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Chapter or Story Chapter or Story
I'm pretty sure that Jarod would be pursued according to law, if they caught him.
He's like F. Abagnale Jr., even if Jarod is a 'good boy'. He commits fraud, but for good.
He's like a Robin Hood of our time.
This is the second to last chapter. And I love it, it's something quite unique in a pretender fiction. I think this "trial" idea is genuinely mine.
The first few months of Clio’s life were unfortunately marked by the beginning of the trial against The Centre.
All the main culprits were dead, so the defense lawyer did everything in his power to blacken the Parkers name.
Zane’s plan to fake Sydney’s death had worked well. When Jacob’s remains were identified as the psychiatrist’s ones, Sydney was declared dead.
During the trial, his name often popped up; he was accused and charged with every conceivable crime. Jarod begged Sydney to ignore newspapers and television until the end of the trial.
Many members of the Charles family were called to witness: Jesse, Margaret, Phillip, Ethan and, of course, Jarod. His deposition immediately became the highlight of the trial. The pretender had been in the court of public opinion since the fall of the Centre, seeing that he was considered the hero who had managed to take the place down.
Jarod’s testimony was divided into three different days. Parker had decided to leave Clio and Michael with Sydney and Angelo to turn up at the court with Ethan and Broots. The technician had basically sublet his house to the siblings during those crucial days of the trial.
Broots still remembered with guilt all the lies he had said during his deposition, though his situation had been ascertained. The jury evidently believed him when he confessed that he’d been an infiltrated agent of the NSA since Jarod’s escape. They accepted his version of the facts: his cooperation with Sydney, pretending to be looking for the fugitive while, in reality, he was working with Jarod to obtain evidence about The Centre – that could be true, on some level.
When Jarod’s turn came, his family represented a large amount of the audience in the large courtroom and he felt stronger because of their presence. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to deal with the situation.
Standing accused at the defendant’s bench were Hasani and a few other members of the Tower, people that Jarod had never nothing to do with. He knew them hearsay, but the manipulation he’d been forced to endure in his life had been caused by others.
The real defendants, the men of the Parker family, were all dead.
During the first two days, the prosecutor had asked Jarod to recognize the accused and the atrocities they were charged with. Jarod had told the whole story of The Centre, it had taken him an hour to explain the Court and the Jury what growing inside that place had meant to him.
Jarod had carefully refrained from mentioning Miss Parker, but he couldn’t avoid talking about Sydney, his trainer, the only person who had taken care of him even if his main goal was developing his potential.
Jarod had a hard time when the defense made him notice that his beloved mentor was also the one who had pushed him to perform simulations that had cost hundreds of people’s lives. Jarod had tried to keep his nerve; he didn’t want Sydney to be remembered as a crazy maniac who had exploited a little boy for profit. And yet, Jarod knew very well that this was the picture that would stick.
And so did Sydney.
Zane had been right: faking his death had saved him from a life sentence.
After two days of emotional tales, that had often made the women of the Jury gasp, the defense had taken the floor.
The defense attorney, Adam Prentiss, was as old as Jarod. The former pretender had read about him, finding out that he was called the devil’s advocate, because he always handled the defense of the worst criminals knocking at his door. As soon as he introduced his first questions, Jarod realized his reputation was deserved.
“Jarod Charles. The national hero who freed the United States from a conspicuous stain on its record. The N.S.A. agents you worked with adore you, they are ready to do anything they can for you.”
“Objection, Your Honor, the defense judgment are intended to influence the jury?” the prosecutor screamed.
Jarod grinned when the judge answered, “Objection sustained, and I suggest you to ask questions without being involved with your assisted opinions, advocate.”
“Well, Your Honor, I’ll rephrase my question. Mr. Charles, is it right to assume that the opinion of the N.S.A. is misplaced for a man who pretended to be an agent to pursue his own personal vengeance?”
“Objection, Your Honor!”
“I don’t need that, I’ll answer the defense questions.” Jarod replied. “I can defend myself, advocate, thank you.” Jarod reassured the prosecutor.
“Yes, you can, because you’re a genius who can be anything he wanna be, even an advocate, uh?”
