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Jarod was sad that this pretend was over. He, like always, was going to miss his new found friends. But he had learned to live with this loss and reminded himself that life goes on. He usually didn’t ask the people he helped out for anything, but this one was different. He felt it was time Miss Parker left The Centre, and what better reason than someone to remind you that you don’t live forever? He didn’t like it that he had to go to this extent to get Parker out of there, but it was for her own good, he hoped.
Miss Parker walked into the room like she owned the place. Her black leather skirt was rather short and tight, but it seemed to be made for her. Her straight, dark brown hair clung to the sides of her head, just past her shoulders. Her black leather jacket was rather long, just about an inch shorter than the hem of her skirt. The dark blue shirt she was wearing underneath completed the outfit perfectly. She was already tall, but she wore 6 inch stilettoes, causing her to loom over her co-workers. The height made her feel all powerful when combined with her whit and her strength. She loved to intimidate people with just her presence and was most satisfied with Broots, who was never at ease around her. She pulled a cigarette out of her silver case, jammed it in-between her lips and lit it. After inhaling, she puffed out a greeting to the two men. She eyed the blue tie with clouds and flying pigs Broots was wearing. He was always good for a laugh.
"Nice tie, Broots," her voice was contradictory to her words.
"My….my daughter gave it to me," he said in a small voice.
Ignoring his answer, she inquired, "What’s the status quo?"
"On…on Jarod?" Broots swallowed hard. Sydney winced slightly and wondered if Broots realized how much he set himself up for Miss Parker’s verbal attacks.
"No, the Queen of England. Yes, you moron!" She glared at him, making him squirm.
"Uh, we uh, think he, uh, left the country." Broots swallowed again.
"THINK?! I don’t want guesses, Broots," she spat out his name with distaste. "I want solid leads! I’m tired of being led around like sheep."
Broots turned back to his computer and started working again. He was beginning to wonder if he would grow roots in that chair.
Miss Parker turned to Sydney. "Come to my office, Syd." And walked out of the tech room. Broots and Sydney exchanged glances, then Sydney followed Miss Parker to her office.
Miss Parker’s Office
Once inside, Sydney closed the door behind him.
"What is it, Miss Parker?"
It took her great effort to say the next words, Sydney could tell, but he was glad she was able.
"I need your opinion, Syd. Perhaps your advice."
"I’ve been thinking, now that Lyle’s been proven my brother, that would make him next in line to take Daddy’s place, pushing me to second running. Obviously, he and Daddy have been getting along fine with each other. So, I’m thinking, Syd, what’s keeping me here?"
Could she actually be thinking about quitting? Sydney could not believe.
"Yes, I made a deal with Daddy. My freedom for his, but things have changed since then. Lyle seems to think that he can bring Jarod in faster than I, so, why not let him try and prove himself?"
"You want to leave." Sydney was trying to get this in his head. He realized what he just said was out loud and bound to annoy her, so he continued quickly. "What would you do?"
"I don’t know, things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland," she voiced one of the many ideas that had rushed through her head since she had considered the possibility of leaving. "That’s not important right now."
"Why the change of heart?"
"That is trivial, Sydney." She did not want to give out any unnecessary information.
"So, what do you think Daddy would say?"
"Maybe you should ask him."
"I am going to, Syd, but I wanted to know what you think." She was annoyed with his answer.
"It’s your life, Miss Parker. Do what you feel is right."
"Thanks, Syd," she sneered sarcastically, narrowing her eyes. Why did she bother asking him. He took the signal and left.
Miss Parker picked up her phone and pushed a button.
"Daddy? May I speak with you in your office?… OK, I’ll be there in a moment."
"Thank you, Jarod. I owe you my life!"
"Well, now I hope you can find happiness after all this."
"It will take some time, but I believe I can and will. Thanks again. I just wish there was something I could do for you."
"You already have," Jarod assured her.
"I hope your friend’s all right, I mean, that kind of news can be tough to take," Jessica said sympathetically.
