I'll be Home For Christmas

 

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Jarod's lair
Baltimore, Maryland

Jarod looked at the list of flashing red numbers on the computer screen and wondered how one man could get himself into so much debt. This, he reflected almost angrily, had taken him longer than normal pretends and he couldn't help thinking that it was because of the dark moods that swept over him at intervals and made him so angry that he became almost scared of himself. The worst of it was that he could find no trigger for these feelings and no way to get rid of them. So, Jarod took to pacing the floor of his room as the feelings raged and burned inside him, making him feel almost sick. Jarod's hand often hovered over the phone, contemplating calling Sydney but, like all the other times, he stopped himself, fearful of what he might find out when he called.

The pretender looked back at the screen and shook himself. His stings had been difficult recently and he was unsure as to the cause of his unwillingness. He hated these feelings that he couldn't put a name to and had no control over, and so he would take out his feelings in his revenge. But somehow this one seemed a little easier than most - possibly because the victim was so innocent. Jarod's eyes hardened and he turned back to the computer. The sting was coming along nicely -- only a few hours more. Jarod picked up the phone and dialed a few numbers.

"Allan? Hi, it's Jarod. I need to beg a favor."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker strolled into Sydney’s office and, as he looked up, he saw the glitter of gold at her neckline. He looked back down at the picture and medallion that he had been examining when she appeared. Miss Parker sat on a chair opposite him and watched him silently.

“Did you ever wonder what life would have been like…”

“…if we didn’t work at the Centre?” Miss Parker finished his question for him and Sydney raised his eyebrows. “All the time. Especially now.”

“And are you planning…” Sydney began cautiously and paused.

“What?”

“Are you planning to take Gabriel away…”

Miss Parker sighed and looked down at the desk. “I wanted to, Sydney.” Her voice was quiet and suddenly, unerringly, sounded as she had at the funeral of her mother.

“I wanted to, so much. I had plans for him for this Christmas. I thought about taking him back home for the holiday, giving him all sorts of presents and letting him forget all the lessons he learned here. But Daddy…”

“What, Parker? What did he do?”

“He called me -- by my mother's name.” She gave a shaky sigh and a watery smile.

Sydney sat back in his chair and looked at her. “I’m sure it was only an accident, Parker.”

She looked up at him. “But why?”

He watched her carefully as he spoke. “Parker, you may not remember this but when you and Jarod met, your father was there. He was the one telling you what you could and couldn’t say to Jarod.”

She nodded. “I remember.”

“When Raines and I were arguing about whether to allow you to be used in the experiment with Jarod, your father and mother were present. Mr. Parker was keen for the experiment to go ahead, but Catherine was hesitant. She and your father began to argue and eventually your father told her that if it benefited the Centre, you should be useful wherever possible. Catherine hated the idea and she talked to me about it once. She said that she was determined to do something, anything, to prevent it. It wasn’t long after that…”

“That she faked her own death. Then was killed by Raines. So she never got the chance to prevent it.”

"Yes."

“Did you know that Jarod knew about Christmas for years?”

Sydney looked up and shook his head before his spoke. “That's not right. We never did a simulation about it. The Tower was determined that he should know nothing at all about…”

“Christ, Sydney, Jarod was four years old when he was brought to the Centre! He has got a memory, you know! A good one, at that!”

Sydney sat back in his chair and stared at her. He was about to open his mouth when she spoke.

“One year, after you went away, we met in Angelo’s place. Jarod started telling me about these dreams he’d been having every time it got cold -- trees with lights on them, boxes wrapped in colored paper and a room full of people sitting around a table and eating.”

Miss Parker sighed and looked up Sydney.

“I started to tell him about Christmas, but Angelo stopped me. He said there was a lot of danger in knowing too much. I remember that Jarod agreed with him, but he was so eager to know about it. He promised to make sure that he never told anybody about it, said he would think of it like a simulation that never happened but that he could think about whenever he wanted to. So I started telling him everything that I could remember about Christmas. How Momma and I used to put up the tree and make the decorations for it. The way we used to string the popcorn and make stars to put up on the tree and bake the gingerbread." Parker stopped and stared out of the window. "I even told him about the Christmas Eve where it snowed -- and Momma and Daddy and I stayed home and played Monopoly."

"So that was how he knew," Sydney interrupted.

"I guess so." She looked at him. "I never thought of this before now."

"And, once you told him, he wanted to experience it, to know what it was like."

Miss Parker stared at him. "How did you know?"

"Don't you remember the trouble there was after he crept outside to see the snow?"

Miss Parker nodded slowly. "I suppose..." Her eyes cleared and she sat up straighter. "Yes, I remember. He said that, after I told him what it was like, he had to see it. So it was my fault..."

