A Winter's Night by Yipmaster, admin

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Author's Note:
This story was originally inspired by "A Song for a Winter's Night" by Sarah Mchlachlan. The song moved me so much that I had to write about it. Thank you, Sarah.


A Winter's Night
by Jonathan Yip



Snow was falling lightly outside. A small fire was burning, warming the inside of the cabin. He shivered, then mounted the steps to the porch.

A knock at the door awoke the cabin’s occupant. She walked over to the heavy wood door and swung it open. A man covered in snow stood on her porch.

"Jarod !" she exclaimed.

"Buenos Noches, Nia," replied the Pretender.

***

Parker snapped awake at the sound of the phone ringing. She groped around for the offending instrument, then glanced at the clock.

"What?"

Broots nervous voice came across the line. He obviously hadn't slept all night.

"Uh... Miss Parker? We have a location for Jarod."

She rubbed her eyes wearily. She had a feeling that she, too, would be going without rest. "Where, Broots?"

"I’d rather not say over the phone. Can you come in?"

She swore under her breath. "Ever hear of sleep, Broots? Never mind. I’ll be there in half an hour."

A sharp pain in her abdomen doubled her over. "Damn." She reached for the Mylanta and half drained the bottle.

***

"What is it, Broots?"

"Oh, hi, Sydney. The stakeout on that woman’s house has finally paid off."

Sydney looked puzzled. "Which woman?"

"That ranger, Nia."

Sydney glanced around quickly. "You mustn’t tell Miss Parker."

"Tell me what?"

The two men quickly stood up as she entered . Sydney moved his body to block the computer screen.

"What are you two morons hiding?"

"I don’t think you should see this, Miss Parker," Broots commented.

"Why, Broots?" Her bloodshot eyes glared at him.

"Um... Why Sydney?"

"You know the doctor’s orders, Parker. Any more stress could have dire consequences for you."

"Stop trying to be my mother, Syd. I’m a big girl. I can handle it, whatever ‘it’ is." She shivered, then pushed her way past the Belgian. "Now what’s so important to get me out of bed?"

Broots looked at her, then to Sydney. The psychiatrist shrugged his shoulders. "Go ahead, Broots."

The technician double clicked his mouse to bring up a report on his screen. "For the last year, sweepers have maintained a watch on this cabin, hoping that Jarod would return. Two days ago, he did."

She felt a wave of nausea flow over her body. "That son of a bitch. He actually went back to her." She turned to Sydney, who had a concerned look on his face.

"Parker, are you all right?"

Her face had become very pale and she began to sway in place. Her pulse rushed torrentially through her head. The room slowly began to rotate. She blinked, trying to focus her vision… the blood began to drain from her face.

"Help...Syd" She crumpled to the floor.

"Oh my God, Syd!" Broots stood up quickly, knocking his hot coffee onto the floor. He stooped down to mop up his mess.

"Get the med. team up here now, Broots!" Sydney rushed over to the prone Parker. Her pulse seemed to belong more to a rabbit than to a thirty year old woman. He cradled her head in his lap so that she could breathe. He watched helplessly as she slowly faded into unconsciousness.

A hoarse whisper escaped from her throat. "Jarod...help me… help me."

***

Jarod’s head snapped up. His brown eyes narrowed in excruciating pain.

"What is it, young Jedi?" Nia smiled up at him. Her smile turned quickly to a frown.

He managed a weak, "Parker" before he too, lost consciousness.

***

The Centre’s med. technicians started work on her immediately.

"Get me those iced saline lavages ASAP!" The doctor barked to a nearby nurse. The nastrogastic tube filled with bright red blood. "Type and cross match for possible blood transfusions, and I want it done yesterday!" The doctor was losing his voice as he yelled over the din.

"It looks like we’ve got the bleeding partially stemmed. Nurse, get an IV in her, and draw some blood for the lab boys upstairs. Where the hell is the RT?"

"There he is, sir." The RT ran in with a tank of oxygen.

"Get her hooked up on O2 right away. How's the bleeding, nurse? "

She glanced up. "There's less blood than earlier. Should we sedate her?"

The gray haired man looked down at his patient. " Yes, keep her under." He laid his now ungloved hand on her brow. "Stay with me, Angel."

Mr. Parker finished stripping off his surgical garb. "Set surgery for 1100."

***

"Jarod? Jarod, wake up."

He opened his eyes slowly. "Where am I?"

Concern showed on the Argentinean’s face. "You’re here with me, Jarod."

"What happened?" the Pretender sat up gingerly.

"You just passed out. Are you all right?"

"I believe so." He nodded slowly, then shut his eyes. His body shivered slightly, then remained still for several minutes. She watched, fascinated, as he pretended.

Suddenly, he doubled over in pain, clutching his midsection. Nia cried out. "Jarod! What’s going on?"

The pretender rolled over onto his back, eyes glazed slightly. The pain continued to rack his slender body. Finally, he found his voice.

"Miss Parker is in trouble."

"That woman who came searching for you? The thin one?"

He nodded, waiting for the pain to fully subside.

