Total Eclipse,
Part Two

 

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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 them.

"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 gently.

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 sunshine.

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.

"What?"

"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?"

“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 several years?"

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 will be."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Renewal Wing

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
That evening

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 murmured.

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
Total Eclipse

*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!

 
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