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February 15, 1997 This story was originally titled "Miss Parker Finds a Truth," but since I have written more stories in the series, I have since come to know my characters better.
"Secrets of The Heart" is the first story in The Doorway to the Edge of Darkness series. It makes the assumption that the reader is familiar with "The Pretender" shown on Saturday evenings on NBC. However, "Secrets of the Heart" operates under the premise that Jarod has been on the run from the Centre for three years.
I was inspired to write this story after I watched the "Bazooka Jarod" episode. I decided to ask myself "what if...?" This story may appear to be Miss Parker heavy. Sorry, Jarod fans if you feel left out.
Dr. Kenneth Bradley and Dr. Ralph Winston are my own creations. The Pretender cast came compliments of MTM Television NBC. "The Pretender" is a protected trademark of MTM Television, and the use of the cast reflects no intention of remuneration.
Any reference to drugs have been researched in DEADLY DOSES: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO POISONS by Serita Deborah Stevens and Anne Klarner. This is part of the Writer's Digest THE HOWDUNIT SERIES available at any bookstore, or on-line.
I'm always looking for advice on my fiction technique, so please feel free to comment. ***
Secrets of The Heart
There are Pretenders among us...
Geniuses with the ability to become anyone they want to be.
In 1963, a corporation known as the Centre isolated a young Pretender named Jarod and exploited his genius for their research.
Then one day, their Pretender ran away ...
Blue Cove, DE April 18, 1997
Scene 1: Where Are Your Loyalties, Miss Parker?
Miss Parker felt the all too familiar stab of pain as she got out of her car. She would have to renew her prescription of pain killers before long. She winced as she picked up her purse, and was about to reach for her umbrella when the pain struck again. She gasped and decided against keeping dry. The entrance to the centre was not far off-besides a little rain never hurt anyone.
Midway through the parking lot the wind began to pick up, and the light rain turned into a torrential downpour.
"Damn it, What else could go wrong?" Miss Parker muttered angrily.
The pain was getting worse as she reached the entrance way. Once inside the Lobby of the Centre, Miss Parker ducked into the Ladies room, and took the last of her Darvon. She began to dry herself with what was left of the paper towels. The pain was starting to subside, and soon she would be able to face whatever Jarod would throw at her. It would be a matter of time when Jarod would leave his beloved "slinky" where he shouldn't have left it. When he did, Miss Parker would be there to put a "kink" in it for him. Miss Parker felt the strange euphoria of the Darvon begin to take hold, and she laughed gently. Now she was ready to face the day.
"Good morning, Miss Parker," Sydney said cheerfully as Parker walked towards her office located across from his.
Miss Parker looked at him with disdain, "Yeah, well, it better be."
Broots was returning from the lounge with two mugs of steaming coffee when he saw Miss Parker. He attempted to duck into the Men's room, but it was too late.
"Brootsie! There you are, you cyber animal, you," Miss Parker laughed derisively.
"Oh, uh..hi, Miss Parker," Broots cringed as he made his way to Sydney's office. It was only by shear determination that he ignored his first impulse to run.
"Brootsie, Brootsie, Brootsie. What are we going to do with your poor pathetic excuse of a life?" Miss Parker said narrowing her eyes in an evil squint.
Broots felt the hair on the back of his neck bristle, "I like my life-unlike some people around here."
"What's that supposed to mean, geek!?" Miss Parker sneered angrily.
Broots was about to step forward, but Sydney held him back, "At least I have a life that I can be proud of."
"Oh, get a life, tech-rat," Miss Parker said slamming the door to her office. The wonderful feeling the Darvon had given her was once again wearing off, "Damn it, I thought I had more time." The doctor was right. Darvon wasn't the solution; it was only masking a much bigger issue-an issue she wasn't willing to face.
At least she had her own office now. A call to Daddy had fixed that, didn't it? Thanks to dear old Daddy Parker, the grotesque savant, Angelo was gone. Miss Parker shuddered at the thought of being in the same room with the freak. He had a way of looking at her that made Miss Parker feel cheap and dirty. The computer was on when She sat down. Someone had been here. Someone had left something.
"Oh, Daddy, you shouldn't have," Miss Parker cooed as she unwrapped the small jewelry box, "You always know how to treat a girl."
"How odd," Miss Parker said as she looked at the small hospital bracelet. It couldn't be hers. This one was blue; a boy's bracelet. She could barely make out the print on the plastic-Parker, J 11-20-88.
The computer came to life waking Miss Parker from her strange reverie. You have 1 new message.
Miss Parker began to scroll through her e-mail messages. There were no new leads on Jarod, but then again, what else was new?
The new message kept flashing. She clicked on the message icon, and waited for the file to load. The server as well as the sender's address was encrypted. Miss Parker picked up the phone and was about to dial Sydney's extension when a message flashed across the screen.
I wouldn't do that if I were you. . Miss Parker replaced the receiver, "You're not me, but I'll let it go for now."
The following message is encrypted. Sender information is unknown. Attempting to locate Host Server- Attempt Failed! Abort? Retry?
Miss Parker hit the Retry key:
Attempting to locate Host Server- Attempt Failed! Abort? Retry?
"Oh, get on with it, already," Miss Parker swore as she hit Abort. Message: To Miss Parker-- April 18, 1988.
Picnic on the roof. Pity, found out too soon.
Do you remember what we said?
What we did? I still blush.
Did you know it was my first time?
You didn't return to school in the Fall, did you?
I took the liberty of inquiring about you
at a place where young girls go when they're in trouble.
Ask Sydney why April 18, 1988 is so important.
I think you'll be surprised. I know I was.
Miss Parker took a deep breath. The pain came in waves as a sob formed in her throat. The dreams that lingered upon waking came back to her; a baby crying off in the distance, the smell of disinfectant, and father growling, "Now, look what you've gone and done."
