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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.


"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.


"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.


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.


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