Jarod ignored Prentiss’s jab, “To answer your previous question, my position was already cleared with the NSA. I was contacted by Agent Zane as an undercover agent, she guaranteed for me. The men I’ve worked with are colleagues, they saw me in action, they helped me to find and stop a terrorist.” he explained, his thoughts on Alex, “Later, I’ve worked with Agent Zane, who helped me planning the blitz to The Centre archives net.”
“We already know, Mr. Charles. Your story is so fascinating that it may become a perfect subject for an action B-movie.”
A few chuckles were heard inside the courtroom, but Parker and Broots looked at each other, preoccupied. Jarod held Prentiss’s gaze nonchalantly.
“What I really would like to know is how you spent your time during the years on the run from The Centre.”
“I enjoyed every second. I discovered almost everything I’d lost during my imprisonment, starting from the bands of the 60s. Do you know I can tell you in which and how many songs of the Beatles you may find a random word chosen in the dictionary, and it doesn’t take me more than ten seconds! I’m afraid I cannot say the same for the Beach Boys because, alas, they aren’t comparable to the musical genius of the Fab Four.”
The audience laughed for Jarod’s slyness. Parker smiled, she was remembering a very particular phone call during which Jarod had told her about his discovery of the Village People. That had been the first time he’d called her at home, she was particularly fond of that memory.
“Oh, I intentionally wake you in your deepest sleep phase and all I get is a lifeless, What?!” Jarod asked her.
Miss Parker couldn’t know that at that very moment Jarod was painting the portrait he would send her home a couple of days later.
“Oh. If you want wit, read Noel Coward.” she answered him, in the hope that Jarod wouldn’t understand that quotation. But she was wrong, the pretender knew the playwright, so he laughed at her joke, appreciating Parker’s sarcasm.
He hadn’t spoken with her in years. And even if he hadn’t yet realized the importance she would have in his life later on, Jarod had missed her terribly. He still remembered the smiles he could steal from her when they were kids at The Centre. At that moment, he wondered if she remembered, too.
“What time is it where you are?” Parker questioned him.
Jarod thought she really was incredible, “Cute. Not funny, but cute.”
“You're making house calls now. I'm honored.” she commented, rising from under the sheets.
“Well, I was feeling a little guilty about my virtual phone game.” he explained, remembering the way he was deceiving Mr. Broots.
“You know, I should really tape this to replay at the Christmas party. You'll be there, you know. You can rest assured.”
“I'm not resting much at all these days.”
“Breaking my heart.”
Jarod didn’t like the indifference in her voice. He couldn’t interpret the woman’s behavior. He could almost see her, lighting her cigarette and saying, “So, Jarod, why the Y.M.C.A.?”
Jarod tasted his answer, he’d prepared it before, just in case that she’d asked him the right question.
“I was watching retro night on VH1. And they were doing the 70s, which as you know I missed. There was this singing group that was extolling the virtues of staying at the Y. So here – I – am.”
Parker giggled, trying not to make Jarod hear her through the phone. She hadn’t laughed for such a brilliant joke for a very long time.
“Cute, not funny, but cute.”
Back to her senses, parker stared in amusement at Jarod. She was sure he was thinking about the same conversation, and she was certain when he winked imperceptibly at her.
“The jury isn’t interested in your musical taste, Mr. Charles. As for how you spent your years of newfound freedom, how did you maintain yourself? How could you be traveling around the States without ever working? How did you make a living?”
Jarod knew exactly where Prentiss was going with this. He wanted to hear him admit that he’d been pretending for years, so that he could charge him with aggravated fraud. But he was too smart to confess something like that, and he’d always been very careful. There weren’t any pictures or tapes portraying him. None of the culprits that ever mentioned him while complaining for a forced confession could actually demonstrate his existence.
He was the invisible man.
“I’ve done a little this, a little that. You know, I didn’t need much money, I spent all the time trying to figure out people. And looking for my family.”
“Did your pilgrimage ever lead you to make some criminals go to jail?”
Jarod had a flash of the hundreds of people ended up behind bars because of his intervention.
