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DISCLAIMER: I don't own the rights to The Pretender, NBC does. I'm not trying to infringe on anyone's copyright. This is independent fan fic and written purely for the fun of it. The only reward I reap is personal satifaction that someone might like it and e-mail me with their comments.
THIS STORY WAS WRITTEN FOR CYBER CATZ, because you asked. Flattery does go far with me so this one's for you!
A VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO: Paula H. first for allowing me to mention her story "First Hand Evidence" and one of it's characters, Carl Alison.
And also for letting me use some of her ideas from her story "Virginia is for Lovers!" in the beginning of this one.
*PLEASE NOTE; THE EVENTS IN THIS STORY TAKE PLACE AFTER "VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS!" by Paula H. While each story is independent and stands on it's own, there are references in this story to "Virginia is for Lovers!". If you want to know how Miss Parker caught a cold and what happened in Virginia Beach you must read Paula's story. If you have problems finding it, e-mail me



BROOTS AND PARKER P.I.
by Ra-Chell






"Yes that's right, I'm not coming in today. I'm sick." Miss Parker coughed into the phone. "No! I don't care who you tell." Slamming the phone down she tossed the empty vitamin C bottle into the trash and pulled the box of tissues closer. Her body sank deeper into the warm comfort of the bed and immediately fell back to sleep.

The knocking on the door slowly brought her back. Pulling herself out of the bed was an effort. Wrapping a robe around tightly she made her way to the front door and jerked it open. "What?" She questioned the delivery man.

"Package for Miss Parker. Sign here please." He smiled and watched as she signed the paper on his clip board before handing over a package with Jarod's writing. Grabbing it she slammed the door shut and made her way back to bed just as the phone rang.

"What?" Was hissed between coughs.

"Feeling better Miss Parker?" The voice tauted.

"Jarod." She snarled while crawling back under the covers.

"It sounds like you're on the road to recovery. Did you get my package?" Jarod asked.

"Yes, I got your package. I'm sick Jarod. After that little episode in Virginia Beach, can't you leave me alone for a few days?" She answered in a exasperated tone while pulling the covers around her.

"Well then Miss Parker, you'll enjoy my present even more now that you have some time to read." She could hear the smile in his voice but before she could reply the phone went dead. Damn him! Why did he always hang up?

Tearing the package open a paper back book and a bottle of vitamin C slipped out on top of the quilt. The picture on the front of the book showed a woman wrapping her arms around a dark hair man whose face was hidden. The woman's face looked remarkable like her own. The man looked like Jarod from the back, a view she was all to familiar with.

The title of the book read "Broots and Parker PI"

"Catchy title Jarod." She sneered as she opened the bottle and took two tablets. "Well why not. I'm not going any place with this cold." Opening the book she began to read.

CHAPTER ONE
The morning sun spilled through the window and across the aging wood floor. It cast a warm glow on everything in the room. The noise from the street below filtered up and mingled with the music from the dance studio next door. Stretching her long legs out in front of her, Miss Parker looked over the mounting pile of bills. Broots and Parker Private Investigations was slipping fast. Fast into a sea of red ink that was. In a town as tough as Los Angeles they had to fight for each new case. Competition in the PI business was brutal but until now they had managed to tread the murky waters.

Broots came through the door whistling and threw his hat with dead accuracy on the desk next to her feet. "And why are you so happy?" She asked looking up.

"Because we have a case." Broots answered her back with a smile.

"Really? And what are we suppose to do...find someone's dog?" Miss Parker quipped.

"No." Broots flopped down on the worn leather couch. "All we have to do is find someone's mother."

*****

"It's two o'clock Broots. I thought you said he would be here at one thirty." She paced restlessly across the office floor.

"Give him time, Parker. You know how the traffic is." Broots said attempting to hide his nervousness. They couldn't afford to lose another client to Arygle and Company. Arygle might be crazy but he was notorious about stealing clients. And this one would tempt even the devil himself. Especially when he had spoken the magic words..."Money is no object."

They could hear the front door to the office creak opened and Debbie conversing with a man. A few minutes later the intercom buzzed and Miss Parker answered it. "Yes Debbie."

"Your one thirty appointment is here Miss P."

"Show him in please." Nodding her head to Broots they took their places. Miss Parker sat behind the desk pretending to do paper work. Broots slipped into a comfortable chair pretending to review a tape on his small tape recorder. Debbie escorted the client in. Even with her hair up, glasses and make up on she still looked like a child. But with all the financial problems of late they had had to let their secretary go and Debbie would have to suffice.

"Your secretary looks very young." A deep voice said.

"Well everyone in this town looks young Mr.?" Raising her eyes up to look at the man her heart begin to race, face and cheeks started to blush. "I'm sorry but what did you say your name was?"

"Jarod. May I?" He motioned towards a chair.

"Oh yeah, sure have a seat Mr. Jarod. Now what can we do for youBroots struggled to gain control over the situation. This wasn't like Miss P.

"Thank you but Jarod is my first name. I don't know my last." He sat down. "That's why I'm here. I want you to find this woman. I believe she is my mother. Or so I've been told."

"Why don't you start at the beginning and tell us all about it." Miss Parker asked. "Debbie would you bring us some coffee please?" Debbie shot her a look that could kill. It was bad enough having to play secretary but make coffee?

"Sure Miss P." She called back.

For the first time Miss Parker didn't notice Debbie using that dreadful nickname. Instead she was reaching out to take a faded photograph from the handsome stranger. His fingers brushed against hers and sent a shiver down her spine. Maybe Broots and Parker PI had hit the jackpot this time. Not only was money no object but the client was handsome as well.

The story he told was sad. No, it was down right tragic. Something that could have come from a movie or TV show. He had been taken from his parents as a child and held by an organization called The Centre. They kept him a prisoner and used his genius for their own profit. He had escaped a few years ago. Now he was on the run while looking for his parents. Could they help him locate his mother?

"We'll see what we can do, Jarod. But you haven't given us much to go on." Miss Parker leaned over the desk toward him with a sincere look.

"We've solved cases on less. It may take some time but if anyone can do it, we can." Broots spoke up, clearly annoyed with Miss Parker.

"Thank you. I'll leave you my number should you need anything else." He handed Miss Parker his card. From the look on her face it was clear they would need more information. He walked out the door and left.

"What the hell was that?" Broots stormed. "What do you think you're doing? 'We'll see what we can do?' Why didn't you just point him in Argyle's direction and say 'Sorry but we're stupid.' The man gave us a cash deposit for crying out loud. This isn't like you Parker."

"I never promise our clients some thing we can't deliver. You know that Broots. I wonder, do you think he was telling us the truth? Is he really someone who was kidnapped and held against his will for thirty years?" She looked deep in thought.

"For a two thousand dollar deposit, unlimited expenses and hourly fees I'll believe anything the man says." Broots fanned the stack of bills in front of him.

*****

Looking up from the office computer as she took a sip of cold coffee Miss Parker was surprised to see the time on the clock read three a.m. Turning the computer off she stood up and stretched. She was tired and it was late. Pulling a blanket out of the filing cabinet she walked bare foot to the couch and laid down.