"Good. I did not like her one bit." Nia's face reflected her true emotions.

"She’s my friend," he protested.

"How can the hunted be friends with the huntress? Let her be."

His dark eyes flashed intensely. " She will die if I don’t help her."

She met his gaze sadly, then smiled slightly. "I never really had you, did I, Jarod?"

He stood up and began to get dressed. That done, he turned to leave. He swung the heavy door open and grabbed his bag.

"Jarod!"

He glanced over his shoulder. "What is it?"

"May the force be with you." She turned away and walked deeper into the cabin.

Jarod stood caught between two worlds. He slowly turned and walked out the door.

***

"Mr. Raines."

"What is it?" Raines turned around.

Gar walked up to the emphysema-riddled man. "Jarod has been located."

"Excellent. Take a sweeper team and get him." Raines drew a deep breath, then rasped "There is something else."

He handed the cleaner a vial. "Inject this into Miss Parker’s IV line."

"What is it?"

"I don't pay you to be inquisitive." Raines glared at Gar. His voice rasped over his words. "Very well. It is Potassium Chloride. Miss Parker will suffer from a mysterious heart attack. Now go!"

***

Broots slowly entered the medical ward. He held Debbie’s hand as she approached Miss Parker’s bed. "We can’t stay long, Debbie."

"That’s okay, daddy. I just want to say hi."

"Hey kiddo," Miss Parker said weakly.

"Hi, Miss P. How are you feeling?"

"I’ll be fine, Debbie." She took a painful breath. "Listen to me, kiddo. Take care of your dad and make sure that you listen to him, ok?"

"Okay."

Broots gently pulled Debbie away from Parker’s bedside.
***

"Are you sure it’s a good idea to operate on your own daughter?"

Mr. Parker turned to the Belgian psychiatrist. "She’s my daughter, damn it!"

"Precisely why you shouldn’t perform the surgery. How long has it been since you actually operated?"

Mr. Parker let out a hmph. " Too long." He paused. "You always were a good source of advice, Sydney. Very well. I will leave the operation to the Centre doctor."

***

Gar strode through the corridors until he arrived at the infirmary. He slid the door open and slipped through the crack. The cleaner filled a syringe from Raines’ vial and stepped over to the bed.

He looked down at the slim woman. "I’m sorry about this, Miss Parker."

"Like hell you are." Jarod stepped out from the shadows and brought his gun barrel down onto the cleaner’s head.

"Nighty-nite." He stepped over to the bed. "Parker, can you hear me?"

She nodded weakly. "Jarod…what? How? "

"I’m getting you out of here." He inserted a hep lock into the IV line, then wrapped a blanket around her. He picked her up into his arms and carried her out.

***

"Where the hell is she ?" Parker was furious.

Gar knew he was doomed. "Jarod was here- he knocked me out and must have taken your daughter."

"And what were you doing in my daughter’s room?" roared Parker.

"Mr. Raines wanted me to stand guard."

"A damn good job you did of it."

"Yes sir. I’m sorry sir."

***

She came awake with a start, waking Jarod in the process. In a second he was by her side, calming her with reassuring words.

"You’re all right. Just rest, Miss Parker."

"Jarod, where the hell am I?"

"Somewhere safe. Just stay calm and lay back."

She followed his orders. "What happened to me? None of the doctors would tell me."

He pushed the hair off her forehead. "Your ulcer opened up - you’re lucky the doctors managed to stop the bleeding, otherwise you wouldn’t be here tonight."

She appeared ready to ask another question, but he wouldn’t allow it.

"Just get some rest. We’ll talk in the morning."

***

"If she doesn’t receive proper medical treatment, she will die." The doctor shook his head. "I hope to God that Jarod gets her to a hospital. That woman needs surgery, and needs it immediately."

"Thank you." Sydney turned to go.

"What’s your relation to Miss Parker?"

"Hmm?"

"Why are you involved in this?"

A smile crept across Sydney’s face. "She’s a friend of mine." /And apparently of yours, Jarod. Take care of her. /

***

"Dr. Hopkins?"

Jarod turned around to face the young nurse.

"Yes…" he searched for a namebadge, "Helen?"

"The ulcer patient you brought in is awake and demanding to talk to you."

He sighed. "Thank you."

"Doctor?"

"Yes?"

"I never had the privilege of working with you, but the nurse you saved was my best friend. I don't know how to thank you…"

"Don't worry about it. It's a pleasure to work here at St. John's. Now, I have a temperamental patient to deal with." The two exchanged knowing looks.

"Good luck."

***

Jarod Hopkins entered Room 27. A smile danced across his lips as he surveyed the scene before him. Miss Parker was engaged in a curseout with several of the hospital's nurses. It was not clear who was winning.

"Ladies!"

The nurses immediately sprung away from Miss Parker's bed. "Doctor Hopkins! Maybe you can talk some sense into your patient. She absolutely refuses to accept sedatives, or remove her jewelry."

"I've been under too damn long, and I'm not about to give them my ring. Tell these two to go the hell away and leave me in peace."

