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Story Notes:

This novel will have acts to it, almost like a play. Since it deals with travel and the past, some stories are just easily stitched together, while others have great amounts of time in between and can complicate it.

 

 



 

 

ACT ONE: JAROD'S BREAKOUT

 

October 6, 1969

 

“Little Miss Parker, over here.”

 

LM Parker moved over to the grassy banks over by her mom. “Hi, Mom.”

“You want to hear a story?” Her mother asked her. She had her sit down on her lap as she read from one of her favorite books. “I love that book.”

“I do too,” LM Parker agreed. She looked up at her mom. “It’s a beautiful day, today.”

“It is. Every day with you is beautiful. You’ve no idea how special you are to me.” Her mother smiled as she stroked her hair. “I never have to think of the hard choices I made in life. You were worth everything.” She folded her hands with hers. “Why don’t you sing the poems with me?”

Oh. “Okay.” It wasn’t a big deal. Her mom liked to write poetry, and she wrote some pieces she liked to recite with her. She didn’t mind the first one. The second one wasn’t her favorite and she never understood or liked the rhythmn of the third. But, they were all special to her mother.

The first one was always LM Parker’s favorite though. They both sang together, their voices always sounding so right together. “The inner sense, the sunken treasure. The great destroyer, the great curator. Not yet come or the faraway past. A rusted heart will come at last.”

Her mom let go of her hand and put up her left index finger. “A key of new and the rust will shine.”

LM Parker put up her right index finger. “A key of blue and memory wine.”

They pressed their fingers together and sang together again. “Unlocked or locked and the heart will choose. A key of new or a key of blue.”

Then they started battling their index fingers playfully. “Kiss and tell oh that is fine, but expect a fight nearly all the time!”

They put their hands back down and finished. “For once it comes to the final hour. The puzzle key is the final power.”

 

It was so fun, just a nonsensical rhyme that always felt like it had a secret meanting. Just something between them.

 

“That’s fun,” her mom said. “Can you sing the second one for me?”

Always had to do them together. “Okay, momma.” She recited it. It always sounded half sad. Especially the last part.

LM Parker held up one finger. “It's one. It's one. Nothing done. On one.” She held up two fingers. “It's two. It's two. Me-mories. Surface blue.” She held up three fingers. “It's three. It's three. Me-mories. Deep blue seas.” She held up four fingers. “But there's four. But there's four. You'll never be yourself no mo-ooore.” It was always just slightly sad. Why would the number four be so sad? Still, it was her momma’s song.

The last one her momma always sang to her. Short and brief. “Danger Danger, caught with a stranger. Memories will be the cost or the hope and keys are lost. Danger Danger, caught in a strange time. The heart will beat one last time, before the keys will come in line.”

“You know, you could make a story from your rhymes, Momma,” LM Parker said. “Especially the first one. It’s my favorite.”

“It is the prettiest, but they are all important. You have to have all the views. Life’s hard enough.” She held her daughter’s hand. “A story though, huh? From my little rhymes I tell you?”

“It’s all heart and keys except for the middle. The middle is like blue. It’s just sad sounding,” she said. “Not that I don’t like it. It’s just? One’s my favorite.”

“Well. One is very important.” Her momma hummed it with her. “but you should remember all three. In fact? I wish I had something better for three. It’s the most scariest.”

“Two sounds the scariest. Or the saddest,” LM Parker said to her mom.

“Oh, two is scary and sad the further you go in the song,” her mother agreed. “But three is the scariest.”

“Why do you always have to sing the third?” LM Parker asked her mom.

“To not forget.” She rocked her daughter gently. “Nostalgia. When I was small? The world felt so different.”

Oh. It was a growing up song. The third one was a growing up song? “When I get older. Maybe I’ll understand the third one a little better.”

“I hope not,” her mother said. “I mean? Maybe you will.” She hummed the first rhyme song to her again.

“Can we go back to reading?” LM Parker asked her mom. “I love when you read to me.”

“Yes, I know you do. But don’t ever forget our little songs and rhymes either. And? Would you like to meet someone special tomorrow?”

Someone special? “Who am I supposed to meet?”

“His name will be Jarod.” Her mom smiled. “Not your typical boy, but he’s very sweet. Would you like to meet him? He’s almost your age. He lives in The Centre.”

“Oh? Okay,” she agreed easily. “In The Centre. I thought I wasn’t supposed to do that much in The Centre? Daddy doesn’t like me going that far in there. I usually stay in the back so nobody sees me.”

“Well, I think Jarod would like to meet you. He doesn’t meet many people where he is. I really want you to meet him. I’ve talked to his instructor, for a couple of meetings.”

