MTW as Jarod
Andrea Parker as MP
Jon Gries as Broots
Jamie Denton as Mr. Lyle
Harve Presnell as Mr. Parker
Richard Marcus as Mr Raines
Harve Presnell as Mr Parker
Lenny von Dohlen as Mr Cox
Willie Gault as Willie
Valerie Bertinelli as Faith
Alyson Hannigan as Joanne Hactar
Courtney Thorne-Smith as Helen Hactar
Judd Nelson as Andrew Harrison
Alessandro Nivola as Lou Prosser
Rick Schroder as Marvin Patrick
Jenna Elfman as Tricia McMillan
Miss Parker strode down the hallway, her heels ringing loudly on the floor as she headed for her office. She brushed past the various figures that stood in her way and was outside her office door when a figure moved to stand in front of it.
“Well, well, well; if it isn’t the eighth dwarf - Sickly Subservient.”
She waited for him to respond, or at least to move away, but he remained where he was, a smirk splitting the usually stern look on his face.
“Keep grinning like that, Willie, and you’re face will probably break.” She turned away but looked back to find him still there. Annoyed, she moved back to stand in font of him, her hands on her hips.
“What are you waiting for, Resurrection Day or something? Get out of my way.” She pushed past him and walked into her office, glancing back over her shoulder to see Willie saunter away with a smile curving his lips.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod entered the room and threw the paper onto the bed with as much force as he could muster. As though it was determined to make his day several degrees worse than it already was, the pages separated and spread themselves around the floor, missing the bed entirely. Jarod considered screaming in frustration but felt that the lack of an audience would probably reduce the impact he wanted to make and decided that an alternative way of releasing some of his excess aggravation would be to punch a few pillows. When the contents of the pillows began flying in the air around his head, however, he decided that his annoyance had reached its peak and that he could begin to calm down somewhat. He took several deep breaths and dropped into a chair that sat in front of his computer, glancing around the room as he did so. It was a mess. Regardless of the fairly decorative addition of the pillows’ contents, it was still a mess. He had to admit to himself that, in all honesty, he wasn’t the type of person who ever really cleaned up that well. Sure, he was able to throw things into a bag and leave in a hurry but the concepts of dusting and other forms of cleaning were pretty much a closed book to him. He shrugged, got up, and rescued the paper from the floor, sorting the pages into the correct order as he sat down again.
He took another look around and shrugged to himself again. The night before, feelings of nostalgia had prompted him to spread around the room many of the toys he carried in his bag. Or perhaps nostalgia was the wrong word. Could you feel nostalgia for a past that you never really had? He certainly never felt nostalgic for his days at the Centre. Jarod stored the idea away to ask Sydney the next time he called and looked back at the paper. The cause of his dark mood appeared before his eyes, shoved its way into the front of his mind and stood there with its arms folded, tapping one foot impatiently. He considered throwing the paper across the room again but changed his mind at the last moment. Instead, he opened the paper and spread it out on the desk.
The headline caught his eye as it had earlier and he sadly began to read the article about the death of a young woman almost two weeks earlier. Joanne Hactar, found drowned on the shoreline one morning at 5am by a couple of people out for an early morning run. Jarod's eyes became sad as he picked up the paper and read through the facts presented in the article. She was young - only twenty-five - and had just graduated from college. Looking down at the color photo in the paper, Jarod shook his head as he gazed at her bright red hair and green eyes. There was something in her that reminded him of his mother and he pulled the photo out of his pocket and looked at it sadly. Feeling himself becoming morbid, Jarod dropped the paper and instead stared with hungry eyes at the photograph of his mother. There were days when he yearned, whatever the cost to anybody including himself, to go and find her but he always stopped short of doing it. His nostalgic mood the night before had emphasized this yearning but he was pleased that he had so far prevented himself from doing so.
Resting his head on one hand, Jarod glanced through the article in front of him, making a mental note of the conclusions drawn by the coroner. As he read, he allowed himself to imagine the situation, including the rocks that could have caused the bruises mentioned in the autopsy report. For several minutes Jarod slowly reread the few factors that were presented in the article and somewhere in his brain alarm bells began to ring. Something in the whole situation didn’t add up but he couldn’t work out what it was. He decided that this was definitely a situation in which he should be involved.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle sat down behind the desk in his office and flicked open the folder that sat there. Still no sign of Faith from the teams he had out looking for her. Of course, he knew that she would be difficult to locate, especially considering the benefit that her special gifts gave her, but he had hoped that it would be easier than it had been so far. Gaining a higher position in the Centre depended on him being able to bring Faith back, and soon. Of course, it would be an extra feather in his cap if he could manage to bring Jarod back at the same time. He indulged for a moment in his favorite daydream of leading a team of sweepers into the Centre, the men dragging both Faith and Jarod with them. And that, of course, meant he, himself, alone. No auditors, no sister. Just himself. It was a relief that one of the two ‘auditors’ had not been seen since his disappearance into the Metro and the other since she had silently murdered a sweeper in front of his eyes. Yes, Lyle thought shakily, that was most definitely a relief.
The beeping of his computer, being used out of a sense of desperation as much as anything else, brought him out of his imagination and he turned and stared at the screen. A smile started somewhere in his eyes and hesitantly approached his mouth. Unused to being called into such a strange position unless an Asian woman, or, failing that, his sister, was visible, the emotion only remained for a few moments before vanishing abruptly. His eyes traveled once more over the words of the message that he had diverted from Sydney's computer to his own and then he stood up, pulling on his jacket. Maybe his daydreams weren’t so unrealistic after all. Looking up, he scribbled the words of the email on a piece of paper and slipped it into his pocket. Smirking and unable to help himself, he pulled out the note and reread it.
Sydney, I need to talk to you. Meet me at 11/184 West Street Annapolis on Wednesday at 14:00. Jarod.
Lyle slipped the note back into his pocket and the smirk crawled over his face again, this time settling uncomfortably on his top lip. A noise made him turn to see Sydney standing inside the room.
“Funny, I didn’t hear you knock.”
“Lyle, I need to talk to you.”
“Not right now.” Lyle put out an arm and tried to brush past the psychiatrist, but Sydney prevented him from leaving.
“This is very important, Lyle. Several lives may depend on it.”
“Well, right now my life depends on getting to Annapolis in three hours and, in my personal outlook, my life is the most important. If you’ll excuse me, Doctor, I have a pretender to catch.”
“You got a message from Jarod?”
Lyle mentally kicked himself as the psychiatrist picked up on his slip.
“Nothing that you need concern yourself with.”
Lyle’s response was cool enough to give a polar bear frostbite, but Sydney ignored the comment and, in a flash of insight, realized what the main gist of the message had been. “Lyle, listen to me. Jarod doesn’t give away his position in such a straightforward manner. If you have an address where he says he is, I would be almost positive that he isn’t there. In fact, I don’t think he would send such a message in the first place.”
Lyle shook himself loose from Sydney's grasp and stepped back. “Your concern is flattering, Doctor, but I am quite capable of taking care of myself. If your motherly instincts are affecting you again, I suggest you go and see what my dear sister is up to. She’s the one that needs the babysitter. I am, I repeat, quite capable of taking care of myself.” Opening the door, Lyle stormed through it, leaving Sydney standing alone in his office.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod threw the autopsy report onto his bed with a sigh, his jacket following suit. He had discussed the results of the autopsy with the coroner but had learned nothing new. The man had made up his mind as to the cause of Joanna Hactar’s death and nothing, with the exception, perhaps, of new evidence that Jarod might find, was going to change the man’s mind. Having glanced once through the file, Jarod was beginning to wonder if he would find anything. Still, the feelings that had caused his skepticism the day before now nagged at the back of his mind again and, irritated, Jarod got up and began to pace the length of the room. So deep was he in thought that he failed to realize that he had reached the end of the room until his nose was nestled in a vase of flowers that sat there. After having sneezed six times in quick succession, he returned to the desk and sat down in the chair. Heaving a deep sigh, he turned and glared at the autopsy report. Nothing was more annoying than when he couldn’t work out the answer right away, nothing. And right now he didn’t think he was likely to find proof of the things he suspected. Of course, the more frustrated he got, the less clearly he was able to think about things. He knew that and it had always been one of Sydney's major complaints. Still, he could feel his levels of aggravation rising and he tried to control himself.
Reaching over, he pulled the newspaper out of the bin where he had stuffed it in irritation the night before. For a fleeting moment, he was thankful that he had put up a sign to keep the cleaning people out. It had simply been that he thought that any sensible person would have opened the door, looked in, thrown up their hands in horror and left again. However, there was the distinct possibility that a particularly conscientious person might decide to actually tidy up for him and that was something he felt, at this moment in time, he wouldn’t have been able to deal with. Instead he opened the paper again and allowed his eye to run down the article in which were mentioned the names of many of Joanna Hactar’s friends. Talking to them, he decided, was probably the best way to start finding the truth about her death.
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney entered Miss Parker's office to find her drumming her fingers on the surface of her desk and staring into space. The lack of specific activity made him wonder exactly what she was thinking about but he never got the chance to ask.
“Where have you been?”
”Visiting your brother. I was just about to begin talking to him when he left. He said that he was going…”
“I don’t care where he was going, as long as he’s gone.”
