All The Right Reasons by Parkers Love Slave, admin
All The Right Reasons by Parkers Love Slave
Disclaimer: The characters Miss Parker, Sydney, Jarod, Broots etc. and the fictional Centre, are all property of MTM, TNT and NBC Productions and used
without permission. I'm not making any money out of this and no infringement is intended.

All The Right Reasons
Parker's Love Slave

Brookfield, Illinois
August 17, 1998

Jarod pulled his Ford Taurus to the side of the road of the small town on the outskirts of Chicago. He was between pretends at the moment and was aimlessly driving about to see if there was anyone he could help.

He climbed from his car and was about to walk to the small ice cream shop across the way when he heard an argument raging. He turned his head to the noise and saw a woman and man arguing in front of Mann’s Home Improvement Warehouse.

Jarod had his breath taken away momentarily. The woman was beautiful with long blond hair, slim figure, and a flowing dress that showed her curves. Jarod snapped out of his reverie and decided to see what was the matter.

“I’m not selling the place, Roger, so you can get that thought out of your head right now!” the woman exclaimed.

“Well, Caitlyn, you may not have a choice. I’ve seen your financial records. This place will go under in a couple months if you don’t sell to me. Do it while you can still salvage something!”

“Dammit, Roger, Charlie put everything into this business. I’m not going to let all that go! So you can just hightail the hell out of here! I won’t let this place be your latest acquisition!”

“Caitlyn, be sensible. You’ve...”

Jarod finally decided he’d had enough of the man Roger. “Is there something I can help you with ma’am?” Jarod asked the woman.

The woman looked him over, thankful for the interruption. “Yes, you can help me convince this man take a hike.”

The man now realized he was outgunned as he sized up the tall man in black, so he tried to make a tactful exit. “Fine, I’ll be leaving.” He looked pointedly at the woman. “However, when you decide to be sensible, I’ll still be willing to listen. I suggest you talk to your brother-in-law. Perhaps he can talk some sense into you. Good day.” With that, Roger turned and in a huff got in his car and drove off. Jarod wasn’t sorry to see him go.

He turned to the woman who gave him a smile. “Well, stranger, I’d like to thank you for stepping in when you did. He’s been bothering me for months now.”

Jarod gave a concerned look. “Who is he and what does he want?”

“That’s Roger Lee. He’s a slimeball of the worst kind. He’s been trying to get me to sell the place since my husband passed away.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jarod answered honestly.

“It’s okay,” she responded. She then looked him over again and gave a low chuckle. “I don’t know why I’m telling you my problems. By the way, my name is...”

“Caitlyn Mann,” Jarod finished for her. At her surprised look he continued. “I heard him use your first name and extrapolated the rest. By the way, my name is Jarod,” he said, “Jarod Allen.” Both looked up as the first droplets of a rainfall began to come down.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Jarod Allen. Come inside before it starts pouring.” With a smile like that, Jarod couldn’t say no if he wanted to.

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
Same Day

Miss Parker strode confidently into the tech room where she knew Broots waited. She smiled to herself as she realized he had no idea she was coming. Walking slowly as to muffle the sound of her heels, she approached Broots from behind.

“Hello, Brootsie,” she drawled. She had no idea anyone could jump that high from a sitting position.

“Mmmiss Pparker, I didn’t hear you come in,” Broots stammered.

Parker gave him an evil smile. “I noticed.” She then turned serious. “So what have you dug up on Jarod?”

“Nothing much I’m afraid,” a soft Belgian accent said. Both heads turned to find Sydney had just entered the room. “It seems that Jarod didn’t leave any of his usual breadcrumbs. Perhaps he decided he needed a vacation before the hunt renews.”

“Right, Sydney,” Parker mocked. “Maybe I should have Broots run a check on all recent flights to the Bahamas.” Parker rolled her eyes as Sydney seriously pondered this. “As for you,” she said to Broots, making him jump again, “get searching.”

“So Jarod, what brings you to this part of the world?”

Jarod gave a wry smile. “Just looking for work.”

“Oh yeah,” she said interested. “What do you do?”

“Oh, this and that.”

“A handyman then?”

Jarod smiled again. “You could call me that.”

“Well, I don’t suppose you would consider working around the store. My brother-in-law is out on a project, so it’s just me here.”

