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Story Notes:

I had the general idea for this fic for about two years, and you can't imagine how glad I am that I was finally able to not only write it, but to write it for the Het Big Bang and to have been able to complete it. Many thanks to my two betas, the ever so wonderful csiangel and silecet. And thank you to whogate who have chosen to make art for this fic. I hope you will enjoy it!


    Both men watched the screen as the woman was talking on the phone. They couldn't hear what she was saying, but they had no doubt as to whom she was talking to. The younger man didn't know why the older one wanted to watch what was happening.

    To him it didn't look any different than every other time the same scene had occurred. But it seemed like it did to the older man. He was ready to question him about it, when the man silenced him and gestured for him to keep looking at the screen.

    They watched as the woman stood up from the couch and walked to her desk. There, she picked up a frame, and after having looked at it, she put it close to her chest. Neither of the men had needed to see the picture to know who was on it. She put the frame back on the desk, and erased a tear with her now free hand.

    The younger man was ready to demand an explanation this time, when he was stopped by what the screen was now showing. The woman had hung up the phone, and had put her hand against her cheek, her lips pressing briefly against the fingers she had closed around the cell phone. It surprised him, though he knew it shouldn't; it certainly hadn't surprised the older man, as his face remained impassive.

    Turning his eyes back to the screen, he watched as the woman gathered her belongings and left her office.

"You think she's going to betray us?" he asked the older man, wondering if that was why he had been asked to watch this.

"And we need to do something about this," the other man wheezed.

"I can take care of this problem," the first man replied, a feral grin already on his lips.

"You'll take care of her in due time. For the moment, I have another use for her. You'll need help from Mr Cox."

"I'll call him. What about the rest of her team?"

"Do not worry about them. They'll be dealt with."

"Good. May I know what you have in mind for her, now?"

"She thinks she's the only one able to bring Jarod back home. She couldn't be more right."

    It took a second for the younger man to understand what he had been told, but as soon as he did, a grin stretched his lips, and he couldn't help but chuckle. The older man grinned in turn and left the room, the wheels of his oxygen bottle squeaking.

    The younger man turned back towards the screen showing the now empty office. With his right hand, he rubbed his once again thumb-less left hand, his eyes darkening.

"Soon, sis, very soon," he said, before walking out of the room.

    Unbeknownst to them, a third man had been watching the scene from the vents. He looked at the empty room beneath him, rocking back and forth on his heels. Only one thought was on his mind.

"Daughter in danger," he kept repeating in a low voice. "Daughter in danger."

Chapter 1

    She was walking down the corridors of sub-level 10, not really caring about who could see her. She knew she shouldn't be there; her father had forbidden her to ever wander down the corridors of the Centre, but he had left her all alone once more. And on this day, it hurt her more than any other day; on this day, a year ago, her mother had committed suicide, leaving her alone with a father for whom work was more important than his own daughter.

    And today, of all days, she needed to be with someone. That was why she was seeking out Jarod and Angelo. She didn't know where the latter was, but she was pretty sure she could find the former in the sim lab with Sydney; Sydney who would not be happy to see her, but who would understand her at the same time. She entered the sim lab quietly, and watched Jarod as he was working on pictures in front of him. Sitting at the top of the stairs, she listened to them talk.

"Are you sure, Jarod?"

"Yes, Sydney. The mother did it. She had paid those men to kidnap her son so that he would escape the abuse from his father. She hadn't expected them to ask for more money and to kill him when she couldn't pay them."

"How can you tell that she's responsible for her son's death?"

"Her eyes in this picture," Jarod answered, showing it to his mentor. "There's guilt in them."

"Great work, Jarod. That'll be all for today," Sydney said, gathering the pictures in his hands.

"Sydney? How can a mother put her child in danger? Even if it is to save him?"

"I don't know Jarod, I don't know."

    Sydney turned towards the stairs to leave the room when he spotted Miss Parker coming down towards them.

"You know you shouldn't be here, Miss Parker. Your father..."

