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When I read rebirth (both new books to Pretender) I realized that even though it was coming back new (fantastic new twists), I would not get to see the same things I saw before. Different events took place. So this is my own ending in my head to the original series. It starts one year later after IOTH and doesn't end until Jarod completely annihilates The Centre and The Triumvirate in one grand stand.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pretender. I just borrow the characters. I make no profit off of this fiction.
Miss Parker stopped as she saw Angelo. “What, Angelo?”
“Angelo. Confused,” he said bowing his head downward. “Angelo. Sorry.”
Life was never fair. Miss Parker looked toward Sydney. “What’s he talking about now, Sydney? Why’s he down here?”
“We were going to use him to try and help us find Jarod,” Sydney said. “But, what he said. Parker, is there anything you haven’t been telling us?”
No. She wasn’t hiding anything.
Angelo held his hands closer towards her, then pulled them away. Good. It was never a good idea to try and touch her. She went back to watching Sydney and Broots when the phone rang.
“Uh.” Sydney stumbled just a second as he answered it and heard the request. More like command. “Broots. Miss Parker. You have been invited to South Africa to talk to the Triumvirate.”
“W-what?” Broots stumbled slightly. “Me? But, I’m just a desk jockey, what would they want me in Africa for?”
“Don’t wet your big boy diapers,” Miss Parker said to Broots. She looked back toward Sydney. “Tell them we’ll be on the next flight out.” She wasn’t scared. The big boys wanted to talk to her? Let them talk. If they were going to rattle her cage about not catching Jarod, then she’d just have to show them how tough she’d become. Besides, if she made a good impression, maybe they would pull Lyle or Raines down from their high perch.
Then she could drop them and squash them with her nicest pair of stiletto heels. The thought made her slightly smile a moment with a raised eyebrow.
“B-but why me? Why do I have to come?” Broots asked again. “I’m not a Parker.”
“Mm, maybe the Centre thinks you need a little promotion?” Miss Parker teased him. Honestly, she had no idea why Broots was being sent. Maybe it was good news. Maybe it was bad news.
But it was the Centre. Whether good or bad, the Centre ate people alive who showed weakness. Acting like it was no big deal and keeping their heads straight would work out better than getting panicked.
“But why not you, Sydney?” Broots asked, looking toward Sydney. “If this is about Jarod, then why aren’t you coming with us?”
“Because,” Sydney said, “I was not invited.”
Broots was doing it again. Becoming a target. “You have something to do this week, Syd?” She asked him, hoping he took up the slack.
“Busy week. They might know I don’t have time for much,” Sydney said, thankfully following her lead. “Good luck, Broots. South Africa will be an exciting new experience for you.”
“But what about Debbie?”
“Oh, hire a babysitter. She doesn’t need a sweeper team. This is just a little trip.” Broots. Why? Sydney was more relaxed in his manner, but Broots? He just couldn’t seem to learn. You couldn’t show softness. You couldn’t show weakness. That is what got people into trouble there.
She wasn’t romantically involved with Broots or Sydney, but they were as close as family. They were with each other nearly every day, chasing down Jarod on the computer, talking about Jarod, or chasing Jarod down physically. She had known Sydney since she was a child, but she came to care for Broots too.
And she wasn’t mean to be mean to Broots, which for some reason he seemed to never get. He just couldn’t . . . do what he needed to. He needed to get tough. Not body builder tough, but when someone scared you, you kept your eyes on them and you let them know that you weren’t scared of them.
That was the only way to survive in the Centre. After all those years, Broots still didn’t seem to get it. When things came up that you couldn’t handle, you’d either relax and act like you could handle them, or you would get mean and make everyone believe that you absolutely could handle it. There was no inbetween. There was no place for ‘buts’. Get tough. Survive.
Miss Parker walked up to Mutumbo in a strange room. There was glass around it that cells could be seen. No one was in the cells. As she expected, the room unsettled Broots. Before he could say anything she whispered, “Keep it together, Broots. This place won’t have nannies to take care of you.” She quickly looked straight and kept her courage up. She strolled up to Mutumbo like he was important, but no more important than her. “As requested, we’re here.”