Broots had taken Debbie home after Jarod left. They divided the work up so Broots could follow his half of the leads using his home computer. Miss Parker didn't have that luxury so she settled for the one at the office.

Was he telling them the truth she wondered pulling the blanket around her. She believed him. Wanted to believe him was more like it. His eyes had meet hers and never waived. If it wasn't the truth then it was a good con. She knew him from some place but where?

Researching his past was like looking for a person who never existed. But he had said The Centre could wipe away a person's identity without a trace. Crazy as it sounded she believed that too. Well at least the money was real.

Turning the light off her body settled in the depression of the couch as the phone rang. Rising off the couch she slowly walked back to the phone on the desk. "What Broots?" Came her tired salutation.

"Do you always work this late?" The voice belonged not to Broots but to the new client.

"Only when I have something important to work on. How did you know I was here?" Moving to the window to look down onto the street three stories below she could see no one.

"I didn't. I was driving by and saw the light on in your office window. Are you alright?" The deep voice seemed concerned.

"I'm fine. Where are you?" An occasional car passed by on the otherwise empty street.

"Open your door." Moving to the door Miss Parker hesitated and debated. What if this guy was a crazed murderer? Just because he was good looking, charming and had a sad story didn't mean a damn thing.

"You can trust me Miss Parker. I won't hurt you." The man's voice was soft and reassuring. She wanted to trust him but why? Against her better judgement she unlocked the door and opened it.

He stood there with cell phone in hand, staring at her with intense brown eyes. "You look tired. Would you like me to take you home?" He asked.

"Thanks but I have a car." Was her answer. Thoughts of saying yes had passed through her mind but 'This is business Parker, not personal. Remember? her inner voice said.

"I see. Then let me walk you to your car."

* * * * *

Sitting in the driver's seat of the dodge dart she turn the key once more. Nothing.

"Let me take you home. It's late and I'll look at your car in the morning." Looking up into those soft brown eyes she couldn't say no. Like a gentleman he helped her out of the car, locked it and shut the door. Walking a short distance to his sleek new BMW he opened the door and briefly grasped her elbow sending a jolt of electricity through her. She quickly got in. He shut the door and she watched with interest as he walked around and slid into the driver's seat.

The drive was quiet at first. Then slowly Jarod asked. "Tell me about yourself Miss Parker."

"Well there's not much to tell. My mother died when I was twelve. My father had his business and couldn't deal with a child. So he sent me off to boarding school. He paid for the first four years of college and that's about it." For some strange reason she felt he already knew.

"Do you ever see your father?" Jarod asked.

"No. Not since I graduated college. Turn right up here at the next light."

"You don't sound like you're from California." His statement brought a smile and a negative shake of her head. "So how did you end up here?"

"I thought I'd try to be a actress." She laughed and this time it brought a smile to his lips. "Turn left at the corner please. It's the second house on the right." Pointing to the street ahead before continuing. "I came to Hollywood but it just wasn't meant to be. There's nothing back home so I stayed here."

He brought the car to a stop in front of a two story house and turned to look at her. The soft light from the street lamps filtered through the leaves of the trees which lined the quiet street and illuminated her face. She was beautiful and her perfume intoxicating.

"How did you end up as a PI?" He inquired.

"I worked for a temp agency for a while. They sent me to Broots' office as a secretary. That was three years ago. He and another cop had quit the LAPD to start their own PI business. His partner couldn't cut it. I started helping out and ended up as his partner." She laughed softly. "Broots and Debbie are the closest thing I have to a family. He's the brother I never had." The genuine feelings for Broots and his daughter shone on her face.

"And Broots' wife?" Jarod asked.

"He's divorced and has custody of Debbie. Broots says I'm a role model." She laughed again. Leaning over Jarod pulled her to him and attempted to kiss her. But she pulled back.

"I think I better go now. Thanks for the ride home." She quickly exited the car. Jarod was out and by her side before she got very far.

"I'm sorry. At least let me walk you to the door." Silently they walked to the door. As she unlocked it he reached out and pulled her to him again. This time their lips met and the night lit up.

"You move fast don't you." It was a statement, not a question. He didn't answer but instead watched her slip silently away into the house.

CHAPTER TWO

"Miss Parker? Miss Parker are you in there?" The voice of a woman with a English accent accompanied the insistent pounding on the door of the room. Pulling her head out from under the covers she opened one eye.

"Yes Christine I'm here." Miss Parker's voice mumbled back.

"Mr. Broots is on the phone. He's worried about you dearShall I tell him you'll call him back?" The woman asked.

"No. I'll be right down." She rolled out of the bed, grabbed a robe and opened the door.

A woman with greying hair dressed in a faded house coat stood outside. "Don't forget the rent for your room dear. You're already a month behind." Miss Parker nodded and pushed past her. Making it to the bottom of the stairs she shoved a large grey cat off the phone.

"What's up Broots?" She asked as the large grey cat lazily began to brush against her leg.

"Parker, thank God! I was worried about you. I got to work this morning and your car was here. The couch looked like you spent the night but you were gone. Dan at the coffee shop said you never came in. You didn't answer your cell phone. I was ready to report you missing." She smiled at Broots' concern. She was right, he was like a brother.

"I'm fine. The cell phone's battery is dead again. I worked late and the car wouldn't start. Jarod gave me a ride home." The grey cat now began to claw at Miss Parker's robe. Looking around to make sure Christine wasn't in sight she kicked the cat away.

"Jarod gave you a ride home?" Broots sounded puzzled.

"What did you find out?" Giving the cat another kick while changing the subject.

"Well you won't believe what I found. This case is strange. I don't want to talk about it over the phone. We'll talk when you get here."

"It's seven in the morning, Broots! Give me a hour or two at least. I have to take the bus." She hung up and stepped over the cat which had now taken residence up on the second step. Making her way back to the room she thought about the previous night.

She was attracted to Jarod and his kiss had sent a shock wave through her. In retrospect she was glad her car hadn't started. For some strange reason this client seem to know all about her yet was it compassion he felt for her or pity? Compassion was acceptable but not his pity.

* * * * *

"There are muffins in the kitchen. Have one dear, you're losing weight again." Christine called out as Miss Parker started out the front door an hour later."Thanks but not hungry." She lied, closed the front door and tighten the belt of her worn jeans. Christine was right. She wasn't eating and had lost weight. Clutching the garment bag with her one good suit and decent pair of heels she headed down the sidewalk toward the bus stop.

"Need a ride?" A deep voice called out. Turning she could see Jarod leaning against the BMW.

"Maybe. Were you waiting for me?" She quizzed.

"Maybe. Would you like to go out for breakfast?" Came back.

The answer was yes, especially when it came to food. He opened the door of the car and she slid in. Of all times to run into him dressed in faded jeans and a old sweater. This wasn't the way she wanted him to see her. Watching him through the safety of dark sunglasses she could feel the attraction. There was something about the way he moved as he got into the car that excited her. Being even this close made her heart pound.

