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Chapter or Story Chapter or Story
Part Two in the Hot Potato Series
by Danielle : - )
Disclaimer: Brigitte, Mr. Lyle, Mr. Raines, Broots, Miss Parker, Mr. Parker, and Sydney belong to NBC. Thank you for creating such wonderful characters. I know Sydney doesn't officially have a last name but it suited my purposes to use something other than 'Sydney', hence, I did. But I do realize that he isn't really Dr. Green. Torey and Madeline belong to me...
Again, I am not a gymnast but I owe much appreciation to Jonathan Yip for his help in that area. Check out his whole website AFTER you send me comments about the story! Thanks and Part Three should be following shortly!
Sunday, December 14, 1997
11 AM, Broots' House
Brigitte got out of her car, still upset. Her superiors kept sending her on these stupid "missions". She blamed Mr. Lyle, since it was all for his daughter and she hoped he suffered. This time Mr. Raines had sent her to pick Torey up at Broots' house. She did wonder fleetingly what fate awaited Torey but was glad because she was sure it meant the last of her involvement. Then she could get back to her job-- namely catching Jarod to make Miss Parker look bad.
A While Later
Torey followed Brigitte up to her father's office. Miss Parker's father was sitting behind the desk. The scary man with the oxygen tank was standing off to his left. She couldn't remember his name.
Brigitte turned to go but Mr. Raines ordered her to stay. Torey stood uncertainly in front of the desk. Mr. Raines moved closer to her and spoke as he signed,
"Victoria, there's been an accident." Her eyes widened and she held her breath as he continued, "Your father died."
Mr. Raines had seen no reason to soften the truth- his truth-; and that had never been his way in any case.
^Dead?^ He nodded gravely. The child flung herself into Brigitte's arms with a strangled sob.
Once she got control of herself, she asked with trembling hands,
^So where will I go?^
Mr. Raines had his answer ready. He had been anxiously waiting to say it, "You will move in with Brigitte."
The blond did not disappoint him in the least, "Excuse me?! She is not moving in with me! Stick her with someone else!" She was so upset she was having trouble holding on to her accent.
"We are not giving you a choice in the matter."
"But if I refuse?" It was basically a rhetorical question, asked in the heat of the moment. Both of them knew what would happen to her if she refused to do it. She would suddenly start feeling suicidal and act upon it.
Mr. Parker had yet to speak. He watched the scene with his customary detached, unobtrusive observer's attitude. Torey had resumed crying and didn't realize that a battle of wills was going on only a few feet away.
Brigitte's abrupt departure caused Torey to look to Mr. Raines, who told her Brigitte would be back in a few minutes.
The doors swung open and Miss Parker breezed in.
"Daddy!" She said warmly, "It's so good to see you back behind your desk! Why's our little Brit so upset?"
"She doesn't want to be a Mommy." Mr. Raines rasped.
"Mr. Lyle and Brigitte... how'd the kid get so lucky?" She said with a lightness she no longer felt. Her joy at seeing Brigitte's rage had disappeared the second she saw the devastated 8-year-old.
Neither man answered, Mr. Parker just wanted to know if Jarod had contacted them yet.
"Not yet, Daddy."
"I still don't understand why you didn't get him at the courthouse." Mr. Raines pressed.
"Jarod knew what he was doing, he knew we'd be held up by security. By the time we convinced them we were legit..." She trailed off to glare at him. His bringing it up was enough to put a little more doubt about her "loyalties" in her father's mind.
After father and daughter exchanged an insincere, no-contact kiss, she left- her jovial mood long gone.
Brigitte stood in front of the heavy doors and took a deep breath before pushing them open. She was still seething and kicking herself but had a plan about to be set in motion. A very difficult plan to pull off. She figured if she acted glad to have Torey live with her, it would drive Raines (and everyone else) crazy. She didn't expect him to buy her change of heart but she figured her extreme cheerfulness would be just as effective- if not more so.
"Sorry about that scene earlier, Luv." She said with a sweet, apologetic smile, "It just took me by surprise, is all."
