Season of Fire
Jarod turned to look at Parker, a trace of amusement in his eyes. "I thought you were going to stay in the car."
"I got tired of feeling like a wallflower at the school dance," she shot back.
Dr. Goetz frowned, and rose from her chair. "I'm afraid I don't understand. Dr. Parker, isn't it?"
"Miss Parker, actually," she replied. "And to answer your next question, I was after Jarod the last time you saw me. We've formed a... temporary alliance, until this matter is settled."
"I see. And that 'matter' would be the young man Jarod was talking about?"
The expression on Miss Parker's face softened. She reached out into the hallway, took Ethan's hand, and led him into the room. Once inside, she slipped her arm around his shoulders, stroking his back comfortingly. Then she turned to meet the other woman’s astonished gaze. “This is Ethan. Our brother.” She offered a trembling smile. “We need your help. Please. For his sake.”
Dr. Goetz took in the young man’s rumpled clothing and disheveled appearance. Ethan's eyes wandered around the room, but he seemed detached, almost as if he were off in a world of his own. So far, her impression fit with the one she had received from Jarod. Basically nonviolent, but deeply troubled. Possibly even suicidal.
"Ethan," Jarod said gently, "this is Dr. Goetz. She's going to help you."
Almost instantly, Ethan's eyes snapped into focus, and settled on her. His voice, although soft, was more confident than she had expected. "Are you the one? The one they said was part of my future?"
She was intrigued by the change in his demeanor, but uncertain of his meaning. "Your brother and sister have probably told you about me..."
Jarod smiled and shook his head. "He’s not talking about us, doctor. This information comes from his inner sense." He turned to Parker, his eyes bright with hope. "He's listening to them. To your mother.”
Parker lifted her chin as if to defy him, and then abruptly nodded. “Yes. I know.”
“What’s this ‘inner sense’ business?” Dr. Goetz inquired with more than a trace of skepticism.
“Think of it as a form of ESP, with more of a kick.” Jarod got up and meandered toward Ethan, patting his back as he eased around him. “Knowing what the traditional schools of psychology think of the paranormal, let’s just say that he comes with a few extra tools for you to use in helping him get his feet back on the ground. It will take time to undo the damage that's been done, but eventually, with you to guide him, he'll learn which voices to listen to and which to permanently ignore."
Goetz frowned, her gaze returning to the other man. “I can see how this could be a full time job.”
Jarod leaned close and whispered something in Ethan’s ear. The younger man nodded, and turned his attention back to the psychiatrist. He went up to the desk and put his finger on the spot where she always kept her candle.
“You make your own candles,” Ethan murmured, his head bowed. “You like to do that to relax at home. And it helps you focus here, just like it does your patients.”
The woman’s mouth dropped open, and snapped quickly shut. “Nobody here could have known that. I never discussed it with anyone on the staff, or with any of my patients. How did you know that, Ethan?”
He looked up at the ceiling and tilted his head, as if listening to something no one else could hear. “Your grandmother heard voices, too. And when you were a little girl, you thought that was a special gift.”
Tears gathered in the woman’s eyes. “That’s -- that's right. She never told anyone but me. She didn’t want people to think she was crazy.”
“She called you Cricket.” His vacant gaze focused gently on her face. “And she believed this is what you were meant to do. 'A special person, to help special people.' Am I special, Dr. Goetz?”
She smiled then, and blinked away her tears. “It looks that way, Ethan.”
Jarod pulled a small gold plastic card from his wallet and laid it on the corner of the desk. “Anything you need, doctor, use this. I’ll make sure there’s always plenty of money in the account.”
Parker guided Ethan over to the empty chair in front of the desk, and urged him to sit in it. “I can’t stress enough that you’ll need to keep a low profile,” she told the other woman. “Wherever you go, try to avoid urban areas. And stay out of Germany and South Africa. Those are hot zones where Ethan might be recognized by people you don’t want to find either of you.”
“I thought The Centre was in Delaware.”
Miss Parker straightened and met the woman’s gaze with a steely, uncomfortable one of her own. “It’s everywhere, doctor. You can’t be too careful. Live simply. Stay in one place as long as you can before you move on. But if anyone -- and I mean anyone -- starts asking questions about him, or calls you by name, get the hell outta Dodge.”
Dr. Goetz nodded. “Maybe along the way, Ethan can help me with some of my research.”
Parker glared at her. “Just don’t turn him into a guinea pig,” she snapped. “Jarod said we could trust you to take good care of him. Don’t forget to do that.”
“Of course not, Miss Parker. My patient’s welfare will always come first with me.”
“All right, then. I hope you don’t disappoint me.” She moved around the chair and squatted down so she could look up into her brother’s face. “I have to go now, Ethan. But the doctor will help you. And I’ll be thinking of you every day.”
He laid his right hand over hers as she smoothed her fingers over his sleeve. “We’ll think of you, too.”
