Buttercups and Daffodils by Ashley
Summary: "Darling, I never showed you; assumed you'd always be there; I took your presence for granted; but I always cared.âs64;a33; âs64;r0;Mariah Carey
Categories: Season 2 Characters: Broots, Ethan, Jarod, Miss Parker, Mr Parker, Sydney
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 2 Completed: Yes Word count: 33901 Read: 7243 Published: 17/11/05 Updated: 17/11/05
Part 1 by Ashley
Authors Note: I wrote this after spending several hours taking an English Final and while listening to Puppy Song By Harry Nilsson. I guess that I need to write a story that I’d like instead of that boring stuff they put on tests. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that I found the perfect work to describe the MP/J relationship! “Anomalous”, meaning strange and difficult to identify or classify, seems to fit them perfectly. All works used in this piece have been cited within the document. I take no credit for them.

Buttercups and Daffodils
part 1

By: ~*Ashley*~


Miss Parker’s House

Miss Parker burst through her front door and threw her jacket and briefcase onto her sofa. It had been a long day at the Centre. Daddy had not been pleased at her continued lack of results, as usual. Lyle had made a point to be meaner than usual, she assumed to compensate for his and Cox’s failures. Even Sydney would not stop pestering her about any phone calls she had received from Jarod. There had been none, of course, but his concern for his protégé had only added to his feeling of urgency.

Moving to the kitchen, Parker got out one of her many bottles of scotch. This day was one of those ones that demanded a stiff drink before she would be able to fall asleep. Well, as close to sleep as her nightmares would allow her.

“A nice warm bath is exactly what I need.” She thought to herself. She filled her oversized tub up with warm water and bubbles. When it was full enough, she crawled in and relaxed.

Not even the heat of the water seemed to take away the chill that had overcome her since she had begun working at the Centre. How many years had it been? There was too many for her to remember. She laughed at herself to think that she once had believed that working at the Centre was a temporary arrangement. When she was still low-level security the prospect of being one of *them* had seemed unfeasible. If anything, growing up at the Centre had taught her how evil it, and the people who ran it, were. She would not be one of *them*. Even the best-intentioned plans go awry. Now she was head of the Pretender Relocation Team, fast on her way up the corporate ladder.

She sighed and got out of the bath. Wrapping herself in a plush terrycloth towel, she shuffled into her bedroom to slip into her comfortable pajamas. The bed looked so inviting. She could feel the weight of fatigue threatening to close her eyes.

She finally settled herself into her bed, and securely wrapped herself in her comforter. She was about to enter the dream world when the piercing ring of the phone startled her to full awareness.

“What?” She demanded of the caller wearily.

“Did you find any new information about the picture of my mother and yours?”

“Jarod.” She relaxed back in her bed, ready for another one of their late night talks, “Figures.”

“Nice to talk to you too.” He joked.

“Nothing has come up. I had Broots search the Centre Data Annex for any reference to our mothers knowing each other, but nothing came up.” She wanted to get straight to business and then to sleep. A day at the Centre demanded that the person be prepared to handle whatever curveballs it threw at them.

“How do you think that they knew each other?” He asked timidly.

“I have no idea.”


“Maybe they tried to get us out together.”

“Before your mother was ‘killed’ in the elevator?”

“Well, it makes sense that she would have outside help. The Centre is not something that you’d want to take on alone.”

“I suppose.” He considered that idea for a moment.

“Are you still there?”

“Um, yeah… Miss Parker?”

“What?” She could barely keep the yawn out of her voice.

“I’m sorry.”

“Huh?” He had her full attention. “Sorry for what?”

“Your mother, if I hadn’t been at the Centre…”

“Wait a sec!” She stopped him, suddenly angry, “You are NOT going to do this guilt thing again! What happened was not your fault, and if it were, then it would be my fault too. She was trying to get both of us out.”

“Still, I should have…”

“No. My mother’s entire life will NOT be defined by *you*.”

Jarod couldn’t understand why she was being so cruel. He had only been trying to be nice, “What is the matter with you?”

“The matter with *me*? I’m not the one who thinks that every bad thing that has ever happened or ever will happen is his fault. You need to get a grip on reality pal.”

“What? I am realistic. If anyone needs to get a grip on reality it is you! You are the one who deludes herself into thinking that the Centre is actually good! You are the one who obediently obeys Daddy Dearest. You are the one who refuses to admit that you should leave. You know that it was what your mother would have wanted; yet you refuse to do it. Why Miss Parker? You are not afraid are you?”

“I think that you are the one who should be afraid rat boy! How would you know what my mother wanted? You don’t even have a mother, just some old pictures of a red-haired woman and a close encounter with a stranger.”

“How dare you!” The venom in his voice reflected that she had struck a cord with him.

Her wicked smile momentarily vanished as she considered the harsh things she was telling him. It quickly reappeared when she reassured herself that he was only getting what he deserved.

“What’s the matter Boy Wonder? You can dish it but you can’t deal?”

“Why do I even try?” Jarod rhetorically demanded.

“I don’t know. Maybe you should just stop and keep your big nose out of my business!”

“Fine!” He agreed.

“Fine!” She echoed.

Within a split second the sound of a dial tone was the only sound that emitted from her receiver. She slammed down the phone on its base and cursed to herself.

“God damn you Jarod!”

He always had a way of getting to her when she had finally been able to relax. Now, inevitably, she would be unable to rest. This would be another long night of thinking about Jarod to add to her record.

She pushed herself up from her bed and sauntered into the kitchen, again pouring herself a glass of scotch. She took it out to the living room and situated herself on her couch, clutching a throw pillow. Why did he always get to her like this? She should have known better than to get into a quarrel with him. It always ended with her feeling horrible about the malicious things she had said.

Perhaps she had gone too far this time. Never before had she been so vindictive about his family. That was a subject that she, even on her worst of days, had never made light of. She understood how much not ever knowing them had hurt him; she too had felt the pain of losing family, of searching for them or the answers about them. She never meant to hurt him. It just all seemed to come out. As soon as he said that remark about her mother she just snapped. Her mother was as touchy a matter as his family.

She hoped with all of her might that he would call back. She yearned to explain what she had said. She hoped that he would understand that she didn’t mean to cause him sorrow.

The fear that he wouldn’t forgive her this time was ever-present in her mind. She had gone too far, they both had. Her guilt, shame, anger, and sorrow all combined to create a depressing swirl of emotions in her heart.

Clutching her glass she let out a muffled sob. Why did things have to be this way between them? Couldn’t it just be like it used to be? Back when they were friends, when they were…who knows what they were? All that she knew was that they were together and happy. That used to be all that counted in her life. Was it too late to say she was sorry?

New York City
Jarod and Ethan’s Apartment

Jarod slammed down his telephone and began to pace around his bedroom. How dare she say those things about his family? What did she know anyway? Why did he even care? These and many more questions ricocheted around in his head.

He knew that he should not have presumed to have insight into the motivations of her mother, but he only had wanted to make peace between them. He had thought that maybe if she would stop blaming him for the death of her mother (as he was sure she did) they would be friends again. They could pick up their relationship where they had left off.

It was stupid. He knew that. For being the smartest man in the world sometimes he came up with some wild ones. Still, he couldn’t quench his childhood need for her friendship. The familiarity and closeness of their anomalous alliance was a source of strength for them both as children. Sometimes he needed that again. To be able to talk to some one like he had been able to talk to her when they were young was alluring. Sometimes it seemed that she was the only one that he could really talk to about things. Sydney was always a trustworthy confidant, but there were some things that he couldn’t tell his mentor.

Jarod considered calling her back, then thought better of it. She may have gone to sleep already, and he knew how infrequent that was for her and didn’t want to wake her. Nevertheless, he needed to explain himself to her. Maybe he could email her…but it could be intercepted. Then a ludicrous idea hit him. What about snail mail? The US Postal Service was still operating, and, as far as he knew, email hadn’t totally taken over yet. He could write her an old fashion letter and mail it to her house.

He searched his desk for a piece of paper and an envelope. He found one stashed in the bottom drawer along with a couple pens. They perfectly suited his purpose.

He seated himself at the desk and began to scrawl furiously. Within about fifteen minutes he had it signed, sealed, and ready to deliver.

Being careful not to wake Ethan, who slept in the room next to his, he exited the apartment. He flew down the flights of stairs. Once outside he scanned the area for a mailbox. Coincidently there was one right across the street.

He smiled at his luck and left the security of the alcove of the entrance to the building. He didn’t even contemplate that it might not be a good idea to go out at that time of night in that neighborhood. That maybe a rival gang to the gang he had recently infiltrated could be in the area. All that he could think of was her and how sorry he was for the things he had said, and how much he wished that he had never called her in the first place; perhaps he could have saved her the pain of arguing about her mother and his family.

He didn’t see the blue van that hurriedly pulled around the block, or the gun barrels that pointed out the top of its tinted windows. The van reached him before he was even able to get to the edge of the sidewalk. With the bang of two shots he was down. He was only aware of a pain coursing through his body. His mind raced with thoughts that you wouldn’t think a man laying on the sidewalk bleeding to death would have. You’d think that his life would flash before his eyes, or something cliché like that. Instead he only had one thought: Parker would be mad at him if he didn’t get her the letter, how could he make sure that it got to her. He didn’t like her being mad at him.