Jarod tried very hard not to laugh. "Nurses, I think I can handle this now. "

They exited very quickly, obviously relieved. Jarod watched them go, then turned to his patient.

"How are you?"

"I feel like someone threw my midsection in a blender. What the hell is going on?"

"Your ulcer is worse than was previously thought. You need surgery right away."

She grabbed his coat and yanked him down on top of herself. "You are not going to cut me open like some lab rat."


He tried to extract himself from her grip. "Miss Parker, if we don't operate, you will die."

She threw him off of her. "Fine. Cut me open. Just put everything back."

He raised his hand. "I promise"

She pulled the ring off her index finger. "Don't lose this."

***

Raines limped into the darkened room. Several spotlights focused down on his bald head. He squinted, trying to make out the three individuals hidden in the shadows.

"You wanted to see me?"

A petite secretary walked out of the shadows. "They want to know where Miss Parker is."

"I don't know." Raines was obviously uncomfortable.

The woman looked over into the shadows. She nodded, then turned back to Raines.

"Find her, or your life is forfeit."

***

Willie approached the timid technician. Broots backed up against the wall, looking for a method of escape.

"Is there something wrong, Mr. Broots?"

He shook his head. "Uh... no, there's nothing wrong."

"Good. I have a job for you to do." The sweeper held up a disc. "This disc holds all the names of the hospitals within one thousand miles of the Centre. I want you to search the databases of each for a sign of Jarod or Miss Parker. Do you understand?"

Broots nodded, then turned to his computer and began work.

***

Dr. Jarod Hopkins scrubbed for surgery, then double-checked his equipment. The procedure was actually fairly straight forward, although there was a great chance for complications.

St. John's had been the least logical place for stowing Miss Parker. It was a small hospital as far away as possible from Blue Cove. He had bought a Lear jet to transport her from Delaware to Southern California quickly. He smiled at the thought of the sky diving he could do here.

But St. John's also possessed an excellent staff, a fact that had attracted him to it last year. With a little digging, he had been able to find some really dirty stuff going on. After a little cleaning, most of the staff was thankful and more importantly, willing to help him.

He walked into the operating room just as an intern helped wheel in Miss Parker. The nurses quickly had everything ready for him. Helen was there, a fact that made Dr. Hopkins smile. He nodded to Dr. Littig, who was to assist him in the OR.

"Shall we do this?" They made no objection, so he began.

***

Broots yawned. He had gone the last 48 hours without any sleep and was paying for it now. Debbie had gone over to a friend's house for the weekend and didn't even know that Miss Parker was gone.

Broots sighed. Miss Parker wasn't his ideal choice as a role model for his daughter. He knew he shouldn’t have let her stay with Miss Parker that day.

The computer beeped, interrupting his train of thought. He scanned the results. No Jarod or Miss Parker anywhere East of the Appalachians. He emailed Sydney and Raines with his findings, then promptly fell asleep.

***

"Oh my God." Jarod moved away from the operating table. "It's worse than we thought."

"How bad is it, doctor?" Helen shared his look of concern.

Dr. Littig glanced down at the patient. "Very bad. The ulcer has eroded through most of her internal organs."

Jarod stood away from the table, panic and shock showing on his face. "She's gone. There's no surgery that will help her now. "

The assistants looked concernedly at the two doctors. "What should we do?"

Jarod shook his head numbly. "We've got to try something!" He reached for his instruments.

Littig blocked his hand. "There's nothing you can do, Dr. Hopkins."

Jarod tried to push around him. "I've got to do something. She'll die if I don't."

Helen took him by the arm. "She'll die if you do anything else. Let her live her last few days. You owe her that much."

He stood very still. Helen gently pushed him towards the door. "I think that you should leave, sir. Dr. Littig can finish up"

He stepped out of the OR, and broke down into tears.

END PART I
2 of 4 by Yipmaster
A Winter's Night II
by Jonathan Yip


Willie entered the computer lab only to find Broots sleeping.

"Mr. Broots!"

"Huh…what?" The tech snapped awake. Fortunately, he had no coffee nearby.

"Mr. Raines would like you to expand the search to the entire United States."

"But a search like that could take days," he stammered.

"Then you'll have plenty of time for sleep." The sweeper left the room.

***

He lay sprawled out on the couch. His head swam with thoughts, doubts, and emotions unreleased. The glass next to him sat empty, like the other three beside it. He looked down sadly at his finger, where he had put Miss Parker's ring. He slowly twirled it around on his pinkie.

"Doctor Hopkins?"

He had to work to focus his vision. "Yes, Helen?"

She looked down at the glasses that rested in triplicate on the table. She daintily picked one up and sniffed it.

"I'm not on duty anymore, so don't tell me I can't drink."

The nurse looked at him sadly. "There really was nothing you could have done for her."

"That's a nice sentiment, but it doesn't stop the pain." The doctor sat up on the couch to make room for her.

She accepted the seat. Her hand reached for his. "You love her, don't you?"

Tears began to slowly run down his cheeks. He dropped his head into his hands. "Yes. Yes I do."

