Puppy Love

 

home / season five / episode thirteen / act IV

   

Mario's Pizza Parlor
Portland Main Street, Oregon

“Mario, I need some advice.”

Jarod took a seat in the corner of the room, watching briefly over his shoulder as the sun began to set.

“If you’re wanting Mario to help you get Nia to fall in love with you, it’s too late. She has done that already. I’ve known her for twenty-three years and never once have I seen her behave like she did with you.”

Jarod laughed awkwardly. “No, Mario. That wasn’t it at all.”

Mario picked up and chair and set it at the other side of the table from where Jarod was sitting. “Well, what is it then? I can see you have a problem. You tell Mario and we work it out together.”

“Well, you know people in this town, right?”

Mario puffed out his chest in pride, making him look so like a pigeon that Jarod, despite his concern over the pretend, could hardly hide his smile. “Mario knows everything about everybody.”

”I need to know about some people that I saw here when Nia and I had dinner last night.”

“Mario will tell you anything you want to know. You want advice about somebody?”

“Yes, I do want your advice - on the best way to get a confession out of Peter and Steven Dockerty.”

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

“A word, Miss Parker…”

Willie stepped out of the shadows as Miss Parker unlocked the door to her office and she turned to him.

“Well, what is it?”

“A warning, Miss Parker, against going down the road that you’ve chosen.”

”How very poetic, Willie. Been reading Robert Frost?” Miss Parker leaned against the door to her office. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I; I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

He leaned in closer. “If you keep looking up information that doesn’t concern you, it might cause a lot of problems and you could find yourself in trouble.”

“Is that a threat, Willie? Who’s going to cause me trouble? A slug like you? Or maybe Egghead down in the Renewal Wing? I guess you’re still holding out for the resurrection, aren’t you, and hoping he’ll take you along for the ride. Well, you’re in for a nasty surprise on the first Sunday after you die.”

Miss Parker pushed past him and into her office, still clutching the DSA player that Sydney had destroyed. Looking at her desk, she saw that Broots had picked up the player that Angelo had destroyed and put it there. She put the one damaged by Sydney on the smooth surface next to it as Broots walked in.

“Wow! I wonder how much you get for broken DSA players at the recycling plant these days.”

Miss Parker looked up at him and the hint of a smile vanished from his face.

“Was there something you had for me, Broots?”

“I…I was going through the information from the folder again and I’d just fed it into the scanner when…you won’t believe this, Miss Parker. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe it myself.”

Miss Parker grabbed his head in her hands and stared into his eyes. “What happened?” The words came out between gritted teeth and Broots jerked his head back and wiped the saliva from his cheek.

“The scanner that I was using to put the information into the computer so that I could get the details…”

“Well?!”

”I put the piece of paper, face down so that it would scan, and then turned around to get my cup of coffee, and…”

”Well? Then what?”

“It exploded.”

“What?!” Miss Parker took a step forward and Broots took one of identical distance backwards.

“Somebody shot at the machine from the doorway and it blew up, almost in my face.”

“And - the pages?”

“They got destroyed in the fire.”

She leaned forward and grabbed the shoulder of his shirt, pulling him towards her. “The files?” Her voice was almost a shout.

“I’m getting to that. After I got my breath back, I ran to the door to see who had done the shooting but no one was there. I went back to my desk and looked for the files and somebody had deleted them, along with every reference I could find to Damon or Looking Glass or even Angelo from that time. I just finished searching again and there’s nothing.”

“So who shot at it?”

“I don’t know. I told you, I went to doorway but they were gone.”
”And didn’t anybody else see it?”

“Miss Parker, it’s nearly 1 am. Just about everybody else has left already.”

“True.”

Broots stared at her, stunned at the reaction. “Miss Parker, what next?”

“Next, I definitely have to talk to my father.”

* * * * * * * * *

Dockerty Property
Portland, Oregon

“One hundred and sixty-five, one hundred and seventy dollars.”

“Good fight night.”

Steven leaned over and slapped his brother on the back.

“Well done, brother. We’re on the way to making our fortune.”

”I don’t think so.”

The two men spun around to find a figure in a black jacket and black hood aiming a gun from each hand at the men.

“What the - who are you?”

“Someone who thinks that making a living from getting animals to fight each other is about as despicable as you can get. And someone who knows a lot about you. Like why the police dropped their investigation into the neglect of your animals, Mr. Dockerty. Or should I say, Sergeant Dockerty. That is right, isn’t it? You knew what was coming, so you made sure that the charges would never be laid against you.” The two men stepped backwards, away from the table as the newcomer spoke menacingly.

“What do you want - money? Here, take it. Take it all.” A hysterical Peter began to push the neat piles of cash towards Jarod. His brother reached across and clamped a hand down on his shoulder, dragging him away from the money.

“Leave it alone. He doesn’t want the money.”

“Not exactly.” Jarod slipped one gun into his belt and pulled a bag out of his pocket and threw it over to them. “The money will be useful. It’ll help pay for the treatment that so many animals we rescued need.”

