Mission City, MN
Hockey practice, Friday afternoon
A battle waged in the corner, bodies slamming against each other and
the boards. Patiently, Jarod waited for the puck to jump free. Only a
slight movement of his right skate was necessary to stop the rubber disk.
He blew his coach’s whistle and called the team to center ice. “Excellent
practice, ladies. So, we all get to go home early.” He waited for the
applause of sticks tapping the ice to fade. “You’ve earned it, and hey,
it’s Friday. Rest up this weekend and be ready to practice hard on Monday.
We have a game in a week.”
The cheering began again and the crowd dissipated. Jarod hated seeing
the sad looks in their eyes the first day he had come to coach. They all
knew what had happened to Joseph Moore and he was concerned they would
not accept him. But, they had let him into their circle and appreciated
his guidance. He wished there was more he could do for these young women.
A few of the girls stayed after to chat with their temporary coach. He
spoke with the girls for a few minutes, then urged them on because their
parents would be waiting.
“Mr. Hull,” called a young lady with long, blond hair, she shook free
as she removed her helmet.
“Yes, Andrea? And call me Jarod.” He leaned against his stick.
“Of course, Jarod. Sorry.” She tucked a glove under one arm.
“It’s all right. How can I help?”
“I was wondering, I’ve been having problems with my slapshot…”
“And, you’d like a lesson?”
“Yes. If you have time?”
“Always. But if it’s okay, can we arrange something for tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Is 0900 good?” A big smile lit her face as she spoke. A retired,
military father made her more disciplined than many others, but she never
let that get in the way of having fun.
“Perfect. So, I’ll see you tomorrow morning?”
“Great. Bye, Jarod.” Andrea pushed against the ice, propelling herself
backward before turning for the gate.
“G’bye, Andrea.” Jarod watched her go. Once she had disappeared from
view, he pulled out his red notebook, turned through the pages. **Joseph
Moore Hospitalized** was the first headline; **Former Minnesota
NHL Player Attacked,** and **High School Hockey Coach’s Life in
Danger** followed . The articles recounted the unprovoked attack on
a former professional hockey player, Joseph Moore. He had played for the
Minnesota team for ten years, and retired at the end of last season. Moore
had looked for a job in the area, wanting to help the local children.
He organized a pee-wee hockey league, for which he was a volunteer coach,
and he was also offered a job as the coach for the Mission City High School
girl’s hockey team.
Mission City Hospital, Room 308
“Mr. Moore, you have a visitor,” the nurse announced to the patient and
closed the door as she left.
“Thank you,” the drowsy man in the bed responded.
“Hello, Mr. Moore. I’m Jarod Hull.” A long moment passed, Moore said
nothing. “I’m filling in as hockey coach at Mission City High Sch..”
“I know who you are. They told me you were coming.”
“I need to ask you some questions.” He moved tentatively toward the side
of the bed.
“Do you know who attacked you?”
Moore turned his head, slowly because of the pain. That was not the question
he expected of a fill-in coach. “No. I don’t. I don’t even remember being
attacked, except for the broken bones. The last thing I remember was waking
up here, in the hospital.”
Hysterical amnesia. This would complicate things. “What do you remember
prior to that?”
Rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, he closed
his eyes, concentrating. “Nothing really. The only reason I know my name
is because everyone keeps saying it.” He took a labored breath. “Can I
ask you something?”
“Am I somebody famous? A movie star or something?”
“I’ve found it’s better for the patient if people around him don’t reveal
any information about his past. Instead, he should be eased back into
his daily routine.”
“Are you a hockey coach or a doctor?”
“I taught biology and psychology for a while. You don’t remember anything?”
“No. I need some sleep if you don’t mind.”
“If I remember anything, I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you.” Jarod left quietly. He needed more information. Joseph Moore
had amnesia, convenient occurrence, and Jarod was back where he started.
He opened his red notebook again as he exited the hospital and a small,
folded sheaf of paper floated to the sidewalk. Bending, he plucked it
from the ground, opened, and read it. **This tidbit could be useful,**
he remarked to himself as he looked to the sky.
