Miss Parker's room
The next morning
She had nothing with her -- no change of clothes, no toiletries, no cosmetics
other than those in her purse. For a brief moment, Parker considered simply
leaving things as they were until she could make it home. Then she looked
at herself in the bathroom mirror: pillow hair, smeared makeup, clothes
that looked like the cat had dragged her all the way from Timbuktu. It
was enough to send her into the shower, and hang the consequences. Sydney
would just have to adjust to her au natural look.
Next time, maybe I could persuade Jarod to stay in one of the pricier
chains, where they provide shampoo and soap, with deodorant upon request…
Shortly after she had decided she was as put-together as she was going
to get, there was a knock at the door. She opened it to find Jarod standing
there, Sydney and Faith behind him. Jarod looked tired, though physically
none the worse for wear after his ordeal. Sydney, on the other hand, looked
as though he had slept in one of the motel's very uncomfortable chairs
-- which he probably had.
"May I come in?" Jarod inquired politely.
She stepped aside to let the entourage inside, closing the door behind
"I'm not going to play games with you," the Pretender announced.
"It's going to take time for me to process everything I learned yesterday,
and I don't have the strength to run very far if you intend to chase me.
So, I need to know: are you planning to take me back to the Centre?"
It was unlike him to be quite so direct. Parker paused, remembering the
upheaval she had just gone through. It was a given that she couldn't allow
herself to be ruled by her emotions… but they hadn't all been swept away
by a single night's sleep, either. "Not today," she answered
He smiled, showing off those dimples she knew so well. "Thank you
-- for that, and for bringing Faith and Sydney to me."
"Try to leave a few things in your room, so I can give the sweepers
something to cart back to the Centre," she added. "Have to cover
our butts, you know."
He did a double take, and for a moment she thought he would make some
kind of remark. Then he turned, and left the room.
Faith was next. They'd had so little time together, and Parker was reluctant
to give her up. "I don't suppose you would consider coming home with
me for a while," she said, knowing it was impossible but suggesting
it anyway. "I make a mean piece of toast when I put my mind to it.
And we have so much left to talk about."
"I can't," her sister replied. "The Centre will come looking
for me, and I'm never going back there. The further away I am, the harder
I'll be to find."
Parker put her hand on her sister's shoulder. "Will you be all right?"
"Will you?" Faith countered.
They looked at each other for a moment, and she smiled sadly. "I
guess we'll both just have to do our best, won't we?" She drew Faith
into a short hug, then watched her leave, following Jarod out into the
The room suddenly became very quiet. To fill up the silence, she turned
to her remaining companion. "Well, I don't know about you, Syd, but
I haven't eaten in more than 24 hours. I don't suppose they have anything
but one-star restaurants around here, so we'll have to take what we can
get before the sweeper team arrives."
"Parker--" he began hesitantly.
"While I am as anxious as you are to get past this experience, I
don't believe you have grasped the full implications of Eclipse."
Miss Parker sighed. "Is this something we have to get into right
“Now is the most opportune time, yes. Jarod wasn’t the only participant
in this project; that's something you need to remember.”
“I know that,” she replied instantly. "As I recall, I was the one
who had to dig up the information in the first place."
Sydney shook his head. “Have you realized that what Jarod described may
have been true for them as well?” He scrutinized her closely as he spoke.
“Lyle, for example? Do you recall who his model was?"
Her eyes shut, head tilted to one side. "Someone called Lung Li."
"And what is the one thing have we learned about Lyle over the last
Suddenly, she understood the direction his thoughts were taking. "Oh,
my God. He kills Asian women."
"Serial killers almost never cross racial lines, but Lyle did… because
his model was Asian. Eclipse left him with an appetite for killing he
may or may not have had before. It definitely made him more dangerous."
All she could do was stare at him helplessly as he concluded his statement.
"The effects of Eclipse are still with us, Miss Parker. They always
* * * * * * * * *
In the white curtained room at the end of the hallway, Willie pulled
up a chair and sat down beside his master. "Things have not gone
as we had hoped, sir," he began. "Looking Glass escaped before
I could carry out your orders. Miss Parker is suspected of helping her,
but right now we have no proof. And Mr. Lyle has had no success finding
her. I'm not even certain he wants her found."
