch as he laid eyes on her.
" Jordan!" Max greeted his daughter.
Jordan smiled at Jack, who was mute with disbelief, and leaned forward to kiss her father. "Hey, dad, how about a pint of Guinness for your favorite daughter."
"Favorite? Jordan, you're my only daughter."
Jordan laughed and replied, "Exactly."
"Sure." Max told her. "Oh by the way, Jordan this is Jack. Jack's from New York. Jack this is my daughter, Jordan."
"Hi there, Jack." Jordan turned, extending her hand.
Mutely, Jack accepted the handshake while Max said, "I'll be right back with the beer, Jordan. Try not to chase Jack away, all right?"
Jordan turned to Jack who was just staring at her. He still hadn't said a word. Jordan's smile faded and a puzzled look came to her face. "Jack, are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost!"
At her words, Jack shook himself out of his reverie and grabbed his Scotch. He downed the entire thing before he turned to Jordan and spoke his first words to her. "I'm sorry. I might as well have seen a ghost."
Jordan continued to look at him with a puzzled expression. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"I'm sorry. It's just...do you have a half-sister...or...I'm sorry that was rude of me."
Max came back with Jordan's beer. He saw Jordan's expression and Jack's pale face and asked, "Here's your beer, Jordan. Is everything okay here, Jack?"
"Thanks, Dad." Jordan told him, taking the beer from him. "I don't know, Jack was saying something about like seeing a ghost."
Max turned to Jack, an equally questioning look on his face.
Jack spoke up. "I'm sorry. But when Jordan walked in here...well, for once in my life, I don't think mere words would suffice to explain this."
Jordan and Max exchanged glances. "Explain what?" Max asked.
At his question, Jack pulled out his wallet. He opened it and took out a picture. He handed it to Jordan and said, "This."
Jordan took the picture, looked at it and her jaw dropped in disbelief. She was staring at what could be a picture of herself. Save for the fact that the girl had straight hair on the short side, she was Jordan's double. She stared at the picture for a long time and then at Jack.
Max observed Jordan's shock and knowing that it took a lot to shock his adventurous daughter, he took the picture from her. When he saw the picture, he did a double take. "What the? Jack, who is this?"
"Her name was Claire Kincaid." Jack told them.
"Hmmm, Irish, too." Max said.
Jordan looked at Jack and asked, "Was?"
"She died almost six years ago."
"I'm sorry." Jordan told him sincerely. "She was your wife?"
Jack shook his head sadly. "That's what she would have been, if she had lived. But no, a drunk driver made sure that didn't happen. She was my girlfriend and my assistant in the DA's office."
"She was hit by a drunk driver?" Max asked. "I hope they caught the bastard."
"Yeah, they did. But they only gave him 12 months."
"Twelve months for vehicular manslaughter?" Max's tone was incredulous.
"Yeah..." Jack's voice trailed off.
"Look," Jordan spoke up, "I think I'll just leave here. I don't want to remind you of painful memories, Jack. Dad, I'll just..."
"No, no, Jordan. It's okay." Jack interrupted her. "Really."
"Are you sure, Jack?"
"Yes. Jordan, you don't know but it's like you've brought her back to me, in a way, even though it's one night. And it isn't really her. But it brings up the good memories of her."
Jordan smiled. "Your sure, you're all right?"
"Yup. And are you certain you don't have a twin or even a cousin who looks like you?"
"None that I know of. But my Dad would probably know better."
Jack turned to Max in question and Max shook his head. "Sorry, Jack. But Jordan is the one and only. Thank God!"
Jordan swatted her Dad playfully in the arm. "Thanks a lot, Dad!"
Max snickered, "Don't mention it, Jordan."
Jack laughed and then said, "So Max, how about another Scotch? And why don't you pour yourself one too --- on me."
"Thanks. I'll do that." Max walked off to get them another round.
"So, Jordan, what do you do?" Jack asked.
"Me? I'm a medical examiner."
"Must be tough, huh?" Jack commented.
"Yeah, it is tough at times. But I can hold my own." Jordan replied, snickering.
Jack grinned and replied, "I'm sure you can."
Max came back with the drinks then and the three of them toasted. "Happy Valentine's to all!"
"Huh?" Jordan grunted. "What's so good about it? Modern life is such rubbish now that it makes so-called special days like these meaningless."
Jack glanced at Max and said, "Max, you've got a very optimistic daughter here."
Max rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Don't mind her, Jack. She only says that because she chases away every guy who becomes interested in her."
Jordan stuck her tongue out at her dad, making both Jack and Max laughed. "So, Max, you have a wife?"
At his question, Jordan looked down at the floor, and Max's laugh immediately stopped. He took a long sip of his Scotch and then replied, "Yeah, once. She died when Jordan was just ten."
"Never married again?"
"Nope." Max said.
"So we're practically the singles club here tonight, eh?" Jack said, trying to cheer up things a bit again.
"That's right! And it's damn fun to be single!" Jordan said emphatically, raising her pint of Guinness. "To the single life!"
The two men raised their glasses to and seconded her toast. "To the single life!"