“Uh, y-yeah, what she said,” Broots said following her lead, but still not standing right next to her. Slightly behind. She wanted to scream at him how bad that made him look, how weak, and how exposed his whole self had become. This was not the time to act like that.
“Change. Change is good,” Mutumbo said to her. “Is it time for a change in the Centre, Miss Parker?”
She kept her same expression on, indicating neither whether she was happy or not about his words. “In my opinion? Maybe. Mister Raines health decreases every year. Not to mention Mister Lyle just came into the Centre. He was not raised there. He treats it more like his possession than the company it could be.”
“Mm.” Mutumbo looked behind her as Lyle walked in. “Is the Centre your possession, Mister Lyle?”
“No.” Lyle came up from behind Broots, and Broots cringed back. “I think I do a great job there. What say you, Broots?” Before he could answer, Lyle swerved around him. “I agree about Mister Raines though. He’s in bad shape, and it would be much more beneficial to let him slide on into retirement.”
Miss Parker didn’t smile nor act surprised. She made no apology with her mouth or eyes about what she said to her brother. She didn’t even bother looking at him, preferring to keep her eyes on Mutumbo. He was the important one in the room. In fact, Mutumbo never talked to her one on one. Even her father, who had ran the Centre, barely spoke to Mutumbo. And now, today for some reason, she was the center of attention.
“The Centre is a serious business, it is not a plaything,” Mutumbo said to both of them. “Mister Lyle has brought me proof that Raines has shown signs that he might not be around much longer. I want a replacement ready.”
What, the sucking on the oxygen tank daily? There was no proof. Lyle’s gunning for the Centre. He just put her into a position to be tested.
She could be good, go along with his little game, and either win or lose. Or, she could blow the whistle on him. Raines would kill him. She, Broots, and Sydney win their lives forever whether they caught Jarod or not.
Then again, tattling to that old freak never was her style. “I’m the oldest,” Miss Parker said.
“I’m the son,” Lyle came back on her. “I’ve taken over the Centre more than once in my father’s absence. Meanwhile, my sister can’t even seem to catch Jarod. How could she run the Centre?”
“I don’t see you spouting off your catching rewards,” Miss Parker hissed toward him. Lyle always knew where to hit it so it would hurt. That little hiss was the closest he’d get to rattling her. If Mutumbo was ready to choose someone, Lyle would take the Centre as it had been, and it would never change.
If she received the Centre . . .
“Talk is just talk. Talk means very little in showing leadership. In showing confidence. Skill.” Mutumbo approached Lyle. “Are you willing to do anything to run the Centre, permanently?”
“Anything at all.” Lyle’s eyes glistened, he couldn’t contain his excitement. “I wouldn’t let anyone down, no matter what was asked of me.”
“And you?” Mutumbo shot his eyes her way. “Would you do what it takes to run the Centre?”
“Absolutely,” Miss Parker said with confidence. “I was raised in the Centre. It’s my home. I would choose to do what was best for it.”
“Then Mister Broots?” Mutumbo looked toward Broots, who jumped slightly at being called.
“Uh?” Broots blinked twice as fast and shuffled his feet. “Uh, yes?”
“Go.” Mutumbo’s guards came and fetched Broots. Miss Parker didn’t make a move. Doing anything stupid could get Broots killed. She watched out of the corner of her eye as he was placed in one of the glass cells.
“Now, we will see who should run the Centre,” Mutumbo said. He looked toward each of them. “Have you both felt tired? A little more drowsy? Aggravated?”
“Should we be?” Lyle spoke for them. “I am willing to put my life on the line to get the Centre. I just want to know if that’s what is now on the line.”
Damn. Miss Parker had been feeling tired and her aggression was higher. She watched as more guards came out and carried a table their way. The large table was placed in front of them. On it, were two sets of syringes.
“Mutumbo gestured toward Broots in the cell. A guard came in and held a gun to Broots’ head. “What is in those needles may kill you. We have given you some of it already, so you know the effects. Too much, and you could die.”