Sydney stared at her in surprise. Not because of the interruptions, particularly as they had gradually become such a regular part of their conversation, but that he hadn’t been given the chance to tell her why Lyle had left. Since their father had regained his position as Chairman, the rivalry between the Parker twins had reached almost legendary proportions within the Centre.
“Sit down, Syd. I need to talk to you.”
Reaching over, he grabbed a chair and pulled it into a position where he could see her face. “What is it, Miss Parker?”
“Why, in all this time, didn’t somebody tell me that Faith was still alive? And why did they go to all the trouble of setting up her death?”
Sydney paused for a moment before responding. “What has started you thinking about her again?” He half-expected a rebuke for his response but, somewhat to his surprise, it wasn’t forthcoming.
“I don’t really know. Every so often, her name and her face come into my mind and won’t go away. And, every night, she appears as soon as I close my eyes.”
”Do you think it has something to do with your Inner Sense?”
“I don’t know.” She got up from the chair and began to pace behind the desk. “It has to be coming from somewhere, but I don’t know where. It could be from my mother or it could even be Faith herself, for all I can figure out.”
“And what do you feel when you think of her?”
“I - don’t know.” Miss Parker tried to put her emotions into words. “I just begin to recognize some feeling and then it’s gone. I can’t put a name to it.” She sighed deeply. “It’s driving me crazy!”
Sydney folded his hands and rested them on the desk. “The best suggestion I can make is that you try and relax and just let the emotions flow. If you let them gather, then they might finally begin to make sense.”
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and there was a satirical smile dancing hesitantly around the edge of her mouth, much like a swimmer dipping a toe into icy water. “Do you know, Sydney,” she commented conversationally, “that’s the first time in the full five years of this whole pursuit that you ever even sounded like a psychiatrist.” She let the smile play around the edge of her mouth for several seconds longer as he watched her silently.
“Why what?” Sydney’s expression changed from watchful to startled.
Miss Parker sighed impatiently. “Why has this been such a big hush-hush type of secret for so long? I mean, it’s been more than thirty years since she ‘died’. Even for the Centre, that’s a long time to keep a secret, although,” she finished thoughtfully, “it certainly isn’t the first time.”
“I’m afraid, Miss Parker,” Sydney shifted uneasily in his chair, “that I don’t know the reason. But certainly this has been an enormous secret and it suggests to me that Faith is more valuable to the Centre than even we can realize.”
“Oh?” Miss Parker looked at him more intently. “What makes you say that?”
“The fact that it was still a secret for so long. That, when combined with the fact that she was used for Eclipse, suggests that her abilities are probably even more important to the Centre than Angelo’s.”
“Are you sure of your facts there, Doctor?”
Sydney tried not to show his frustration. “Think about it, Parker. There’s never been any secret about what Angelo is capable of but somebody went to a lot of effort to hide the facts about Faith and her abilities, to the extent of scrapping the original project, renaming it and relocating it. Even when the Centre was smaller than it is now, that would still not have been easy. And when it came to the Retrieval process for Eclipse, I was cut out of it completely so that I wouldn’t be aware of the use of Faith for it.”
Miss Parker drummed her fingers on the table. “And who would be the only person that would go to so much effort for one individual?”
Sydney followed her train of thought perfectly and nodded. “Raines.”
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod wandered along the edge of the pool, his eyes fixed on the diver perched high on the board above him. He heard a shrill whistle from somewhere away to his right and, at the sound, the figure left the board, somersaulted twice and cleft the water, producing a relatively small amount of splash. The figure - Jarod could now see that it was girl in her late twenties - pulled herself out of the water close to him and he leaned in towards her.
“If you turn another somersault as you go underwater, you’ll produce enough force to counteract, to a certain degree, the splash you make as you enter it.”
She looked up at him in astonishment. “Who are you?”
Jarod smiled. “A friend.”
“Anyone’s friend in particular or just generally well disposed to people?”
He was about to introduce himself when a hand tapped his shoulder. Jarod turned around and faced the man behind him.
“You know something about diving?”
Jarod removed his sunglasses and slipped them into his top pocket. “A few bits and pieces. My name’s Jarod Douglas.”
“Ah, my new assistant. Andrew Harrison. Nice to meet you.”
The two shook hands while the other girl stood awkwardly to one side.
“Jarod, this is Tricia McMillan. She’s the best diver in my whole team.” Andrew put one arm around the girl’s shoulder and squeezed. “Why don’t you come over and get acquainted with the rest of the group?”
Jarod allowed himself to be led away but glanced back in time to see Tricia give a suppressed shudder as she bent down to pick up her towel.
* * * * * * * * *
She nodded her thanks to the man who helped her off the train and picked up her bag, putting it onto her back.
“Can I help you with anything else?”
The man smiled in an attempt to be charming but there was a certain something in his smile that reminded her sharply of Bobby, so she shook her head and turned away.
“Aw, come on. I’m sure my wife would love the chance to cook a home-made meal for a girl like you.”
She refrained from reminding him that he had no wife, knowing that it would be the easiest way to provoke him, but instead turned and, keeping both hands firmly in her pockets, looked at him, her face expressionless.
“I appreciate your help but am quite able to manage from here on in.”
She watched as he began to turn pale and, clutching his head and muttering something about a headache, walked away, staggering slightly. She shook her own head and turned her back on him. She mentally shook off the feelings that she had felt emanating from him and with which she had been hit while talking with him. For a few seconds she looked around before finally fixing her eyes on the blue of the ocean in front of her and, taking a deep breath, began to walk towards it. That was where she would find him…
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod carried the two drinks over to the table and pushed once across to where Tricia McMillan sat. He took a cautious sip of his strawberry shake, liked it and continued to drink eagerly, watching as Tricia played fitfully with her apple juice.
“Thanks for you tip today, Mr Douglas.”
“Hey, no problem.” He paused. “And the name’s Jarod.”
She smiled at him for a moment. Then the smile faded and she sighed. Jarod looked at her in sympathy. “Are you thinking about Joanne?”
“She was my best friend, Jarod. We met at the diving school eight years ago. We started on the same day and stayed at almost the same level the whole way through. Well, kind of. She was better than me.”
As she paused, Jarod glanced at her to see if there was any jealousy in her face, but Tricia’s eyes only held an expression of pure sadness.
“I was also thrilled when she would win things. We would share the podium together - that was the best. And then she got a call asking if she would be interested in joining the Olympic diving team.
“She called me first of all, after she told her parents. She said she couldn’t wait to do it but she wanted me to be there for her tryouts. I was going to go along, of course. I was so excited for her. Think about it, I could have known somebody who was in the Olympics! And then…”
“She died.” Jarod finished the hard sentence for her. “Do you think it really was an accident while she was swimming?”
Tricia shrugged. “I thought she was a better swimmer than that, but Joanne was a very determined person. If she had made up her mind to go for an early morning swim, then nothing would stop her. But it isn’t really in character for her. She never really liked getting up early in the morning. We both enjoyed sleeping in a lot. In fact,” Tricia began to giggle, “one day she stayed over at my house and we talked until long after two am. We didn’t wake up that day until nearly four in the afternoon.”
Jarod smiled but the expression dropped as he saw that Tricia was feeling guilty about being so happy when her friend was dead. He changed the subject quickly.
“So tell me more about your team.”
“What do you want to know?”
“How long have you guys worked together?”
“Joanne and I started, like I told you, eight years ago. Then, Andrew was the assistant coach but our first coach died and he became the boss. Most of the original people dropped out but, as Joanne said, diving was more important than the attitude of the coach, so we stayed. A few years later, the team had dwindled down to just the four of us.”
“Lou Prosser and Marvin Patrick. You met them both this afternoon.”
“And why don’t you like Andrew?”
She looked up at him sharply, hesitant to answer the question before she knew his reasons for asking it.
“What makes you think that?”
“You find it uncomfortable when he touches you, don’t you? I saw it today, when he put his arm around you. Has he ever done anything to you?”
She shook her head. “Not in the way you mean. You’re right, I don’t like it
when he puts his arm around me or touches me. It makes me feel uneasy. Joanne
felt the same way. She told me once.”
”So why don’t you tell him? Get him to stop?”
She laughed - a short, hard laugh. “Tell him to stop? Nobody tells him to stop and he wouldn’t do it unless he wanted to himself.” She turned away and picked up her purse. “Thanks for the drink, Jarod. I have to go.”
He nodded and smiled at her. “Not a problem. I’ll see you at training tomorrow.”
Jarod caught up with the man as he was locking away some of the equipment after class.
“Jarod! Hi! Thanks for all your help today.”
“No problem. Have you got a few minutes?”
He glanced at his watch. “As it happens, I do.” The pool being now free, several people began to make use of the facility as Jarod and Andrew watched from deck chairs.
“So, what were you thinking about?”
“Actually, if you’ve got time, I was hoping for a few tips.”
Andrew leaned over and grabbed his bag, opening it and pulling out a book. “I can lend you this, if you think it’ll help. It’s got a few good diving tips in it. Is that all you were after?”
With a smile of thanks, Jarod took it but spoke again. “I was wondering if you’d tell me a little about the kids you’re teaching here.”
“Why were you wanting to know?”
Jarod leaned back in his chair and linked his hands behind his head. “Well, I always think that you can teach people better if you know something about their personalities.”
Andrew Harrison laughed. “You’re right. Okay, about my divers…”
Jarod's eyebrows went up momentarily at the use of the possessive term but he had regained his normal expression by the time Andrew looked at him again.