“I’d love to help,” Jarod said. He found himself staring at Caitlyn at times. It was sort of like with Nia, but not exactly.

“Great, you can start tomorrow. There’s not much business today so I might as well just close up.” Caitlyn hesitated a moment. “Do you have a place to stay.”

Jarod was staring again and it took a second for the question to register. “Oh, no. I was hoping you might know of a motel in the area.”

“A motel?” She laughed. “I’ve got a spare room at my home, you’re welcome to follow me there.”

“Oh, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“It’s no imposition. It might be nice to have some company.” For some reason she found herself staring at this strange man. “Come on.”

Jarod followed Caitlyn to her home. He found himself strangely attracted to this woman for some reason. Perhaps it was only because he wanted to help her out. No, he said to himself, this is different.

Jarod was awestruck as Caitlyn pulled to the side of the road. She had a beautiful home, he decided. It was the type of place he always imagined he’d have when his search was over and he could start his own family.

It was a typical two-story suburban house, but it had that certain intangible that made it a home. He stepped out of the car to follow Caitlyn in when the door opened and out ran a small girl of about four years of age. She was the spitting image of Caitlyn.

“Momma,” the girl cried. “I missed you!”

“Oh, baby, I missed you too. Were you good for Rose today?”

“Yes momma. We drew pictures for you today.” It was then that the little girl noticed Jarod. “Who are you?”

“Melissa, this is my friend Jarod.”

Jarod smiled at the little girl. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”

The little girls brows furrowed for a moment, as if she was pondering a serious question. Finally her face lit up. “I like you,” she decided, as if every matter of importance was settled.

Jarod laughed, and Caitlyn decided she liked it when he laughed. “I’m glad you like me.”

A middle-aged woman came out of the house. This must be Rose, Jarod decided.

“Hello, Mrs. Mann,” she called. “I hope you had a good day.”

“I’ve had worse,” Caitlyn stated. “Not many, but I have.”

“I’m sorry,” Rose replied. “Supper is on the stove, I must go now. Okay?”

“Sure, Rose, go ahead. See you tomorrow.”

Caitlyn, Melissa, and Jarod all went inside. “Is that all you have?” asked Caitlyn, referring to his luggage of his Halliburton and duffel bag.

“I travel light,” Jarod replied.

Caitlyn nodded. “Why don’t you go up to the spare room. Second floor, third door on the right. Go ahead and get settled in while I see how long dinner will take.”

“Okay,” he watched for a moment as mother and daughter walked hand in hand to the kitchen. Some day, Jarod thought, someday I will have all this. With that hopeful thought he walked up the stairs to get settled in.

As Jarod relaxed on his bed, he thought about the evening that had transpired. Caitlyn and finished a wonderful meatloaf that Rose had started. After playing a few hands of a strange game called “Go Fish” with Melissa, and after the child went to bed, he finally had the opportunity to ask Caitlyn some questions.

He found out that her husband Charles had died in a construction accident eight months ago. Ever since then Roger Lee had been pressuring Caitlyn, Cay for short he discovered, and her brother-in-law Christopher Mann into selling out.

After hearing this, Jarod was all the more certain he wanted to help her retain her business. Jarod decided he wanted to get online and see what he could find on her husband and Roger Lee.

After a half-hour of searching, Jarod was heartbroken by what he found. It turns out that Charles Mann wasn’t the only one of Lee’s small-time competitors to suffer a fatal accident. In the past three years, three other men died, and within six months of the accidents, Roger Lee acquired all three businesses.

A scowl came across Jarod’s face. “I smell a rat.”

The ringing of a telephone disturbed her from a wonderful slumber. Only one man had the gall to make a call at, she glanced at the clock, 2:12 in the fucking morning.

“What, Jarod?” Miss Parker shouted into the phone.

“Well, hello Miss Parker. I trust you’re sleeping well?” She could hear the smile on his face.

“I was until somebody with the maturity level of a five year old interrupted it,” Parker snapped back. As much as she hated these midnight calls, another part of her actually enjoyed the game. “Now what do you want, Jarod?”

“Just to apologize.”