She gasped; the pain became excruciating. She fell to the floor grabbing her knees to her chest, "Oh, God! Not now, not now!"
"Miss Parker! Miss Parker! Miss Parker, can you hear me?" Sydney yelled in panic, "Broots! Broots!"
"What's up?" Broots called from the hallway.
Miss Parker was dimly aware she wasn't alone.
"Call an ambulance! It's Miss Parker," Sydney yelled frantically as he carried her to his office.
Miss Parker moaned as Sydney placed her gently on his couch. In the distance, she heard the wails of the sirens as the ambulance approached.
Sydney watched helplessly as the paramedics began packaging Miss Parker for transport to Blue Cove General.
"Sydney," Miss Parker moaned weakly, "Sydney."
"Yes, Miss Parker. I'm right here. I won't leave you."
Miss Parker reached for him as the paramedics began to wheel her out, "I have a boy, Sydney. I have a boy."
Sydney nodded quietly, "Yes, you had a boy."
Miss Parker looked at him curiously, "What did he mean by had?" She tried to form the question, but the pain ripped through her again. And soon everything went down to darkness.
Alone, in Miss Parker's office, Sydney read Jarod's message. On the keyboard was the hospital bracelet. Sydney picked it up, and regarded it with fascination. He was about to reach for the phone, but thought better of it. Why not just leave this one alone for now.
Scene 2: Dr. Livingstone, I Presume
Ridge Psychiatric Hospital For Children
April 18, 1997
"This is where the children can watch TV and do puzzles," Dr. Ralph Winston said as he led Jarod into a small lounge decorated with paintings of zoo animals. The child sized tables were neatly arranged, and covered with puzzle pieces. The walls were lined with bookshelves full of an assortment of children's books. All of them looked as if they had never been used.
"You've got quite a nice place here, Dr. Winston. Do most of the children use this room?" Jarod asked curiously.
"Please, call me Ralph. We're not formal here," Dr. Winston said warmly. "Most of our children do, except, well, you know, the ones who have serious problems."
Jarod smiled back. It was clear to him why the children preferred Dr. Winston over the other doctors. Dr. Winston appeared to be a kindly old man, but then again, so did Sydney.
"If you'll notice to the right are the security cameras. Here at Ridge, we like to keep a close eye on our charges," Winston said as he led Jarod down a long hallway.
Jarod felt a sense of doom as he followed Winston towards the Isolation wing. This was clearly part of the old hospital. The paint on the walls had peeled away in some places, and the overhead lights were dimmer.
"We've come a long way, but we still have a long road ahead of us. The state doesn't give us enough money to run at full capacity, so we scrounge," Winston explained as he unlocked the solid metal doors separating the long, dim hallway from the rest of the hospital.
"I see," Jarod said noticing the stark contrast of the cheery zoo animals of the playroom to the drab impersonality of the Isolation wing.
"If you'll follow me to the nurses' station, I can give your case files. This way you can get some time to review them before you start your rounds. I think you'll like it here, Dr. Livingstone, is it?" Winston smiled nervously.
Jarod nodded politely, "Yes, but you can call me Jarod, Ralph."
"That's an interesting name. How is that spelled...J A R E D?" Winston asked.
Jarod took the files from his inn box, and took out his trusty Parker and changed the E to an O, "Almost, but not quite."
"Sorry, I guess I got a bit carried away. It's not everyday we get someone as distinguished as yourself at Ridge. I guess someone is starting to take our work here seriously," Winston said testily.
Jarod caught the sarcasm in Winston's remark and smiled back. He guessed the kindly old doctor was not so kindly afterall.
Sydney watched anxiously from the hallway as doctors and nurses went in and out of Miss Parker's room. He could hear her cry softly as the doctors inserted IVs and drew blood. Everytime a doctor came out, Sydney tried anxiously to find out how she was. Each time he was told to "have a seat" in the waiting room.
Sydney had tried to "have a seat," and wait patiently, but his patience was wearing thin; he was overcome with worry. He had already lost one Parker; he would be damned if he was going to lose another.
Broots sat quietly reading newspapers from other states. Sydney envied Broots' ability to lose himself in his work.
"I don't know how you can just sit there as if nothing has happened?" Sydney asked as he sat down next to Broots.
Broots looked up from his reading, "Huh?"
"Don't you ever stop working? You're getting as bad as Miss Parker."
"I'll never be as bad as Miss Parker. Unlike her I have a life," Broots said angrily.
Sydney got up. He walked towards the hallway, "I know Miss Parker is not the easiest person to get along with, but she may be dying in there. Don't you care?"
Broots put down his paper and glared at Sydney, "Why should I?"
"Because you're better than she is. Because you were raised by parents who loved you. Perhaps, If Miss Parker had the same advantages you did, she wouldn't be the way she is," Sydney said frowning.
"You talk about advantages, Sydney, as if Miss Parker didn't have any. She had plenty of advantages. She had the finest schools, the finest clothes, and it's still not enough for her. She has more privileges than God, and I have to scrounge to send my Debbie to public school," Broots raged.
Sydney sighed heavily, "Money and power don't buy love, Broots. At least you're a father to your daughter. I called Miss Parker's father over two hours ago, and do you know what he said?"
Broots didn't answer.
"The bastard told me not to call him unless she was dead. Imagine that? The bastard couldn't give a damn about his own child. He was more concerned if she found Jarod yet?" Sydney spat angrily.
"Dr. Green?" Dr. Kenneth Bradley began as he came into the waiting room.
"Yes," Sydney turned.
"What is your relationship with Miss Parker?" Dr. Bradley asked.
"I'm her Uncle," Sydney lied.
"Are you her only family, Dr. Green?"
"Yes. How is she?" Sydney asked. He started to tremble, and had to hold onto Dr. Bradley's arm to steady himself.
