Naked Jarod

 

home / season five / episode eighteen / act I

   

Day 1 -- Monday
Socorro, New Mexico
Anderson-Dean University Campus

The room was full of life and chatter in the moments before the beginning of class. Students, perched on stools, arranged supplies: brushes, paints, charcoals, pastels, canvases, easels. A slender woman stood near the front of the room, scratching an image onto a canvas as preparation for this morning’s lesson. She looked up from her work and noticed the man in the doorway. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in,” she apologized as she approached, wiping the charcoal from her hands onto her over-sized art shirt.

“It’s all right. I’m sorry I’m late. This is my first day here and I got a little turned around. The campus is quite large,” he responded.

“It is that.” She smiled.

“By the way, I’m Jarod Calder.”

“The new model, right. Very nice to meet you. I’m Kris Richards and welcome to my figure drawing class.”

“Thank you.” Nervously, he watched her push the windowless door closed.

Ms. Richards pointed to another door, behind the heavy burgundy drapery. “You can change in there.”

Jarod nodded and entered the room. He emerged a moment later dressed only in a robe.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

“As I’ll ever be.”

“Great. You know the drill.”

Actually, I don’t, but I’m really good at faking it, he thought. He heard Ms. Richards explaining the day’s lesson, actual comprehension of any of it? Maybe a quarter.

He untied his robe and slid it from his shoulders and to the floor. This was the craziest thing he could remember doing, or at least the most revealing. But, it was necessary. The Centre had kept him covered and hidden for so many years. He needed to break free.

He stepped around the curtain, making eye contact with none of the students. Catching the butterflies painfully making their presence known, he reclined his slender, disrobed form onto the padded table and set his pose for the hour-long class.

* * * * * * * * *

He was beautiful. The long, slender legs, and not even a hint of a tan line, muscular chest, strong arms, and not to mention, that sexy goatee; this assignment would be a challenge. How was she supposed to do a body like that justice? “Focus,” she told herself. “You are an art student and accustomed to depicting beauty.” She steadied herself on her stool and poised the charcoal over the canvas. She was amazed at the ease with which her drawing came to life. Somehow her black charcoal had even captured the light in his soft, brown eyes.

“That is beautiful work, Lea,” Ms. Richards commented on the drawing.

“Thank you,” Leandra Marshall responded and returned to her work. The image was still there; she had not imagined it. Never before had she created a work of this magnitude; she was even more surprised it was done in her weakest medium. Watercolors were generally her media of choice, but Mondays were set aside for practicing charcoal.

* * * * * * * * *

The hour was up; Jarod slid from the table and stepped behind the curtain to retrieve his robe. He had survived the first class with his humanity intact. Silently leaving the classroom, he slid into the art model changing room, an amenity he did not remember seeing in other colleges or universities.

Exiting the room, much more comfortable in black jeans and a white button-down with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, he caused quite a commotion in the hallway. Books lay at his feet, several art implements slid across to the other side of the corridor.

“Oh, how clumsy of me. I’m so sorry, Mr. Calder.” The woman looked up at him; he nearly melted on the spot, her eyes were so warm and caring.

A smile on his face, “It’s all right. And, please, call me Jarod.” He picked up a couple books and several art brushes.

“Sure. My name is Lea Marshall.” She offered him her hand and lost her pile of books again. “Damn.” Lea knelt to the floor. “Sometimes we art majors don’t think as fast as we act.” Her smile was as warm and caring as her eyes.

“Nice to meet you, Lea.” He helped her collect her books again. She reached for her texts. “Why don’t I carry these for you?” he offered.

“Sure. Thanks. You want to get something to eat? I think the cafeteria is serving hamburgers today. Not as good as mom’s cooking, but better than the meatloaf from yesterday.”

Jarod nodded, smiling. He was hungry and really had gotten lost on the campus looking for the classroom. It would be nice to relax and rely, a little, on someone else for a change.

The cafeteria was noisy and full of people, students of all ages and religions and races and cultures. The variety of people amazed him. He heard several languages being spoken, only comprehending a few words and phrases, not able to focus on everything all at the same time.

Lea had been right; hamburgers were on the menu for today. He was very hungry; he would have to get out of this habit of skipping breakfast.

They talked for nearly an hour, then Lea mentioned she had another class. Jarod offered to escort her, then regretfully apologized, remembering a previous engagement. He did agree to meet her later in the afternoon.

* * * * * * * * *

Closing his red notebook, he stood in the doorway, watching. Graceful strokes over the canvas were giving shape to a gorgeous image: a tall, blond man; sharp, blue eyes, athletic build. “That’s an amazing painting. Mind if I ask who inspired such a work?” Jarod asked, weaving through easels and stools.