She was surprised. “The Great Jarodini calling to say he’s sorry? Hold on while I get the tape recorder.” She kind of liked the fact that made him laugh. “What would be even better than saying ‘I’m sorry’ would be turning yourself in.”

“Oh well, Miss Parker, as much as I know you’d enjoy getting your hands on me,” she swore there was a double entendre there, “I don’t really see that happening. I was calling to apologize for the lack of breadcrumbs, but even a genius has prank block occasionally.”

“And so the great god is truly mortal after all,” Parker said sarcastically. “So would the great Hercules like to give a clue as to his whereabouts?”

“I’m just playing exterminator.”


“Yeah, I’m trying to find a rat.” With that he hung up. For a moment she was angered by the quick hang-up, but then a slow smile crept on her face.

“Have fun, Rat-boy.”

Brookfield, Illinois
August 18, 1998

“Good morning, Jarod,” Caitlyn said with a wide smile. “I see the place is busy as usual.” The place was empty except for the two of them.

Jarod grinned and said, “Well, you missed the morning rush. A man came in earlier to place and wood order and a woman came in for duct tape.”

“Thank you, Jarod.”

Jarod looked confused. “What for?”

“For getting rid of Roger yesterday. For listening to me last night. For working for me today.”

“It’s no problem. I’m happy to be of service,” he said with a slight bow.

“Why don’t you go on out for lunch? I’ll take over for awhile?”

“Thanks, I actually have a few errands to run first. Can I bring you back anything?”

“No thanks, I ate before I came in.”

“Okay,” Jarod said, “I’ll see you in a bit.” Caitlyn watched him leave, just a trace of a smile on her face.

“So this is where the accident happened?” Jarod asked the small, wiry man.

“Yes, sir,” Robert Holden replied. “Steve went up to work on the beams for the roof, but unfortunately it snapped.” Robert showed Jarod where the man fell at the now completed house. “I knew it was bad as soon as it happened. When me and some of the other boys got to him, we saw he was already dead.”

Jarod could tell the man was heartbroken by the death of his boss, Steve Manners. He had seen the police reports from everyone at the site and confirmed none of them had in hand in the accident. Still, he wanted to see first hand.

“Steve was the best boss I ever had, most of the others will say the same, too. It’s a shame also what happened to his widow.”

“How’s that?” Jarod asked feigning ignorance.

“Steve hadn’t been laid to rest no more than a day before that bastard Roger Lee came calling. He wanted her to sell the company to him.” Holden looked disgusted. “She held out as long as she could, but finally the bills just became too much. When she sold, most of us quit. We couldn’t stand to work for that bastard.”

Jarod figured he had heard just about enough. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Holden.”

“No problem, Detective Poirot, anything to help you out.”

Jarod sat back on his bed in Caitlyn Mann’s guestroom contemplating the days events.

After an uneventful afternoon at the store, he and Caitlyn closed shop and headed home. They had started talking about business, but it sooned evolved into a conversation about nothing. The just chatted about whatever came to mind. And to Jarod’s surprise, he liked it. And he had a feeling Caitlyn did too.

The chatted over dinner and afterwards, Jarod played another interesting game called “Candyland” with Melissa. He found himself becoming increasingly relaxed around Cay and Melissa, and Jarod decided that could be dangerous.

Jarod was staying because he wanted to help this woman save her business. These feelings he was having about Cay were simply inappropriate. He decided he needed to talk to someone.

“This is Sydney,” the Belgian said into the phone, already knowing who it was.

“Sydney, I need advice,” the voice on the other end replied. Syd smiled into the phone. It never ceased to amaze him that Jarod still came to him for advice.

“What’s on your mind?” he asked, leaning back into his chair.

“I think I’m falling in love with the woman I’m trying to help.”

Sydney stopped moving. That was the last thing he was expecting to hear. “Go on.”

“I’m trying to help her save the business that her late husband started.”

“Well, Jarod,” Sydney began, “you know that it is dangerous to become too personally involved in a pretend. The consequences could be dire.”

“Yes, I know Sydney, it’s just,” Jarod had to pause so he could find the right words. “I’ve never felt this way about another woman Sydney. Whenever I’m around her all I can think about is how good her perfume smells. When I watch her out in her yard, I all can think of is how the light reflects off her hair.” Jarod paused again. “What should I do?”

“How does she feel?”