Steven’s top lip curled. “So you’re the do-gooders that took our valuable animals away. You think you just have right to waltz in here and do what you damned well want, don’t you?”

Jarod flashed the badge that he had been hiding on the inside of his jacket. “Yes, I do. And if they’re so valuable, why not take decent care of them?” Reaching over, he grabbed the bag that Peter was holding out with a trembling hand. “It’s certainly going to be a great improvement in the lives of your poor, neglected animals.” Jarod stepped back into the shadows of the room and seemingly was swallowed up by them.

As he slipped through the open window, the group on the street below caught him. Withdrawing a few feet and hiding behind the cars, the group silently waited. The voices in the house gradually increased in volume until finally the front door opened. As it did so, the headlights from the seven waiting cars illuminated the doorway and guns were trained on the figure that froze like a startled rabbit, giving officers time to cuff him before he even began to yell.

“Steve! Steve, help!”

Jarod almost had to laugh as the second brother joined the first on the step and was taken into custody by his own men.

“You…you can’t do this to me! I’m your boss! You have to do what I tell you…”

The slamming of the car door silenced the rest of his protests and Jarod turned around to where Graham and Julie were silently watching him.

“I’m sorry, but I have to leave now. “

Julie held out her hand. “I want to thank you for all the help you’ve given us. We couldn’t have done it without you.”

Jarod clasped it and shook it gratefully. “And thank you for the chance to work with the best.”

Graham shook Jarod's hand. “Good luck in your new job.”

“Thanks.”

Jarod turned away, readying himself for the walk to the station and the first train he could catch. Time was still counting down…

* * * * * * * * *

Mr. Parker's Office, The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

“Daddy?”

“Well, finally my Angel is coming to visit me. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

”Daddy, I want to know about Eclipse.”

Mr. Parker stood up and walked around the desk to where Miss Parker stood, a DSA player tucked under her arm.

“Now, Angel, I don’t like to keep secrets from you, as you know, but in this case I’m going to have to make an exception. Eclipse was a project that we don’t talk about. When I heard from Willie that you were looking into it, I asked him to stop you. This isn’t something that you need to know about. “

“But Daddy, I want to know!”

”No!” The words came out in a shout and Miss Parker jumped at the ferocity of his tones. “I will decide what you do and don’t need to know, understand? Do you still have the DSA?”

Miss Parker hid her surprise at the mention of the disc, wondering how he knew, and dropped the machine on his desk.

“I was asking Sydney about it and he destroyed the machine.” Miss Parker paused. “The disk was inside the machine when it was damaged beyond repair.”

Mr. Parker returned to his chair and sat in his, his legs crossed. “Good,” he purred. “I’d hate my girl to have to face demons like Eclipse. Maybe one day, Angel, but not now. Am I clear?”

”Yes, Daddy.” Miss Parker's voice sounded small in the sudden silence of the office. She turned to leave but stopped. “Daddy, may I please see Gabriel again?”

“No!” Mr. Parker brought both fists down on the table and made the machine jump. “We’ve been through this and I won’t have his schedule interrupted. If you aren’t careful, I’ll get you taken off the hunt for Jarod and reinstated as a cleaner. Do I make myself understood?”

Miss Parker didn’t respond, simply turned and walked out of the office.

* * * * * * * * *

Back alley
Portland, Oregon

Jarod slipped into the alley and began to trudge down the street. He had waited until Nia had left the apartment before going in, collecting his things and leaving again. He didn’t feel that he could face her, despite having toned down the ferocity of his sting. The look on her face, and the fear he had detected in her eyes, still haunted him and he hoped he could avoid her completely. At the same time, he wondered where he had seen a similar expression on other occasions. Not in the eyes of the victims of his stings, he reminded himself, but somewhere else. More personal.

The sounds of his footsteps almost covered the steady beat of those behind him and Jarod nearly missed the telltale shadows that occasionally darkened the ground in front of him. Finally, though, his senses began to alert him to the sounds that were behind him and Jarod realized finally that he was being followed. His pursuer seemed to be wise to the attempts he made to escape and, finally realizing the true nature of his situation and relying on his better knowledge of the city to escape, Jarod broke into a frantic run.

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod's apartment
Portland, Oregon

Nia knew the moment she opened the door that he was gone. Something about the apartment was different but she had to look around carefully to notice that his few possessions were not where she had last seen them. For a few seconds she stood, looking around, trying to reconcile herself to the fact that he was gone. It was a shock - last time, at least, she had had a chance to say goodbye and this time she wanted, for some reason, to do that more than ever. Bending down, Nia picked up the bag that she had dropped on the floor and, turning, abruptly left the room.