“I’ll start with the guys. Lou Prosser…”
Jarod gave every appearance of listening intently while Andrew spoke about the male members of the team but his attention levels skyrocketed when the instructor switched to the women.
“Tricia’s a sweet girl but very obstinate. She gets an idea fixed into her head and it’s almost impossible to get it out. I was pretty surprised that she was willing to do what you suggested about the somersaulting thing.”
“And how about Joanne?”
“Joanne?” Andrew tried to give the impression of disinterest, but Jarod could tell that he had immediately become guarded.
“Joanne Hactar. She was a member of your team too, right? I just thought that, seeing as she and Tricia had been such close friends…”
“Close? I think you’re a little out there, Jarod. They were friends and all but nothing more than a somewhat distant friendship. In fact, Joanne was closer to me than she was to Tricia. She told me everything.”
“And what was she like?” Jarod asked the question cautiously, his brain carefully storing away all of the information he was receiving.
“She was a fairly average diver. Tricia was far better. But Tricia has decided for some reason that she would rather stay with me than go off and do something like work with a larger team. Can’t say that I blame her.” A small smile crossed his face and Jarod pretended not to notice it.
“Actually,” Harrison leant in as though he had something very secret to share and lowered his voice. “Joanne and I had just started seeing each other. It was all really hush-hush of course. Her parents may not have been too pleased to know that she was getting into a romantic relationship with a guy of my age. But, although I tried to persuade her that it wasn’t the best idea, she was determined that we make something of it. But she died before it got too serious.”
“You don’t seem that upset by the fact.”
“What are you expecting me to do: break down in tears? Jarod, it was hard on me when she died but death is just one of those things, right? Nothing that can be helped.”
* * * * * * * * *
Broots ran into Miss Parker as she walked out of her office; literally ran into her, almost knocking the woman over and sending himself skidding into a nearby pillar that he clasped lovingly with both arms. Hearing the racket, Sydney opened the door and joined the two people in the corridor. Miss Parker recovered both her breath and her sense of pride and stood over the technician with her hands on her hips.
“Were you after anything in particular, Broots, or did you come to work with a death wish today?” She didn’t wait for an answer but opened the door to her office. “Get in here or we’ll all be the laughing stock of this place.”
Broots stepped into the room and, leaning against the wall beside the door, regained his breath. “Believe me, Miss Parker, after what I’ve seen, nobody would have the strength or the courage to laugh.”
She sat on the edge of the desk and glared at him. “And what would that be?”
“Well, I was about to go into the cafeteria, because of the fact that today is tuna salad day, and that’s always when I make the effort to eat there. Well, I just got there when, of all people, Mr. Cox came up to me. He said that he had been sent to get me because somebody wanted to see me in Renewal Wing. I thought that it was kind of weird that I should have to go down there but I thought that maybe you or Sydney…”
At this point Miss Parker stepped across and slapped the palm of her hand hard against the wall, only inches from his head, making him jump. “Broots! Does your train of thought have a caboose?”
“Get to the point!”
“Well, I got down there but, of course, you weren’t there because you were up here instead…” He glanced nervously at her and noticed that her eyes were beginning to glisten angrily, whereupon he hastily reverted back to his original theme. “I was walking down the hallway when a door opened. A nurse came out, Willie following her. And you won’t believe who I saw next - walking and looking almost like a normal person.”
Miss Parker stepped backwards and, for a brief moment, the scene from her arrival at the Centre that morning flashed before her eyes.
Her own words came back sharply to haunt her and she suddenly understood exactly what the smirk that had annoyed her so much on Willie’s face that morning had meant. Stepping over, she opened the drawer of her desk and pulled a box out of it. Opening it, she glanced down at the gun inside it with the ring of fire on the grip, loaded it and exchanged it for the weapon she wore in her holster.
“Parker, be careful.”
She looked up at Sydney's warning and allowed her lips to twitch in the vaguest semblance of a smile.
“Don’t worry your head about it, Doc. Just let me go and do what I want to do and you go about your own business. I tell you, not even a letter from the Pope announcing that Raines was due to be canonized will save his sorry ass this time.” Spinning on her heel, she turned and walked out of the office.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod tapped gently on the front door of the house but could hear that it elicited no response from within. He knocked slightly harder and, after a short pause, the door opened and a woman stood in front of him. Despite the dark clothes, the blond hair and the lack of a smile on her face, Jarod could see the resemblance to the photo that had appeared in the paper.
“Yes?” She stood silently but Jarod could feel that she was less than thrilled to be interrupted.
“My name is Jarod Adams. I’m with the coastguard. I was hoping I could ask you some questions about your daughter.”
She coldly stepped back and gestured him into the living room. As he sat down, he glanced around at the various photographs and other decorations that were placed artistically on the mantelpiece and other shelves.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Adams?”
The voice broke through his thoughts and he turned to her with a slight smile. “I know that this is difficult for you, particularly at a time like this, but we’re hoping to be able to make some adjustments to our patrols and other safety measures.”
“What were you wanting to know, exactly?”
Jarod reflected briefly that Emperor Penguins were about the only things he could think of that would be comfortable in the environment in which he was currently sitting.
“Well, when your daughter went down to swim early that morning…”
“She didn’t,” contradicted Helen Hactar flatly.
“I beg your pardon?” Jarod allowed one eyebrow to rise slightly while still keeping the rest of his face as expressionless as that of the woman facing him.
“Mr. Adams, my daughter was almost never out of bed before eight-thirty in the morning, even on days when she had early classes. During her vacations, she would never get up before ten. There was no way on earth that she would have gotten up to go for a swim. I told this clearly to the police.”
“She wouldn’t,” Jarod glanced up at her, allowing a faint trace of humor to creep across his face, “perhaps have crept out for a romantic rendezvous of some sort with somebody?”
He watched as Mrs. Hactar stood up, walked over and pointedly opened the door. “Mr. Adams, my daughter was not involved in anything of the sort, nor would she have wanted to be. If you have any further questions, I suggest you read either the police or the coroner’s reports. I have no more information to give you.”
* * * * * * * * *
Angelo hovered around the air vent and looked down on the walkway below him, a movie camera in his hand. Suddenly he pressed it to his eye, bent down so that it was pressed against the bars and waited. For a few seconds, nothing moved below him. However, after a short pause, two figures appeared.
“Are you quite recovered, sir?”
“Perfectly, thank you, Willie. And you?”
“Yes sir. Very well.”
The two men continued along the hallway in silence for several seconds more.
“And have there been any complications?”
“No sir. You?”
“Nothing, thank you.”
Angelo lifted his eye from the lens of the camera, leaving it rolling, and watched as the two men continued below him, unhindered by anything including oxygen tanks. As they passed, he stopped the tape, ejected it and, holding it in his mouth, scampered on all fours down the dark passageway.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod stood at the window with his back to the room and tried to take no notice of the mess. He was also trying to pay no attention to the problem with which he had presented himself but that was proving a lot more difficult to ignore. He sighed, ran a hand through his hair, walked away from the window and sat down in front of his computer. Opening the folder again, he glanced down at the copy of the autopsy and then over at his computer, on which he had been typing the discrepancies between the report and its conclusion, such as the amount of rigor mortis that was present or the hints that suggested Joanne Hactar had died in fresh and not salt water. Points such as these had already brought him to the realization that Joanne Hactar had been murdered. It was now a question of who had done it. And why…
He was so deep in thought that the knock on the door, when it came, startled him considerably. Unthinking, he got up, walked over and pulled the door inwards. It took him several seconds to fully comprehend the identity of the slender, blond figure who stood there looking up at him.
He stared for one long minute before reaching out an arm and pulling her into the room, shutting the door quickly behind her.
“What are you doing here? How did you find me?”
She tilted her head slightly to one side and stood with her arms folded, waiting until Jarod realized what he had said and an embarrassed blush began working its way up from his neck and covered his face.
“If I could find you last time…” She didn’t bother to finish the sentence but turned away and looked around the room. Jarod's eyes followed her and he thought he could understand what was passing through her mind.
“I’m sorry. It’s not exactly home and garden.”
She glanced once more around before focusing on his face. “This is obviously the best you can do.”
Jarod remained silent for a moment, still stunned by her appearance. Suddenly, however, the memory of the last time she had shown up forced its way into his mind including the surprising people who had arrived with her and, half in fun, he opened the door again and glanced up and down the hall.
“You’re looking for Miss Parker.” Faith paused meaningfully.
“She decided not to come along for the ride this time?” Jarod grinned at Faith’s comment as he firmly shut the door once more.
He paused before speaking again.
“Why are you here, Faith? You said you wouldn’t come back until the time was right…”
“And it is.” Faith walked over and tapped the folder on the desk. “You need help with this…and a few things connected with it.”
He watched her as she walked over and began looking through his bag of toys. With a tentative hand, she picked up the fake dog poop, dropping it almost as quickly, and then began to play with the Silly Putty. After a moment, she put it down and then picked up a string of plastic monkeys out of his bag and held them above her head, looking at them as they twisted in front of her eyes, before laying them down carefully on the bed in the shape of a figure of eight. Jarod, his hands in the pockets of his jeans, leaned against the wall and watched as she continued to investigate his discoveries.