A little odd? Her mom wanted her to befriend someone in The Centre? “Can we play?”

“No. Not really,” her mother said. “He doesn’t get to do that kind of thing. Meeting you though? It’s the most important thing in the world. He’s a very special boy.”

“Okay.” She shrugged. She would meet the boy. “Sure. I’ll meet him tomorrow.”

“Good. I love you, Little Miss Parker.” Her mom rubbed her nose playfully, making her laugh. “Always remember the days. Always.”

 

2019

It took so long. Twenty years to find the secrets that her mother left behind. Her unfinished work. Miss Parker wasn’t a lovely thirty year old with love and family that she could cherish over the years. She never made that mistake again after Tommy. She never had children either, always too busy. Too busy with nothing but chasing ghosts. Ghosts she’d never catch. Part of her never wanted to catch.

After the island when she found out Raines was her father, the closeness that Jarod and her shared. Hit a brick. The fact he was saying anything to her in a car about what happened when he was in her custody. He spelled it out well. Turning point. She didn’t turn and things just became worse. While supposedly looking for signs for Jarod, that’s all they did. Look for signs. They found his little lairs maybe a couple of times per year. Jarod didn’t want to get caught and he was losing his reasons to stay.

Eventually others were reassigned as they got older. Sydney even moved away. Maybe Jarod communicated with him. Maybe not. Broots moved to be closer to Debbie when she started attending a college further away. The Centre seemed to let him go without much care. By then, other younger computer programmers were found.

Miss Parker stayed though. Why? She didn’t even know. She was turned into a mostly regular sweeper and when Raines died, Lyle took over. Which was fine. That old man hung on way past the time he should have and Miss Parker didn’t want The Centre. She just had one thing she wanted. The one thing she’d been looking for. Her mother’s unfinished work.

Although she was older now, she could still turn some heads, but not as many. Whenever she walked into The Centre, it always felt more like a chore now. It wasn’t exciting. It was just 2019 now. Another new year.

“Hey, didn’t you used to work on the old Jarod cases?”

She looked behind her as some upstart tried to speak to her. Not that she really cared who talked to her. Jarod though. That name. “What about it. Did you ever get a single DSA?”

“A what?” He asked. “No. Those DSA’s are too old, modified way too easy. He could show it to anyone, who cares?”

Damn little upstart. “Then what are you stopping me and my coffee for?” she asked bitterly. Like this kid had ever even seen the back of Jarod.

He gave her a sour look but handed her the keys. “It’s over, The Centre stopped caring finally. Here. This is the evidence room to everything we dragged up over the years.”

Miss Parker looked at the key and watched him walk away. The hell? “What am I supposed to do with this?!”

“You’re one of the originals, right?” The upstart yelled back. “Get all of it stacked, updated, and seal it up already. Original catchers are the best, they got the most information.”

“What?!”

“Mister Lyle’s orders!” He yelled back at her.

Damn it! “Son of a bitch.” Great. Now she had to spend her time sorting through twenty years of Jarod’s bullshit! Well, only the first few held the most. Still, a time waster, and not something she wanted to do. Rediscover the past. Look into it. She finished her coffee quickly and headed to the room. At first when she got there, she tried to categorize it by pretends. Author to Zookeeper. Then, as she got looking into it, she found herself dwelling on more than just pretends.

There was so much of him. Everything he had done. Even the last case, the last time anyone saw him in 2017, he was still Pretending. Still helping. I hope he found his mom. Did he ever reunite with his family? Did he ever make a real life at any point? Try a real life like with a wife or children? Did he ever try to get a job he felt compelled to get because he wanted to instead of needed to? Did he ever learn to live for himself?

Because she never did. Nothing but coffee in her hand and regrets. It’s not like she wanted to go back to that car, at the ‘turning point’ and change into his direction. She didn’t want that. And if there was some magic ball out there to do that, it wouldn’t be that moment. After all those years of hurt and torture caused between them? It wasn’t the time to jump and say ‘let’s go’. You can only turn when you have somewhere to turn to. She didn’t see it. She still didn’t see it.

When she finally retired from The Centre, she still wouldn’t see it. When she looked out of her home’s window for the last time for a final breath, she still wouldn’t see it. There was nothing to see.

Except, one thing. Miss Parker noticed something that wasn’t part of Jarod’s collection. Over the years, there had been some people, little by little, that came out of the woodworks. The older things became, it seemed the more regret betrayed people. Someone had snuck something of her mother’s in there. At least, that’s what she imagined it had been. It was labeled unfinished business. She took it and stashed it away. She didn’t dwell on the memories, just tried to get Jarod’s things done and put away as fast as she could, so she could go look at it. After all, it was just dwelling on memories. Not something she needed, or should do, at her age.

