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Jarod had first noticed the black sedan two weeks earlier, traveling westbound on Interstate 90, just past the Massachusetts turnpike. Secure in the eastbound lane, he'd adjusted his plans accordingly, driving south, and meeting his mother in Memphis.

That same sedan was behind him now, and he suspected that it had been there all along, and that perhaps he'd misspent his freedom, after all. Jarod believed he had, at the very least, made a critical miscalculation, because there should have been a hell of a lot more than a battered Harley and an SUV, mere meters, between himself and the Centre.

He'd sacrificed relationships, discarded lovers and any lingering hope of stability and normality, investing heavily, instead, in himself. The notion of recapture, inevitable prodding, and incessant mindfucks enraged him. He adamantly preferred death and homicide to capture, subjugation, relinquishing bodily integrity, and was categorically amenable to spilling blood to protect his family.

Jarod shouted a voice command and received immediate confirmation from the personal assistance application. Calling Mom, the app informed him indifferently, quite oblivious to the developing crisis, further infuriating Jarod. The matter was urgent. Life or death. He wanted to hear some fucking hustle, and fully intended to publish a scathing review of the app later.
If I'm not rotting in a Triumvirate prison later.

Jarod counted seconds, considered options. "Mom, come on, answer," he pleaded mutely.

He was equidistant from the marinawhere Margaret's Classique, a second-hand purchase, was mooredand the modest Sag Harbor investigation agency where Margaret was employed, and where he had, half an hour ago, left her.

Rationale intervened when instinct urged him to turn. The sweepers were efficient; if their intention was abduction his mother was already in the backseat of a sedan. Jarod punched the steering wheel, was grunting a string of obscenities when Margaret pleasantly spoke his name.

Jarod exhaled a breath of relief. "Mom," he said, "We've got company. Do you remember w-"

"Yes, yes," Margaret interrupted, irritably, "it was thirty minutes ago. Be careful. We'll meet in two days."

Maybe, Jarod said silently, glancing cynically at the rearview mirror again, and accelerating.

One car indicated an independent measure that absolutely reeked of Lyle. "He should be careful," Jarod said darkly, reducing his speed. His mischievous grin widened when the black sedan impulsively lurched onto the highway's shoulder. "Gotcha."

The harbor smelled faintly of machine oil and lighter fluid, and was moderately crowded. The thump of music from the on-site repair shop was tolerable, and mingled pleasantly with the cello sonata wafting from the water.  Jarod believed that Eminem added another dimension to Beethoven, and that tying Lyle to Margaret's boat, towing him out to sea, and leaving him to die would be a delightful deviation from monotony.

Jarod promptly parked several meters from a modest, and perpetually closed, dockside restaurant. Two teenagers were disemboweling fish, tossing unwanted bits on fallen pylons. Their trousers were sodden from the knees down, their feet bare. Stepping out of his jeep, Jarod returned their hellos and cheerful waves, and casually descended the stairs to the dock. The dark sedan was creeping menacingly into the gravel lot when he boarded the boat.

Eagerly, Jarod awaited advancing footsteps. He'd forgotten this, the anticipation, the headiness of power, predator becoming prey, but remembered, fondly, the exhilarating disarmament dance.

The boat creaked, a shadow fell. Jarod counted the intruder's breaths, waited until the gun's barrel was within view, and struck. He lunged forward and in a fluid movement pivoted at the waist and seized both the gun and the trespasser's wrist, deflecting the barrel, rotating it counter clockwise. With a grunt of anger and dark hair spilling across his face, he jerked the barrel in the opposite direction, and competently took possession of the gun, opting not to break a trigger finger, after all.

"Seriously," Jarod said hollowly, punctuating the word with a sudden, percussive laugh. "You came alone."

"Did I?" Parker challenged stiffly.

"Ambitious," Jarod cooed incisively, adding with mock sympathy, "But your little fantasy of returning me to the Centre will never be more than that."

"That isn't why I'm here," Parker crisply informed Jarod.

"No?" Jarod asked, skeptically. "Why didn't you knock?"

"I wasn't confident you'd open the door."

"Ah, so you decided to employ coercion, force an encounter," Jarod said with a frown of incredulity. "You realize, don't you, that that's worse?"

"I had no choice," Parker explained.

"No choice but to stalk me, break in?" Jarod inquired dryly, lowering the handgun. "And bring this?"

"You know I carry that for protection," Parker said equably, sufficiently concealing discontent. Being disarmed wasn't quite tantamount to losing an appendage. It had, nonetheless, hurt. Eager to have it back, Parker followed the firearm with her eyes, observed Jarod shake the magazine from the gun, and ensure the chamber was clear. When he swung an appraising gaze at her Parker hastily averted her eyes and studied the water-sky horizon through a small window.

"Oh, right, protection," Jarod purred, nonchalantly tossing the gun aside. He sidled closer to Parker, and whispered into her hair, "Protection. Tell me," he drawled, "how's that working out for you, hmm?"

"You've made your point," Parker remarked crisply, involuntarily recoiling from Jarod's warm breath and facial hair.  Jarod misinterpreted her movement as an escape attempt, and seized her shoulders.

Parker narrowed her eyes, growled, "Let. Go. Of. Me."

"Mhn, not until you tell me why you're here."

"I need your help," she whispered hesitantly.

"Twenty years without so much as a go to hell, and now you want my help. Like everyone else," Jarod cried, "you ignore me unless you want something. What is it? What do you want?"

Parker murmured a soft, "Nothing. Just-- forget I asked."

"Forget?" Jarod repeated thickly.

"I'll leave," Parker continued, "find another way, and-"

"Forget," Jarod interrupted testily, "I still haven't forgotten the last thing you told me to forget." Moment of weakness?

"Hands off," Parker hissed.

"Not until you tell me exactly why you're here," Jarod demanded.

"Let go," Parker snarled, thrusting out a Louis Vuitton-clad ankle boot that landed in the vicinity of Jarod's kneecap. She immediately regretted the assault when Jarod reflexively extended an arm and captured the offending ankle.

"Tell me," Jarod shouted, and drew a sharp breath of disbelief when Parker answered emphatically,

"I need your help killing Broots."


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