Broots knew he should go home. It was past quitting time -- when he was
actually in the office, anyway -- and Debbie would be looking for him.
Still, he couldn't help wondering where Miss Parker and Sydney had gone,
and what exactly they had been looking for. He thought perhaps if he stayed,
a phone call or other piece of information might come to him.
He realized he'd waited too long when Lyle came marching into his office,
a sweeper at each flank. For a split second his brain went into panic
mode, wondering what in the world he'd done to merit such a show of force.
Then, he remembered what Miss Parker had said. They were probably here
to check up on her.
Well, Miss P, I hope the alibi you gave me holds up. If it doesn't,
these guys are gonna have my ass in a sling. "G-good evening,
Mr. Lyle, " he said, trying to project an air of total innocence.
"Can I help you with something?"
Lyle smiled at him, in that soulless way he had. His tone was deceptively
friendly. "Mr. Broots, I'm looking for my sister. I wonder if you
can tell me where she is right now?"
Showtime, Broots. Make it good. "She and Sydney are following
a lead on Jarod. They left several hours ago."
Lyle turned to one of the sweepers, who shook his head slowly. Then he
turned back to Broots, and his expression hardened slightly. "The
corporate jet hasn't left the airstrip since this morning. Try again."
"Th-they took a car," Broots protested. When Lyle's expression
was skeptical, he added, "I called for it myself. Go ahead, check,
if you don't believe me."
With a snap of his fingers, Lyle had the other sweeper on the phone,
doing just that. When the man nodded a confirmation, he leaned forward,
putting his hands on the desk and looking the frightened tech in the eyes.
"Did she tell you where she was going?"
He inched his face closer. "And you don't find that the slightest
bit -- unusual?"
Broots gulped. The man was obviously trying to intimidate him. And
it's working. His mind raced through several answers before settling
on one. "I, uh, think she left her cell phone on. You could call
and ask her yourself, if you want."
To his surprise, Lyle chose not to do that. Instead, he asked another
question. "And you're positive about the time she left the Centre?"
"Oh, yes sir, positively positive. Sydney, too," he added for
Lyle compressed his lips into a thin line, and straightened. "Well,
if you hear from her, you will remember to let me know, won't you?"
Broots nodded his head. "Absolutely, Mr. Lyle. You'll be the first
person I talk to." He paused for a moment. "That is, um, after
I talk to Miss Parker first, then you'll be next…"
As he slowly trailed off, Lyle gave him a look that would freeze lava,
then turned on his heel and left. The sweepers fell into line behind him,
closing the office door with a loud bang.
When he was sure they were gone, Broots let out a long sigh of relief.
Lyle was scary enough, but the sweepers made it worse. Something major
was up, and he had a feeling that if they caught him -- or Miss Parker
and Sydney -- in a lie, it would be curtains for all three of them.
The more he thought about it, the more he realized that he really didn't
want to know what was going on. Better to remain ignorant and innocent
than be in the know and in the soup. With that, Broots shut down his computer
and gathered up the few unclassified documents floating around on his
It really was time to go home now.
* * * * * * * * *
Ms. Penfield stood toe-to-toe with the dark-haired visitor who stood
in the doorway. "I'm sorry, but it's getting rather late. I'll have
to ask you to come back tomorrow."
Her assertiveness didn't faze him. He had dealt with her type before.
"My name is Cox. If you check your records, I believe you'll find
that I'm on Mr. Parker's list of approved visitors."
She crossed her arms in front of her. "I know who you are, Dr. Cox.
But approved or not, it's Gabriel's bedtime, and I'm not allowed to disrupt
Cox remained calm, stating his case quietly. "I'm quite sure Mr.
Parker wouldn't object, since it was his request that I look in on the
child when I had a moment. However, if you'd care to pick up the phone
and ask him…?"
Ms. Penfield paled slightly. "I'm sure that won't be necessary."
She knows what will happen if she disturbs him with a non-emergency.
Cox smiled. "I thought not. I have a special test to administer,
but it won't take long. If you would be so good as to give us a few moments
of privacy, I'll finish up as quickly as I can."
He watched the defiant look in her eyes melt. Silently, she gave in to
his request and withdrew from the room.
Cox went directly to Gabriel's crib, where the little boy sat watching
him. He was already clad in a pair of blue pajamas, complete with feet.
However, his eyes showed a level of alertness that was inconsistent with
The child was interested in him; that was good. Of course, little Gabriel
would have no understanding of Cox's true intentions. He had made quite
sure of that fact before beginning any experiments. All of the Yellow
Files children saw him as a blank slate, and therefore took him at face
value. He appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary man, which was
just the way he wanted it.
"Hello, Gabriel," he said, lifting the boy out of his crib
with surprising care and placing him on the carpeted floor. "My name
is Dr. Cox."
"Where Enny?" Gabriel asked.
"Ms. Penfield is in the other room." He reached into the envelope
he had brought with him, and pulled out a small group of photographs.
"I have a little game for you. Would you like to play?"
Gabriel's brow furrowed. He cocked his head, and scrutinized his new
friend. After a moment, he agreed. "P'ay game."
Cox drew out the first picture. "Whom do you see?" He held
up a photo of Gabriel, taken as he played with his blocks.
The child clapped his hands with delight. "Gabwio," he said,
pointing at the picture and then at himself.
"Very good. And this one?" Cox held up a picture of Miss Parker.
"Mine." His lower lip quivered slightly as he reached out to
touch the shiny surface of the photograph. "Mine," he repeated.
"That's what you call your sister, isn't it? Excellent. And this
one?" Cox held up a picture of Mr. Parker.
Gabriel's reaction was immediate. He made a face and swatted the picture
away. "Bad. Bad man."