Again a pause. “I get the sense that she also enjoys being around me. I catch her smiling when she thinks I’m not looking. Honestly, Syd, I don’t know. I’ve never felt love before.”

“Well, Jarod, normally I would say to distance yourself from the situation.”


“Nothing is as pure as the love of a woman,” Sydney said.

“Thank you, Syd.” With that, Jarod hung up the phone. Sydney smiled at the thought. Could Jarod have found a reason to stop running?

Jarod thought back to the call. Was Sydney actually telling him to take the chance? Jarod decided to think on it later. Right now, he had other business.

Jarod now knew for certain that these ‘accident’ were not really accidents. Thinking back to the Kennedy assassination simulation, he realized, like Oswald, that Roger Lee was not in this alone. He just had to find the accomplice.

Deciding it could wait until the morning, Jarod prepared to go to bed. He thought about giving Parker a call, but thought better of it. Besides, the huntress probably deserved an undisturbed night’s sleep. Laying back, Jarod flipped off the light switch, thoughts of Caitlyn filling his head as he drifted to sleep.

August 19, 1998
Blue Cove, Delaware

Sydney strode through the halls of the Centre to his office, his morning coffee in hand. He thoughts drifted back to last night’s conversation with Jarod. Replaying the conversation in his mind, he began to realize he wasn’t just hearing it in his head.

Opening his office door, he found Miss Parker behind his desk, a mini-cassette recorder in hand replaying last night’s talk.

“So, were you planning on sharing this late night chat with me, Syd?” she asked. If Sydney didn’t know better, he would swear to hearing an emotion akin to jealousy in her voice.

“Honestly, Miss Parker, I wasn’t.” He watched her face turn angry. “I didn’t think it pertinent nor any of your business.”

Parker stood up quickly, her stilettos clicking on the floor. “Anything to do with Jarod is my business,” she hissed. Sydney realized she was jealous.

“Listen to the tape, Miss Parker, Jarod sounds like he has a genuine chance to be happy. Doesn’t he deserve that?”

“I deserve to be happy,” Parker spat. “Jarod deserves to spend the rest of his life in his little room on SL-15.” Sydney realized that the last part almost sounded convincing.

“Well, I’m sorry Miss Parker. It will never happen again.” Parker gave him a look, which she expressed the fact she knew he was lying. However, Parker didn’t press it.

“Make sure it doesn’t,” she said dangerously. Parker then breezed past Sydney to her own office, leaving him to wonder if Parker even knew the extent of her feelings for Jarod.

Parker reclined in her leather chair, sipping at a glass of scotch, listening to the tape that Broots copied for her. She would rewind each time Jarod finished describing how he felt when he looked at this woman, just so she could listen to it again.

Parker flashed back to her first meeting with Jarod, their first kiss, the incident in the Florida Keys, her meeting with Nia.

She pondered why she was feeling these emotions for Jarod. She didn’t know why she was jealous, she had finally discerned that was the emotion she was feeling. It wasn’t like they were ever boyfriend and girlfriend. They were just friends.

Parker knew that Sydney could see right through her façade. They both knew she cared about what happens with Jarod. And honestly, Parker wanted him to be happy. She just wanted him to be happy with her. Was that so much to ask?

Jarod decided to use this Saturday morning to do some more snooping. He had visited the other ‘accident’ sites and came to the same conclusion as with Steve Manners: the other two deaths were murders. Jarod just had to figure out whom.

Jarod glanced at his watch: it read a quarter to noon. He had offered to take Melissa to the park, and he didn’t want to be late. He was growing very attached to this little girl as well.

Pulling his car next to the curb. Jarod entered the home, and finding it empty, began to look around. “Cay?” Jarod called. Confused he made his way to the kitchen, where from the window, he could hear Caitlyn having an intense conversation with another man.

“Chris, we can’t just give in to him. We got to fight this,” Caitlyn excaimed.

“Cay, we don’t have a choice. If you haven’t noticed, the store is in debt. In another couple months were going to have to file for bankruptcy.” The man was very angry. Jarod wasn’t so sure he liked the way he was talking to Cay.

“Dammit, Chris, I’m not selling and that’s final!”

