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Disclaimer: Pretender characters are property of MTM, TNT, NBC, WB, Steve, Craig and all the others.

My Contrite Arcanum

‘What did she say?’

She was pinned against the wall, two strong hands holding her wrists, demanding with both his voice and his physical presence, something of her she did not want to give.

‘What did she say?’

Lie, the little voice whispered.




Lie, the little voice whispered. Lie, for his sake.

‘She said to tell you that she loves you.’


+ + +

“Miss Parker, this just arrived for you.”

She took the package and closed the door in his face, his signal to leave, which he did so gladly, and not without shaky knees.

“What is it?”

She glared but said nothing as she dug her nail -unpainted- under the seal. She dropped the envelope on the desk and pretended not to notice as Sydney reached over and hid it in his lap.

It was blank, which was why she let him have it, with the exception of her name printed in black ink.

“Hand delivered,” he stated, noting the lack of an address, not that they had one available to the general public. She read it facing him, so he couldn’t see over her shoulder.

“What does it say?” he inquired, as innocently as possible and when she didn’t answer, the burning question, “Is it from Jarod.”

“No,” she lied, unsure.

He raised an eyebrow but she said nothing and snatched the white envelope from his hands, tucking the letter within and slipping them into her inside jacket pocket.

Some answers are found in love lies.

She pushed it from her mind for the rest of the day.

+ + +

‘She said to tell you that she loves you… always has. That she’s never… never given up...”

+ + +

“How could you do this to him? How?”

“I do what I can to survive… to keep my family alive.”

“He’s family.”

“No.” She shook her head sadly. “He stopped being family years ago.”

She’d never understood what made Jarod so angry at the betrayers of the world, at the people who made their life about other people’s pain. She’d lived her life as one of them, and one of their victims, saw both sides and cared for neither, but accepted her decisions.

But, as she stood with bottled rage, she realized his reasons, his desire to protect and serve.

Now what she couldn’t understand, was his reason for searching.

“He will never forgive you if he finds out.”

“He won’t. He’ll always believe…” she stopped, because the lie was too much for her.

Miss Parker scoffed and flexed her fingers several times, clenching them until the skin was blue with curved-line bruises.

“One lie after another, is that it?” She moved closer to the small woman, letting her hatred burn in her eyes. “Is it a game?” she asked angrily. “Let’s see how many lies you can tell in one lifetime. Let’s see how many he can take before he snaps.”


“Let’s see how many you can tell before you break him.”

+ + +

‘That she’s never given up…searching. That you are her life…’

+ + +

“Broots, I want you to run a background check on this,” she said, thrusting the envelope into his hands. “See if you can find out where it came from.”

“Ok… what is it?”

“As soon as possible.”

She failed in her attempts to forget it.

+ + +

“Daughter… confused.” Angelo turned his lips up but it wasn’t a smile; he was incapable.

She turned slowly and eyed him carefully. He was sitting in a corner, crouched in what looked like a rather uncomfortable position, one that she had no doubt he’d been in for several hours.

“Confused…” he repeated. “Confused.”

“Miss Parker?” Sydney looked at her curiously, and as badly as she wanted to ask the savant for help, she refused to do so in Sydney’s presence.

He was the master of loving lies.

“Nothing, Freud,” she said brusquely, wiping the emotion from her face. “Donald’s just quacking an old tune.”

Angelo blinked and shook his head like a child, still with the grin that wasn’t really a grin, as if basking in an endearment.

She rolled her eyes and left, catching but just barely Angelo’s whispered mantra.

+ + +

She opened the car door after several deep breaths and strode determinedly into the small building. She ignored the receptionist who told her she couldn’t go in there because there was a meeting.

She barely heard the button being pressed for security as she flung open the glass doors, revealing three men- two standing, one sitting in a plush leather chair, two black, one white and one woman, crossed legged in a chair behind the desk.

All four heads turned as the doorknob smashed the wall.

The men exchanged intrigued and slightly amused glances and the woman gasped.


Her eyes trailed down the 9mm clutched tightly in Miss Parker’s fingers.

“You’ll wish.”

+ + +

“What have you got?”