Cox was amused, although he tried not to show it. How interesting that
the child saw right through Mr. Parker's pleasant, harmless exterior to
the ruthless businessman underneath -- something Miss Parker had never
quite managed. "I suppose he is, at that," Cox agreed. The next
picture featured Mr. Lyle. "How about this one?"
Gabriel's baby face was blank. He truly didn't seem to recognize the
man, although Cox had heard stories about his "Lielee bad" comment.
It would seem that particular knowledge had come to him in other ways.
"Well, apparently you've never met Mr. Lyle face to face. Between
you and I, it's no great loss." Cox pulled out the last photograph
and held it up. "I think you'll know this one, though."
Gabriel hesitated. Recognition flared in his eyes, but also wariness.
Someone had warned him against talking about this particular subject.
Cox did his best to be reassuring. "It's all right, you can tell
me." Taking an educated guess about the source of the problem, he
added, "Your sister won't be angry, I promise. Now, who is this?"
Gabriel looked up at the man sitting in front of him, eyes large and
round, for another long moment before finally speaking. "Dawid."
Cox smiled broadly, for Gabriel's benefit. "Very, very good. You
see, I knew you could do it." He swept the child into his arms and
placed him back in his crib. "You passed your test with flying colors,"
he informed him, "just as I told Mr. Parker you would."
Opening the door into the next room, he brought the nurse back in before
taking his leave. "Good night, Gabriel. Sleep well. I'm sure we'll
meet again very soon."
The results of his simple test were most interesting. The boy hadn't
recognized Lyle, who at one point had been as close as Ms. Penfield in
the next room. And yet, he knew Jarod, a complete stranger who was undoubtedly
thousands of miles away. The conclusion was unmistakable. Jarod was part
of the child's inner life, in a way that Lyle was not.
Gabriel's development was right on schedule, just as he had predicted.
Mr. Parker had used the boy's abilities to reach the highest levels of
power, and Cox intended to do the same. His transitory failures -- the
brush with Gemini, Jarod's vendetta -- paled in comparison to this accomplishment.
As he left the Nursery and headed for the elevator, for the first time
in his life he actually felt like whistling.
What he had told Lyle was true. It really was all about follow-up.
* * * * * * * * *
The next morning
The bell over the door jingled as Miss Parker and Sydney entered the
office. The manager looked up from whatever he was reading, and smiled.
"'Morning, folks. What can I do for you?"
"We're looking for someone," Miss Parker told him. Despite
the cool winter air, she felt like a wet dishrag after driving all night.
Desperately, she hoped that Faith was right, and this was the place. "His
name is Jarod. This is his picture." She held out a photograph of
the Pretender, the same one Gabriel had identified on her desk several
"Why, sure, I know Jarod," the man replied. "He's been
a big help to me -- don't know what I would have done without him."
"Is he still here?" Sydney asked.
Mr. Fairweather leaned forward over the desk. "You friends of his?"
Miss Parker nodded. "Yes, that's right, friends. We're concerned
about his health, and we're here to help him."
Fairweather nodded, and sat back. "He has been looking peaked lately,
and that's a fact. I couldn't convince him to see the doctor, but maybe
you can change his mind."
"I'm a doctor myself," Sydney explained. "I'll be able
to look after him."
The man scrutinized both of them for a moment, and seemed satisfied.
"Jarod's still here. Unit 12, down on the end to the left."
"Thank you." Parker gave him the best smile she could manage,
and went back outside, Sydney in tow. "Now, which way are we headed?"
she murmured, turning around to get her bearings.
"It seems that Faith has already found it," Sydney informed
While they were in the office, Faith had gone to stand on the sidewalk
outside a unit on the far end. She stayed there as they approached, her
eyes roaming over the door, with its transom window at the top. Apparently,
Parker decided, that was what passed for air circulation in these types
"I think it would be best if we went in first," Sydney suggested.
"Give Jarod a moment to adjust. We don't know how he'll react when
he sees Faith."
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod had begun to drift off, but woke with a start and sat up on the
bed when he heard the door open. Apparently, he'd forgotten to lock it.
Assuming the visitor was Mr. Fairweather, he prepared to lie once again,
say he was just catching up on some sleep. But instead of the portly manager,
two figures came into the room. As they moved closer, he recognized Sydney
and Miss Parker.
Alarm bells began to go off in Jarod's head. His eyes frantically searched
for a way out, but it was impossible; his reaction time was much too slow
at this point. He probably wouldn't even make it as far as his car, or
behind the trees around back, especially if sweepers were waiting for
Escape was impossible. Instead, with a crab-like movement he scrambled
for the headboard and put his back up against it, breathing rapidly.
Sydney held out a hand to stop him, and spoke gently. "Jarod, it's
all right. We haven't come here to capture you. We want to help."
"How--how did you find me?" he asked in a small voice.
"We had a little help," Miss Parker told him.
She and Sydney parted, and from behind them another woman walked into
the room and approached the bed. Sunlight streaming through the open door
mixed with her blonde hair to create a halo effect, giving her an almost
Jarod stared at her, his eyes wide. Recognition was instantaneous. "Faith,"
"I promised you I would come," she said as she sat down next
to him. With her left hand, she reached out to touch the side of his face,
as she had done with Angelo. "I know about the memories, Jarod. I
understand, better than anyone, what you're going through. I'm here to
His expression changed, and he looked at her with an almost pathetic
eagerness. "Please, take them away. I don't want to know what happened
back then." He glanced over to include Sydney in his plea. "I
want to forget that Eclipse ever existed."
Faith gently steered his gaze back to her. "I know you're afraid,"
she acknowledged, "but you can't push this away anymore. The time
has come for you to remember -- and understand -- everything."