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This isn't a Christmas scribbling (but I've included some flickering lights).










Pulsating blue illuminated a quarter mile of poorly maintained Georgia highway extending from an ancient fire hydrant suffocated by kudzu to the city limit sign, and ventured no farther, punctuating the isolation, the absence of refuge, escape, as if nothing existed beyond the sign, beyond the city; for Jarod, nothing did.
 
The Pretender endeavored to ignore the instinct to resist the detaining hands, the handcuffs tightening around his wrists and biting into his skin. The dried blood coating his nostrils and right cheek served as a reminder of the consequences of resistance, the two deputies thrusting his face into the hood of a police cruiser.
 
Exhausted and battered, Jarod stared silently into the darkness, ignoring the sheriff's angry, "You can make this a lot easier on yourself by telling us where she is. At least," the sheriff pleaded, "tell us if she's still alive."
 
"She was when I last saw her," Jarod murmured softly, and was startled by the sound of his own voice, the desperation in it. And the guilt.
 
"Keep walking," a gruff voice commanded.
 
"Walking," Jarod repeated numbly, realizing only then that his legs were, inexplicably, moving, that he was, in fact, presently being escorted past enraged county deputies and state police officers whose florid faces were washed in revulsion and frantic blue.
 
And he thought of her eyes, a more vivid blue, and the tears in them when he'd last seen her, said goodbye. And Jarod thought, too, of another woman's blue eyes while vehicles, lights, and enraged faces revolved around him. "We've got the son of a bitch," a young deputy shouted into his mobile. "Hell, yeah, I'm sure."
 
"Please," Jarod attempted to explain to people who had already tried and convicted him,"if you-"
 
He fell silent at onceas if a blade had severed his rebuttalwhen a clot of saliva, thick and warm, struck the back of his head.
 
The impact was painless, but nonetheless effective.
 
Jarod's vision blurred, his knees buckled. Thick fingers clutched and contused his shoulders, and Jarod might have felt them-- had he been conscious.













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