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Part 4:

Special thanks to my great beta readers, Vash and RaChell, for their invaluable help.  =)

Slight update 9/3/13 for aesthetics and minor changes. :)

Surprises Around Every Corner
Madeline Series Version 1, Part 4
By Danielle =)

Disclaimer: Lightning still hasn’t struck my submarine, hence “The Pretender” doesn’t belong to me.

2/27/10 Dedication: Dedicated to RaChell for giving me such a warm welcome upon my return to MP.


“Wow.” Madeline murmured under her breath at the breakfast table one spring morning.

“What?” Miss Parker didn’t look up from pouring herself a cup of coffee.

Madeline put the paper down.

“Steve’s dead.”

Surprise flitted across her guardian’s face, but Madeline couldn’t see it from the table. Miss Parker turned around slowly, taking a careful sip of the steaming beverage as her mask once again fell into place. She leaned against the counter nonchalantly.

“Your step father?”

“Yeah, the police think it was a drug deal gone bad. He was beaten unconscious and apparently choked to death a couple hours later on his own vomit. The police went through the apartment and found a huge stash of drugs. I guess he turned to dealing after I left.” she looked down, deep in thought for a moment; then turned troubled grey eyes upwards, “Do you think it makes me a bad person to feel kinda glad they said it looked like he was beaten slowly over a long period of time?”

“No, Madeline, no one could blame you for that after what he put you through.” She said kindly, but then turned back into the Miss Parker everyone else knew her as to bite out, “That bastard got what he deserved.”

“I feel better now that he’s dead… like, safer. I think I’ve always been a little afraid he’d come back for me.”

“I wouldn’t have let that happen.”

“’Cuz I’ve grown on you, haven’t I?” Madeline couldn’t resist lightening the mood, eyes twinkling.

“Don’t tell anyone-” Miss Parker started.

“…It’ll ruin my reputation.” Madeline finished with her. She grinned impishly and got up to put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher before heading off to school with a light heart.


Jarod finished reading the same article a few hours later, glad that Madeline’s stepfather had gotten what he deserved. He wondered if Miss Parker had heard the news and couldn‘t resist calling to find out.

“What?!” Greeted him on the other end of the line a moment later.

“Have you read the paper this morning, Miss Parker?”

“What paper?” she seemed distracted.

“The local paper I know gets delivered to your doorstep every morning around 7. Today‘s issue had a very interesting article on page 4 about a certain dead drug dealer.”

He knew that would get her attention. The other end of the line was quiet for so long, he thought he’d lost the connection.

“You’re taking a big risk if you’re near enough to have seen the paper, Jarod.”

“I‘m afraid I‘m nowhere near Delaware, Miss Parker. The paper just happens to have an online edition.” then his voice turned serious, “Did Madeline see it?”

Her eyes narrowed with displeasure and she practically growled, “What do you know about Madeline?”

“I know she’ll sleep a lot better now that that creep is dead. You have to admit it would‘ve felt good to beat him half to death.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked after a moment.

“I know you’re not the Ice Queen everyone makes you out to be, Miss Parker. Caring for Madeline isn’t something to be ashamed of. I wish I‘d been there to get in a few blows and I haven‘t even met the girl.”

“Too bad someone else got there first. It would‘ve been a nice addition to your growing resume.”

“Speaking of my growing resume, I start my new job in a few hours. Give my best to Madeline.”

He hung up before she could reply, partly because he knew it drove her nuts. He almost felt like she was hiding something from him, which in any other conversation wouldn’t have disturbed him anywhere near this much. He knew Miss Parker had changed a lot since they were kids, but surely she hadn’t hardened enough to actually kill a man. Or had she? his inner voice asked.

Miss Parker put the phone back in it’s cradle with shaking hand, disturbed by the conversation as well.

Did he know? she replayed the conversation over in her mind, searching for the answer. Why else would he have called, if he hadn’t suspected her?

There’s no way he could possibly know, she tried to reassure herself a few minutes later. The article gave no hint whatsoever leading to her as a suspect in Madeline’s stepfather’s murder. She worried briefly about Jarod’s thirst for justice coming down on her head next. But no, Jarod only sought justice for good people who were wronged.

The bastard was surely in a hellacious amount of pain when she left, but she knew enough to know that the beating she’d given him, while brutal, hadn’t been enough to kill him. That sorry excuse for a man killed himself by getting drunk enough to choke on his own vomit after she left.

