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The Centre
Dec. 6, 1999
Mr. Parker’s Office

“Daddy! You wanted to see me?” Miss Parker walked into her father’s office and smiled to see her father again. Then she noticed the room’s other occupant. Miss Parker gave a quick glance to the stranger and then a questioned look towards her father.

“Angel, this is Amie. She’s going to be your shadow for awhile.”

“My what?” Miss Parker was confused. Why would her father give her an apprentice?

“She’s just been hired by The Centre and I thought who else to train her but our best sweeper?”

“Daddy, she’s a child. I didn’t know The Centre was into child labor.”

“She’s 19. She will be with you night and day, to study you appropriately.”

“Night and da...” Miss Parker could not believe what her father was doing to her. “She’s going to be staying in MY house?”

“Is there a problem, Angel?” Mr. Parker said in such a tone that Miss Parker knew better to cross.

“No, Daddy.”

“Good, then. Take Amie to meet Sydney and Broots.”

Miss Parker studied her father for a moment as he resumed reading papers on his desk, then she turned and walked out the room with out a look to Amie. Unfortunately, this did not discourage her, and she followed Miss Parker out of the office.

“Sam,” Miss Parker pulled one of the sweepers aside. “Take this girl to my office.”

“Yes Miss Parker.”

“Miss Parker,” Amie spoke for the first time. “I am to stay with you.”

“Go to my office, I will be there in a moment.”

“But, your father said...”

“GO.” Miss Parker glared at the girl and she stopped. Sam led the girl away and Miss Parker went to the tech room.

“Any news on Jarod?” Miss Parker walked into the room and found her two co-workers talking over coffee.

“Ah, Miss Parker,” Broots tried not to spill his cup.

“Hello, Miss Parker,” Sydney answered.


“Nothing, yet,” Broots answered her question.

“Syd, my father is acting a bit strange....”

“What else is new?” Broots said under his breath and received a deadly glare from Miss Parker.

“How so?”

“He’s assigned me to baby-sit this girl. She’s only 19 years old and he said that The Centre hired her. Since when do we hire children?”

“There’s always room for change at The Centre,” Sydney answered.

“That’s not all. He’s ordered me to let her stay in my house.”

“Did he say why?”

“So she can study me.”

“Maybe she’s supposed to spy on you.” Broots interrupted the conversation between Sydney and Miss Parker. They both looked at him.

“Well, why else would he want her in your home? He knows what you do at The Centre, now he can know what you do at home.”

“That’s sick, Broots.”

Broots shrugged his shoulders. “What else could it be, then?”

Miss Parker hated to admit it, but maybe Broots was right. Maybe the Centre did not trust her. But what would give them reason to doubt her faithfulness? She left the room and went to her office. When she entered, she found Amie sitting on her couch, looking around. Miss Parker walked to her desk to check if anything had been moved. When she was satisfied nothing had been touched; she turned her inquisitive gaze to Amie.

“Why are you here?”

“You sent me here, remember?”

Miss Parker’s glare turned colder.

“In the Centre.”

“Mr. Parker explained. I was hired to work as a sweeper here.”

“I KNOW what my father said. I want to know why you are here.”

“I need money and a place to stay. This job offers both.”

“That’s it? Those are the only reasons you are here?”

“Should there be anything else? A person would be crazy not to accept a job that offers as much.”

“Are you a runaway?”

“Of some sort.”

“Do you know what a sweeper is?”

“Yeah, they’re somewhat like a cop- only for a private organization.”

“If the need arises, you would be able to kill with out question?”

“If the need arises. Isn’t that what cops do?”

“You don’t know what you are getting yourself into.”

“Maybe not, but there’s not much I can do about it now. Do you know of any profession that would pay so well AND offer housing to a 19 year old?”

“The army, navy...”

“No way. They don’t pay nearly as much. Besides, I’m not about to actively participate in war.”

“How do you know that won’t happen here?”

“What are suggesting?”

“That you quit.”

“Look, I don’t expect you to like me. I don’t think I would like anyone I was forced to live with and be around 24-7. But at least you could accept that I am here, I’m not going anywhere, and that you’re stuck with me. Don't forget that it cuts both ways. I’m stuck with you as well.”

“I don’t have to accept anything,” Miss Parker corrected the girl stubbornly.

“Do you always make everything so hard for yourself?”

“Sydney and Broots are waiting to meet you,” Miss Parker said as she walked out of her office.