"Please, Sydney. I heard you say that Jarod was done for the day, I won't disturb him."

    Turning towards Jarod, he could see in the young Pretender's eyes that he too was hoping for a positive answer. He knew for a fact that the Centre didn't want Jarod to interact with other children of his age, especially not with Miss Parker, but as a psychiatrist, he also knew that Jarod needed to just be a child when he wasn't doing a simulation. He was also very aware of the date, and of the fact that Mr Parker was in his office and left his daughter on her own. So, that was why he slowly nodded his head.

"But be careful, and don't go anywhere you're not allowed to," he warned them, and the children nodded in answer.

"Thank you, Sydney," Jarod said, and Parker echoed the sentiment.

    They watched as Sydney left the room, before Parker turned back towards Jarod. She motioned for him to follow her, and they went to sit on the ground beside the vent, knowing that Angelo would soon join them.

"Do you know what day it is today, Jarod?" she whispered. When he shook his head no, she continued. "Today is April 13th."

"It's been a year..."

"Since Mama died," she finished for him. "Jarod, why did she leave me?" she asked, and tears could be heard in her voice.

"Miss Parker?"

    Parker was jolted out of her thoughts, and turned to see Debbie looking at her from the threshold of her room.

    Broots had been called in Seattle to supervise a data transfer, and had asked her to take Debbie with her for the next two days. Parker had resisted at first, but when he admitted to her that Debbie wanted to spend time with her, she had agreed.

    Now, as she looked at her, she couldn't help but smile. The young girl she had first met years ago had turned into a beautiful teenager. At thirteen years old, she was just like any other teenage girls, and Parker knew for a fact that Broots was already worrying about boys. But in a way, she remained the girl she had met, and that was the case tonight; she was wearing her pyjamas, and Parker smiled as she saw that she was holding the book she had given her against her chest.

"Are you ready?" Debbie asked with a smile.

"Let's go into the living room."

    They settled on the couch, Debbie leaning against Parker's side, and the book lying on their laps. The girl opened it where they stopped the last time they read it together, and turned her head slightly to look at the woman. She could see the smile that played on her lips, as she let her eyes wander over the words she practically knew by heart.

"So where were we?" Parker said in a soft voice, glancing at Debbie before starting to read. "Beth did have the fever, and was much sicker than anyone but Hannah and the doctor suspected. The girls knew nothing about illness, and Mr. Laurence was not allowed to see her, so Hannah had everything her own way, and busy Dr. Bangs did his best, but left a good deal to the excellent nurse."

    Miss Parker barely looked at the words as she recited them. She still remembered the times when her mother would read those lines to her, and she couldn't help but think that this moment was like a mirror of the one from the past. Before she met Debbie, she would have never thought that a scene like this one could occur. But the girl had changed her. She might not show it to anyone outside of the house, but both Debbie and she knew better.

"Will we read the sequel, one day?" Debbie asked as Miss Parker closed the book when she reached the end of the chapter.

"If you want us to, we can. Once we'll be done with re-reading Little Women, I'll buy the next book."

"I've already bought it, actually," the girl said in a soft voice, a small smile on her face. "Did you read it?"

"No…," Parker answered, her eyes clouding. "My mother died before we could get to it. But I'll be happy to read it with you," she quickly added with a smile, not wanting to sadden the girl.

"Thank you."

"Now, let's go to bed. You have school tomorrow," she said, when she saw that Debbie was ready to protest.

"I could not go…"

"You're going," Parker replied, knowing that she couldn't let the girl do what she wanted. But as she saw the look on Debbie's face, she wondered if there wasn't something else. "What's going on? You know you can talk to me. I won't say anything to your father, if you don't want me to," she reassured her, letting her arm rest over her shoulders.

"It's nothing really."

"To me, it looks like it bothers you, so it must be something."