Blue Cove, DE
Her fingers drummed impatiently while she waited for the elevator doors
to part. The morning had been hectic with the trip to Jarod’s lair that
produced little more than lava lamps and smelly sticks of incense and
Broots spouting all of his hockey facts during the entire drive back from
New York. Yes, the drive; someone had already chartered the jet, and if
she ever figured out who, pain would be the first punishment inflicted.
Now, she was looking forward to a quick visit with Gabriel.
Miss Parker pushed all thoughts of Jarod and The Centre from her mind
as she walked the long, bright corridor. The door to the nursery was closed,
as always, and she stopped just outside. Peering through the small, Plexiglas
window, she released an exasperated sigh. Baby brother was asleep; she
did not have the heart to wake him, nor did she wish to endure the rage
of the nurse for disturbing the air around the sleeping child.
Turning on her heel, Miss Parker returned to the elevator; back to the
Mission City, MN
Jarod decided to walk back to his house from the hospital. It would give
him time to think. Mission City was a beautiful town, full of friendly
people, all waiting with a smile and a hello for anyone passing. His walk
took him past a small gun shop and the general-type store. All-in-all,
this was a wonderful little town.
He exited the coffee shop, a recent addition to the corner by the looks
of it, and noticed a man seeming to have car difficulties. “Excuse me,
sir. You seem to be having some car trouble.”
“Yeah. Hey, do you have a ballpoint pen?”
“You sure you wouldn’t rather use my phone?” Jarod dropped his bag full
of gear to the ground.
“No. A pen will be fine.”
“Will this do?” Jarod produced a pen from his red notebook and handed
it to the tall man with graying sandy-blond hair.
Jarod watched intently as the man twisted the pen apart and removed the
ink cartridge. He plucked the spring off and nimbly stretched it between
two catches under the hood. Sliding behind the wheel of his Jeep, the
man turned the key in the ignition. The engine cooperated and the man
was ready to go.
“Thanks for the pen…”
“Jarod,” he politely introduced himself. “You’re welcome. Glad I could
help.” He pushed the hood closed and latched it.
“I owe you one, Jarod.”
“Well, maybe you can answer a question for me.”
“I’ll give it a try.”
“Why didn’t you just call a mechanic?”
“The starter just needed a spring. I didn’t need a mechanic.”
“Do you do that all the time?”
”Fix things with ballpoint pens?”
“No, usually I use duct-tape.” A large, white smile crossed the man’s
face. He could see Jarod did not understand. Most people didn’t.
“Maybe I’ll see ya around.”
“Sure. Take care.” Jarod watched as the inventive man drove away, realizing
he had never gotten the man’s name. What an intriguing person, he can
fix cars with ballpoint pen springs and other things with duct-tape. Perhaps
he could find this man again someday, when he was truly free from The
Centre; he might be able to answer more of his questions.
“Hello, Mr. Hull!” A group of teenaged girls screamed from a passing
vehicle, the windows down just long enough for them to holler at him.
Jarod lost his train of thought and waved back to the passing vehicle
filled with members of his hockey team. “Drive carefully, ladies.”
The driver honked and sped away from the line, knowing Jarod was shaking
his head because she ignored his directive, albeit temporarily.
The rest of his walk was pleasant; the cool breeze across the snow covered
ground a welcome change from the stuffy air-conditioned buildings of the
school. His rented home was comfortable and dark. He flipped a switch
and a soft light illuminated the room. He tossed his hockey gear onto
the floor and sat in the chair behind his desk, flicked on his laptop.
The monitor slowly came to life, silently working away to load the welcome
screen. Jarod punched up his e-mail. The first two messages were standard
intercepts from The Centre - Broots planning his vacation and Sydney scheduling
an appointment with The Centre dentist for one of his test subjects. The
third one disturbed him; from Sydney - Nemesis is missing - nothing more.
Cryptic indeed. Jarod sat back in his chair, thinking. He vaguely recalled
working on a project connected to that name - Nemesis - when he was still
at The Centre, but he could not remember what the premise of the project
“This is Sydney.” The accented voice came through the phone.
“What is Nemesis?” Jarod asked, deciding to be straightforward.
“A project at The Centre.”
He should have known it would not be that easy. “Sydney, somehow I was
a part of that project. I need to know what my part was.”
