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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?"

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