She put her arm around his shoulder and cradled him to her. "Even the best doctor in the world couldn't have done anything. Cherish the last few days you have together."

***

Sydney, out of habit, checked for a message from Jarod. There was none.

He walked for a while, just walked. There was no point, no reason, but still he walked.

He stopped in front of a door he knew well. A quick code let him into the room. He surveyed the room where his project had spent thirty years of his life.

/What have I done to you, Jarod? All these years, all these long years alone./ He could count Jarod's 'friends' on one hand. Kyle. Angelo. Miss Parker.

/Miss Parker. Only she really knew you for who you were. An experiment? Yes. A genius? Most
certainly. But a friend? A friend who could love and feel? /

He shook himself out of that thought. With a sad smile, he walked back to his office.

***

"Mr. Raines?" Broots nervously approached him. "I've found a location for Jarod and Miss Parker."

"Excellent. Where are they?"

"It looks like southern California."

Raines turned away from the technician and made a phone call.

***

Jarod rolled over and off the couch with a thud. He moaned, then sat up. He quickly realized the error in his ways as stars flashed before his eyes. He clutched his throbbing head and slowly stood up. The previous evening's alcohol had worked its dark magic on the Pretender. Jarod limped over to the coffee machine and poured himself a large cup of fully caffienated, black coffee.

A nurse stuck her head into the lounge. "How are you, doctor?"

He couldn't come up with a name, so he settled for a curt, "fine." /Yeah. I'll be fine once I recover from this god-awful hangover./ With a start, he recalled the previous night's surgery. "Nurse?"

"Yes, Doctor Hopkins?"

"How is my patient doing?"

She looked at him sympathetically. "Dr. Littig finished her up, but they only give her about three days to live. I'm sorry."

He nodded, then headed for her room.

"Doctor!"

"Yes?"

She handed him his cup. "Don't forget your coffee."

***

Gar had a bump on his head that hurt like bloody hell, but no permanent damage had been done. The doctor released him to Raines.

"We have found Jarod. I want you to take a sweeper team and bring back both of them."

The cleaner accepted the location from Raines, then headed for the helicopter pad.

***

He gently pushed the hair off of her forehead and brushed her cheek with his lips.

"I'm so sorry, Parker. I'm so sorry."

She opened her beautiful green eyes and looked up at him. "What's wrong?"

He couldn't look her in the eye, so he glanced away. "We… I…couldn't do anything."

She nodded knowingly. A single tear ran down her cheek and dropped onto her hospital gown. Her hand reached out for his.

He still averted his gaze. "I'm so sorry."

She forced him to look at her. "Listen to me, Jarod. There was nothing you or anyone else could have done." She let it fall silent for a while. "How…how long?"

He let her hand drop from his. He stood up and walked over to the window.

"Damn it, Jarod! How long?"

The words barely slipped by his lips. "Three days."

There was silence, for there was nothing to say.

***

Willie and Gar shared the limo from LAX. They ran through the blueprints together, searching for the easiest way in and out.

After two hours, they pulled up to St. John's hospital.

Willie approached the receptionist. "Ma'am? May I ask you a few questions?" He pulled a picture out of his coat pocket. "Have you seen this man?"

"Why, yes. That's Doctor Hopkins."

"Is he in today?"

She consulted a chart briefly. "Yes, he is. Would you like me to page him for you?"

"Please."

***

Jarod heard his name across the loudspeaker. He turned away from the window and exited the room.

On the way, he was met by Helen.

"Do you mind if I walk with you, doctor?"

"Not at all."

They took the elevator down to the lobby. She finally stabbed the stop button.

"Are you doing alright, Doctor?"

"Yes, I'm fine," he answered tersely.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she prodded gently.

"No. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a page to respond to." He pushed the button to continue their descent.

The doors slid open, and Jarod strode out of the elevator.

He jumped back in quickly as he spotted Gar in the lobby.

"Maybe I would like to talk, Helen."

***

Willie looked down at his watch. "Where is he?"

"Would you like me to try again?"

He looked at Gar. "No, we'll just go find him."

The receptionist shook her head. "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, sir."

Gar sprinted past the desk and was up the stairs before she could stop him. She quickly hit the intercom button. "Security, please stop the man with white hair."

Willie silenced her with a shot to the head.

***

"Helen, I need you to do a favor for me."

"Sure, Dr. Hopkins. What do you need?"

"I'd like for you to accompany me on a little trip I have to take." He paused for a moment. "How do you like the mountains?"

***

Helen helped him load Miss Parker into his jeep, then hopped into the passenger seat. Jarod tucked an extra blanket around his patient, then drove off quickly.

He checked his rearview mirror and laughed at the looks on the two sweepers' faces as they burst out of the hospital. He turned left onto the 101 and headed due south.

(Several hours later)

Helen checked on Miss Parker, then headed back to the Lear jet's cockpit. She scrambled into the copilot's chair and turned to face Jarod.

"Where are we going, Dr. Hopkins?"

"Call me Jarod, and our flight plan says Nevada."