As the dark night became even darker in his eyes as darkly clothed figure bent over him.

“Oh no, no, no, no!” The figure whispered. She was one of the Centre’s field agents. She had spotted Jarod that morning and was observing him until a sweeper team could be arranged and sent up to capture the missing pretender. She had never anticipated that some one else would get to him before they could.

She bent down and placed two shaky fingers on his neck, searching for a pulse. When she found none she stepped back in shock. Observing that no one else was around, she turned on her heels and ran for the nearest phone booth, the next block over, to call 911 and inform her superiors of what had transpired.

Around the same time that she ran to the phone booth, Ethan exited the apartment building. Upon seeing the crumpled form of his brother, he ran to his side. Blood was gushing from wounds on Jarod’s chest. His once black t-shirt was now a crimson color.

Ethan removed Jarod’s jacket and shirt in hopes of being able to further inspect the wounds. He then used the shirt to create a makeshift bandage around Jarod’s chest. He prayed that his brother would be all right, but there was really no way he could tell. He lacked the pretending skills that Jarod possessed, and therefore could make no diagnosis. He wracked his brain for a solution to this dilemma. He couldn’t take Jarod to a hospital. That would be too dangerous. The only thing he could do was call Jarod’s clone, Josh, Emily, and Charles; and hope that the boy had the same skills as Jarod.

He took his cell out of his pocket and hit the speed dial.

“Hello?” Came the groggy voice of the Major.

“Dad? This is Ethan.”

“Ethan? What is wrong?”

“It’s Jarod. He’s been shot. I don’t know if he is ok. I don’t know what to do!” Ethan hurriedly informed him.

“Everything will be all right. We’re on our way.”

The Centre
The Next Day

Miss Parker stormed through the corridors of the Centre. Her hangover from the overindulgence the night before and the uneasy feeling she was having made her a force to reckoned with, even worse than usual. Every person she passed in the halls cowered in her shadow. The occupants of the elevator huddled into a corner in hopes of avoiding her wrath.

The weird thing was the other kind of looks she was getting. It seemed to be sympathy, although why they would feel sympathetic towards her was beyond her comprehension.

Their strange behavior shook her confidence, but only slightly. She strolled purposefully into the Sim Lab, only somewhat prepared for the day of chasing Jarod before her.

The thought of Jarod still sent a wave of regret through her heart. He never called back, or emailed her, or anything. She was beginning to worry about him. Usually they repaired whatever fights they got into quickly, neither able to withstand the tense silence for long. It only added to her uneasy feeling.

That feeling was duplicated a thousand times when she saw who waited for her in the lab. Gathered around a table were Sydney and Broots, as expected. With them were three characters not commonly found in this area of the Centre. Mr. Parker stood with his arms crossed glaring at a clock. Raines was rasping for breath, a sadistic smile on his pruned face. Lyle hovered over the table, occasionally picking up a picture or file.

“Angel, you are here.” Mr. Parker was the first to notice her. He uncrossed his arms and nervously shoved them into his pockets, not exactly something that he usually did.

Parker suspiciously joined them. She attempted to get a look at whatever was on the table, but the group blocked her view.

“Oh, I get it. I’m five minutes late to work and now you are excluding me from the chase. Well, for your information I had a really bad night and I am not in the mood for your games.”

“Miss Parker, please.” Sydney warned.

She turned to return his warning with a snide remark when she noticed how tired he looked.

“Are you all right Syd?”

“I’m afraid not Miss Parker.”

Parker turned to her father, “What is going on?”

“Uh, um…Raines?”

Mr. Raines looked at Mr. Parker and then at the angry Miss Parker. He surely didn’t want to be the one to tell her. “Perhaps Mr. Lyle should explain.”

Lyle, being the uncaring monster that he is, was only thrilled to get to be the one to deliver the news. “It seems that our pretender, Jarod, has checked out.”

“Of where? Did you send out a team?” Parker couldn’t understand the big deal. So Jarod had checked out all ready, they had come too late a million times before.

Lyle chuckled, “No I mean that he *Checked out*. Kicked the bucket. Croaked.”


“He’s DEAD.” Lyle became impatient and spit out the news.

Parker looked at the faces of those around her. They all seemed to believe this lie. It was obviously a lie. There was no way that Jarod could be dead.

“You’re lying.” She voiced her thoughts.

“Maybe you should sit down…” Sydney started.

“No, I want to know what you are talking about. Jarod isn’t dead, I just talked to him last night.”

For the latter part of her comment she got a suspiciously raised eyebrow from Lyle, which she ignored.

“It has been confirmed.” Her father interjected.


“One of our own field agents saw the body.” He continued.


He took a deep breath, “We have proof.”

“Where?” She challenged him.

Finally they moved away from the table. She approached it and looked at its gruesome contents. There were pictures of a blood-covered sidewalk. Jarod’s staple leather jacket lay next to the pool of blood. She felt ready to throw up. This was too much.

As if he had sensed her distress, Sydney placed a chair behind her, which she fell into.

“What happened?” She softly questioned.

Sydney knelt beside the chair and took Parker’s hand, “At around eleven o’clock last night Jarod was spotted by an agent who had been keepings tabs on him exit his apartment building. She reported that he paused a moment, then when he found what he was looking for he headed across the street towards a mailbox. She described his demeanor as being anxious, distracted, even depressed. That apparently was enough to keep him from seeing a blue van that was headed for him. As it passed him several shots were fired, then it sped away. Jarod went down immediately. The agent went to see if he was still alive, but she found no pulse or any other signs of life."

"She just left him there?" Parker demanded. While the statement seemed to be a Parker-like thing to say, she said it so timidly that Sydney considered yelling "gotcha" and pretending that the whole thing had been one sick joke.

"It wasn't like that. She went to call 911. When she returned his body was gone. All that was left was a lot of blood, his jacket, and a letter. We think that Ethan took him."

She was silent. There was no emotional outburst. There was no yelling or hysterical crying. There was just one lone woman in deep denial. The agent had described Jarod as "anxious, distracted, and depressed"? She knew that only one thing could have caused him to lose focus like that. It was their fight. But why would he be out there in a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of the night?

"Well, what was he doing out there in the middle of the night?"

"He was mailing a letter."

"To whom?"

Sydney stood up. This would be the hard part; if you could imagine something harder than telling Parker that Jarod was dead. He picked up an envelope from the table and handed it to her.

She turned it over in her hands. It was stained by splatters of blood. The address was partially obscured, but she could make out that it was to her. So that was why he didn't call.

"God damn you Jarod! The one night you decide to *not* call me in the middle of the night and opt for a kinder method of communication!" Parker yelled at no one in general.

"We waited for you before we opened it." Mr. Parker informed her.

With shaking hands Parker examined the seal. "Does anyone have a knife?"

Lyle took a Swiss Army knife out of his pocket and handed it to her. (Figures he’d be carrying a weapon.)

Gingerly she opened the letter and took it out of its protective casing. She gently unfolded it in her hands, glad that it had not also been stained by blood.

“Dear Parker…” She began to read to herself.

Dear Parker,
Why do we continue to play this game day after day? I am tired of it, despite what you think mind games are not my style. I don’t care who is wrong or right anymore. I just want us to be able to have a ‘normal’ conversation some time. I don’t want the rude remarks, or the tantalizing clues; I just want to be able to talk to you like we used to. Do you remember that? We used to talk all the time. You were always the only one who could understand me. When did we become enemies? Can you not stand me because you blame me for the death of your mother? That was all that I was trying to tell you. I am sorry. I just thought that maybe, just maybe, if you could forgive me, it could be like it used to be between us. Before whatever happened to us happened. I don’t even remember exactly what happened. You’d think that I would remember something like that, but I guess that it is just another one of the precious memories that are forever lost in the annals of my mind. I’m not asking you to be my best friend all of a sudden, and this should in no way affect your job. I know that you have to catch me, well, you don’t *have* to…but that is an argument for another day. Just…think about it. I’ve got all the time in the world, and you know that I won’t give up until I get an answer. Even if I get an answer and I don’t like it, I probably won’t give up. I haven’t yet. You know me. I’ll be waiting.

Parker gently refolded the letter and placed it back into the envelope. Of course she wanted to be friends again, that was all that she had ever wanted. She couldn’t believe that he thought that she blamed him for her mother. That wasn’t why she hated him. She couldn’t actually remember at that moment why it was that she hated him, but she knew in her heart that whatever reason she had been telling herself all of those years was a sham.

The night before she had been worried that it would be too late to say that she was sorry. Now it struck her that she had been only too right. If Jarod truly were dead then she would never be able to tell him that she was sorry. She would never be able to tell him anything ever again. There was still so much to say.

“I…I can’t accept this. I need to know. I need to be certain.” Parker practically was pleading with her father.

Mr. Parker looked down on his broken hearted daughter. She looked so small and sad sitting in that chair, clutching the letter like it was her lifeline. In actuality it probably was like a lifeline to her. It was her one last connection to him. “What do you want me to do?”

“You don’t have to do anything. I want to go to New York City and find him.”

“Angel, he’s dead.”

“There has to be some evidence left. Something to prove that this is for real.”

“I don’t think…”

“Daddy! Please!” Parker jumped up from her seat.

Mr. Parker looked her in the eyes. He wasn’t sure if this was the best way for her to handle this, but he also knew that she had made up her mind and that she would go with or without his consent. “Fine, but you have to take Sydney along with you.”