--------------------------

Inside the collection of her mother’s was a video. On it, was her mother. Smiling at her from her chair. Just like other Centre videos she expected her to start talking to somebody. Instead? She started talking to her. “Hello, Little Miss Parker. I know that it’s been,” She breathed deeply, “a very long time since we last talked. I know that you’ve been looking for my unfinished business. Here it is.” She smiled. “Your inner sense. I know that by now you have it under enough control, hopefully, to do what needs to be done.” She placed out her hands. “Inner sense does more than show the future, Honey. It echoes your feelings and thoughts to the universe . . .”

If it had been anyone else but her beloved mother, she would have turned it off. Miss Parker dealt with the metaphysical unrealistic statements she made, having experienced the inner sense herself. She was more interested in the fact that her mother was there, looking at her, with new words she’d never heard her utter. A new conversation she never heard.

“Sacrifices must be made for the greater good.” Her mother smiled, that terrific smile only she could give. “I need you to finish my unfinished business, Little Miss Parker.”

Unfinished business. Words that haunted her for a large degree of her life. Words she never gave up on solving, but ultimately never lead anywhere.

Her mother told her to close her eyes. Miss Parker did as she listened to her words. Comforting. Warm. Almost therapeutic. She asked her to identify her mistakes in life. Her regrets. She asked her to identify when she could repair those regrets in one day. One single day. One single day.

She couldn’t repair everything, that must be her mother’s point. To go on with life and just enjoy living it. No way, there’s more to it than that. She continued to listen to her mother’s words, to search for that day, whatever day it had been. What did she smell? What was the world like? Conversations around her? Friends, trusted ones in the room? And the kicker at the end?

“Until you know, to the best of your ability, that you tried to remember every single detail you could and followed my complete instructions?” Her mother sighed. “You’ll never find my unfinished business.”

Miss Parker opened her eyes. How is remembering a single day going to do a damn thing for me? She’d rather give up and go home, but she’d seen some incredible things in the past. Maybe she knows the date? Maybe she saw it through her inner sense? Maybe there’s something in there I’m forgetting on that exact day. She didn’t know how to reason with it, but she’d do it. She listened to the second part of it, over and over.

It was like peeling back layers. At first she only remembered it slightly. She could smell The Centre, but she was never at The Centre that day. I was at The Centre the other day. It’d be too far in the future. No, one day. Her mother said one day. As she listened to her mother’s voice, kept her eyes closed and her senses opened, time drifted away.

Minutes to hours . . .

The world of that day, she could almost taste it now. Like a nice . . . cigarette? No, that wasn’t a cigarette. That was a faded taste of candy. That’s right, I didn’t smoke yet. Still a good girl. Changing into her current form, still an adolescent. Obeying daddy. At a good party. Twelvish.

For several more hours she kept her eyes closed and focused. Focused on her feelings back then. Focused on the smells of that party. Remembering how she felt. How she acted. Conversations. The outside world tried to barge in with sunlight coming through the window, but she blocked it out. No matter what it took. She’d do what her mother wanted.

Blurry at first. Miss Parker could see a small social party she was at. No longer older, but young and ready to take on the world.

She could feel something in her mouth. The taste of a faint sucker she hadn’t tasted in years. Vague, but there. Not like Brigitte’s one off cheap forgettable suckers. No, private company stock made delicious delectable. She could hear someone ask her if she wanted to dance with them. “Not on your life, Creep.”

 

 

1973

“Not on your life, Creep.” Miss Parker flung her sucker at him, smiling as he danced around from the surprise.

It wasn’t blurry anymore, it was sharp. Detailed. Crisp. She could hear conversations around her about relevant matters in school no one else would remember a month from then. She licked her lips, tasting the very sugar of the sucker, aptly being able to even name the brand. She hadn’t tasted that in a long time. Oh, how she regretted throwing it now. That company went out of business so long ago.

Miss Parker felt a shockwave move past her. She moved her hand to her mouth in disbelief as she started coughing. Impossible. What? She saw the dork that just bothered her. “What?”

“What are you on?” he criticized her.

Miss Parker rolled her eyes. “I’m not on anything.” Her daddy would kill her. Way too young. She reached in her pocket for another sucker. That party was dull compared to others she’d been to. It was just a middle of the Christmas break party. Not the better ones going out, or the good ones coming into the break. Middle of the road, not exciting. Shouldn’t have bothered coming to it.