She asked the inevitable "but?"

He glanced over at her. "We're going north. How is she?"

Helen heaved a sigh. "As well as can be expected for someone in her condition. She's one tough lady."

Jarod grinned. "You could say that."

***

"Raines."

"Sir, he escaped again." Gar was very quiet.

Raines voice could have melted the phone. "Then find him!! And don't come back until you do."

Gar closed his cell phone and turned to Willie. "We may have a problem."

***

Jarod bundled Miss Parker up and lifted her into his arms. He cradled her close to his chest as he walked up the icy pathway.

"We're almost there, Parker."

"Where are we?" Her voice was just above a whisper.

He smiled at her. "A friend's house."

Helen knocked on the door. "Hello?" There was no reply.

Jarod tried to motion at the bench on the porch. "There's a key behind the bench."

She found it, then opened the door. She groped around for a light switch. "It's dark in here, Jarod."

He gently laid Miss Parker down on the couch, then started to look around.

"Nia? Are you here?" He searched upstairs to no avail.

Helen picked up a piece of paper lying on the kitchen table. "Doctor, you might want to see this."

He took it from her hand and began to read.

My dear Jarod,
I know that we can not be together again, so I have gone. Please do not try to find me. I know that we both have to work some things out.
Stay true to the force, young Jedi.

Love,
Nia

He let the paper drop from his hand, then turned to Helen. "We had better get some rest."

She nodded slowly, then made up the bed for Miss Parker.

***

Jarod reached into the back of his jeep and brought out a large bottle. He popped the top and poured himself a large shot. The lake was almost completely frozen over. He walked down to the bank and watched the moon's silver reflection as it danced across the ice. The bench near the shore was covered in snow so he brushed it clean before he sat down. He reached for the bottle and filled his glass again.


End Part Two.
3 of 4 by Yipmaster
A Winter's Night III
by Jonathan Yip



Jarod staggered back into the cabin, singing a chantey he had learned while on the seven seas. "What do you do with a drunken sailor early in the mornin' ?" He laughed. "Shave his belly with a rusty razor!"

Helen stared at the apparition before her. Her eyes dropped down to his hand, which held a half-empty bottle of vodka.

"Oh my God. You're drunk." She held her hand out to steady the swaying Pretender.

"I ain't drunk," he slurred, "in fact, I never felt better before!"

"You're drunk, and I'd better get you to bed." Helen led him over to the couch.

He threw her hand off his arm. "I'm… just fine." He staggered forward. "I wanna see Parker."

"Not in your condition." Helen stood before the door.

He shoved her aside easily. "Get outta the way." Jarod entered Miss Parker's room.

"Parker?" He stumbled and banged his knee on the floor, which he thought was absolutely hilarious. "Are you here?" He made his way over to the bed and shook her awake. "How are ya?"

She woke up. "Jarod? What's wrong?"

He leaned over to steal a kiss. She shoved him away. "You're drunk!"

Jarod leaned in again. "No, I'm not."

Parker slapped him with all of her remaining strength. "You filthy bastard. How dare you!"

He grabbed his hurting jaw. His eyes had a pained look. "You hurt me." His head rolled around on his shoulders, and he slumped down to the floor, unconscious. The bottle slipped from his hand and shattered against the oak floor.

***

Broots popped in a CD-ROM into his computer and brought up the latest first person shooter. He blasted his way through the first three levels, but lost a life in the fourth. The sound was so loud that he couldn't hear the phone next to his desk. Finally, the piercing ring broke through the gunshots and screaming dead.

"Uh, this is Broots." He cursed silently at his stutter.

"Daddy, where are you?" His daughter's voice cut through his mind's clutter.

"Oh, no. I'm sorry, Debbie. I'll come get you right now."

The young girl pleaded for a moment. "Can I see Miss Parker again?"

/Oh, damn. / he thought. / How do I explain this? /

"Daddy, are you still there?"

"Yes, Debbie. Uh, Miss Parker isn't up to seeing any visitors right now." He mentally congratulated himself for that.

"How is she?"

"She's fine, honey. She's just fine."

***

Light poured through the blinds onto the floor where Jarod was laying. His eyes cracked slowly open. He blinked furiously to get his eyes to focus on his surroundings. A blanket was tucked over him, but he felt a dampness underneath him. He sniffed it, and found it to be the remains of his bottle of vodka.

Suddenly the events of last night came to him. He shivered, then rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyes, and slowly sat up. Parker was still asleep on the bed, so he walked quietly out of the room.

The smell of breakfast brought him to the kitchen. Helen was laying strips of bacon on the sizzling skillet. She turned when she heard his footsteps.

"Good morning." It was a statement, not a greeting.

Jarod ran his hand through his hair. His head ached, and the rest of his body wasn't doing too well, either. "Look, about last night…"

She cut him off quickly. "You don’t need to explain it to me." There was more than just a trace of anger in her voice.

"Yes, I do."

"I know your type, Jarod. You can’t deal with what you're feeling, so you drink. I had a husband like that." A solitary tear formed in her eye. "Soon, the drinking wasn't enough. Then the real hell began."