“Nothing,” he apologized, then quickly covered with, “I mean, there’s just nothing- no hair fibers, no specific glue or adhesives, no-no fingerprints… nothing!”

She nodded slowly and took the envelope back from him, flipping it over several times.

“Miss Parker,” he asked, responding to her distracted gaze. “What is this about?”

“Lies, Broots. It’s just another lie.”

+ + +

‘That you are her life…and that she wants you back more than anything.’

He pulled away suddenly in attempt to conceal the shudder that passed down his spine. Miss Parker stiffened, and rubbed her wrists discreetly. Jarod caught the motion and flinched.

‘I’m sorry,’ he offered.

+ + +

“Aah, Miss Parker. I was hoping you’d be joining us today.”

Several large men appeared at the door, guns poised to shoot the next movement. The black man with thin frames around his eyes shook his head. “We’re fine, gentlemen. No worries.”

They looked from the occupants of the room to Miss Parker, who never turned or removed her eyes from the woman behind the desk.

They said nothing, but backed from the room and closed the door behind them.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

The man who spoke smiled and looked up from the drink he was fixing for her. “We’re the Powers.”

He offered her the glass but she merely glared, tight-lipped. He shrugged, and took a sip himself.

“I suppose you have questions.”

“You have answers.”

He smiled again, arrogantly. “All of them.”

+ + +

“Angelo! Angelo!” she called in a harsh whisper. “Angelo, where the hell-”

He poked his head out of the vent a few feet in front of her, causing her to gasp and step back. He smirked.

“Angelo, I need you to empath this for me,” she said, handing him the envelope and letter.

“Confusion,” he said slowly, fingering the paper. He removed the single sheet inside and gripped it tightly, crinkling the smooth white. “Lies,” he hissed. “Secrets and lies… over and over more lies. Lies, lies, lies.”

“I know they’re lies, Angelo. What lies?”


He glared, but she could tell his anger and frustration was not directed at her.

“Their lies.”

“Who’s lies?”


She sighed. “Who is ‘them’, Angelo?”

“Them,” he repeated.

She huffed and ran a hand through her hair. “This was a waste of time,” she muttered, attempting to take the paper back from him.

“Love!” he cried suddenly, and when he looked up at her, he was crying. “Love hurts,” he said brokenly. She nodded slowly, remembering just how much. “Love… love lies.”

“What love?”

“Love lies,” he murmured.

She tried again. “Angelo, whose love?”


She gasped sharply and asked, very slowly, “My mom’s, Angelo?”

But he shook his head, and she was relieved. “Mom’s,” he said again, and repeated it several times, rocking back and forth. His grip had become loose enough that she could gently take the letter from him, now torn in places and distressed.

His voice echoed after her down the hall, his mantra: “Geese walk barefoot, cree craw toads foot.”

+ + +

She slammed the picture down on the desk, causing his coffee to jump. “Everything you can find, as quickly as possible, as quietly as possible.”


“Tell no one. Not Lyle, not Sydney- especially Sydney, not Many or Buzzy or any of your other dysfunctional friends.”

He gulped. “What is it?”

“Quietly, Broots,” she reiterated, and was gone. Waiting until the sound of stilettos had disappeared, he hesitantly opened the file; the face he was greeted with made him gasp.

+ + +

‘I’m sorry,’ he offered.

He never meant to hurt her, and that was the truth.

‘How… how did she look? Was she ok?’

Miss Parker hesitated. ‘She was fine, Jarod,’ she said, and felt like crying. ‘Just fine.’

+ + +

“Why?” she demanded. “Why now, why after all these years, why do this to him now?”

The woman sighed. “Because it’s been on too long.”


“The game, the chase.” She sighed heavily and lowered herself into the chair again. “I’m old, Miss Parker. And I cannot run anymore.”

“And that gives you justice?”

“No… nothing justifies the bargain I made.”

“You’re damn straight.” She paused, and thought of the blow that would hurt the most. “My mother would hate you for this.”

She blinked away tears. “Yes, I imagine she would. The children were always her first priority.”

“Your child.”

“Yes,” she said wistfully. “My child.”

+ + +

“I imagine there’s several things you want to know,” the white man started slowly.

“Did you send me that letter?”