"No more than it was mine." Sydney looked down at his hands. "I gave him the snow globe and then..." He fell silent and looked up at Miss Parker. "I suppose we're both at least partly to blame..."

* * * * * * * * *

Inside Nordstrom Department Store
Baltimore, Maryland

Jarod watched as Allan entered the small storeroom that bore a sign proclaiming it as Santa's dressing room and the lock clicked shut behind him. The man turned immediately and began to wrestle with the handle until Jarod appeared at the one small window that the room contained and flicked on the speaker he had installed earlier.

"Jarod, what's going on? You said you were sick!"

"Didn't I tell you? It was a short-term bug, I guess. Funny, but the moment I hung up the phone, I started to feel better."

"This isn't funny, Jarod."

"No, I guess it wouldn't be. It must be awful to get locked in a little room with no one knowing where you are. No food. No water. And no hope of anyone finding you for days. You know," he continued conversationally, "they won't be using this room until New Year's Eve. That's," Jarod looked at his watch, "hmm, a little more than a week away. You could be dead by then. Especially if I don't tell anyone you're there. And with the camera not working..."

Jarod watched as Allan glanced over his shoulder to the small camera mounted in the corner of the ceiling and then turned back to Jarod.

"What do you want? Money? I'll pay, I swear."

Jarod looked at him. "You know, it's funny that a man whose debts mount up to more than $640,000 should be in a position to offer me any money. But, of course, how could I forget? You have an easy way to get money, don't you Allan?" The pretender pulled a bundle of papers out of his pocket. "Why, all you have to do is convince the people you nurse that you're helping them and that you're in need of a little help yourself."

Jarod stepped closer to the window. "They happily make adjustments to their wills, don't they? Or get their family member to withdraw some money and hand it over to you?"

Allan's face wore a sneer. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"I know that Judy Wilson is dead and that the beneficiary of her will isn't her son, but her devoted nurse, Allan Cochran. Now, I find that a little strange, Allan, because you said she'd only been there a few days when you went on vacation, didn't you? That you weren't sure if she was there or not. That was what you told us a few weeks ago, wasn't it? But it's funny because I went to talk to Charles Wilson and he was saying how friendly and helpful you were while she was there." Jarod paused. "And suddenly Allan Cochran put a report into the records saying that Judy Wilson's son was coming to pick her up for the weekend to spend some time at home with him. But then, a few days later, Charles appeared at the home, asking for his mother and she wasn't where she was supposed to be and then they found her in the shed at the far end of the garden. What happened, Allan?"

Jarod's voice became more sinister. "Did she walk in on you when you were forging her signature? Because I checked it and the signatures on this and her earlier wills don't match. But they do match your style of handwriting. So she found you and still had the capacity to work out what you were doing and you thought that, if she reported you, they might actually believe her. You needed a way to make sure that didn't happen, didn't you? So you took your vacation early to make sure that you had an alibi and then you crept back one night. Obviously no one saw you drag her to the shed that you already had orders to knock down. Did you drug her, I wonder? Or did you just tell her that you were taking her somewhere special? "

Allan stood, silent and defiant, and Jarod watched him. "You know, I can't imagine how terrible it must be for a person to have to sit in a room with no food or water for a week, especially over Christmas. Just think, no turkey, no perfectly cooked vegetables, no pudding, no candies and, worst of all," Jarod leaned over and picked up a box. "No fruitcake." Jarod broke off a morsel and tasted it. "Yum."

"All right," Allan snarled. "So I did need the money. So I killed her. So what? You'll never tell anybody. It's your word against mine."

"Not quite." Jarod pulled a remote control out of his pocket and aimed it at the camera in the room. "You see, I'm not so sure I was right about that camera being broken. If it beeps when I press this button, then it's supposed to mean that it's working." Jarod let his finger hover over the round button. "Well, Allan, shall we test it? See if it caught your confession?" Jarod pressed it but the room remained silent. "Aw gee," the pretender looked down at it in annoyance. "Cheap rubbish."

"So, you got your confession but it's worth nothing without proof," Allan gloated as he turned away. "Just a few words spoken to the air."

"And to my camera." Allan spun back around to see part of the wall next to Jarod slide up to reveal another window behind it. "Hello, Allan. Hate to disrupt your little party but you see I got every word. And I guess now that we know that, my mother can finally rest in peace."

Jarod and Charles watched as Allan began to sweat and slowly slid down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. "You can't leave me here!"

"Oh, don't worry," Jarod grinned across at Charles. "You won't starve. I'm sure the police will be along in a little while -- just as soon as they get our tape." Jarod flicked a switch, turning off the speaker and cutting short the pleading that Allan had started. The two men walked away from the room.