Not my fault at all, she decided, then chided herself for allowing Jarod to cause that brief moment of doubt. The matter was instantly forgotten as she got back to finding said escaped lab rat.


Madeline still couldn’t help but be slightly awed every time she entered the Centre. Because of her connection to the Parker family, she had a permit to park in the gigantic parking garage for her weekly therapy sessions with Sydney. She’d been living with Miss Parker for nine months and was by now a familiar figure around the building.

Occasionally she’d get stopped by an eager-to-impress new Sweeper or security guard, but she’d pleasantly explain who she was and suggest they call Miss Parker for confirmation.

The first time she’d innocently suggested that, she’d been surprised to see the look of fear Miss Parker’s name brought to the young guard’s face. She soon came to realize that her guardian was much respected and feared throughout the imposing building and would propose calling Miss Parker to make them sweat a little, just for the fun of it.

She hadn’t run into any hassles recently, though. She smiled and said a friendly greeting to those whom she came across regularly. She entered the empty elevator and pushed the button for SL-15. The doors were nearly closed when a hand reached in and stopped them from closing fully. An attractive man in his mid-30s followed the hand into the elevator. His smile was friendly, but Madeline got the distinct impression that he was anything but. In a word, he made her skin crawl. She politely returned the smile and was dismayed when he chose a floor five levels below hers.

“I haven’t seen you around here before.”

“I’m just here for an appointment.” she replied, hoping that would be the end of it.

He looked her over appreciatively as he took a step closer and raised an eyebrow.

“You’re awfully young to have business at the Centre, on SL-15 no less. Who are you here to see?”

He seemed so much more suspicious and hostile than the people she usually met that it sent a cold chill through her, making her so nervous that she could barely stammer out Sydney's name.

“Who let you in? They should have had the doctor meet you in the lobby!” he chastised.

“I have regular meetings with him. If you have any concerns, you can contact Miss Parker. She knows I’m here.”
Madeline felt certain that would put an end to his uncomfortable line of questioning. Unfortunately, though, this man didn’t seem to mind hearing that tidbit. In fact, he became more interested and gave her another unnerving once-over.

“How do you know Parker?”

She was saved from answering as the elevator doors opened. She audibly sighed with relief when Sydney entered.

“Hello, Madeline.” he greeted her with a smile and stepped in between the two passengers. She smiled gratefully at him.

“Mr. Lyle.” was said with less enthusiasm, and Madeline was glad to know she wasn’t the only one who apparently didn’t like the man.

“Doctor.” Mr. Lyle replied coolly.

Despite the fact that the girl seemed to be hiding beneath a sweatshirt easily two sizes bigger than necessary, she carried herself with a natural poise that made him think she must be a dancer or something similar; so he imagined she must have a killer body under all that fabric. And the fact that she knew Miss Parker and Sydney piqued his interest all the more.

They traveled the remaining few floors in silence. Lyle stayed behind when Madeline and Sydney got out but Madeline could feel his eyes on her until the doors closed fully.

“Whoever that Mr. Lyle guy was, I hope I never cross paths with him again! He creeps me out worse than Raines!!”

Their hour long session revolved around that and similar topics. Broots was waiting in the large outer room of Sydney’s space when they exited.

“Broots, would you mind walking Madeline to the garage elevators?”

“No, not at all!” the balding technician agreed pleasantly.

They chatted easily the whole way about Debbie’s pleas to get a white rabbit like her idol, Miss Parker’s. Broots wasn’t sure if she was old enough to take care of a pet, so Madeline told him about growing up with Siberian Husky dogs and how beneficial the responsibility was. She wistfully told him about the two gorgeous red and white dogs that had been a part of her father’s life even before he met her mother. Not long after their wedding, they adopted a third Husky, black and white. Madeline came along not long after that addition and had always considered that one “her” dog. Her stories of the dogs’ antics made them both laugh, and before they knew it, they were standing next to Madeline’s car.

“Thanks. I’ll see you later.” she smiled warmly. Broots was so awkward and sweet- she loved him to death. She headed home in good spirits, the sinister Mr. Lyle out of her mind.


It was another six weeks before Madeline ran into Mr. Lyle again, this time leaving the Centre.

“Hello again. Madeline, isn’t it?” he may have come off as simply charming to anyone else, but Madeline had seen a similar look in men’s eyes far too often to buy it. He was sizing her up like she was another potential conquest.

“Mr. Lyle.” she did her best to channel Park’s fear-nothing-and-no-one attitude, trying to bury her unease in the hopes that he wouldn’t be able to detect it. She was certain he was the type who’d feed off of it.