* * * * * * * * *
Broots followed her as she walked down the hallway and needed to run to catch up with her as she entered Sydney's office. She turned as he entered, somewhat breathless, behind her. However the owner of the office spoke before either of the others had the chance to do so.
“Would I be correct in assuming that you failed to find the object of your search?”
Miss Parker growled something inaudible and threw herself into a chair in the corner, which creaked in response. Broots tried not to snicker as he sidled in.
“Broots, are you sure that you weren’t indulging in some nightmare with your eyes open?”
He jumped as the question came at him like a bullet from a gun, however his denial had as much emphasis as he could put into it. “I definitely saw him. He was walking around like everything was okay. No, better than okay! He didn’t even have his tank anymore. That was why I didn’t know he was there until I saw him. No squeaking.”
There was an uncomfortable pause in the room as the three occupants each considered what it might mean to them that Raines was obviously better than he had been since the first accident, many years earlier, that had left him dependent on oxygen. It wasn’t unusual for such a silence to be broken. The unusual thing, or the thing that would have seemed unusual if anyone had been in the mood for noticing unusual things, was the person that broke it.
“Miss Parker, why do you think I was sent down there? I mean, they could have got you or Sydney…”
She got to her feet and gave him a look that would have made a boa constrictor turn away and hurriedly get on with what it was doing.
“The weakest link…” The words were snarled and, turning, she left the room, her heels ringing loudly as she went down the stairs. Broots stared after her, his jaw doing press-ups.
Sydney tried to hide a smile as he endeavored to explain. “Raines wanted us to know that he was, so to speak, back from the dead…”
“…again,” interposed Broots.
“And so you were sent down because they knew that you would be certain to come back and tell us about it.”
“But why does he want us to know that he’s back the way that he is?”
Sydney shook his head noncommittally as he looked across at the technician, his eyes harboring a far-away look.
“The only reason I can think of is that he has great plans; plans that he has, up to now, been keeping secret for a great display at some later time, like now.”
Broots took the seat that Miss Parker had vacated and stared at Sydney with a reflective frown to indicate that his collective synapses were coping with this as best they could. “And how…I mean, last time we saw him, it didn’t look like he was ever going to move again. How is it that he’s so much better, magically, than he was?”
Sydney shook his head and stared thoughtfully at his hands. “I don’t know, Broots. I really don’t know.”
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod continued to watch her for a few moments as she gradually looked through his collection of items, neither making a sound. Eventually, however, he found that the earlier problem was still working its way around in his mind and he went over and took his former position once more at his desk. Picking up a PEZ dispenser, he took a piece of cola-flavored candy between his teeth and happily crushed it. Turning to Faith, Jarod held out the toy and offered her a piece. She took it gingerly and slipped it into her mouth. With a slinky moving between her hands, Faith watched as he glanced once more over the information he had collected.
“What are you doing?”
Jarod turned and looked at her as she sat on his bed. “It’s kind of a long story.”
“We have time.”
His mouth twisted in amusement. “So sure?”
“Positive.” Her tone was definitive and allowed no argument.
Leaning back in his chair, he linked his hands behind his head and looked at her for several moments in silence; silence that Faith broke first.
“You’re worried about my reaction.”
“Shouldn’t I be?”
Her eyes danced for a moment but the rest of her face remained solemn. “Why not tell me and see…”
For a moment he paused, wondering how much to tell her, and of what. The fact that she knew much of it already meant that there was also a lot that didn’t need to be said and that, when he thought about it, was a distinct relief. “It’s hard to know where to start. You know me as well as I do.”
“Or perhaps better.”
Jarod looked up and met Faith’s eyes; his own locked onto hers, as she seemed to look into and almost through him and he felt his confidence waver in the face of her seemingly greater power. His next question was hesitant.
“So why am I explaining?”
“Because I want to hear you say it.”
He nodded slightly, his mind full of the things he had felt and seen but with no idea how to begin putting them into words.
“All I wanted to do when I got out was to help people. I felt like I had to make up for all the problems that my simulations had caused. And I wanted to know what the real world was like…”
* * * * * * * * *
For a moment, Lyle paused and glanced around to make sure that he was in the right place. Pulling the note out of his pocket, he glanced and gloated once more over the words it contained. He glanced up and down the silent street, looking once more at the limousine that stood at the end of it. As he watched, however, it pulled away from the curb and back into the traffic. For an instant he was concerned, but eventually decided that such an action had probably been caused by the interference of somebody else and that the vehicle was, he thought with an inward shrug, presumably only circling the block and would be back when he needed it. Lyle looked in the other direction and spotted the building he was after, and, with a measured stride, he made his way towards it.
* * * * * * * * *
“And this is your latest thing.”
Faith waved in the general direction of the papers and open computer as Jarod finished speaking. Although it hadn’t been phrased as a question, he nodded in response and spoke quietly but with something in his tones that betrayed the frustration she had already felt in his mind.
He handed the folder over to her and she flipped through it, handing it back with the same light in her eye that he had noticed before. She was about to speak when a voice from Jarod's computer announced that he had mail. After typing in his password, Faith and Jarod watched the film footage shot by Angelo appear on the screen in front of them. The familiar male voices sounded loud in the room but otherwise there was no sound.
Although the vision lasted only a few seconds, to Jarod it seemed like a lifetime. When it ended, he turned to Faith, amazed to see her face so expressionless. His mouth started to speak, but his brain decided it hadn’t got anything to say yet and shut it again. His brain then started to contend with the problem of what his eyes told it they were looking at, but in doing so relinquished control of the mouth, which promptly fell open again. In a continued silence, he watched as Faith stood and picked up the picture of Joanne that Jarod had cut out of the newspaper, holding it a short distance away from her face. Her voice was muted as she spoke. “She didn’t drown accidentally. Your assumption is right. Joanne Hactar was murdered.”
Jarod's brain somersaulted, his jaw did press-ups and his eyes did cartwheels while he tried to understand what she had just said without stating the words that were foremost in his mind. Eventually, however, he yielded to the desire and allowed them to come out of his mouth like an express train.
“Are you out of your mind?”
She turned towards him, her face completely serious and a lack of expression in her eyes. She was about to speak when he jumped in again.
“Do you understand what we’ve just seen? Is it perhaps possible that you haven’t understood the full enormity of what’s happened? Does the fact that Raines is not only once more able to walk but even able to fully function mean anything to you? Like the fact of how much danger we’re in? Faith, are you worried about this at all?!”
He looked at her again and found that his emotions were being smothered under the calm that she was exuding.
“Mr. Raines is never going to get the chance to do anything to either of us again.” She put down the photo, walked over to the window and stared out of it into the gathering darkness while Jarod watched her in silence.
Lyle stopped outside the door and pulled his gun from the holster that he wore under his jacket. Stretching out one hand, he tried the knob and was surprised to find that it turned. Slowly pushing the door open into the room, he stepped inside, his gun still at the ready, and sidled along the wall so that nothing and no one, and particularly not Jarod, could sneak up behind him. As he reached out for a switch of any sort that could light the dark room, the door slipped from his grasp and, before he could grab it, slammed shut. As the lock clicked into place, the room was brightly illuminated and, after blinking rapidly several times, Lyle saw that the room was completely empty. Looking back at the door, however, his face froze for a second or two and then began to do that terribly slow crashing trick which Arctic ice floes do so spectacularly in the spring. There was no knob on his side. He had most definitely heard the lock click. He was trapped…
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod picked up the photo and stared into Joanne Hactar’s eyes. Propped up against the mound of pillows on the bed, he tried to put himself into the situation that she would have faced, hoping to find some clue to the person who killed her. For some reason, this was more difficult than such a situation generally was for him. It was incredibly frustrating and what was worse; he had no idea what was causing it. Still, there was some damper, some block on his usual capabilities and it was beginning to annoy him. He was diving down every avenue that he regularly used to produce results but all were failing him on this occasion. Pulling his thoughts back to the image in front of him, he tried to work out what Joanne had gone through. All he could discern, though, was the sense of panic that she felt as she was repeatedly forced into the fresh, blue water.
“Jarod! I’ve spoken to you twice.”
“Oh, intelligent answer.” Faith walked away from the window and curled herself up on the edge of the bed at his feet. Jarod laughed a little, as much at himself as at her, and wondered briefly if she was the cause of him not being able to concentrate on this pretend.
“Sorry, what did you say that I missed both times?”
“I asked what you were planning to do to the man who killed Joanne.”
“Why do you think she didn’t just drown accidentally?”
Jarod looked up at her, an expression of surprise evident in his eyes. “Surely you know. You can probably even tell me who did it, and how.”
“But first you tell me on what you are basing your belief that she was murdered.”
Jarod got up and walked over to the desk. He grabbed the coroner’s report and came back to sit on the bed, opening the folder between them so that she could read the notes he had made in various places.
“First, there are two classes of drowning - death in fresh and salt water. The two show very distinct differences during an autopsy. If we take the story that she went out for a swim and drowned there, we could naturally expect her body weight to have increased by approximately 6%.” Jarod sat back and, without looking again at the folder, began to recite the facts, as he knew them. Faith hid a smile and watched him from the end of the bed.
“Salt-water drowning also results in damage to the lung surfaces. Within the lung, it would be expected to find frothy white foam, slightly colored by the blood that would seep through the alveoli. On the other hand, drowning in fresh water results in the body weight increasing about 16.5%, levels of adrenaline in the blood increase, and there is a reduced level of oxygen in the blood.”