They drank again and then Jack asked, "So Jordan, do you play darts?"
"Are you kidding?" Jordan answered. "Of course, I'm the best!"
Max said dryly, "Let it never be known that you are a modest girl, Jordan."
Jordan laughed while Jack said, "No, I like that. I'm the best, too. Want to play a game?"
"Sure...get ready to be beaten." Jordan told him.
"Not if I can help it," Jack said.
"A challenge. I love it." Jordan jumped out of her barstool and said, "Let's go!"
"How about you, Max?" Jack invited.
"You two go ahead, I gotta tend bar here." Max waved them away.
Jordan grinned and then taking Jack by the arm, she started pulling him to the boards.
"Oh my God! Is that the time?" Jack looked at his watch that seemed to say that it was almost 1:30 am.
"Yup, it is." Jordan said.
"I have to get going." Jack told her. "I have an early day tomorrow."
"Aww, no more darts for the night? Afraid if we go on long enough, I'll beat ya?" Jordan teased.
Jack grinned. "Nope, I just have work early tomorrow. But if you're ever in New York, Jordan, look me up and I'll take you up on that challenge."
"All right, I will."
Jack paid Max his tab and told Max, "Hey, Max, it was nice to meet you. Look me up if you're ever in New York."
"You never told me your last name, Jack." Max replied. "How would I be able to look you up?"
"Oh, yeah. It's McCoy, Jack McCoy."
"All right, Jack McCoy." Max told him. "By the way, how are you going to get back to your hotel."
"I have a car outside that I rented."
"Oh no, you're not driving with the number of drinks you've had. Why don't you let Jordan drive your car and take you to your hotel. She can take a cab from wherever you are staying."
"Yeah, Jack, that's a good idea." Jordan seconded.
"Nah, I'll be fine. I don't want to trouble you, Jordan." Jack declined.
"No, Jack. Seriously, it's not a problem. I know you're not really drunk, but it's still not a good idea for you to drive." Jordan put her foot down.
Jack looked at Max and Jordan and he knew that they were good people then. He took the keys out of his pocket and gave them to Jordan. "Thanks."
"Jordan, call me when you get home." Max told his daughter. "Just to let me know you're safe. All right?"
"Yes, daddy." Jordan said, kissing him goodbye.
"Bye, Jack." Max said.
"Why are you so quiet?" Jordan asked Jack as she drove him to the Holiday Inn he was staying in.
Jack looked at Jordan, still amazed by how much she looked like Claire, his Claire. He smiled and replied, "Nothing, I just had a sense of deja vu, actually."
"How so?" Jordan asked.
"Well.... Claire was..." His voice trailed off and he looked away, out the window.
"If it's too painful, Jack, you don't have to say anything." Jordan said.
"Thank you." Jack replied gratefully.
The rest of the ride to Jack's hotel, they spent in silence. Finally they got there, parked the car and Jack walked Jordan to the front of the hotel to get a cab. As they waited, Jack turned to Jordan, "I'm sorry for being so quiet in the car. I hope you didn't think I was being rude."
Jordan shook her head and said, "No. Jack, it's okay. I understand. No need to apologize or explain."
Jack gazed at her hazel eyes and fought hard to remember that she wasn't Claire. He sighed and then he began to speak. "You know, on the night she was killed, she was supposed to pick me up in a bar not unlike your dad's. But I was an impatient bastard and I left. When she got there, I was gone but our friend Lennie was still there. And he was drunk, too. Claire offered to take him home. And that was when it happened."
Jordan looked at him intently, listening. She didn't say anything, she just waited for him to continue. Jack didn't disappoint her. "It was my fault she was killed Jordan, if she hadn't gone to that bar to pick me up, if I had waited for her...."
"...then things would be different and they wouldn't be the same, Jack." Jordan interrupted his litany of what ifs and looked at him directly in the eye. " It was an accident. Accidents happen, Jack and they aren't anyone's fault. You can't put the blame on yourself. You can't feel guilty for the rest of your life."
Jack met her gaze. "I know. And you know you'll find it strange, but I actually want to thank you. You've been more help than you could possibly imagine."
"This is exactly what she was supposed to do that night. Take me home. And when you did do that tonight, it was like being given a second chance to do what I didn't do that night. To stay, to say yes to a ride home --- instead of being stubborn, instead of thinking her being late was a sign that she was blowing me off. Thank you, Jordan...uh...."
"Cavanaugh," she told him.
"Cavanaugh. Nice name. Thank you, Jordan Cavanaugh, for allowing me to do the things I should have done 6 years ago." Jack's voice was gentle and held a tone of gratitude.
"No problem, Jack."
A cab pulled up to the curb then and Jordan said, "Well, this is me. Good luck, Jack. If you're ever in Boston again, please do see us."
"I will." Jack promised.
"It's passed midnight, but still Happy Valentine's, Jack." She took a step forward and gave Jack a kiss on the cheek. Then, with one last look at Jack, she got in the cab and left.
Jack stood at the side of the road, until he could no longer see her cab. Then he looked heavenwards, smiling and whispered. "Happy Valentine's."
A smile still on his face, he turned around and entered the hotel.