“I have no more information than what I’ve given you. *Time* is of the
essence, Jarod.” Sydney cradled the receiver and returned to his computer.
Pressing the button to turn off his phone, Jarod stared at his e-mail
in confusion. What was Sydney talking about, *time is of the essence*?
Sydney had emphasized the word *time*, why? This conversation was just
as cryptic as the e-mail.
He lifted his glass, knocking the small card that had fallen from his
notebook to the floor. He sipped his water, returned his glass to the
table, and plucked the card from the floor. Reading it again, he thought
about the coach in the hospital, the e-mail from Sydney, and the recent
conversation about Nemesis. *The dealer won’t rest ‘til he sells a child
death.* He had found the card in Joseph Moore’s room, on the floor beside
the closet. What would Moore know about this card? Jarod asked him, and
the only information Moore had was that it had been found in his clothing
upon his arrival to the hospital. Moore had told Jarod he could keep the
card, Jarod wanted to study it later. It was later and the note still
puzzled him. The only conclusion he could draw with any amount of certainty
was that the card had been planted on Moore after the attack. That was
not much help. He flipped the card over to check the back, it was blank.
Furrowing his brow, he sighed, irritated by his inability to decipher
this piece of the puzzle.
Blue Cove, DE
Broots sat up, attentive, the information on the screen very intriguing.
He brushed potato chip crumbs from his snowflake-patterned, wool sweater
and wiped his mouth. Eyes wide, he read the message again.
“What’s that, Broots? A letter from your girlfriend?”
“Um, no, Miss Parker. I don’t have a girlfriend.” Broots rubbed his hands
on his pants.
“Broots, the e-mail.” Miss Parker pointed toward the glowing screen.
“Oh, right. I intercepted this message. Something about Andromeda.”
“What is Andromeda?”
“It’s a star constellation.”
She smiled and snatched the printout she knew Broots had made and strode
down the hall as quickly as her spiked heels would carry her.
Sydney hardly noticed the office door slam closed. He lifted his head
and switched off his computer monitor in the two seconds before Miss Parker
began ranting about Andromeda.
“Miss Parker, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The desk lamp cast an eerie glow across the angry woman’s face as she
leaned against the heavy structure of the desk. “Sydney, I wasn’t born
yesterday. You know as much about what goes on here as anyone.”
“There is nothing I can tell you, Miss Parker.” He switched the monitor
“Syd, you’re trying my patience.”
Persistence sometimes paid off, Sydney gave Miss Parker a tidbit. “Andromeda
was a Centre project that did not go exactly as planned.”
“There’s news. More.”
“More? There is no more. That’s all I know.”
The door slammed again, this time against the interior wall of the office
as Miss Parker stormed out and back to Broots’ terminal. She pushed the
computer geek into the chair; pointed his head toward the computer. “See
what you can find about Andromeda.”
He worked as quickly as he could, but with her standing over him, brooding,
he was very nervous. He could tell she was irritated as she began pacing
around his desk. Did she expect the information to just jump out of the
archives? He had to search through thousands of files, some encrypted,
some not. He had to sift through it all, one byte at a time. “Um, Miss
Parker, this might take a little while.”
Dark eyes scowling, she turned on her heel and strode away, stilettos
punctuating each step.
“Broots! Wake UP!”
There was a sound in his head, he knew it, but something kept him from
reacting. The sharp pain in his back, on the other hand, seared to his
soul and could not be ignored. His head bolted up and slammed into something
hard. Over his shoulder he realized he had hit Miss Parker’s hand. “Uh,
She sighed. “What do you have?”
“Sorry, not much.” He cringed, waiting.
Miss Parker exhaled over his shoulder. “Broots, do you have anything?”
“Yeah. Nothing on Andromeda. I have to go through the files rather meticulously.
But, I think I know where Jarod is.”
”Out with it, Brain Guy.”
“Well, he was seen talking to Glen Sather.”
“Who is he?”
“Currently, General Manager for the New York Rangers.”
“We were already there, genius.”
“Yes, but he was also the coach and GM for the Edmonton Oilers.”
“Jarod is not in Edmonton, Broots. Try again.”
“How? You haven’t even been there.”
“Broots, I just know. Now, look for Andromeda.” She left his desk and
wandered the halls.