Then he answered, “I’ve never really been interested in solving crimes, Attorney Prentiss. I spent thirty years as a prisoner, you think I would waste time wandering around to avenge my lost childhood at the thugs and murderers?”
Parker and Broots exchanged a knowing look. They had wacthed Jarod doing what he had just said for five years. Fortunately, his behavior was only imprinted in the mind of the citizens he had helped.
The members of the Jury glared at Prentiss, who wanted to find Jarod at fault and make him nervous.
He opted for a change of strategy, “You strenuously defended your so-called mentor figure, Dr. Sydney Mertens. Don’t you think you may still be under the influence of a man who exploited you, made you believe he cared about you, even by filling your head with inaccurate information about his superiors?”
Jarod grimaced. Prentiss was really getting on his nerves, “Sydney was like a father to me. I’ll never forget the affection he showed me at The Centre. He worked on the “pretender project” for years, but he never hurt a soul.”
“Until he committed suicide, right?”
Jarod hardly kept his composure. He looked at his fists while he squeezed them unnoticed by others, then he glared at Prentiss, “Whatever reason he had, I believe his guilt got the better of him, eventually. I don’t blame Sydney Mertens more than I blame myself for what I’ve done with my skills.”
The Jury members nodded in consent, and Jarod realized that he was winning; Prentiss’s strategy wasn’t working.
“Let’s talk about the Terrible Three, as they’ve been nicknamed by national press. Mr. Parker, Bobby “Lyle” Bowman and Dr. William Raines. Isn’t it very convenient that they were the only victims during The Centre blitz?”
“Victim is not a fitting term for my torturers, Mr. Prentiss.”
“Objection, Your Honor!”
“Objection sustained. I suggest you both to moderate terms, sirs.” the judge commented.
“I’m sorry, Your Honor. They were the main responsible for what was going on at The Centre, so they were the first to fall.”
“You’d consider a shot in your chest like a fall?” Prentiss demanded.
“If you’re indirectly asking if I’m sorry for their deaths, well, my answer is absolutely no. If you’re asking me if I have anything to do with the holes in their corpses – which, by the way, were examined by three different coroners, then the answer is no, again. Mr. Raines was killed by your assisted, Mr. Hasani.” Ross pointed at the man sitting at the dock. “Mr. Parker and Mr. Lyle were involved in a domestic dispute that leaded them to shoot one another.”
“I read the report written by the N.S.A., Mr. Charles. I’m just curious, what pushed father and son into a fight that drove them to aim guns against each other?”
“The men of the Parker dynasty have always wanted one thing: power. Lyle wasn’t willing to renounce to his share of the pie.”
“And so, Mr. Parker shot his son because…?”
Jarod sighed, aware that the moment to lie had finally come, “I can only assume that he had a crisis of conscience when his son shot me. He hit Lyle’s shoulder and later one of the agents killed Lyle, he really had gone nuts.”
Prentiss smiled in satisfaction, “You know, it’s weird that you talk only about the men of the Parker dynasty.”
Miss Parker felt a familiar lump in her throat, and Ethan squeezed her hand tenderly, trying to protect her for what was coming next.
Prentiss reached his table and took a file, “The NSA agents declared that Mr. Parker’s daughter was there during the gunshot. Apparently, she was visiting her father that very day, wasn’t she?”
Jarod felt waves of adrenaline pervading him. He couldn’t tell if it was for tension or fear.
“I had the great pleasure to see an old childhood friend of mine, that day. I hadn’t seen Charlotte Parker in ages. It’s a pity that the circumstances of our encounter were so tragic.”
Parker clenched her teeth; she didn’t like seeing Jarod lying. But she knew it was for their good, she had done it, too.
This was the tale they had thought up for the Jury: the defense wanted to exploit their connection to unravel the skeletons in their closet, so they had to pretend, very well.
The story was easy to remember: They had met again that day at The Centre, and later they had fallen in love while Jarod recovered after the terrible weeks that had followed the gunshot.
Prentiss sneered, “A few Centre employees have swearing under oath that they usually saw Doctor Mertens and Mr. Broots working with a woman whose description fits Charlotte Parker’s, did you know?”
Jarod faked an amused grimace, “I’ve followed the trial, I don’t need an abstract, Mr. Prentiss.”