"Here, this is for you." He handed her a brightly wrapped box.

"For me?" Taking the gift from him. "Isn't it a bit early in our relationship for gifts?" She laughed nervously regretting the comment. Relationship? Nice thought but they hardly knew each other. 'This is business Parker. Remember that.' the inner voice warned.

"Open it." Was the reply. Carefully she pulled the ribbon off and un-wrapped the box.

"A cell phone? I can't accept this." She began.

"Yes you can. I need to be able to contact you while you're working on my case. I can't do that with your present phone." Any thoughts of something more intimate disappeared. He looked so serious. "You'll need to give Mr. Broots your new number and don't worry about the bill. I arranged to have it sent to me. Now where would you like to have breakfast?"

"Tiffany's?" Biting her tongue for the smart ass remark she was unprepared for his answer.

"Fine.How do we get there?" His stern look caught her off guard.

"You're kidding right? 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'? Audrey Hepburn? His face was a blank, brow slightly knitted. It was clear he had never heard of the movie. She tried again. "It was a movie. You know. But you don't know do you? Alright then. Let's go to the Pantry. Take a left up ahead." They drove on in silence for several minutes.

"Miss Parker since we are going to be working together do you mind telling me your first name?" The question was unexpected and the tone of voice was now the same as it had been the night before. Soft and sexy.

"Yes I do mind. But you can call me Parker. All my friends do." Flashing a smile towards him she could see him relax.

"Alright. Parker it'll have to be." He laughed.

* * * * *

The door to the office was locked and she juggled the garment bag, purse and Jarod's present while trying to open it. Suddenly the door open and Broots stood there looking concerned. "Where the hell have you been? You said two hours not three!" He scolded and grabbed the garment bag.

"Jarod took me out to breakfast. Sorry but I do have to eat once in awhile." Broots looked worried as he closed the door and locked it. This wasn't like him.

"Come here. I need to show you something." She followed him into his office and sat down next to him at the computer.

"The more I dig the more complicated this thing seems to get. Jarod was right. There is a place called the Centre. Only they aren't what they seem to be. I had a friend in the FBI do some checking for me. And he came up with some information. My buddy in the CIA...well his advice was 'Stay out of the Centre's business if you want to live to see your grandchildren.' But he did get some pretty interesting stuff on these people." He played with the computer and a picture of a impressive building popped up on the screen.

"See this? Well it's The Centre in Blue Cove, Delaware. And what's really interesting is that this building is only the tip of the ice berg. There are twenty seven underground levels. The place could stand a nuclear attack."

"Interesting. I'd hate to pay their electric bill." A new picture came on screen and Miss Parker asked. "What's this? A substitute pet?"

"Oh that, well that's Mr. Raines. Not a very nice man from what I've learn. And the pet is a oxygen tank. But this next guy is something else."

"Ouch! What happened to the thumb?" Miss Parker winced.

"Mr. Lyle. It seems he played hard ball with the Yakuza and lost." Broots smiled.

"I'll say. And the people with him?" She asked puzzled. Broots looked at her and shrugged his shoulders.

"Family I think. That one is Mr. Parker his father. And the blond is Brigitte. I'm not sure if she is his sister, lover or step mother. Can't figure that one out." Broots said shaking his head. "Listen, I've got a parent teacher conference with Debbie's teacher in a few minutes so tell me what you found out?"

"Well Jarod basically doesn't exist. However there are some interesting bits and pieces I gathered from researching the newspapers. I found a lot of articles that could pertain to him. Some mention a name...Jarod. While others speak of a mystery man. But what they all have in common is a man searching for his parents. A man who was stolen as a child and used by a evil corporation. Most of what he does is good. Helps people like this guy in Sherdon, Ohio. The newspaper there ran a series of stories called 'First Hand Evidence'. About a man named Jarod who helped Carl Alison, a hospital employee clear his name." Broots looked at his watch and jumped out of the chair.

"Look Parker I've got to run. Keep the door locked and here's some money." He handed her the wad of cash they received from Jarod.

"I thought you were going to deposit this! Don't tell me..."

"OK I won't. But I found a eviction notice on the door this morning. I called and left a message for our landlord. He should be by. So be a sweet heart. Smile and give him fifteen hundred in cash. Promise him anything in reason but buy us some time. Oh and there's two hundred in there for you." Broots was out the door and gone.

CHAPTER THREE

Los Angles International Airport

Emptying his pockets of loose change before going through the metal detectors Jarod thought about Miss Parker. "Call me Parker. All my friends do." He couldn't help but smile. She was beautiful, exciting and he realized something else. She also made him forget. He forgot to tell her he was having her car towed to be fixed. He had planned to give her the key to the BMW but there it lay among the loose change in the tray.

"Mind moving it buddy? I've got a plane to catch." The man behind him growled. Moving through he felt embarrassed. He was always so focused, on top of things. Then she came into his life. He felt strange and confused.

Once through the metal detector he gathered his things and headed for the terminal. Pulling out the cell phone he tired calling her. But both the office phone and her cell phone were busy. He made it just in time to board the plane. That was something else she did to him. He was never late until now.

Settling back into the seat he thought about the first time he had seen her. It had been by accident and she never noticed him. But he saw her and her clients in the small coffee shop. He was touched by the way she treated the two young girls looking for their missing dog. It was with such compassion. Miss Parker had taken the case for ten dollars and a cup of coffee. And thanks to her the dog was found.

He had run a background check and researched her past. There wasn't much about her he didn't know. Yet being around her gave him a strange and wonderful feeling. Sydney would have called it chemical but it was more than that. He wanted to be near her and hiring them to find his mother seemed the best way to do that.

Even when he tried to distance himself from her like this morning when he gave her the phone, it was impossible. He could be a pretender with everyone else but not with her. He was still thinking about her when the plane landed in Las Vegas for a hour lay over. As soon as he was off he pulled out his cell phone and called her. But the voice that answered wasn't Parker's.

* * * * *

Looking at the file Broots had compiled on the Centre was disturbing. These people were killers. Cruel and cold hearted people with selfish interests. Maybe Jarod was telling the truth after all. What a horrible way to grow up. But hearing someone trying to open the front door, she had little time for pity.

She removed the disk, pulled a gun out of the desk drawer and hid behind the door of Broots' office. The outside door creaked opened and the long shadow of a man spread it's way across the floor. She removed the safety on the gun and silently counted to ten. Then she swung around and yelled. "Put your hands up where I can see them!"

The man yelled and jumped against the wall. "Don't shoot Miss P. Don't shoot, don't shoot! Please." Standing before her was a pathic sight. The thin man with unruly hair and a day old beard was dressed retro, early eighties. A awful plaid suit that clashed with a hideous polyester shirt. And the shoes, well they were just as bad. No one dressed like that except for...

"Arygle. What are you doing here? And why are you breaking into my office?" She lowered the gun and glared at Dog who was growling.

"I'm your new land lord. I'm your new landlord Miss P. and you...you my friend are six months behind on the rent."