Jarod went over to comfort her, but she shrugged him off.

"Just remember one thing." She drew herself up to her full five foot three. "You won't always have her, Jarod. In a few days, all you will have left is regrets."

She walked away, leaving him with only the bacon for company.

***

He left the warmth of the cabin and walked down to the frozen lake. His hands clenched and unclenched as the anger and rage flew through him. He began to run, jogging at first, then slowly building speed. He ran through trees, over rocks and across ice. His lungs burned with the exertion, but still he continued to run. The wind whipped across his bare face, burning with the bitter cold. His hearbeat filled his ears until it drowned out every other sound. His legs gave out, and he stumbled to the ground. The snow provided a cushion for his fall, but he scarcely noticed.

Every fiber in his body was screaming with angst, and finally his vocal cords matched it. He cried out, loud and clear, letting all the emotion just fade away from him. The mountains caught the sound and echoed it again and again.

He lashed out at the snow, his fists pounding the drift until his hands were raw with the effort. He sunk down into the white down and wept.

***

Sydney turned as Broots entered his office. "What is it, Broots?"

He moved slowly into the office. "I…need some help, Syd."

Sydney motioned to a nearby chair. "How can I help?"

The technician sank into the chair. "It's about Debbie." Broots trembled a little bit. "I told her that Parker was going to be fine, but…"

"But what if she isn't." Sydney nodded. " If there is one thing that I've learned, Broots, it's that honesty truly is the best policy. Tell Debbie the truth, now, and it will save her a lot of pain later."

Broots smiled. "Thanks, Syd. I'm going to go tell her right now."

"Excellent, Broots." Sydney watched as he left.

***

Willie ran through the printouts that had been faxed to him. Each paper had a possible location for Jarod and Miss Parker, but none offered a clear solution. He turned to Gar, who was reading others.

"I feel that we are overlooking something."

The snowman looked over at the sweeper. "What do you mean?"

"Well, all these charts suggest places that Jarod hasn't been. What about those places that he has been?"

Gar looked thoughtful. "You may have a point. I'll have the techs run through his previous hideaways and see if any are appropriate."

***

Helen knocked quietly on the door.

Miss Parker tried to sit up. "Come in."

The nurse walked over to her bedside. "I brought you some breakfast."

She tried to smile. "Thanks."

Helen turned to go.

"Wait…I don't even know your name."

The nurse smiled. "It's Helen."

Miss Parker rolled it around on her tongue. "Well, Helen, would you like to keep a dying woman company?"

Helen pulled a chair over by the bed. "I'd like that."

***

Jarod rolled over in the new snow. He hadn't realized it had started to snow again. His jacket provided little protection against the elements, so he stumbled to his feet and began to make the long trek back to the cabin.

He dusted the snow off of himself, then picked up his cell phone. He punched in a number he knew well.

The voice that he clung to floated across the line. "This is Sydney."

Jarod was silent. He couldn't form the words. Finally, he just replied, "Hi, Sydney."

"Jarod !" The psychiatrist's enthusiasm flowed through the phone. "How are you doing?"

"I… I killed her, Sydney."

From the other end, Sydney could feel the sorrow and remorse as if it were a tangible thing. He silently wept along with his Prodigy, and tried to keep his objectivity. "What do you mean, Jarod?"

"I'm a pretender, Sydney. But I couldn't save the one thing that means the most to me. She would have been better off at the Centre."

The Belgian struggled to contain his own emotions. "Miss Parker is…dead?"

"Just as good as. Three days, Sydney. Three days left."

Sydney tried to identify with what Jarod was going through. "Do you love her?"

The question hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. "Yes, Syd, I love her." Jarod replied.

"Then tell her. Capture what fleeting moments you have."

Jarod closed the phone and continued to walk.

***

Broots pulled to a stop in front of the tan colored house where Debbie had spent the night. He turned off the ignition and practiced what he was going to say.

"Debbie, I need to tell you the truth." He shook his head. "I need to talk to you, Debbie. It's about Miss
Parker." He opened the car door and walked up to the door. He rapped his knuckles on the oak.

It swung open, revealing his daughter and her friend. "Daddy!" cried Debbie.

"Hey." He looked over to the friend's mother. ''Thanks for taking care of her."

She smiled. "No problem. Debbie's a little angel."

Broots chuckled. "Okay, angel, let's go."

He herded her down to the car. "Look, Debbie, I need to talk to you about Miss Parker."

She plopped down onto the seat. "How is she?" she asked excitedly.

"Umm…" Broots grew very flustered. "Umm…"

"Can we go see her, daddy?"

He tried to think, tried to come up with something. "Not right now…angel. But she'll be fine." He racked his brain. "Trust me." And so it began.

***

They could hear the door slam shut and the heavy thud of boots on the wooden floors. Helen squeezed Miss Parker's hand, then went out of the room.

"May I see her?"

She looked him up and down. There was no residual alcohol odor, but his clothes were completely wet. "What happened to you?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I went for a walk."

