Jarod stared with amusement at his new friend, struggling to lift a shovel
loaded with snow. A thin young man, Trevor was not cut out for this sort
“Did you want some help?” he asked tentatively. Trevor cast him an amused
“You’re not that grateful, Jarod. This is my job,” Trevor muttered around
his heavy scarf. Jarod stepped forward indignantly.
“I am grateful! It’s so hard to find somewhere to stay this time of year!”
he protested. Trevor rolled his eyes.
“There’s another shovel in the closet just inside the door,” he told
Jarod. Jarod grinned and bounded up the stairs into the hall of the apartment
block he was staying in, owned by Trevor. Jarod had wondered at Trevor’s
ownership at first, considering he was so young -- only twenty-two --
but discreet questions had revealed the old house, which had been converted
into several neat apartments, had been left to him by his father, who
had died of a heart attack a few months ago. Jarod dug around in the closet
until he found the wide, shallow shovel, then headed back outside to help
Trevor with the path. Snowfall had been unusually heavy for Seattle at
this time of year. Silently they worked side by side, Jarod’s contribution
making a big difference. Their breaths puffed in the cool late afternoon
air as they worked.
“So, have you always lived in Seattle?” Trevor asked after a while. Jarod,
out of breath, straightened up, propping his shovel up and leaning on
“No. I like to travel a lot,” he replied enigmatically. Trevor nodded.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I used to travel heaps, before…” Trevor
faded into silence, and Jarod nodded sympathetically.
“Sometimes… sometimes I just want to go, you know?” Trevor asked, also
stopping work. He studied his feet, then looked up at Jarod. “Leave all
this behind.” Trevor waved at the building behind them to emphasis his
point. Jarod smiled gently. Trevor sighed, tilting his head back and staring
at the winter sky. Then he turned back to Jarod. “So, tell me about your
travels.” Trevor said with a smile. Jarod grinned.
“Well there was this one time I was in Texas, at an army base….”
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's House
Blue Cove, Delaware
Miss Parker pushed open her front door, balancing a sack of groceries
in her arms. Stepping inside, she kicked the door shut behind her, moving
to dump her provisions on the kitchen bench. She put the frozen food away,
stared longingly at the rocky road ice cream she’d bought, then put that
away, too. She put the few remaining supplies away, most of which, she
noted despairingly, were designed to last longer than a day or two in
case she had to leave town suddenly. She’d had more than one bad experience
with coming home to a fridge full of rotten food.
Miss Parker kicked off her shoes, hitting the play button on her answering
machine as she went past. One message, from Broots.
“Miss Parker? Um, well, I forgot to ask you at work today but, ah, Debbie
and I were wondering, uh, if you weren’t doing anything on New Year’s
eve, though I’m sure you have plans, but, um, if you didn’t, we were wondering
if you’d like to… to come and watch the fireworks with us? Together? Just
asking. I mean, I’m sure you have plans, but, you know, if you didn’t…
I’m going to go now. Bye, Miss Parker. I mean goodnight… bye Miss Parker,”
Broots finally stammered out. Parker chuckled to herself as she fixed
“First prize for taking the longest time in history to get to the damn
point,” she muttered to herself, flipping through her mail, tossing aside
the bills. There were a few late Christmas cards from people she avoided,
a catalogue and a plain white envelope addressed to her by hand.
Intrigued, Miss Parker took her drink and the envelope to the sofa, sinking
down on it as she studied the envelope. She was surprised to realise it
had come from Rome, it had been such a long time since she had heard from
anyone there. Delicately peeling it open, Miss Parker extracted a single
sheet of thick white paper, unfolding it and reading it quickly.
“Oh, God,” she moaned, her hand beginning to tremble. She put down her
glass with a heavy thump, raising her hand to her mouth in shock. Her
eyes tearing up, Parker lunged for the phone, dialing quickly. She chewed
her lip as it rang, impatiently drumming her fingers on her leg. The line
was answered, several pips sounding and a sad male voice answering.
“Michele? Tell me it isn’t true,” she whispered. There was a heavy sigh
on the line, and Miss Parker choked back a sob.
“Parker. It is true. I am sorry. It happened a week ago. I’m sorry. I
would have called but… it is better this way, Parker,” Michele said, his
voice thickly accented. Miss Parker nodded her head dumbly, ending the
Lying down, she began to sob.