“A surveillance technician, Keith Connors, swore that he worked more than once for a woman that everybody called Miss Parker. He said – and I quote – that she walked around at The Centre as if that damned place was hers.”
“Knowing my actual cohabitant’s temper, she could definitely be capable of such a behavior.” Jarod replied sarcastically, causing laughter among the Jury and the audience. “– but here’s the thing, Connors is charged with aiding and abetting. He was assigned to controlling The Centre surveillance system while Charlotte Parker spent her time drinking tequilas in European resorts, squandering her father’s money, completely unaware of what was actually going on in Blue Cove.”
Miss Parker smiled in satisfaction, thinking that Jarod had painted a perfect picture for her fake self.
“And I assume the fact that Miss Parker is your actual partner, as well as your children’s mother, is not damaging your judgment about her position.”
“Objection!” the prosecutor shouted.
“Sustained. Attorney Prentiss, this topic was dealt with during Miss Parker’s interrogation, comprehensively, in my opinion.” The judge said.
“I beg your pardon, Your Honor. I was just wondering if they didn’t perform some kind of mental torture on Mr. Charles to make him lose his memory.”
Jarod winced for a moment. Did Prentiss know anything about Mind Rain?
No, he couldn’t, they had deleted it from The Centre archives before the beginning of the trial.
“Unfortunately, many mementos of my past were stolen from me, it’s true. But I still have memories of moments spent with Miss Parker. She was my sparkle in the dark, when we were kids.”
Jarod’s eyes were now evidently set on Parker. The majority of the audience, the Jury and the judge, turned towards her to watch her reaction. She was visibly touched by Jarod’s words.
“When Mr. Parker sent her abroad, I suffered a lot.” Jarod kept talking. “They made me believe she wasn’t interested in my friendship anymore, so I forgot her, after a while. After I woke up in my hospital bed, I found her there. And then we…reconnect.”
The women of the Jury sighed together with Jarod at the end of this sentence. Parker opened her eyes to try and withhold tears not show her weakness, but Prentiss wasn’t satisfied, yet.
“When Doctor Mertens and Mr. Broots flied around the States, they always used a private jet. But there were times when they used commercial flights. They always booked for three persons and they always reserved three single rooms. Who was the third person traveling with them? Many flight attendants and hotel keepers remember a woman, tall, brunette, with very long legs and light blue eyes with an icy stare.”
Jarod smirked, thinking that the description was unmistakable.
That was his Ice Queen.
“How would you explain it?” Prentiss questioned him, turning around to watch Miss Parker. The woman answered with one of her notorious glacial looks.
“Mr. Broots was always very cautious when he contacted me. He constantly related about Sydney’s movements, that is why I was always able to run from The Centre whenever they got too close. He always warned me in the same way: he booked one room for himself and one for the good doctor, but he also reserved a third room for a woman – that never showed up. He later used it to let notes and every kind of evidence he had acquired about The Centre.”
“Clever.” Prentiss stated sarcastically.
“Indeed.” Jarod mocked him, ironically.
The women of the Jury, fascinated by Jarod’s charm, smiled at him.
Broots gazed at Miss Parker with a smirk on his face. He would surely come out well, after this trial. He would be considered much more important than he had actually been.
Parker laughed to herself, thinking about all the sleepless nights spent in those dumps all around the States in the vain hope of ever catching Jarod.
Empty room my ass, she thought.
Prentiss licked his lips, he had left the best at the end.
“Mr. Hasani and my other assisted swore that Miss Parker was heading the pursuit team hunting you. The infamous Miss Parker was called back at The Centre with the assignment of capturing you, without ever being able to succeed because of her clouded judgment.”
“I’ve heard that.” Jarod replied, without losing his temper.
“The Centre postman also affirmed, the pretender sent packages to Sydney and Miss Parker almost weekly, and the boxes usually contained presents of personal nature.”
“I’ve sent a couple of gifts, I can’t deny it. I loved the idea of torturing my former mentor, God rest his soul.”
Parker couldn’t help but admire Jarod’s style. He was pretending to be a trustful witness, even if he was lying. That role surprisingly fitted him like a glove.
