I'll Be Home For Christmas


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Santa's dressing room, Nordstrom
Baltimore, Maryland

Jarod was fixing his beard for his first day as Santa when his smallest elf came into the room.

"Hi Myra, how are you?"

"Good, Ja -- Santa." She grinned cheekily at him and began to put on her hat with a large bell that kept tapping her on the side of the face.

"Ready for a busy day?"

"Yup! I can't wait. I love helping Santa. I did it last year at a different store but this will be more fun 'cause there's more people."

"Is your mom here again today?"


"Good morning, Santa." June Morrison, whom Jarod had met the previous day, walked into the dressing room clutching a large bag of make-up. "All ready for your

big debut?"

Jarod grinned at her through the beard. "Ready as I'll ever be. Actually," he confided to the two of them, "I never went to visit Santa as a little kid. At least, I don't think I did."

Myra looked at him with horror written on her face. "You mean you never got to ask Santa for any presents?"

"Nope. Maybe that's why I'm looking forward to this so much."

"Did you ever get Christmas presents?"

Jarod grinned. "That's compulsory, isn't it? I got a snow globe one year that showed the Empire State Building."

"Really? Cool! I love them, they're great."

A man stuck his head into the room. "Santa, you're on in ten minutes." Jarod nodded in response, too busy watching Myra wriggling while her mother tried to apply make up on her face to say anything else. He picked up his 'Santa' glasses and propped them on the end of his nose before picking up his bottle of water.

"Ready to do this?"

"Uh huh." Myra bounced up from the chair as her mother applied the last of the make-up. June laughed and shrugged.

"Good luck, you two. Have fun."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker was working at her desk when Lyle stormed into her office and slammed a piece of paper onto the surface in front of her.

"Your boy just sent that to me."

Miss Parker tried to look surprised. "He's not my boy, Lyle." She turned the paper around in her hand and tried to look surprised. After a discussion with Sydney, they had decided that Jarod was unlikely to be able to resist the temptation of letting Lyle know what he saw him as. This, as Miss Parker saw, was even better than they had imagined. Scooby-Doo was using chopsticks to eat Asian food while sitting in front of a doghouse which bore a sign saying 'The Tin Shed'. His dog collar contained a tiny gold circle on which she could see something written, however it was too small to make out. With an effort, Miss Parker straightened her face and looked up at her twin.

"Leave it with me. I'll see to it."

"You'd better," Lyle growled as he spun on his heel. "Your boy's really starting to piss me off."

As soon as he left, Miss Parker opened her desk drawer and picked up a magnifying glass. Holding it over the gold tag, she was able to see that it said exactly what she had expected it to. Not a name but instead a message. 'If found, please return to 23504 Blythe Street, Blue Cove, Delaware'. Miss Parker sat back in her chair and shouted with laughter. Then, leaning forward, she picked up the phone.

"Sydney? You have to see this. It seems that Jarod did exactly what we thought he might do. He contacted Lyle."

* * * * * * * * *

Santa's House, Nordstrom
Baltimore, Maryland.

"And I want a doll and a tea set and a pink bicycle and a new party dress and a new bracelet and a matching necklace and a new pink hair clip, please Santa." The little girl sat back with her hands primly folded on her knees and looked up him.

"And how am I supposed to carry all that for you and presents for everybody else as well?" Jarod asked after quickly glimpsing at the child's mother and seeing her shake her head slightly.

"Oh, you can," the little girl assured him. "You're magic." She smiled sweetly for the camera and slid off Santa's knee.

Jarod sighed and shook his head slightly as he watched her leave. He was developing an impression of the modern-day child and he was beginning to feel that they were a very greedy generation. Still, he was enjoying the experience and loving the chance to be working with many children again. He cast a quick glance at the clock -- only half an hour until Santa got a break for lunch.

