"Would you look at that…"
Jake slowly raised his head from where it had been hidden in his hands. In his preoccupation with his own thoughts he had missed his brother's coming in altogether, and any inkling of why he had come in the first place. Yet, there was Elwood, standing with his back to Jake and looking through the viewing window.
"Elwood?" Jake asked after a moment, still scarcely believing that he was there. "What are you doing here?"
"Lookin' at your kid," Elwood answered, deadpan as always. "Like you should be."
"I've seen it," said Jake, sighing and shaking his head.
Elwood turned back. "Jake. She's your daughter."
The severe tone caught Jake off guard. In their younger years, he had never heard the emotion in his brother's voice go far above mildly reproachful, and even then, it was rare. Elwood was the one who held it together, and Jake was wild and crazy for both of them. It had been over ten years since they had seen eachother last, but of course, that had been Jake as well. Elwood had been turned out of the slammer after the usual year or two, but Jake had earned himself another six months for a brawl. And in those six months, it seemed his brother had made a stranger out of himself. Quit his stint at the taser factory for a nuclear plant upstate, and moved out of the shared apartment. At one point, there was even the rumor of a girlfriend named Cheryl. He only knew what Elwood had told him in the letters. At least that hadn't changed. Needless to say, the matching black suit his brother still donned was a small comfort.
"Elwood…" Jake repeated, "What are you…how did you…?"
Elwood chuckled, moving and sitting down across from him. "Little old crazy lady making her rounds."
Jake frowned. "The one with the shopping cart?"
"That's the one."
"Why isn't she dead?" Jake grumbled.
"Well anyway, she told me right where you'd be," Elwood went on. "See, she was worried about your girlfriend-" he broke off, uncomfortably. "Since you got her knocked up and all. Didn't want Carrie to be raising the kid on her own."
"Busybody…" Jake muttered.
"So she figured a 'nice young man' like me might be able to help, 'specially since I was kin…"
Jake laughed out loud. "It's lucky she's got no idea who you are, man."
Jake looked up again. Elwood was being serious. Like the change in vocal emotion, true seriousness was not something that occurred often for his big brother.
"Elwood, come on, what's with you?" Jake winced in his confusion. "Yeah, I fucked up and everything, but what's with the lecture? Isn't this where we usually, you know, blow the joint?"
Elwood sighed. "Jake, there are things in life that can be avoided with a hit and run, like we used to do. But this ain't one of 'em."
"What do you mean, "this"?"
"I mean your kid."
"Yeah right, my kid."
"Jake, that kid's just as much yours as Carrie's."
Jake smirked. "Nice, Elwood. Did Cheryl teach you that one?"
Elwood's face clouded over. He hesitated, but didn't speak.
Jake shook his head. "I'm sorry man, I didn't mean to do that. It's just-" he raised his hands slightly, and then dropped them. "I don't know what it is."
Elwood frowned, then spoke again. "Where is Carrie?"
"Don't know that, either." Jake jerked a thumb towards the exit door. "Some feds came and took her out after the doctors went to clean Callie."
Elwood raised an eyebrow. "Callie?"
"Yeah, that's her name." Jake sounded proud in spite of himself. "Calloway Curtis. After Blanche and Cab Calloway, and then-"
"Our mentor," Elwood finished for him. "He'd like that he's someone's middle name."
"Yeah." Jake chuckled. "I'd like to think she'll grow up to have better luck than us."
"Different," Elwood corrected. "'Cause our luck wasn't bad."
Jake took off his hat to scratch his head. "I wonder if she'll even like music…?"
Elwood grinned. "Bon Jovi and LL Cool J."
"Don't threaten me." Jake gave a relenting sigh. "Which one is she?"
Elwood stood up again, casting a look over his shoulder to make sure Jake was following him. He pointed. "Right in the middle."
Jake squinted, and then took off the dark shades. "She's asleep."
"Sleeps through anything, just like her old man, eh?"
Jake smiled again. "Sure enough." He looked back over at his brother. "How can you see anything through those?"
Elwood tapped the frames. "Prescription." He put his hands in his pockets. "When they're off, I have these really thick straight-up ones. Feel a little weird in 'em, but no one's recognized me yet."
Jake grimaced. "Why's that a problem? Didn't they let you off?"
"Yeah, they did. On parole. I broke it four and a half months ago. Wandered out one night to hit the town and forgot about the house arrest." He shook his head silently, then continued. "The beeper went off in the middle of the street. Thought I was done for. Then some chick drags me down a back alley, whips out a handgun and shoots the thing off me."
Jake raised his eyebrows. "Shot it off? Just like that?" He turned his eyes toward the viewing window again. "Gotta have dead aim…"
"Turns out she was a cadet cop. Name was Cheryl Steiner."