“Talking about Miss Parker’s presents, that was another means of communicating with Mr. Broots. Sydney always thought that I was showing signs of madness, so I let him believe I was crazy, that I was still looking for my long-gone childhood friend.”
“Didn’t you say you’d forgotten her, a few moments ago?”
Jarod found himself into trouble for the first time, and he stopped breathing for a second, frantically thinking about the best answer. Realizing that truth might get the desired effect – at least on the women of the Jury – he said, “Yes, I’m sorry, I lied. I’ve never forgotten Miss Parker, she was my first love, as everybody knows by now.” Jarod looked at the Jury. “Our story is so fascinating that all the tabloids are asking us exclusive interviews. Whenever they call, I reply that Parker is thinking about writing a book, she would like to turn our story into a romance novel.”
He’d done it again, the audience was laughing.
Parker felt so ashamed that she probably blushed.
“The Jury is not interested in the romantic facets of your relationship. What we want to know is what role this woman had inside the structure built by her great-grandfather. Can you honestly affirm – and I remind you that you’re under oath – that Miss Charlotte Parker –” Prentiss pointed at Miss Parker. “Wasn’t in charge with the pursuit team getting after you, as my assisted declared?”
Everybody in the courtroom waited in silence, and Jarod pondered for a few seconds before answering. He breathed in and out slowly, without giving in to the panic gnawing him.
What was he supposed to say?
He had sworn.
He didn’t feel like perjuring, but he couldn’t tell the whole truth.
He saw his mother’s face lost in the see of faces, she was hanging on his words. Margaret shook her head, letting him understand that he couldn’t surrender now.
“I’ve been on the run for seven years. All I wished was that the woman I had once known and loved would remember the bond we had shared. The fact that she was a Parker didn’t make any difference, she’s always been the one.”
Jarod paused for effect, while everybody held their breaths.
“You want to hear me say that Miss Parker is guilty of something. Well, I’ll tell you the truth: she is. We’re all responsible for what happened at The Centre.” Jarod admitted. “But our crime was unawareness. I didn’t know what my simulations were used for and Miss Parker didn’t know what was really happening inside that damned place while she enjoyed her life. When I told her everything, when I confessed the truth, her world fell apart.”
Parker noticed Jarod’s expertise in the use of times in his speech. He hadn’t lied, he had just omitted that he’d been sending her clues to find the truth for years. After his speech, one might think that he had explained everything to her after his coma.
“You want somebody’s head on a silver plate?” Jarod talked on. “The only heads that would have fitted had already been decapitated, I’m sorry. Now you only have the defendants, and believe me, every word coming from their mouths to blacken Charlotte Parker’s name is a lie.”
“Why? Because you sleep with her?”
"Objection!" the prosecutor shouted.
Jarod stood up, squeezing his fists. Parker glared at him hard, a nod was enough to admonish him. He interpreted her glance as a ‘stop behave like Prince Charming’ remark.
"Sustained. Attorney Prentiss, I suggest you again to moderate your words." the judge reproached him, making the attorney realize who had his favor between him and Jarod.
"Despite her pregnancy, Charlotte Parker cooperated with the authorities during the last months, even if she was finalizing the request for her brother Michael Parker's formal adoption. I see no reason to accuse her again, seeing that she's already been interrogated, for long. Now, if you don't have any other questions, I would please the witness to leave."
Prentiss accepted the fact that the judge had already chosen his verdict.
Not even the infamous Adam Prentiss could do anything to help his assisted, this time. The Centre was a lost cause.
Jarod Charles's story was rotten to the core and full of holes. But even if Prentiss had reasonable doubt, who was he to help these men?
These people had kidnapped, tortured and exploited innocent children for years. Maybe Jarod Charles had defrauded different institutions by pretending to have degrees that he actually didn't have, but the former fugitive always acted to do some good and to get revenge on individuals who deserved it.
He'd acted as a Vigilante defending the weak and abused, he'd saved lives and solved cold cases. And he'd managed to do all of this with The Centre at his heels.
And at some point of the chase, Charlotte Parker had eventually regained her senses, just in time to help Jarod and to save herself from the sinking ship.