“Thank you, Jarod. This is a painting of my husband.” She added a few strokes of color to the image’s face.

“Has he seen it?”

“No. And he won’t.” Smiling, she answered the sad question in his face. “He was killed in an automobile accident several years ago.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.” He was sympathetic, and a bit relieved that he did not have to add someone else to his list of investigations.

“It’s all right, Jarod. I’ve moved on. I have my classes and my art to get me through.” She rinsed her brush, banged it against the easel leg to knock off some of the water, and loaded it with the next color mixture. “Now, I’m sure you did not come down here to discuss the death of my husband.” She dabbed more paint onto the canvas.

“No. Actually, I was wondering if you knew anything about the bodies that had been found near campus recently?”

Ms. Richards shook her head. “Nothing beyond what I’ve heard the students saying.”

“And what are they saying?”

“One of the students on campus found the last body and reported it to campus security, anonymously. The local authorities were called in, but I don’t think they’ve come up with anything. I’m sorry I don’t know any more.”

“No. That’s great. Thank you.” He turned to leave.

“Jarod.”

He stopped and turned back to her.

“Thank you for caring.”

“You’re welcome.” Silently, he left the room and entered the corridor.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Sim Lab
Monday Morning

Sam entered the sim lab and looked around inquisitively. Surveying the expanse, he counted four people: a set of twins, Sydney, and Broots. Miss Parker was not present. She had not been in her office either. No one had seen her.

“Can I help you, Sam?” Sydney asked when he spotted the sweeper on the landing.

“Have you seen Miss Parker? I have an important package for her.”

“No. Not since yesterday. But if you’d like, I’ll be sure she gets it,” Sydney offered.

Sam squared his shoulders, stood firm. “I’ve been instructed to give it only to Miss Parker.”

“I’m sorry, Sam. I haven’t seen her.”

Broots glanced up from his computer, cleared his throat. “Um, she didn’t report in this morning.”

“You didn’t tell me that,” Sydney chastised.

“I’m sorry. I forgot, I was working on a technical problem all morning,” Broots defended.

“Did she call to say why she wasn’t coming?” Sam shifted his weight.

Broots shook his head. “Not that I know of.”

“Why the concern, Sam? Miss Parker operates on her own schedule.” Sydney did not understand the sweeper’s position.

Sam furrowed his brow a little. “Miss Parker does not make a habit of running off without informing someone. The package I was given is labeled: *Confidential / Urgent.* I must find her.”

“I wish I could help you, but I have not seen her since yesterday.” Sydney took a quick glance at his set of twins, then returned his attention to Sam.

“Thank you.” The sweeper turned to leave.

“Wait,” Broots called and watched the large man face him. “Um, if the package is urgent, perhaps we should try to find her?” He waited a moment for someone to speak. No one did. “I’m gonna search Centre itineraries and see if there was anything scheduled,” Broots explained as he began a series of keystrokes.

Sam descended the short flight of stairs and crossed the room to stand behind Broots. He watched the tech work, still firmly holding the package. The computer beeped, indicating it had completed its set of instructions. “What did you find?” Sam asked.

Broots looked up at the sweeper over his shoulder. “Nothing.”

“Nothing on Miss Parker?” Sydney leaned over the tech’s desk.

“No. I mean nothing. There are *NO* itineraries in the system.” Broots looked back and forth between the two men hovering over him.

“Where else can you search, Mr. Broots?” Sam asked, seeking any possibility.

“Well, let’s see.” Broots began a new search of Centre files. He noticed Sam and Sydney were still hovering. “Um, you may want to find something to do, because this is going to take a while.”

“Let me know when you have something.” Sam instructed and left the lab.

“That was odd.”

“How so, Broots?”

“I don’t remember Sam pushing so hard.”

Sydney squeezed his chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Whatever is in that package must be very important.”

* * * * * * * * *

Day 2 -- Tuesday
Socorro, New Mexico
Local Police Station

“Can I help you, handsome?” the short, plump woman behind the desk asked of the man strolling through the door.

Drawing on his best southern gentleman’s voice, without the twang of an accent, Jarod responded, “Well, ma’am. I’m looking for the detective in charge of the investigation of the body found on the University campus.”

Seemingly impressed with his performance, she answered his request; “That would be Detective Daniel Sydor and his partner, Detective J.T. Nieuwendyk.”

“Would it be all right if I had a word with one of them?”