“Fine. It’s settled. We’ll leave as soon as the jet is fueled up.” Parker replied with much more confidence than she felt.

Then she turned and left the room. It was a struggle to keep her pace steady, to not bolt out of the room and as far away from those images as humanly possible.


Once Parker was out of earshot Lyle spoke the thought that he had been contemplating the entire time, “I didn’t expect her to act like this. Shouldn’t she have been happy that the chase is finally over?”

Mr. Parker looked at his son, “You don’t understand.”

“Understand what? I thought that she hated that freak. Now she’s acting like the grieving widow? Why on earth would she care?”

Mr. Parker slammed his fist on the table, sending picture scattering to the floor. “Because we made her care!”

“Made her care?” Sydney’s accented voice spoke up.

He hung his head. They weren’t going to give this up until he explained, that was clear. “Mr. Broots, please leave us.”

Broots obediently left the room. They never let him hear the good stuff.

“Come with me, to where the walls have less ears.” Mr. Parker gestured to Sydney’s office.

In the office Sydney, Mr. Parker, Lyle, and Mr. Raines gathered in a small circle. Mr. Parker was concerned about the wrong people hearing what he was about to confess, but it wasn’t like it was a secret, it was triumvirate approved after all.

“Sydney, do you remember the experiment where we introduced Jarod to my daughter?”

“Yes, it was to gage his reaction to the opposite sex.”

“Did you ever wonder why they used the chairman’s daughter? It’s not like we would have trouble finding another child.”

“I simple assumed that is was because she was there at the time.”

Mr. Parker shook his head, “Actually, it was because of something that Catherine had commented to me. She had said that when she first met Jarod she had a feeling that there was something about him that would forever intertwine him in our lives. Then, when Angel asked her about the little boy who was working with Sydney, she said that she realized what that feeling was. She knew that there was something between them. They hadn’t even met, yet she was so sure. The experiment wasn’t about attraction, it was about connection.”

“What kind of connection?”

“Soul mate, I believe, is the term used.”

“Jarod and Parker?”

“Yes, the results we received were far beyond what we had expected. From this we had the chance to discover the meaning to one of the greatest mysteries, love. We allowed them to meet again, and while they didn’t know that we knew, they continued to meet under our observation. They got very close. Eventually Catherine rose up against this experiment. She said that it was wrong to toy with their emotions like we were doing. We had created situations to see how they would react…she didn’t approve.”

“Why wasn’t I informed of this? I was, after all, head of the Pretender Project.”

“It was need-to-know. You didn’t. After Catherine…died…she began to rely on him for support more and more. It began to distract him. That was when we decided to put our experimentation on hold. The work that he did on the Sims was far more important than our side project. I sent her away to boarding school, but she still managed to sneak in to see him on her breaks. Nothing could stop her. I guess that we hadn’t anticipated how strong their connection would be.”

“Then why aren’t they together now?”

“They would have been, if we had allowed it. They were about nineteen years old when it happened. By that time Jarod had begun to figure out that we were never going to let him go. She had been gone to college, and it had been harder than when she was at school for her to see him. One visit they made secret plans to be together. They schemed to run away, and they did. They waited for a dark night and then they disappeared into the darkness. We had no idea that it was coming. For obvious reasons we began an extensive search. They were only gone a little over a week when we found them in a little beachside community. They had let down their guard and tried to contact you. They couldn’t however, you were sent to consult on another project in California so that you wouldn’t find out, and we intercepted and traced the call.”

“I remember that consult. It was about some savant case, if memory serves me.”

“Quite right. We brought them back to the Centre, however the damage had already been done. They had tasted freedom, and were not about to let it go. That was when Mr. Raines,” He gestured to the prune, “introduced us to a memory eradication method he had developed.”

“You can’t brainwash Jarod.”

“No, but you can create mental barriers within his mind. It was the only way that we could get them to cooperate again. We replaced the memories of their time together with fabricated memories of a falling out that never really happened. We created their mutual hate and then reinforced it by allowing them to meet one last time. Their reciprocal hostility convinced the other that they truly hated each other. It was rather brilliant and ironic all at the same time.”

“How could you? You had to have known what it would do to them!”

“There were unexpected results, but they all worked to our advantage. She became emotionally closed off, thus focused on her duty to the Centre. He delved into his work, and made us more money that ever before. When he ran away, again, it was only natural that we would have her catch him. In a poetically ironic way she would be the one who would best be able to track him, she had once been the one running with him. The idea was right, but as you can see, she has been unsuccessful. The problem that we are dealing with now is that the buried feelings are starting to resurface. That letter and her reaction are only further proof.”

“They are falling in love again?”

“In a way, yes. Although they technically never stopped being in love. We just buried the emotion.”

“Why are you telling us this now?”

“Why not? He is dead. It’s been confirmed. I just want you, Sydney, to understand what she is going through when you go to NYC. I want you to keep her from falling apart. Being in an overly emotional state can jeopardize the success of our treatment. Memories may resurface, and I want you to handle the results.”

“I always knew that she had other…loyalties.” Lyle sneered.

“Her *loyalties* are with her family and the Centre, they always have been. Don’t forget that.”

“But for how long, there is the possibility that she will remember everything.” Raines sniveled.

“You personally guaranteed…!”

“We did not foresee this occurrence.”

“You better keep an eye on the situation then.”

“Yes sir.”

All of a sudden the phone on Sydney’s desk rang, “Your plane will be ready in an hour.”

“Thank you Gracie.” Sydney replied.

“I must pack soon.”

“Fine, then this meeting is over. And if I hear that any of you,” He stared pointedly at Sydney, “breathe a word of any of this to *anyone* I can not promise that there will not be an unfortunate accident.”

Miss Parker’s House
Same time

Parker looked around her room, making sure that she had packed everything that she would need for the trip. When she was certain she zipped up her suitcase and set it by the front entrance.

She looked over to her bedside table. On it sat her phone. She never knew that looking at such a common object could make her feel so depressed. The reason why, of course, was because the last time that she had talked to Jarod had been on that phone. They had fought. It had been horrible, as usual. It grieved her to think that the last thing she had ever said to Jarod had been in anger.

“No.” She told herself, “We’re not even sure that he is really dead.”

Still, as the hours of being in denial passed, her ability to delude herself decreased. Even the river in Egypt ended at some point.

She thought about what her life would be like without Jarod in it. Certainly her life would be different without the chase, and she would get more sleep without him calling her in the middle of the night; but oddly she had accepted that as the price that she had to pay to have him in her life. She enjoyed those little things, although she would have kissed Broots before she admitted that to him.

There had always been the hope that things could someday be different. Maybe the Centre would have changed their mind about needing Jarod. They might have just let him go, thus freeing her too from her obligation. Then, if they were free from the Centre’s grasp, maybe they could…

It was useless to think such things now. If he honestly were dead, there would be no chance for such things to come true.

Why did it hurt so much? They hated each other. That was obvious. Then why did the thought of life without him make her want to die too, just so that they could be together? She should be happy. Now the Centre wouldn’t need her to chase him down. She could return to the Corporate, or even better, maybe they would let her go. She just couldn’t find a reason to be happy with freedom if she didn’t have him to share it with.

God she missed him. His beautiful, goofy smile; the sound of his voice; His soul searching eyes; Talking to him; Just sitting in a comfortable silence with him. Everything about him. At that moment she would have given anything to have him call her up and tell her how she is blind to the truth about the Centre, and bait her with some tidbit of information. Just to know that he was safe, and alive.

Parker poured herself a glass of scotch from a new bottle. It was another of those occasions Jarod kept giving her to get drunk as a skunk. She would have downed the entire bottle if she didn’t know that she had a plane to catch. She managed to suppress her desire to drown her sorrows in a bottle of her friend Jack Daniels or one of his contemporaries. For him, she had to be sure. Then, god forbid it should be true, she would drink until her heart’s content…or rather until her heart didn’t know the difference.

The death of her mother, Catherine Parker, as she remembered it, didn’t make her feel so empty as she felt when she reflected on what her life would be like if it were true. It made her feel all alone. It made her feel heartbroken in a way not even Tommy had made her feel. It was devastation; that was the only word for it.

She took up the pillow from the floor where she had thrown it that morning after crying into it all night and placed it back on the couch. Then she moved to her stereo and turned on the radio, hoping to get the local weather. She didn’t want to have to endure a turbulent flight on top of everything.

She couldn’t have chosen a worse time to turn on the radio. The melodic tunes of a song emitted from the speakers.

Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
And now it's too late to hold you
'Cause you've flown away
So far away

Never had I imagined
Living without your smile
Feeling and knowing you hear me
It keeps me alive

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Darling, I never showed you
Assumed you'd always be there
I took your presence for granted
But I always cared
And I miss the love we shared

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Although the sun will never shine the same
I'll always look to a brighter day
Lord I know when I lay me down to sleep
You will always listen as I pray

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say

“Never had I imagined, living without your smile”
It was true that she never did think about what it would be like without him. She always just assumed that good old Jarod would always be fine. He did have a super human genius, after all. Nothing could defeat him. He had survived so much in his life, how could he make such a foolish mistake. A mistake that cost him his life?

