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Author's Chapter Notes:

I know I left you last time with our beloved Angelo almost dying.

I hope you appreciate this new chapter. I couldn't let go such a lovely character. Angelo was one of the things that made The Pretender such a great show, I've always loved him.

And of course it's time for a new surprise. And I guess almost all of you had already seen it coming.

Not an English speaker, blah blah blah.

See previous chapters to know the reasons why I'm not really the best writer around here! :)

And remember to thank my wonderful Beta Readers, Antoinette & DanielleSmileyFace!


10.15 p.m.

Miss Parker spent the rest of the day in the hospital E.R. where Angelo had been brought. Doctors had claimed his situation was critic and that he had lost much, too much blood. Willie's shot had hit him very close to his heart, perforating a lung and sending poor Angelo into a coma. Doctors didn't know if he would survive the night, they couldn't do anything else for him.

When Sydney realized that Miss Parker was exhausted and still manifesting symptoms of nausea and fatigue, he asked Broots to drive her home. She didn't want to leave Angelo's side, but Sydney cheered her up, affirming that this was his duty. Angelo had sacrificed himself to save him, not her.

She insisted on staying, mostly because she was afraid for Sydney's own safety, should he be alone. But he wasn't scared for his life anymore; whoever had given the order to kill him, would now think twice before attempting again.

To prove his resolution, Sydney showed her the item he had picked up from his safe-deposit box: a gun. He was ready to use it in case anyone should attack again.

With all those doctors around him, anyway, Sydney felt pretty safe, at least until Angelo got better.


Broots escorted Miss Parker outside her house, then he turned off the engine and made her notice that they had arrived.

"Miss Parker." he called her softly, seeing that she was almost sleeping.

"Uhm." she murmured, opening her eyes.

"You're home."

"Thank you, Broots. Please, go back to the hospital and keep an eye on Sydney for me, will you?"

Broots nodded, thinking that for the umpteenth time he would have to ask the babysitter to stay for the night.

Miss Parker guessed his mood immediately. She took his hand gently, as she had never done before.

"We're doing this for Debbie, too. To give her a better future, without nightmares, without The Centre."

Broots knew that charming and smart woman, with whom he had thought to be in love with for a while, was obviously right. It wasn't fair for Debbie to live in a world of which she needed to be afraid. Miss Parker and Jarod’s main purpose was to change the world they lived in.

"I don't know what I would have done without you and Sydney all these years." she confessed to him.

Broots stared at her, stunned and astonished. Was she really trying to thank him?

"Good night, Miss Parker. Try and take some rest."

"Sure." she scoffed, getting out from the car.

As soon as she entered her living room, Miss Parker heard nothing but silence. She had hoped to be welcomed by Ethan working at his computer and Jarod right next to him, waiting for her to come back. Instead, the house was dark and silent, empty.

Miss Parker turned the light on and dropped her bag on the floor. She was so shocked by what had happened that she hadn't even found the time to wash her hands, still covered with Angelo's clotted blood.

An incontrollable rage took hold of her. Better, anxiety. She ran to the bathroom and started to rub her hands impetuously, trying to make those reddish spots disappear from her palms. The water that came out of the tap got colored of a very bright red as soon as it reached the sink. Parker rubbed and rubbed, but Angelo’s blood never disappeared.

Eventually giving up to all the feelings she had held for too long, she took the soap and threw it against the mirror, screaming and crying in despair. She started to take everything within a range: towels, shower curtain, creams, make-up. She threw everything on the floor or against the wall in a frenzy way, too much upset to stop. Her shouting soon got mixed with her sobs, and her weeping got mixed with her inner voices. She could hear her mother's, inviting her not to give up. She heard Tommy's too, saying that it wasn't her fault.

But mostly she could hear the last words Angelo had told her: almost dying, he had wanted to remind her that she and Jarod were his friends. Friends that have abandoned him to his fate, friends that hadn't been able to protect him.

Crying in despair, Parker collapsed to the floor, leaning on the wall.

She didn’t know how much time had passed, could be minutes, could be hours. But after a while she felt his presence. She didn't need to open her eyes; she just knew. Jarod's face was a few inches from hers, she could feel his slow and warm breath on her skin.