"Don't worry about the tape. I'll see that the right people get it. And you have some people waiting to see you."

Charles turned to Jarod and hugged him. "I can't ever thank you enough for everything you've done, Jarod."

"Hey, it's no problem. Just think of it as an early Christmas present."

* * * * * * * *

Outside Santa's House, Nordstrom Department Store
Baltimore, Maryland

"Jarod!"

Jarod turned in time to see Myra running towards him. He took one last, satisfied look at the newspaper headline in front of him and then tucked it into his pocket.

"Hi Myra." He picked her up as she threw herself at him and gave her a hug before smiling at her mother. "Hi June. How are you?"

"Much better now."

"I can imagine. Not having to be at Nordstrom for hours at a time, anyone would be glad to get Christmas Eve off."

"Are you?" Myra asked.

"I sure am. Especially with so many nice things to look forward to."

June turned to Jarod. "I have a few last-minute things to do. Will you take Myra for a soda? I'll meet you here in about twenty minutes."

"Sure thing." Jarod winked at Myra as her mother walked away. "What do you want? Ice-cream?"

"In December?'

"Sure, why not?"

"Okay, cool!"

They were sitting opposite each other at a table when Myra looked past Jarod to where Santa could be seen with a child on each knee.

"How'd you do it?"

"How'd I do what?" Jarod asked, leaning over to wipe a blob of ice cream from the tip of Myra's nose before allowing her to do the same thing to himself.

"How did you get Santa back?"

Jarod smiled and looked over his shoulder. "All I had to do was ask. Santa owed me a favor and I figured this was the best way for him to repay me."

"Santa owed you a favor?"

"Yup."

"Very cool!"

* * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Sydney looked up to see Miss Parker staring at nothing in particular and the doctor took it upon himself to answer the phone that was ringing.

"This is Sydney."

"I hope you got my presents."

"Jarod!" Sydney put the phone onto speaker so that Miss Parker could hear it and smiled. "Thank you. We did."

"Including Broots?"

"And my brother." Miss Parker, coming out of her reverie, joined in the conversation.

"And are he and the team back from Philadelphia yet?"

"Come to think of it, I don't think so."

Jarod laughed. "You might want to send another sweeper team down there at some point in the near future. They could be getting pretty cold in that cellar by now. Not to mention hungry. Unless, of course, you want to leave them there for a few days so you can have a bit of peace and quiet over the goodwill season."

"Jarod, how could you?" Miss Parker tried not to laugh.

"Merry Christmas, Miss Parker. Oh, and did you take a good look at that parcel I sent you?"

Her curiosity peaked by this, Miss Parker pulled the wrapping out of her top drawer and, after a little searching, found a DSA taped firmly to the inside.

"And I thought you were just extravagant. I'm not sure I understand, Jarod."

"Play it. You will."

Jarod hung up the phone and Miss Parker slipped the disk into the machine.

* * * * * * * *

Outside Nordstrom
Baltimore, Maryland

Myra slipped her hand into Jarod's and he looked down at her and smiled warmly.

"Wasn't that a great dinner, Jarod?"

"It sure was."

"I didn't know you knew Grandpa."

"We met a few weeks ago."

"You make a great fruitcake. Who taught you? Your mom?"

June noticed Jarod's embarrassment and interrupted the conversation. "Why don't you run along and see if Grandpa's ready to start yet, chatterbox?"

"Okay."

She darted away and June turned with a laughing glance towards Jarod. "Are you ready to sing?"

"Ready as I'll ever be."

As he finished speaking, the group of musicians struck the first few notes of the first carol and the group began to sing the first lines.

"I'll be home for Christmas; you can count on me..."

* * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker and Sydney silently watched the scenes of the happy family enjoying Christmas dinner together, finally understanding the message that Jarod was sending them, to the accompaniment of music in the background.

"Please have snow and mistletoe; and presents on the tree..."

* * * * * * * *

A warehouse
Somewhere in Washington

A hand came out of the darkness and returned a telephone speaker to the cradle. A familiar, white-haired figure moved out of the shadows and sadly shook his head before holding out his arms. Emily moved into them and hugged her father. The two of them stared down at photos on the table in front of them - Jarod, Ethan, Kyle, Jordan and Margaret. A radio in the background played a Christmas carol.

"Christmas eve will find me where the love light gleams..."

* * * * * * * *

Outside Nordstrom
Baltimore, Maryland

Jarod slipped to the back of the singing group and allowed them to move away down the street without him. The dark mood had swept in on him again and he couldn't bear to be around the mood of cheerfulness and happy feelings that those people were experiencing. He turned his back on them and began to trudge down the street, the last strains of music following him as he left.

"I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams."

End of Episode
I'll be Home For Christmas

 
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