"Yes, it will have its consequences, but I believe its rewards are far better. Good luck in your future," Jarod bid farewell.
"Same to you, Jarod. Good bye!"
"Daddy?" Miss Parker entered the room cautiously, trying to feel the mood her father was in.
"Angel! What is this little meeting about?" Her father asked in no particular mood.
Miss Parker said her next words carefully.
"Daddy, you and Lyle have been working closer together and I would be a fool to think that I am still next in line to take your place when the time comes."
Her father winced, not because of her mentioning the end of him, but because of the truth in what she said.
"And Lyle," she continued, "is set on taking my place, I know. He seems to think he can bring Jarod back faster than I."
"You are the best at what you do, Angel," her father interrupted.
"I know, Daddy, but Lyle has to learn. He needs training, and what better training than proving himself in catching Jarod?"
"What are you saying?"
Miss Parker tried not to let her aggravation and annoyance show, because she thought she was making herself perfectly clear.
"Daddy, why not let Lyle take my place? You don’t need me anymore, now that you have him." Her words hurt and she had to think hard not to show that she felt like crying.
"Then you can train him," Mr. Parker thought that this was all too good to be true. He could get his daughter out of the way and line his son up to take his place. The way it should be. He had been thinking about what he’d have to do. He was afraid he’d have to eliminate her. But now, here she was, resigning without a clue. This gave cause to suspicion.
"He’s a big boy, Daddy," she was saying. "He can take care of himself. Besides, he’s got Sydney and Broots."
"Why do you want to leave?"
Miss Parker had been preparing herself for this. She sighed.
"This has been the only life I’ve known. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s damaging to my health and there are other things I would like to do. Now that you have Lyle, it’s the perfect time for me to leave."
Mr. Parker nodded his head and said, "Let me think about it."
Miss Parker relaxed and moved forward to peck her father on the cheek.
"Thank you Daddy!" Then she walked briskly out of the room before he could change his mind. Now all she had to do was wait. And she didn’t even have to reveal her true reasons for leaving. This was too good to be true. It was this last thought that automatically caused a voice to warn Miss Parker to be cautious. One can never be too sure when it came to The Centre.
Miss Parker’s House
Miss Parker closed and locked the door behind her. She sighed, thinking of all the possibilities of her freedom. She only wished she had someone worth sharing it with. Taking off her shoes, she turned on the light and gasped.
"Hello Miss Parker."
"What the hell are you doing here?!" She demanded to know, pissed that he had caught her off guard.
"Well, now. Is that any kind of greeting to an old time friend?"
"We were never ‘friends,’ Jarod."
"How easily you forget, Miss Parker," Jarod matched her tone.
The situation was kind of odd. They hardly ever came face to face and Jarod had taken a great risk in confronting her, so he hoped he knew her as well as he thought he did.
"What do you want?" she spat out. "I’m not in the mood for any of your little games."
"I just thought I’d come by to check up on you."
This got her attention and caused her blood to boil. What did he know?
"I don’t need you to ‘check up’ on me. I can take care of myself. And what stops me from bringing you into The Centre right now, genius?" she said as an afterthought.
Jarod was relieved at her words and was glad that he had predicted her reactions right. If she was going to take him in, they’d be on their way already.
"Because it’s not your job anymore."
"Oh?" Miss Parker walked to the cabinet in the corner and poured herself a drink.
"Yeah, and it’s kinda nice. Lyle isn’t half as good as you!"
Miss Parker got a funny feeling from Jarod’s compliment. Perhaps it was that she felt touched? She couldn’t quite tell.
"Well, you just lucked out. Had this little encounter been yesterday, I would have dragged your a…"
"Congratulations on your escape from The Centre!" Jarod broke in.
Miss Parker snorted out a laugh.
"Escape? No, Jarod. You escape, I leave. There is a difference."
"And how are the iron lungs holding up?"
This remark received a deadly glare from this overpowering woman. So he did know.
"State your business, Jarod. I’d like to get some rest," she hissed out, wishing he would just disappear.