“And this is what Joanne showed?”
Jarod nodded abstractly before glancing at her again. He eyed her for a moment, noticing for the first time that she had grown from a good-looking girl into a very attractive woman and also noting, this time with an inner shudder, that there were some striking similarities to the victim he was trying to learn more about. Jarod dragged his mind, with some difficulty, back to the situation at hand, he thought about her statement. A thought, however, made him change the topic slightly and he narrowed his eyes slightly as he looked at her.
“Do you know who it was?”
“I have suspects, of course.” Jarod thought quickly through the three interviews he had had earlier that day. “But I can’t be sure.” He sat back and watched her for second or two. “But I would lay money on the fact that you know.”
Faith allowed her usually somber expression to break momentarily and, for a split second, Jarod thought she had smiled. It was gone, however, before he could decide whether he had really seen it or only imagined it. Reaching over, she picked up the book on diving Andrew had lent Jarod the day before and held it up to show him as he sat, watching her.
“Harrison? But why?”
“Oh, come on.” Faith raised an eyebrow as she watched him. “You’ve suspected him from the beginning. You tell me why.”
“But I’m sure you’ll explain it so much better.” Jarod let a smile play around the corners of his own mouth while he waited to hear what her response would be.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle slammed the palm of one hand against the wall and was startled by the lack of sound it made. He banged the butt of his gun, and perforce also the side of his right hand, against the door in the hope of attracting attention but the sound died as soon as he made it, as though it was scuttling off into some corner and trying to deny its very existence. In anger, he kicked the wall. Hard. Finding that that made no impact, except on the toe that it injured, he stepped back several paces and aimed his gun at the point where he remembered the lock and knob being on the other side. After a second, he pulled the trigger. Ducking to avoid the bullet that bounced off the door and, after dancing gaily around the room, buried itself into the wall beside his head, Lyle was forced to recall his sister behaving in a similar way in the shipment container. Lyle’s face sank into a glare and he growled something insulting but inarticulate under his breath, which, had there been anybody present with good enough hearing, would most definitely have shocked them.
Giving up on the chance, for the moment, of getting out of the room without help, he turned to look at his environment. All that the room contained, other than himself, was a bed and a television set. Lyle stood near the door and shouted as loudly as his lungs would allow him, but the sound seemed quiet even to his own ears. The memory of the empty street and the equally empty building that he had entered now came back to haunt him and, dejected, he slipped the gun back into its holster and walked over to the bed. He was about to sit down when his watch beeped loudly at him. Looking down, Lyle remembered that he was due for the shots that he gave himself every day and, of course he had no chance of having them here.
An idea suddenly struck him and, reaching into his pocket, Lyle pulled out his mobile phone. Activating it, he pressed the first few numbers of his father’s office at the Centre but a voice from the phone prevented him from dialing further. He pressed the phone to his ear in order to hear what was being said.
“We’re sorry; your cellular service has been deactivated. Please contact your provider for additional information.”
Lyle groaned loudly and threw the phone into the corner of the room, where it satisfyingly smashed into a large number of small pieces. Having briefly enjoyed the pleasantly aggressive act of destruction and recalling himself to his desperate situation, Lyle allowed himself to fall backwards onto the bed with a loud groan.
* * * * * * * * *
Sitting up on the bed and pressing her back to the wall, Faith looked at him for a few seconds before beginning her explanation. For some reason, the look he received made Jarod feel somewhat like a boy caught in mischief but he ignored the sensation and met her look with one of his own.
“First, it was mostly jealousy,” Faith began. “You said that Marvin told you Joanne had been a very shy girl. When Andrew began making fairly blunt suggestions to her, she refused to listen to him and, despite having always kept out of his way, she now did it more than ever. Then there was her ability. She would have had no difficulty in gaining a place on the Olympic team, and even Andrew admitted that she was good enough for it. Unfortunately he knew that that would mean he would lose the control he had over her. That would have meant that she would have been out of his control. He couldn’t bear the thought of it. So, out of a combination of jealousy and a need for control…”
“…he killed her,” Jarod finished thoughtfully. “And how?”
“You could probably work that out yourself.”
Jarod shook his head. “Let’s pretend, for a moment, that I can’t.”
“You’re the only one of us who pretends, Jarod.”
Faith looked down at the bedspread for a moment, tracing the pattern of it with her finger and wishing that he wouldn’t depend on her as much as he seemed to be. It wasn’t as though he could take her with him to the next case, or any of the ones after that. Besides which, her glimpses into Andrew Harrison’s head had shown her a mind that she didn’t like at all and she wasn’t enjoying absorbing his emotions. Still, she could feel the frustration that was in Jarod’s mind and, out of the friendship that had developed between them, she felt as though she should help him. With a sigh, she continued, trying to repress the annoyance that she could detect in her own mind.
“He asked her to come to the pool one night for a private training session. She would have refused but was too scared to do so. When she arrived, he grabbed her. She fought,” Faith pulled out the photos from the autopsy report that showed the bruising clearly, “but he knocked her out and dragged her to the pool. He held her underwater until she stopped breathing, wrapped her in an old blanket and put her in his car. Then he went home. Early the next morning, he drove to the beach and dumped her body into the water. Then, only a few hours later, she was found. By then, of course, she had been dead for several hours.”
This wasn’t fair on Jarod at all. He sat back and looked at her in amazement, his eyes wide with astonishment and his mouth open in such a way that it could have been used to trap flies, had there been any present.
“Should I ask how you know? I mean, I might have got some of it eventually but only after forcing a confession out of him.”
She looked at him, one eyebrow slightly raised, and he felt the same emotion of the naughty child run through him again.
“Actually,” he said hurriedly. “Forget I asked.”
“So what are you going to do to him?” Faith’s voice was stern as she prodded him to reveal any plans he might have for getting his confession.
“I don’t know.” Jarod stood up and dropped the folder on the bed. “But I know just the place to think about it. Let me introduce you to one of my all-time favorite restaurants.” He held out his hand to her as across his face suddenly flashed one of those grins which always made people think he’d been overdoing things and should try and get some rest.
* * * * * * * * *
“You look terrible, Syd. What’s wrong?”
He walked into the room and dropped into the chair opposite her, his eyes not seeing her until she posed the question.
“You’ll look terrible soon too,” he promised as he handed over a piece of paper that he held in his hand. “Broots found that. I left him hunting up anything else that might relate to it.”
Miss Parker took the single sheet of paper from him and rapidly ran her eyes down the lines of text. Pushing her chair back from under the desk, she got to her feet, refusing to meet Sydney’s eye.
“Parker, where are you going?”
She turned, as she reached the doorway, and waved the page in his face. “I’m going to make sure that my father knows about this. After all, Raines can’t just come in and claim that he is the person who is really in charge of the Centre, not now that my father’s Chairman. And he won’t let it pass without a challenge, I’m sure.”
“But Parker, your father…”
He watched as she walked through the doors and they closed behind her, leaving him alone. For the sake of sorting out his own thoughts, he finished the sentences anyway.
“You’re father doesn’t need to worry. With his power, there’s nothing Raines could do at this point in time anyway, even if he might be deluding himself with such ideas.”
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle sat up on the bed and glanced once more in frustration around the room, hoping to find some way of escape that he might have missed before. The movement, however, sent pain coursing up his arms and effectively interrupted the search. Looking down, he couldn’t restrain a gasp as he saw the thing on the end of his left arm that could hardly deserve the name ‘hand’ anymore. The skin was stretched tightly, grotesquely, over his hands and under it, blood was rapidly pooling. His four nails were turning yellow and appeared to be attached to his hand only by tiny flaps of skin. After a moment, he also looked over at his right hand. Along the side, where he had slammed it into the wall, was also rapidly filling with blood, some of which was beginning to ooze out through several small cuts caused by the hardness of the surface.
Lyle stared at his hands for several moments; the shock of what he was seeing made him temporarily forget the pain. The agony of it all came back, however, when he began to stand. One foot was unable to bear his weight and, sitting down with a gasp, he used his uninjured foot to ease off his shoe and knock it onto the floor. Using one of his sausage-like fingers appeared to be impossible but, doggedly persevering, he caught the elastic around the top of the sock with the edge of his finger and, regardless of the agony, peeled it away. The sock was wet and, as soon as his foot was free, large, red drops began to scatter themselves around the room. Bending down, despite the fact that this caused his vision to blur, Lyle fumbled with his inadequate finger usage as he picked up his shoe and looked at the soft, cream leather inside it that was now stained a bright red.
With a shudder of horror, he dropped the shoe and sock back on the floor. It took a moment for him to gather his determination before he could finally get to his feet, screaming aloud as the agony from his foot flashed up the length of his leg. Immediately as he stood, however, his sight began to blur and the muscles in his eyelids flickered until he was completely incapable of seeing anything in the room. Taking a hesitant step forward and trying to place his weight on his injured foot, he staggered and, as he fell, cracked the side of his head loudly on the television. Consciousness took one look at where he lay, seized its chance, and fled…
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod looked down, a smile curling the corners of his mouth, for a moment at his serving of Apple Crisp with the additions of three flavors of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate crisps, hot fudge sauce, wafers, pieces of strawberry, and, of course, topped with a cherry, before starting to eat it with pleasure. Faith hesitated for a longer moment before shrugging and beginning to eat her own share. He glanced up at her as she picked up the glass of water that she had insisted on ordering, although Jarod had tried to introduce her to something more exotic.