"You're my new what?" She moved to the door holding it open indicating she wanted him out.

"I'm your new land lord see." He handed her a piece of paper. "It says right here..."

"I can read moron. And just how did you become my new land lord?" She hissed while looking over the paper.

"Quick deed Miss P. Quick deed. Old man Adams needed some cash flow so I gave him finical assistance in exchange for this." Argyle sat down in the chair behind Debbie's desk and put his feet up. Leaning over he took a piece of candy from the dish.

"Candy is for the clients Arygle and you, well you aren't a client." Holding out her hand Arygle surrendered the still wrapped piece of candy with the sad look of a child. "As for this..." She sighed. "It looks legit. I can pay you fifteen hundred now in cash and the rest at the end of the week."

She handed him the money with a sigh and added. "I want a receipt." Argyle's eyes were wide and for once he was speechless. "Receipt Argyle. Now!" She repeated snapping her fingers.

"Sure Miss P. Dog and me, we'll make you out a receipt. A receipt...uh do you want both me and Dog to sign it or just me?" He looked so confused. "Cause you know Dog is why we're Argyle and Company."

"Your signature will be just fine." She gave him a condescending smile. "Oh damnit Dog don't go in there." She followed Dog into the other room. Coming around Broots' desk the sight of Dog with his leg raised presented a unpleasant vision. Worse yet was the yellow rivulet that ran down the side of the desk and ended in a ever widening pool on the floor.

"Dog..." But her attention was drawn away from the puddle at her feet to a much larger problem.

"So tell me which one are you. Broots or Parker?" The strange voice asked. liding behind the door to stay out of sight Parker could see three men standing in front of Argyle."Which one? You come in here and ask me which one? Now I have to say to myself what kind of man asks a question like that?" Arygle asked.

"Well let's just say I have a very lucrative proposition for which ever one you are." The man speaking looked like Mr. Lyle from Broots' file. Dog brushed up against Parker's leg and tried to hide.

"Well why don't you tell me my friend what you need and I..." Argyle strutted his stuff. "I will see what I can do for you."

'Oh God! He thinks they're clients.' Parker thought and looked for her cell phone. But it was on the desk by Argyle. "Go help him Dog" She whispered. Dog ran into the other room baring his teeth. One of the men turned and started towards the room Parker was in. Quickly she climbed out of the window and stood on the narrow ledge.

It was hard to hear what was going on inside and she tried not to look down. The one time she did almost gave her away. A tow truck was slowly loading her car onto it's flat bed. Unable to do anything, she sadly watched it being towed away.

She could hear Lyle give orders to lock Argyle in the closet. They were about to leave when her cell phone rang. Lyle answered it but she couldn't hear what was said.

Once they were gone, she slowly crawled back in through the window. She could hear Argyle in the closet yelling for help. Standing by the door she asked. "Want out of there Argyle?"

"Miss P? I knew you were my friend! I knew you were my friend!"

Smiling she laid down the rules. "I'll let you and Dog out on two conditions. One you give me a receipt that says 'paid in full' and two you tell me what they wanted."

"Aw Miss P. that's not fair. That's not fair. They took the money you gave me. That bad man took my money." Arygle whined.

"No receipt, well then you'll just have to stay in there. And since this place needs a exterminator, I'll bet you have company." Argyle began to yelled incoherently.

CHAPTER FOUR

Lyle's voice had answered Parker's phone. Jarod froze and cancelled the call. Rushing to the ticket desk he inquired about the next flight back to LA. He never thought Broots and Parker would have caught the Centre's attention or find anything about his parents when he hired them. He just wanted to be near her. But the Centre would never allow it, he could see that now. He had just finished changing flight plans when the cell phone rang.

"Yes." Trying to control the fear as he answered.

"Jarod, Parker here. There were some people from the Centre looking for you. I believe one was a man named Mr. Lyle." Her voice sounded calm.

"Are you alright?" He asked. Hearing the concern in his voice she smiled.

"Yes. They didn't know I was here. But they're looking for you. And they know you hired us. They're gone but there's a man watching the building out front and another at the back. Also my car was towed." She held up well under pressure and he admired that.

"I had your car towed to be fixed. I'm sorry, I meant to leave you the BMW but..." What could he say? That being around her made him forget? "You need to get out of there. I'm on my way back to L.A. I should be there in two hours. Now Parker listen and do exactly what I tell you. If anything happens ..." The phone went dead.

CHAPTER FIVE

"Shh." Broots had taken the phone and held a finger to his lips. Nodding his head to the side he bent down and pointed under the desk. Following Broots' lead she could see a bug tucked neatly beneath. They were listening to everything that had been said. Slipping out into the hallway she whispered.

"Did they see you come in?"

"Who? The guy watching the building out front?" Parker nodded her head 'yes' to the question. Broots clenched his teeth and took a deep breath as he wondered what kind of trouble they were in. "Yeah, I'm sure he did but the question is does he know who I am? I saw Argyle run out of here like the devil was after him. What happened?" He asked softly as they made their way towards the dance studio.

"Argyle owns our building now and came for the rent. Dog went in your office. I was after Dog when Mr. Lyle and two goons came so I hid. They thought Argyle was one of us and locked him in the closet before leaving. They have a man out back too."

"Yeah I know, I saw him. What we need to do is get out of here. Remember plan B?" She nodded her head and smiled. They had pulled this off before while dodging bill collectors. It was simple, they waited until one of Lydia's dance classes was finished and walked out with the students and parents. No reason it shouldn't work this time.

* * * * *

Jarod raced through the crowd at LAX with visions of Parker being held hostage by Lyle. Checking his watch, it was one thirty, almost three hours since he last spoke with her. Reaching the BMW in the parking lot he dropped the key just as his phone rang. Bending down, he reached under the car to retrieve it while answering.

"Yes?"

"Jarod! I've been trying to reach you."

"Parker? Are you alright?" Straightening up, his head hit the side mirror of the car.

"Well, yes and no. We made it out of the building without being seen by Lyle's men. Broots went to pick up Debbie and we're meeting at LAX. Where are you?" She sounded concerned.

"Tell me where you're at Parker and I'll find you."

"Terminal three in front of Reno Air. Why?"

"I'll meet you there. Just stay put. Do you understand?" Hanging up, he tucked the key and cell phone into his pocket and walked rapidly back.

* * * * *

His eyes searched the area in front of Reno Air and spotted her pacing back and forth. Looking up she saw him and a look of relief spread it's way across her face. Meeting him half way, she began. "I'm...I was worried. I thought..."

"I know." He told her with a comforting smile. "Where's Mr. Broots?"

"Behind you." For the first time there fear on Broots' face. "Jarod what have you gotten us into? These people from the Centre... I went to pick Debbie up from school and this man without a thumb, Mr. Lyle was waiting outside. He threatened me. He said if I don't co-operate they'll hurt Debbie."

"Where's Debbie now?" A worried Parker glanced around the terminal.

"She's by the window watching the planes." He pointed to Debbie and a look of relief passed over Parker's face once more.