"It's just… You know, there are these girls at school, they're popular and all, and I'm not and... Forget it," she said, shaking her head, and getting up from the couch. "It's stupid, it's…"

"Do they bother you?" Miss Parker caught her arm before she could get away, and looked at her with concern. "Tell me, Debbie."

"Not really. They just make me understand that I'm not one of them, and that I'll never be one of them. And it hurts, even though I know it shouldn't. I'm perfectly fine with being who I am."

"But you want people to like you, too." Tugging on Debbie's arm to make her sit back on the couch, she turned towards her. "I was a bit older than you when Daddy sent me to boarding school. The school year had already started, and when I arrived, I was immediately put aside by the others. I wasn't one of them. It hurt, even though I didn't want it to."

"What happened then?"

"After a few weeks, I decided to not care anymore about them. I had my family and friends back home, and that was what was the most important to me. You have your friends here with you. Stay with them, don't bother about what those so-called popular girls think about you."

"I'll try. Goodnight Miss Parker," she said, hugging the woman, before retiring to her room.

"Goodnight Debbie," Parker whispered to the empty living room.

    Back in her room, she opened her closet, and took out a box that was sitting in the back, hidden by her clothes. She hadn't lied to Debbie; what helped her when she was at the boarding school was the fact that her father and her friends were waiting for her to come back. Or so she thought for the first few months.

    After weeks and weeks of writing letters to both her father and Jarod, without getting a reply, she had just given up. She had always known her father was a busy man, and hadn't really been expecting replies to her letters, but she had been hurt when she got no reply whatsoever from Jarod. She had thought that he had forgotten her, and that had been the seed her father had used years later.

    But she should have known better from the Pretender.

    After Mr. Parker's jump from the plane, she had gone to his house in the hope to find some answers. She needed them. But what she found hadn't been what she expected. In the safe that only she and the man she had thought to be her father knew about, she had found letters. The same letters she had written to Jarod all those years ago lay there, unopened. And beside them, there had been another stack of letter, letters that the Pretender had written to her and she had never received.

    As she looked at them now, she couldn't help but wonder what if. What if Mr. Parker hadn't intercepted these letters? What if she had gotten those letters from Jarod? What if she had more faith in him? More questions she wouldn't find the answers for. She had opened them, and read them, and for a moment, it was like she was back in her teenage years, at the boarding school, waiting for Jarod's letters.

    She couldn't help but wonder why he kept them all these years. It would have been easier if he had got rid of them. She would have never found out the truth; she would still be thinking that Jarod had forgotten about her just days after she left.

    She closed the box, and put it back in the closet, making sure that it was hidden.

    She was just about to get into bed when the phone rang. She picked it up quickly, not wanting the ringing to wake Debbie. She didn't need to hear his voice to know that it was him; only he would call at this late hour. And maybe Broots to make sure Debbie was fine, but she had made sure that he knew there would be consequences if he were to wake one of them up.


"Do you wonder about what ifs, Miss Parker?" he asked, and for a moment, she was sure he knew what she had been thinking.

"Why are you asking?"

"And when will you stop answering my questions by asking more questions?" he countered, before sighing. "I do wonder. What if I was never taken from my home, what if I escaped earlier, what if we stayed friends, what if…"

"I'm not taking that turning point, Jarod," she interrupted him, knowing that it was where he was going. That had been the subject of most of his phone calls since they came back from Carthis. And her answer had always been the same. She heard him sigh once more, but she cut off whatever he was going to say next. "You know I can't and I don't want to."

"Sometimes, I also wonder what if the Centre never existed," he continued as if she hadn't spoken. "I wonder where we would be…"

"We'll never know because the Centre exists and it's our world, our lives," she interrupted once more. She didn't want him to say words that he would regret later, because he would. "What do you want, Jarod?"

"Listen to your inner sense, Parker."

"Jarod, wait!" she said, as she felt that he was about to hang up. "Do you have news, any news, from Ethan?"

"No. If I find something, anything, you'll be the first to know."

    And with that, he hung up. She stared at the phone still in her hand for a moment, before putting it back on the nightstand and crawling beneath the sheets.