"You may take the rest of the day off." Raines allowed.
"Thank you." She replied, as if pleased that he was so generous. She really just wanted to take the girl and run before all the smiling and niceties literally made her sick.
But she was rewarded by Mr. Raines grinding his teeth in displeasure at his inability to get to her again.
"Ta-ta!" She said pleasantly as she put her arm around the still sniffling Torey and led her to the door.
Brigitte put Torey to bed in her guest bedroom once she couldn't stand her crying any more. She got a few hours peace and quiet before Torey woke up crying.
This time the arms of the lap she crawled into didn't hesitate before comforting her. Brigitte didn't understand why, but she cared about Torey. She'd rather die a slow, painful death than have anyone find out. It irked her- this motherly feeling she suddenly felt. 'This was no way for a trained assassin to act!' she kept telling herself. Nonetheless, she couldn't stop it and knew she was safe in her own home.
Brigitte thoroughly checked her apartment nearly every day. It wouldn't surprise her to find a bug or phone tap hidden somewhere to keep an eye on her. How many other times had Raines done it in the past?
The next day, Monday, Brigitte brought Torey with her to the Centre. Torey was very clingy and Brigitte was fed up with it before they had been there five minutes. Torey had begged Brigitte not to send her to school and she had begrudgingly given in.
They were passing Sydney and Broots in one of the Centre's many halls when Sydney stopped them.
"Doctor, Mister Broots."
"I don't know what you were planning to do with Victoria today, but she can stay with me if you like. I'm doing a couple of simulations with some children around her age- nothing serious, though. It might help her keep her mind off of her father's passing."
Brigitte had to admire him. He knew her job was no place for a child, plus he mentioned Mr. Lyle with nary a blink of an eye. With tact like that, it was no wonder he was still around.
"Thank you." Unlike the same words of the previous day, these ones were said sincerely.
Torey looked at Brigitte, who nodded her approval at the plan. Torey slowly moved to Sydney's side, but not before giving Brigitte a hug.
"I'll see you later, Mister Broots." She said before sauntering away.
She always made it a point to be nice to him, hoping he'd like the feeling of being treated with respect enough to come over to "her" side. Maybe even enough to give her the scoop on Sydney and Miss Parker's extracurricular activities. She was sure each had quite a few.
"B-bye, Brigitte." He said to her retreating figure. He could feel himself relax as she got farther and farther away.
Torey looked at Sydney with the sad, rather blank eyes common to the Centre's children. She did belong to the Centre now. He knew she was completely at William Raines' mercy and he could do whatever pleased his sick mind with and to her. He had to fight off a blinding rage to tell her,
^I'm going to be working with a set of twins your age in a little while. After they do their job, you three can play.^
She didn't answer him- something else common in children around here.
^They know ASL.^ He added, hoping to cheer her up.
The sim wasn't difficult- the twins just had to solve a few math and science related problems for one of the big computer software companies. Sydney knew they'd have no problem completing it in a few hours. And like all simulations, it would be recorded to a DSA to add to the girls' file.
Once in SIM Lab 1, Torey began to look around at all the computers and other equipment lining the walls of the high-ceilinged room. The middle of the small-school-gymnasium-size room was clear except for an eight-foot rectangular table covered with piles of paper.
Sydney had her sit facing the door and once the twins came in, he began to speak and sign,
"Girls, this is Victoria. Her father just died and she's staying with me today. After you complete this, you three can play for a little while."
He had tried to think of another word for "play"; since to play generally meant to have fun, and children at the Centre did not have fun. He had finally decided to leave it as is, knowing Victoria in particular could use some fun. Besides, he knew from experience that letting the children have a little "play time" helped them complete future sims faster and with more accuracy.
"Why are you signing?" Pamela asked, "Is she deaf?"
He nodded so the other twin turned to Torey,
^Hi. I'm Sam and that's Pam.^
^Hi.^ Torey answered solemnly.
"You can get to know each other later." Sydney said and began to explain the sim, again signing as he spoke.