"I thought I already had," he replied innocently, ignoring her tone.
"What do you know anyway." It was more of a condescension than a question.
"I know you’re dying, Miss Parker, and it’s sad that this is what has finally brought you your freedom."
"You can leave now," she ordered.
Jarod looked at her with sincere sympathy and compassion.
"I’m really glad you are finally taking your life into your own hands," he said with such feeling, Miss Parker didn’t know what to do or say. Jarod felt he had accomplished what he had come for and got up to leave.
"I’ll keep in touch, as always," he promised, and walked out the back door, into the woods. Miss Parker just stared after him. When she finally came to her senses, she shook her head, swore, and poured another drink.
a week later
"What do you mean you’ve lost him?" Lyle demanded to know of the balding father in front of him.
Broots was not as afraid of Lyle as he was of Miss Parker. He had learned how incompetent Mr. Lyle was in the area of Jarod. It was plain for him and Sydney to see that Miss Parker was the only one that could bring Jarod back.
"He, uh, just disappeared," Broots explained the best he could.
"If you guys think that losing Jarod is going to get rid of me and bring Miss Parker back, you’re wrong," Lyle stated.
Broots blushed because the thought had crossed his mind. As much as he hated working with Miss P, he missed the sight of her. Even though just her presence could bring out his worst fears, there was a void in him, now that she was gone and he was sure Sydney felt the same.
"Find him," Lyle ordered and left Broots standing alone in the hallway. He knew Jarod would resurface, but he just hoped Jarod wouldn’t take too long. Broots did not want to know what would happen to himself if The Centre rendered him useless.
Miss Parker’s House
Miss Parker sat on her couch, smoking a cigarette, staring at the wall. Her ash tray was full of cigarette butts and ashes. An empty bottle of brandy stood next to it. She had not gotten any sleep and could no longer think clearly. Now that she was not working, she had no idea what to do with herself. This ‘freedom’ thing of Jarod’s was terrible. She needed to yell at someone, give someone orders, make fun of someone. She needed to do something that would make her feel better.
"Why don’t you try going for a walk?" that so familiar voice suggested from behind, as if reading her mind.
"How long have you been there?" Miss Parker asked in a less demanding voice than usual.
"Long enough. You need to get out, Miss Parker," he continued gently.
"Shouldn’t you be out helping some weak little twerp?" Still staring straight ahead. She could hear Jarod move around the couch to stand next to her. Her body tensed.
"I’m here to help you."
"I don’t need your help, Jarod," her venom returning to her voice.
"Uh-hu, then how is it that in a week you haven’t been able to leave the house? I bet you’ve even run out of food, considering the past three meals you’ve eaten have been take-out."
"Have you been stalking me?" She finally looked at him, narrowing her eyes.
"I’m concerned, Miss Parker."
"You can take your ‘concern’ somewhere else."
Jarod ignored her order and sat down next to her. Miss Parker moved over so he wasn’t so close.
"Parker, I find it hard to believe that you do not remember a time when we were once friends."
"I don’t forget, Jarod. I choose not to remember." She could see the effect of her words for an instant in Jarod’s eyes, the flash of pain she had caused and this made her feel partly good, partly bad. Always opposites. Why couldn’t she ever feel completely one way? The reminder of this fault of hers made her mad to no end.
"Why don’t you just leave, Jarod?" her voice low and demanding would have caused a child to lose control of his bodily functions, but Jarod was used to it. "I want to be alone!" She yelled, but Jarod could see behind the wall she put up and knew she wanted to be anything but alone. She desperately wanted someone to talk to, an equal, and he thought he could be that person, considering their pasts were connected and their lives so similar. No one else could understand her like he could, but he could see she would not yield her true feelings to him. Partly because she did not know how and partly because of who he was. Who The Centre had made him be to her. The enemy. She had to learn, so Jarod got up and left, without a word.
Miss Parker was glad he had left but she certainly did not want to be alone. Damn him. He was the only one that could get to her like that. Suddenly a grin replaced Miss Parker’s angered face. She would play a little game with Jarod, just to show him she was not weak, as he must think. He will be sorry, she vowed as a plan formed in her mind.