His hand stroked her hair and moved a strand behind her ears, inviting her to lift her face and look at him. When Parker opened her eyes, she saw a devasted pretender. He looked just like her. She had seen him as desperate just once before: when his brother Kyle had died.

"Doctors think that he’s not gonna make it." Parker whispered, sniffing.

Even if the occasion was awful, Jarod couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was and how much her eyes stood out, now that she had cried so much.

He continued caressing her face, in silence.

"I can't go on, Jarod. If Angelo dies…I could never forgive myself."

"It wasn't your fault." he finally spoke, firmly and resolutely. That was the point of the matter: Parker felt guilty, and she was having another breakdown.

"You tried to save them both, and if it weren't for you, Sydney would be dead, and Angelo, too."

"He's innocent."

"You're innocent, too. We all are." Jarod reminded her.

"Where's Ethan?" Parker asked, worried.

"He said he had something to do before getting here. Our brother knows what he’s doing, he's wiser than me…and braver than you."

"I've never felt brave. I'm a coward. I should have put a bomb in Raines’s office years ago."

Jarod smiled, "See? Your humor always protected you. Parker, you must hold on only for a little while. You must do this for me, and for Michael." he begged her.

She suddenly realized that, with all the commotion, she had forgotten about Michael.

"I've asked my father to check on our son. Even if it’s not the most traditional way to become a grandfather, since he found out he has a grandson he has decided to be his guardian angel. He'll advise me if anything happens to him."

She nodded, glad to have one less person she loved to worry about.

"I've never thought about myself as a mother. But when I hold that boy…it's like…" Parker stopped, not so sure she wanted to continue that sentence.

"You and I know much better than anyone else," he reminded her, "that family is not a matter of bloodlines. But this is different because Michael is our son. Maybe we didn’t plan his birth, but this doesn't mean we'll love him less, when we finally get together."

Parker smiled, thinking about her baby, "He has your eyes."

Jarod was smiling, too, "And your smile." he concluded, kissing her.

Her sobs were over, now. Parker was much calmer.

"I don't feel like being alone, tonight. I need you." she whispered at his ear.

"Why do you think I came?"

"From your tone in our last conversation I thought you would get back here and launch a missile to literally blow The Centre up."

"I was very angry, before. But instinct cannot prevail over reason. Had I ever followed my animal instinct, I would have exterminated all the men of the Parker dynasty years ago."

Parker chuckled. Jarod could make her laugh even in the most difficult times; it had always been like that.

"Before I came, I was contacted by the NSA agent I've been in touch with, Andrea Zane."

Parker now was eager to get good news.

"She’d never heard anything like that, before. She said that The Centre covers its business very well, nobody in the agency ever heard anything illegal about it."

"Present company excepted?" she said, sarcastically.

Jarod ignored her. "She told me she will open an investigation, she'll do whatever she can to find the list of the friends of The Centre at the Congress. But she needs some help from the inside, and that's what we must provide her."

"Do you think you can penetrate The Centre defenses without them finding out?"

"I've been doing it for the last six years. It's time use my skills to get justice."

"And what about the Triumvirate?"

"I'm still working on it, but I've collected so much proof over the years that it won't be difficult to frame The Centre for extortion, exploitation of children, kidnap, murder, blackmail…"

"I know, The Centre crimes list is endless." Parker stopped him.

Jarod nodded. Sensing that now she was feeling better, he helped Miss Parker standing up and started to undress her gently. "You need a shower. I want you to relax, and no – " He stopped her before she could ask. "I won't go in with you. I have a call to make, before dedicating myself to you."

Guessing that Jarod wouldn't see reason, Parker obeyed and remained alone in the bathroom while Jarod went back to the bedroom and took his phone.


Sydney was holding the gun in one hand and the phone in the other. He was waiting for his call. He knew it would arrive, sooner or later.

"This is Sydney" he said, when his phone finally rang.

"I'm glad to hear your voice." The pretender said.

"So am I to be able to thank you, Jarod. If it hadn’t been for you, maybe…"

They both kept silent a few seconds; the only noise in Angelo's room was the monitor of his vital signs, emitting feeble beeps from time to time.