She tried to leave the interaction at that, moving around him. He took a quick step forward in an attempt to block her exit but she deftly maneuvered around him. Thank goodness for gymnastics! she thought as the elevator doors quickly opened for her. Luckily, the elevator to the parking garage was full of employees heading home for the weekend, and he didn’t follow her in. She took a shaky breath, feeling his eyes on her again until the doors closed fully.


Madeline approached her coach with an important question later that week. Since her run-in with Lyle by the elevators, she hadn’t been able to shake the dread his presence caused her. Despite the fact that he hadn’t actually done anything to her during their two brief meetings, she felt violated by his stares and apparent interest in her.

On the one hand, she wanted to tell Miss Parker about it because she had a feeling that Park could do just about anything. On the other hand, though, she didn’t want to worry the woman; who had more than her fair share of stress. Never having been one who wanted to burden others, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

“Jackie, do you know where I could sign up for a self defense class?”

“It’s funny you should mention that Madeline- I was having lunch with a friend of mine the other day and he was talking about setting up some local self defense classes. He asked if any of my girls would be interested.”

“I would definitely be interested.” Madeline told her eagerly.


Mr. Lyle picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Miss Parker’s ward just arrived, Sir.” the Sweeper on the other end informed him.

“Thank you, Robert.”

Miss Parker had Sam. Raines had Willie. Lyle had Robert. Getting the man as his pet Sweeper had been a stroke of luck. The burly man’s loyalty had been easily bought with an extravagant salary, and so far he’d proven worth every penny by helping Lyle clean up some messy personal situations. He’d given the man orders to alert him when Madeline was on premises.

He leaned back in his expensive leather chair and looked at the clock on his desk, making careful note of the time. Despite, or maybe because of, how skittish Madeline had been during their previous meetings, he was drawn like a moth to a flame. Underneath her unassuming façade, he sensed a very strong will. Mr. Lyle liked challenges, and sensed that breaking her will would be a formidable one indeed.

Madeline left Sydney’s office in a relatively good mood despite the serious nature of their sessions. He had told her Miss Parker should be in her office catching up on paperwork and she had decided to pop in and invite the woman to lunch. She knew Park liked to keep her personal and professional lives well separated, so she‘d understand if her offer was turned down. It doesn’t hurt to try, she reasoned.

She headed up to the main lobby and started across to the bank of elevators that would take her to the executive offices.

From behind her, a hand came down on her shoulder and she tensed reflexively. She turned towards Mr. Lyle, who was smiling apologetically.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“That’s all right,” she gathered herself quickly, taking comfort in her recent self defense classes.

“Would you care to join me for lunch in the executive cafeteria?” he smiled winsomely at the girl by his side, grabbing her elbow and trying to lead the way.

She stopped dead in her tracks, saying “No, thanks.” so seriously he thought she must not have heard him correctly. He turned on the charm a little higher.

“Come on, Madeline, don’t make me eat alone.”

“Sorry, but no.” she stated firmly, looking him squarely in the eye.

He affected a wounded expression as he asked why.

“For one, I’m only sixteen.”

“I know that! I only thought that since I work so closely with your guardian, we should get to know each other. What kind of a man do you take me for?!”

She decided she might as well lay it all out on the table because he wasn’t a man to look past any lies she might try to placate him with.

“Everyone else may buy this good-guy act you’ve got going, but I don’t.”

He saw the truth of the quiet statement in her eyes, and realized that the rumors he’d heard about how she ended up on Miss Parker’s doorstep must be true. Getting to know her in the hopes of gaining Parker‘s trust looked like it wasn‘t going to work. And continuing to try would only risk bringing Parker’s wrath down on his head, something he definitely did not want. Raines had told him all about how and why the doctors had to redo his skin graphs recently.

He doubted a little guilt trip would work, but couldn’t resist a last ditch effort.

“You’ve mistakenly characterized me as someone I’m not, but if you don’t care to challenge your prejudices, then it’s your loss.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Enjoy your lunch, Mr. Lyle.” with that, she pulled herself up a little straighter and turned back in the direction she’d been heading.

She stood in front of the impressive cherry wood doors leading to Park’s office, wondering if she needed to knock. She didn’t usually knock on Sydney’s door, but he was expecting her. Since Miss Parker wasn’t expecting her, she figured she should probably knock. She hadn’t been inside Park’s office yet so she wasn’t sure how large it was. She knocked firmly on the door and heard a familiar, “What?!”