Jarod watched as the next child came in. He had seen just about every emotion in existence that day, from fear to excitement, but this was different. The girl was calm, composed and confident. Strange behavior in such a young person but Jarod immediately realized that he'd seen behavior like that before. Miss Parker had changed into that type of person not long after the deaths of Faith and her mother. The little girl waited until she was lifted onto Jarod's knee. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable without really knowing why, the pretender immediately began his speech.

"So, little girl, what do you want for Christmas?"

The child thought for a few seconds and, somehow, Jarod was convinced that it was only for effect.

"I want my parents back after the bad man killed them with his car."

Jarod's mouth opened and closed a few times and, for the first time, he was grateful that the beard hid his emotions.

"Well, I'll do my best but is there anything a bit easier, just in case?"

The little girl looked over at the woman who had accompanied her into the 'house.' "I want my aunty to have a holiday because she's had to work so hard looking after me. And she also wants a new dress."

Jarod blinked rapidly to hide the tears that were forming in his eyes and looking over he saw that his cameraman was doing the same. Then he reached behind him into his bag, pulled out an envelope and put it into the girl's hand, thinking as he did so that he was glad Peter had given him tips for situations such as this. The Centre would never miss the money but it might make all the difference here, whether it was against the Santa-school rules or not.

"You take this to your aunty and she can give it to my elf over there," Jarod nodded his head towards one of his adult helpers, "and you can see what magic Santa can make up over Christmas, okay?"

The little girl nodded seriously, smiled a tiny smile at the camera and then let Jarod help her down. Listening and looking out of the window of Santa's 'house,' Jarod saw the woman open the envelope and smiled as he saw the reaction it prompted. This, he thought to himself, was what the real Saint Nicholas must have felt like when he first helped somebody and this was what made his job so special.

Looking around, Jarod saw a small boy enter the tent and Jarod prepared himself for the inevitable.

"Pokemon. Anything Pokemon. It has to be real, though. None of the fake stuff. And anything else you wanna give me."

Jarod gave his Santa laugh, which had taken some rehearsal but which Myra assured him was now perfect. "Of course it'll be real," he stated, watching the child's mother who sighed and nodded. "I wouldn't give it to you if it wasn't."

The little boy grinned for the camera and then hugged Jarod around the neck. "Thanks, Santa. You're the best. The other Santa wouldn't make promises." Jarod raised his eyebrows as the boy left. Shopping around for the best deal from Santa? Now that was definitely something different.

* * * * * * * * *

Santa's dressing room, Nordstrom
Baltimore, Maryland

Jarod gave a deep sigh as he and Myra re-entered the dressing room to find a warm lunch set out for him and June waiting for the two of them. Jarod immediately undid his black belt and let the stuffing fall out from under his coat. Playing Santa was fun, he thought to himself, but it could also be a distinctly overheating experience.

"Having fun?"

"Oh yes, Mommy." Myra bounced around in her seat. Then she looked at Jarod. "It's funny when the kids think you're the real Santa!"

"So if I'm not the real Santa, who is?"

"Don't be silly, Jarod. The real Santa's always here, every other year. Just not this year."

Jarod exchanged a glance with June. "So where do you think he is this year?"

"Maybe he's running behind schedule and had to stay at the North Pole to keep working on the making the toys. That's why he sent you."

Jarod nodded. "That's right." He sat down in front of his lunch and laughed. "I guess I'm going to have to take this beard and these gloves off as well or Santa might go back out wearing beef casserole this afternoon."

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod walked back into the room to find Myra reading something aloud to her mother. The moment he appeared in the doorway, she turned her attention to him. "Look as this, Jarod. This has all the information about how long it takes Santa to make the trip around the world, dropping toys off to all the children."

"I know about that," Jarod interposed with a grin. "His sleigh travels at 700 miles per second, in which time he visits 830 homes. He has 1/1000 of a second to land on the roof and do his thing."

Myra looked at him with an expression close to pity on her face. "You are so out of date, Jarod. According to this, Santa has to visit 1,500 homes and travel at 1,000 miles during each second and he only has 715 microseconds to get down the chimney, drink the milk, eat the cookies, get back up the chimney and get into the air."