"Did either of you mention the Centre to anyone or tell someone you were working on my case?" Jarod asked.

"I asked a couple of old contacts about the Centre." Broots stated looking puzzled. "John Johnson in the FBI and Harold Brook of the CIA. Why?"

"I don't have time to explain but the three of you need to get out of here. Is there some place you can go?" Jarod asked.

"I have friends in Hollywood we can stay with." Parker volunteered.

"No, I want you further away than that." He said shaking his head.

"I've got a old school buddy who works for a computer firm in the San Francisco area. We could stay with him for a few days." Broots offered.

"That's better. Give me your keys Broots and take mine ." They exchanged keys. "There's a green BWM parked on the third level of terminal three parking garage. Don't stop at your house or office but go straight to your friend's. Understand? And Parker, I want you to call me once you're there."

"I'm not leaving Jarod." Parker stood with arms crossed and feet planted firmly. "I don't quit or run away."

"Parker, these people..." Broots began.

"No. You go and take Debbie, Broots. It's important that she's safe, I understand. But I'm staying."

"You don't know what you're getting into. Please, go with them." Jarod pleaded.

"No." Came her reply.

"Forget it Jarod. When Miss P. makes up her mind, nothing will change it." Debbie said wrapping her arms around Parker and giving her a hug.

Jarod sighed and resigned himself to the fact that Parker was staying. "Alright then, you two go. We'll stay in touch with you."

Watching them leave, he turned to her and said. "You really care about them don't you?"

"Yes. As I said before, Broots is like a brother to me. And Debbie," She smiled and waved back to her. "Well, she's a sweet kid."

CHAPTER SIX

Sitting in the passenger seat of Broots' car Jarod looked over as Parker shifted into fifth. He smiled, Debbie was right. Once she made up her mind you couldn't change it. She had insisted on driving and nothing he had said could stop her.

"Now what does he want?" She asked glancing in the rear view mirror.

"Who?" Jarod quizzed. Looking into the side mirror he could see a metalic blue Pontiac Bonneville following them.

"Argyle!" Came her angry answer. "That little weasel is always stealing our clients. Half the PI firms in this town would love to see him six feet under. But he shouldn't be too hard to lose." She quickly made several lane changes, weaving the Honda Civic in and out of the traffic on the LA freeway losing Argyle.

"Well, where to?" She asked as she left the freeway for the surface streets. A low rumble caught Jarod's attention and Parker blushed.

"Hungry?" Her head nodded in reply. "Me too. Let's stop there." He pointed to a fast food restaurant up ahead.

"The Sonic Burger? Thanks, I'm hungry but not that hungry. I'll pass on the cheap burgers and greasy fries." She stated as the car came to a stop at the red light.

"Let's go back to my hotel room and order room service." He smiled. "I need to contact someone."

"I have a better idea. Let's get a decent meal and go to my friend's place in Hollywood."

"I thought you trusted me, Parker?" He asked with a perplexed look in his eyes.

"I do but..." She laughed and didn't finish. "Like Italian food, Jarod?"

* * * * *

"No! No, don't do that Miss P. No! No! No!" Argyle's hand hit the steering wheel of his car. He watched Broots' beat up Honda weave in and out of traffic leaving him trapped behind a semi truck. "Aw nut!"

By the time he was able to pass the truck Parker had disappeared. He had to find her, she had his meal ticket, his brass ring so to speak. Mr Lyle had taken his fifteen hundred dollars but had promised Argyle that if he could deliver Jarod not only would he get it back but also a bonus of ten thousand. A small detail he had neglected to tell Miss P. Finding her on the freeway had seemed like a miracle. Now it was back to square one.

"Why weren't you watching, huh?" He asked Dog who was lying on the seat. "Why weren't you watching? Miss P. has our brass ring and you let her get away." Dog lifted his head to look at him and then laid back down.

"Now who's gonna be bring home the green, huh? Who's gonna be bring home the green?" His eyes searched the freeway ahead but no trace of the white Honda or Miss P. could be found.

Pulling out a cell phone he looked at Dog and said. "They say your man's best friend but what have you done for me huh?"

* * * * *

Jarod watched as the candle light flickered and played on her beautiful face. Seated across the table from him she was busy reading the menu, informing him which dish was what and scoring them on preference.

"I can't believe you've never had Italian food. What did you eat growing up?" Her eyes looked up from the menu and questioned his.

"Nutritional supplements. Nothing you would care for."

"And since you've been out of...the Centre, right? You've never tried spaghetti?"

"No, never." He hated lying to her but in a odd way he wanted to experience it with her as if it were new for the first time. She was patient and caring beneath that tough facade.

"Well, there's always a first time for everything. What would you like to try?" A smile that could melt the heart flashed across her face.

* * * * *

Argyle parked his car on the side street out of view from the restaurant's parking lot. Jumping out, he walked over to a heavy set man wearing black pants and vest, a white shirt and bow tie. "I owe you one Roberto. I owe you one man." He told the parking lot valet.

"Just give me the money Argyle. I don't care about favors from someone like you. Just don't tell Parker I called you, OK?" The man took a twenty from Argyle and nodded his head towards the Honda. "Car's parked over there." As Argyle walked towards the car Roberto called out. "Hey! How did you know she'd come here?"

"How did I know? How did I know?" Argyle turned back towards the valet. "I know 'cause she likes this place man. 'Cause she likes this place and this snazzy cat she's got with her can afford it. That's how I know man."

He turned and strode towards the car muttering to himself. "You ain't so smart Miss P. You ain't so smart. Now who'll be bring home the green, huh?" He slipped a electronic device under the body of the car.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Parker rang the buzzer once again. Looking at Jarod with a smile she leaned over and touched his check with her forefinger.

"Spaghetti sauce." She said in answer to his questioning look. They could hear movement on the other side of the door as someone unlocked it.

The door of the apartment opened and a tall slender woman eyed them suspiciously then said. "Well Parker, I see you finally found your way here."

"That's right Moe. Mind if we come in?" Parker shot back dead serious.

"Wouldn't have it any other way." Moe opened the door for them to enter. Suddenly the two women laughed and briefly hugged each other.

"So who's your friend?" Moe asked closing the door.

"This is Jarod, a client. And Jarod this is my best friend Moe."

"Are you related to the three stodges?" Jarod asked innocently and reached out to shake Moe's hand.

"No! Parker calls me Moe for short. The name is Robin Morris." She shook Jarod's hand briefly and shot Parker a quizzical look. "Would you two like something to eat or drink?" She offered.

"No thanks, we just ate." Parker answered.

"Client?" Moe whispered under her breath walking past Parker towards the kitchen.

"I'll explain later." Parker whispered back, then in a normal tone of voice said. "Well Jarod. Make yourself at home, I always do." She picked up a script from the coffee table. "So, I heard you got a part in a drama series for NBC."

"Minor character but at least it's work. And of course I still do the plays at the The Little Theatre. So how's the P.I. business or should I ask?" She looked at Jarod and then back at Parker with a sly smile.