Who was he to deny Jarod Charles some justice?
Who was he to get in the way?
And not to mention, of course, that the public opinion saw the genius like a national hero who had revived those ideals of freedom and independence from the powers to be.
Surely, when the judge would declare the final punishment for the defendants, the citizens interested in the trial would stand up, feeling a bit prouder of being American.
Everyone sympathized for Jarod, all the kids wanted to be like him.
The man who had destroyed the theatre of horror that was The Centre.
"One last question, Your Honor." He finally stated.
The Judge sighed, not understanding why this deposition was lasting so long. Jarod Charles wasn't a defendant, he was the main witness, the victim.
And yet, Prentiss was trying to subdue him as if he was guilty of something.
Prentiss knew that he had lost.
His strategy to make other main characters of that story take the blame to divert the attention from his assisted hadn't worked. Hasani and the other members of the Tower would spend decades in prison, and he couldn't avoid it. What he could do was ending that trial so that his reputation was still safe. The Tower and Hasani would pay not only for their own decisions, but even for every order given by Mr. Parker, for every experiment done by William Raines, for all the women and men Mr. Lyle had killed.
The big names inside the Government and the Army that had approved The Centre research finalized to the construction of weapons and plans had already cleared their status. They were unaware of how The Centre obtained its results. So, they'd gotten away with just with a bunch of bad publicity.
Maybe a couple of senators wouldn't be elected again, but that was a fair sacrifice for their own freedom.
Prentiss had all these thoughts in his mind, when he asked, "Mr. Charles, I know it mustn't have been easy for you to live in segregation and loneliness almost all your entire life. And yet, it seems to me that you came out pretty well from it. Without evident psychological or physical harm. How do you explain that?"
"Well, if the tortures you had to endure were so unsustainable and distressing, how come that you're are the good boy, the hero, the man who became famous for exposing an illegal corporation with contacts all over the world.”
Jarod was speechless.
“A man with an IQ far above the average, also blessed with such good fortune to get a woman that every single man in the States would die for."
Jarod grinned for his last remark, "As you premised, Attorney Prentiss, I am a pretender. When I ran away from my prison, I felt obliged to pretend to be happy. But if tomorrow those men are getting the punishment they deserve –” Jarod sighed heavily. “Well, then I can finally stop pretending, because I will be happy."
Prentiss nodded in acceptance. The devil's advocate had been overruled that day.
"Did I answer your question, Adam?" Jarod demanded, sighing in tiredness.
Prentiss nodded, "No more questions, Your Honor."
"The witness is pleased to leave. Thank you, Mr. Charles."
"My pleasure, Your Honor." Jarod replied.
Jarod walked away from the witness stand while the judge updated the session to the following day.
The Jury would reach a verdict by the following morning.
That night, Jarod and Parker video-called Sydney to say hi to Clio. Needless to say, the psychiatrist took the chance to talk about the trial, even if Jarod was beginning him to let go.
"Verdicts are tomorrow, uh?" Sydney asked, with Clio tenderly asleep in his arms.
"Sydney." Jarod admonished him.
"I'm sure the jury will sentence to remove my name from the register. Maybe they will also revoke my American citizenship."
"Why are hurting yourself like this?" Parker demanded him.
"I'm don’t want people to think I am a fraud. But this is what I deserve for all the years I’ve worked at The Centre…without saying a word."
Jarod sighed, they'd talked about it hundreds of times, "Sydney, how many times do I have to repeat you that you already made amends? You were a victim of the circumstances, like me. I thank God every day that you were trainer and not Raines."
"Kyle wasn't that lucky." Parker reminded them, finding Jarod's agreement.
"But everybody will think –"
"I don't care what other people think, Sydney, and neither should you!" Jarod yelled. "You've been a father to me, you taught me what was good and what was bad. It's only because of your education if I was able to help so many people. Remember this, always!" Jarod cheered him up.
"If Jarod is an irreverent, annoying, national hero –" Parker intervened, "with a charming partner and two children that soon may become prodigies like him, he owes it to you, Sydney!"
"Oh, do I?" Jarod pinched her and Sydney chuckled.