"Today, for a moment…I feared that I would have lost you. I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to tell you…"

Sydney let his pupil communicate his feelings. He didn't want to interrupt him.

"I've always considered you like a father, Sydney. And even if I've found mine, this is never going to change."

Sydney sighed, secretly thrilled by Jarod’s words, but also knowing that he didn’t deserve them. "I haven’t done anything to earn your love, Jarod. After all you've been through…"

"That we've been through" he corrected Sydney. "And you made amends, Syd. I told you once: you're not a monster. And you'll always be my family."

Sydney smiled to himself. "Thank you, Jarod." He said with tears to his eyes.

"How's Angelo?"

"Stable. Too weak to wake up, too strong to leave us."

"He's a fighter, Sydney. I'd wish I was there with you."

"Angelo knows you love him. Besides, you must take care of Miss Parker, now. She would never admit it, Jarod, but she's sick. She's constantly tired, weak, and those nausea attacks…"

At that moment both Jarod and Sydney had a flash. They both had considered the woman's symptoms, but they were certain that they were side effects due to the uneasiness caused by her inner sense.

"Jarod…" Sydney gasped.

The pretender didn't talk. Years spent pretending to be a doctor, and now that evident symptoms of pregnancy were under his nose, he hadn't recognized them.

"Sydney, it can't be."

Sydney smiled to himself. "Are you sure?" he asked.

When she came out of the bathroom reinvigorated after a long hot shower, Jarod was waiting for Miss Parker on her bed. He was looking at his computer, always synchronized with The Centre cameras. Watching Michael sleeping peacefully gave him a sense of calm that he'd never thought he could experience.

"A glass of wine?" she asked.

"No!" he shouted in answer.

"Hey, calm down boy wonder!"

"I'm sorry, Parker, but I think you shouldn't drink."

"What, you're giving me a talking-to?" she asked him, a bit irritated.

"No, I'm not, it's just."

How could he tell her that he had finally found out what was happening to her? And mostly, was she ready to accept the truth, that she could be pregnant?

Parker seemed to realize the inner turmoil inside Jarod's genius-brain.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"I was wondering about your physical condition."

"Enough of it, I'm fine! Angelo is the one who's dying in a hospital bed, not me!"

"No, listen. Nausea, fatigue, fainting. Do you know what the most obvious answer to those symptoms is?"

Parker thought, but nothing occurred to her. Or perhaps…

She stared at him and suddenly the inner voices turned up strongly, even if she didn't understand what they were saying to her.

Jarod sighed; now she knew, too.

Parker slowly lifted a hand and put it on her stomach. Could she really be pregnant? Sure, she had fainted when Broots had told her about Michael. She thought it was because of the excitement for that revelation, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe…

"How can we be sure?" she asked calmly. Jarod was so proud of her, at that moment.

"A blood test can reveal a pregnancy even a few days after conception." He stated.

"Let's do it now." she concluded. Jarod had already prepared a syringe.

Sydney had a thousand thoughts in his mind. Broots had come back to the hospital to keep him company, he was sleeping on a chair at Angelo's side, now. Sydney on the contrary couldn't sleep at all. And it wasn't for fear of those who wanted to kill him – and he was almost sure that it was Raines.

The acknowledgment that things had changed so much in the last few days kept him awake. The weird departure of Jarod and Miss Parker, Ethan's return, the discovery that Michael was their son, and maybe now Miss Parker being pregnant. He couldn't believe that all he had ever wished for was actually happening. Fast. Too fast. He was afraid that they wouldn't be able to accept the consequences of those news. He feared for Jarod, because he knew that after a life spent running it wouldn't be easy for him to settle down. Or maybe he was just afraid that he would really leave, this time, that he would disappear into nothing and wouldn't show up anymore, now that he was going to build his family.

"Bad thoughts?" a voice at his back asked.

Sydney turned around in time to see Jarod at the door. He was wearing a white coat, probably pretending to be a doctor to get inside and visit Angelo. How he could possibly go unnoticed by a dozen of sweepers outside and inside the hospital, Sydney didn't even want to know.