Amie wondered if this was characteristic of the woman. She caught up with Miss Parker, refusing to be behind her when she met these two men. Together, they walked into a large open space that seemed cold to Amie. There was not much in the room and what was, was either gray, black, white, or tan. Two men were bending over a computer.

Miss Parker walked over to see what they were looking at and was immediately disinterested. Meanwhile, the two men looked up at the guest.

“Welcome to the Centre,” the elder man said with a warm accent as he walked over to Amie and shook hands with her.

Amie smiled for the first time she entered the building. This man was kind.

“I’m Sydney and this is Broots,” he introduced a younger man who seemed to be nervous. Was she causing that?

“Nice to meet you,” he rambled out, briefly looking at her, then over to Miss Parker. Amie realized that it was Miss Parker who made Broots nervous. She could understand why, the woman was intimidating. But Sydney didn’t seem to be affected by this. ‘What an odd group,’ she thought.

“I’m going to take Amie to MY house. Call me if there’s anything,” Miss Parker ordered and walked out of the room. Amie looked to the two men and smiled.

“Nice meeting you,” she said and turned to follow Miss Parker, but Sydney stopped her.

“Amie, this job can be stressful. If you ever need someone to talk to, I can be a good listener.”

“Thank you. I’ll remember that,” she smiled once more at Sydney and left.

1 year later
Miss Parker’s driveway

“I’ll walk you to the door,” Broots said as he got out of the car. He ran around to the other side to open the door for Amie, but she was already out.

“You don’t have to, John.”

“Well, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Oh, ok,” Amie smiled as they walked to Miss Parker’s back porch. “What’s on your mind?”

“Well, it’s going to be Debbie’s sixteenth birthday in a couple of weeks and I want to throw her a surprise party. You know how much she adores Miss Parker, I was wondering if maybe you could help me talk her into taking Debbie out during the day. They could go shopping for a birthday outfit or something.”

“Why don’t you ask Miss Parker yourself?” Amie wished that Broots would believe her that Miss Parker wasn’t as hard and cold as she pretended to be.

Broots looked at her pleadingly.

“Ok, I will,” Amie laughed and Broots’ face was one of relief.

“And then would you help me prepare for her party? You know Debbie pretty well, you can help me decide who to invite and how to decorate...”

“Of course,” Amie smiled at Broots. He was such a good friend and she felt lucky she got to work with him. She liked everyone she worked with, including Miss Parker. Especially Miss Parker.

“Would it be all right if I kissed you?” Broots asked unexpectedly.


“I know that we are just friends, but I would just like to...”

“Sure,” Amie stopped his rambling.

“Really?” He was astonished.

“I trust you, John. You know there are not that many people I would say that to. I would like nothing better than to get my first kiss from my best friend.”

Broots leaned over and gently kissed Amie on the lips. While they were both savoring the moment, the back door opened and Miss Parker stood in the doorway.

“Just what the hell is going on here?” she boomed.

Amie and Broots jumped back from each other.

“Mmmmiss Parker!” Broots felt like a little kid who got caught by his mother doing some forbidden thing.

“Amie, get inside,” she ordered, glaring at Broots who hung his head.

“Miss Parker....”


Amie wished that Miss Parker would look at her, but she kept glaring at poor Broots. There was nothing she could do, so she went inside.

“Just what the hell were you thinking, Broots? I assumed you knew better than to get involved with a co-worker. Not to mention she’s 15 years younger!”

“We were just...”

“Go home, Broots.”

Miss Parker stepped back inside her house and slammed the door.

Amie, who was sitting on the couch in the living room, winced when she heard the door close.

Miss Parker came into the living room and sat in a chair across from Amie and just stared accusingly.

Amie squirmed under Miss Parker’s intensive glare and wished that the woman would start talking. Better yet, she wished to hear her yell. But there was nothing but silence.

Finally, Amie couldn’t take it anymore.

“Miss Parker...” she pleaded, only to be stopped when Miss Parker held up her hand.

“You are not to get involved with co-workers,” Miss Parker stated with a stony authoritative voice.


“Go to your room.”

“Miss Parker!”

“Go.” Miss Parker got up and headed to the liquor cabinet.

Amie reluctantly went to her room. She guessed it was better than Miss Parker glaring at her.

Miss Parker felt terrible for having to stop anything from happening between Broots and Amie. The two were such good friends and it was obvious they cared a lot about each other. Amie deserved to be with someone as kind and caring as Broots. But Miss Parker could not let the relationship go beyond friendship and if fear was that only way to stop it- so be it. She wished things could be different because she would love nothing more than to see the two happy, but it just could not be. So Miss Parker poured herself a drink and took her glass and bottle to the couch and sat down. How was she going to deal with this? Miss Parker looked into her glass as if it held the answer.