“Wait here, honey. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you very much, ma’am.” Jarod waited patiently while the desk sergeant wandered through the maze of officers to a stern looking man seated behind an ancient desk. He seemed annoyed at the interruption, but rose from his chair and followed the desk sergeant.

“Detective Daniel Sydor. How can I be of service?” the detective introduced himself, more as an obligation than a courtesy.

“Well, sir,” Jarod began, retaining his gentlemanly tone, “I’m a student at the university. I’ve been doing some research for one of my classes…”

“Aren’t you a little old to be a student?” Sydor asked, suspicious.

Jarod tipped his head to one side and raised an eyebrow, looking insulted. “I’m studying for a Ph.D. in various fields and obtaining a second bachelors degree in forensic artistry."

Chagrined, the detective remained silent.

“Like I was saying, I’m doing some research for a class, and wanted some information on the body that was found near the campus.”

“Well, as a student of forensics, among other things, you should know that the police do not generally allow civilians to travel to crime scenes.” Sydor paused; Jarod raised an eyebrow at the detective again as he continued, “But, since you are researching for a class, why don’t you tag along with my partner and I to the scene?” The detective waved to his partner.

“Sounds great. Thank you.” Jarod followed the two detectives to their car.

* * * * * * * * *

Several turns into the drive, Jarod noticed Sydor’s partner, Detective Nieuwendyk, swinging a hinged piece of metal. “What is that?” Jarod leaned over the back of the front seat, eyeing the item in the detective’s hand.

Nieuwendyk handed the hinged metal object to Jarod. “It’s a butterfly knife.”

Jarod examined the blade. He held one side of the knife and it fell open. “This doesn’t look very practical as a weapon.” Jarod’s face contorted as he attempted to determine how the knife functioned.

“Yeah. Actually, butterfly knives are better for showing off, than for use as a weapon.”

“Showing off?”

Nieuwendyk accepted the blade as Jarod returned it to him. “Let’s see if I can do this slow enough for you to see it.” The detective flipped and rolled the hinged blade over his fingers, opening and closing the knife expertly.

“Fascinating. May I?”

“Sure.” Nieuwendyk handed the knife back to Jarod.

Clumsily, Jarod tried his hand. Several attempts later, he was nearly an expert himself. By the time they arrived at the crime scene, he had mastered the art of the butterfly knife techniques Nieuwendyk had shown him, and created a few variations of his own.

“Hey, you’re pretty good with that thing,” Nieuwendyk commented. “You sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Nah. I’m a quick study.”

“Are you boys finished playing with your toys?” Sydor was waiting with the driver’s side door open.

“Sorry, Daniel. Let’s go, Jarod.”

Death hung in the air as they proceeded to the scene. Even the trees looked depressed. Clouds moved over the sun and nature held its breath.

Jarod stood among the trees, feeling, becoming, living the crime that had left this scene. Violence was not present in the trees, only malice. The act had been done before these branches became the ceiling of this chamber of death.

“Where was the body?” Jarod asked.

“It was found right here.” Nieuwendyk drew an outline of the body in the air.

“Details?”

“White female about 5’7”, slender build, dark hair. She might have been a student here at the university.”

Jarod nodded solemnly. “And this is the third victim?” He had read about the previous two murders, both unsolved.

“Yes. The first two were also found near campus. Both naked, both tall with dark hair. Like this one.” Nieuwendyk produced photographs of the three victims.

“What’s the M.O.?”

“Strangulation.”

“Were any articles of clothing found on the scene?”

“Only a red scarf around their necks.” Nieuwendyk returned the photographs to his pocket. “Other than that they were naked.”

Jarod nodded and pulled out a notebook and pen. Sydor watched as Jarod began sketching the scene. Delicate pen strokes that began as a jumble of lines and curves, became a near perfect rendering of the crime scene. Jarod stopped drawing and glanced to the pair of detectives. “Was the body face-up or down?”

“Face up,” Sydor answered, sliding his hands into his pockets.

“Thanks.” Jarod returned to his sketch. He wandered around the scene, sketching from different angles. Something in the grass caught his eye and he knelt to retrieve it with his pen. He tilted his head, studying the object dangling from the end of his pen.

“Find something?” Nieuwendyk asked, stepping beside Jarod.

“Not sure.” He placed the object in the detective’s gloved hand.

“Daniel,” Nieuwendyk called to his partner, “How did we miss this?”

Jarod watched Sydor examine the object. “Is that ring something important?”

Sydor handed the ring back to his partner. “No. I don’t think so, but take it back to the lab and have it tested. Let’s go.” He turned and walked back to the car.

On to Act II

 
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