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BLUE COVE, DELEWARE
“It was irresponsible,” Sydney said harshly. “You put yourself in danger for no reason.”
“I got my point across, Sydney,” Jarod said angrily.
“The only thing you managed to do, Jarod, was upset everyone.”
“Well, that doesn’t take much effort.”
Sydney sighed, frustrated. It had been another trying day at the Centre and Jarod’s usual sarcasm was becoming less and less tolerable to the older gentleman. That and Jarod’s actions, which were becoming more and more risky. Only today, he had shown up at the Centre, dressed as a singing telegram. No one had recognized him until long after he was gone, but what had really irked Sydney was the fact that there was no point to Jarod’s action, that he had placed himself in harm’s way - again - for no apparent reason.
“Jarod, why did you do it?” Sydney asked. “There was no reason to expose yourself to
danger like that.”
“Because I can, Sydney,” Jarod replied. “Because the Centre took away my life, and now it’s my turn to make theirs a living hell.”
“Did you ever stop to think about how your actions affect those around you? Like Samantha, for instance?”
“What about her?”
“If you had been caught exposing yourself the way you did today, you would have also put Samantha at a greater risk for getting caught.”
“I would never allow that to happen, Sydney. Besides, she is more capable than you think she is.”
“And what about you, Jarod? Did you ever stop and think about yourself when you do stuff like that?”
“I always think about myself when I do stuff like this, like how it amuses me. I think after everything I’ve been through, I’m entitled.”
“What you call amusement I call a lack of maturity and judgment. And if you don’t watch it, it’s going to get you caught, Jarod. Or worse.”
“I would love to continue this discussion, Syd, but Samantha and I have to go.” Sydney heard the familiar click as Jarod hung up on him. Doing something that was totally out of character for him, Sydney slammed his own phone, then leaned back and sighed. When did talking to Jarod become so complicated?
- - - -
Samantha sat on the edge of her bed, next to her packed bag, looking concerned. She had heard only Jarod’s side of the conversation with Sydney, but she had been able to get the gist of what they had been talking about. She glanced at Jarod as he stared out the window of their hotel room.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Fine,” Jarod said softly.
“Then why were you yelling at Sydney?”
Jarod looked over at her, then sighed. There was no point in hiding anything from her; she would find out eventually. “He wasn’t too happy about the singing telegram at the Centre today. He thought it was immature and irresponsible.”
Samantha could see why Sydney would be upset. Jarod had risked a lot to go there for nothing more than torment the Centre. However, she also understood Jarod’s motivation behind going to the Centre in that manner, having the same feelings about the Centre as he did. And somewhere in the midst of the conversation her name had been brought up, but she knew now was not the time to ask why.
“We need to go,” Jarod said suddenly. He walked over, grabbed his bag and DSA case off his bed, and walked to the front door. Samantha didn’t say a word as she picked up her bag and followed him.
- - - -
TWO DAYS LATER . . .
“I am getting sick of this, Fraser,” Detective Stanley Kowalski said as the two walked down the sidewalk. Earlier in the day Fraser had noticed that his partner was acting odd, even for him, and suggested a walk after work. Stanley agreed, and now the two were just walking in the Chicago November night. Dief was trotting beside Fraser.
“What do you mean, Ray?” Fraser asked.
“This, that,” Stanley replied. “And pretending to be someone I’m not.”
“Ray, you’re a good person.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been doing this gig for, what, almost a year now. Sometimes, I wake up, and I forget who I really am.”
“You’re my friend, Ray. And my partner. And you know who you really are, deep down inside. As long as you remember that, you can’t forget who you really are.” Stanley just shrugged as the trio continued their walk.
- - - -
“Sam, I don’t think it would be a good idea.”
“Why not? It was your idea to come to Chicago in the first place. To relax.”
“I know, but -”
“But what, Jarod? Ever since we met, I haven’t done anything but be a Pretender. Not that I mind, but it’s been two months. If we don’t do something other than being people we’re not, I’m going to go crazy.”
Jarod looked at Samantha as they sat at a small table in a café, eating dinner. It had been the second time that Jarod had been in Chicago since escaping the Centre, but this time it was strictly just to relax. He and Samantha had arrived late last night, and Jarod’s intent was just to spend a couple of nights in the city and head out. Samantha had other ideas, and she had been vocalizing them ever since they had arrived. Jarod couldn’t really blame her, seeing it was her first time in Chicago. It was a pretty spectacular city.
“Besides,” she added. “After what happened between you and Sydney, it might do you some justice anyway.”
Jarod couldn’t argue with her on that point. “What would you want to do?” Jarod asked. “The Sears Tower and Shedd Aquarium are closed, and the John Hancock Observatory is near closing anyway.”
“I don’t want to go those places,” Samantha said quickly.
“What is it?” Jarod asked, noticing her nervousness.
“I’m . . .”
“Sam, you can tell me. What’s wrong?”
Samantha sighed. “Well, I’m slightly Acrophobic.”
“You’re scared of heights?”
Samantha nodded. “For as long as I can remember. It’s hard for me to be in high places that are open. Planes are fine as long as they’re enclosed commercial aircraft , being in a tall building is fine, but if it’s an open space high up, it freaks me out.” She went back to her eating. “I guess that means no sightseeing, huh?”
Jarod smiled. “Actually, I know of one place we could go, and it’s at ground level.”
“Where?” Samantha asked.
“You ever heard of Navy Pier?”
- - - -
“Fraser, what are we doing here?” Stanley asked as he finally noticed where Fraser had led him to. The trio walked toward the bustling crowd, bright lights, and noises associated with Navy Pier.
“Well, there are a few hours left until this place closes,” Fraser said. “I figured for those few hours, you could just be you. You can do whatever you want, and I think that will let you will feel better about yourself.” Stanley snorted, but he followed Fraser and Dief.
“Uh, Fraser, don’t they have rules about animals?” Stanley asked.
“They do,” Fraser replied. He looked sternly at the wolf. “Now, you know the rules.” Dief whined. “No, they won’t make exceptions for police wolves.” The wolf snorted and sat on his haunches as the two men walked into the park.
- - - -
Samantha closed her eyes and then tossed a plastic ring at the bottles. It sailed through the air and landed right on a bottle’s neck. Jarod and a few people watching cheered and clapped. Samantha grinned.
“And we have a winner,” the vendor said. He waved his hand at the stuffed animals above him. “Take your pick, miss.” Samantha looked and silently debated before she chose a huge, purple monkey with Velcro paws.
“You want to try, Jarod?” she asked as she wrapped the arms of the monkey around her neck.
“That’s okay, Sam,” Jarod replied, smiling.
“You’re enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” Samantha asked, smiling, as they walked out of the arcade shops and stopped to get their bearings. Jarod nodded. “Told you so.” Jarod smiled.
“You sure you don’t want to go on the Ferris wheel? It looks like fun.”
Samantha shook her head. “No. Thanks.”
“Okay,” Jarod replied. He looked around and saw the ice skating rink. “How about we go skating?”
“That’d be great.” The two headed over to the ice rink.
- - - -