"Come with me, please," Dr. Bradley said as he led Sydney into the hallway.
"Is she alright?" Sydney repeated.
"Please, not here, Dr. Green."
"She's dead, isn't she?" Sydney asked.
"There's been some complications. We thought she was beginning to respond, but she started to go sour on us. She stopped breathing. We had trouble getting an airway, and then she went into V-Fib..."
Sydney fell against the wall. His chest began to heave, "No! I won't hear this..."
"I'm so sorry, Dr. Green. We were able to restart her heart, but she's in a deep coma. It took us too long..."
"I have to see her. Please, take me to her. I have to see her," Sydney said between gasps. He pushed past Dr. Bradley, but stopped abruptly when he reached the doorway of Miss Parker's room.
Aside from the breathing tube and the IVs Miss Parker looked to be sleeping peacefully. He went to her bedside, and gently pushed the hair back from her eyes.
"Sleep now, my little Princess. I'm here with you. I won't leave you, I promise.."
"Dr. Green, I'm sorry, but you'll have to leave," Dr. Bradley said sadly. Sydney nodded.
"Miss Parker's lucky to have an Uncle who cares so much," Dr. Bradley said as he shook Sydney's hand, "You can never underestimate the importance of family in situations like this."
Sydney nodded numbly. He was too overcome with remorse that it was all he could do to keep from falling apart. Broots looked up as Sydney came into the waiting room, "Where's Miss Parker? I think I have a lead on Jarod."
Sydney ignored Broots as he walked towards the exit. Broots almost had to run to keep up with him.
"Did you hear me? I have a lead on Jarod. Miss Parker's going to feel better about that," Boots said sarcastically.
Sydney stopped abruptly, "Not another word, please."
"Where's the wicked witch of Blue Cove?" Broots asked smiling.
Sydney turned and glared at him. He would have liked nothing better than to decorate the sidewalk with Broots' blood, but he held himself in check, "Miss Parker won't be with us anymore. It's just you and me for now, so you better get out of my way."
Broots backed away, "It was just an ulcer. She's going to alright in a few days, isn't she?"
"There were complications. She's in a deep coma. Please, let's just go. We probably should get on that lead if we're going to catch up with Jarod," Sydney said getting into the car.
Scene 3: Proper Precautions
April 19, 1997
The Sea Crawler Inn Ridge, DE
Jarod wasn't used to such luxurious accommodations. He had his own cottage with a well stocked kitchen complete with a microwave. The Realtor had showed him how to make popcorn in it. Imagine that? Push one button and you get fresh hot popcorn. Jarod knew he was going to enjoy his stay at the Sea Crawler compliments, of course, of Ridge Psych.
The case files Dr. Winston gave him were troubling. He had spent most of the night reading through them thoroughly, and in each case Jarod was presented with a new tragedy of child abuse, neglect, and in a few cases, rape. Jarod wondered how parents could subject their children to such treatment. Parents were supposed to love their children, but the parents he read about in these files only knew how to inflict pain and suffering.
Jarod tried to remember his parents. Did they beat him, or did they leave him to fend for himself? Was that the reason he was taken away from them? Jarod pushed the thought from his mind. Instinctively, he knew that was not the case. "My mother and father loved me."
The red notebook lay face down on the bed. Jarod picked it up, and turned to the newest addition to his ever growing collection. The article pictured a young girl with sandy, blond hair and hazel eyes. She would have been beautiful had she been smiling. The headline read, "Young Girl Commits Suicide While Under Doctor's Care at Ridge Psychiatric Hospital." Jarod read the article again. He underlined Dr. Winston's statement:
"We can't save everyone who walks through these doors, but we manage to save quite a few. Ali McNichols was one of our worst cases. She wouldn't allow herself to be saved." Jarod looked at the picture again. The guarded look on Ali McNichols' face reminded him of Miss Parker at that age.
Miss Parker had once been a very sweet girl given to fits of compassion. She used to sneak into the lab at night, and rescue the animals from their cages.
"All living things deserve to live free," Miss Parker once told him.
Jarod wished she still felt that way, but that was a long time ago. Things were different now. Seeing her mother murdered so brutally had changed her. Miss Parker lost her innocence in that one horrendous moment.
The day Miss Parker's mother was murdered remained etched in Jarod's memory. He didn't need a DSA to remember. He heard the shots, and then the blood curdling screams. Sydney held him back while he watched helplessly as they dragged the screaming girl from the elevator. She was covered with her mother's blood.
That was odd. Jarod hadn't remembered the blood until now. She had run towards him pleading; no, begging him for help. Jarod inhaled sharply. How awful it must have been to see your own mother brutally murdered, and then to be brainwashed into believing what you saw was not murder at all, but suicide. Jarod shuddered at the thought.
After that, Miss Parker's nightly visits to the Centre came to an end. Sydney finally told him that she went away to school. Sydney wouldn't say where, and then one day Jarod ran into her in the hallway outside of his room. She smiled at him, but before they could exchange pleasantries, Sydney saw her. He escorted Miss Parker to the lounge where she sat for hours while her father visited with his mistress.
Jarod saw her more and more, but she never smiled at him. He tried to pick up her feelings, but felt guilty and ashamed at such a violation. What he did feel was fear and anger. She scowled at him whenever she caught him looking at her. Once, Miss Parker deliberately tripped him while he was on his way back from a simulation. He had gotten a nose bleed from the fall, and as he got to his feet, Miss Parker stared at him with contempt mixed with sorrow. She called him "weak," while he wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. He still couldn't bring himself to hate her. The girl that used to rescue animals was still there somewhere.