Jarod decided he better make his presence known. He opened the back door and stepped onto the patio. He could swear he saw relief on Cay’s face. “Is everything okay?” he asked Caitlyn.

“Yes,” Cay said, casting a glance at the man. The stranger didn’t seem to be too happy to see him. “Jarod, this is my brother-in-law, Chris Mann. Chris, this is Jarod Allen, he’s helping me out at the store.”

Jarod offered Chris his hands, which Chris seemed hesitant to accept. Jarod decided he might want to run a background check on Chris later. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Chris said. He then turned to Cay. “Listen, I gotta go. Just think about what I said, okay?” He then quickly left before Jarod could say anything.

“Charming fellow, isn’t he?” Caitlyn said.

“I suppose so,” Jarod answered. “I guess he is also under the impression you should sell?”

“Yes,” Cay answered sadly. “Maybe he’s right. At this rate, the business will be under by the end of the year.”

“Don’t give up yet,” Jarod said. “You never know when something good will happen.”

Cay smiled at Jarod, which made his heart flutter. “How come no woman has snatched you up yet?”

Jarod had to hide his embarrassment. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” Cay started, “you come in here and save me from Roger. You work for me at a measly wage, you have my kid adoring you, and me…” Caitlyn decided not to finish that thought. “So why haven’t you been snatched up yet?”

Jarod wanted to ask her to complete her other thought, but decided to stick on safer ground. “Well, there is one woman who tries, but I’m not interested.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t like her preferred choice of residence.” Jarod could see the confused look on her face. “It’s a long story.”

“Maybe you could tell it sometime,” Cay suggested. Jarod was actually considering doing so. For some reason, he wanted to tell her everything, but wondered if that were wise. He was about to speak when Melissa came running.

“Jarod!” she cried. Jarod bent down and scooped her into his arms and was delighted when she gave him a hug. She pulled away for a moment and asked, “Are we going to the park now?”

“We certainly can if that’s alright with your mommy,” he said smiling.

“Is it mommy?” Melissa asked with a puppy dog look.

“Well, I don’t know,” Cay began teasingly. “I guess. But you be a good girl for Jarod.”

“Okay,” Melissa said. “Let’s go so we can play on the teeter-totter!”

“Teeter-totter?” Jarod asked.

With Jarod and Melissa gone, Caitlyn could catch up on some housework. After tidying the kitchen, she took the laundry upstairs. After putting Melissa’s T-shirts away, she went into Jarod’s room to put away his jeans and shirt.

As she set them on the bed, she noticed a red notebook lying open on the nightstand. The headline caught her eye. Setting the laundry basket aside, she picked up the notebook.

It was a story about her husband’s death. Turning the page, she found another article about it. The next several pages told of the deaths of three other men who died in construction accidents. Caitlyn silently wondered what the hell Jarod was doing with these. One thing was for sure, she was damn well going to find out.

A few hours later, Jarod returned with Melissa giggling in his arms.

“I give up!” Melissa laughed. “Please put me down!” Jarod laughed as well and set her down. With a shot she took off for the backdoor.

“Jarod,” a voice said softly from upstairs.

Jarod peeked up the stairwell to see Caitlyn, looking somewhat frazzled. “Cay, what’s wrong?”

“Come upstairs please,” was all she said before disappearing around the corner.

Slightly confused, Jarod began to simulate the reasons why she could possibly be upset. Halfway up the stairs, he realized it could only because she found his notebook. Entering his temporary bedroom, he saw he was right. “I can explain,” he said.

“You better,” Cay replied.

Jarod wondered briefly what all to tell her. Should he explain who he was, or rather, what he was?

“Your husband’s death wasn’t an accident,” was all he said.

“What?” she asked surprised.

“I think your husband, along with three other men were killed by Roger Lee.”

“Why?” Caitlyn asked, wondering why she was actually listening to this.

“So he can buy up their businesses. Within six months of all the accident, Lee pressured all the widows into selling the him.” Jarod waited patiently for Cay to reply.

“So what, did you decide to use me to run your little sting or something? Am I just a tool to get information out of? Did you plan on getting my trust or something?”

“No,” Jarod replied in a pleading voice. “Coming across this was just an accident. When I saw you, I just knew I had to help. I first thought that would be helping you with the store, maybe helping with legal advice. I only stumbled across this by chance. Please believe me.”

