edge of an empty lot, a large warehouse sat in visible disrepair. So old,
falling apart, the building wasn’t even used by transients except on the
coldest, wettest days. There were dozens of sets of tire tracks in the gravel
outside, the only signs anyone took interest in the building and its surroundings.
Inside, in the center of the large, dark room, a cell phone lay on its side, the power light flashing in a slow rhythm as if to slightly off-beat music somewhere in the distance. That modern object was completely out of place in this ancient building. Even the rats that lived in the sawdust piles didn’t come near it.
The phone let out a chirp into the silence, as if to remind its wayward owner it was still there. The sound echoed off the rotting walls like a sonar burst. It repeated once, accompanied by a final flash of light as the last of the power slipped from the battery, leaving the device as bleak as its surroundings.
* * * * * * * * *
Slowing the car to a stop, Miss Parker glanced toward Broots, who nodded.
“This is where the signal came from,” he assured her.
Opening the door, she stepped from the car and took a look around. “Why are they always abandoned warehouses?” she snarled. Not waiting for an answer, she removed her gun from its holster and made her way inside with Sydney and Broots following close behind. The room was nearly pitch black despite the dimming daylight outside, and Broots produced a couple of flashlights. Handing one to Sydney, he moved away from them to begin to look around.
The flashlights caught on fallen beams and cobwebs as they cast patterns of fragile light on the heavy shadows across the walls of the old building. It was a single large room with loft-like platforms around the edges, well above their heads. Piles of sawdust remained on an otherwise bare hardwood floor, buffering it from their footsteps. A large path had been cleared from the door opposite where they’d entered, straight to the center of the room, where it stopped. “Of course,” Miss Parker muttered. “Wouldn’t want to leave tracks, would you, Jarod?”
They moved along the perimeter of the building, slowly edging inward as they looked for any sign of Jarod or what might have brought him there. As they crept forward, an occasional drop of rain from the storm that had followed them in fell from holes in the roof, soaking instantly into the sawdust.
“Found the phone!” Broots called out after nearly five minutes. He was standing almost in the center of the room, just at the edge of the cleared space. The phone lay at his feet, and Miss Parker reached to collect it.
“He said he was in trouble…” Sydney looked around, worry coloring his voice even as his face was cloaked in darkness. A beam of light cut between Miss Parker and Sydney as Broots moved, allowing the older man to meet her gaze. “I do hope you’re right, that he’s doing this intentionally.”
“I know you do. You’re still his security blanket, Syd.” Tucking the phone into her pocket, she touched his shoulder before leading the way back out. “I just missed the part where he was still yours.” As they exited the building, she offered him a slight smile. “Broots, hotel for tonight. Somewhere with room service for once, please. If Jarod’s still around here, we have to find him.”
Sydney smiled back at her as they climbed back into the car.
* * * * * * * * *
Confident that he’d be able to waltz right in to see the baby, Lyle headed for the nursery. He’d spent the better part of the day going over Gabriel’s medical files, notes from his nurse, videos of his interactions and achievements thus far. Now it was time to see the child for himself.
He had never actually been in the room with the baby. It hadn’t been that important to him before, but as with everything, when it became so, he acted on it. Opening the door to the nursery, he cast his eye for Gabriel, who was nowhere to be seen.
“May I help you?”
“I certainly hope so.” Looking at the woman who had entered the room, he smiled. “I was hoping to see the baby.”
Her head shook instantly. “I’m sorry, but you aren’t on my list of approved visitors.”
Lyle’s smile faded to a frown. “But you don’t even know who I am,” he cajoled. “Why don’t you check your list again?”
“I know my list, Mr. Lyle, and you're not on it. I'm sorry, but you can't see Gabriel today.” She turned her back on him, as if that was the end of the matter.
“Fine,” he replied as he turned to leave. “I’ll be back later.”
As he walked toward the door, the faint sounds of the baby in the next room carried to him. His high-pitched baby voice said, “Lielee bad.”