Even someone who knows sign language as well as Torey needed to concentrate in order to understand all that is being signed to her. Sydney knew she'd have no time to mourn. Not that Mr. Lyle was worth losing sleep over. But try telling that to Victoria. Like Miss Parker, she didn't think her father could do anything wrong and their inattentiveness cut like a knife. She and Miss Parker were getting more alike every day, it seemed. He just hoped that this child grew up to be better than Miss Parker. At least she wouldn't have her father to try to please. But what effect would Brigitte have on the vulnerable girl?
Sydney only had to explain once before the twins got to work reading the data before them. Torey was also looking at the papers, only with confusion and not the twins' concentration.
Sydney already knew what they could do... For months the twins had relentlessly begged him to be able to play the games on one of the computers. He didn't know how they knew there were games on that computer but he hadn't given in, not even to shut them up. They had forgotten their as-soon-as-they-saw-him begging session having come into the room and seen Torey.
The twins arrived at a conclusion in a little over an hour. Sydney had expected it to take longer but there were their results, all in order. He told them they could use the computer before either had a chance to open their mouths.
They were extremely excited as he opened the games folder. Samantha pulled up another chair and placed it beside the first so Torey could sit in the middle. Sydney, who "played" even less than the children, could offer no suggestions so he stood silently in the background to observe them. Torey pointed to a game, 3D Pinball, and said she had played it at school.
^Okay, but we don't know how to play.^ Pam said.
Torey nodded and opened it. After hitting a few keys, she apparently found the ones she was looking for and began to play. She got three chances and died with a score of 1,703,750. The twins seemed impressed.
Sydney was gladdened to see the three smiling faces. He had known Samantha and Pamela would be good for Victoria.
Doctor Sydney Green did not like nicknames. Maybe it was because his brother always hated to be called 'Jake', or maybe because Raines used to call himself 'Dr. Billy'. But whatever his reason, he never used them. The twins must have told him a thousand times to call them 'Pam' and 'Sam'. But, no, it would always be 'Pamela' and 'Samantha', just like 'Timmy' had always been 'Timothy' and 'Mike' had always been 'Michaela'. He never budged no matter how often they complained it made them feel like they were in trouble.
Sydney trusted them enough to leave the room for a few minutes. Pam noticed he was gone and since Sam was playing, she talked to Torey and translated for her sister's benefit.
^Does everyone call you Victoria?^
^No. Most people call me Torey.^
"Sydney never uses nicknames." Sam said and her twin translated.
^Are both of your parents dead?^ Pam asked with child-like innocence, not realizing the pain the question sent through her new little friend's heart.
^Mom abandoned me and dad died a few days ago.^
^Our parents are dead, too. They died when we were three.^
"We can't remember them at all." Sam added as her game ended. They switched roles and Sam asked Torey when her mom left.
^About a month and a half ago.^ After that they said no more and just concentrated on the game.
Sydney came back to find them exactly as he had left them, only Victoria was playing again. After she died having beaten her first score- which got a sigh of envy from Sam- she asked them how they knew sign language.
^Our aunt is deaf.^
^Why didn't you live with her when your parents died?^
^I don't know.^ Sam admitted.
^They just said we had to come here.^ Pam chimed in.
Sydney didn't like the direction the conversation was heading for so he rang for someone to bring the twins back to their room. All three young faces fell when he told them the twins had to go back to their room for lunch. Torey wanted to know why they couldn't eat together. Sydney explained that everyone who lives at the Centre always eats in their rooms.
Sydney and Torey went up to his office. He figured he could "play shrink" (as Miss Parker had so nicely worded it once) to Victoria for a while until lunch. At least he expected Brigitte to come get her for lunch.
Tuesday, Torey reluctantly returned to school. Brigitte was in a jam. She couldn't leave work as early as her charge got out of school and Madeline didn't have time because she had some big competition coming up. This day Torey was going to a friend's house but Brigitte knew she couldn't do that forever.