Caitlyn really wanted to believe. She wanted to trust this man, for so many reasons. “So, do you just travel around solving problems?”

“Actually, yes,” Jarod said with a slight smile. “It’s what I was trained to do.”

Confused, Caitlyn asked, “What do you mean?”

Silently, Jarod reached under the bed and pulled out his Halliburton. “I’ll show you if you’ll take a seat.” Cay silently sat on the bed as Jarod opened the case revealing a television like device Cay had never seen before. Jarod pulled out a DSA and put it in the slot, then pressed play.

Jarod watched as Cay finished one DSA and reached for another. This would be the fourth one that she would watch. As she pressed play, Jarod instantly recognized the simulation. It was of the Exxon Valdez accident.

He remembered that he concluded nothing could be done. It was nobody’s fault that the ship wrecked, killing thousands of animals.

He must have faded out because he felt a hand gently shake his shoulder. Snapping to, he saw Cay standing above him.

“So this is what you do?” Jarod could only nod. “Why did you do this? Why would your parents allow it?”

“I was stolen from my parents,” Jarod said. “The Centre,” he said, nodding at the Halliburton, “kept me isolated for thirty years before I escaped in 1996.”

“They did it because you are a genius?”

Jarod nodded. “I’m classified as a Pretender, a genius who can become anyone or anything I want to be.”

“Do you know where your family is?” Cay asked.

“I met my brother over a year ago. The Centre turned him into a sociopath. Then they killed him. He died trying to save me.”

“I’m sorry,” Cay said honestly.

Jarod had to fight back a tear. “Yeah, so am I.” He didn’t expect Caitlyn close the distance between them and hold him close. He certainly didn’t expect the kiss just underneath his eye, just where a tear had fell. He didn’t expect to respond by kissing her back.

Suddenly Cay pulled away, leaving Jarod confused and slightly hurt. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I guess that was inappropriate of me.”

“No, Jarod,” Cay said quickly. “It’s not that.” She paused for a moment. “Jarod, I really like you, but it’s too soon for me to be thinking about a relationship.”

Cay was expecting him to be angry, but was surprised when he said he understood. As Cay turned to leave, she stopped to say thank you.

“What for,” Jarod asked.

“For everything.” She gave him a last glance. “Supper will be ready in an hour.”

Jarod watched her leave, taking in the hypnotic was the dress danced about her body. Had he heard her right? Did she say that she was thinking of a relationship? Jarod smiled. Maybe he would pursue this, but like Cay said, now was too soon. He would definitely have to talk to Sydney about this.

Jarod pulled out his laptop. Cay said dinner would take about an hour, so that gave time to do a little research. He wanted to learn more about Christopher Mann.

Jarod tried to put up a happy façade during dinner. He tried to keep his head in a game called “Chutes and Ladders” that he played with Melissa. But it was damn hard.

He caught Cay giving him glances at dinner. She knew something was wrong, but didn’t press it. However, he knew he would have to tell her soon.

Soon after each accident, $10000 dollars had been depostited into the account of Christopher Mann. The money had been deposited there through a funnel account held by Roger Lee.

Jarod was fuming. How could a man kill his own brother, let alone for a price? The man had no soul, Jarod decided. However, no money had been deposited since Charlie’s death. That’s why Chris was pushing so hard. He wanted his payday. Jarod would make sure he had everything he deserved coming to him.

Jarod snapped his laptop shut. He decided to turn his mind to happier thoughts. That inevitably led to Cay.

Did he actually have a chance to form a relationship with her? Could he sacrifice his search for his family to possibly start one of his own?

Jarod knew the only reason he let the Centre get close to him was because he kept feeding info to Parker. He had no doubt he could completely disappear if he wanted to. And from his previous conversation, it sounded as if Sydney would actually be happy with that.

Of course, if he did decide to stay, providing Cay would want him to, he would have to break contact with the closest thing to a father he had ever known. Jarod didn’t know if he could cut the cord, so to speak. Sighing, Jarod picked up his cell phone and hit speed dial one.

“Hello, Jarod,” Sydney said as he picked up the phone.

“How’d you know it was me?” Jarod asked curiously.

“Who else would call me at,” Syd glanced at a clock, “eleven o’clock at night?”