In the Spring of 1988, Miss Parker returned from school. Jarod saw her as he was talking to Sydney about their latest simulation. He saw her out of the corner of his eye, and had to do a double take. She took his breath away with her slim, pretty legs and shoulder length, red hair. She must have felt him staring at her. She turned towards him and scowled. Even with her "if looks could kill" look, she was still beautiful. Her father touched her arm, and she allowed a small smile to play against her beautiful lips. Someone must have said something funny because she laughed. Her face lit up, and Jarod was caught in her spell. He was no longer a boy. He had outgrown his awkwardness, and now he was ruggedly handsome man.
Sydney finally had to step in front of him to get his attention. Jarod waved shyly to Miss Parker as Sydney ushered him into his office, "What is it with you, Jarod? You must have a death wish. That's Mr. Parker's daughter. You'd do well to leave her alone."
Jarod didn't care. She was captivating in her short skirt that came just below her thigh. He would have risked death to be with Miss Parker even if all she did was scowl at him.
A few nights later, Miss Parker came to his room.
"Jarod," she whispered, "Are you up?"
When he didn't wake, she shook the bed, "Want to go to the roof. I have some fresh strawberries and whip cream."
Jarod smiled sleepily, "Yeah, sure. I need to get my robe."
"I'll meet you there," Miss Parker whispered.
On the roof, Jarod found a beach towel spread out. There were no sign of the strawberries Miss Parker promised. Jarod felt cheated. Was she taunting him again? He felt her hands grip his waist.
"Thought you'd never get here," Miss Parker whispered as she sat down on the beach towel.
"I thought you were bringing strawberries," Jarod said as he joined her.
"Sorry, Sydney ate them," Miss Parker said sadly.
Jarod shrugged as he made a move to get up, "Well, I guess I should be getting back."
Miss Parker turned to face him, and the sad look in her eyes made Jarod sit down again.
Miss Parker sighed, "You know, I never wanted to come back here after my mother died. It's funny how things turn out."
Jarod nodded, "Yeah, I guess so."
She seemed so lost sitting there. He wanted so badly to put his arms around her. He wanted to tell her he understood her pain, but the memories of her taunting him stopped him.
"You know, I was mad at you for the longest time," Miss Parker said as she looked into Jared's eyes.
Jarod felt his heart grow heavy, "Why?"
"I don't remember anymore. It was so long ago," Miss Parker said as she put her arm around Jarod's waist.
"I think it had a lot to do with what happened to your mother," Jarod said softly.
"Let's not talk about that right now. Let's just enjoy the evening," Miss Parker said as she took Jarod's face in her hands and kissed his lips.
Jarod breathed deeply as he let Miss Parker explore his mouth with her tongue.
For awhile they kissed, and then Miss Parker began to undress him. She caressed his chest with her kisses as she worked her way down his body.
Jarod began to gasp and moan with pleasure as he felt Miss Parker's tongue caress him.
"Do you think we should be doing this? Jarod asked.
"Shush, let's just enjoy this moment," Miss Parker whispered as she guided Jarod into her.
"Oh God," Jarod gasped as he moved rhythmically inside her.
He had read everything there was on the subject of sex, but he never imagined it would feel this good.
Miss Parker reached up and stroked Jarod's face, "Do you love me, Jarod?"
"Yes...Oh God!...Yes," Jarod panted as he came inside her.
Miss Parker smiled sadly, "I bet you say that to all of the girls."
Jarod didn't follow her. He was about to ask her what she meant, but the door to the roof slammed open.
Miss Parker became frantic, "Quick! Get yourself together. Someone's coming!"
"Who's up here?" An angry voice with a flashlight demanded.
"Oh, shit!" Miss Parker whispered frantically, "It's my father. Hurry hide before he sees you!"
Jarod collected his clothing and hid behind the skylight watching Miss Parker approach the dark figure.
"Daddy? Is that you? I thought you weren't due back until tomorrow?
"Sydney told me you were hanging around the "freak" again. I didn't believe you could be this stupid!" Mr. Parker said angrily.
Miss Parker said something that Jarod couldn't here.
"Let's go! Move! I don't want to hear another word," Mr. Parker growled.
Jarod was on his way to the back stairway when he heard a loud shriek followed by a scattering of hurried footsteps. Someone was falling. Angry voices came from the stairwell.
"Get her away from here," someone yelled.
"Is she hurt?" another voice added.
Another voice that Jarod never heard before growled, "I thought you told me you had her under control."
"I didn't know she would pull something like this," Mr. Parker replied
"Take her to the Tower," the voice said, "Keep her there until I give you further instructions."
Jarod's heart was pounding as he ran down the long corridor to his room. He climbed into bed and pulled the covers over his head. He trembled as he thought of Miss Parker, and what they would do to her if they were to find out she was with him.
Just as Jarod had gotten his breathing under control, Sydney entered the room.
Jarod looked up at him innocently as Sydney sat at the edge of his bed.
Sydney's face was a mask of worry, "I hope you know what you're doing, Jarod?"
"We were just talking," Jarod lied.
"I hope it was worth it, Jarod," Sydney said, "I just spent the better part of an hour convincing Mr. Parker that you were running a simulation, so it couldn't possibly have been you on the roof with Miss Parker."
"Is Miss Parker alright? Where are they taking her?"
Sydney sighed, "Miss Parker is going away. She thought it best to return to school early."
Jarod stared at Sydney in disbelief, "I can't believe you. You're just like all the rest of them."
Sydney shook his head in frustration, "What were you thinking, Jarod? I thought I warned you to stay away from her."
"I honestly don't think my private life is any of your business," Jarod said angrily.
"When it comes to you, Jarod, I make it my business. I just hope you took the proper precautions," Sydney said as he left the room.
Jarod lay in bed thinking. What had Sydney meant by "proper precautions?" Jarod made a mental note to himself to find out.