"Is Miss Parker here with you?"

"No, she's home, resting. I came on my own, I had to run some tests on this blood sample." he explained, showing him a vial.

"Is it Parker's?" Sydney asked.

Jarod just nodded. Then he got closer to his sleeping friend and put a hand on his forehead.

"Angelo…" he whispered. He felt a huge pain watching his gentle friend reduced like that. He took a look at his vital signs, then at his medical record. He sighed, holding on the few hopes he still had.

"Do you think he's gonna make it?" Sydney asked.

"It's too soon to tell, we can just pray.”

"I've never been really good at that.” Sydney revealed.

"Me neither.”

"You risked so much coming here, Jarod. Leave while you can, Lyle could arrive any minute.”

"As soon as I have the test results. We need to know the truth.”

"How do you think she's eventually going to face a pregnancy?" Sydney asked.

At that very moment, Broots let out an incomprehensible sound that startled them both, then he got back to sleep.

"Parker has already accepted the fact that there's a boy of whom we're parents at The Centre. She’s never been afraid, she didn't hesitate, not even a second. She feels that she's his mother, just as I feel I'm his father. Michael is our son.”

"But we're talking about pregnancy. Seeing her physical condition, I wouldn't be surprised if she risked her own life to give birth. And she won’t keep this from The Centre for long!"

Jarod smiled as he imagined for the first time a woman used to wear stilettos, miniskirts and leathered-adherent-trousers finding herself with a big tummy that would oblige her to change her working, food and social habits. The thought was almost funny. He could already picture himself with her, reading a book in front of the fireplace, their baby kicking inside her tummy and maybe Michael playing in his bed. He could imagine himself changing diapers and fetching Michael at the kindergarten. He suddenly realized that he'd never wanted anything else more in his whole life.

"I think Parker is a fighter. And judging by the way she reacted to the news, I have a feeling that she wasn't surprised at all.”


"I think she’s always known. Her inner sense does not lie.”

At that moment a nurse appeared at the doorstep, "Doctor Algren?"

Jarod turned around.

"The results of the analysis you've requested."

"Thank you so much.” he answered, taking the medical record.

"So?" Sydney asked, not able to wait a second more.

"Did I miss something?" Broots asked them, suddenly awake and surprised as never before to see Jarod right in front of him.

"I'd say so." The pretender whispered.

Miss Parker sat on her bed, wearing an old sweatshirt and a couple of trousers from a decade before that she used as pajamas when she did laundry.

She continuously touched her belly as if she was in a daze. She didn't even know if she was pregnant for real, but she was almost sure she could feel something inside her. She felt different. And it wasn't just for the physical changes, it was the way she felt. Happy.

She didn’t know why. So many things were still hanging in the balance. Angelo's condition, the Centre, their whole future. Any other person going down that road would feel desperate. But not Miss Parker.

To her, the last eight days had been like the end of nightmare that had lasted too many years. She hadn't been herself for too long, and now she knew it.
If she thought about it, she had been her real self only with him.
The only person who had always encouraged her to find herself. To unravel the secrets of her past. The only one who had accepted her faults and made her understand her strengths. He had protected her; he had loved her.
He'd never given up on her, and in the end, Jarod had given her the greatest present: freedom.
Freedom from lies and, maybe soon, even from The Centre.

Now they had a baby to take care of, and maybe even…a second one coming. She had never thought of herself like a mother, not even when she was with Tommy. And yet, now she kept touching her belly, thinking how exciting it would be to have a baby kicking inside her tummy, how great it would be to have boy wonder's hands touching to hear their baby's movements.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Jarod's return. He moved silently towards her, the hospital record still in his hand.

"How's Angelo?" she asked him at first.

"Stable.” He sighed. “Too soon to know if he's gonna make it."

She nodded and kept silent, even if she was willing to know the results of her blood analysis.

Jarod reached the bed and sat down next to her. He looked serious, almost sorry. That attitude made Miss Parker guessing that either she was pregnant, and he was unhappy with that, or she wasn't pregnant at all.

They didn’t have time to talk about their feelings, before, so she didn’t really know if Jarod wanted this to be real. She got her answer one second later. Jarod put his hands on hers and lifted them both, placing them on Parker’s belly.