“Darling, I never showed you; assumed you'd always be there; I took your presence for granted; but I always cared.”
Why did that line seem to strike a particular cord with her? What hadn’t she told him? Caring for Jarod had never been an option…She froze. Nobody seemed to think that caring for Jarod was an option. Hadn’t he confided to her that Sydney had told him the same thing? She remembered that Father’s Day. He had been so devastated to think that Sydney hated him. Was that the way that she made him feel?

“And I know eventually we'll be together; One sweet day.”
Parker wasn’t sure that she could wait that long. Then again, when you work at the Centre, who knows how long you have. She was morbidly comforted with the thought that there was always the chance that they’d be together again soon.

Together again? Again? When had they ever been together? She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something that she was forgetting, something very important.

She closed her eyes and could hear the sound of waves crashing on a beach mingling with a hearty laughter. It was a laughter that she had not heard in years. It was Jarod laughing like she hadn’t heard him laugh in ages. He wasn’t mocking or being smart…it was the kind of innocently blissful laugh he had when they were young. It sounded so real.

Then she could feel his arms wrap around her in a welcomed embrace.

“I love you.” The apparition whispered in ear.

“That was One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey! Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen we’ve got more of your favorite hits coming up!” The overzealous radio announcer jolted her from her reverie.

Parker jumped a little and glanced at her watch. The plane would be ready by now. She’d have to leave soon if she didn’t want Sydney to worry about her. It’s not as if he didn’t have enough to worry about already.

Centre Jet
Over Pennsylvania

Sydney and Miss Parker sat side by side in the Centre’s private jet. They had not spoken a word to each other, each lost in their own worlds. Obviously their thoughts were focused on one man. They were on their way to find the truth; about Jarod, about his death, about everything.

Eventually Parker broke the silence, “We’ll find him.”

“Excuse me?”

Parker turned in her seat to look him in the face. They both looked like hell. Sydney seemed to have aged a hundred years since they heard the news. She wondered if he had been at the Centre all night long. She knew that Sydney’s devotion to his charge was total. Jarod was like a son to him, whether he would admit it to him or not. This had to be grieving him.

“I said that we will find Jarod.”

“I certainly hope so.”

There was a moment of silence before Sydney spoke again, “Penny for you thoughts.”

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing.”

“Really Miss Parker, I’ve known you since you were little, you can trust me.”

She looked at him closely, considering his preposition. She came to the conclusion that he was right. Of all people, save Jarod, Syd was the one she could talk to. And if she didn’t talk to someone soon, she felt she would go insane.

“I was just remembering Jarod as a child. Remember that time he and I took the bunnies out of their cage and let them run free in the halls of the Centre?”

“Oh yes, I believe that I was the one who had to go find them.” Sydney gave her a faint smile. “You two thought that is was so funny. I was fuming mad, but my little partners in crime just giggled. When you were like that I couldn’t stay angry for very long.”

“Do you remember the sleep-overs we’d have? When Daddy would work late, after mom died, and I would be stuck at the Centre until all hours of the night. You would let Jarod stay up with me, and we would tell scary stories until my father decided to make an appearance. It wasn’t very hard to come up with scary stories, Jarod generally just told me what he had done that day. We used to talk a lot. Remember that? We would hide in the shadows so that no one could find us and we would just talk for hours.”

“Ummm.” He thought about adding his own memories, but it seemed that she just needed someone to listen to her for now.

“We will find him. I promise you that we will find him…dead or alive.” Parker whispered the latter part, as if afraid that voicing it out loud would all of a sudden make it come true.

Sydney tightly closed his eyes. Then an idea struck him, “Do you ever wonder what life would have been like without the Centre?”

“Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if we had ‘normal’ lives.”

“Where do you think you would be, right now, if the Centre had never existed?”

“I guess that I would have a different job. I don’t think that many other institutions would require my particular skills.” She smiled, “I don’t know where I would be other than that. Maybe I would have a family of my own, maybe not. I’d like to think that I would.”

“Do you think that you would have turned out to be a different person?”

Parker was a little taken aback by the directness of the question. She deliberated whether or not to get mad at him for asking, but she thought better of that. “I guess so. I know that I would have been a lot more happy.”

“Do you think that we would have known the people that we know now?”

“You mean Jarod? Of course we would know Jarod. I couldn’t imagine life without him. It would be different though. Without the Centre to make things so messed up we probably would be…well, it would be different.”

Sydney nodded his head. She understood what she was referring to. With the caring way that she was talking about Jarod, he wondered if she was starting to remember.

“What do you think he would have been, as a permanent profession?”

“A doctor.” Parker replied so surely that Sydney wondered if she really did know what he would have been. Could he have told her in their time together? Or had it been something that he had told her after?

“How do you know?”

“I just know.”

Sydney looked at her. She was obviously terribly distressed over the situation. His conscience urged him to tell her the truth about she and Jarod. She had no idea how much he meant to her. And now, if he was gone, she may never know.

He opened is mouth to tell her when a second thought struck him. What if Jarod was dead? This information would only hurt her more. He wasn’t sure that her psyche could handle such a blow.

Sydney simply reached over and took her hand. She hesitated at first, and then she remembered another time that Sydney had been there for her. Without him she doubted that she could have survived, then or now. She reassuringly squeezed his hand, sensing that he needed the supportive contact as much as she did.

The look in her eyes was one that tore Sydney up inside. She looked so lost, and so alone. For her sake, and his, they had better find Jarod alive and well.

New York City
Jarod and Ethan’s Apartment

Parker and Sydney got out of the cab. Sydney paid the cabbie while Parker looked around the scene. Remnants of police tape still hung from the building and surrounding objects. Parker glanced over at the cursed mailbox. There it sat innocently unaware of all the trouble it had caused.

“Over here Parker.” Sydney called from in front of the building.

She started on her way to meet him, they had to inspect Jarod’s apartment, when she came to a quick halt. There, in the middle of the sidewalk, was a brown-red stain. It was blood. It was Jarod’s blood. The circular mark was so large; there must have been massive blood loss.

The sight brought back her queasy feeling. This was much, much worse than the pictures let on. She began to wonder how anyone could have survived such an injury.

“Parker?” Sydney asked from right beside her. She hadn’t even noticed him come to stand by her.

“Lets go in, NOW!” She commanded in her strongest voice. It didn’t betray for a second the horrible feeling of loss in her heart.

Sydney faithfully followed her to the elevator. He waited as she punched the button for the fourth floor. To say that he was concerned about her was an understatement.

When the doors opened they exited onto the floor and began to search for apartment 42.

“May I help you?” A kindly elderly woman asked Parker and Sydney as she passed them in the hall.

“Do you know this man?” Parker flashed a picture of Jarod at the woman.

She took out her reading glasses and positioned them on her face to get a better look at the photo. “Oh yes. That is Jarod. He and his brother lived in that apartment right over there. He was some sort of undercover agent; he said that he couldn’t tell me exactly what he did, for my own safety. It is terrible what happened to him. He was such a wonderful young man.”

“What else did he tell you?”

“Nothing specific. Every time I asked him a question he would be very vague, but that was all right. I enjoyed his company. Not many people come to visit an old lady like me, but every evening he would come over and just talk to me. Sometimes we talked, sometimes he told me the wildest stories about a secret organization that was hunting a man and about his adventures. He had a vivid imagination.”

Parker smiled, that was Jarod for you. He couldn’t resist helping the downtrodden and demoralized. “Did you see what happened that night?”

The old woman looked sadly at Parker, “Yes. My apartment is right on the front side of the building. I was watching the stars with the new telescope that Jarod gave me, he said that it was my escape from the restrictions of my arthritis; I can’t go out often because of it. Anyway, I was looking out my window when I saw him leave the building. It was pretty late, and I wondered what he could be doing. Then a blue van came careening around the block, shots were fired, and he fell to the ground. I saw a woman go to help him, so I went to call 911. When I came back he and the woman were gone. I ran over to his apartment to tell his brother what had happened, but he wasn’t there either.”

Parker sighed; they already knew all of this.

“Thank you Mam.” Sydney cordially expressed his gratitude.

They walked over to Jarod’s apartment, and when the woman was out of site Parker picked the lock on the door.

The apartment was small, she could see four doors leading away from what she assumed was the living room. Despite it’s unfavorable location, it was neat and well decorated. The walls were painted a beautiful shade of blue. “His favorite color.” Parker remembered. The sofa was covered with papers from his pretend, although his DSA case was blatantly missing. The mantle over the fireplace was adorned with pictures of his family. She picked up his unfinished red notebook as Sydney shut the door behind them. There was nothing in it that would tell them anything about where he had gone.

“I’ll take one bedroom, you take the other.” Sydney offered to Parker. She was thankful for his direction at a time when she was having trouble reminding her self to breathe.

Parker chose the room closest to her, and new from the second she walked in whose room it was. It was saturated with Jarod’s personality. Everything was so…him. Everything from the desk covered by frame full of family pictures, to the perfectly made bed. She noted that the bed had not been slept in. He must have been as bothered by their argument as she was. The only thing out of place was his cell, which was thrown down on the desk. She picked it up and looked at the preset numbers. Number one – MP, Number two – Sydney, Number three – Ethan…she looked for more, but there were none. He knew better than to leave the numbers on there that she didn’t already know.

Always cautious. She frowned and the thought. It wasn’t fair to him. A fresh wave of guilt ran through her. He shouldn’t have had to live like this. Her frown lightened when she considered how adulterous her thoughts had been over the past day. The Centre would kill her on sight if they had any idea.