    As she was waiting for sleep to claim her, she wondered what he meant when he told her to listen to the voices.

    Miss Parker woke up with a start from the nightmare she was having. It was the same nightmare that had plagued her nights since she was ten; she was reliving the day her mother died, trying to stop it, but failing.

    Knowing that she wouldn't get any more sleep, she got up and started to get ready for another day at the Centre, her own personal Hell. As she walked through the living room, she smiled at the book resting on the coffee table. Broots had given it to her from Debbie the previous day; it was the sequel to Little Women, Good Wives, the book they had spoken of when the girl had been staying with her two weeks ago. She hadn't opened it yet, wanting to read it with Debbie, and wishing at the same time that she was still a little girl herself and her mother was still there to read it with her.

    It was still early, way too early to leave for work, but she didn't want to stay at home; this would only lead her to think about the past, about things that were but weren't anymore, and she couldn't do that. Grabbing her coat and car keys, she left her house

    She had always loved driving; it helped her unwind, and made her forget about everything else. Even if it meant driving towards the Centre, at least for a moment, she would be free of everything else. Stopping only once on the way for her second cup of coffee of the day, she reached her destination and parked her car. As she surveyed the area, she noticed that neither Raines nor Lyle's cars were there, yet. It meant at least another hour or two of calm before they showed up and made her life a hell.

    She didn't really understand how she could be related to either of them. Thinking about Raines as her father still wanted to make her vomit, even four months after having learned about it. But she had run the test again, and without telling anyone else, she even asked a lab totally unrelated to the Centre to check the results again; there was no doubt, he was her biological father.

    Sydney had tried talking to her about that quite a few times, but she had always deflected him; she didn't need, and didn't want to discuss it. She just wanted to forget all about it, even though Lyle and Raines did a good job in reminding her every day where she came from.

    She stepped into the elevator, but instead of pressing the button that would take her to her office, she pressed one that would take her to the bowels of the Centre. She had one stop to make before her day really started. As the elevator came to a stop, she got out, and walked down the corridor. She knew that even with her eyes closed, she would find her way there; she had grown up in the Centre, and even more so in its sublevels.

    She stopped and crouched before an air vent, and wasn't surprised to find that her date was already there.

"Hello, Angelo," she said, smiling.

    It had become a sort of ritual ever since they had spent a few hours together, outside of the Centre. Even if she wouldn't admit it to the Pretender, being with him and Angelo again made her happy. It sent her back to a time in her childhood where she would seek them out and spend hours on end with them. So since then, once a week, she would come and visit him, talk to him for a moment.

    She suspected that Raines and Lyle knew about those visits, but neither of them had mentioned them to her, not even Mr. Parker when he was alive asked her about them. She guessed that as long as it didn't cause any trouble, she was somehow safe. Or at least, she hoped.

"Here you go," she whispered to him, handing him a box of Cracker Jacks.

"Thank you," he replied, opening the box and starting munching on some. "Miss Parker sad," he continued as he looked at her. "Nightmare?"

"Yeah, nightmare again. Nothing changes." She paused, watching him as he watched her, a questioning look on his face. "Why can't you be my brother?" she mused out loud.

    Angelo just shrugged in answer, but she hadn't expected him to say anything.

"Do you know where my little brother is?" she asked, as she did every week since she came back from Carthis to find that the baby had been moved. She wasn't expecting an answer to that question either, he usually said nothing, so she was surprised when he spoke.

"Soon," he replied with a smile. "Soon…"

"Soon what, Angelo?"

    But this time, he didn't answer. He just smiled enigmatically, before turning away, and leaving her alone. She couldn't help but wonder what he had meant by that, but she hoped that as he told her, she would find out soon.

    Getting up from her crouching position, she started the walk back to the elevator, wondering for a moment if today would prove to be as uneventful as the day before.

    The sight of a package on her desk as she entered her office made her think that she wouldn't stay idle. Quickly recognizing the writing as Jarod's, she opened it, finding a red notebook resting on top of a box.

