Says It All
A knock came on the half-closed door of Miss Parker's office. A very nervous Broots poked his head in, causing the occupants to turn in that direction.
"What?" she snapped as Sydney lay a hand on her arm.
"There's a package that you might be interested in. Special delivery." He held up a brown padded envelope. "It's addressed to Mr. Cox."
"Give it here," she said, holding out her hand.
"B-but…." Broots stammered, yet the narrowing of her eyes gave him second thoughts about arguing. Opening the envelope, with caution, she let the CD slide out onto her desk. A brief read of the letter, and Parker handed the disc to Broots. "Run it, now!"
Miss Parker saw the chill of deep space in Jarod's eyes on the video. Turning to look at Sydney, she found his eyes filled with worry. She knew he feared that hate was the only emotion that could survive in such coldness.
* * * * * * * * *
The sound studio was dark, except for the small office off to the left, so Peter made his way to it. Looking in the glass windows, he found Jarod viewing outtakes from the morning shoot. Hearing the door open, Jarod turned around, his face pale in the light.
"Jarod, you okay?" Sutton asked.
"I'll be fine." Jarod walked over to the small refrigerator located by the desk, and pulled two cans of soda from inside it. Jarod twisted the lids off of both of them, then handed one to Sutton.
"You sure you're okay? You don't look so good." Sutton took a sip of his drink, and moved closer to watch the scenes from the video on the computer screen.
"I'm fine. I didn't eat and --" Jarod motioned with the soda bottle, "not something I should do. Not good for my health." He glanced at the computer screen, then back at Sutton, whose face was starting to pale considerably.
"How did you. . .?"
"Do what? Oh, you mean Dante on the screen. Computer magic, Peter, computer magic."
It was at that moment that Sutton staggered slightly, his hand reaching out to grip the desk to steady himself.
"Hey, you all right?" Jarod set his bottle of soda on the desk and helped Sutton to the chair.
"My chest… I can't breathe. Jarod, call 911, please."
"Sit there for a few minutes, Peter." Jarod placed his forefinger and index finger on Sutton's wrist. "Pulse is rather on the weak side. I wonder if this is how Dante felt when you tried to help him."
"What do you mean?" Sutton gasped, panic flaring in his eyes.
"When you gave him his insulin, Peter -- only it wasn't insulin was it?" Jarod held up a small vial of clear liquid. His face came closer and closer, Sutton tried to back away but could only go further into the chair.
"You could have saved him at the emergency room, but you didn't, did you? You let him die. He wasn't going to stay with Sutton Sound, was he, Peter? Not after he found out just how much money you had stolen from the group." Jarod turned to leave the room.
"Don't leave me, please." Pure panic crossed his features.
"Was he?" Jarod shouted.
"No, he was going to sign with Spin Disc. He was going to go to Brett with everything. I'd be ruined. Please, Jarod. Call 911."
"I don't know."
"Jarod," Sutton shrieked.
"Relax, Peter," Jarod said as he walked back over toward the gasping man," you'll be fine in, say, about twenty minutes."
* * * * * * * * *
A soft knock interrupted Jarod's packing. He placed his laptop on the desk and walked over to the door, opening it to reveal Beckett and her eighteen month old daughter, Aurora.
"Brett told me that you were leaving, so I came to say thank you." She reached up and placed a well-manicured hand on his cheek. "Are you sure you won't stay?"
"I wish that I could, but I have some personal business to attend to," he said as he ran a finger across the baby's cheek.
"It has something to do with that song, doesn't it?" she inquired. He nodded.
"Brett says that you signed with Spin Disc."
"Yeah, but the first album isn't due for a year. They are willing to wait. I'm going to spend time with this little one and, hopefully, we'll both start to heal. Well, we're off, I'm taking her to a children's version of The Nutcracker. You're welcome to join us." Beckett smiled and waited.
"Thanks. Have a plane to catch." He watched the two of them walk and the door slid silently shut behind them. Walking back to his desk, he picked up his cell phone and dialed.
"What?" Miss Parker answered, her voice lacking the familiar sting.
"Something the matter, Miss Parker?"
"What's it to you, Jarod?"