A sound of someone yelling jerked Jarod from his memories .The clock in the bedroom read 4:03 am. Jarod rubbed his eyes sleepily. He didn't like to remember certain things that happened in the past, but lately he couldn't stop himself from reliving past hurts. He was like those children at Ridge. In some way, Jarod saw himself as damaged. We're all damaged in one way or another. Who had said that? Jarod couldn't remember.
The children at Ridge were scarred physically as well as emotionally. While Sydney never resorted to violence to get what he wanted, his ability to coerce and control reaped damage on Jarod that only now began to surface. The scars would always be there, and even when the truth about his parents came out, Jarod knew he would never be able to lead a normal life. Working on this assignment at Ridge had opened up an old wound; a wound that may never close.
April 20, 1997
"Thank you for seeing me, Mr. McNichols. I'm sorry about your loss," Jarod said sadly. The house was a mess with newspapers piled on the floor as well as the sofa. Mr. McNichols cleared away some of the newspapers from the sofa, "Yeah, well-shit happens."
"Shit happens?" Jarod asked as he regarded Edward McNichols curiously.
"Look, Dr. Livingstone, I'm running late. I have to get these newspapers to the recycling bin before I have to leave for work," Mr. McNichols said impatiently.
"I know this must be hard. It's very hard to lose someone you love," Jarod said softly.
Mr. McNichols nodded, "Yeah, well like I says, I have to get going."
Jarod watched as Mr. McNichols lugged the tied newspapers outside where he placed them in his truck. Mr. McNichols didn't seem to be upset over his daughter's apparent suicide. Jarod wondered if Mr. McNichols was hiding something.
The front door opened, and Mrs. McNichols entered. Her arms were full of groceries. She was followed by a little boy. Jarod got up to help her.
"Here, let me get this for you."
Kathy McNichols smiled politely as she led Jarod to the kitchen, "Billy, you come in here with Mommy."
The tow-headed little boy followed her into the kitchen. In an attempt to hide behind his mother's skirt, Billy knocked into Jarod.
"Sorry, Mister," Billy said cringing.
Jarod knelt down, "Hi there, Billy. My name is Jarod."
"Hi," Billy said shyly.
Mrs. McNichols smiled as she smoothed away an errant hair from her son's forehead, "Why don't you go outside and play for awhile. Mommy has to talk this nice young man."
Billy started to wimper, "I want to stay with you, mommy."
A loud, angry voice came from the livingroom, "Billy, mind your mother!"
Jarod bit back the anger that had started to surface.
Billy began to cry softly.
Jarod reached into his pocket and withdrew a brightly colored pez dispenser, "Here, Billy. I want you to look after this for me."
Billy wiped his face on his sleeve. He looked at his mother before he grabbed the candy from Jarod's hand. The back door slammed as Billy disappeared outside.
Mrs. McNichols smiled, "Thank you. You're very good with children."
Jarod smiled, "I was one once."
Mrs. McNichols laughed. Her face became full of energy and good humor. Jarod liked her that way. It almost made him forget that she had just lost her daughter. He wished he could keep her laughing longer.
The front door slammed, "I'm going now. Don't wait up for me," Mr. McNichols hollered.
Mrs. McNichols breathed a sigh of relief, "He's going to work. You said on the phone you wanted to ask me about Ali."
"Yes," Jarod nodded, "I hope I'm not imposing."
"No, it's okay," Mrs. McNichols said as she cleared away a place for him a the kitchen table.
"I'm sorry this place is such a mess. Everything's been so hard since Ali..." Mrs. McNichols began. Her eyes welled up with tears.
Jarod took her hand, "It must have been awful for you. I can see how much you loved her."
Mrs. McNichols sobbed softly, "I didn't want to take Ali to Ridge. Dr. Winston said it would be the only way to help a girl like Ali."
Jarod felt himself bristle at the mention of Dr. Winston's name, "How long had Ali been seeing Dr. Winston?"
Mrs. McNichols started to cry harder. She reached for a box of tissues. She pulled one out and wiped her eyes with it.
Jarod waited for her to regain her composure, "I know how hard this must be for you. I can come back at another time."
"No, it's okay. I don't mind," Mrs. McNichols said through tears.
"If this is too difficult, I can leave, Mrs. McNichols." Jarod repeated.
"No, please. It helps me to talk about Ali. And, please call me Kathy," Mrs. McNichols said.
Jarod smiled, "How long had Ali been seeing Dr. Winston?"
"Two weeks," Kathy replied. She looked down at her hands, "It's my fault. I was the one who signed the papers. I didn't know he was going to commit her. He said signing the papers was just a formality."
"Did Dr. Winston ever tell you what his diagnosis was?" Jarod asked.
"He told me she was sick, but he never told me what it was. He said she needed to be protected," Kathy sobbed.
"Protected? Was Ali in some sort of trouble?"
Kathy sighed, "Ali didn't have many friends. She liked to do her own thing. Kids are cruel, Dr. Livingstone, and I guess some of them were giving her a hard time. Ali just ignored them, but one girl accused her of sleeping with her boyfriend, so Ali defended herself. The teacher must have came in just as Ali punched the girl back. The teacher recommended that Ali seek counseling. Does this seem normal for a teacher to do, Dr. Livingstone?"
"Please, call me Jarod. Did you speak to the teacher?"
"She told me that I should speak to Ali, but Ali would never tell me," Kathy said. Her lip began to tremble again, "Ed McNichols is Ali's stepfather. I guess Ali resented me for marrying him after her father died. Ali hated Edward, and I guess the feeling was mutual."
"What do you mean?" Jarod probed gently.
"Edward was adamant that I sign the committment papers," Kathy said quietly, "I didn't want to. Edward's signature didn't count. It had to be mine. It was all my fault. My baby would still be alive today if I hadn't signed those damn papers."
Kathy covered her face with her hands. She began to sob loudly. Her breath came in gasps. Jarod reached across the table and touched her shoulder.