“No,” the second black man said. “Angelo sent that.”

“Angelo?” she suppressed her surprise.

“Ingenious little savant, isn’t he? He knew that you’d eventually ask him for help in deciphering its meaning, and then he’d be able to communicate what he wouldn’t otherwise.”

“We underestimated him,” the white man said.

“And you as well, as it seems,” the first black man offered, with a tip of the scotch glass.

“Three days, isn’t a long time to figure out where the Powers reside.”

“I’m resourceful,” she bit out.

“You’re referring to Mr. Broots, your talented technician.”

“Talented isn’t the word I’d use.”

The second man laughed. “No worries, Miss Parker; he isn’t in any danger. We know the ramifications of removing yet another life from yours. Besides, it would be a shame for that child to grow up parentless.”

His voice was tinged with sarcasm and amusement, and against her will her eyes smoldered hatefully.

“Well,” the first man said. “We’ll assume you two have much to discuss, and I think it’s about time we take our leave, don’t you, gentlemen?”

They nodded, and the white man rose, leaving his papers spread on the table. The third man, tumbler still in hand, said smoothly,

“I hope you find the answer’s you’re searching for.”

But she could tell it was a lie.

+ + +

‘She was fine, Jarod,’ she said, and felt like crying. ‘Just fine.’

‘What… what else did she say?’

‘She gave me a letter, to give to you; I lost it,’
she explained at his hopefully, confused then crestfallen expression. ‘I’m sorry.’

+ + +

She fingered the envelope in her hands, turning it over and over again, tracing the letters of his name with her fingers. She stared back and forth from it to the fire, tempted, but not brave enough.

She couldn’t give it to him.

After everything, she just couldn’t bring herself to give it to him. A lie was one thing, an elaboration on a lie wholly another, because an elaboration on a lie would turn one lie into two, two into four, four into eight, and even she wasn’t that much of a liar.

She’d been expecting him all night, but was still surprised when his hands caught her arms and shoved her forcefully up against the wall.

“Where is she? What did you do to her?”


“Where. Is. My. Mother?”

+ + +

“You’re not gonna believe this,” he whispered.

“You say that every time.”

“No, but you’re really not going to be believe this. There are actually four Triumvirate members, three men- two African’s, one European, and one woman, and they’re based in a small section in Germany-”

“I thought they were in Africa?”

“So did I, but I did some checking, and apparently that’s just a cover. Each branch of the Centre has a different Triumvirate, are told about a different Triumvirate, all based somewhere else, each with three substitutes for each.”


“Exactly! I, I don’t even know how I figured it out, but the real Triumvirate is in Germany. Here.” He handed her several sheets of paper she scanned over swiftly.

“The Powers That Be,” she murmured. “And Margaret?”

Broots shifted, and said nothing, causing her to raise her eyes expectantly. “She, uh… she’s, well…” He handed her another stack of papers. “She’s the fourth member.”

+ + +

“I’ve always thought my family was the worst,” she started slowly, circling the room. “The lies, the anger, the betrayal… I always thought Jarod was lucky, because he knew that, regardless, he had a family out there who loved him and would never give up on him.” She stopped in the farthest corner, almost even with Margaret’s desk. “I was wrong.”

“Miss Parker,” she began.

“Save it.” She leveled the firearm.

“You won’t shoot me.”

“No. But only because it would hurt him too much.”

“You care.”

“I understand. I sympathize. I pity him.”

“But you also care.”

“So do you.”

+ + +

“Let go of me.”

“Not until you answer my question,” he ground out, tightening his grasp on her wrists.

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t know?”

“She disappeared soon after I left; I have no idea where she went.”

His eyes were black with anger. “What did you to do her?”

“Nothing, Jarod. I didn’t hurt one pretty hair on Mommy’s head.”

He retaliated at her sarcasm by squeezing tighter.

“Jarod, you’re hurting me,” she said calmly.

“What did she say?”


‘What did she say?’

+ + +

“Miss Parker?”

“You wouldn’t have found this if they didn’t want you too.”


“They want me to go.”

“But… But it’s- it’s dangerous! You- they could-”

“They could have all the answers.”