Broots. Miss Parker watched Broots. Trembling. He couldn’t even try to be brave. They are gunning him down for a stupid test? Cruel. Vindictive. Just like the Centre and Triumvirate.
“Mister Broots’ life, or one of you will take the shot,” Mutumbo said. “Two minutes. If you don’t decide, he dies.”
Broots made a slight sound of worry. “M-Miss Parker?” He looked toward the gun man. “I-I didn’t volunteer for this! I just know computers. I’ve got a little girl at home, please!”
Poor Broots. These thugs didn’t care about him or his little girl. Miss Parker looked at the needle filled with who knows what lying in front of her. Of course, Lyle didn’t care whether Broots lived or died. It was written on his face, plain as day. She looked around, trying to get a feel for the chances to get him out.
More guards had came in. The gun was right next to his temple, in a completely other room. There was only one way to save him. A test. Maybe. It’s my only chance.
“Will you save him that way?”
That way. Miss Parker caught that. She looked toward Mutumbo then at Lyle. “What do you mean, that way? What other way is there?”
“I promised Mutumbo here something in turn for making me the winner,” Lyle said. “Follow through it, and you are a free bird. Of the Centre. Without death or the Centre following you. Unless you want to keep in touch with your brother,” he smiled.
A promise. Freedom. “What kind of promise?”
“That he would catch Jarod within one year from now,” Mutumbo said clearly. “Seeing as how long it has been since his capture. With this, I agree.”
“And if he doesn’t?” Miss Parker watched him squirm lightly.
“His head on a platter. With festive vegetables. For our most exotic patients in the Triumvirate,” Mutumbo said, “and you would get the Centre instead.”
The Centre. Hers. “Lyle dies and I get the Centre, or I’m freed with no burden.” She won either way, and she didn’t have to take an insane shot for it. Saddle me up. What’s this bronco want?
“It’s just the itsy bitsiest of favors,” Lyle said. “You are going to contact us, and give Jarod up.”
“That’s a great plan, only I don’t know where he is,” Miss Parker teased him.
“But you will,” Lyle said. “Because Jarod is going to take you with him, on his pretends. He would never leave family behind.”
Family? “What are you getting at?”
“The Centre is capable of so many things,” Lyle said. “So, we are going to tell him that we basically turned you into Catherine Parker. Taking a note out of the old family book. Try and make a new generation of Pretenders with Parker blood. We’ll make it so convincing, he’ll come for you.”
“You’re going to try and convince Jarod I’m carrying his kid?” She scoffed with a laugh. But Mutumbo nor Lyle was laughing. “You’re kidding, right?” He was too smart for a stupid trick like that.
“You won’t call right away, after you’ve been taken,” Mutumbo said. “When he is at a trusting point, a weak point in his pretending games, you will make contact and we will get him.”
“Catching him securely in the middle of a pretend.” Miss Parker looked toward the needle. That was cold. Too cold for her to ever try.
“It’s not a joke,” Lyle said, gesturing back to Broots. “We’ll kill him. You either agree to this, or you take your chances in whatever is in that syringe in front of you, or Broots is dead.”
“Devilish,” she criticized Lyle. That wasn’t the way to catch Jarod, but the Centre never had a problem with ethics or morals. Broots wouldn’t die though, and if this was the real deal they wanted, saying no and taking that syringe was probably the end of her life. Once Lyle’s dead, I get the Centre. That’s an even better deal than freedom. What’s stopping me from completing my side so that he’ll just die? She looked toward him. He seemed confident. Foolish mistake. “Fine. Deal.”
“Good, but there’s one thing more.” Lyle looked down at his watch strangely then back at her, like he was trying to keep track of time. Then, he grabbed the syringe in front of him. “Bring her out.”
No. Oh no. “Debbie!” Broots yelled, getting rewarded with the gun being pushed even closer into his temple.
“Dad?” Debbie asked timidly. She looked at Miss Parker? “Miss Parker?”