* * * * *

Argyle sat in his car parked down the street from the apartment building Parker and Jarod had entered.

"You're ain't so smart. You're ain't so smart Miss P." He mumbled as Dog crawled over and laid his head in Argyle's lap.

CHAPTER EIGHT

"Still have a key to the place?" Moe asked Parker who shook her head. "Good, lock up when you leave. Just remember, you're more than welcome to stay as long as you like." Moe grabbed a large bag and headed for the door. "Well I've gotta run. Dance class you know."

Parker smiled and sadly answered back. "Yeah I remember."

"Hey Parker. Don't do anything I wouldn't do." Moe winked and nodded her head towards Jarod who was pacing while talking on his cell phone. Parker threw a sofa pillow which hit the door as Moe closed it behind her.

"That sounds good, Greg. Go ahead and set it up I'll meet you there in a hour." Jarod hung up his phone and looked at Parker seated on the small sofa reading a magazine.

"So what was that all about?" She asked without looking up.

"I have to go some place. I need to finish what I started here." He sat down next to her.

"Good. I need to get out and get some fresh air. So where are we going?" She asked laying the magazine down.

"I said me Parker, not us. It's to dangerous and I would never forgive myself if you got hurt."

"I don't understand." The hurt look on her face was quickly replaced with the tough exterior she often hid behind. Reaching over he gently stroked the back of her hand. How could he explain this to her? He had a hard time explaining it to himself now that he was out. No one believe his story about the Centre and why should they? It sounded to surreal, to much like fiction.

"Ever since I broke out of the Centre, I've been trying to make up for all the bad things that happened because of things I thought up." He began. "Things that were used in the wrong way. I don't expect you to understand. I don't even know how to explain it to you. I just know this is something I have to do and you're going to have to trust me."

"Trust you?" The voice was angry and her eyes narrowed. "You're asking me to trust you after what you've gotten us into? You came to us asking for help and the next thing we know some guy missing a thumb visits our office, bugs it and leaves two of his goons outside. These people who are looking for you, they're threatening to hurt Debbie. So now Broots and his daughter are half way to Frisco for what?" She stood up and placed her hands on her hips. "Just who the hell are you Jarod? And why should I trust you?"

He folded his hands in front of him and looked up at her. "Everything I've told you Parker is the truth. I never meant for the Centre to find out about you. If Broots hadn't dug into my past and asked the wrong people about the Centre, none of this would have happened."

"That's right, blame Broots." She was now on the defensive. "You walk into our office and ask us to believe your crazy story and not check it out? Get real. No one in their right mind would believe that line you fed us. And just how did you expect us to find your mother? Answer me that. We're PI's not magicians." The anger radiated off her face as she gestured with one hand.

"I have to go." Jarod stood up. "I'll be back in a couple of hours and then I'll prove to you I am telling the truth." Picking up the keys to Broots' car he walked to the door. "I promise I'll be back." But the anger was still there. Walking out the door he wondered if she would be when he came back.

* * * * *

Dog's barking woke Argyle up just in time to see Jarod drive away alone in Broots' car.

"Aw nuts, man! How come you want to leave like that huh?" He was pinned in by a delivery truck which had doubled parked. But where was Miss P.? Surely if she was still there Jarod would be back. He knew she was in the apartment building but which apartment?

A knock on his side window brought Argyle's attention back to the present. A young boy and girl both dressed in their school uniforms stood outside the car. Rolling down the window Argyle snapped. "Yeah and what do you brats want huh? What do you want?"

"Like to buy a candy bar? They're only one dollar and very good. You have a choice of plain chocolate, almond and..."

"Scram! Get out of here." The two children jumped back and started off down the sidewalk at a fast pace. Almost as quickly Argyle jumped out of the car and ran after them.

"Aw I'm sorry man, I'm sorry. It's just that my girlfriend...she and me...we had a fight. She makes me crazy man, crazy you know. She's in that building there, you see that building there?" He pointed to the apartment building and the children nodded their heads. Bending to squat down in front of the children Argyle continued. "Look, I'll give you ten bucks if you go in there huh? Just go in there and knock on all the doors so I can find her. She's a sucker for candy, she'll open the door for you. She'll open the door for you."

The boy eyed him then said. "Sure we'll do it but we want twenty."
"
Brat." Argyle replied standing up and pulling out his wallet. "Ok. Ok, twenty bucks. Come on Dog." He followed the children inside the apartment building with dog at his heels.

* * * * *

Pacing back and forth Parker cursed everyone and everything. How could life get so complicated? Not only was her acting career a shattered dream but she was broke, without a job and had some thumbless killer after her. On top of that the one guy she had to fall for was either a nut case or the best con artist she'd ever come across. This wasn't the way she had planned her life to be.

The buzzer caught her attention and going to the door she peered through the peep hole. Two children in their school uniforms stood outside with boxes of candy. Opening the door she smiled. "Yes and what do you two want?"

"We're selling candy for our school would you like to buy some and support our fund raising efforts?" The boy's speech had been carefully rehearsed and Parker laughed.

"Sure. Tell me, what are my choices?" She reached for her purse.

"Hey Miss P. So this is where you've been hanging out." Argyle pushed through the door kicking it shut behind him.

"You scum! How could you use those kids? Get out of here." Parker yelled and made her way towards the phone.

"Aw Miss P. you don't wanna to call the cops. You don't wanna call the cops." His hand reached out grabbing the phone. She kneed him in the groin and started for the door. As he buckled to the floor, he grabbed her ankle, tripping her. She fell and laid very still. Several minutes later, Argyle painfully stood up and kicked her side.

"Come on Miss P. get up." She didn't move. Leaning over, he grabbed one shoulder and rolled her onto her back. A small pool of blood had formed under her head.

"Oh no! Oh no, Miss P. you hit your head. You hit your head and you're bleeding. Don't die on me man. Don't you die on me." He moaned.

CHAPTER NINE

Just a few feet from his luxury hotel suite Jarod stood in front of the elevator and checked his reflection in the shiny doors. He carefully adjusted his tie and moved back as the doors opened and a couple emerged. Stepping on to the elevator and pushing the button for the ground floor, he thought about Parker.

She underestimated herself. She was a good actress. And that tough front she put up, it fooled most people but not him. He had seen through it and knew that beneath the cool exterior she was vulnerable. She was also good natured and kind.

Asking her to believe him took a lot of trust. He hoped she'd still be there when he got back. If all went as planned the conclussion of his pretend would be brief. Clutching the brief case, he exited and headed across the lobby.

* * * * *

Argyle leaned against the wall on the stairs and shifted Parker's weight once again. She wasn't dead, just knocked out. The scalp wound had bleed like a stuck pig but then that was expected for a head wound.

"Get out of the way. Get!" He yelled at Dog who kept running under his feet. "What'd you want me to do huh? Drop her again?"

Parker was heavier than he had expected and of all the rotten luck, the building had no elevators, only stairs. He made it to the bottom and shifted her in his arms once more before heading for the door. A elderly man stood at the door peering through thick glasses at his mail.