“Yes, well, lesser chance of being interrupted by the PTB’s.”

The line fell silent for a moment. Sydney sensed something was on Jarod’s mind. “It’s about this woman, isn’t it,” Syd asked.

“How’d you guess?”

“Intuition,” Sydney smiled. He was pleased to hear Jarod chuckle.

“Sydney, this evening she said that she might want to have a relationship with me. She also kissed me.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Sydney asked.

“No,” Jarod said. “It’s just...” Jarod’s voice trailed off.

“You don’t know if you can break off your search for your family. You don’t know if you can break your tie with me.” Jarod’s silence was all the answer he needed.

“Jarod, although you might not realize it, I always hoped that someday you would find some kind of happiness. Don’t feel obligated to me in any way. If this woman makes you happy, then don't ever let her go.”

He heard Jarod choke back a tear. “You mean that?”

“Yes, Jarod, I do.” For the longest time, Sydney feared this day may come. However, now there was no fear. He wanted to see his ‘son’ happy.

“Thank you, Sydney. I’ll think about it.”

“What will you do in the meantime?”

“Go to sleep,” Jarod replied, his old self coming through again. “I have to be rested for my two o’clock call to Miss Parker. Good night, Sydney.”

“Good night, Jarod.” Sydney then hung up the phone.

“What?” Parker shouted into the phone.

“It’s a good thing you’re not a doctor, I don’t think I’d want to call you at night for medical advice.”

“The hell do you want, Jarod?” Parker asked as she sat up, reaching for a cigarette.

“You know, cigarettes aren’t good for you,” Jarod said with a smirk.

“You’re not good for me,” Parker snapped back. “I don’t suppose I could talk you into a late night visit? Just you, me, my handcuffs, and a couple sweepers.”

“You had me up until the sweeper part,” Jarod said. He could hear her blush as she next spoke.

“What do you want Jarod?”

“Have you ever been in love, Parker?”

Parker wasn’t expecting that. She lit her cigarette and said, “Sure, at least three nights a week.”

“Aw, Miss Parker, I think you’re lying. You haven’t had a man over in at least a month.”

Parker briefly wondered how the hell he knew that before forming a reply. “Who needs a man when I got my fingers?”

It was Jarod’s turn to blush. “If I hadn’t been a sex counselor once, I’d have no idea what you meant.”

“Oh, I doubt it,” Parker said, glad she made him a little uncomfortable. “I think your big Pretender brain could come up with it.”

There was silence as Jarod tried to remember why he called. He wouldn’t admit it, but Parker had him a little flustered.

“Well, Parker, I’ll hang up now,” Jarod said in a husky voice. “I’ll leave you to your fingers now.” Jarod hung up, satisfied he had regained a semblance of control.

“Bastard,” Parker muttered with a small smile. Parker laid back down, thoughts of this latest conversation running through her head.

August 20, 1998
Brookfield, Illinois

“Hey, Jarod,” Cay called out to him. Jarod sat on the couch, flipping through the Sunday Chicago Tribune.

“Good morning,” Jarod smiled.

“Mmm,” Cay said, sniffing the air. “What’s that smell?”

“Those are southwestern omelets. I learned to make them when I worked as a chef in Albuquerque.” Cay stared at him a moment, wondering if he was truthful. “Honest,” he said.

Cay only smiled and went into the kitchen. Jarod followed and pulled some plates from the cabinet. Quickly he scooped up one of the omelets and set it before Cay.

“This looks good,” she said. Jarod was pleased when she groaned in satisfaction at the taste. “I knew there was a reason why I hired you.”

“Melissa still asleep?” Jarod asked.

“Yeah,” Cay answered. “But she’ll be up soon. It’s an exciting day for her.”

“Why’s that?” Jarod asked curiously.

“I’m taking her to a Cub game,” she said. Noticing his blank look she continued. “You know, Wrigley Field, ivy, crappy team?” Still nothing. “You know baseball, right?”

“Baseball?” Jarod asked, with a distinct cadence between the two syllables.

“You’ve never seen a baseball game?” she asked unbelieving. “That’s cruel to deprive a person of the national pastime. However, you’re in luck, you will get to see your first game at the most beautiful place in the world.”