“Drinking again, I see,” a voice boomed from behind her.

Miss Parker jerked her head up but did not turn around.

“Score one for the genius,” she stated acidly.

“What happened? I heard some yelling.”

“Nothing that concerns you.”

“You drink too much.”

“You annoy too much,” she shot back. She knew he was studying her, so she didn’t bother to move for her gun. She had to wait for opportunity.

“How’s Amie?”

“Ask her yourself.”

“I want to know what you think.”

“You came here for that?” Miss Parker turned around now to face him. He stood near the window, ready to bolt. “You could have called. Why risk it?”

“I was in the neighborhood,” he shrugged.

“Miss Parker,” Amie walked into the living room without noticing Jarod. “I’m sorry. It was just a friendly kiss and it will never happen again. I swear, Broots and I are just friends!”

“A kiss?” Jarod spoke, startling Amie.

“Who’s there?” she could not see him in the shadow.

Jarod stepped into the light and smiled when Amie gasped.

“What are YOU doing here?” she exclaimed, frozen in place. She wished to run over by Miss Parker, but Miss Parker motioned for her to stay where she was.

Before Jarod knew it, Miss Parker had him in cuffs. As soon as the feeling of the cold metal registered in his brain, he swung around and stared accusingly at Miss Parker.

“What are you doing?” he yelled.

Miss Parker was surprised by his reaction, but kept her expression stone solid.

“Taking you in,” she answered as if it were a dumb question, which it was.

“I don’t believe you, Parker!”

Amie wondered why Jarod seemed so hurt. As far as she knew, Jarod was well aware of Miss Parker’s job concerning him.

“What did you expect, Jarod?”

“I came here to...” he fell silent.

“To what, Jarod? Torture me in person with your little games and riddles? Did you think that I was on vacation from my job? What?”

Jarod looked at Miss Parker, anger in his eyes, but said nothing.

Miss Parker looked back at Jarod expectantly, waiting for him to explain. Somewhere she felt a flicker of guilt and pain from seeing the anger in his eyes, but this effect he had on her was shoved away as quickly as it appeared.

“Well? Aren’t we going to take him in?”

Miss Parker looked over to Amie.

“I sent you to your room, young lady.”

“But, I said...”

Jarod was obviously amused. It seemed to him that Miss Parker was speaking with a motherly tone. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake to come here tonight.

“I came to take her,” Jarod spoke up.

Miss Parker and Amie both turned confused looks toward him.

“What do you mean?” Miss Parker asked.

“I came to take Amie away from the Centre,” he stated.

“You can take care of her?’ Miss Parker asked to the surprise of Jarod as well as Amie.

“What?!” Amie could not believe it. Miss Parker was considering letting Jarod go, and have him take her with?

“I can get her a good job and set her up in her own place,” Jarod answered.

“Why didn’t you come before? Earlier?”

“I was busy,” Jarod shrugged his shoulders.

“But you’re not now?”

“Not at the moment, no. I never meant to take so long to save her, but I got here as soon as I could.”

“You can promise that the Centre will never find her?”

“I can.”

Miss Parker looked at Amie, then back to Jarod.

“Do it,” she said and she took her cuffs off him.

“Miss Parker!” Amie was shocked.

“You will go with him,” Miss Parker ordered.

“Why are you doing this to me?” Amie began to cry. Jarod was a bit confused. “I said I was sorry!”

“This has nothing to do with that. Amie, you do not belong at the Centre. Jarod can give you a much better life.”

“No! I don’t want to go with him! I want to stay here with you. And Sydney and Broots!”

“Jarod can make you happier that I ever could. Or Sydney or Broots.”

“That’s not possible!” Amie yelled in desperation and ran to her room, slamming the door.

Miss Parker looked helplessly at Jarod.

“I shouldn’t have expected her to go willingly, considering you’re the enemy,” she sighed.

“Explain it to her, then.”

Miss Parker walked to Amie's room and knocked on the door. It was only then that Jarod noticed how tired and weary Miss Parker was. She needed a break.

“Amie,” Miss Parker walked into her room and joined the girl on her bed. “Let me explain.”

“I understand. I thought you liked me, even loved me- the way you care for and treat me. But now I realize that you were just pretending to make ‘Daddy’ happy.”

