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
“Yes, I do want your advice - on the best way to get a confession out
of Peter and Steven Dockerty.”
* * * * * * * * *
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
“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
“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…”
”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?”
“What?!” Miss Parker took a step forward and Broots took one of identical
“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.”
Broots stared at her, stunned at the reaction. “Miss Parker, what next?”
“Next, I definitely have to talk to my father.”
* * * * * * * * *
“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
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.”
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
“Well, finally my Angel is coming to visit me. To what do I owe this
”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
“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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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
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.”
“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
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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
“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.