Cay was right, this Wrigley Field was a beautiful spot, and it was a most intriguing game as well. They hit a little ball with a stick and ran around designated bases. She explained the rules and why everyone sang a song at nearly the end of the game. It had been a good day.

However, he knew he would have to return to business. With Melissa asleep in the backseat, Jarod explained to Cay how Chris had received paychecks from Roger Lee. She was absolutely fuming.

“The bastard killed his own brother?” she said in a harsh whisper as not to wake Melissa. “He wants to sell to get his damn paycheck. I trusted him. How could he do this to me?”

“People will do some awful things for money,” Jarod said in a quiet voice. “Some don’t even care about the human cost.” He gave he a glance. “But I assure you, he will never do it to anyone ever again.”

“Why?” Cay asked him. “What are planning to do?”

“Make him confess,” Jarod said simply.

August 21, 1998
Brookfield, Illinois

Jarod watched and waited at the construction site that Christopher Mann was currently working on. Jarod knew all about him now, how he killed Lee’s competitors for profit, and how he gained interest on sites approved by Roger Lee. Jarod would take pleasure in this sting.

Jarod watched as the half dozen or so coworkers scattered for lunch, leaving Christopher alone working at the cement mixer as he filled the basement. Jarod walked up from behind him.

“Boo!” Jarod shouted, giving Chris a start.

“Damn,” Chris yelped. He looked at the man. “You’re Jarod, right? What the hell was that for?”

“I just wanted to give you a fright before you met a fate similar to your brother.” With that, Jarod shoved Chris into the basement, the wet cement covering him.

“Jarod,” Chris cried. “Get me the hell out of here!”

“I’m sorry,” Jarod said unsympathetically. “You see, you never gave your brother a choice about it. Nor did you give those other men a choice either. You killed them all. You’re working with Roger Lee, and you’re eliminating the competitors. Aren’t you!” Jarod yelled.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Chris yelled defiantly.

“You killed your own brother for profit,” Jarod shouted. “You left four families without a husband and father. You did it to your own sister-in-law! You’re trying to force her into selling so you can make money. Is ten thousand all that your brother was worth to you? Admit it, you killed him!” Jarod then turned a dial on the mixer, letting the cement rush down, raising the level to Chris’ waist.

“Okay, I did it!” Chris admitted. “Lee was paying me to get rid of his competition! Now get me out of here!”

Jarod shut the machine off, but offered no help to the struggling man below. “Did you get that?” he asked to a person that Chris never noticed.

“I did,” Cay said as she shut off the camcorder, tears flowing as she glared at Chris. “How could you? How could you kill Charlie?”

“The bastard was costing us a lot of money. If he had just sold out we would have been flowing in money.”

“Well,” Jarod said. “You and Roger won’t have to worry about money when you get sent to Joliet. Your ride will be here in a few minutes.” Jarod put his arm around Cay as they waited for the police to arrive.

The silence was slightly unnerving as Jarod and Cay sat on the porch, staring at the stars. Finally, Cay decided to break the silence.

“Do you have to leave?”

Jarod looked at her. “Do you want me to,” he asked hesitantly.

“Not really,” Cay replied, not wanting to loose this man who had become so important to her so soon.

“Then I’ll stay.”

“Can you do that?” she asked hopefully. “Will they find you?”

Jarod gave a small smile. “The only reason they get close is because I let them. I can disappear whenever I want to.”

“Then you’ll stay?”

“Yes, I will.” It was then that the magic moment happened. When both leaned forward, and they kissed.

August 25, 1998
Blue Cove, Delaware

Broots, Parker, and Sydney were all hunched over a computer discussing a possible lead on Jarod when a package arrived.

“For you, sir,” the sweeper said, handing the package to Sydney. Both Broots and Parker looked on as Sydney opened the package. Inside was a piece of cloth.

“What does it mean, Syd?” Broots asked.

Sydney gave a slight smile. The day had finally arrived, and he was very happy.

“Jarod’s throwing in the towel.”

“In English, Syd,” Parker snapped.

“It’s over Parker. Jarod’s gone underground. He’s done playing the game.”

All three stood in silence. Broots was stunned, Parker was hurt, but Sydney was happy for his young protégé.

“Good luck, Jarod,” he whispered softly.

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