The caustic blond prepared to enter Broots office, smirking when she remembered what Mr. Lyle said about doors and polite people knocking. She didn't know anyone who would call her polite. Her smirk turned into a full fledged grin when she imagined what people really called her.
"Good morning Mister Broots." She greeted him.
He was so startled that he spilled coffee on his shirt, "Oh! Uh, hi, Brigitte. Wh-wh what are you doing here?"
"You've a daughter, isn't that right?"
"Uh, yeah." He replied hesitantly and then with some suspicion, "Why?"
"What do you do with her after school?"
"What?! Oh! Torey!" He had begun to panic, not knowing what she was getting at, but he relaxed as he recalled how Miss Parker had gloated over the fact that Mr. Lyle's daughter was now staying with Brigitte. "She has a sitter. She's really wonderful; and cheap." He said with an extremely nervous laugh, "She doesn't mind my uh... unusual schedule."
"Aahhh... I've a little problem, Luv, about Torey. My schedule is rather "unusual" as well. Would your wonderful sitter watch Torey as well? I'd pay her whatever you do, of course."
"Well, I... I'll ask her tonight." He managed to tell her.
"Thanks, Luv!" She gave him a brilliant smile and her cell phone number.
Poor Broots returned to work a few minutes later after taking some deep, relaxing breaths to calm down.
Brigitte left work early, telling a none-too-pleased Mr. Raines that it was his fault for sticking her with Torey in the first place but that she was working something out.
Broots called at 7:30 that evening.
" 'Ello, Luv. What's up?"
"Leah just left and she said she'd love to watch Torey, too. She said she's always wanted to learn sign language!"
"Smashing! Now how is Torey supposed to get to your house?"
"Well, Leah picks Debbie up at school at 3:30. I don't like her taking the bus, no seatbelts. When does Torey get out?"
Brigitte had to check with the center of their conversation, "Quarter past 3." She felt she could almost laugh with relief. She gave Broots directions to the school and hung up.
Brigitte knew it would be cheaper this way than using Madeline; she knew how much (little) Broots got paid. If he came over to her side, he'd get a lot more. Of course, she hadn't told him that yet. He wasn't quite ready to hear it.
Torey had been restless and inattentive all day. Her teachers let it pass, attributing it to her father's recent passing. In actuality she was nervous about meeting Leah and petrified that Brigitte wouldn't be there later to pick her up.
Debbie had often told Torey how nice Leah was ("but not quite as fun as Madeline") and she looked it when she pulled up to the curb in a beat up blue station wagon. She looked exactly like the picture Broots had dropped off for her on his way to work that morning.
Torey got in the back and Debbie climbed in next to her a few minutes later. Debbie didn't mention Torey's dad's death, since she knew how much it hurt when people mentioned her mom. She told Torey their weekly routine- a snack, homework, then the fun stuff...
The evening went by quickly. Leah helped the girls with their homework after she made them a big plate of nachos. After that Torey spent half an hour teaching them the manual alphabet. She said you couldn't even begin to learn signs until after you had mastered that.
Broots arrived home to find them all laughing with tears streaming down their faces at their clumsy attempts. Brigitte had seen Broots leave so she pulled up a few minutes after him. She deemed Leah acceptable to watch Torey and then they agreed that if Broots left work first, Leah and Torey would go to Brigitte's apartment until she got home. Leah was very agreeable, telling Brigitte she could stay overnight if Brigitte ever had to leave town like Broots occasionally did. Brigitte said she'd let Torey keep the key. She didn't give them the reason- that she didn't trust Leah with unlimited access to her home like Broots did.
Brigitte found out- much to her relief- that Torey did not believe in Santa Claus. The solemn girl also said she didn't expect to get anything.
But Brigitte ended up buying her a few diaries and a gift certificate to the bookstore.
Torey was delighted and she had made Brigitte a card. The hardened blond knew for the first time that it was the thought and not the price tag that counts.
All through January and February, Torey continued to see Sydney and go to Broots' house after school. Some weekends, if Leah needed or wanted a day off, the two girls, now best friends, went with Madeline to her competitions.