Reluctantly she left his room. She wanted to just crawl up in the blankets that she was sure must still hold his presence, but she remembered that Sydney was just in the other room and she didn’t want to have to explain herself.

“Anything?” She asked Sydney.

“Nothing out of the ordinary. You?”

“His bed wasn’t slept in, and he left his cell phone, but that is it. Call a cleaner team and have them take all of this stuff back to the Centre. Maybe our technicians can find a needle in this haystack.”

“You look tired, are you okay?”

“No I am not Syd. There was nothing here to indicate that he is still…Syd, there is no reason to believe that he is still alive!” Her voice cracked.

Sydney held her in a fatherly embrace, “Do you want to sit down for a minute?”

“I just want to go home.”

“The jet is waiting. We can go, I am sure that you would like a chance to get some rest.”

Parker nodded and numbly followed him out of the apartment. She took one look back at the pictures of Major Charles and the boy, Ethan, Emily, Kyle, and his mother. Then she noticed another picture in the back. She went over to them and picked it up. It was a frame from one of his DSAs of a young Jarod and a young Miss Parker playing together. They looked so happy. She quickly put the picture, frame and all, in her pocket and ran to catch up with Sydney.

The Centre
The Next Day

“Miss Parker, w…what are you doing here?” Broots questioned from her office door.

She lifted her head up from where she had been sleeping on her desk. She had decided not to go home last night after all. It would be too hard. She was sure that she would wake up every hour in the night anyway waiting for his call, a call that would never come again. Tears began to form in her eyes, but she blinked them away before Broots could notice.

“I guess that I fell asleep. Did you deliver my report about my findings in New York to Daddy?”

“Um, ah, yes. He asked me to give this to you.”

He handed her a memo. It was an order to refocus the goal of her search. The object of the quest was no longer Jarod, but his family, and specifically the boy.

“What is this?” Parker demanded, never missing a beat.

“The t…t… triumvirate issued this order as soon as the news of, well you know, r…reached them.”

Parker flew from her chair and stomped to Sydney’s office. He was calmly sitting there as she had expected, probably thinking about what had happened.

“Did you see this Sydney? This just happened yesterday and now they want us to go chase down his family! Like nothing at all happened!” Parker ranted to Sydney, but he seemed unaffected by their disregard.

As if she hadn’t said a word Sydney announced, “I want to hold a memorial for him.”

Parker took a deep breath, “What?”

“He deserves a memorial at least. After all that we have done to him, it’s the least that we can do.”

“You’re giving up?”

Now it was Sydney’s turn to become agitated, “Face it Parker! He’s gone forever! No amount of searching will ever change that. I just want to give him one last show of respect.”

Parker didn’t notice the memo she had been holding in her hand flutter to the floor, “When?”

“The day after tomorrow. I’ve already arranged for a priest to be there and a tombstone to be placed in honor of him. I’m planning on having a coffin full of mementos buried on the plot, since, well, you know. ”

This time no amount of blinking could stop the tears from falling, “Where?”

“The Blue Cove cemetery. I thought, well, I was wondering if…would you like to give his eulogy? You and he used to be so close, I thought that it might be good for you.”

“Absolutely.” Parker didn’t hesitate for a second. She understood Sydney’s need to give something back to him. “I think that I am going to take the rest of the day off Syd. I think that you should too.”

Parker didn’t wait for his response before she left. It was impossible to stay in the place where he grew up for any longer. She would take her chances with her own house.

Miss Parker’s House
The Next Night

Parker paced the room, occasionally looking at the blank paper that sat on her desk and the picture she had taken from his apartment. She had put off writing the eulogy all yesterday. Instead she had sat in her mother’s studio alternating between crying and laughing as she remembered her past with Jarod and considered her future without him. She had also taken the next day off. She could not bring herself to go back to that place.

Now she had to write it. The memorial would be the next morning. The problem was that she didn’t know what to say about him. There was so many good things about him that she couldn’t give him justice, and she didn’t want to sugar coat his life. It hadn’t been easy and he deserved to be remembered for all the evil he had overcome as well as all of the good he had done. How could she properly express that? She danced with the idea of just having Sydney give the eulogy, but then decided that Sydney had been right. She had to do this, for him and herself. She would just have to find a way to express the intricate dance he preformed between good and evil every day of his life.

Dance. As she mulled over the word she was struck with a flash of her and Jarod dancing. They were in a living room of some house that she didn’t recognize. They were laughing. The music seemed familiar. Then it hit her; that song was Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra. It had been her mother’s favorite song.

When she and Jarod had been about twelve years old she had brought into the Centre her record player. Jarod had been fascinated by it. He had never seen such a thing. He had begged her to play something on it. She decided that she would play her mother’s favorite song for him. He loved it, just as she had thought he would. The music was perfect to dance to, she had told him. He didn’t understand what she meant by dance. Parker had been only mildly surprised to find out that he didn’t know how to dance. She offered to teach him. They found an abandoned room and set up the player. She taught him how to dance, the same way that her mother had taught her. Save a few hurt toes, they had a wonderful time. It was one of the best memories of her childhood.

She couldn’t tell whether the flash was the distorted memory of that day or the remnants of a dream. Whatever it was, it seemed so real. Just as her vision of him telling her that he loved her had seemed so real. It scared her that she wasn’t able to determine the difference between a dream and a memory any more.

Despite her confusion, the memory of teaching Jarod how to dance inspired her. She sat down at her desk with renewed inspiration and a determination to write a speech that would make him proud.

Blue Cove Cemetery
The Next Morning

Miss Parker’s heart sped up as they approached the cemetery. She was suddenly very glad that she had accepted Broot’s offer to drive her to the memorial. Her mind had drifted so many times during the short trip that she was sure that she would have crashed the car had she been driving it.

As the plot came into view Parker was shocked by the number of people paying their last respects to Jarod. Some of them she recognized as people Jarod had helped on a pretend. Other faces were not quite familiar to her, they must have been from pretends that they had missed. Even Centre employees had shown up. To her dismay Lyle, Cox, Raines, and Willie could be counted among them. Lone figures dressed in black were stationed around the area. Some mingled with the crowd, others stood watch. She recognized them as sweepers.

She departed the car, leaving Broots to go find Sydney and approached her father. When he caught sight of her he gave her a reassuring smile.

“Angel, this plan was perfect!”


”Yes, your plan to hold a memorial in hopes of luring out any members of Jarod’s family. Your idea to post the announcement on the Internet was a stroke of brilliance. We’ll surely get them now.”

Miss Parker noticed her father’s expression. It advised her to go along with the cover, for her own sake. “Thank you Daddy. I knew that you would like it.”

He nodded and took her arm, leading her away from the rest of the Centre cronies. “I’m sorry that they are here, but the triumvirate wasn’t pleased with this show of respect towards one of their projects. I had to cover for you so I told them that is was all an elaborate trap.”

“You’re not mad about this?” Parker was confused. The Mr. Parker she thought that she knew would never allow such a public display of emotions.

“Lets just say that I understand why this is hard for you.”

Rather that arguing she accepted that he was only doing something nice for her. She was too tired to ponder his motives. “Thank you again Daddy. I think that I’ll go find Sydney now.”

She left her father’s company in hopes of finding Sydney. She had not seen him since he had asked her to write the eulogy. Between absorbing all that had happened and writing, she had neglected to check up on him. She hoped that he had been okay.

Parker wove her way through the crowds, but couldn’t find him. A few people offered her their condolences, they either remembered her as a friend of Jarod’s or Jarod had told them about her. She was surprised how many of them Jarod had told about her. None of the people seemed to realize that she was his hunter; they assumed that she was a friend of his.

“Miss Parker?”

Parker turned around and came face to face with a red-haired woman. “Yes?”

“Hi, my name is Zoe. I’ve heard so much about you. I had to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too. Thank you for coming.” She generically replied. It was the same thing she had said to all of the other mourners. Parker was about to walk away again when Zoe stopped her.

“This was really nice of you to do, considering that you and Jarod haven’t exactly been on good terms for the last, what was it, twenty years?”

“You should really thank Sydney, this was all his doing.”

“I’ve already spoken to Sydney. I think that he is having a hard time accepting that Jarod is gone. I think that we all are.” She wiped tears from her eyes, “But that it is hardest for him, seeing that he did raise Jarod after all.”

“How exactly did you know Jarod?”

“Oh, he didn’t tell you about me? I should have figured he wouldn’t. I met Jarod while running from my obsessed ex-boyfriend. We were…involved for a while, but it didn’t work out.”

Immediately Parker was put on the defensive, “Really? Well I’m sorry to hear that. I really should go find Syd.”

The green-eyed monster had reared its ugly head. Parker could feel the jealousy rising in her stomach. This woman had gotten to be with him, why hadn’t she?

“You’re not going to ask me why it didn’t work out?”

“I don’t think that I really want to know.”

“It was you.”

Parker froze, “Excuse me?”

“He wouldn’t admit it, but there was always someone else. He could never reconcile his feelings for the other person with his feelings for me. In the end whatever we had wasn’t strong enough to overcome his feelings for her.”

”How do you know it was me?”

“It was just the way that his eyes would light up when he talked about you. Or the way he always had some little Parker anecdote. I just knew, call it woman’s intuition.”