"Kathy...Kathy," he repeated, "It's not your fault. You have to believe that. You couldn't have predicted what happened. You wanted to help your child. You would have moved mountains if you had to."
Kathy blew her nose, but she continued to cry softly, "My daughter didn't commit suicide. She had trouble taking pills. She was born with an unusually small esophagus. The only way she could have taken those pills is if they were crushed."
"Or if they were given to her intravenously," Jarod said frowning.
Kathy looked up at him, "You believe me. You know she was murdered. That's why you're here."
"Yes, I believe you. I always trust a mother to know her own child," Jarod said gently, "Now, the problem is proving it."
"Is there anything I can do?" Kathy asked eagerly.
"Do you have Ali's medical records?" Jarod said as he got up.
Kathy nodded, "Yes, let me get them."
Kathy returned a short while later with a folder. She handed it to Jarod, "I hope this will help."
"Yes, I believe it will, Kathy," Jarod said as he briefly glanced at Ali's records, "This will definitely help."
"Thank you, Jarod. I hope one day I can repay you for your kindness," Kathy said as she walked him to the front door.
Jarod waved to Kathy and Billy as he pulled away from the curb in his rental car compliments of Ridge Psych. He wished he could have done more for them. Looking at the folder, Jarod knew he would be making a start, but nothing would replace what Kathy had lost.Jarod sighed wearily. He was getting tired of his one man judge and jury show. Lately his assignments were striking too close to home.
Scene 4: Proper Precautions Cont-
April 21, 1997
They had been driving for 24 hours straight. Sydney was tired and angry. He began to grind his teeth in frustration. He held the steering wheel so tightly that his hands began to hurt.
"I'm sorry, Sydney. I thought it was a genuine lead," Broots said nervously.
Sydney gripped the steering wheel tighter. He prayed he would be able to control his temper long enough to get home.
"How was I supposed to know the articles were three weeks old," Broots began.
Sydney jammed on the breaks. The car began to skid before finally coming to a stop on the side of the road.
"Get out! Get Out!" Sydney growled savagely.
"What? You can't leave me here," Broots said in disbelief, "How am I supposed to get home?"
Sydney took a deep breath willing himself to take control of his emotions, "How could you make such a stupid mistake? Didn't you look at the dates on the newspapers before you started reading them?"
"I did., Sydney. Honest to God, I did," Broots spat back.
Sydney shook his head, "Let me see those newspapers."
After looking at the newspapers, Sydney realized that someone had cleverly replaced the original articles with outdated articles. Sydney held the flashlight behind the pages, and saw where the articles were glued into place.
"Where did you get these newspapers, Broots?"
Broots looked at Sydney's face. His eyes were seething with rage.
"Hey, don't look at me. I didn't do it."
"I didn't say you did. Where did you get those newspapers?" Sydney repeated.
"I got them from Miss Parker's office. She had them all over the floor." Sydney pulled back onto the road. They were an hour away from the Centre. Sydney pushed the accelerator as far as it would go, and they made it under 35 minutes. Sydney rushed into the Centre lobby and ran frantically to Miss Parker's office. Could it be that Jarod was on the premises. Sydney could barely contain his excitement. The door to Miss Parker's office was open. The light from the hallway illuminated the doorway. Sydney opened the door wider, and turned on the light.
The walls to Miss Parker's office were covered in condoms of assorted shapes and sizes. There were even condoms that were rainbow colored.
Broots stood in awe, "Holy shit. Now, this is really too weird, even for Jarod."
Sydney shook his head, "No, this is definitely Jarod's work."
Sydney heard the whine of the computer. He gingerly stepped around the desk. Taped to the monitor was a note addressed to him. Sydney opened it.
Is this what you meant by Proper Precautions? -Jarod Sydney shook his head, "Come on, Broots. Let's get this place cleaned up before somebody sees it.
Broots nodded as he began removing the condoms from the wall.
After the office was cleaned, and there was no trace of Jarod's visit, Sydney went into his office and closed the door. He wasn't a young man anymore. He was starting to get tired of chasing after Jarod. Catching Jarod was a pipe dream. He knew that now.
Sydney thought of Miss Parker. Would he become like her. She was so angry, so full of hatred. Catching Jarod had become an obsession for her, and now she was dying if she wasn't already dead. Sydney picked up the phone, and dialed the number Dr. Bradley had given him. He waited for the switchboard to pick up, "Is Dr. Bradley there?"
The operator put him hold, and then Sydney was transferred to ICU. "Dr. Bradley speaking."
"This is Dr. Green. How is my niece doing?"
"I'm sorry, Dr. Green. She's the same. Although we did see some improvement when her husband stopped in," Dr. Bradley began.
Sydney gasped, "Her husband?"
"Yeah, at least he introduced himself as her husband. He said he'd call you," Dr. Bradley continued.
"What did this man look like, Dr. Bradley?" Sydney asked barely able to contain his impatience.
"He was young. Mid-thirties. Short, dark brown hair. Real tall and muscular. He looked like he could have been an athlete. Maybe a runner, or something. Is this guy wanted for something?" Dr. Bradley asked in concern.
"Did he give you his name?"
"He introduced himself as Jarod. He never did tell me his last name. Miss Parker seemed to recognize him. Her heart rate went up whenever he was in the room with her." Dr. Bradley said.
"He visited before?" Sydney asked.
"He's been here every night since Miss Parker arrived."
Sydney smiled, "How long does he usually stay?"
"I'm not sure. He's usually leaving when I come on duty," Dr. Bradley replied.
"Is there any chance you can get him to stay until I can get there? It's very important I see him. I could pay you something extra for it," Sydney offered.
"I don't think he's coming back for awhile. He mentioned something about an extended business trip."
Sydney reached for a pen, "Did he leave a number where he could be reached?"
"No. He said he would call when he got a chance." Dr. Bradley said.