“Come up with anything yet?” Her eyes danced again although she wasn’t looking at him.
“Not yet. I’m a little…distracted right now.” To cover his own embarrassment, Jarod picked up his glass and downed half of it at one gulp. He was about to say something else when a voice from a short distance away caught both their attention.
“Well, if it isn’t the little girl from the railway station. How are you, darlin’?” The man staggered slightly as he made his way across the floor and put his arm around Faith’s shoulder, his breath almost making her feel both sick and slightly faint. Not that it was unusual. Bobby had often come to see her in that state, unable to face her any other way. Still, she didn’t like it now.
“And I guess you’re her brother?” The man turned and, leaning down a little, stuck out his hand for Jarod to shake. “I can see the resemblance.”
Faith was about to respond when she happened to glance up at Jarod's face. It had such a combination of emotions written on it that, for a moment, she considered laughing out loud. She suddenly felt a greater understanding of a feeling that he had been trying to hide from her - embarrassment at the ease with which she had solved a problem that he had been unable to completely decipher on his own. Remaining in her seat, she watched as he began to deal with the situation in his own, unique way.
The man was still leaning down when Jarod stood up and pushed his chair back, facing the partly drunken figure. Even when the stranger eventually straightened up, the message having finally reached his partly sodden brain that he had to do so, Jarod towered over the diminutive figure and Faith could feel the eyes of several other people in the restaurant fixed on the scene in a way that made her feel slightly uncomfortable. Despite it all, however, Jarod gave no sign that anybody else could have any interest in what was happening other than Faith or himself.
“No,” Jarod's voice was quiet and yet menacing enough to reach the sodden senses of the figure in front of him. “Not her brother.”
For a moment the man froze, the words wandering randomly around in his brain until they reached the part where logic was stored. Arriving, they began to drill their way in, resulting in a headache that would, if it were possible to measure such a thing, definitely be a world-beater. As the meaning hit home, the man blinked several times, a look like that of a stranded goldfish on his face as his mouth opened and closed. As effectively as a bath in icy water, soberness tapped drunkenness on the shoulder and, when it turned around, punched it quickly in the face. The man’s eyes registered the shock that he felt before turning and walking away as quickly as possible. Jarod calmly reseated himself and recommenced eating. With a napkin, he wiped the corners of his mouth and then, putting it back on his lap, picked up his spoon and swallowed the last mouthful of his dessert.
He glanced up at her and drained his glass. “Yup?”
She shook her head and finished the food in front of her. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Do you want to leave?”
“Do you mind?”
He smiled at her. “Do you have to ask?”
* * * * * * * * *
Faith sat herself on the one bed that the room boasted and watched as Jarod took off his jacket, hanging it on the hook behind the door.
“So, did you come up with anything yet?”
He glanced at her with the sort of grin that would get most people locked away in a room with soft walls. “Hmm, possibly.”
“But you aren’t going to do it.”
The phrase caught Jarod by surprise, although, when he thought about it, the fact that Faith knew what he had been planning made perfect sense. He looked across at her and tried to read the expression on her face but reflected that he would have had more success trying to figure out the thought processes of a flamingo and gave up.
“You obviously don’t like my idea.” He tried to keep the resentment out of his voice and sat on the end of the bed beside her. She picked up one of his hands between her own and gently began to stroke it. “There are better ways of making him tell the truth. You realized that last time we were together. You can’t keep doing that to yourself - or to other people.”
Images of the faces of some of his victims suddenly flashed into Jarod's mind and, grudgingly, he was forced to agree with her.
‘Your crusade for the little guy is backfiring. How does it feel to face the consequences?’
‘I spent an entire life simulating reality. Consequences, they feel pretty good.’
Jarod shook his head sadly as the four-year-old conversation replayed itself in his mind. Perhaps sometimes the consequences weren’t quite as good as he had once thought.
“So what do you suggest we do?”
“Well, you don’t need him to tell you how he did it. You know that now. You just want him to admit that he did it.”
Jarod nodded slowly, hoping to catch up with her train of thought eventually but unsure whether he would completely be able to do so. As she started to explain her idea, he listened intently and nodded with seeming intelligence whenever she paused to draw breath.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod eased open the window of the house and gently helped Faith over the ledge and into the room before climbing in himself.
“Graceful,” murmured Faith as he crawled over the slightly higher than expected window ledge. Jarod tried to glare at her but the glare melted into a grin that was clearly visible in the light from the flashlight she held.
“His room is…?”
“That way,” Faith pointed towards a doorway where the door itself stood half-open and through which the occasional muttering could be heard.
Jarod stopped for a moment and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “I could have used you with me more often.”
“You weren’t emotionally ready to deal with me before now.” She responded seriously to his bantering and he felt that his humor had about as much chance of surviving around her as a whelk had in a supernova. Not that he mentioned it to her. He didn’t need to. She could always figure it out for herself. He shrugged and, checking that he had everything, made his way silently towards the door.
For several seconds the two stood in the doorway of the room and watched as the man slept. Jarod hesitated. This, he had to admit to himself, was the bit he didn’t like much. He wasn’t used to depending on other people for his confessions and, wonderful though Faith’s idea had sounded when they talked about it in his hotel room, his enthusiasm was now dwindling at a remarkably rapid rate. Faith slipped one hand into his and squeezed gently.
“Is it going to work?”
His words were like a breath of wind but she didn’t need to hear them to understand his concerns. She thought for several seconds, probing the mind of the sleeping man in front of them, before answering.
Her own words were just audible but insufficient to disturb rest. For several seconds she watched while Jarod stepped over to the desk in the room, almost silently turned on the light and put a piece of paper and a pen on the surface before rejoining her in the shadows of the room.
Faith reached into Harrison’s mind, mentally searching through the emotions to find the vague hints of that feeling which she had sensed earlier. Locating the sense of remorse he felt for his actions, buried under his self-conceit and justification that were so strong she could hardly repress a shudder of disgust, she began to magnify it, forcing him, even in sleep, to confront what he had done. Jarod watched, unable to guess what was going through the man’s mind and waiting for the signal so he could play his role in the night’s activities. Finally it came as Faith nodded.
“Andrew,” Jarod began in a soft voice that could be heard by the figure on the bed but was insufficient to truly rouse him. The man on the bed had begun to twitch slightly in his sleep but the voice stopped him for a moment.
“I know that you did it, Andrew. I know that you killed her.”
“No, no.” The denial was weak and muffled and Jarod glanced at Faith. Her eyes were trained on his face, her mind entwined with his, and she nodded again.
“I know you feel guilty about it too, Andrew. You might try to deny it but I know you regret doing it; you regret taking a life.”
The figure mumbled something else but his face was buried in the pillow and Jarod couldn’t make out the words.
“But I can help you get rid of the guilt, Andrew. All you have to do is this. Get out of bed, Andrew. Get out of bed and go over to your desk. On that desk are a piece of paper and a pen. Sign your name on the bottom of that sheet of paper and go back to bed, Andrew. Then the pain will go away.”
The moonlight streaming into the room had shifted since they had entered and Faith, standing further inside the room than Jarod, was quite clearly visible. As he stopped speaking, Jarod reached out a hand and pulled her back against him so that both could melt more easily into the shadows.
Jarod hardly breathed as the figure on the bed threw back the sheet, got up and, unsteadily, walked to the table. Picking up the pen, he signed the sheet along the bottom, where a line had been put for that express purpose. As he finished, Jarod lowered his head to whisper in Faith’s ear.
“Is he still asleep?”
She shrugged slightly. “Sort of.”
As she finished speaking, the man at the desk turned, about to get back into bed, in accordance with Jarod's instructions. Something, however, caught his eye and he looked directly into the corner where the two people were hiding. Jarod's grip on Faith’s shoulders tightened as the killer took a step towards them.
“What are you…?” Andrew began in a voice that gave no hint that he had been asleep only a few moments earlier. Jarod’s mind ran rapidly through a series of scenarios that would give them the best chance of escape and came quickly to the conclusion that the best method would be to leap forward and tackle the man to the floor. As Jarod watched, however, Andrew’s eyes began to glaze over and his actions took on a slow and almost dreamy motion. Within a few seconds his knees crumpled underneath him and he fell to the floor, his eyes closed and his breath coming slowly and evenly.
“What…?”Jarod turned Faith to face him with a look of confusion on his face.
“He was still asleep. Sort of.” She shrugged and turned away slightly. Jarod kept hold of her and forced her to look at him.
“Is he okay?” His voice, though soft, was full of meaning.
“He’s fine. Fast asleep again, and absolutely fine. What are you so worried about him for, anyway? Let’s just go.”
Jarod glanced over his shoulder and then back at Faith. Despite what the man had done, Jarod couldn’t help feeling bad for what had happened to him and he was a little surprised at Faith’s seeming want of concern or emotion.
“Get the paper and turn the lamp off.”
Without really understanding why, Jarod did as he was directed and then watched in amazement as the man, shivering slightly but still with his eyes closed, got up off the floor and climbed back into bed, curling himself up tightly under the covers.
“Now, are you ready to go?”
Miss Parker stormed along the corridor of the Centre, having obtained no satisfaction from the interview with her father. For the second time, she found that Willie was standing directly in her path. She put out a hand and tried to brush him aside, her hand accidentally making gentle contact with his chest. He drew away, with a sharp inhalation of breath between his teeth, and she stopped.