Parker could not believe what she was hearing. Here is this woman telling her that Jarod had feelings for her at his funeral! She could not believe that this woman would do that to her.

“Why are you telling me this?”

”Because he never got to. From what I understood you thought that you and he were enemies and you believed that he hated you. I didn’t want you to have to live with that belief just because he didn’t get to tell you before he died. He truly did love you.”

“I’m sorry, I…I have to go.” Parker left Zoe standing there. She couldn’t hear any more of what she had to say.

She wished with all of her heart that Jarod did love her, but what good would that do her now? He was gone forever. The only comfort that Zoe’s words had brought her was the knowledge that maybe the mess of feelings she had been having weren’t unrequited.

“Miss Parker? Are you alright?” Sydney interrupted her thoughts.

“I’m fine Syd. How are you? I’m so sorry that I haven’t been around.” Miss Parker hugged him.

“I’m doing well. I understand why you have been preoccupied. You have your own grief to deal with.”

“Please, all be seated.” The priest’s voices sounded over the loudspeaker so that all could hear him.

The entire crowd moved to the white chairs that had been placed in front of the tomb stone. A podium was situated to the left of the marker. To the right of the marker was an open casket. It had been Sydney’s idea that instead of burring Jarod, they burry things that symbolize him. Each person who knew him was allowed to put something in. Parker had placed in the casket the picture of she and Jarod. Sydney had put in a tie, although she didn’t quite understand why. She just accepted that it had some special meaning to Sydney and Jarod.

Sydney and Parker sat side by side in the front row. She only half listened to what the priest had to say. She was aware that he talked about the wonderful life he had had. That angered her. How could this stranger know what his life had been like? She was only too happy to be called to give the eulogy, anything to keep that man from pretending he knew Jarod anymore.

Parker stood behind the podium and looked to Sydney for support. She placed her note cards down in front of her, although there was no need. She knew what she wanted to say by heart.

“I would like to start by thanking all of you for coming. Jarod treasured his friends almost as much as he treasured his family.” Parker looked at the faces in the crowd, each expectantly looking at her. It was as if they expected her words to magically bring him back to life.

“It will never been said that Jarod’s life was an easy one. He led a dangerous dance between good and evil. As a child he was taken from those he loved, his life was turned upside down. He was brought to a place that no child should ever have nightmares about. Yet he thrived. Under the guidance of a compassionate mentor and father figure, he became the caring giving man that we all knew and loved. He dedicated his life to helping those who had suffered misfortunes. But fate can be cruel sometimes. Despite all of his good work, he never achieved his greatest goal. He never reunited his family or had the time to have one of his own. Still, the unfortunate occurrences of his life did not make him bitter. He loved his life. He never took anything for granted. I suppose that a benefit of his unhappy childhood, if any, was that he learned to cherish life. It is a horrible injustice that his was stolen away from him so soon.” Parker paused to catch her breath. This was very hard on her. A knot had begun to form in her stomach as she talked of all that he had been forced to endure.

“I first met Jarod as a child. He was always a source of comfort to me during the hardest times of my life. Jarod was my best friend. We would talk for hours about nothing and everything. He always listened to all that I had to say with rapt attention. Even then he was a selfless child. He loved all who he knew. It didn’t matter to him if you were ‘normal’ or not, he treated everyone with the same respect. He had an unquenchable curiosity. As I recall, that curiosity got us both in trouble a few times.” Parker smiled faintly, “Jarod loved many people, even if few people had the bravery to let him know that they loved him too. I just hope that wherever he is right now he is happy. I hope that he has finally found what he spent a lifetime searching for. I hope that he has found his refuge at last.”

Blue Cove Cemetery
Later That Day 5:30pm

Parker had stayed at the cemetery all day long. The crowds lingered until five that evening. She stayed all day long because she realized that this would probably be her last chance to say goodbye to him, and she didn’t want to have to do it with all of those people there. It wouldn’t have been right.

The casket full of memories had been buried earlier, a fresh mound of earth covered where there had earlier been a six foot hole in the ground. The podium had been removed, and the tombstone had been set in place.

She knelt down on the freshly covered plot so that she could read the inscription on the marble marker.

To Laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better
Whether by a healthy child, a garden patch,
Or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because
You have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Parker traced over the letters of his name with one hand. One of the greatest tragedies of all was that they still were not sure of his name or birthday. They had considered inscribing “Jarod Russell” on the grave marker, but had decided against it. After all, no matter what his name was, he would always be just Jarod in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.

The poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson had been Miss Parker’s idea. She had read it once in a book, and it reminded her of him. It perfectly described his life. His lack of results in his life’s search should not be considered a failure, the good he did along that search was the true success of his life.

“Why Jarod? Why did you have to leave me so soon? I still have so much I need to say.” Parker’s words could barely be heard above her heart wrenching sobs. These were the tears of a woman who had lost everything good in her life. Everyone she loved had been taken from her; her mother’s life, Timmy’s mind, Faith’s life, Tommy’s life, and now they had taken her one source of strength and love. They had taken Jarod away from her.

She lay crying by his grave for another hour, each minute seeming to take an eternity. Finally, as the sun began to set she stood up and straightened her jacket. This location for his grave had been perfect. It was atop a hill, which overlooked the setting sun. Had Parker not been ripped of any caring she had left about the beauty in life, she would have found the sight breathtaking.

She called for a cab to come pick her up; she had let Broots leave hours before. There was one last thing that she had to do before she could leave. She picked up a bouquet of buttercups and daffodils and laid them on the mound of earth. She knew that the arrangement of bright yellow flowers was odd, but she had not chosen them for how they would look. She placed them there for their meaning. The daffodil symbolized unrequited love. In a way it was for their future that would never be. Now they would never be able to share their love. The buttercups symbolized memories of childhood. It was her way of telling him that she too remembered the little boy who gave her her first kiss.

“I love you Jarod, always and forever.” Parker informed the setting sun. She hoped that somewhere he was looking down on her, and could hear what she was saying.

The Catskill Mountains
New York State
A Cabin

Ethan paced the front porch of a cabin nestled safely in the confines of the Catskill Mountains. It was a safe house that Jarod had set up for them months before incase there was an emergency. This was definitely an emergency.

Ethan was tired of doing nothing day after day. He was beginning to grow wrestles with this waiting game they seemed to be playing with fate. Each day all occupants of the cabin held their breath. No one knew what to expect.

Soon he became tired of the view from the porch too. He decided to go inside and see how everyone was doing. Not that he expected them to be any different from when he left. Time seemed to be frozen.

He made his way to the bedroom in the back of the cabin. There, Charles and Josh sat by the bedside of his now unconscious brother. The man lying in the bed had tubes and machines hooked up to him; creating an orchestra of electronic beeps, whirls, and hums. The heart monitor registered a steady, but weak, rhythm.

“Any changes?” Ethan spoke up, startling Charles and Josh.

“No, he hasn’t changed since you brought him hear a couple days ago.” Josh responded sadly.

Ethan had made the right decision to call the Major and Josh. Luckily, Josh did have the training required to handle the situation, and what he didn’t know he read about. Ethan just couldn’t understand why his brother wasn’t getting better or waking up.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, “Why don’t you two go get something to eat. I’ll stay with him for now.”

Charles looked at Josh, “I guess that we should, we have to keep up our strength for him. Come on Josh.”

When they were gone Ethan took Charles’ seat next to the bed. “Come on Jarod. You have to wake up. We need you.”

Miss Parker’s House
One Week Later

Parker sat on the window seat in her mother’s studio. The view of the beautifully twinkling stars was just out the window, but Parker wasn’t looking at the stars. She was concentrating on the paper in her hand. She read Jarod’s letter over and over again. She memorized every word and studied his script. It was the last communication she had with him. The last thing he had ever told her.

She had been like this all week. She had taken a month off. Strangely, Mr. Parker had not protested or demanded to know why she was so upset over a project that she needed time off. He had just solemnly accepted her request and told her to take as much time as she needed.

Oddly enough he didn’t let Sydney take that kind of time off. He had been given a week, which would have ended today. Parker had asked her father to give him more time, Jarod had been his life for so long, but her father had refused. He said that Sydney needed to refocus his attention on capturing Jarod’s family.

That made her sick to no end. The man just died, and they already wanted to go after that which he held most precious.

Her about-face in attitude had scared her at first. She had gone, in a little over a week, from being the loyal ice queen to being a champion of everything she had been raised to abhor. The ice queen façade had never been real anyway. Jarod had known that. He had tried numerous times to get her to admit that to herself. Ironically, when she finally was ready to admit what she knew to be true but had been hiding for years, he was gone.

No amount of remembering or reading his letter could fill the empty void that she felt in her heart. Every night she still woke up at odd hours reaching for the phone that never rang. Then, as she had done early that night and every other, she would cry herself to sleep.

Life had taken on regularity in that aspect. The routine was all that she had left. The only way that she continued to function was by looking only to the next step, never any further. Breathe in, breathe out. Put one foot in front of the other. If she dared to look too far ahead, she was only confronted with the realization that there was nothing there. All of her secret hopes and dreams for the future had died that day in New York City.

She felt so foolish. She had wasted, thrown away, the most precious gift ever given to her. Even as a child she had known how special her relationship with him was. She had taken full advantage of it then. It seemed that rather than gain knowledge as she matured, it simply diminished.