    Flipping through the pages, she expected to read about his latest pretend. Instead, she found herself looking at pictures of Lyle and Raines talking with a man she had never seen before. A quick glance told her that it probably came from the security cameras of the Centre. Turning the last page, she wasn't surprised when instead of a name she found a question: 'who is he?' A question she would like to answer too.

    Making a mental note to ask Broots to search for any references to the mysterious man, she placed the notebook on the desk before taking the box out of the package. It was big, but it wasn't heavy. Opening the lid, she noticed that there was only one thing inside: a key.

    A quick look told her that it looked like any other keys, there was no number and no name on it to identify where it came from. Still, there was a nagging feeling at the back of her mind that told her that the key was somehow linked to the man in the pictures, and that the sooner she would find out who the man was, the sooner she would know what the key meant.

    Putting the key with the ones for her house, she decided to keep that to herself. If her feelings were right, then she'd rather that neither Lyle nor Raines knew about it.

    As he drove west to a yet unknown destination, Jarod thought that Miss Parker should have received the package he sent her by now. He hoped that with Broots, they would be more successful than he had been with finding out who the man was. Despite his unlimited access to the Centre mainframe, he hadn't been able to dig out anything about him. It probably meant one thing: whatever information the Centre had on this man, it was either on Lyle's or Raines' computer. Knowing he couldn't risk his freedom for that, he did the next best thing, and sent the key and the pictures to Parker. She would find out the truth, he was sure of it.

    Looking through the rear view mirror, he noticed that behind him, the night sky was slowly leaving the place to a new day. He didn't know what it would bring to him, whether it was a new person to help, some clues about his mother's whereabouts or nothing at all. But it would still mean another day away from the Centre's clutches.

    Entering a town in Missouri, he decided to stop for breakfast. Grabbing the local newspaper, he entered the diner, and sat down at the counter. As the waitress poured him a cup of coffee, he ordered his breakfast, and started reading the paper. Unexpectedly, an article grabbed his attention; a young girl had lost both her parents during the robbery of her house. The suspects were still at large. The rest of the article gave Jarod enough reasons to stay in town for longer than he had intended. He had to help this girl in one way or another.

    Paying for his breakfast, he quickly went back to his car, and drove off to the nearest motel; he had to create himself a new identity and change clothes before doing anything else.

    Jarod entered the sheriff's office in the small town of Sullivan, Missouri, took off his sunglasses and walked towards the only desk.

"Hi, my name's Jarod Baker," he said to the young deputy. "I'm with the BAU. I was sent to help you on the Schaeffer's case."

"BAU?" the young man repeated, confused.

"Behavioural Analysis Unit. We're part of the FBI," he clarified as he saw a confused look.

"The sheriff hasn't told me you were coming. Who called you?"

"No one. Our bureau in Jefferson City thought we could help, so here I am," Jarod concluded with a smile, hoping that he wouldn't call and check his story.

"The sheriff's out for lunch, but he shouldn't be long. I'm Deputy Peter Drumond."

"Maybe you could tell me exactly what happened. They haven't been able to tell me a lot besides the headlines."

    The Pretender sat down on a chair on the other side of the desk, and waited as the younger man took a file out from a drawer. Handing it over to Jarod with a meaningful look, he started to talk.

"I was the first one to arrive on the scene. It was… I think I'll never be able to forget it. The entire house was trashed as if they were searching for something specific. The family was out, but they came back before the thieves were gone. They were both badly beaten before they were shot to death. One bullet each, straight into the heart. It's a miracle that Lucy survived. Hearing the noise from outside, her parents told her to hide in the car. When I found her, she was trembling and crying for her parents. I hadn't had the heart to tell her they were dead."

    As he listened to Peter, Jarod took a look at the file, and the pictures in it. He hadn't been lying; they had searched everywhere, and for the moment, he had no way to tell whether or not they found what they were here for in the first place. A sad smile rested on his lips as he looked at a picture of the family. He knew he had to find who did this so that Lucy could be safe.