Helen looked away from the pretender. "I'm sorry about this morning. I had no right…"

He stopped her. "You had every right to do what you did. I'm the one who needs to apologize for my behaviour."

She smiled. "Alright. Apologize."

Jarod sat down on a nearby stool. "I'm sorry about last night. There was no excuse for that."

"You're right. There isn't. And, I forgive you. But there's someone else you need to talk to, and she's right through that door."

Jarod rose from the stool and walked over to the door. He stopped, then turned back to Helen. "Thank you."

Helen's face smiled broadly. "You're welcome, Dr. Hopkins."

He slowly opened the door and stepped inside.

Miss Parker lay on the bed, facing away from him. She turned over when she heard him come in.

"I came to apologize for my actions last night. Will you forgive me?"

She motioned for him to come closer. He stepped over to her bed obediently.

She pulled him down and lightly kissed his cheek. "I forgive you. But if you ever try that again, I will have to kill you."

"Understood." Jarod glanced out the frost covered window. "How would you like to talk a walk?"

She stared at him. "It's snowing, you moron !"

He grinned. "So?"
4 of 4 by Yipmaster
A Winter's Night IV
by Jonathan Yip




"Why can't I do it, Syd?" Broots searched around for something to keep his hands busy. "Why is the truth so hard?"

Syd smiled. "I don't know, Broots." He reached around the tech and pointed to a man on the other side of the hall. "But he would."

Broots glanced over to see who Sydney was pointing to. "Oh, no. You want me to talk to Mr. Parker?"

***

Jarod pushed the wheelchair gently through the white snow drifts. Little snowflakes descended slowly through chilly winter air and landed on the covered ground. He made his way over to the wooden bench that he had sat on the previous evening.

Miss Parker looked up into his face, searching for some clue to his intentions. "What are we doing out here, Jarod?"

He gently helped her to her feet and led her over to the bench. "I just thought that this would be a good place to just sit and think."

She knew him better than that. "What is it?"

The pretender walked away from the bench and over to the nearby tree. He refused to make eye contact with her, staring instead at the snow covered trunk.

"Why the hell did you drag me out here?" She shivered. The bitter winter cold was getting to her.

He spun on his heel and locked gazes with her. His voice quivered with emotion. "Do you love me?"

She tried to contain her shock, but some of it slipped out with her words. "Jarod…not now."

"Then when?" He searched her eyes for the emotion he knew she possessed. "When, Miss Parker?" Finally he broke eye contact. "Let's get you back to the cabin."

***

Gar paced back and forth outside the fifth hospital they had visited that morning. Willie emerged and shook his head.

"No Jarod or Miss Parker there, either."

The snowman groaned. "How many more of these?"

Willie glanced down at a printout. "About seven more in this state alone." He paused briefly. "What did the Centre gurus say this time?"

Gar shrugged. "Their best guess is that Jarod went back to the east coast. That's why we're searching all these damn hospitals."

Willie chuckled. "Then, by all means, let us follow the Centre's gurus."

***

Broots entered Sydney's office with Debbie in tow. "Hey, you'll never guess what I found out. Miss Parker loves stuffed animals."

Sydney filed some papers in his desk, then turned to the father-daughter pair. "I'm glad to see you took my advice, Broots."

The technician smiled broadly. "Yeah, he was nicer than I would have thought." He pushed Debbie forward a little bit. "And, he's agreed to meet with Debbie and I today."

With that, Mr. Parker entered. "Is this the little one?"

Debbie walked unabashedly up to the Centre's chairman. "How is Miss P.?"

The elder Parker winced slightly, then glanced at Sydney and Broots. "To tell you the truth, I don't know."

Confusion clouded Debbie's face. She, too, looked at her father and Sydney.

Broots gently broke the news. "Honey, Miss Parker isn't here anymore."

"Where is she?"

Parker sank down to her eye level. "I wish I knew. Jarod took her away."

A solitary tear ran down the girl's face. "But… she's going to be okay, right ?"

Sydney laid his hand gently on Debbie's shoulder. "There's really no way to know - She was in pretty bad shape."

The phone jarred all of them. Sydney walked over to the desk. "This is Sydney."

"What's on the other side, Sydney?"

The psychiatrist snapped for Broots, then leaned casually back into his chair. "There's no easy answer to that, Jarod. People who come back from near-death experiences recall a place of joy without pain. Others recall a warm, bright place."

"And what about you, Sydney? What do you believe?"

"What really matters is what you personally believe in, Jarod, not what someone else says or does."

"I guess that's my problem, Sydney." The Belgian could feel the sorrow in his Prodigy's voice. "I never found out what I believed."

"There's still time, Jarod."

"Not anymore, Sydney." The line went dead in his hand. Sydney looked over to Broots, who had a shocked look on his face.

"What is it, Broots?"

The technician finally found his voice. "We.. found him, Sydney! We have a location."

Mr. Parker pulled the phone from Sydney's hand. "Get a sweeper team to this location."

Broots smile slowly turned to a frown. "That was too easy. It's almost as if Jarod wanted to be found."