"Hey. Hey you! Mind opening the door, huh?" he man peered up from his mail to Arygle. "What's wrong, can't you hear, huh? Can't you hear? Don't you got a hearing aide or something Pops?" Arygle asked as he approached the door. The elderly man slowly opened the door for Argyle and looked suspiciously at him.

"She's drunk, passed out. That's what happens when you can't hold your booze. That's what happens when you can't hold your booze. Thanks Pops, I owe you one. I owe you one, Pops." He made it through the door and looked down at the short flight of steps to the side walk. "Aw nuts! Stairs. I hate stairs."

* * * * *

Everything had gone as planned. Jarod felt satisfied that the right man would now be going to prison. He reached out to knock on Moe's door, but it swung open as soon as his fist came into contact with it. The room was dark and his hand sought the light switch on the wall. The light flicked on and the sight that presented it's self was unexpected. Jarod entered the living room that had been the scene of a struggle. There was blood on the carpet and the wall by the door.

"Parker!" He called out but the walls echoed his voice back. Checking the other rooms, no one was there. Coming back to the living room a bloody note taped to the TV caught his attention. Ripping it off, it simply read in a childish scrawl, 'If you want Miss P. come to...' Jarod turned and dashed through the door.

CHAPTER TEN

Parker moaned. Her whole body ached, head pounded and her hands were restrained behind her back. The cold damp cement she laid on added to the misery and the stench of a abandoned building made her gag. Opening her eyes, it took a few minutes for them to adjust to the dim light. She could see a large room littered with refuge lit by light coming through the doorway. Voices floated in from outside. Argyle's was recognizable but not the others. One was that of a woman's.

Pushing herself up against the wall, the voices ceased. Her head ached as she tried to remember what had happened. She had lost all track of time. Then the dark form of a man blocked the doorway.

"Parker? Parker are you alright?" Jarod's voice asked as the man moved rapidly closer.

"Jarod?" Came a hoarse whisper. He was now at her side and his hand wipe the dried blood from her face. Suddenly over head lights snapped on and the room was brightly lite.

"Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in." It was the woman's voice. Jarod's hand stopped and his body stiffen. "Who would have thought that Sydney's little lab rat could have been trapped by a woman and a man with a dog."

"A dog?" Parker whispered. "Oh no, not Argyle."

"It's time to go home Jarod." A man's voice said. Two men grabbed Jarod, cuffed him and pushed him next to Parker. Lyle walked over, looked down at them and laughed.

For the first time Parker could see the woman's face. She was blond and stood next to Lyle sucking on a lollipop. The smile was sadistic and there was a evil gleam in her eyes.

"Brigitte and Mr. Lyle. How did you catch me?" Jarod asked.

"Hey! Hey you can't do this. We had a deal man. We had a deal." Two men came in dragging Argyle between them. "I delivered the man. I delivered my side of the deal." They tossed a hand cuffed Argyle down next to Jarod and Parker. "Hey! You said I'd get my fifteen hundred plus ten thousand if I could deliver this cat. You promised."

"Promised? I don't recall anything about a promise. Did we have a deal with this man?" Lyle asked.

"Not that I'm aware of." Brigitte answered twilling the sucker in her mouth.

"You went back on your word. You went back on your word." Argyle grumbled.

"Well, there's your answer Jarod. And shut up Argyle. What ever you get, you deserve. I can't believe you would stoop so low." Parker snarled.

Lyle bent down and reached out to stroke the side of her face. "A woman who's not afraid to speak her mind. I like that. Shame I'm going to have to kill you." Parker pulled back as he continued. "Too bad, you should have screened your clients better."

Straightening up he moved over to the door and they could hear his conversation with Brigitte.

"I say we kill them now. The Centre is only interested in getting Jarod back." Brigitte said.

"Let's wait until we get him in the car. For now they're useful. Jarod will be more co-operative if he knows we control their lives." Lyle answered.

"They're going to kill us aren't they?" Parker asked Jarod.

"You and Argyle, yes. That's the Centre. No loose ends." He looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry Parker. I never meant for this to happen."

"And you. What happens to you?" She turned to look at him.

"I go back to the Centre and they'll try to use me the way they did before. What are you doing?"
He watched as she struggled against the cuffs and a look of pain clouded her face.

"I'm not dying without a fight." She whispered. He could see she had dislocated her thumb and slipped the hand free of the cuff.

"Car's ready Mr. Lyle." A man stated as he walked into the room.

"Good. Now Jarod if you don't mind." Lyle and two men moved over and jerked Jarod up to his feet.

"What about them?" Jarod asked.

"What about them? They're no use to us now. Once we have you in the car they'll be set free." Lyle seemed to act as if everything was normal. "Now let's go."

"Jarod, wait." Parker struggled to her feet keeping her hands behind her. "I do get the chance to say good bye don't I?" She asked. Brigitte rolled her eyes and a look of exasperation crossed Lyle's face.

"Make it quick." He snapped.

Parker moved in close to Jarod and kissed him. Then leaning her face against his neck, she asked. "Got any ideas?"

"I guess now would be a good time." Came the answer. Turning around, his hands were free and he hit Lyle across the jaw. Bridgitte reacted but Parker lashed out with her right hand. Her hand missed but the loose hand cuff didn't. It hit Brigitte across the face stunning her. Parker's leg then came up kicking Brigitte in the stomach causing her to fall backwards knocking one of the men off his feet.

Parker's hand reached out and grabbed the gun the man had dropped. Argyle rolled across the floor knocking another one of Lyle's men down and Dog appeared out of nowhere to aid his master.

By the time she looked over at Jarod he had a gun trained on Lyle and two of his goons. "Now kick your guns over here." He ordered. They slowly complied with his demand. "Now if you would kindly move over there." Once again they did as they were told. "Parker, would you do the honor of handcuffing these people?" He asked.

"It would be my pleasure." She smiled.

Once everyone was handcuffed, Jarod and Parker started to leave. "What about me? I'm not one of them. What about me?" Argyle looked sadly up at Parker.

"Well I think we should leave you. After all, you did try to sell me." Jarod responded.

"We can't do that." Parker went over and uncuffed him. "Now get out of here and don't ever let me see you sneaking around again. Understand?"

"Thanks Miss P. I owe you one. I owe you one." Argyle was out and gone.

"So tell me Jarod, how did you get those cuffs off?" Parker asked as they left.

"Ever hear of a magician called Houndi?"

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Sitting in the plush chair in front of the desk in Jarod's hotel suite, Parker hugged the large terry cloth robe and smiled. She could smell him on it and it made her feel safe. Her hair was still damp from the long shower she had taken and the head wound no longer stung.

She could hear the water running in the shower and smiled. Leaning over she placed one of the shinny disks in the machine and watched the black and white pictures. He had said his whole life at the Centre was chronicled on these disks. He had pulled several of them and showed her how to use the DSA player as he called it before heading off to shower. What she saw was sickening. It disturbed her to think something like that had happened and no one had made an attempt to stop it. Even this man called Sydney didn't seem to care.

