up at the hotel, Miss Parker headed straight back to her room. She yanked
the door open, strode inside and fumbled in her bag for a moment, then began
to pace. It was only afternoon, but the weather was dark and stormy. Many
businesses had their lights on already.
Including the bar at the corner, with its blue neon sign glowing softly in the gray afternoon. She rested her forehead against the cool glass window and she stared at the bar. She couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, certain now that she had indeed been right, that Jarod was just turning the tables on her.
The mirth she found in the situation faded into anger. Anger with herself for letting him get to her -- the Polaroids had even given her a moment of concern -- and anger at him for putting her through that in the first place.
As she started to pack, she wondered if there had actually been a point to the exercise, or if Jarod had just decided it would be a fun way to pass the time.
Once finished with her packing, she left the room, glancing back at the door as she stepped into the hallway. A note was taped to the door, written in her lipstick.
How does it feel? At least you can go home.
Sighing, she pulled the note down. “Wherever you wanted me to go, Jarod, you gave me the wrong road map. This journey is over.”
As she walked down the hall toward Sydney’s room, Jarod slipped further into the shadows in the corner of the hallway. “Not quite yet,” he said softly, watching her go.
* * * * * * * * *
“Damned meetings,” Lyle muttered, opening the door to his office. At least the file backups would be finished, and he could set the next stage of things into motion. He tossed his latest report on his desk, irritated at the brow-beating he had taken for his unsuccessful performances of late.
“What the…” The monitor of his computer showed a transfer rate of 96%, but it wasn't data transfer. The top of his screen said ‘Format.’
“Damn it!” He lunged for the computer, hitting the escape key, pressing buttons all over the keyboard, doing everything he could think of to try to stop it.
The formatting process completed, leaving Lyle looking down at his computer in dismay. He didn’t know a lot about computers, but he knew that formatting the hard drive was not a good thing. He reached for the zip drive. Fury filled his eyes as he found it empty. Letting out a howl of frustration and rage, he shoved the computer onto the floor, listening to the sound of crunching metal and breaking glass with a thrill of satisfaction.
That was why he hated computers. They were not to be trusted. All he could trust was himself.
He took a deep, trembling breath, forcing himself to calm down. This was just a slight hiccup in the process. In time, he would be able to recall all the facts and figures, all the clever twists and turns that his rise to the top would take. It would be more difficult now without all the data at his fingertips, but it wasn't impossible.
And if he ever found out who had done this to him, he would pay them back tenfold for his loss.
* * * * * * * * *
Angelo watched Lyle pacing beside the wreck of his computer from the vent above the desk. With a grin, he pocketed the disk and crawled stealthily away, heading down the shaft toward the computer lab.
* * * * * * * * *
After a quick detour to drop Sydney at home, Miss Parker arrived at her own house, exhausted and fed up. Stepping up to the door, she fumbled for her keys, and managed to drop them in the process. She groaned, kneeling to pick them up from where they’d fallen… on top of an envelope, lying on her doorstep.
“Why?” she growled, snatching up the envelope, as well as her keys. Her cell phone began to ring the moment her door was open. Dropping her stuff on the couch, she sat, envelope in hand, and picked up the phone. “What?”
“Now you know how it feels to be hunted while you’re trying to help someone.”
“I don’t want to talk to you," she snapped. "I’m tired, I’m annoyed, and I just want to forget about the last thirty-six hours.” As she spoke, she toyed with the corner of the envelope at her side.
Jarod chuckled into the phone. “I don’t think you get it. I guess I’m not surprised. I could have taken this further, but I hoped this little push into my life might help you.”
“You made me think you were in danger,” she growled quietly. "That's not playing fair, even by your demented standards."
“I’m sorry, but I felt it was important that you understand what can happen with the wrong influences in our lives. And we don't always realize the damage that's done, until it's too late.”
Her voice softened slightly, and dropped. “Don’t do it again.”
“I won’t,” Jarod promised solemnly.
Miss Parker leaned back, her head resting on the back of the couch. “So, what was the point of this wild goose chase?”
“So you could learn something.” He paused for a moment, his voice growing husky as he added, “Open the envelope.”
The phone disconnected, and she stared distastefully at the envelope at her side. Lifting it, she opened the seal.
An unopened tube of lipstick rolled out onto her lap. She smiled slightly at it and shook her head. At least she got something out of the exercise that she could use, and put it into her purse. Removing the note she knew was inside, she read it a few times. Just to make sure she hadn't missed anything, she opened the envelope and peered deeper.
There was a small wallet-sized photograph in the bottom. She reached inside to rescue it, and held it up to see who it was.
Gabriel's smiling baby face looked back at her. A note written on the back in Jarod's handwriting said, Don’t let it happen again.
End of Episode
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