Miss Parker winced at the way Amie said ‘Daddy.’

“That’s not true! I DO love and care about you. That’s why I’m sending you with Jarod.”

“It doesn’t make any sense!” Amie yelled through her tears.

“Amie, listen to me. Jarod is, he... He’s a good person,” Miss Parker choked out. What a hypocrite she was. “He won’t hurt you. He’ll only help you get started then leave you on your own. Wouldn’t you like to be on your own?”


“That’s not true. Amie, you’ve seen some of the things the Centre does and I’ve known you’ve suspected other things. But I’ve seen you turn a blind eye to it all. Why, I’m not sure. But you have to know that the Centre is a bad place and may very well be the death of you,” Miss Parker tried to explain.

“If that’s true, then why don’t you leave too?”

Miss Parker didn’t know how to answer.

“That’s a good question,” Jarod said from the doorway.

“You could come with us!” she exclaimed.

“No, I couldn’t,” Miss Parker replied stubbornly, standing up to face Amie.

Jarod was sitting next to Amie now and she felt outnumbered. They both looked at her with the same expression.

“Why not?” Amie demanded to know.

“It’s not possible.” She dared Jarod to say anything. He was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.

“Then I won’t go.”

“You WILL go.”

“Not without you,” she challenged.

Miss Parker studied the two staring expectantly at her. What was she to do? She wanted Amie safe.

“All right,” she sighed reluctantly.

Amie yelped and ran to hug Miss Parker. All the while Miss Parker and Jarod stared at each other, each trying to read the other’s thoughts.

“I’ll pack then,” Amie let go of Miss Parker and started rushing around the room. Miss Parker left to pack some of her own things and Jarod followed.

Are you serious, Miss Parker?”

“I said I’d go, didn’t I?”

“After all these years and that’s all it takes? A stubborn girl? I do believe you have a soft spot for children, Miss Parker.”

Miss Parker stopped dead in her tracks and swung around to face Jarod.

“Don’t you dare stand there and begin to presume anything! I said I would go, I never said I would stay.”

Jarod’s expression turned from one of surprise to one of anger.

“How could you do that to her? Make her believe that you will stay with her, then abandon her? He accused.

“Just shut-up, Jarod. Don’t you get it? If I stay with her, her life will be in danger. The Centre will never let me go, but they might let her. She’d be safer without me,” Miss Parker concluded. When Jarod’s only reply was to stare blankly at her, she resumed to pack some things in an overnight bag.

“I’m ready,” Amie entered Miss Parker’s bedroom seven minutes later with two suitcases in her hands. She found Jarod sitting in a chair in the corner, an overnight bag on the bed, and no sign of Miss Parker.

“Where is she?” Amie panicked.

“I’m right here,” Miss Parker emerged from the bathroom with a make-up bag, which she placed in the bag on the bed and closed it up.

“That’s all you’re taking?” Amie was suspicious.

“The less I take, the better. It will look less suspicious. If anything, I could tell them I left to look for you,” Miss Parker explained mechanically.

“Oh, ok,” Amie guessed it made sense.

“You two ready then?” Jarod asked.

Miss Parker nodded her head and she and Amie followed Jarod out of the house.


Miss Parker sat silently in the back of Jarod’s car, looking out the window, with Amie resting her head against Miss Parker’s shoulder. Amie had fallen asleep an hour after they began their journey.

Every so often, Jarod looked in the rearview mirror to observe Miss Parker in the passing lights. She seemed to be deep in thought. He wondered what it was she was thinking about. He wished she would confide in him, or at least have someone to talk to. He suspected that she didn’t tell Sydney everything, especially because she had to see and work with him everyday. She needed someone. That’s why Thomas had been so good for her. But now he was gone and it was not likely for her to open herself up again.

When Jarod looked in the mirror again, Miss Parker was looking back at him. Her eyes were so tired.

“We just need a few more hours between us and the Centre, then we can stop to get some sleep,” he said in a soft, smooth voice.

Miss Parker nodded her head. She could see what Jarod was feeling toward her and she wished she could not. She was supposed to hate him and he was supposed to hate her. But there he was, looking at her with such care and concern in his eyes. She turned away and pretended not to notice. She had enough to worry about without that added. She had to somehow talk herself into believing that she was doing the right thing for Amie.


