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Disclaimer : The Pretender and all character associated with it belongs to NBC and 20th Century Fox. I'm not making any money out of this and no infringement is intended.

Virginia is for Lovers ?

paula h

Miss Parker threw herself backward onto the supersize bed, in her dark suit. She lay with her eyes, like the drapes across the balcony door, shut tight. Another wasted day: another tip two days too late.

Virginia Beach was not crowded in late September. It should have been easy to find a man, a particular man, in the sparsely populated resort area. Outside, the setting sun caste a long shadow of the hotel on the placid ocean. A few brave souls were swimming in the unseasonably warm water. The desk clerk had effused about tourist attractions, the room, and the view. If someone put a gun to her head she could not tell them what the place looked like. Not only could she care less, but she had a headache that would fell an elephant.

Miss Parker's headache had Jarod's name all over it. She growled, and sat up. All she was going to take home from this "vacation" was another failure and another red notebook. She switched on the lamp, then bent over to pick up the notebook from the floor where she had thrown it. Time to read the story of Jarod's latest adventure.

Half an hour later:

"Nice job, Jarod," Parker said to the red notebook as she closed it and laid it on the bedside table. "Wish you were here so I could congratulate you in person."

She stood and the headache came back with a vengeance. She thought (hoped) her head would fall off. She went to her suitcase for pain medication. The bottle was empty. It bounced off the wall above the wastebasket and rolled across the floor; Parker kicked it. She picked up the house phone and called the main desk. The hotel's shop was closed for remodeling, but there were several stores within a few blocks.

Parker slammed the receiver. She started to pick it back up to call the sweepers, then she remembered she had given them the night off. At the time she had not wanted to see them or anyone else. She grabbed the car keys and stomped out the door.

The elevator doors opened on the main lobby, directly across from the closed gift shop. Parker went out the front door and straight to her convertible. It was a warm, humid night, in a resort town, and the salt air smelled wonderful. She hit a button and the top folded neatly. She drove a couple of blocks, passing several open stores, but the air felt so good that she kept on driving. She drove along the beach and around the bay.

As she crossed the bridge into Norfolk, the skies opened up and rain poured down. Terrific. She hit the button to raise the top, and nothing happened. She hit it again, still nothing. She took the next off-ramp. Not many people were on the street and many of the houses looked vacant. It was not the best section of town. Parker searched for a well lit parking spot; the rain intensified.

Parker pulled in at a convenience store. Water sloshed off her lap when she jumped out of the car. A couple of teenage boys giggled at the sight. The look she gave them dried up their laughter. The soft-top was caught under the lip of its storage slot. Parker bullied it loose and it went right up. "Stupid car!" she railed. She kicked the tire, slammed the door shut and went into the store. Her head hurt, she was soaking wet, and the pimply clerk was grinning. If she didn't get out of here fast she might just wipe that grin off his face, literally. She grabbed a bottle of Tylenol and a bottle of cola to wash the pills down.

Miss Parker easily intimidated the clerk. That made her smile for the first time this whole, disastrous day. She went back to her car. The interior was as wet as the outside. She took four pills, chugged the soda, then leaned back in the seat and stared at the fogged windshield. She cracked the window to let out the moisture. It did little good. She started the car and turned on the defroster. She heard a heavy motor on the street behind her car, and used the sleeve of her suit to wipe a side window.

A bus was stopping at the corner near the convenience store. The door opened and a tall man in a black raincoat exited. He looks like Jarod, she thought. The man went into the store. The car windows were clearing. Parker put the car into reverse. She glanced into the store. The customer smiled at the clerk. That smile! Jarod!

She shoved the gearshift into park. Her hand was on the door handle, when she reconsidered. The store had another door at the far corner. If she used the direct approach (through the door with gun drawn) Jarod would bolt and either she would loose him or shoot him. The clerk had gotten a good look at her, so had the laughing-boys from outside. It might be difficult to explain either choice. Perhaps subtlety was called for.

The clerk seemed to know him so Jarod had to be staying nearby. He walked out the opposite door. Parker turned off the ignition. She slipped out of the car and locked it. The key went into her pocket; her gun went into her hand.