"You know what I'd really love?" he asked, whispering.

"What?" she questioned, not understanding, yet. The pretender looked at her right in the eyes. Then he started to smile.

"If it was a girl."

Parker felt her nose itching, realizing she was going to cry. But those were tears of joy, for the first time in a very very long time.

Jarod kissed her forehead and stroked her face.

"You're n-not…angry?" she had the courage to ask.

He smirked, "Yes, I am. I'm very angry – because I didn't realize this before! And they say I'm the genius!" he clarified, making her laugh.

He kissed a couple of her teardrops, finding them deliciously salty. He couldn't stop touching her belly.

"This is ironic. A week ago, I had no stable relationship, no children. Actually, I had no personal life. I just kept chasing an intelligent and arrogant fellow, a bit opinionated, who used to call in the middle of the night to mock me. I wanted to crack his fingers every time he hung up on my face."

Jarod giggled, "And now?"

"Against all odds, I've been involved with a charming evil genius, who seduced me, got me pregnant and, oh, did I mention that we also have another child?"

Jarod kissed gently that wonderful woman's belly, "It won't always be like this. It's going to be over soon, I promise you."

"I don't want our children to live on the run, traveling from one city to the other, hiding from The Centre." she confessed Jarod.

"I know. And I agree with you. But you must trust me, Parker. And we must trust Ethan, Sydney and Broots. Together, we're going to make it."

Parker held him, "I hope so."



The day after – 9.00 a.m.

Parker entered Angelo's room to find an exhausted Sydney. It was obvious that he hadn't slept at all, and the strain of it all was having repercussions on his physical and mental health.

"How is he?"

Sydney flinched when he heard her, "Parker."

She tried to excuse herself, putting a hand on his shoulder lovingly.

"Same old. Doctors didn't say anything, yet."

Parker moved closer to her friend's bed and took his hand, squeezing it, "Please, Angelo, wake up." she whispered.

"Miss Parker."

She turned around to look at Sydney; the old man noticed a glimpse of a different light in her eyes. It looked like happiness. He stood up as he took her hand in his.

"Congratulations." he whispered, smiling. Her face enlightened with such a bright smile. Sydney had never seen her more beautiful that at that moment.

"Do you picture me as a mother?" she asked him. His opinion was very important to her.

"Until a few weeks ago, I would have never thought possible that the two of you would find each other and start building a family together."

"Yeah, this seems so crazy. If Jarod had told me something like that months ago, I would have probably shot him."

"I don't think so, Parker. You never had the intent to kill Jarod, not even in the first months after his escape."

She knew this to be true, but she didn't want to lose her reputation of Ice Queen, at least in her colleagues' eyes.

"Anyway, I’m sure you'll be an amazing mother. And I know this because Catherine was wonderful, and you are just like her." Sydney concluded, answering to her previous question.

She smiled, a few unshed tears forming at the corner of her eyes.

"So. Boy or girl?" Sydney asked her, trying to lighten the mood.

She smiled and listened to the voices. They weren't very clear about that subject, maybe they wanted it to be a surprise.

"G-girl…" a voice murmured at their back.

Parker and Sydney turned around in surprise: Angelo’s eyes were open with their penetrating light-blue staring with interest at the woman that he loved as a sister and the man that he loved as a father.

"Angelo!" Miss Parker shouted, throwing herself on the floor and taking his hands in hers. A huge smile appeared on her face.

"Welcome back, Angelo." Sydney said.

"G-girl!" the empath said again. Parker burst into laughter mixed to happy tears.

"So, Michael is going to have a little sister?" she asked her friend.

Angelo smiled; his teeth clenched. At that moment, the doctors entered the room and threw out the guests, willing to run all the tests on the just-awakened patient. Miss Parker couldn't resist anymore and hugged Sydney in relief, letting herself go with a liberating cry.

Suddenly, Lyle appeared outside Angelo's room with Sam, the sweeper.

"Is he dead?" he asked, noticing her sister's tears.

Parker broke away from Sydney and got serious again, "No, he's not. He's alive and awake. But I'm not surprised that a man like you cannot conceive of tears of joy."