Assuming that served as ‘come in’ as well as ‘hello?’ on the phone, Madeline pushed open the door and entered.


Miss Parker looked surprised to see her.

“Madeline! What are you doing up here?”

“I hope it’s okay I came up without calling from Sydney’s office,” she began uncertainly, “But I wanted to see if you’d had lunch yet.”

“You probably should call in the future because I don’t spend a lot of time in my office, but it’s fine. Besides, it’s high time I took a break. I take it you haven’t eaten yet either?”

“Nope. Do you want to go downtown?”

“We can just go to the executive dining room- the chefs there are as good, if not better, than any downtown.”

“Am I allowed to?” Madeline wondered.

Miss Parker got up from her desk with a smile, “You’re with me.” she said simply and led the way.


“I’ve got my appointment with Sydney at one. Do you want me to go with you to the cemetery later?” Madeline asked Miss Parker when she came downstairs that Sunday morning.

Miss Parker looked up from the morning paper she was trying to read, surprised that Madeline had remembered today was the anniversary of her mother’s death- she’d only mentioned the date once. Then again, Madeline knew full well the significance of the anniversary of a parent’s death.

Parker smiled appreciatively and nodded, not quite trusting her voice.

Madeline sat down across from Miss Parker with her cereal and juice, noticing for the first time Park’s tailored pantsuit.

“Are you going in to work today? You don’t usually go in Sundays.”

“Just for a little while to take care of a small problem with a client.”

Madeline figured it must have something to do with Jarod, since chasing him was all her guardian really did. She found it amusing to listen to all the different ways Miss Parker phrased it.

“I’m coming right back home after my appointment.” Madeline informed her as she put her dirty dishes away and headed outside for her morning run.

Running had started as a temporary way to get her stamina and lung capacity back up for gymnastics. She soon realized how much it energized her and got her days off to a good start, so she got into the habit of running at least 5 days a week. Weekdays, she got up at 5am to get in a good run before school, but on weekends she enjoyed sleeping in.

Today, Sunday, she was heading out a little after 10. She ran three laps around the lake, each lap being about three quarters of a mile. She didn’t listen to a Walkman when she ran because she enjoyed the sounds of nature and liked to be aware of her surroundings at all times.

After her appointment with Sydney, Madeline surreptitiously headed to the old supply closet she frequently used to enter the ventilation system. Sydney had mentioned the fire security test being held today, which she assumed was a fancy way of saying fire drill. The Centre seemed even more empty than a typical Sunday because of the test, so it was the perfect opportunity for a brief visit with Angelo.

Not surprisingly, he was waiting for her with the grate opened. He always seemed to sense when she was coming to see him.

“Madeline sad. Daughter sad, too. Daughter not alone this year.”

“No.” Madeline smiled softly at him, “We’re going to the cemetery together later.”

“Good friend.” Angelo nodded approvingly, causing Madeline to smile widely this time. She never could stay unhappy long around the strange man-child.

He turned around and crab-walked away in that peculiar way of his. Madeline may have been a flexible gymnast, but that mode of travel had never been comfortable to her so she quickly scrambled after him on hands and knees. They ended up outside of Sydney’s office, hearing Miss Parker say, “The tech room is the first place they would look.”

“Who? There’s nobody here!” Broots replied in consternation. Madeline knew Debbie had dance classes on Sunday afternoons, and that Broots enjoyed being there to support her.

“The people trying to kill my father!”

Madeline’s eyes widened in shock at that. It did seem quite fitting, though, for them to kill Mr. Parker on the anniversary of his wife’s murder.

Sydney came in a few minutes later, asking if she’d been able to reach her father.

They walked towards the center of the room to continue the discussion, leaving Broots to continue his search for the Arkham file. Angelo and Madeline moved around the periphery of the room to get closer to Sydney and Miss Parker.

“Daughter sad. Everyone sad.” Angelo said and began to crab-walk towards his stash of DSAs. As he began searching, he reiterated, “Daughter sad.”

Madeline didn’t know what was on the disk he was looking for- most likely something to do with the day Catherine Parker died or to help Miss Parker figure out who was behind her father‘s assassination order. When he found the one he needed, he stuck it in a box of Cracker Jack and they headed off again.

Suddenly, the lights around them went out and alarms started going off. Madeline grabbed Angelo’s ankle to stop him.

“What’s going on? Would all the power go out for a fire drill?”

“No fire drill. Arkham.”