Lyle walked into the tech room with a blank face. Broots still hadn’t figured out Mr. Lyle’s moods, faces, and walks, like he had Miss Parker’s. This uncertainty was about the only thing about Mr. Lyle that caused any anxiety.
"Any word on Jarod yet?" He enunciated every other word, almost spitting out the last. He was under a lot of pressure to bring Jarod in for his father.
"Um, we found his last pretend, it was in Mexico. Well, California, really. But so far there is nothing else.
"Do I need to send someone to this last location to look for clues or anything?"
"I don’t think so. If he left us anything, we would have known earlier where he was."
"Well, keep looking! He’s here somewhere." Then Lyle walked out of the room.
Miss Parker’s House
Miss Parker was very conscious of her movements when she entered her house. She knew he was there and she was glad her plans were turning out so far. She had gone out in the early evening to a bar for a little social drinking. Loosened up for her plans. Met a guy, the poor bastard thought she was going to bring him home with her. What a desperate loser. She threw her keys on the table and took her shoes off, but she did not bother to turn on the lights. She, instead, disappeared into her bedroom, hoping Jarod would stay where he was.
Jarod guessed that maybe Miss Parker was tired because she didn’t bother to turn the light on. He thought that she had gone to bed, so he was about to leave when she came out of her room again.
Jarod had moved, so Miss Parker could see his dark outline in the dim light.
"Hello, Jarod," she greeted him in a low, deep voice.
Jarod felt that there was something different and a voice inside of him told him to leave, but he ignored it. He reminded himself that things had changed. That she wasn’t working for The Centre anymore. But still a part of him knew- once a Parker, always a Parker. Nevertheless, he stuck around to see what would happen.
"I see you’re back on your feet again," he commented.
"I’ve been thinking, Jarod," Miss Parker had practiced these words. Jarod was silent, as she expected. "I do remember when we were friends. Strange how The Centre let us meet," she paused. "Well, I’m not working for them, or Daddy anymore, so, why can’t we be friends again?"
Jarod instantly knew something was wrong, but that was the instinct he had built up all those years being chased by her. Things were different now. So he waited to see what else she said.
Jarod stayed silent and did not move, so Miss Parker continued, stepping closer to him. Jarod’s first thought was to step back, but he stayed.
"Don’t you think… we could be… friends again?" Miss Parker kept getting closer to Jarod with every word until she was just inches from him. She stroked his cheek with her hand, just to see how he would react.
Jarod froze, giving in to the fact that he should have definitely left when she said hi to him. Suddenly, he could feel her hand on his face, just barely, though. It probably had been there longer than he realized, but it was just now that he could feel it. His mind was now racing. The touch felt good, he had never felt that before, but his years of instinct made him jerk away.
Miss Parker expected this and did not let him get away.
"Oh, common, Jarod, don’t be shy. I’m not going to bite you," she said, her voice misleading.
"What are you doing, Miss Parker?" Jarod tried to keep the uncertainty out of his voice as he demanded to know what she was up to.
"Just, trying to get to know you better," her devilish smile evident in her voice.
"Think about what you’re doing. You’ve had too much to drink," Jarod tried to rationalize her actions, though he did not detect any odor of alcohol on her breath.
"Ah, so you were at the bar tonight," she had had a feeling he might have been there, but she never saw him.
"No, I just guessed that’s where you were." Jarod was mad now, as he realized she was playing games with him.
Miss Parker detected the tiniest bit of hostility in his voice and realized her fun was over. She threw his arm out of her hold and stormed to the liquor cabinet. Where was the key and why had she locked it?
Jarod sighed, realizing how frustrated she must be, a frustration that was all too familiar. He was glad he had locked the cabinet and felt the key, safe in his pocket.
"You don’t need a drink."
"Oh, what the hell do you know?" Her anger flaring, now that she remembered she hadn’t locked the cabinet. She craved a cigarette and all of this was giving her a huge headache. She did not want to deal with Jarod right now.