“Miss Parker…”

“Listen, Broots. Don’t tell anyone about this. Burn it. Bury it. Whatever. Do not tell Sydney and, whatever you do, Broots… do not tell Jarod.”

She handed him back the information.


“Because. It will break him.”

+ + +

“You made a deal with the devil, Mrs. Charles. You traded your survival -not even your life or freedom, just your survival- for your son. For his life, and his freedom, and his happiness. You condemn him.”

“I want what’s best for my family. They’re offering asylum for my husband, and Emily and Ethan. Even Gemini.”

Miss Parker laughed. “Asylum.” The irony was not lost on her. “You trust them?”

asylum = refuge

“I have too. It’s my only choice.”

“What’s the bargain?”

“I help them return Jarod to the Centre, they let the rest of my family go.”

“And you’re stuck as the fourth member of hell.”

“It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.”

Her eyes darkened. “Jarod is your sacrifice.”

“You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t think about it every day?”

“I really don’t care. I think about my mother’s death and Tommy’s death and what I do but it doesn’t matter. Thinking about it? Doesn’t do a damn thing.”

“You’re going to tell him, aren’t you?’

“No. I’m cruel, Mrs. Charles, but to tell your son that his mother doesn’t love him anymore is even beyond me.”

“I love my son more than anything, Miss Parker,” she said sharply.


Silence teetered but fell to neither.

Rising, Margaret moved stiffly to a large cabinet in the corner, and withdrew a thick, white envelope with Jarod’s name printed neatly on it. “I have no right to ask, but will you give this to my son?”

“His death certificate?” she asked sardonically. “No.”

“Please,” she begged, and something in her eyes made her take the package.

“Thank you, Miss Parker.”

“Don’t thank me,” she said harshly.

“If there was any other way…”

“I have no empathy for you.”

Reaching in her pocket, she withdrew a photograph and dropped it on her desk. “Have a beautiful day, Mrs. Charles.”

Margaret exhaled slowly and walked back to the desk, hesitantly picking up the photo. It was of Jarod, from a surveillance camera no doubt at a young age, staring up at his copy of the Empire State Building.

Clutching the picture to her chest, Margaret started to cry.

+ + +

‘She gave me a letter, to give to you; I lost it,’ she explained at his hopefully, confused then crestfallen expression. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Do you know... do you know what it said?’

she shook her head and sighed, resigned. ‘It’s on the couch.’

He looked surprised, but too curious to stay and wonder why she’d lied. He found it quickly and, movements suddenly slow and very carefully, as not to damage a single part of it, opened the seal.

He read the letter there, sitting on her couch, the fire she’d contemplated tossing it into earlier dying steadily.

‘To Jarod, with love…’ he read aloud. ‘She… she wants to meet,’ he said breathlessly. ‘She… she knows a place… we’d be safe there.’ He looked up at her with so much joy and excitement. ‘I’m going to meet my mother.’

She turned away, pressing a hand to her mouth.

It’s a trap, the little voice said.




Trap, the little voice said. Tell him it’s a trap.

He was behind her moments later, sensing something. ‘Miss Parker?’

She took a shaky breath.

‘Miss Parker, are you alright?’


‘What is it?’

‘I can’t let you go,’
she whispered. ‘I’m sorry, Jarod.’ And when she turned, her gun was pressed into his chest and when she met his eyes, they both glinted with tears.

‘I can’t let you go.’

+ + +

Sydney berated her for months. His mother, Miss Parker! he kept reminding her. She offered no explanation.

Every so often she would catch the pretender’s eyes in the hallway and he would simply stare at her, so emotionless that it broke her heart. He was telling her, silently, that he didn’t know who she was anymore.

“Why did you do it, Miss Parker?” Broots asked, only once, because he was the only one who knew the whole story.

“Because, while he may not be my favourite person in the world, he’s been through too much. Because I’d rather him hate me than kill his last…hope of ever having a normal life, ever having someone who will unconditionally care for him. He… he doesn’t need or deserve this kind of betrayal.”

Broots looked at her expectantly over the silence that fell, because he knew her well enough to know there was one more reason. “Because…” she started slowly, “because despite it all, I’ve never wanted to see him broken.”

+ + +


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