Jarod walked straight down the street. Parker could see the bay in the near distance. He seemed so secure, not looking from side to side or behind him. Overconfidence cometh before the fall.

The rain let up and the temperature dropped. Jarod went in the front door of a rooming house on the bay. It was left over from the time when this was a vacation destination; old but clean and well kept. Parker went around the side. Being soaked to the skin in a dark, cluttered alley did not improve her mood.

A light went on in a third floor room toward the back of the building. "Welcome home, Honey." Parker smiled grimly. She waited at the bottom of the fire escape to be sure he settled in. She backed into a deeper shadow while he cracked open a window and set out a dish of food. A few seconds later a slender cat jumped from the building's fire escape to the windowsill and began eating from the bowl. Jarod spoke to the animal but Parker could not make out what he said. The cat responded and allowed itself to be stroked. Jarod left it to eat in peace.

The fire escape had steps all the way to the ground. Parker took her time, pausing frequently, to make sure none of the steps alerted Jarod. When she reached the third floor the cat was just finishing its meal. It hissed at her, then jumped off the ledge, hissing again. "Sorry, Kitty, he's my meal ticket now."

Parker did not see Jarod but she could hear the shower. She put her gun on the windowsill, carefully lifted the window, then retrieved the gun. Parker considered disrupting the shower and decided against it. She moved to a corner out of direct view from the bathroom door or the mirror. There was a table under the mirror. The DSA case was between the table and the bed. Things were definitely looking up.

The shower stopped. The shower curtain rattled back. Parker heard movement and the doorknob turned. Jarod exited the bathroom. He was vigorously drying his hair with a hand towel, a larger towel was wrapped around his waist. He went toward the clothes he had laid out on the bed.

"Stop right where you are, Jarod." Parker moved out of the corner, gun pointed at his back. Jarod stopped, both hands still on the towel around his neck. He looked mildly shocked. In fact, he was, and for the moment could think of nothing to say.

"Cat got your tongue for a change?" Parker pulled handcuffs out of her pocket. "Drop the towel and put your hands behind your back." He did not move. "Hands! Jarod." Still no movement. "Left hand." She prodded his shoulder with the cold gun. He shuddered, released the towel and raised his left hand slightly. Parker snapped a cuff around his wrist and jerked it down and back. Jarod grunted.

"Other hand." No movement. Parker holstered her gun while she hooked one foot around his ankle. She held his left wrist and grabbed his right. As Parker twisted his hand down to the handcuffs, Jarod twisted around. Parker managed to snap the cuff and knocked Jarod off his feet. He took her down with him. Jarod landed in a sitting position, but Parker knocked him backward as she fell on him.

Parker landed on her hands and knees, straddling Jarod. Then she saw his hands come around from behind his back. He had the handcuffs off and in his hand. "Houdini," he said, with that got'cha grin.

Parker started to reach for her gun. Jarod grabbed her wrist. Parker pulled away, rolling. He rolled with her. She tried to get a leg between his; no success. The fight was brief. It ended with her on her back, and Jarod on top of her holding her bent arms just above her head.

"So, Miss Parker. Did you forget I studied Houdini?" Still that irritating grin.

"I thought you needed some practice," she lied. She knew he had studied the escape artist but it had slipped her mind for the moment. She mentally kicked herself.

"It's nice to see you," Jarod continued. "Were you enjoying the rain?"

Parker knew she was wetter than Jarod. She mumbled a profanity in response.

Jarod made a shocked face. "Why, Miss Parker, such language! And coming in without knocking. Where are your manners?" He smiled again, "It's a good thing I'm not easily offended." He snapped the handcuffs on her wrists and released her hands. He pushed himself off her. "Where are my manners? What brings you here this evening? Something I can do for you?" he laughed.

Parker was seething. God, she wanted to kick him. She looked Jarod up and down. She slipped her shoes off as she brought her knees up against his hips. The look of surprise on his face was gratifying. She moved her legs slightly. "Nice towel," in her best seductive voice. She half-closed her eyes, smiled enticingly, and pushed at the towel with her knees.