Jarod stood silent and speechless.

"But I guess," Myra added kindly, "that your figures are probably a little old."

June took pity on the stunned pretender. "Where did you get that information from?"

"The internet. Did you know," she continued conversationally, "that there's a website that tracks Santa on Christmas Eve? It's called Norad and I want to stay up and look at it this year. Can I Mom?"

"We-ell," June extemporized. "We'll see."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Sydney sat down in his chair and looked down at the medallion that still lay on his desk. He could understand why Jarod sent it and what he meant by it - but Sydney couldn't get in touch with the pretender to tell him how much it meant to him. Sydney let his gaze wander over the desk until he suddenly saw the number that was written on the bottom of the picture made by Jarod so many years before. A pager number. Sydney shook his head in frustration. There was no way that Jarod would...but there was no harm in trying, was there? In sudden desperation, Sydney lunged for the phone and dialed the ten digits.

"Phoenix Pagers, what is the access code please?"

"Sixteen seventeen ninety-one."

"I'm sorry but that pager is no longer in use. Is there another code I can try for you?"

"No. Thank you. Goodbye."

Sydney despondently hung up the phone and returned to staring at the pendant. It seemed unfair, he suddenly thought, that Jarod could get in touch with him whenever he wanted to but anyone at the Centre had to wait until Jarod called them first. It was like...Sydney suddenly stopped. It was like a flip side of the time that Jarod had spent at the Centre as a child. Then, Jarod had to wait for someone to come to him. Now he had to choose to come to them. Sydney gave a wry smile and picked up the medallion, letting it spin between his fingers, flinging stray beams of light around the room.

* * * * * * * * *

Santa's dressing room
Baltimore, Maryland

"Myra, are you ready to go?" Jarod stuck his head into the room to find the little girl reading a book. She jumped up from the seat and stuffed the book into the bag.

"Yup! Are you walking me home?"

"I am. Your mom just called and asked me to."

Myra slipped her hand into his as they left the building. "Jarod, if you didn't receive gifts from Santa at Christmas, didn't your parents give you anything?"

Jarod shook his head. "Not really. How about you?" He asked, thankfully changing the subject. "What did your mom give you for Christmas last year?"

Myra giggled. "Silly! Mom didn't give me anything!"

"Well then," Jarod immediately recognized his mistake, "what did Santa give you?"

"One of my favorite movies." Myra gave a little skip. "It's one that my Daddy used to love and I love it too so Santa gave it to me."

Jarod looked sad for a moment at the fact that a family had to manage without a father before Myra interrupted his thoughts.

"Hey, Jarod, do you want to come watch it with me now?"

Jarod looked down and smiled. "I'd love to but unfortunately I have things to do now. How about we fix a date tomorrow at work?"

"Okay." Myra jumped up the four stairs that led to her front door. "I'll see you then. Bye!"

She disappeared inside and Jarod laughed and shook his head. He adored the little girl but she made him realize how much he'd missed out on in life, thanks to the Centre. Jarod shook himself and made his way back to his lair.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

"Face it, Syd. You can't get in touch with Santa's Little Helper even if you wanted to, right now or ever. He's smarter than that."

Sydney ignored the implied insult as he watched Miss Parker walk into the room and sit down opposite him. "Is there something I can help you with, Miss Parker?"

She tossed a slender bundle of paper onto the desk in front of him. "We've been keeping an eye on a certain pager number that we believed was connected in some way to Jarod and there hasn't been contact made with it by anybody since December 1996. Now, suddenly, there's a call made regarding that access code and we would have to make the assumption that somebody wanted to get in touch with their boy, possibly to...let me think, maybe thank him for something. Now, correct me if I'm wrong Syd, but as far as I can guess, you'd be the only one wanting to do something like that."

"You didn't tell me you were keeping tabs on the number."

"You never told me that the number existed," Miss Parker shot back, rising out of her chair to lean on the desk. "And that was the very least that I would have expected of you, considering the situation at the time."