* * * * * * * * *
“Jarod, wake up.”
Jarod groaned, sunlight warming his skin.
“Come on sleepyhead! I want to play in the snow.”
Jarod rolled over, burying his head under the pillow. The one time he
got a decent night's sleep and somebody had come in to drag him out of
“Need enticement, hmmm?”
Cool hands joined him under the blankets, trailing across his back. Jarod
attempted to slap them away, but they persisted, running across his shoulders.
Jarod gave up, flipping on his back and pushing off the covers. He reached
out, grasping Zoe by the waist and pulling her into bed with him as she
Jarod sat up, gasping. It was cold. It was dark. No sunlight, no warmth
and no Zoe. No Zoe ever again. Jarod pushed the quilt off his sweat covered
body, sitting up in his bed. Trevor had given him the only room available,
an attic that had been outfitted as a loft apartment. Because of the drive
from Baltimore to Seattle, he hadn’t arrived until late afternoon, and
had been very lucky to meet Trevor in a supermarket. They had been discussing
the values of different PEZ flavors when Jarod had mentioned he needed
a place to stay. Trevor had offered, Jarod had accepted. Unfortunately,
the loft was very sparse on furniture, a problem Jarod intended to rectify
within the coming days.
“Table,” Jarod muttered, swiping a hand across his eyes. “And chairs.”
Lacking a place to sit, Jarod made himself comfortable on the floor instead,
loading up his laptop and connecting to the internet. He accessed the
local papers, scrolling through recent articles, looking for anything
interesting. Opening another window, he also went looking for a New Year’s
surprise to send to Miss Parker. Anything designed to surprise, he figured.
Maybe fireworks off her roof. A knock at the door had Jarod checking his
watch in surprise; it was after three in the morning.
“Who is it?” Jarod called, scrolling through a list of article headers.
“Jarod, it’s me, Trevor. Can I talk to you a minute?” came the muffled
“It’s open,” Jarod called back. The door opened and Trevor sidled through,
looking tired. Jarod clicked on a header that read “Runaway Girl Comes
“Jarod? I wanted to talk to you. About what I said before. You know,
about going away, leaving all this behind,” Trevor said hesitantly, dropping
to sit opposite Jarod.
Jarod frowned. The picture that accompanied the article, the girl, it
“It sounds like a good idea, Trevor, everybody needs a change sometimes,
a holiday,” Jarod murmured, his eyes glued to the screen. Trevor shifted
“No, Jarod, I mean for good. I think I’m really going to go away.
Life just isn’t the same without Dad,” Trevor emphasized.
Jarod reached out a trembling finger to touch the screen. The shape of
the face was the same, the hair was longer, a bit thicker, but the resemblance
really was uncanny…
“Sure Trevor, sounds great," Jarod murmured absentmindedly. Trevor
sighed deeply, standing up and heading for the door, defeated. He paused
in the doorway, looking back at Jarod, still preoccupied.
“Goodbye, Jarod,” he called softly. Jarod didn’t answer back. Trevor
closed the door behind him. Jarod drew his finger away from the screen
and bit back a sigh. He raised his eyes from the laptop, looking around
in confusion. He thought back a moment, then bit his lip at his own insensitivity.
Trevor had been trying to tell him something…
Jarod looked back at the girl on the screen; who looked just like Zoe.
“Night, Trevor,” he mumbled, then clicked for a close-up.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
“M… Miss Parker?” Broots asked nervously. Sydney smiled over his coffee
at his nervousness. The younger man visibly flinched when Miss Parker
wheeled around to glare at him from behind dark glasses.
“Well?” she growled, and Sydney frowned at the sound of her voice.
“We have a possible sighting in New York… I just thought you’d like to
know,” Broots added defensively. Miss Parker took a wobbly step forward,
and Sydney rose.
“Miss Parker, are you all right?” he asked with concern.
“Fine!” she snapped angrily, tottering over to a seat and perching precariously
on the edge of it. Sydney sighed. He wondered what had upset her enough
to be drunk so early in the morning.
“Miss Parker…?” Broots tried again. “New York…?”