Debbie and Torey spent a whole afternoon during Christmas vacation making Miss Parker a birthday card. Debbie told Torey about their weekend together and said Miss Parker was always sad because her mom died when she was their age. Torey figured if they made her a really nice card, she might not be sad anymore. Somehow Debbie found out that Miss Parker was staying home on her birthday, although Broots would later claim he'd had nothing to do with it.
Leah drove them out to Miss Parker's lakeside cottage. She was extremely surprised to see them and Leah thought she looked disappointed, as if she was expecting someone else. The girls presented her with the card and Miss Parker got all teary-eyed. The girls thought she was happy about their masterpiece but she was really crying because this little girl she hadn't even spent 48 hours with had remembered her birthday but her father hadn't.
By the beginning of March, Torey was starting to believe that Brigitte was not going to leave her.
Her cool attitude didn't bother the child, who wouldn't have known what to make of an adult who was warm and loving. In her young eyes, it had been so long since she'd felt wanted and loved that she didn't expect it to change. Ever.
Friday March 20th, Torey went with Madeline to an overnight competition in Baltimore. They would return late Saturday evening.
Brigitte had to smile as she watched Torey pack, her excitement obvious. She was literally running back and forth across the apartment, trying to figure out what to bring; and her normally neat handwriting was messy.
Something else was making Brigitte smile around her lollipop. She was privy to a plan happening later that night. That's why Torey needed to be gone. The plan had been her idea. An ingenious way to bring Jarod back to the Centre while finding and eliminating the leak, who she personally believed to be Miss Parker. She felt sure even Mr. Parker could forget her past indiscretions once she successfully did those two things.
So when Madeline came to pick Torey up, Brigitte was in an excellent mood. She told the girls to have fun and even wished Madeline good luck.
The Next Morning
Neither girl seemed to mind waking up at 6:30. They had a light breakfast and got to the US Air Arena around 8. Madeline spent the next two hours warming up. The competition began at 10:30.
Madeline had gotten the judges permission allowing Torey to be down on the floor with her.
There were four rotations that day. Madeline stared with the vault, her weakest event. She ended up with a 9.0 after both vaults. Torey thought she could have gotten a 10, though. Once that was behind her, Madeline relaxed. As much as you could when how well you did depended on whether or not you went on and eventually ended up at the Olympics...
She got a 9.25 on the balance beam and a 9.75 on the uneven bars- her strongest event. Her last rotation was also her favorite- the floor. She never seemed able to get higher than a 9.5 but she loved being able to pick the music. On this day she was using the music to "Wind Beneath My Wings". One of her favorite songs, it reminded her of her mother.
Madeline was in second place (the top three finishers would continue on the road to Sydney) and was the third to last person to complete her four events. One of the others still left couldn't have bumped Madeline out of the running if she did two perfect vaults. The other girl was after Madeline on the floor and was in first place. Her name was Reese and she lived in Baltimore.
Before starting, Madeline said her usual prayer and a few seconds later the music started. The familiar, much-loved music seemed to help her performance. She got incredible height, landed everything perfectly; and, most importantly, she made it look easy.
The applause when she finished was so loud that Torey could feel the floor vibrate. She smiled to know that they were clapping for "her" Madeline.
The judges gave her a perfect 10 and Madeline thought she might bump Reese out of first place.
But Reese's music and engaging attitude got the crowd into it- something more important than making it look easy. Besides that, she too was flawless and received a 10.
So they stayed where they were, both dreaming of going to the Olympics in 2000.
They crossed the border into Blue Cove around eight. Madeline had both her and Torey dropped off at Miss Parker's because she wanted to drive Torey home herself.
Miss Parker wasn't home and glancing in her room, Madeline guessed she'd gotten up in a hurry that morning.
So they drove to Brigitte's but no one was there, either. After a moment's hesitation, Madeline decided to go to the Centre to see what was up. Driving there, she had trouble ignoring the knot of worry in the pit of her stomach.