“That kid is too smart for his own good,” Lyle said to himself as he entered the hallway. He’d go talk to his father, find out why there was restricted visitation on Gabriel. Perhaps there was a good reason, but somewhere deep down, he knew his sister was to blame. The woman would pay for her prejudice against him, and he would enjoy every moment of it.
* * * * * * * * *
From his position in the vents, Angelo looked down on Lyle as he walked away from Gabriel’s nursery. He could hear the baby informing his nurse that, indeed, “Lielee bad.” Angelo nodded in agreement with the young child as he moved along to follow Lyle through the halls of the Centre.
* * * * * * * * *
Settling down on her bed in the hotel room, Miss Parker picked up the phone they’d found in the warehouse. “Well, Jarod, I hope you left a breadcrumb or two this time. I’m tired of this already.” Noting the dead battery, she reached down for her bag, pulled out her charger, and plugged it in. Attaching it to the phone, she pulled the blanket back on the bed and slipped underneath. Sleep sounded like the most wonderful idea she’d ever had at that precise moment. The sound of rain and thunder outside was beginning to pick up as she slipped away into dreams.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle’s arm was wrapped tightly around her, keeping her from moving. She struggled against him, as everything around her seemed to slow. His grip started to loosen as the gun in his hand went off. Hearing Jarod’s yell for his brother, her gaze went to him instantly.
The anguish across his face hit her hard, almost dropping her to her knees in sympathy for him. As she moved toward him, a flash of lightning made her jump. She turned back toward the man on the ground, and her breath caught. Blood oozing from the bullet wound in Kyle’s chest was bright red, seeming to glow in the darkness around them. The wounded man’s face shifted, showing familiar dark features -- not Kyle, but Jarod.
She gasped his name, stumbling slightly as she moved toward him. As she reached his side, everyone else vanished, leaving only the wounded man and his huntress.
“Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination,” he mumbled to her in a raspy voice, the effort obviously costing him. His eyes slipped closed as death took him, leaving her alone.
“Jarod!” she called out again. Dropping her head slightly, her eyes shut against another flash of lightning.
A young Miss Parker wandered through the halls of the Centre. It was dark and silent, eerily unfamiliar. People were always around that place, even in the middle of the night. Something felt dreadfully wrong, but she couldn’t figure out what it was. And she couldn’t find her way out.
She stepped inside an empty lab, taking slow steps toward the middle of the room.
The soft whisper caused her to spin around, to find only emptiness around her.
Again the name was whispered, but distinctly Jarod’s voice this time.
“Jarod?” The lights flashed above her, revealing her childhood friend sitting in the corner on a chair, staring intently at her. “Jarod, don’t call me that. You know how I feel about my name…”
His eyes met hers for a brief moment before the lights flashed again. "Because you were trained to hate it. Why is that?” he asked. His voice was not that of the child, but of the man. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness again, revealing that Jarod was indeed an adult now, and tied to the chair in front of her.
He looked to be slightly injured, a bruise on his cheek, slight trickle of blood on his temple. “Morgan.” Looking at her pointedly for a moment, he repeated her first name. His gaze dropped to the floor, the phone lying at his feet.
As she looked down, her eyes took in the phone. Looking up at him, she found he was gone from the chair. His breath washed across the back of her neck as he whispered her name once more. Her eyes shut at the sound, only to be forced open again by the insistent beeping of the phone.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker’s eyes opened and she shook her head, trying to clear the dream from it. One thing was for certain -- the longer she’d spent chasing Jarod, the more vivid her dreams had become. Her stomach flipped with unease at the lingering echo of Jarod’s voice, repeating her name. No one had used that name since… she couldn’t remember when. Certainly her father didn’t use it; the last time he had, it had come out sounding like a curse. Now he called her 'angel' as if her other name had never existed. Even her close friends never used her given name -- she had seen to that herself.
Her mother, she remembered. The last time person who had called her by her given name. The night before…
Exhaling a slow breath, she shook her head again. No, she wouldn’t think of that, not now. She’d go back to sleep, and let this all be just what it was -- a bad dream, and nothing more.
As she turned over, the phone caught her attention. It was charged now, and the ‘message waiting’ light was flashing.
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