There had been a time when she would not have hesitated to tell him how she felt. Yet now, as an adult, she had avoided any kind of confrontation with him at all for over five years.

When she was only ten, she had the nerve to follow her heart. Parker smiled at the memory. She had wanted to kiss him, and she did. Not one to wait around for anything, she had taken it upon herself to kiss him. Of course she had been afraid of what his reaction might be, but it was worth the risk. She had given him some incredibly lame line, which he fell for hook line and sinker. Then she just did it. It was only any innocent brush of lips, but it was the start of something much larger than either of them separately. It had been the beginning of them together.

Their first real kiss didn’t occur until years later. They had been talking in the shadows, as per their custom, when he leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. He pulled away and smiled that huge grin of his, the one she loved so much. Then she, always the instigator, kissed him back. The second kiss was much more passionate than the first. It was their first real kiss. It was magic. The electricity that a simple touch between the two could convey was amplified by the contact. She had never found a man who could kiss like that again.

Parker laughed at herself for no reason. She was certain that she must have been going insane. What else could explain this week? She was sure that she would wake up at any time in an institution for the insane, and would find that this whole experience had been nothing but the imaginings of a mental patient. Either that, or she was going to be a patient soon. How much longer could she go on like this?

The Catskill Mountains
New York State
A Cabin
Same Day

Ethan sat beside Jarod with Josh, as they had done every day for almost two weeks. They had finally convinced Charles to take a nap in his own bed. The emotional trial the old man was enduring would surely take it’s toll if they did not watch out for him.



“What if he dies?”

Ethan looked at Josh. It was something that he too had been asking himself for quite some time now. It was a question that none of them want to face, but all indications pointed to the distinct possibility that that was a question that might one day have to be answered.

He sighed, “I don’t know…”

Then, their conversation was interrupted by an irregular beep of the brain function monitor. It showed increased activity in his brain.

“I’ll go get dad.” Josh ran out of the room to retrieve his father.


Jarod was vaguely aware that he was not alone, wherever he was. Everything hurt, and it was really dark. He tried to open his eyes or speak for a few minutes, but nothing happened. He could faintly hear someone moaning, he assumed that it was himself, but everything seemed so disconnected.

He tried to remember where he was. What did he remember last? He did remember a fight with Parker. She was yelling at him, and he at her. He remembered something else about her too. A beach house. He and she laughing and walking along the pristine shores. Wait a minute, he thought to himself, that never happened. He thought very hard about what happened after the phone call. He could remember something about writing a letter, about going outside…to mail it perhaps. Then there was a van, shots rang out. He could practically feel the bullets enter his chest. One thought raced through his mind, Parker. He had to talk to Parker.

He attempted to voice his thought, but it only came out as a mixture of jumbles.

“It’s okay son. We’re right here.”

The voice sounded familiar to Jarod. It sounded like his father, Major Charles. What was he doing there? Whatever had happened must have been pretty bad to take his father out of hiding.

“P…P…” Jarod tried his best to construct the words.

“What is it son?”

Jarod thought of her face, he needed to see her; he needed to tell her something. He couldn’t quite remember what, but it seemed important. He tried to open his eyes again. They felt tremendously heavy, but his desire to see her was to great to keep them closed. He had to somehow tell his father what he wanted.

“Dad, I think that he is trying to open his eyes.” Josh observed.

All were delighted when he succeeded. Jarod looked around the room taking in the familiar faces. Ethan, Josh, and Charles were gathered by his bedside.

“Parker.” Was all that Jarod said before he let his eyes close again, and exhaustion to win him over.

The trio looked confusedly at each other. Jarod had been unconscious for over a week, then he woke up all of a sudden and said one word. “Parker.” That was the name of the woman who was chasing him, wasn’t it?

“Ethan, do you know how to contact Miss Parker?”

“Yes, she gave me an email address incase of an emergency. Why?”

“We have to call her.”

“I don’t think that would be such a good idea.” Charles warned. “She is one of them.”

“Jarod wants to see her. It must be important.”

“He has been unconscious for almost a week, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

The Major and Josh stopped their conversation long enough to ask Ethan his opinion on the situation.

“I think that we should call her. Josh is right, Jarod wouldn’t ask for her unless it was important.”

Charles was still less than convinced. He did not want to endanger his sons by inviting the enemy over. Miss Parker had been hunting him and his sons for as long as Jarod had been free. He was doubtful that she could be trusted enough to be brought to their location, yet they would be unable to move Jarod.

“Dad,” Josh put a reassuring hand on his father’s shoulder, “I met her once. I saw something in her eyes when she spoke of him. We can trust her.”

He looked over at Jarod, then back to Ethan and Josh. He sure hoped that they knew what they were doing.

The Centre

Sydney sat in his office chair gazing absentmindedly at the wall. He wasn’t really thinking of the wall, he was thinking of Jarod. The memorial had a wonderful turnout. There were many people who had loved Jarod. The news of his death had spread rapidly amongst those he had helped.

It wasn’t the same around the Centre without Jarod’s calls and presents. Everyone could sense the empty hole his absence left in the Centre. Even after he had run away, he remained an integral part of the Centre. Now, it was as if that part was missing. No one knew quite how to deal with it. Even the people who were in no way connection to the hunt for the pretender could feel his absence.

No one felt it more that Sydney. The Centre had given his a grossly inadequate amount of time to recover from this devastating loss. Jarod had been a son to him, yet he had been expected to simply brush off his death. That had been impossible; he had simply hidden it under his cool professional exterior. You don’t last long at the Centre if you aren’t extremely proficient at that particular skill.

Miss Parker had been a source of constant worry for the psychologist. Mr. Parker’s revelation about the true nature of the experiment had been quite a shock to him. Sydney understood what it was like to lose those you love. He had lost the love of his life, Michelle, once. The problem was that Sydney wasn’t sure that Parker would be able to cope with another loss. She had already endured so many that he doubted that she had the resources to survive another. And this one was worse than the rest. This time, a part of her died too. At least when Michelle left, Sydney had people to support him. Who did Parker have? Jarod had always been her rock. Sydney was unsure that he, with all of his good intentions, would be a suitable substitute for him in Parker’s time of need.

Sighing, Sydney moved his chair from facing the wall to facing his desk. He decided to take one last jaunt into Jarod’s ‘Refuge’ account, to make sure that he hadn’t left anything important in there.

He was surprised to see one message labeled “Miss Parker, Urgent”. Miss Parker was not at work, she wouldn’t be for quite some time, so he decided to save her the trouble and open it himself.

Miss Parker,
You must come quickly to the attached address. This concerns a matter of great importance to yourself and me; Jarod. I trust that you will come alone. Hurry.

Sydney was intrigued. Why did Ethan want to see Parker so desperately, and what did this have to do with Jarod? Sydney closed his eyes for a moment. He was unsure whether or not to tell her about this, it could only further upset her. Then again, since when did it become his choice what she knew and what she didn’t? He would visit her immediately.

Miss Parker’s House

When Sydney had knocked on her door, there had been no reply. Concerned for her well-being he had entered anyway and found her curled up in a little ball in her mother’s studio, fast asleep. Reluctantly he woke her.

“Syd?” She groggily asked.

“Yes Miss Parker. It’s me. I need to speak to you.”

“Oh.” She looked at her watch. “I must have fallen asleep.”

Sydney looked at her tear stained face, and at the letter clutched in her hand. She had not simply fallen asleep, it was more like she had passed out from emotional exhaustion.

“I found this in the Refuge account. It‘s for you.”

She took the printout of the email from him and read it over. “I gave Ethan the address to that secure account a while ago incase he need to contact me due to some emergency.”

“Do you know why he would email you about Jarod.”

“No.” She thought for a moment, and then quietly guessed, “Maybe he just wanted to let me know where Jarod is buried.”

Sydney looked sadly at her. She did not need this reminder of his death right now. “What are you going to do?”

“I am going to go to this address. Ethan said that it was important.”

Sydney nodded in acquiescence. “Do you want me to go with you?”

She look relieved, he had read her mind, “Would you? I’ll call my father and tell him that you need more time off. He won’t argue, for some reason he is being very compliant with my requests lately.”

As predicted, Mr. Parker did not argue with his daughter’s request. He simply wished her the best and told her he hoped they would feel better soon.

Rather than take the Centre jet, which would be too obvious for their secret meeting, they booked two seats on a commercial flight and were on their way to New York once again.

The Catskill Mountains
New York State
A Cabin

Miss Parker and Sydney, because they had booked last minute seats, had to wait until early in the morning to take off. It was the next day by the time they reached New York. Then they had to rent a car and make the long drive deep into the mountains. They arrived at the cabin around ten in the morning.

Charles had been watching for Parker to arrive since the email had been sent from a window in the living room. Now, as he watched the car pull into their long driveway, his apprehension about letting her know their location increased. He silently watched her get out of the car. He was dismayed to see that someone else was with her. He recognized the man as Sydney, the man who had raised Jarod.

Angrily Charles greeted the two at the door. “I thought that we told you to come alone!”

Parker was a little taken aback. “If this concerns Jarod, then Sydney has as much a right to be here as I.” She calmly informed him. Had this been any other occasion, she would have bitten his head off for snapping at her; but the ice queen was too tired to care about his tone.

“It’s all right Dad.” Ethan assured his father, “Let them come in.”

Charles opened the door and stood out of their way. At that same moment Josh came bounding into the room.