“What bit you, Willie? Finally find a heart somewhere in those inky depths?”
Willie also stopped and unbuttoned his shirt to show her a scar that ran down the middle of his chest. Miss Parker glanced at it indifferently.
“Congratulations. It would seem you do have a heart after all.”
She was about to walk past him again when he spoke.
“Actually, I donated one of my lungs.”
“I wasn’t aware that you could buy your way into heaven these days.”
“I gave it to Mr. Raines.”
This finally stopped her in her tracks.
“You did what?”
“I gave Mr. Raines one of my lungs. Help him, you know, come back from the dead again.”
“I think this is getting unnecessarily messianic.” She rolled her eyes and glanced at him again, noticing for the first time that he appeared to be having slight trouble breathing. “And there aren’t enough egg-heads in Renewal Wing that would have done instead?”
Willie snorted in a way that threatened to burst his stitches. “As though any of those vegetables could have been of a high enough standard even to count.”
“Speaking of vegetables, you know as well as I do that I never trusted Raines in that act of his.” Miss Parker pulled the gun containing the ring of fire out of her holster, released the safety catch and pressed it to Willie’s forehead. “If I see him again, he will get the chance to go among them as an equal instead of a superior. We’ll see if he still has the power to convert.” She moved the gun away and put the safety back on, returning it to her holster. “So where is he anyway? I thought you two had started to buddy together.”
Willie took a step away. “He’s having a long hard look at himself.”
Miss Parker snorted with more volume and power than Willie had. “No matter how long or hard it is, it won’t be enough.”
She walked past him, ignoring the fact that the smirk on his face was wider than ever before.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod unbuttoned the police jacket he was wearing and threw it into the back seat of the car in front of which he and Faith were standing, turning to her with a smile on his face.
“So they’re going to go with it?” Faith asked the question because she knew that Jarod was relieved to have finally been able to play at least a partial role in the extraction of the confession of Andrew Harrison.
“Well, from everything I’ve heard, the police think the signed confession should be enough to get him convicted of murder. Of course, he’ll protest that he knows nothing about it, but it won’t be the first time they’ve heard that particular excuse before.”
“And with any luck they won’t just file it away and forget about it.”
“Speaking of files,” the voice behind them broke rudely into the conversation. “I seem to have discovered a red one, and a missing looking glass. What a piece of luck! And that’s somewhat strange because I thought breaking a looking glass brought bad luck. I’m sure this one won’t, though.”
Jarod and Faith turned as though pulled by a single string but Jarod augmented his action by pulling his police regulation gun out of the holster and pointing it at Raines’ head. He hardly recognized his own voice as it came out of his mouth but he could recognize the feelings of protectiveness he felt towards Faith as she stood, unarmed, beside him.
“You might have survived other bullets, but let’s see you do it with this one.”
He prepared to pull the trigger but stared in shock as Faith pulled the gun easily from his hand and tossed it into the back seat of his car.
“It’s no use, Jarod.” Her voice was soft but there was a commanding tone in it that he responded to. “It’s too late for that.”
“I’m glad to see that your short time out in the world hasn’t knocked all the sense out of you, Looking Glass.” Raines reached around and produced his own gun from its holster.
“Faith,” Jarod growled, turning back to Raines. “Her name is Faith.”
“Do you know,” Raines began in a conversational tone and ignoring Jarod's interruption. “I’m sure you can’t possibly imagine just how much I’m looking forward to having the two of you back at the Centre? And then everything will change, and it will definitely be for the better.” Raines rocked back on his heels and indulged in his fantasies for the moment, still keeping his eye on the two figures in front of him. “No more Parkers in charge of the Centre. Soon we’ll have gotten rid of Mr. Parker, and his son’s already dead, or as good as: locked in that room on his own, unable to summon help due to the fact that his phone has been switched off. Dying a slow and painful death…” Raines trailed off, a delighted expression on his face.
“And then, of course, there’s Miss Parker.” Jarod made a slight movement in protest at the way in which Raines pronounced the name but the former doctor ignored the pretender. “I haven’t yet decided on an appropriate form of punishment for her yet, however you can be assured that I will. And that brings us, in a roundabout way, back to the two of you.”
Jarod glanced down surreptitiously at the woman who stood behind him. The blankness of her face and eyes made him shudder internally. Raines produced a small button and waved it in front of their faces.
“I thank God every day for modern miracles like this - the tracking device. With just a push of this button I can bring a team of sweepers to this spot that even the two of you wouldn’t be able to outmaneuver. You see, I never made the mistake that other people made. I never underestimated the two of you, and I’m not about to start now.”
“So,” Jarod spoke up, surprising both himself and Raines by the comment. “How have you managed to stay quiet all this time, building your forces? I ask merely for information.”
Raines stepped forward slightly and pressed the muzzle of the gun into the pretender’s chest. “I think, after all this time, you’ve forgotten what it’s like in the Centre, Jarod. I could shoot you on the spot for daring to ask something like that and it would give me a lot of pleasure to do so.” He stepped back again. “But I won’t. I don’t underestimate you and, to make sure that you accord me the same privilege, I will tell you.” As Raines began his explanations, Jarod glanced once more out of the corner of his eye at Faith. She still hadn’t moved…
* * * * * * * * *
‘ “He’s having a good, long look at himself.” ‘
The eight words swirled around in Miss Parker's mind as she walked down the corridor towards her office. For some reason she couldn’t rid herself of the idea that the words had a deeper meaning than the one she was thinking about at the present moment.
A long hard look at himself?
In what does one look at oneself?
A looking glass…
Miss Parker turned on her heel and ran up the three flights of stairs to Sydney's office. “Sydney!” Her voice echoed loudly as she entered his room. “We have to warn Jarod and Faith! Raines is after them!”
* * * * * * * * *
“Nobody else could have managed it the way I did. There isn’t another person in the Centre who is capable of coming up with a plan like mine.” Raines changed his gun briefly to his other hand and flexed the muscles before returning his weapon to its original position. “After I was taken down to be put back together after being shot, I got the chance for a new beginning along with a new lung. But I knew that I couldn’t come back yet. The time wasn’t right. The Centre wasn’t ready. But I only had to bide my time. I could watch projects that I had been responsible for begin to grow and develop, knowing that when I came back, I could rightfully claim the results as my own and strengthen my position.” He eyed Faith meaningfully. “So I sank into my chair in the Renewal Wing and waited. I kept my mind and my emotions shrouded in darkness so that nobody could learn what I had planned. I watched my actions greeted with skepticism. I saw that many didn’t believe that I would ever be anything more than I seemed to be. But I knew that I would eventually rise up and take my proper place. The Centre will be mine now, as it always should have been. My power will be absolute and I will rule my kingdom.”
Jarod peeped once more at Faith’s face and, somehow, began to understand what she was feeling. She was gathering her power together but Raines, still determined to clarify his own plans and wallow in his own abilities, saw none of it.
“I went into the Renewal Wing knowing that I had to do something to hide my thoughts and emotions. I had no specific plan in mind but found that, with only a little effort, I could make my mind completely blank. Keeping it that way was another matter. So, day-by-day, I began to experiment with colors and other methods of management. It was only by chance that I found my favorite color to be the most likely method. A black cloud was easy enough to maintain but sufficient enough to block out all unnecessary other thoughts. Soon enough I became an expert at it. And it gave me time. Time to reflect on other things at the same time. Do you know what my best moment was?” Raines turned to Jarod and glared at him, a smirk still curling his lips. “It was watching you get into the mind of that killer, Kodiak Brown, when I wanted you to. It seemed like a fitting revenge for that time, so many years ago, when you were too much of a coward to find my daughter. So it was an even greater pleasure to see you become him so completely. That was a definite victory for me.” He laughed; a hard, dry and cruel laugh that made the hair on the back of Jarod's neck rise. The pretender looked once more at Faith, feeling the power in her rise to such an extent that he was beginning to be afraid that she would throw herself on him, regardless of the gun he held. In an effort to restrain her, he placed a hand on her shoulder.
The black cloud that appeared immediately in his own mind seemed to break down his very thought processes and make him incapable of moving. Knowing that what he was receiving was only an echo of the image in Faith’s mind, he tried not to let the expression of panic that he could feel building up inside himself show on his face. With an extreme effort, he forced his mind to react and he pulled himself away. Despite never having seen it, Jarod could recognize, when he once more had the power to think, that that would have been the cloud of which Raines had boasted. His eyes locked onto Faith in some kind of gruesome fascination; he could almost see the power growing in her and he looked away, only to watch the cloud, in some way that he could not understand, transfer to Raines’ own mind. He could see the slow disintegration of the emotions that had been obvious on Raines’ face only seconds before, leaving his countenance, and particularly his eyes, so blank that it hurt to look at them. With some sort of instinct, Jarod knew that this would be permanent. Raines had had great dreams but now none of them would ever come to fruition.
Jarod shuddered inwardly and then turned to look at Faith. Slowly he touched her again and she turned around to face him. He placed a hand under her chin and forced her face up to his. She met his eyes and he could see the effort that such an action had caused her. Some instinct propelled him forward and he took the gun from Raines’ still outstretched hand and, unloading the bullets into his jacket pocket, threw it over his shoulder into the car. One eye on the motionless man, Jarod turned back to Faith. Her face was devoid of the little color it normally boasted and her eyes appeared to be sunken in. Her breath came in fast, short bursts and she remained almost as still as Raines himself. Jarod put a hand on her arm.