“What? Oh…yeah. Research it, Broots. I’m not going to fly off to New
York without anything solid,” she grumbled, swiping one palm across her
brow. In the process her glasses fell off, clattering to the floor just
as Lyle entered. He smirked, eyeing her bloodshot eyes.
“Morning, Sis. You must have had an early morning today. Or are you just
still drunk from last night? No, wait, let me guess. You drank til five
am, took a fifteen minute power nap, then started a new bottle?” Lyle
said viciously. Miss Parker’s face tightened, her eyes narrowing on her
“I see you crawled out of Philly,” she muttered.
“You know, I wish I had a liver like yours Sis,” Lyle continued. “It
might be nice to stay drunk twenty-four seven,” he sneered. Sydney sighed
at the malicious attack. He was, however, still surprised when Miss Parker
rose to her feet in barely suppressed fury, yanking her gun out of its
holster. She pressed it against the buckle of Lyle’s belt, aiming down.
“I’d shut the hell up if I were you, Lyle. Wouldn’t want to lose a valuable
piece of equipment. All those mail-order brides would be left lonely,”
she snarled. Lyle paled, realizing he’d gone too far. Broots squeaked
in sympathetic fear. Miss Parker withdrew her gun slowly, and Lyle backed
“Let me know if you find something,” he muttered before escaping out
the door. Broots murmured his excuses and went scurrying after, afraid
of being next in the line of fire.
Wearily, Miss Parker settled back on her seat, and Sydney studied her
silently. Parker caught his gaze.
“What?” she demanded, leaning down to scoop up her fallen sunglasses.
A slip of paper fell out of her pocket, fluttering to the ground beside
“Is there something you’d like to talk about, Miss Parker?” Sydney asked
gently. She cast the older man her iciest stare, rising to her feet.
“When I want my head shrunk, I’ll let you know. I’m going to check up
on Broots,” Miss Parker growled, storming from the room.
Sydney blinked at her manner, which was even more abrupt than usual.
He stepped forward, picking up the piece of paper Miss Parker had dropped.
He unfolded it carefully, frowning as he read its contents. It appeared
to be a short letter, written in sharp, masculine handwriting.
Laura has drowned. My condolences.
Sydney closed his eyes briefly. If there was one
thing Miss Parker didn’t need in her life, it was more loss.
* * * * * * * * *
Package tucked securely under his arm, Jarod bounded up the stairs in
his new building. Trevor’s apartment was on the second floor, and Jarod
preferred the exercise of climbing stairs rather than taking the lift.
Halfway up he almost dropped his package, but he tucked it under his arm
more securely. He’d been searching for a small table and chair he could
use at a department store in the city, when he’d come across a major find
that he knew Trevor would love.
In his package were four Looney Tunes PEZ dispensers, which came complete
with playing cards and extra PEZ refills. Jarod had felt bad about his
preoccupation the night before, and had bought the set to make it up to
Trevor and to find out what the young man had wanted to ask him about.
Jarod grinned to himself as he reached the third floor landing. He’d shaken
off the nostalgia of the night before, and was ready to talk to Trevor
about whatever he wanted. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining
and the remaining snow made the streets glisten and sparkle.
Outside apartment 2C, Jarod caught his breath, straightened his jacket
and plastered a big smile on his face. He knocked on the door, staring
directly into the peephole. He'd cheer Trevor up, and by doing that he’d
cheer himself up. Jarod waited a few minutes more then knocked again.
He knew Trevor was home, he’d seen his car parked near the building. After
a third knock, Jarod began to grow worried.
“Trevor?” Jarod called. Silence.
“Trevor!” Jarod yelled a little louder. Nothing.
Jarod looked up and down the hall, making sure nobody was watching, then
pulled a pocket knife out of his jacket, prepared to pick the lock. He
was surprised when the door swung open, unlocked. Jarod stepped inside,
smiling in wry amusement at the posters of scantily clad girls pinned
to the walls. Books and CDs were overflowing off of some shelves against
one wall, and a pile of dirty dishes was mounted in the sink.
“Trevor?” Jarod called softly, stepping inside the apartment and closing
the door after him. He took a quick look around the dining nook, then
crept down a short hallway to the bedroom.
Jarod halted abruptly, his mouth hanging open. For, hanging from the
ceiling fan by a sheet, was Trevor.