Sydney sighed heavily, "You'll let me know if there's any change in my niece's condition?"
"Sure, and Dr. Green?"
"Yes," Sydney replied.
"I don't think you have to worry about Miss Parker's husband. He seems to care very deeply about Miss Parker."
Sydney nodded, "Yes, I believe he does. Thank you, Dr. Bradley."
"Have a good evening, Dr. Green," Dr. Bradley said before he hung-up. Sydney looked at the phone for a long time. There would be no stopping the truth from coming out now. Mr. Parker's dirty little secrets would begin to come to light. It would only be a matter of time before the whole world knew the evil that went on behind the walls of the Centre. Jarod had once asked him if he ever felt guilty for what he did. Sydney had made up some answer that there were many casualties in science, but it was the greater good that was important. Jarod hadn't accepted that, and now Sydney had come to doubt it himself.
When the truth eventually came out, Sydney knew he would be the one left holding the bag. It was always the underlings that suffered, but Sydney had taken steps to minimize the damage. Sydney reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a key. This key held the ticket to his future.
Scene 5: Revenge Has a Sweet Reward
April 22, 1997
Jarod smiled patiently as he filled prescription after prescription. The line of customers continued to grow, but Jarod laughed and joked with them which made them cheerful and complacent. Earlier that morning, Jarod had called in a prescription for Haldol;- the same strength Dr. Winston had prescribed for Ali McNichols. In large doses Haldol was almost always fatal, and if the drug were to be given to a sane person, it would cause temporary insanity.
After the line of customers diminished, Jarod ditched his pharmacist's coat, grabbed his prescription and left. On his way out, Jarod mailed a large manila envelope addressed to Kathy McNichols..
Jarod arrived at Ridge in time to catch Marge Romero just as she was starting her shift. She had been on call the night Ali McNichols died. She was reluctant to talk about what happened that night, but Jarod's insistence that men like Ralph Winston needed to be stopped convinced her to tell Jarod what happened.
"Ali McNichols was a typical teenager," Marge Romero began, "My daughter was in the same homeroom."
"Did your daughter know Ali," Jarod asked.
"Know her? They were practically joined at the hip. But that ended when Ali started going out with that creep, Roy Neddy. That boy was bad news," Marge continued.
Jarod looked at Marge curiously, "Bad news?"
"He ran with a different crowd. And let's just say this crowd really knew how to throw a party, if you know what I mean," Marge said as she put her purse away.
Jarod didn't know what she meant,"What kind of party did this guy throw?"
Marge looked at Jarod for a minute before she spoke, "The usual; sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I think Roy was more partial to the drugs. Ali stopped seeing him because he was always on something."
Jarod shook his head, "Ali hardly seems the type to o/d. on drugs."
Marge frowned, "Dr. Winston said that Ali was psychotic. I believed him. I was there when Kathy brought her in. Ali was hysterical."
"You don't believe that now, do you Marge?"
Marge looked away, "I thought I did, but after talking to my daughter, I was wrong Dr. Winston had Ali on a course of Haldol. I told him what Dina, my daughter, told me."
"What did Dr. Winston say?" Jarod prodded.
"He told me to mind my own business. He told me nurses should remember their place. He knew what was best for Ali better than her own mother," Marge said angrily.
Jarod handed Marge a copy of Ali's medical records.
As Marge read them, she began to sob.
"Ali didn't take those pills, Marge. She couldn't have. How did she get them?" Jarod asked gently.
Marge sobbed louder. Her chest heaved as she gasped, "I gave Ali her medication intravenously. Oh God! What have I done? I killed her, Dr. Livingstone. I killed Ali McNichols."
Jarod wrapped his arms around Marge as she sobbed, "You didn't kill Ali, Marge. Dr. Winston was the one who wrote the prescription. What I don't understand is why?"
Marge wiped her eyes with Jarod's handkerchief, "Dr. Winston needed permission from one of her parents in order to prescribe the Haldol. Kathy refused to sign, so Mr. McNichols came, and he signed them. He said his wife was too upset to be thinking clearly."
"Did Ali ever speak to you about her stepfather?"
"No. She refused to speak to anyone. I had to literally pull teeth to get Dina to tell me the truth," Marge cried.
"What did Dina tell you?"
"Oh, God! It was so awful. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had to have Dina repeat it several times," Marge gasped, "Ali was raped by her stepfather. She was pregnant with his child. Dina was going to go with her to get an abortion, but they never got the chance."
"What happened the night Ali died?" Jarod asked.
"It was horrible. I was with another patient when I remembered that I still had to give Ali her medicine. She went into convulsions immediately after I gave it to her. I called Dr. Winston at his home. I asked him how much Artane to give her, but he told me to wait until he got there. He said he would give it to Ali himself."
"You were the one who called 911," Jarod said.
Marge nodded, "I waited and waited for Dr. Winston, but he never came. I got scared. I couldn't just sit there anymore. I had to do something."
"It was too late," Jarod frowned.
"By the time the paramedics arrived, Ali was dead. She died in my arms," Marge said as she started to sob, "Dr. Winston came in as they were wheeling her out. He was the one who found the empty pill bottle under her bed."
"You knew that Ali didn't kill herself?"
"I wanted to say something, but Dr. Winston threatened to have my license suspended. He knew how important it was for me to keep my job. He knew I needed the medical benefits for my son. I could never afford to pay for my son's care. He would have choked to death without his medicine," Marge said as she covered her face with her hands, "My son is dying of Cystic Fibrosis. I know that I should have come forward sooner, but when you see a child you love in so much pain, you lose your ability to decipher right from wrong."
"You're not to blame, Marge. Dr. Winston used your helplessness as a way of hiding his own arrogance. I hope one day you can forgive yourself."