Parker knew instantly who he meant, and smiled. Fondly, she touched his stubbly cheek, and stood up with the grace of a cat, smoothing down her trousers.
Dr. Goetz glanced up from the warm good-bye between brother and sister to see that the three of them were now alone in the room. "Jarod?"
“He had to go,” Ethan responded softly. “Someone he has to see." He looked up at his sister. “I’m supposed to go away now. Right?”
“With Dr. Goetz, yes. You stay with her, understand?” Ethan nodded, and she gave him one last hug. Then she sighed, turning her attention to the other woman. "Since I have no doubt that Jarod disappeared with my car, would you mind driving me to a place where I can rent one?”
“I’ll be done here in a few minutes.” Dr. Goetz returned to packing up the last of her things.
“You'll be seeing him soon,” Ethan murmured.
“Who?” Parker asked
Ethan did not elaborate, and she decided he must mean Jarod. Though her adversary was very good at his frequent disappearing acts, he always managed to keep in touch. And one day, that habit would land him right back inside The Centre.
* * * * * * * * *
Sisters of St. Catherine Convent
Emily had been cooped up in her room far too long. She was feeling better, and eager for a breath of fresh air, though her legs weren't up to walking very far just yet. She was delighted when Sister Mary produced a wheelchair left behind by the room's previous occupant. Finally able to move around, she made her way outside and wheeled along the path which ran across the grounds.
The sun was shining bright and unseasonably hot, the air incredibly still and heavy. Nothing moved, not a bird or insect, not a leaf or twig stirring. It was as if a season of fire had descended upon the convent, driving everything and everyone toward the shadows to seek some relief. Her arms prickled with gooseflesh as a premonition swept over her, and she stopped in front of a statue of the Virgin Mother to pray for her family. But the nagging suspicion of terrible things looming in the near future did not go away, even when she gazed up into the statue’s beneficent face of white stone.
She crossed herself and turned around, preparing to return to her room, when she spotted a car pulling into the parking lot some distance away. She watched hesitantly, and as soon as she saw the shape of the man and his stride, she knew who it was. She wasn’t up to walking just yet, but her heart had wings as she waved and waited for him to find her.
“Daddy!” she cried, when he was close enough to hear her. He turned toward her instantly, angling away from the convent’s front doors. He jogged to close the distance, his eyes searching the landscape around her as he drew near.
“Have you seen Jarod?” he asked when he reached her.
“No. I was hoping you’d heard from him,” she answered. He looked worried, and that wasn’t good. “What’s the matter?”
“We have to go,” he answered brusquely. “Let’s thank the sisters and get out of here before unwanted guests arrive.”
She didn’t have to ask who he meant.
“What about Jarod?”
Major Charles grabbed the handles of her wheelchair and hurried her inside and back to her room, careful of her injuries but needing to move quickly. “He’ll be back soon, I know,” Emily told her father worriedly.
“We can’t wait for him,” he said sharply, irritation and concern in his voice. “We’ll have to meet up with him someplace else.”
“But, Dad --"
He came around to stand in front of her, his eyes glinting. “I won’t let them take another one of my children, Emily. Jarod has managed to elude them so far, and I’m sure he’ll be fine. But you’re too weak to manage on your own for the time being. So don’t argue with me.” His expression softened to one of love, and he pulled her out of the chair and into his arms.
She didn't need to know that he had seen what he thought was a Centre vehicle in the Mercy Hospital parking lot. It was probably his imagination -- paranoia born from so many years on the run -- but he couldn't be sure. If The Centre had indeed gotten that far, there was a chance they had a lead on Jarod… or on him. With Emily still in a somewhat fragile state of health, he couldn't take that chance.
Emily hugged him tightly, aware of his pain. He would tell her about it when they were away from the convent; now was definitely not the time. She seemed to understand. “All right, Daddy. Let’s say our goodbyes and leave a message for Jarod.”
“You get your things together, and I’ll come back for you. We’ll leave Jarod a message with the sisters.”
Emily nodded, swallowed the lump forming in her throat, and went to do as she was told. There weren’t many people in the world who could get that sort of obedience out of her, but her father was one of them. She knew that look in his eyes. Unpleasant things were in store, and he was trying to head them off as he had done countless times in the years she had spent growing up with him.
“Tell Jarod I love him.”
“I will, Kitten. I will.”
Emily paused as her father headed out to locate one of the nuns. “Where are we going?”
He stopped halfway across the room, and turned slowly to meet her eyes. “To a place I know in the mountains. It’s quiet there, and cool. And there’s someone I want you to meet. I’ve named him Jordan.”
There was such a conflict of emotions on his face that Emily couldn’t decide what he was trying to convey to her. Mixed in with pride and wonder were enough pain and horror that she wasn’t sure at all she wanted to meet this person.
“That’s complicated. But I suppose it’s safe to say that he’s your brother.”
“What do you mean, ‘another one?'”
Emily sighed. “Looks like we’ve got a lot to talk about in the car,” she mused, and began gathering her few belongings together.
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