Jarod gazed at Parker, feigning annoyance for her sarcastic comment. She stared back at him seriously and the pretender didn't wait another second to steal a kiss from her. Miss Parker turned back to the screen with a pleased grin on her face.
"Thank you. Both of you.” Sydney stated. “I'd better be going; Clio is waking up."
"Take care of her, Sydney." Parker asked him.
"She couldn't be in better hands." Jarod reminded her (and Sydney). He was very glad to notice that his mentor looked more peaceful, now.
Syd waved at them and closed the communication.
The following day, Sydney's fears proved to be unfounded.
Believing that Dr. Sydney Mertens had chosen a path of redemption when he’d decided to kill himself, the Jury proposed a note of merit based on Jarod's deposition about Sydney's education and for helping the pretender while he was on the run.
Jarod had also mentioned the terrible bond between Sydney and Dr. Krieg, the Nazi doctor who made experiments in Dachau. He had revealed Sydney’s involvement in bringing the mad doctor to justice – Parker's name was never mentioned, for obvious reasons.
This had definitely turned the Jury in Sydney’s favor; the tortures he'd endured in Dachau when he was younger had been considered mitigating circumstances.
Jarod was content with the bulletin the Jury made for the press; somehow, it made Sydney's character less guilty at the eyes of the public opinion. The psychiatrist would be very glad.
The Tower, Hasani and all the other members of the councils of the Centre and the Triumvirate were given years, even decades to be spent in prison, without possibility of parole with good behavior.
Indemnities of different kind were provided to the families of the kids kidnapped or killed by The Centre, as well as for all the people that had been exploited for experiments.
Unfortunately, Angelo's parents weren’t on the list. Jarod had found out that they had died in a car accident staged by the Centre soon after Angelo’s kidnap.
Hasani hadn’t spoken for the whole trial. He looked already submitted to the idea of ending up in prison, even if they'd served him a couple of years for acting against Mr. Raines.
Jarod had tried to explain to the Jury how that had felt like an act of late redemption, but his statement wasn't enough to save Hasani from jail.
The only man missing at the trial was Mr. Cox. He had been found in the Triumvirate African fortress while he was trying to escape.
He was one of the few who might have been able to confess the crimes of the terrible three, but he had died during a gunshot.
Jarod and Miss Parker weren’t shocked by the news.
She still remembered the glacial coldness Mr. Cox had showed when he'd inspected Brigitte's corpse; and Jarod still remembered how he had planned Zoe's abduction. After all, he just got what he deserved.
As soon as the Jury communicated the verdicts, applauses and shouts exploded in the courtroom. Dozens of reporters were taking pictures of Miss Parker and Jarod's reactions, as well as those of the other people involved in the trial.
But Jarod and Parker weren't interested in celebrity, they just wanted to start living a normal life. Still, all the tabloids were in completion to publish the best pictures of that famous couple. A bunch of photographers took pictures of Parker and Jarod holding each other in satisfaction; others managed to catch a kiss.
Should the press ever find out that Jarod had written a romance novel inspired by their lives, they would probably pay millions to get the copyright.
When Jarod and Parker exited the court surrounded by Ethan, Broots and Jarod's parents, they looked happier than ever.
They were both wearing sunglasses and leather jackets; Parker had her trademark stilettos (back on her feet after the months of abstinence due to her pregnancy), a silky light blue blouse and her never-missing miniskirt.
Jarod wore a classic black jeans and a form-fitted red shirt. They looked positively amazing.
They never conceded interviews, no newspaper had the honor to hear their voices after the trial.
And one day later, just as they had appeared from nothing, they vanished. Police, newspapers, tv channels and radios tried looked for them for months. Nobody ever knew what had happened to the American Fiancées, as they'd been called.
From time to time, someone would claim to have seen them outside a shop or a service station.
Somebody also spotted them at Disney World, buying cotton candy with the boy they had adopted while watching their daughter on the carousel.
Within the years, the interest in Jarod and Miss Parker decreased, until they became a faint memory of an incident that, for some time, had shocked the American collective imagination.
So, the story is almost over.
Get ready for the Epilogue.