“This is getting serious, Angelo, I think I’m going to cut my visit short today and get out of here. Whatever’s going on, I can’t risk getting caught. Can you get me to the parking garage from here?”

“Lockdown. Garage no good. Lobby good.” Angelo headed back the way they had come.

After crawling for what seemed like an eternity to Madeline’s knees, they approached a vent to the lobby. Madeline was about to stick her head out when they heard footsteps approaching and she shrank back.

A man picked up the phone on the wall near them.

“Give me the sim lab. This is Hayes.”

Madeline realized that the inter-Centre phones probably wouldn’t be working as Hayes found no one on the other end of the phone. Just then, seven shots rang out in quick succession and he fell to the floor. Madeline covered her mouth in horror and quietly moved further from the scene. Angelo followed a moment later, looking equally shocked.

“I want to get as far away from here as possible.” Madeline whispered urgently.

“S L 26.” Angelo said slowly.

Madeline knew it was rarely used, and that the assassin would probably take Mr. Parker out shortly after his helicopter landed; so SL-26 would offer them relative safety while she figured out what to do.

Angelo nimbly exited the vents near the elevators at SL-26. Madeline awkwardly crawled out a few minutes later, standing up painfully. She took some deep breaths and arched her aching back, then went to the pillars in the middle of the hallway, leaning against one wearily. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to steady her frayed nerves. Jarod had warned her that sneaking around the Centre was a bad idea and she wished with every fiber of her being she had listened to him.

She tensed up when she heard a shout which sounded suspiciously like Park coming from the elevators . As Madeline and Angelo quickly moved to the far side of the pillar, the yell was followed by three bangs against the wall and the elevator doors opening.

Madeline couldn’t make out what they were saying, but she could recognize Park’s voice, as well as Broots‘. She huddled against Angelo‘s back, praying the two wouldn’t see them.

“Oh!” Miss Parker cried out in surprise when she came around the corner and saw Angelo. She reached around him and pulled Madeline out, stating, “I’m officially in hell!! What the hell are you doing here? You should have left hours ago!”

Madeline started babbling, hoping fervently that Park would believe her off-the-top-of-her-head story.

“Well, I had to go to the bathroom before I left, so I used the one by Sydney’s office, and as I was washing my hands, all the power went out and alarms started going off. The elevator wouldn’t work and no one was around and I tried to find Sydney but he was gone, too. Then he,” she motioned towards Angelo, “Came out of the vents and told me to come with him and I thought he meant to get me out of here but I have no idea where we are and-” she took a quick breath, “Did you get shot?! What the hell is going on, Park?” Madeline let the fear coursing through her show plainly on her face to further sell her story.

“It’s just a scratch. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Madeline inwardly breathed a gigantic sigh of relief that Park didn’t seem to be questioning her story.

“Broots, how’s the Arkham file coming?”

Broots sat down to check on his computer and Angelo followed him. He leaned over the tech’s shoulder and typed furiously at the keyboard.

“He’s speeding it up!” Broots exclaimed a moment later.

He and Miss Parker discussed what was on the file as Madeline tried to make herself invisible again.

“Toy surprise.” Angelo held out the box of Cracker Jack to Miss Parker.

“ I told you I don't want any.” she growled.

“Surprise.” he held it out again and Park reluctantly reached inside.

“It's a DSA.” Broots stated the obvious.

“And it's dated the day of my mother's death.” Miss Parker whispered and handed it to Broots to set up.

The four of them huddled together to watch Mr. Parker and Sydney discuss Catherine’s “suicide”. Madeline linked her arm through Miss Parker’s good one, silently offering support. Not for the first time, she wondered how the DSAs were always able to zoom in at the right moment. It’s like the Centre had it’s own editing department, splicing feeds from the various cameras in a room to make it look more like a movie than traditional security camera footage.

“Life goes on, Sydney.” a young Mr. Parker told the psychiatrist calmly towards the end.

Once Sydney left, he sat down on the stairs and started to cry.

“Daddy sad. Must save Daddy.” Angelo implored, once it was over.

“Okay.” Miss Parker took a deep breath and tried to think.

“Madeline, I want you to stay with Angelo. He’ll keep you safe. Once I get the power back on, Angelo, get her to the parking garage. The building should be clear, and you should be able to get out without anyone seeing you. No one can ever know you were here today, do you understand?” she looked intently at Madeline, then at Angelo and Broots, assuring their silence.

Madeline gave her a grateful hug and whispered, “Be careful.”