"What do you think?" Peter couldn't resist asking.

"I think you were right to say that they were looking for something specific. But you're wrong when you say 'they'."

"You think one person did all this?" he asked, surprised.

"I'm pretty sure, yeah."

"But if he was alone, Mr. Schaeffer would have been able to subdue him pretty easily."

"Unless he was threatening his wife with his weapon," Jarod reasoned. "You knew him. Would he have risked his wife's life?"

"Never. But how can you tell there was only one man?"

"Who said anything about a man?"

"You think a woman did this?" Peter nearly squeaked.

"I don't know," Jarod answered honestly. "But it's possible. As for how I know there was only one person involved… It's just the feeling I get from these pictures. This is too methodical; if there had been two or more thieves searching the room at the same time, it would have looked different, even more disturbed in some way. See here for example," he handed a picture over to Peter, "everything would have been messed up."

"Everything is messed up," Peter exclaimed, not understanding what Jarod meant.

"No, I meant that for example books over cushions over other books. Because more than one person would have searched the room at the same time. There, all the books are together, the same goes for the papers. See?"

"Yeah…" Peter didn't look convinced that Jarod was right.

"Call it a gut feeling," Jarod added, just as the door opened.

"Sir!" Peter said, jumping to his feet. "This is Jarod Baker, he's with the FBI."

"The BAU to be exact. They sent me to work with you on the Schaeffer's case."

"Sheriff John Brody," the man introduced himself, extending a hand for Jarod. "I believe that Peter has already brought you up-to-date with what we have."

"He did. But I'd like to see the crime scene. If we want to find who did this, I need to understand why that happened." He paused, looked at the picture of the family, before his eyes found the Sheriff's again. "And I'll need to talk to Lucy."

"She has seen nothing. She was hiding in the car all along."

"But she might have heard something, anything that could give us a clue."

"She won't be able to help you. She hasn't said a word since it happened."

"I've worked with traumatized kids, before," Jarod reassured the Sheriff, understanding his concern. "Did you know her parents?" he asked, as they were leaving the office.

"This is a small town. I went to school with Don, and Julia was my wife's best friend."

"Do you see anyone in town who could have done it?"

    Brody opened the car door and leaned on it. He took a few seconds to think about the people under his jurisdiction, before he answered; a case like this was sensational and would make the national news coverage, exonerating someone just because he knew them wouldn't do.

"Off the top of my head, no. We only got minor infractions around here. This is the first murder case we had for the past twenty years. But I guess that people can change or hide their true nature."

"Yes, even though there will always be a clue in their past: arsons, attacks against a pet… Those are signs of something bigger lingering inside." Jarod paused to let the Sheriff think about it. "A stranger could have done this, too. They were probably after something. Do you know if anything is missing from the house?"

"I don't think so. But the house is trashed, I can't be sure."

"Ok. Where's Lucy now?" Jarod asked as the Sheriff put the car into motion.

"With Cynthia, my wife. Don's parents were out of town for the week. I had to tell them what happened on the phone."

"What about Julia's family?"

"She didn't have any as far as I know. She and Don met when he was studying in Boston. She was working in a bar he would often go to and they fell in love. She came back here with him after he was done with his studies. They got married and had Lucy a couple of years later."

"I guess you don't know anyone holding a grudge against the Schaeffer's, either."

"No. They got on with everyone around here."

    After the Brody's reply, Jarod stayed silent. In his mind, he was analyzing every little detail he had learned about the murdered couple so far; there were still a lot of grey areas, but by the time he solved this case, he would know everything.

    But right now, he had to talk to Lucy, to help her through this ordeal. He had dealt with children many times since he ran away from the Centre, and he had read many books on child psychology, and he knew it would take time. Time they might not have if they wanted to find who killed her parents. But he also knew from experience that hastening Lucy would result in her closing in on herself even more. And it was the last thing he wanted.