"I don't think I can ever forgive myself, Dr. Livingstone, but I'm sure as hell not going to allow Dr. Winston to kill another child. Whatever you want me to do, consider it done."
"Thank you. I knew I could count on you, Marge." Jarod said smiling.
The Isolation wing was quiet. Jarod had Marge remove all of the patients. They were all sleeping comfortably in their new rooms; rooms that were cheerfully decorated with paintings of clouds, balloons, and zoo animals compliments of Jarod's stint as a starving artist in San Francisco.
Jarod waited for Dr. Winston to arrive. He had called him earlier for a consult on one of his patients. Jarod knew Dr. Winston always had tea before rounds, so Jarod had diluted the Haldol syrup and poured a minuscule amount into Dr. Winston's cup. Pity, the dosage wouldn't be high enough to elicit the same fatal response that Ali had, but after drinking the mixture, Dr. Winston would wish it did.
Dr. Winston greeted Jarod cheerfully as he entered the Isolation Wing, "Good evening, Jarod. How's our little patient doing?"
"He won't talk to me. I guess he prefers you, Ralph," Jarod said smiling.
Dr. Winston nodded as he sipped his tea, "This tea is positively delightful, Jarod."
Jarod smiled wickedly, "I put some vanilla extract in it. My Uncle Sydney taught me that. He said it would hide the taste of the poison, but I wouldn't know. I don't drink tea."
Dr. Winston stared at Jarod in horror, "What did you give me?"
Jarod smiled innocently, "Only the same poison you prescribed for Ali McNichols."
Dr. Winston screamed, "Quick, Jarod get me the Artane."
"I wonder, Ralph, why did it take you so long to come back to the hospital?" Jarod asked as he began to walk in circles around Dr. Winston.
Ralph began to drool, and as he attempted to follow Jarod, he began to stumble, "Jarod, please. I don't have much time. Get me the Artane."
"Is that what happened to Ali. Did she beg you to help her? Did she tell you she couldn't walk without becoming dizzy?" Jarod sneered.
Ralph grabbed at Jarod's coat, but Jarod stepped nimbly aside leaving Ralph grabbing at the air, "Please, Jarod. I need the Artane."
"What's that? I can't make out what you're saying. You're slurring your words. Did you know that, Ralph?"
"Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?" Ralph asked as he fell against the wall.
"It's not what you've done to me, Ralph. It's what you did to Ali. You gave her the fatal dose even before Nurse Romero went into Ali's room. You tried to set her up, didn't you Ralph? But there was a problem with your plan, wasn't there?" Jarod said as he knelt down and stared menacingly at Ralph's glazed eyes.
"The bitch called 911. She couldn't have waited until I got there," Ralph said tiredly.
"So, you planted the empty pill bottle under Ali's bed," Jarod sneered.
"Yes, but what difference does it make now? You can't prove that her death wasn't suicide, and besides she's dead. Nothing's going to change that."
"It makes a big difference, Ralph. You see, Ali couldn't have taken those pills. She was born with a rare birth defect that caused her esophagus to become medically too narrow. You would have known that if you bothered to read Ali McNichols' medical records."
Ralph stared at Jarod in terror, "Please, don't do this. I need the Artane. I'll die without it. Please, Jarod. I'm begging you."
Jarod took out a vial of Artane and a syringe, "Here you go, Ralph. You'll have to administer it yourself, because I'm not really a psychiatrist, and you're not really going to die."
Jarod left the Isolation wing just as the police came. He watched as they led Ralph away. He was crying and mumbling something about being a good boy. Jarod pitied him. He was a victim of the same abuse his patients suffered from, but instead of helping them to heal, he abused them they way his parents had abused him.
Sydney read the news clipping from The Ridge Herald.
Dr. Ralph Winston, an eminent psychiatrist at Ridge Psychiatrist Hospital for Children, came forward last night admitting Ali McNichols' death, originally ruled as a suicide, was, indeed, murder. Edward McNichols, stepfather of the murdered girl, will stand trial on one count of rape, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Dr. Ralph Winston has been remanded to The State Psychiatric Center for the Criminally Insane until such time as he is deemed competent to stand trial for his part in the death of his patient, Ali McNichols. Had it not been for the efforts of Dr. Jarod Livingstone, Ali McNichols' murder would never have been brought to light. Dr. Livingstone was unavailable for comment.
Sydney sighed in frustration. Ridge was 35 minutes away from Blue Cove. He was so close, Sydney could almost taste it.
Sydney pulled into the cottage driveway. He got out and looked around.
Broots whistled, "Boy, this place is a lot nicer than any of the other places Jarod has stayed in."
Sydney said nothing. He fumbled in his pocket for the key the Realtor had given him. Of course, Jarod wouldn't be there, but Sydney had to see for himself. He opened the door, and was about to enter when he found himself buried up to his waist in microwave popcorn. A note on the wall read:
Look! Almost every kernel popped! -Jarod
Sydney shook his head, "Damn you, Jarod! When is this game of cat and mouse going to end?"
Jarod sat at Miss Parker's bedside holding her hand, "I have to leave now."
Miss Parker smiled sleepily as she looked into Jarod's eyes, "You've been here all along. I knew you would come."
Jarod kissed her forehead, "How could I leave the mother of my child?"
Miss Parker nodded as she went back to sleep.
Jarod took Miss Parker's hand and slipped a gold ring in the shape of two hearts on the ring finger of her right hand, "I never had a chance to do this the right way, but I will. I promise. I will."
Jarod stood in the doorway and watched as Miss Parker slept. He felt a lump form in his throat as he began to cry. In a better world, he would be with her. "Damn the Centre, damn Sydney for turning his life into a freak show," he thought angrily.
"At least we had that night, Moira. At least they can't take that away from us," Jarod said as he gazed one last time at Miss Parker's sleeping form. He would come back. They would be together again. He would see to that.