Jake didn't look at him. "Cheryl."
"Yeah, that was her. And it didn't end well."
"What does, with us?" Jake flicked a glance towards the staff room door. Seeing it stationary for the moment, he lit a cigarette. "But anyway, what'd you do?"
Elwood shrugged. "She told me once she got out of police school she'd want something more to protect than a ne'er-do-well boyfriend. You know what that means, don'cha?"
Jake blew out a puff of smoke. "Wouldn't be here if I didn't."
"So I made a run for it. She knew where I worked, where we lived…"
Jake stared at him. "So you ran off because of a chick?"
"That's another difference, Jake." Elwood's voice defensively quickened. "A chick with a gun is much different than a chick without."
Jake sighed. "Like I said, wouldn't be here if I hadn't figured that out." He extinguished the cigarette on the arm of one of the chairs. "So why'd you have to do it like that? Should've broken up with her the old-fashioned way, you're a classy guy…"
Elwood looked at him. "If I'm classy, you're the goddamn Continental." His hand closed protectively around the harmonica in his pocket. "At least now you've got something to go for, now that we're out of the business."
Jake sighed heavily. "You'd better tell me what that is."
Elwood frowned. "What are you talking about, Jake?"
"I'm giving Callie to Mother Mary."
His brother was frozen for a moment. "…What?"
"She's gonna go up for adoption, Elwood. That's the only way she has a shot."
Elwood's brow furrowed. "But…you named her."
"Elwood, come on. You think I'm father material? No freaking way…" Jake couldn't bring himself to look his brother in the eye. "The name's the best I could give her. What chance does the kid have in the world when her old man's a wanted criminal with bad habits?"
"Depends on the old man."
Jake looked at him warily. "You want a kid, Elwood?"
Elwood gave a short, uncomfortable laugh. "I didn't mean me, Jake."
Jake laughed too. "I know, man." He punched him on the shoulder. "I was joking!"
There was a silence again, and then Elwood dropped his hands to his sides.
"So that's how it is."
"You're gonna leave her here at the baby drop for Mother Mary, just like your folks did with you. And mine did with me."
Jake winced at the unexpected sting. "Hey, bro-"
"You're just leaving her there…"
"Elwood, there's nothing I can do." Jake's fear and stress was becoming too much, but he held it in best he could for his brother's sake. "Her mom ain't around and I sure as hell can't take care of a kid. The penguin didn't kill us, and at least with a baby, she can see it as an improvement."
"Jake, that ain't funny."
"Didn't mean it to be."
Outside, the two suddenly heard the approaching wail of sirens.
Elwood shivered. "I know they're not for us any more, but those sirens still creep me out."
Jake shrugged. "Well, at least you've gone straight." He grinned. "Sounds boring to me, though."
Elwood looked at the door. "How do you know they're for you?"
"How do you think I got here?"
"Ah, doesn't matter." Jake brushed himself off. "Time I turned myself in and went back. They'll be glad to-"All of a sudden, Jake started to cough. So bad, you could call it a fit. At last, he straightened up.
"You okay?"Elwood asked, now genuinely worried.
Jake gasped a deep breath of air. "I'm fine." He pulled Elwood into a bear hug. "Good to see you, bro." After reluctantly letting go, he collected himself and calmly exited the hospital. The police put him back in handcuffs, put him in the squad car, and drove away.
Elwood stayed inside, still staring through the observation window. As he stood there, baby Callie stirred and opened her eyes. She had no way of knowing it, but in those fleeting moments awake, she stared right into the face of the surrogate uncle she would end up chasing for the rest of her life.
Elwood stared back at her. For a moment, he had to steel himself, so as not to cry. That moment scared him, but nonetheless, it happened. He pressed his right palm to the glass.
"Stay away from the music biz, kid," he murmured. He gulped as his mouth began to go dry. "It's killed too many people." He gulped again. "Your dad…he loves you, ya gotta know that. Even though he's gone now, he does. And so does you mom…I think. You be strong now, Callie. You be strong like your namesake. Like Blanche. Like Cab. Like Curtis. Like-"
He saw that she'd fallen asleep again. He shook his head. "Like me and Jake," he said, almost to himself.
"Is there something I can help you with, sir?"
Elwood jumped, startled by the orderly that had appeared behind him.
"No sir," Elwood replied, taking off his sunglasses to wipe his brow with a coat sleeve. "Just leaving."
As he stepped outside, he slipped his shades back on and looked around. The lights were dim from here, but he still recognized the lights at the late-nite jazz club down the road, and when he listened carefully, he could hear them playing the chords of How High the Moon. And thinking of little more than Ella Fitzgerald, Elwood Blues once again disappeared into the night.