Lyle snorted. "Fine. As soon as he's stable, we take him back to The Centre. Sam is here to check on his transfer, I don't want anyone to try and kidnap Angelo."

"Anyone?" Sydney questioned him.

Lyle smiled sarcastically, "Let's say I wouldn't be surprised if your lovely pretender jumped out at any moment to give that freak what he considered to be freedom.”

Parker had to bite her tongue not to answer. She couldn't reveal herself to him, "As much as I hate to admit it, Lyle is right", she agreed, "Jarod would certainly take the chance to take away our last pretender."

Sydney approved her choice of lying shamelessly to support Lyle's decisions, so that her cover was still intact.

"Actually, he's not the only one…as soon as our brother comes of age, we're starting with simulations. We just have to wait a few months." Lyle concluded, sneering in satisfaction.

As soon as Lyle had gone, Parker looked back at Sydney, confused and angry. At that moment she was flooded by a thousand emotions, but one was prevailing: her wish to get vengeance on that squalid meat-eater that was her brother.

Broots made his appearance after a few minutes, with a wrinkled piece of paper in his hand.

"Is it true that Angelo is awake?" he asked.

Miss Parker nodded, smiling again.

"Thank God." Broots exhaled, happy for the news.

The woman took advantage of that moment to take the paper from his hands in a sudden movement. Broots got almost frightened.

"Uhm…this is the Triumvirate. Ethan forwarded the message to me a few minutes ago." Broots said.

"What is it about?" Sydney asked.

Parker read greedily, "Our chance to win the game."


Jarod was at his computer, as always. Since he'd found out that Angelo had woken up, the huge lump on his throat had disappeared. Now he was working again, one eye to the cameras filming Michael, the other to the software he was using to penetrate The Centre archives. Even if he was a genius, he knew that he would need a help from the inside, the kind of help that only Broots could give.

His phone rang and he answered with carelessness, "What?"

"Your tone is getting more and more like my sister's, big bro."

"Ethan!" Jarod yelled, glad to hear his voice, "Where are you?”

"I'm on my way back to Blue Cove, Jarod. I needed to check on some things."

"Check on what, Ethan?"

"I've just sent a mail to Mr. Broots, it’s from the Triumvirate."

"What's it about?"

Ethan smirked with satisfaction, one hand on the steering wheel and the mobile in the other. "They planned a visit to The Centre."

Jarod stood up, amazed by the news, "No way!"

"And yet...The highest members of the Triumvirate are on their way to Delaware. They'll be in Blue Cove in three days."

"You know what this means? We could get them all together. For the first time in many years, they all will be inside the same building."

Ethan smiled to himself, his voices in turmoil, "Yes, brother. It's your biggest chance to take them down."

"Our biggest chance, Ethan.” He corrected him. “Be careful, don't leave any tracks and get rid of the car you rented."

"Hey, I wasn’t born yesterday!" he complained.

Jarod heard his brother hanging up.

And now he is full of himself, he thought.


3.12 p.m.

Parker and Sydney had assisted Sam for Angelo's homecoming to the Centre. He wasn’t completely out of danger yet, but Lyle and Raines had insisted to have him back ASAP.

A group of sweepers took his gurney out of the ambulance; the paramedics were sent away quickly and without further explanations, in typical Centre style. Angelo was then transported to his room. Parker was sure it would take him a while to wander through the air conditioning vents again. She had felt a huge relief when she had realizing that her friend was feeling better and that he would almost certainly make it.

Angelo was laid in his bed with a nurse to assist him and two sweepers outside of his door. Parker, Sydney and Broots welcomed him with huge smiles on their faces.

"Miss Parker…happy." Angelo said.

"Yes, Angelo, I'm happy that you're home. I’m happy that you are alive." she told him. But by the grimace on his face, she realized that he knew why she felt so happy. Angelo read her like nobody else, not even Jarod. His faculties made him understand at once that Miss Parker had never been happier than when she had found out that she was pregnant.

She squeezed his hand once more, to make him understand how much she had been afraid of losing him.

"Miss Parker…afraid."

She sighed, and then glanced at Sydney.