When Amie woke up, she found herself in Miss Parker’s arms. She looked around without moving too much and found that they were in a motel somewhere. She looked over to the other bed and was surprised to find Jarod there. It all seemed too weird to her that he was there, sleeping so close to the, when he had evaded the Centre for so long. But at the moment there was no danger to him. Probably never again, since Parker was leaving the Centre now. The thought made her smile. But the she felt sad that Broots and Sydney weren’t with them. She fell back asleep, content that at least she and Miss Parker were on their way to a better life. They could help Sydney and Broots later.


Miss Parker woke around 5:30 am with Amie still in her arms. She could never figure out why she felt so protective of the girl. Maybe because of her past. But if she was going to help her, she had to leave and had to do it now.

Miss Parker slowly got out of bed. Amie stirred once and Miss Parker feared the girl would wake up. She remained asleep, so Miss Parker gathered her things quickly and quietly. She was just reaching for the door when Jarod’s voice stopped her.

“You’re just going to leave like that? No goodbye?”

“It’s easier that way.”

“Easier for you or for her?”

“I have to go,” Miss Parker opened the door and slipped out before Jarod could say anything else.

Jarod wasn’t going to let her go that easily. He followed her out.

“Just what am I supposed to tell her, Parker?”

“I thought you understood, Jarod.”

“I thought you would change your mind.”

Miss Parker stopped then and turned around.

“You know I have to go back,” she pointed out. She was reminded of what a dreamer Jarod was, illusioned by his own wishes.

“Amie needs you,” he tried not to plead. “If you leave her, do you think she will ever be able to trust again?”

“Amie is 20 years old. It’s about time she learned to survive on her own.”

“Maybe so, but not like this. She needs the change to be gradual. Not like it was for you or me.”

“Look, Jarod. I warned her of the ramifications that come from working for the Centre. She ignored me and now she will find out what I meant. It won’t be that bad. She’ll survive.”

“Then why don’t you tell her yourself?”

Miss Parker sighed and looked away then.

“I have to go, Jarod,” she turned and left to get a taxi.

Jarod hung his shoulders and went back to the room. When he got there he found Amie sitting at the end of her bed, crying. When she walked in, she looked up.

“She left me, didn’t she?”

“I’m sorry, Amie, but she had to go.”

“Why? Doesn’t she love me anymore?” Then a new realization hit her. She looked up accusingly at Jarod. “Did you drive her away? How can you hate her? She had nothing to do with what happened to you as a child!” she yelled through her tears.

Jarod was amazed. “What makes you think I hate her?”

“She said. Because you blame her for leaving you at the Centre. And trying to bring you back.”

“I didn’t drive her away and I don’t hate her. She just had to go. And she didn’t stop loving you.”

“Then why?” she pleaded to know.

Jarod studied her for a moment.

“I think you know why.”

“She didn’t even say goodbye.”

“She wanted to stay with you, Amie. You have to know that. But she knew it would not be safe for you. She would rather give you up and know you were alive then be the cause of your death- or worse- imprisonment.”

“She had warned me about the Centre when I first came. She told me to quit while I still could, but I didn’t listen. I had nowhere else to go.”

“What brought you to the Centre?”

“I was running from myself. My life, family, and past. I was depressed in my life; I wanted to kill myself. I was alone and lonely. It seemed to me for awhile that everyone just stopped caring about me. Then I realized that no one ever did. I was used and then thrown away whenever someone was finished with me. What was worse, I let them use me. It made me feel needed. Gave me purpose to live, even if it was only for awhile. I wanted to save the world. But I had to save myself first. It brought me to the Centre. To Miss Parker, Broots, and Sydney. They never used me. They valued me for who I was when I didn’t even know who that was. As far as I knew, I had no identity. I was always being what others wanted me to be. I never was myself, never had a chance to become myself. Miss Parker, Broots, and Sydney helped me do that. And I suppose Miss Parker’s right in leaving me. I need to learn how to live on my own, but I still need her. She became the mother I never had, but, at the same time, a true friend. I’ve never had anyone I could tell everything to. Miss Parker listened to everything I had to say, even what I didn’t say, and never once judged me. If anything, she loved me more.”

“Did she ever confide in you?” Jarod wondered.

“No,” Amie’s eyes grew sad. “I tried to get her to, but I think she was afraid of adding to my problems and worries.”

Jarod nodded in understanding. It was exactly what Miss Parker was thinking.

“I want her back,” Amie proclaimed. “I want to save her from the Centre.”

Jarod shook his head sadly. “Miss Parker was right. That’s impossible.” Amie would have to learn that the Centre was just too large and powerful to destroy. If Jarod couldn’t make Miss Parker realize how important it was to stop the Centre, then there was no hope.

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