“They’re here. That was fast.” Josh joked. He was in a very good mood, his brother had improved since the previous night, even enough to speak and joke with him. It was a major turnaround from his comatose-like state of the past couple days.

The second Parker caught sight of Jarod’s clone she could feel the knot raising in her throat. He looked exactly like Jarod had when they were children. He even was wearing a similar smile. Similar because, though they had the same face, no one could smile like Jarod. She could barely suppress a small cry as Josh approached her.

“What is wrong?” He asked her. He did not understand why she was so sad to see him. He was even more shocked when she turned around, buried her head in Sydney’s chest and started to cry.

Parker had tried very hard not to adversely react, for Josh’s sake, but the sight of him had been too much.

Ethan ushered them into the living room so that Parker could sit down.

“I’m sorry.” She attempted to explain, “You just look so much like him…and I miss him so much…”

“Jarod?” Charles asked her. He was as confused as everyone else. The only person who seemed to know what was going on was Sydney. “Why do you miss him? Isn’t it your job to chase the poor stooge down?”

Parker was horrified by Jarod’s own father’s disrespect of his dead son. Jarod was dead, and here was the family he devoted his life to searching for calling him names!

“Major, please.” Sydney urged the man not to be so callous. Parker was having a hard enough time with the situation.

Parker wiped the tears from her face, “Why is it that you wanted me to come here?”

“He wants to see you. He woke up yesterday and asked for you.” Ethan explained.



Parker was shocked, didn’t they know that Jarod was dead. Hadn’t they taken his body after he had been shot? “You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

Parker took a deep breath, “Jarod is dead.”

Ethan, Josh, and Charles looked strangely at her. Jarod wasn’t dead; he was resting right in the other room.


“Jarod was killed in a drive by shooting eight days ago.”

Ethan knelt down by his sister and took her hand. That explained why she was acting so strangely. She was mourning. “Jarod isn’t dead. I found him shot, yes. But I called Dad and Josh and they came and took care of him. He is all right. He is here with us.”

Parker held on even more tightly to Ethan’s hand. Her greatest dream was coming true. Could he possibly have just told her that Jarod was not only alive, but that he was there with them? A smile appeared through her tears, “He’s alive?” She was almost hesitant to ask; afraid that they had been kidding or that she had misunderstood.

“Yes, and he has been asking to see you. That is why I contacted you.”

“He was in pretty rough shape when he got here, but we fixed him up well.” Josh proudly explained, “He had suffered severe blood loss, but the bullets missed any major organs. He was unconscious due to the trauma his body endured for most of the time he was here, but he is awake now.”

“Can we see him?” Sydney asked, cautiously eyeing Charles for signs of disapproval.

Charles nodded. From the way that those two were behaving, he could tell that they cared deeply for his eldest son. He wouldn’t stand in their way. Of course, he would be keeping an eye on them just the same, but he wouldn’t be openly hostile.

Josh led the way to a small room towards the back of the cabin. The pretty blue décor was hidden amongst various medical equipments. Most of the machines had been disconnected from the man lying in the bed.

Parker rushed over to the bedside, taking in the sight of the man she had believed she would never see again. She took his hand in hers and held it tightly, as if it were the only thing keeping them together. She noticed that he looked pale and tired, but it wasn’t as bad as she had expected. When they had told her that he was alive she had visualized that she would find him in a much worse state, but he wasn’t even on a respirator.

An intense feeling of relief and joy cascaded through her body. Jarod was alive, and while a little worse for the wear, he was on the mend. She lay her head down on the bed next to him, relishing in their closeness.

As if he could feel her there, he opened his tired eyes, “Parker?”

She looked up, a gigantic smile on her face, “You got that right, Wonder Boy.”

“Parker, I am so sorry about everything that I said…”

“Shhh, it’s okay. That is ancient history. I am just glad that you are all right.”

Jarod was a little confused, “Who are you and what did you do with Miss Parker?”

When she giggled Jarod concluded, “Now I *know* that you aren’t Miss Parker. If Miss Parker was here she’d be ringing my neck, not holding my hand.”

Parker realized how absolutely absurd this must seem to him. Last he knew she hated him. “Let’s just say that Miss Parker has had a wakeup call. She finally realized what you have been trying to tell her for years now. We both want the same thing,” She leaned in closer so that the others in the room couldn’t hear, “Someone to love, someone to love us.” She pulled back in time to catch the bemused expression on his face, “It just took me a little longer to realize who that was.”

Finally catching on to what she was telling him he smiled, as best he could, at her. After five years of trying to make her see what was right in front of her, could he have gotten through to her? “What happened to you?”

“I guess that I just had to lose what meant most to me to find out how much it meant to me. I’m sorry…about everything.”

Jarod reached up and lovingly brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. It was something that he had always wanted to do, but had never before dared. He couldn’t believe that here she was telling him everything he wanted to hear, well, almost everything. Butterflies had invaded his stomach, and warmth had invaded his heart. “I had the strangest dream.”

“Really? What was it about?” She asked softly.

“We were at this beach house, we were so happy. It seemed so real.”

Parker’s breath caught, “I had the same dream, only it wasn’t like a dream. It seemed more like a memory.”

“Or a premonition?” He joked with her.

Parker smiled, she was too happy to put too much thought into it.

In the background, standing next to Charles, Sydney shifted uncomfortably. So she had remembered, and so had he. At least that was all that they remembered. It could have been worse. Right now he wasn’t very concerned about it. Maybe it would be good for them to know now. “I am very glad that you are all right, Jarod.”

Jarod tore his gaze away from Parker when he heard the familiar Belgium accent. “Sydney.”

Sydney broke away from the small crowd and gave his protégé a hug. “We were very worried about you.” He said emphasizing ‘very’ the same way that he always did.

Jarod could feel his eyes getting heavy again. The exhilaration his visitors had brought him was slowly wearing off.

Sydney noticed his fatigue, “Maybe we should let him get some rest. We can all chew his ear off later.”

Everyone exited the room, but Parker hung back. She was reluctant to leave him.

“Chew my ear off? Should I be scared?”

Parker let out a soft laugh. It lasted only a moment, “I thought that I had lost you forever. I thought that I would never see you again.”

He looked thoughtfully into her eyes, “Will you stay with me?” He too wasn’t ready to let her go. He was afraid that if he did, she would change her mind or go back to the way she was before. He couldn’t stand for her to be closed off again.

“I’m not going anywhere.” She pulled up a chair next to his bed so that her lower body could sit in the chair, and her upper body could be on the bed next to him. “I promise that I will never let it get like that between us again.”

Shortly he was in his happy dreamland again. She just lay there watching him sleep. The steady rhythm of his breathing confirmed that he indeed was real, and not just some apparition from a dream of her own.

For so long Parker had been unhappy. Eventually happiness had become so foreign that it scared her. She wasn’t scared to be happy anymore. Jarod’s close call had taught her a lesson she would never forget. She would make sure that he was well aware of just how much she was in love with him. It may be a mistake, but it would be worth making.

There were nights when the wind was so cold
That my body froze in bed
If I just listened to it
Right outside the window

There were days when the sun was so cruel
That all the tears turned to dust
And I just knew my eyes were
Drying up forever

I finished crying in the instant that you left
And I can't remember where or when or how
And I banished every memory you and I had ever made

But when you touch me like this
And you hold me like that
I just have to admit
That it's all coming back to me

When I touch you like this
And I hold you like that
It's so hard to believe but
It's all coming back to me
(It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now)

There were moments of gold
And there were flashes of light
There were things I'd never do again
But then they'd always seemed right
There were nights of endless pleasure
It was more than any laws allow
Baby Baby

If I kiss you like this
And if you whisper like that
It was lost long ago
But it's all coming back to me
If you want me like this
And if you need me like that
It was dead long ago
But it's all coming back to me
It's so hard to resist
And it's all coming back to me
I can barely recall
But it's all coming back to me now
But it's all coming back

There were those empty threats and hollow lies
And whenever you tried to hurt me
I just hurt you even worse
And so much deeper

There were hours that just went on for days
When alone at last we'd count up all the chances
That were lost to us forever

But you were history with the slamming of the door
And I made myself so strong again somehow
And I never wasted any of my time on you since then

But if I touch you like this
And if you kiss me like that
It was so long ago
But it's all coming back to me
If you touch me like this
And if I kiss you like that
It was gone with the wind
But it's all coming back to me
(It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now)

There were moments of gold
And there were flashes of light
There were things we'd never do again
But then they'd always seemed right
There were nights of endless pleasure
It was more than all your laws allow
Baby, Baby, Baby

When you touch me like this
And when you hold me like that
It was gone with the wind
But it's all coming back to me
When you see me like this
And when I see you like that
Then we see what we want to see
All coming back to me
The flesh and the fantasies
All coming back to me
I can barely recall
But it's all coming back to me now

If you forgive me all this
If I forgive you all that
We forgive and forget
And it's all coming back to me
When you see me like this
And when I see you like that
We see just what we want to see
All coming back to me
The flesh and the fantasies
All coming back to me
I can barely recall but it's all coming back to me now

(It's all coming back to me now)
And when you kiss me like this
(It's all coming back to me now)
And when I touch you like that
(It's all coming back to me now)
If you do it like this
(It's all coming back to me now)
And if we...

To be continued…
This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=4381