"It was something personal, between Jarod and myself."

"Nothing between you and Jarod is too personal to keep from me, especially if it gave us a better chance of getting Jarod back."

Sydney sat back in his chair and stared at her fixedly. "And what about the things that you don't tell me that happen between you and Jarod, which I might be able to interpret in a way that will help us to get him back. For instance, the time after the train explosion in Washington. It would be quite amazing, don't you think, for Jarod and Ethan to have managed to find a way out that was quite separate from yours..."

"All right..."

"Or what about the message that Jarod sent you last year about your mother's grave..."


"And we can't possibly forget the fact that it was Jarod who managed to get you to break down that wall you'd been building around yourself when he provided you with a companion...."


"Oh yes, and of course there was all the stuff you learned from your little trip to the bank that got robbed..."


"And, last but not least, there was that cute little bunny rabbit that you got for Christmas four years ago and, I believe, is now being cared for by Broots' daughter."

"That will do!"

"So really, I would say that you have a little more explaining to do on that score before you start questioning me about the things I don't tell you." Sydney stood up and leaned over the desk, his face only a few inches from Miss Parker. "If there's something I don't tell you, it's for a reason. A very good reason." He sat back down in his chair, folded his hands on the top of it and smiled at her. "Now, is there something I can help you with, Miss Parker?"

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod's hotel room
Baltimore, Maryland

Jarod heaved a sigh and threw his bags onto the bed of his room. Because of his job, he had taken a proper hotel room in case he had to bring somebody, like Myra for instance, back with him. Still, he thought as he sat himself in front of the laptop and turned the machine on. Having noticed that the store kept a record of all of their employees on a database, Jarod hoped that they did the same for their volunteers. It only took him a few minutes to log into the stores’ databanks and he quickly found exactly what he was looking for -- the address of the man he needed to talk to. Quickly, Jarod printed out the information and put it into the pocket of his jacket. Then he slipped his arms into the sleeves and, doing it up, left the room.

Jarod walked rapidly along the pavement, thinking as he did so about the possible circumstances that could make a person avoid doing something that he obviously loved. He arrived in front of a modern apartment building and rapidly located the flat that he wanted. Climbing the stairs, Jarod had a momentary concern about the way in which he would be received. He had briefly considered pretending to be somebody from the council or a tradesman, but eventually decided that the truth would be the best. Reaching the door, Jarod hesitated for a moment before ringing the bell. He tried to disguise the surprise in his face when it opened almost immediately.

"Mr. Wilson? My name is Jarod. I'm from the Santa School at Nordstrom."

"Oh, yes. Well, please come in."

Jarod's eyes widened as he stepped past Charles Wilson into the hall. He hadn't expected it to be that easy and he was a little nonplussed by his reception.

Charles led the way into his living room and waved one hand in the direction of the lounge.

"Take a seat, Jarod. Can I get you something to drink?"

Jarod shook his head. "Thanks, but no."

Charles took a seat opposite Jarod and smiled, but the pretender could still see the tense lines that hovered at the corners of his eyes and mouth.

"What can I do for you?"

"I wanted to ask why you weren't at the school this year."

Charles stiffened in his seat. "I don't know what you mean."

Jarod continued, regardless of the interruption, but turned to look out of the window.

"Peter and some of the other men were wondering where you were and Myra has been missing 'Santa' a lot. One of the kids yesterday commented that Santa must have been on a diet this year, because he was so much thinner than last year."

"Myra Morrison?"

Jarod smiled. "That's the one. She's one of my helpers this year at Nordstrom."

"She's a lovely child."

Jarod turned to face Charles. "I can't help thinking that this has something to do with your mother."

Charles leapt to his feet and was about to speak when Jarod continued. "I can imagine that I would find it difficult to keep up something like that if there was a problem with my mother, but the children..." Jarod trailed off and looked up at Charles. "Is there any way that I can help?"

On to Act III

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