Sydney looked over to Mr. Parker. "Tell the sweepers to proceed with caution."

"Why?" Mr. Parker questioned.

"For the first time since he escaped, I heard despair in Jarod's voice."

***

Jarod closed the cell phone as he pulled up in front of the cabin. He reached over to the bag of things he had purchased and pulled them out of the car.

He slowly mounted the slippery steps and opened the door. As expected, Helen was waiting for him.

"Just where the hell have you been all day?"

"Out. Now I need you to go back to the hospital and act as if nothing has happened."

"I will do nothing of the sort. Miss Parker needs someone she can count on."

Jarod laid the bag on the table, then turned back to the indignant nurse. "It's alright. I'm here to stay."

"And how exactly am I supposed to get back?"

He lobbed the keys to her. "Take the car to the airport. The plane will be waiting for you." Jarod grabbed a nearby glass and filled it with water. He swallowed some medication.

"But-"

"Just go. Please."

"Alright, but I plan on seeing you next week."

Jarod gently pushed her to the door. "Thank you for everything."

He watched her go, then went to the other room. He cracked the door open and silently slid through. She was resting peacefully, so he sank down into a chair.

"Jarod?"

"Yes, Miss Parker?"

"It's close, isn't it?"

He sat down on the other side of the bed. "Yes."

She rolled over to face him and took his hand in hers. "How long?"

He smiled down at her. "We have a little while." He paused, "Do you love me, Miss Parker."

"Don't do this to yourself. You have so much left."

"I need to know. Please." His dark eyes flashed with intensity. "Please."

Her voice caught in her throat. Slowly, she began to speak. "Yes, Jarod. I do love you."

His face lit up. He dug through his pockets until he came up with a velvet box. "Will you…"

"Jarod! I'm dying- don't chain yourself to the dead. Live! Do something with your life." She pushed him gently away.

He stepped forward again, his brown eyes pleading earnestly with hers. "Please…it means so much."

***

Gar motioned to Willie as he exited hospital No. 12. "The chairman just called… They're in Oregon."

"Right where they started." Willie shot a knowing glare at the cleaner. "Let's go."

***

He knelt by her bedside, illuminated by the soft shadows of candles, and the warm fire behind him. The hard wood floors bruised his knees, but he cared little. Every fiber in his being was focused on her, the only woman he had ever wanted, ever truly known. It was irony that this moment had to occur in this cabin. He knew the waning hour, the precious few minutes he had left with her. Each second was one less that he would know, that he could cherish. Each heartbeat, another step toward the other side. Each flicker of the fire, another memory that would go unshared. His hands clenched the velvet case, soaking the delicate fabric with his sweat. His pulse pounded in his ears until time itself seemed to slow down. His lips pursed to speak.

"Miss Parker?"

She knew that she was crying, but it seemed so unimportant right then. Her eyes took in her kneeling suitor, the fire behind him, and the shadows of the winter's night. Her breathing was slowing, she knew. Every breath seemed to tear her away from her body. It was a struggle to mouth the words. She could feel him, not just his body, but his very soul. She ached for him, as she felt the pain, the anguish, the guilt that marred his mind.

"I will, Jarod."

He deftly extracted the ring from its case and slipped it on her finger. She wept as she recognized the ring she had entrusted to him. He had made it into one of the most beautiful engagement rings she had ever seen. The firelight caught the precious diamond and danced through and around the gemstone.

"Jarod, I…"

He laid a finger gently on her lips. "Let me."

She listened as he began to say their vows. His voice stumbled over the words, but to her it was the most perfect and right thing she had ever heard. Every stumble, every word brought them closer together.

He paused at a line, and could not continue. Tears streamed down his face as he tried to stammer out the last lines. Finally he could. "In sickness, and in health." It was a struggle to finish every word. He looked up with tear filled eyes to Parker. "Forever, Miss Parker. Forever."

She knew it was close, but she fought back with every ounce of strength. Her eyes grew weary and her neck became weak. She tried to sit up, but her strength failed her.

Jarod gently laid her back onto the pillows. A tear spilled from his cheek and fell onto her face. He wiped the tears from her face, then kissed her on the lips. His body ached, but his soul burned in emotion.

She brought him down to her. "Jarod- I do."

He cried out in sorrow as she slowly passed away. A part of himself seemed to leave with her, the part that felt, that cared, that loved. But that was soon over.

He picked up his cell phone and dialed the number from memory.

"Sydney?"

The Belgian answered immediately. "Yes, Jarod."

"Goodbye, Sydney."

Jarod closed the phone and glanced at his watch. He leaned over Miss Parker and closed her eyes. His voice came out in a hoarse whisper. "Even after death do us part, Miss Parker. Even after."

***

Willie kicked in the front door and efficiently searched the house. He paused in front of the bedroom door and remembered Mr. Parker's warning. Cautiously, he pushed it open and entered.

He reached immediately for his phone. The Centre operator patched him through. "Mr. Parker? It's all over."


Willie turned his back on the two bodies and left the cabin.


End


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