Jarod turned bright red. He shoved himself up and back onto his heels; hanging onto the loosened towel. Parker snapped her legs together and brought them up at his head. He dodged. In a second he was on his feet.

Parker used the momentum of the kick to roll onto her knees. She tried to get to her feet. Could not. Struggled for balance and managed to stay on her knees. She berated herself and did not dare look at Jarod. She kept her eyes on the far wall.

Jarod scolded, "Tsk, tsk. Sending mixed messages." He shook his head. "I think you'll have to go sit in the corner." He helped Parker to her feet. She stared daggers at him. He just smiled and nudged her to a corner near a cast iron radiator.

"Do you have a key for those cuffs?"

"Why don't you search me?"

Jarod murmured, "As you wish," and did as she suggested. Parker was surprised, she considered resisting, thought about other options, then chose to stand stiffly still. Jarod took her gun and keys. Among them was the key to the handcuffs.

"Can you sit down by yourself or do you need help?"

Parker folded herself neatly into a sitting position. Jarod released one of her hands, then secured both behind her back, to the radiator pipe. Parker knew he was ready for her to struggle; she did not. She shivered. Jarod looked at her oddly. She shivered again.

Jarod looked confused, or concerned. "Are you all right?"

"I'm just fine," Parker snapped. Bur her teeth chattered and she shivered again.

"Oh! You're cold!" he seemed relieved. Jarod got up and went into the bathroom.

He returned with a large towel which he placed around her shoulders. He lifted her hair from under the towel, rather self-consciously, and cleared his throat. "That should be a little better."

"What did you think was wrong?" she grumbled. She was not about to thank him.

"I wasn't sure. I thought you might be injured." He turned away and walked to the bed.

Parker knew he was lying and wondered what he really thought. Then light dawned. He thought she had shivered because he was touching her. She almost laughed aloud; a snicker slipped out. Jarod looked at her. Oh, Jarod, I wish I'd figured it out a few seconds earlier. Parker jerked the handcuffs. Dunce! She should have noticed how uncomfortable she had made him. With a little work she could have talked herself out of these handcuffs.

Jarod returned with the blanket from the foot of the bed. He covered her legs. "If you promise not to scream, I won't gag you."


"Fine, what?"

"Fine, Jarod."

"Fine, Jarod, what?"

"Fine! Jarod! I won't scream!" (Damn it.)

He smiled, "Good. I'll be right out." Jarod snatched his clothes off the bed and went into the bathroom.

Parker considered screaming despite her promise. She doubted it would do any good. Jarod could grab his bags and be out of here before help arrived. She wished she had read about Houdini, so she could get out of these cuffs.

Jarod walked out of the bathroom, dressed. "I'm not quite sure what to do with you," he said.

"I can make suggestions," she tried to sound suggestive, but knew he was not buying.

Jarod laughed silently, "Sorry, but I think any of your suggestions would end with me back at The Centre." He picked up her car keys. "Where are we parked?"

Parker tightened her lips stubbornly.

"That's alright, I can find it. There aren't many luxury cars in this neighborhood, and it has to be somewhere between here and the bus stop." He picked up her motel room pass-card. "Shall I leave a message for your sweepers to come, get you?"

"Yes, and be sure to tell them where you are."

This time Jarod laughed aloud, "I think not. Are you warm enough?" She was but did not respond. "It was good to see you." Jarod put Parker's pass-card and her gun on the table. He picked up the DSA case and his bag, waved and departed.

Parker banged her head against the wall. She looked toward the window. The cat was sitting on the windowsill staring at her. Could cats laugh? He certainly looked amused. And the sweepers would be amused when they came to rescue her. Today was an utter disaster. What did I do to deserve this? Then she sneezed.

The sweepers showed up two hours later. They were very careful not to smile.

By the time Miss Parker got back to her room her head was completely stuffed up and she was sneezing every other minute. She switched on the light. On the pillow was a package of cold medication, and a note. The note read "Nice car. Hope you feel better soon." She groaned. Then she picked up the cold medicine, checked to make sure the seal was intact (You never knew with Jarod.) and went to take a long, long, hot shower.

There is a follow up you should read! Broots and Parker PI from Ra Chell

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