Broots cleared his throat, "Uhm…I've got this meeting with a guy who says he's actually seen Jarod working in an Italian restaurant not far from here. Could be another wild goose chase, but...I'd better check it out."

Parker’eyes grew wide at the realization that Broots had become a very good liar. Of course, Angelo’s room was maybe a safe place, but you were never sure enough at the Centre. The needed to keep up appearances to look untouchable to everyone, especially now that they had found out about the Triumvirate's visit.

As soon as Broots left the room, Miss Parker bent to talk with Angelo, "So, you do believe it's going to be a girl?" she whispered. Sydney had never seen her behave like that. The pregnancy suited her.

Angelo smiled, "Little sister."

Parker giggled too. Sydney was almost touched.

"Not over, yet." Angelo went on, "Jarod…Miss Parker…danger."

"Angelo, why are we in danger? You've been saying this for days, who wants to hurt us?"

Angelo sighed in exhaustion; Sydney dragged Miss Parker away from the bed "He needs some rest, now."

"Yeah…I'm going to visit Michael; I want to see how he is."

Right then, Lyle entered the room with a package in his hands. "Where are you going in such a hurry, sis?"

"I want to see my brother to be sure you didn't phagocytize him."

"Very funny, but I think this one is for you."

She took the package, astonished, "What is it?"

"One of Jarod's clues, I guess." Lyle said. Then he stretched his leathered-glove to make it fit better on his thumbless hand.

"This is his umpteenth attempt to give me another ulcer attack." she commented, sarcastically.

When she opened the box, Parker found a little statue representing a witch with her appearance and a broom in its hands; next to the puppet another little statue, a black man lying down. It surely had to be Willie. Together with the two sculptures, there was a card.


  Sweeper’s huntress

  Look out for whom you're hunting

  or you might become the prey.



Parker would have wanted to laugh, but she kept a glacial look and a furious expression.

All she needed to do was remembering how she felt every time Jarod had sent her messages like that. There difference was that this message wasn’t really intended for her. Most probably, it was a trap for Lyle.

"How could he possibly have discovered about Willie?" he shouted.

"Find out!" she replied, with rage.

Sydney couldn't help but admire her acting skills, "Jarod always knows what happens at The Centre. He's always a step ahead of us."

"Well, we can't afford this right now." Lyle complained.

"Why, is there any news I should be informed of?" Parker asked, facing her brother threateningly. Lyle tried got away from her without answering.

"Be careful, Lyle. I'm keeping an eye on you. And I'm also going to find out who arranged that stunt on our Dr. Freud. Mark my words, he won't get away with it." she growled through clenched teeth.

Lyle left, leaving the two of them with a very sleepy Angelo. Sydney could smile again, "I must admit, Parker, I’m impressed.”

"I've always said I should have taken to acting."

Her official phone rang, and she knew this could be no one else but Jarod.

"What?" she asked, a bit annoyed.

"Welcome back to the good old times, Miss Parker." Jarod chanted.

"I must admit this wasn't one of your more successful presents, lab rat." she replied with frustration.

"Perhaps you're right, but they say, don’t kill the messenger."

"So, tell me, postman, what does that message mean?"

"That nobody's safe at The Centre anymore. Not even the hunters." he answered. He knew that this phone was controlled, he had called that number on purpose, to corroborate appearances. Later, he would make Parker forgive him for this conversation.

"You're saying that I’m a prey, too?" she asked, sarcastically.

"I'm just saying." Jarod took a break filled with tension, "that I'm not the only one who must run from The Centre anymore."

"I’ll keep my eyes open."

"If I were you, I'd watch my back, Miss Parker. Sweepers aren't as…reliable as they used to be."

So said, he hung up. Jarod let put a chuckle he was holding, but Parker had to control her emotions. If she hadn’t known how much in love the damned pretender was with her, and that this phone call was just a façade, she would have spent whole day reflecting on Jarod’s words.

Fortunately, things had changed.

"Good old times, uh?" Sydney asked, smiling. An almost imperceptible grin appeared on her face before while she walked back to her office.

Chapter End Notes:

I'm sure you weren't surprised at all.

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