“We already had a deal, Lyle!” Miss Parker said with heated anger. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing. Already did it.” Lyle showed them Debbie’s arm. It had a small bandage on the back of it. “Extra insurance, Parker. I want to make sure you don’t go back and tell Raines about this, or that you don’t help out an old friend, just to stab your poor brother in the back.”
“You twisted son of a bitch,” she answered back. “What did you do to that little girl?”
“Let’s just say her life ends, in one year, just like mine if I don’t complete this,” Lyle said. “But worry not. She won’t even get sick as long as she takes the medication we give Broots each week. As long as Broots doesn’t tell Jarod what we’re up to. Or Sydney. Or anyone.”
“You see? That is the initiative and risk it takes to run the Centre!” Mutumbo said.
“You bastard! That’s my daughter,” Broots panicked.
“Calm down. She won’t die for a whole year,” Lyle said. “Besides, we’re giving you vitamin pills, nothing else. Eventually because of Sydney’s ‘concern’ though, Jarod has to investigate it, he’ll see its only vitamin pills, and think it was just a small time scare. You’ll tell him about Miss Parker, he’ll play hero, and we are rolling.” Guards came to drag Debbie back away. He looked at his watch again for the second time.
“If Mister Lyle doesn’t complete his task of bringing Jarod back, he will die,” Mutumbo said. “Leaving you, Miss Parker, as the sole heir.”
“While a little girl dies.” Miss Parker conceded. That’s how Lyle would make sure she followed the plan. If she tattled to Raines what he did, Lyle would surely be killed. She doubted this little test was determining the future in the next few years. As soon as Lyle got his verdict, Raines would have an accident. “This is too genius for you, Lyle.” Cruel but genius. “Where’d it come from?”
The guard inside the cell left Broots inside of it, closing the door. Now what were they up to? They already had her full cooperation.
“Oh, it took work. It took a lot of work,” Lyle admitted as he adjusted his tie. “There’s more than one genius at the Centre, but they all know or have heard of Jarod. No one wanted to catch him, hell, they were rooting for him, so getting them as a team to come up with something against him. Let’s say freedom bells had to ring for all of them. They each contributed their part, and they were released officially from the Centre.” He smiled. “A small price to pay for the whole Centre.”
“I knew it.” Playing dirty. That was so Lyle. There was no choice though. Dirty or not, Debbie wasn’t going to be another victim of Lyle’s. “Fine, I’ll do it. I’ll go with your little game as long as she is safe and sound.”
“Good,” Lyle said. “Then there’s only one thing more.”
Guards surrounded her. She drooped her head to her neck as they held her tight. Oh great, now what?
Lyle once again looked down at his watch. The third time. “To make sure this works in just the right way, you are getting an improved mindwipe,” Lyle said. “New and improved now. Emphasis on improved. I’ve been watching the time, and we are cutting out those teeny tiny chunks of minutes we don’t want you to remember. Yet. Broots, you, and that little girl are all getting it. No, this time, Jarod won’t even know what hit him, because you won’t know. Not until it’s time to know.”
Mutumbo snapped his fingers. “Fetch Mister Broots from the cell and have him ready when we come back, then do the same for the little girl.”
“I am going to get you for this, Lyle,” Miss Parker warned him.
Lyle just shrugged. “I don’t see why you’re so upset. That’s not even the best part yet. See, in the whole thing I just set up, I only lied about one thing.”
“And what’s that?” she seethed.
“This, sis. The pregnancy isn’t just going to be convincing, it’s going to be real. How else are you going to trick Jarod? Not that you need to remember.”
She watched as he looked at his watch for the fourth time before she was dragged away.
Miss Parker couldn’t see anything but an array of colors. She could hear, but even that was starting to come in and out.
“Miss Parker? Tell them she’s employed? Here?”
“Well, that or death, Broots. And, you don’t want death. What was the name of your babysitter, Broots? Off the top of my head, Crystal? Off the top of her shoulders, her head?”
“I-I don’t want . . .”
“ . . . she’ll be okay . . .”
“ . . . I’ll figure out a way . . .”
“ . . . easy with her now . . .”