    As Brody pulled in front of his house, he turned towards Jarod but was stopped before he could even open his mouth.

"I know you want to warn me that Lucy's current state of mind is fragile, and that if I upset her in any way, you'll have me out of the door the next moment. But you can trust me. The last thing I want is to hurt her. Just like you, I want to find who did this to her parents so that she knows she has nothing to fear anymore. A child needs closure more than anyone else," he concluded, thinking about Parker who had only recently found out what really happened to her mother.

    It seemed to reassure Brody who nodded at him, and got out of the car. Jarod followed him to the door, and when he entered the house, the first thing he noticed was a silence that was uncommon when children were around. A quick look at the pictures on the wall told him that the Brodys had three children, two boys and a girl, the youngest about Lucy's age.

    Jarod followed Brody to the backyard where the children were playing. Only one little girl wasn't playing, and he didn't need to ask to know that it was Lucy. She was sitting on a chair, her arms hugging a teddy bear tightly, and her eyes red from crying. The woman who was sitting next to her stood up when she saw them and walked towards them.

"Jarod, this is Cynthia, my wife. Cynthia, this is Jarod Baker, from the FBI. He's here to help us on the case."

"Nice to meet you," Jarod said, shaking her hand.

"Do you think you can find who did this?"

"I'll do everything I can. She needs closure, and I hope we can bring it to her."

    Cynthia nodded, before turning to go back to Lucy. Brody stopped her with a hand on her arm.

"Jarod needs to talk to her."

"She didn't see what happened," Cynthia replied, protective of Lucy.

"I know. But she might have heard something, anything that might tell us who did this to her parents."

"And she hasn't even said a word since it happened."

"Your husband told me that. I don't expect her to talk to me if she hasn't talked to people she knows. She's traumatized, and she's going to need time and help from a psychologist to get through this ordeal. But she's scared too, isn't she?" Cynthia nodded and he continued. "She won't be reassured until whoever did this is behind bars. Let me help her. Trust me, I can."

    Jarod could see that Cynthia was hesitating, but after a few seconds, she gestured for him to go to Lucy. He could see that she wanted to come with him, but her husband held her back.

    He walked slowly to Lucy, stopping a few feet away from her, deciding to talk to her before coming closer; the last thing he wanted was to frighten her.

"Hello Lucy. My name is Jarod. I'm here to help you."

    He hadn't expected any reply, and so he was surprised when she raised her head to look at him. What he saw in her eyes was something he had seen many times before in the eyes of the people he chose to help. And just like every other time, it was Miss Parker's devastated face that came to his mind when he met Lucy's eyes.

    He sat down beside her, and waited to see if she would look at him. He had dealt with traumatized children before, and he knew that they had to do things at their own rhythm and that urging them would only serve to antagonize them.

    When she kept her eyes on the floor, he resumed talking, not wanting the silence to be uncomfortable for the young girl.

"I know you don't feel like talking these days, and that's alright. You'll talk when you're ready, we both know that. Like I said, I'm here to help you, Lucy. I want to find who hurt your Mom and Dad."

    Upon hearing this, Lucy turned her head towards him, and he knew he got her attention. But he also saw in her eyes that she was even more afraid that before.

"Whoever did this won't come and hurt you, I promise you. We'll protect you, me, Cynthia and John. He won't be able to do you any harm."

    To his great satisfaction, she nodded in understanding, and he noticed some of her fear disappearing from her eyes. He smiled, and although she didn't return it, he knew he made some progress; they still had a long way to go, but it was a start.

    Taking out the latest Pez dispenser he bought out of his pocket, he offered one to her.

"Go on, they're really good. And I don't think anyone would be mad at you for eating just one sweet before lunch," he reassured her.

    But she still didn't accept it until Cynthia nodded her assent. Jarod shared a look with Cynthia and John, before returning his eyes to Lucy. His resolve was even stronger than before; he would do everything he could to find who killed her parents and to help her smile again.

To Be Continued

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