She had to keep her focus though that year which meant approved parties only. Daddy wouldn’t let her slow down in her studies. She had to be top notch in order to run The Centre when she got older.

While she thought of The Centre though, something new flashed in her mind as she grabbed another sucker from her pocket.

A face of someone she used to know well. Why was he bothering her? She tried to concentrate on making the face go away again, but instead she saw a strange vision.

A vision of her mother, lighting a cigarette in the dark with mere illumination from the flame. She was talking to someone. Someone who sounded . . .

Miss Parker threw her sucker away along with her punch. “I’m serious, did someone slip me something?!” She yelled into the crowd. “It isn’t funny!” Someone had to have. Probably trying to make it more exciting. There’s no reason she would be having all those thoughts randomly. When nobody came forward, she did the smart thing and left the party. Boring anyway. She went outside to her chauffeur. Daddy made sure she always had a chauffeur until she could reliably drive by herself. That felt like forever away.

She hopped into the back of the car. “Home,” she said. Home was her private dorm room and he knew it well. There was little conversation on the way there. When she got there she went straight up without a word. Daddy paid enough to make sure the chauffeur stuck around no matter how little or how much she interacted. Even if she was bitchy, it’d be there.

She went into her dorm room. Her private school had homing on the grounds which her dad enjoyed. Saved on people watching her, or her having to bother him at The Centre. She didn’t care. It was either there or smelling the dead scent of The Centre. Who wanted to spend time in that place? It wasn’t great just to hang out in that weird place, with that . . . elevator.

Then another vision hit her. She saw Jarod, but older. Much older. “Who cares?” She tried to ignore it. She’d ignored him for a couple of years already, why was she even bothering with this? He belonged to The Centre, he belonged to Daddy, and she couldn’t get him out if she wanted to.

She certainly didn’t want to. She had her own life to live. She felt angry enough when she even had to go back to the dusty old Centre. One day when she was older and treated like an equal there, then maybe The Centre wouldn’t be so bad. Walking along those halls though, even at thirteen, they all still saw her as someone that shouldn’t be there. So many blocks on her. Still calling her ‘Little Miss Parker’. Even though she’d developed a little, a lot of the girls in her school were way more advanced. Until she looked older, she’d be treated like a kid.

If it weren’t for her many passes into some areas to make sure she could find her daddy or help, she’d be treated worse than a janitor. She hated it! It was better not to be there.

///”Daddy, just please put me back in corporate.”///

What? That was mom. Corporate? “What the heck is going on with me?” She moved toward her bed. “I’m not going insane.” She rubbed her eyes. “Sleep, that’s it. I’ll just get some sleep.” She rearranged her pillows.

///”He defends the weak and abused.”///

She grabbed onto her pillow as she snapped out of it again. “Oh no, someone did drug me.” It was such a minor party, even approved, so what did they give her? She wanted to reach for her phone and call Daddy. He’d make sure she was safe and anyone who was supposed to be responsible paid for what happened! But then?

She was a pretty woman. Like her mother, but not. More firm. More deliberate, not tender. She was older and trapped behind a desk with her eyes closed. Whispering something. Weird things. Weird facts. And.

Miss Parker clung to the pillow as she remembered. “My inner sense.” It was the gateway. It was what The Centre had wanted. With it, she could see into the future.

Miss Parker closed her eyes again. Another vision in front of her. This one, not as distant.

Jarod. She hadn’t seen him in some time. She was there in front of him. Releasing him. She was telling herself that her own life didn’t matter. She never made anything of herself, but Jarod would be worth it. Momma would want her to do it. And then, everything came screeching back to her. Getting pulled out of corporate, chasing Jarod, scenes of Las Vegas, Tommy’s smile, Brigitte’s cheap suckers with no class, Lyle’s cannibalistic smile, Jarod’s clone, the fire with Brigitte and her baby brother,  Ethan and the train . . .

Miss Parker picked up the phone. “Daddy?” She called him. “I don’t feel so good right now. I think someone drugged me at the party.” Of course, he told her it was a terrible time for a visit to The Centre. She knew what time it had been. Reviews were up for the Triumvirate to see. A one time decade ritual affair that stopped soon after Jarod escaped. “I know, I won’t be a nuisance, Daddy. I just don’t feel good. At all. I’m scared.” However, she was also his Angel. “You also said that you’d spend my birthday with me? That was a couple of days ago. Not that I’m making excuses, Daddy, but I’m sick? Please? I feel like I’m dying.” That would pull the trigger for him. “For me?”

That weekend. It was that weekend. The turning point. She couldn’t be at home or just get away with a ride. She needed to be squarely invited into The Centre.

 

 












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