Pulling the robe around tightly and holding back tears, she watched one DSA after another. A tear escaped and slowly trickled down her check. She quickly wiped the errant tear away. She didn't want him to see her cry but a strong hand grasped her shoulder.

"It's alright." Jarod's voice said softly. Her hand slipped over his and her check rested against their hands.

"Didn't anyone try to stop them?" She asked in a choked voice.

"Yes. There was a woman named Catherine She tried. She tried to rescue us but they killed her." Came the sad reply as he leaned forward and turned the machine off. "I need you to understand that as much as I don't want to leave you Parker, you can't come with me. I can't risk having something like tonight happen again. Do you understand?" Both of his hands now rested on her shoulders and she leaned her head back against him.

"Yes." Came the whispered answer while pushing back the tears.

"Good. I have some clothes in that box for you. You need to get dressed." A box displaying the name of a major department store laid on the bed. It had come while she was in the shower. She stood up without looking at him, took the box and went into the other room to dress. When she came out a few minutes later, Jarod smiled. She turned slowly around modeling the short form fitting dress and heels.

"I take it you approve?" She asked slyly.

"Approve? Yes." He came up behind and encircled her waist with his arms. Peering over her shoulder into the mirror, he softly said. "Smile."

"Smile? Why? What are you doing?" She rested her arms on top of his.

"I'm taking a mental picture of the two of us. This way I'll always remember how beautiful you look. I can never lose it and no one can take it away. It'll always be locked inside and I can look at it anytime I want." Parker smiled back at him. "We have to go." He said after a few minutes. "I'm sending you to stay with Broots. I'll fill you in on the way to the airport."

CHAPTER TWELVE

The drive to LAX was short. Jarod said inside the purse were new identities for herself, Broots and Debbie.

"There's check books and credit cards for both of you. A monthly sum will be deposited in each account. The balance on the credit cards will be paid off each month. There is a new cell phone for you Parker. It has my number already programmed in but call only if you need me." Everything sounded so matter of fact, like it was the normal way of doing things.

"I don't understand. Who's paying for all this? How did you pull it together so fast?" She asked opening the purse.

"Experience, it's a great teacher. The money comes from the Centre, it's routed so no one will know where it goes. They're the ones who are responsible for you and Broots having to start over. Why not have them pay for it?" His face was lit only from the headlights of passing cars as they pulled into the parking structure of LAX. "Your flight leaves for San Francisco in forty minutes. There's just enough time to pick up your ticket and board the plane. Broots will met you at the airport."

They parked and existed the car. The walk was quiet and she reached out to take his hand. He squeezed it as they approached the counter and picked up her ticket.

As they walked to the terminal, Jarod said. "You underestimate yourself Parker. You are a good actress. Some one once told me to follow my heart. You should take that advice too."

"And you?" She asked. "What about you Jarod? Where will you go? What will you do?"
"Nevada or Arizona maybe." He smiled faintly. "I think I'll be a teacher. Sydney said there's no profession more noble than teaching. Maybe it's time to give it a try."

Parker laughed. "Yes, I can picture you with a group of kids. You'll probably be playing with finger paints and play dough along with them." They were at the terminal now and the flight was boarding. "Will I see you again?"

"I hope so. But for now it's better if I'm far away from you. I'll call." He pulled her close and whispered. "Good bye Parker." Then kissed her gently on the lips, holding her tightly.

"Good bye Jarod." She pulled away and quickly without looking back boarded the plane. Once in her seat, the tears fell freely.

THE END

"God, that was bad. What have you been taking lately?." Miss Parker snarled and threw the book into the trash can where it sank into a sea of used tissues. "What the hell was the meaning of that cheesy novel?" Lying back against the pillows and closing her eyes. Damn him! Why did he have to be so cryptic all the time. Did he really think that by making her a character in his cheap novel she would feel empathy for him? Her thoughts roamed back to the night in his room in Virginia Beach. That look on his face when the towel around his waist slipped, it was...

"What are your conclusions about the book Miss Parker?" Opening her eyes she could see Sydney sitting at the foot of the bed.

"Syd? How did you get in here?" She asked.

"That's not important. I want to know your conclusions about the book Jarod sent you."

"Nothing. He just wants to annoy me." She sat up. "How did you know about the book Syd?"

"Jarod never does anything without a purpose. What was he trying to tell you?" Sydney insisted. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a movement. Turning to look she saw a woman bent over the trash can delicately fishing the book out of the sea of tissues.

"Who are you?" Miss Parker demanded. As the woman straighten up she gasped. She look just like her and was dressed in worn jeans and a sweater, exactly as she had picture the character Parker from Jarod's book.

"My friends call me Parker. I guess you can too." She said gently wiping off the book.

"Great! I must really be sick. Now I'm talking to myself." She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. Opening them she could see Jarod lurking in the shadows. "Well, what do you want?" But he only stared back without answering.

"We need to focus Miss Parker. What was Jarod trying to tell you?" Sydney was persistent as ever.

"Nothing! Jarod only wants to torment me like he always does." She snapped back.

"I don't think so. Let's start with Broots." Parker said. "How do you feel about him?"

"Broots? He's a idiot who'd wet his pants at the slightest hint of trouble."

"Really? Is that why you told Lyle Broots was more of a brother to you than he was?" Parker shook her head.

"You've put yourself on the line for him a number of times. I think you care more about him than you let on."

"Okay, I'll admit I've gotten use to the geek. Maybe I do feel closer to Broots than I do to Lyle. So what?"

"Have you thought about what life would have been like Miss Parker if you hadn't grown up in the Centre? If your father hadn't influenced and controlled everything you did?" Jarod spoke for the first time.

She had often thought about what life would have been like had things been different. There was also a time when she had wondered if there could have been anything between her and Jarod. But she didn't have that option, never would and the thoughts had been suppressed, buried somewhere in the depths of her mind. The book had summoned them out of hiding and like elusive ghosts they nagged her.

"There is no easy answer is there?" Jarod said.

"No, there isn't." She admitted. If she had been the Parker in his book, she would have sided with him against the Centre. She could feel his pain leaving behind the people he had helped and come to know. And she could feel the fear and exhaustion of constantly running. But life wasn't different, she didn't have that option. It was her job to find him and bring him back. If she could change that...

The phone rang and her hand reached out hitting the hard plastic. Opening her eyes the vision melted away and the room was empty. "What?"

"Did you read the book?"

"I glanced through it. Why the cheap drug store novel Jarod?" There was silence at the other end of the phone. "Well?"

A deep sigh was heard. "You'll figure it out."

Damn! He hung up again. Placing the phone down the elusive thoughts came out from hiding. She did care about Broots and his daughter. Jarod was right, things could have been very different without the influence of the Centre and her father. And yes, things might have been different between them. She pushed her hair back with one hand and looked at the book lying on the bed.

"Maybe I have figured it out Jarod."

THE END...? well maybe and then again maybe not. Another writer may pick up where I left off ! So if you enjoyed this let me know.











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