"I'm concerned, that's all," he replied. "Is that the 'Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy' I hear? Reliving happier memories, Miss Parker? Why did you lie about dancing?"
"I needed one last time, Jarod. It's a ballet in which the children are the heroes, and something in me said that was the time to do it. Are you satisfied?" She hung up, and reached for the photo of her mother and her on the desk, glancing at the one of her and her baby brother next to it. It was her favorite, Miss Parker thought, yet her father's threat echoed in her head.
* * * * * * * * *
Cox entered his workspace, his eyes spotting the envelope propped up against his latest taxidermy project. Pulling a pair of reading glasses from his pocket and settling them on his nose, he looked at the postmark. New York. No return address. Cox slowly peeled open the flap, working one finger under the heavily glued flap. He dumped the contents onto his desk and blinked, perplexed. He released the breath he was holding.
The single scrap of paper wasn't exactly a letter -- no stationary, no signature -- just carefully inked words in fine black lettering: A MUSICAL MOMENT.
A silver-blue computer disc slid out beside the note. Cox frowned, then picked up the CD.
"Let's see what Jarod's sent me this time."
* * * * * * * * *
Leaving his room in the bowels of hell, he made his way to the television and disc player located to the left of the Chairman's desk. Powering up the television, he slid the disk into the slot.
The video started. Shadows. Erratic. Loud music. Words of anger, warning. Shadows flicking from place to place. Discontinuous planes of black and gray. Tendrils of smoke through shattered glass.
One shadow zigzagged. Cox tracked that one, squinting, trying to focus on a specific detail. Hazy red and blue folders were visible on the black and white screen. The shadow darted into, and through, the light. In the light, it became clear. Jarod. Meanwhile, the significance was not lost on Cox, who had moved closer to the screen, placing a hand on it as it went blank.
I know you can't imagine
* * * * * * * * *
The light was turning gray, a washed out, milky gray that promised overcast skies and winter snow. There was little beauty found in the day. It was Sunday morning, and people were sleeping in. The first church services would begin soon with raw-eyed congregations. Jarod found Merritt perched at the piano, the keys coming to life under her fingers.
"You play?" he inquired.
"Five, almost six years."
"It suits you," he said, and she nodded. "What's that you are playing?"
"The Nutcracker Suite," she smiled, "to get into the holiday spirit."
"Tell me how you knew that Dante Canetti didn't die from a self-inflicted drug overdose, Merritt."
"The voice in my head."
"Voice?" Jarod asked.
"It's not a voice of sound, but one of images that appear in my mind. The words are my translation of the thoughts projected. The images are brief, so I interpret as best I can." Merritt paused and looked Jarod in the eye. "You don't seem shocked. You know something about this, I know you do. Like, who she is?" Bright eager eyes looked into dark, painfully tired eyes, and asked a different question this time when he didn't answer her. "The woman, is she my mother?" The hopefulness that had been there slowly faded as he shook his head side to side. "Then who?"
"You," his response was lowly, barely audible.
"Me? How is that… it's not possible."
"Merritt," Jarod reached out and took hold of her hand, "you are one and the same. A duplicate."
"Jarod, what are you saying? That I'm an experiment? A happenstance of science? Who? Why?" Her anger was reminiscent of Miss Parker's, which brought a small smile to his face.
"As for who, it's complicated. Truthfully, I don't know why. You're not alone, though."
"There are others?"
Merritt's eyes clouded with a cross of anger and sympathy. "What can you tell me?"
Shaking his head again, Jarod sighed painfully. "I'm sorry Merritt, there isn't anything… not now, at any rate."
"So I'm supposed to… what? Just stay here and lie low, pretend we didn't have this conversation?" She turned back to the piano, her fingers dancing lightly across the keys in a soft, nameless tune. "And don't tell me it's best for me. I know it's best. It's just not -- right."
Touching her shoulder briefly, Jarod nodded. "I know. I'm sorry, about all of this. Try not to give Sister Evelyn too much trouble, and I'll fill in all the blanks when I can. You've got to stay here for now. It's safe."
"You promise?" Accepting his nod, Merritt turned back to the piano, her fingers effortlessly playing "The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy."
Standing in the doorway, Jarod watched her for a moment before slipping silently out of the room.
End of Episode
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