Taking Advice

Epilogue

I met Jarod again two years later. I was in class at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and there was to be a guest speaker on the subject of dealing with first impressions and intuition. The handout said Dr. Bell, but when the professor introduced him, he said, "Dr. Jarod Bell." I sat up suddenly straight in my chair, swiveled round to stare at the tall man coming down the steps of the large lecture hall.

He was different. I could see it in his stance, his eyes, his smile, even the way his longer hair was swept smoothly back from his brow instead of short and spiked as it used to be. Darkness and pain had happened to him in the last two years. He was an innocent child no longer. He might almost be said to be a wounded, sullen teenager. But his teaching still demonstrated a passion for justice and a care for the innocent. Whatever life had done to him, he was still working on the side of goodness.

I didn't know if he'd seen me in the crowded class. Afterward I went down to the front and waited while other students asked him questions. He'd been brilliant and eloquent, and they had many questions and comments. I waited, and he finally turned to me.

"Hello, Nicholas," I said quietly.

"Kate?" The two years melted away, and there was the child again, momentarily. He bounded over and swept me up in a hug. "Why, Little Dorrit!"

"Mr. Clennam. Or perhaps I should say Doctor Bell. What's that, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Bell?"

"Exactly. So you took my advice, Little Dorrit."

"I did. I'm studying criminal psychology. Someday I hope to work with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit."

"Lofty ambitions. It's difficult to get into that department. But you'll do it."

"And you? What are you doing here? We meet under such academic circumstances. Who are you stalking now?"

He went grave. "No. I can't tell you. If you are in any way mixed up with me again, you'll have your own Centre investigation, you and everyone associated with you. I can't let that happen to you. I'm only here one day, just to get a single piece of information. I'll get it and be gone. Promise me you'll stay out of it."

Heavy disappointment settled around me. "I promise, Jarod. But in exchange, tell me about the last two years. Something. Anything. Where have you gone? What have you been?"

A smile went across his face. "I've been a psychiatric patient and a junkie, an ex-con on parole, a bounty hunter, a pool shark, a white supremacist, and an elementary school substitute teacher."

I laughed. "That's quite a combination."

"Yes. And—I've also been Sydney Carton. I exchanged my life for—for my own döppelganger—I was taken to La Force prison—I faced my own guillotine."

"Jarod. They caught you?"

He smiled a grim smile. "I escaped. Again. And, Little Dorrit, I found my father."

"Oh, Jarod."

"Found him and lost him. The story of my life. Everything I find I lose. But he was there. I felt him hug me. I called him Dad. He said he loved me, was proud of me." Tears gleamed in his eyes but didn't fall. "And you, Kate? Has anything happened to you other than striking out into the wide world?"

"Well—I'm engaged, Nicholas."

"You are?" His smile was pure joy. "Congratulations!"

I laughed. "Guess what his name is."

His eyebrows went up, puzzled. "Well—I don't know. Arthur?"

"No. Frank."

"Frank?" Now he laughed. "Frank Cheeryble?"

"Very, very like Kate Nickleby's husband. I met him at the Methodist church in Morrison. He's Pastor Bert's nephew, and Pastor Bert himself is very much like one of those wonderful Cheeryble brothers."

"Ned or Charles?"

"Charles. But now for a last name I will have Wojciechowski. Which I can pronounce now."

Jarod laughed again, a good sound. We looked at each other a moment. "I have to go."

I sternly quelled my tears. "You changed my life, Jarod. My life is 'peaceful, useful, prosperous, and happy.'"

He blinked back his own. "And you…brought joy to mine, Little Dorrit. You gave me family, at a time when I needed it badly."

"You and me both."

He hugged me again. "Goodbye, Kate."

"Goodbye, Nicholas."