Raines sat, still and silent in his wheelchair for several moments. Then
he lifted his head slightly. "This is disappointing," he murmured,
"but all is not lost. There is another possibility."
"What do you need me to do, sir?"
He rolled one eye to the side, and gave Willie a calculating look. "How
far are you willing to go?"
Willie lifted his head proudly. "No distance is too great, Mr. Raines.
I'll go wherever you direct me. I'll do whatever is necessary."
A smile appeared on Raines' face. It was the most animation he had shown
in months. "Then by all means," he rumbled, "let us begin."
He proceeded to tell his right-hand man what would be required. It was
a very short list.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's Office
She had barely made it to her desk, intending to throw a few papers in
her briefcase before heading home, when she heard his voice from the doorway.
"And where have you been?"
Parker closed her eyes and sighed. She never enjoyed Lyle's third degree,
but this was the worst possible moment he could have chosen. "As
I'm sure Broots told you, I was following a lead on Jarod."
Lyle crossed his arms in front of himself. "I suppose it would be
too much to hope for that you actually caught him."
She ignored the dig. "No, we didn't bring him in. But sweepers are
bringing in the remains of his last lair so we can analyze them to death.
You're welcome to join that party, it promises to be a regular hootenanny."
She closed her briefcase fastenings with a snap. "And what were you
up to, if I might ask?"
"I was… chasing other things."
"Your tail, for instance?"
Lyle clapped. "Oh, very good," he said sarcastically. "I'm
so glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humor."
"Well, you're going to lose another piece of your anatomy if you
don't get out of my way. I've had a long couple of days, I'm tired, and
I'm not in the mood for this." She picked up her briefcase and headed
for the door, intending to breeze right by him. Instead, he held out his
arm, blocking her way.
"If I ever find out you weren't where you claimed to be, doing what
you said you were doing, I'll have you up before another T-board faster
than you can blink," he whispered in her ear. "And this time,
old wheezy won't be on the other end."
She pulled out her very best Parker disdain, and looked down her nose
at him. "I don't know what you're talking about. But if I were you,
I wouldn't go throwing any stones. Your glass house might get damaged."
"Just remember what I said," he warned, before removing his
arm and disappearing into the corridor.
She had a brother who liked to kill, preferably but not always Asian
women; who had been raised, if you could call it that, by the Centre's
most ferocious watchdog; who had shot the employees of a Centre records
office without a second thought; and who had the ear of the Triumvirate
Chairman, the most powerful man in the organization.
Oh, yes, she'd remember. In fact, it would be impossible for her to forget.
* * * * * * * * *
A bus station
Somewhere in Pennsylvania
"Are you sure I can't talk you into coming with me?" Jarod
asked as she got out of the car, and reached into the back seat for the
small travel case he had put together for her. He climbed out as well,
to say goodbye before she got on the bus.
“You probably could,” Faith answered, a tiny hint of amusement on her
face. “But it would be best not to try. You need time, Jarod, to absorb
what you've learned. And I need time to rediscover the world, find my
place in it."
He knew she was right, but it was hard. "Will I see you again?"
"The bond we formed during Eclipse will never be broken. I'll be
back when the time is right."
Offering her a smile, Jarod nodded in understanding. “Thank you,” he
He moved closer, but she placed a hand against his chest, shaking her
head. “Not this. Not now.” Her fingers tapped against him, directly over
his heart. “I know you see the dark part of yourself as your greatest
liability, but it doesn't have to be.” Looking up, into his eyes, she
studied him carefully. “As a part of your personality, its strength can
become your greatest asset. What you feared most may yet turn out to be
your saving grace. Try to think of it that way.”
Before he could respond, she removed her hand, turned and moved quickly
away from him, toward the bus terminal.
He watched her until she disappeared into the building, before getting
back in the car and driving quietly away.
End of Episode
*The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions
of Brynna, Victoria Rivers, and Madison to this story. Thanks so much
-- I couldn't have done it without you!