* * * * * * * * *

Back alley
Portland, Oregon

Jarod could feel the breath coming in painful gasps in his chest. His pursuers were silent, only their running feet making noise and Jarod couldn’t tell whether they were in radio contact or using hand signals. He still maintained a fairly short lead and his knowledge of Portland was the only thing keeping him ahead. Slowly, he could feel fatigue begin to creep into his arms and legs and he knew from experience that painful cramps would follow. If he allowed that to happen, he could give up hope of getting away from them and they would make sure that he didn’t escape. The fact that he had the DSAs and his bag with him were slowing him down somewhat, but Jarod was determined not to lose them.

“Give it up, Jarod.”

The voice that came from behind him broke through the silence that had become the worst part of the chase and, at the sound, Jarod felt new energy come from within.

“Not a chance, Lyle,” he yelled back over his shoulder and, grinning maniacally, sprinted ahead. He could hear the exclamations of surprise from those behind who had felt that he must have been approaching exhaustion. Suddenly, as he rounded the corner, he saw a car that looked very familiar to him and his heart leapt within him. It was Nia. Somehow she had found him and was giving him the best chance of escape. With delighted and somewhat amazed eyes, Jarod saw the car pull up in front of him and, as he threw himself inside and felt the engine start up and the car pull away from the curb, he saw Lyle and the first of the sweepers appear out of the alley.

For a few seconds Jarod was silent, catching his breath and feeling his sweat soak through his t-shirt. Finally, though, he was able to speak.

“How did you know?”

Nia smiled and pulled out a bottle of water. “I didn’t. I just couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye.”

“But, I…”

“Jarod, I know what you did. I talked to Julie after the situation was finished and she told me.” Nia leaned over and gently touched his knee. “I want you to know how proud I am of you. I know how angry you were.”

Jarod sat with his head bowed for a few moments before looking up. “Where are we going?”

“Toluca Lake. My Jarod is as well as he can be and I’m taking him home. I thought maybe you could stay the night.”

“Nia, it’s too dangerous.”

“Jarod, it could take them all day and much of the night to search a city as big as Portland. Also, they have no reason to suspect that I was involved.”

Jarod looked at her as she drove. “And you really want me to?”

Nia smiled. “I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.”

They continued on in a companionable silence, broken only once by the sound of Jarod’s computer beeping to tell him that it was time the Centre tracked him down in Portland, Oregon.

* * * * * * * * *

Nia's Home
Toluca Lake National Forest

Jarod sat on the veranda and watched as the sun gently appeared over the treetops. With a gentle hand, he stroked Nia’s head as it lay on his lap and wondered if she was awake.

“Do you think it’s possible to ever get over the beauty of a sunrise?”

Jarod looked down as she spoke. “I’ve always thought it was one of the most beautiful things in the world. When I was in the Centre, I always used to dream about what it would look like, how the colors would blend into each other. But seeing it was beyond my wildest dreams.”

Nia sat up and leaned against his shoulder. “I have something for you.”

“Really? What?”

Nia reached into her pocket and pulled out a silver ring. “I had it made to fit. I wanted you to have something to remember me by, even if you don’t see me again. I’ve been holding onto it on the off chance that I might get the chance to give it to you.”

”Nia, I…”

She looked up at him and understood the consternation on his face. ”Jarod, this is a symbol of our friendship, nothing more.”

Jarod nodded and immediately slipped it onto his finger, admiring it in the pale dawn light.

“I should leave.”

”I know.”

Nia looked up as he came out onto the porch.

“I hoped this time it would be easier.”

“So did I. But maybe next time you’re in Oregon, you can look me up.”

Jarod nodded, knowing, as she did, that it was never going to happen. The only way that they would meet again was as they had met this time - by chance.

Nia’s dog came strolling around the corner of the house and came to stand between Jarod and Nia. Jarod laughed a little sadly.

“You see, even he knows I have to leave.”

“So do I.” Nia leaned forward and Jarod took her face in both his hands. The kiss was gentle, soft. A sweet goodbye that meant more to either of them than a passionate embrace would have done. Jarod turned and, without looking back, without pause, walked once more away from that cabin in the woods as Nia stood with her dog at her side.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker picked up the small mountain of files that she took home with her every day from the office. Stepping through the door into the deserted corridor, her keys in her hand, she was about to pull it shut, where it would automatically lock behind her, when the nearby lift doors opened and her twin brother, Cox and a team of sweepers stepped slowly out.

“Well, that looks cheerful.”

Hearing her voice, Lyle tried to straighten his weary back and look completely untroubled. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, really?” Putting down the folders on a nearby table, Miss Parker walked over and flicked up into his face the tie that was hanging loosely around his neck. “So the fact that Daddy is waiting for you to report to him in his…no, wait, in your office and has been waiting all afternoon won’t concern you at all, then?”

Miss Parker tied his tie neatly and swiftly, tucked it into his jacket, buttoned it and then slapped his chest before walking back, closing the door of her office, and picking up the folders again.

“Well, I’m off home. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” Without waiting for an answer, she stepped into the elevator and watched her brother and the rest of the men stare blankly after her as the doors closed and the lift began to ascend.

On to the Epilogue

 
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