"You didn’t think I was actually going to do anything, did you?" She asked, not really caring for an answer. She looked around for her cigarettes.
"I was beginning to worry…" Jarod said with a half laugh, tempted to comfort her, only knowing that she would push him away. The Centre truly had made themselves a faithful slave. But Jarod knew, somewhere inside was a bit of her mother.
"Miss Parker, have you ever contemplated what all we could possibly learn from each other?" It was her turn to listen. "Our pasts are so connected, almost every time I find something out about my past, something about yours is attached. How can I learn, find out about our pasts, if I’m locked away in The Centre? And what makes you think that they will waste time and space on me? They see me as spoiled meat, Miss Parker. They just want to destroy the evidence."
"Do you really think they would spend this much time and money on catching you just to kill you?"
Jarod could count on Parker to deny the obvious when it came to The Centre.
"Wake up, Miss Parker. I can no longer do anything for them. I am only a threat. They fear I will expose them."
Miss Parker resisted the impulse to ask why they would bother to bring him in alive if all they wanted to do was kill him. She knew why. She found her cigarettes and continued the conversation.
"So why are you here, Jarod?" She asked, lighting up a cigarette she pulled from her case. He must need something from her. Otherwise he would not waste his time.
Jarod sighed. He felt guilty asking her for help, but she was the only one that could do it.
"If you want me to find out more about your past, I need to be able to search freely. It’s easier than having to look over my shoulder all the time. You could help me."
"Ah," she said, nodding her head and raising her eyebrows. "So you want me to help you. I don’t think so, Jarod."
Just a few seconds after she said this, a loud noise broke the silence, and instantly, the two recognized the sound of someone breaking in the door.
Miss Parker had enough time to get furious, knowing they must have been monitoring her house, and purposely waited to hear what her answer would be before they came in to get Jarod. She could not have them catch Jarod at her house. That would look very bad. In a flash she was by Jarod’s side, pushing him towards her bedroom. Just before she whispered in his ear.
"My bedroom window."
With the unexpected push and recommended escape, Jarod did not have time to thank or think, he just moved. He was out, running for the woods by the time the sweepers had found Miss Parker standing alone, pointing towards her bedroom. There will be hell to pay for this.
Miss Parker sat at the end of the T-Board, smoking against their wishes. She was not off guard this time. They had screwed up. She knew what was to come and was prepared.
"Why don’t you tell us, Miss Parker, about you conversations with Jarod?"
"I think you know everything about them already. What do you need from me?" She snapped, knowing it would have no effect on these people.
"Let’s test your memory. We would like explanations," they demanded.
"Look, in case you aren’t up to date, I’m not working here anymore. Jarod is no longer my job. So if he shows up at my house, don’t expect me to catch him for you. That’s Lyle’s job now." She spat out, explaining herself.
"That does not explain your actions for tonight."
Did they know she helped him escape? She kept quiet to see if they would elaborate.
"It sounds as if you got a bit… personal, with Jarod. Explain that. It seems as if you might be interested in pursuing a relationship with Jarod?"
She knew they added this last part to put her on the defensive, but she was two steps ahead of them.
"Right. And I’m the Queen of Spain." She mocked them.
"What were you doing, then, Miss Parker?"
"I was playing with his mind, testing his reactions, in short, acting like The Centre."
She heard them whisper and finished her cigarette while she waited for their next instructions.
"You are to contact The Centre the instant you catch sight of Jarod from now on. Understood? You may go."
Who the hell did they think they were, trying to run her life? She had a thing or two to say to them, but she left the room, her pillow calling to her.
Miss Parker’s House
Miss Parker was finally falling asleep when her phone rang. She swore and hissed into the receiver.
"How’d the interview go?"
"Fine. I’ll have you know that I am to report to The Centre if and when I ever see you again. So quit coming to my house."
"Thanks for the warning…. And thanks for your help." Jarod hung up.
To be continued.......