Madeline made it out of the Centre without running into anyone- the parking garage and grounds were eerily empty and silent. Madeline pulled into the driveway at 7:15.

She nervously paced around the house, hoping for Miss Parker’s sake that Mr. Parker was all right. She personally couldn’t stand the man because of the callous way he treated his daughter, not to mention all the things that went on under his control at the Centre. Somehow, though, Park still loved him, so Madeline couldn’t wish anything bad happening to him, because of how it would affect her guardian.

The phone rang at 7:47- she was keeping a very close eye on the clock, nervously checking it every couple of minutes.

“Hello?” she asked, hoping it was Park.

“Madeline, is Miss Parker home yet?”

“No, Jarod, not yet. Someone tried to kill her father, but I haven’t heard from her and I‘m getting worried.”

Jarod was silent for a minute, clearly not expecting her to know about the planned assassination.

“She was able to save him. How do you know about it?”

The whole story came pouring out in one gigantic rush as she continued pacing and keeping watch on the driveway.

“Oh god, Jarod, do you think I’m going to be in the worst trouble ever?” she worried once she’d finished.

He stayed silent briefly again as he went over her story for holes.

“It sounds like a plausible enough story. You just really need to stay away from the air vents for a while to be safe.”

“Trust me, I’m not sneaking around the Centre again any time soon!” she promised fervently, “Park’s home- I’ve gotta go. Thanks, Jarod!”

Madeline’s stomach was in knots as she watched the car pull into the driveway at exactly 8:14. She sat on the couch and tried not to fidget.

Madeline was a very honest person by nature, and had never intended to start snooping around the Centre when she met Angelo during that early therapy session while Sydney had stepped out. She didn’t like to lie to the woman who’d literally saved her life and opened up her home to her. Madeline just felt compelled to figure out what was really going on at the Centre so she could stop it. She’d never felt more driven by anything in her life, not even the desire to succeed at gymnastics had ever been so strong.

She hoped that with Jarod’s help, Miss Parker would come around to their way of thinking and the three of them could shut the Centre down. Until then, though, she had to keep her extracurricular activities a secret.

“Is your father all right?” she asked to keep up appearances, twisting around on the couch when Park entered the living room.

Miss Parker sat beside her with a heavy sigh and told her he was. She was missing the jacket she’d been wearing that morning. Her left arm with in a sling, and she had a cut along the top of her left cheekbone as well as a split lip. Her hair was a mess, and the stress of the day was written plainly on her face.

Madeline rested her head on Parker’s right shoulder, both taking reassurance from the other.

“Are you ok?” Madeline whispered after a moment of tired silence.

“It was just a small flesh wound. I‘ll be fine.”

They shared a brief silence again.

“I‘m sorry.”

“What? Why?” Madeline felt like she should’ve been the one apologizing.

“I never wanted you to get mixed up in all this… insanity. I don’t know how I’m supposed to explain this to you.”

“I’ve had worse days.” Madeline pointed out calmly, leaving it at that, “I’m sorry we didn’t get to the cemetery.”

“My father wants to go with me in the morning.”

Madeline knew he had never gone with Park in all the years since her mother died.
“At least something good came out of the day, then.” Madeline lifted her head and smiled slightly. She was about to breathe an internal sigh of relief and head to bed when Park spoke.

“How did you and Angelo get to SL-26?”

“Through the air vents- I don’t know how but it seemed like we crawled forever. He said we‘d be safe there.”

“He did?” Miss Parker raised an eyebrow suspiciously.

“Well, not in so many words. Is he, like, brain damaged or something?”

“You could call it that.” Parker muttered under her breath.


“Nothing. Just stay away from him.” she ordered.

“Is he dangerous? He seemed like a good guy.” The comment came out of her mouth before she could stop it. It seemed she wasn’t the only one, because Parker’s next words surprised her.

“Everything about the Centre is dangerous.” they were spoken almost to herself, as if she’d forgotten Madeline was there. Her eyes widened slightly as she realized what she’d just said, but Madeline thought it best to pretend not to hear her.

“I’m going to bed.” Madeline announced.

“That sounds like a good idea.”

Madeline couldn’t help but notice the slight grimace on Park’s face as she stood.

“Can I get you anything before I go up?”

“No, thanks, Madeline, I’m fine.” her next words held a note of warning, “Just remember- today didn‘t happen.”

“Okay. Good night.”

They went to their respective rooms and both took a long, hot shower to try to wash the day’s events away before sleep quickly claimed them.

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