He tried not to shudder as she turned and looked at him, blankness apparent on her own features like a mirror of the man she stood beside.
“Faith, we have to go. Now.”
He could see the great effort it took her to nod and he opened the car door, gently helping her into the vehicle and shutting the door. Jarod suppressed an urge to leave immediately, first locating the button of the tracking device, pressing it to draw the sweepers to the spot and then leaping behind the wheel and drawing the car away from the curb with a squealing of tires.
Faith sat on the seat beside him, slowly struggling out of the blackness that seemed to be in control of her mind. Placing one hand gently on Jarod's knee, she could feel some of the power that he was emanating flow into her. She was careful to block out the negative emotions that he was feeling from what he had just experienced, allowing only the positive ones through the filter she had created for herself so long ago when her newly found abilities had almost sent her insane. Slowly she dragged herself out of her own mind and was finally able to become aware of her surroundings. The first thing she noticed was that their car was traveling at a potentially dangerous speed
Her voice was so sharp that, had she not been expecting it, it would have made her jump. As it was, she moved her hand on his knee gently, knowing that the contact itself was good for both of them.
“Slow down, Jarod. They aren’t following us.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and she could still see the anger and frustration that he had been unable to express at what had happened and at his own lack of participation. She searched through his mind for something to break his thoughts and found the concern he had felt for her. Magnifying it was as much therapeutic for her as it was for himself and she could feel her emotional levels return to normal as the car slowed to a safe speed.
A beeping brought Faith out of her own thoughts and she looked around to see Jarod focusing on the road ahead and nothing else.
“Your computer is beeping.”
“It’s a new email.” His answer was abrupt, having already recognized the sound.
“Would you like me to read it?”
He nodded silently. A moment later, the machine open on her knees, Faith spoke. “It’s from Miss Parker.”
“Wonders will never cease,” Jarod responded dryly. “I didn’t think she even knew my email address.”
“She didn’t. It’s being sent through Sydney's computer.”
Faith, at that moment, actually began to laugh. Jarod hurriedly pulled the car off the road and, putting it into park, put the back of his hand onto her forehead and tried to find a pulse in her wrist. Still giggling gently, she pulled away.
“I’m not sick, Jarod. It’s just…”
He sat back against his seat and stared at her. “Well, what?”
“She’s warning us…”
She quietly giggled again and, it being so unlike her normal character, Jarod quickly tried to decide whether she was hysterical from stress or else having a nervous breakdown.
“Neither,” she told him tartly. “My sister is warning us about Raines.”
The two stared at each other in complete silence for several seconds. They could never say later which of the two began to laugh first but for some long moments the car rang with their peals of amusement.
* * * * * * * * *
Still slightly shaken from the activities of the night before, it took Andrew several moments to answer the door when the bell rang and he stared blankly at the two uniformed figures that stood in the doorway.
The man nodded.
“You're under arrest for the murder of Joanne Hactar. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak with an attorney…”
* * * * * * * * *
The door of the room swung open and was held back by a heavy piece of rubble that a sweeper placed in front of it. Had Lyle been capable of noticing anything, he would have been pleased to see his father enter the room and not at all pleased to see Mr. Cox follow behind. Had he been capable of hearing, he would have begun planning a double murder immediately.
“Is he alive?”
Cox looked up. “At the moment, yes. As we’ve always known, though, the length of his lifespan cannot be guaranteed.”
“And the fact has been explained to me on more than one occasion that that is one of the only guaranteed effects of Kronos I.” Mr. Parker impatiently crossed his arms and, glancing at his watch, began to tap his foot. He looked down at the gradually increasing pool of his son’s blood and, in disgust, moved backwards to avoid it touching his shoe.
Cox reached over and pulled towards him the bag that he had been carrying. It yielded a syringe that he filled from a vial and injected into the unconscious man’s arm, attempting to avoid contact with the blood that appeared to be everywhere. Finding that some was on his sleeve, he wiped it carefully on a clean spot on Lyle’s jacket, an expression of disgust crawling across his face.
“Can we move him yet?” Mr. Parker glanced around the room, a sneer on his face. “If Raines was right and this building is supposed to blow, I don’t want to be here when it happens.”
“Only another ten minutes, sir, while the drug works. If we leave too soon, the movement would cause him to lose too much blood.”
“And will this incident cause any side-effects?”
“It’s difficult to say. In the case that he has lost too much blood, there could be some brain damage.”
“Hmmm.” Mr. Parker rubbed his chin, a thoughtful expression on his face. “If that is the case, I will have no further use for him.”
“As I said before, sir,” Cox suppressed his ready answer. “It could be some time before we can be certain. To make life easier, whatever the circumstances, may I suggest that he be taken in the Renewal Wing for his recovery? That way, whatever happens…”
Mr. Parker’s eyes rested thoughtfully on the doctor. “And he will also be neatly out of your way,” he responded acidly. “Still, I suppose you deserve your chance. He has a week, no more. A week to get out of the Renewal Wing on his own - or he never will.”
* * * * * * * * *
The team of sweepers gathered around the unmoving figure, his body still stationary after the mental crushing it had received and unable even to crumple itself onto the pavement. For a moment, the group paused respectfully but then moved in and bundled the body into the back of the car that was parked alongside the curb. As the car pulled away and headed back to Blue Cove, only one man stood and watched it leave; one man who was watching his dreams disappear over the horizon…
* * * * * * * * *
“I hear that the world is changing…sort of.”
He laughed to hear the tone of her voice. “That sounds almost like concern. You aren’t going soft on me now Parker, are you?”
“Not a chance,” she responded in a similar teasing tone, which soon changed into something more serious. “Did everything resolve itself?’
Jarod glanced down at Faith as she lay, her head resting on his knee, and silently watched him talk. “I think it could fairly be said that the situation resolved itself as best it could for both myself and your sister.” His face twisted itself into a half-smile. “You might,” he advised with a gleam in his eye, “want to ask Mr. Raines himself whether he is happy with the way it all turned out.”
Faiths own eyes gleamed briefly in response to his banter but her face remained otherwise motionless.
“He’d be dead before he could answer.”
Jarod jumped at the ferocity in Miss Parker's voice but kept his own devoid of emotion. “Hmmm…”
There was a pause in the conversation, during which time Faith eased off Jarod's shoes and began to tickle his feet, making it slightly more difficult for him to concentrate.
“Did you…know what happened to Lyle?”
Jarod nodded. “I knew. And, before you ask, no. I didn’t have anything to do with it personally, except in an indirect sort of way.”
“What do you mean?”
Jarod thought for a second. “It’s complicated.”
“What isn’t?” Miss Parker’s tone of voice suggested that she was rolling her eyes and Jarod laughed again before speaking.
“Is Lyle okay?”
“According to what I’ve heard, he should be in a few days.” Miss Parker smiled slightly. “That sounds almost like concern.”
“Not at all.” Jarod laughed in his turn. “I just like my enemies to be able to put up a good fight.”
“Does that mean I’m your enemy?”
Jarod grinned. “Not today.”
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker pulled the door shut behind her with a snort and took a step forward into the corridor. Even having only just regained consciousness, her brother was annoying, despite the fact that she was only delivering a message from their father. A noise away to the right made her glance down the hallway in time to see a trolley being pushed down an adjacent passageway. The two men pushing it were unknown to her but the man walking behind was instantly recognizable as Willie and Miss Parker would have put money on it being Raines on the trolley itself. A memory of Jarod's comments came back into her mind and, silently, she followed the group as they rapidly moved to another part of the Renewal Wing. As a door was pushed open, she had a chance to glimpse the face of the body and it took her only a fraction of a second to recognize Raines’ face, despite the blank features. She shuddered internally, turned on her heel and strode away to the upper levels of the Centre.
* * * * * * * * *
“Make sure, next time you decide to make somebody pay, you don’t let yourself get carried away by your emotions,” Faith admonished gently.
Jarod nodded, a serious expression on his face and a sense of mournfulness apparent in his eyes. “You’re a good lesson for me, Faith.”
“Not me. Eclipse.”
The pretender shuddered at the term and Faith reached out and touched his arm gently. “Just be careful, Jarod. Don’t let it control you. You can control it if you try; you know you can. I know you can.”
He nodded. “I won’t forget.”
The two were distracted by the sound of a train pulling into the station behind them. Jarod's face now wore an expression of infinite sadness and he restrained an urge to grab her, pull her into the car and take her with him, wherever he decided to head next.
“It wouldn’t work, Jarod. The longer we’re together, the easier it would be to find us both.”
The pretender nodded sadly. “It you ever need me…or want to talk…” He paused and swallowed hard, unable to both finish the sentence and retain his composure and Faith slipped her hand into his.
“I’ll find you.”
Jarod smiled and blinked away the tears that glistened in his eyes. Bending down, he kissed her gently on one cheek.
“I know you don’t like goodbyes, Jarod, but life is made up of a lot of them.”
“They can contain a lot of hellos, too.”
Faith gently freed herself from his grasp. “There will be at least one more hello between us. I promise.” She picked up her bag, turned away and walked into the building without looking back. Jarod took in a deep, but shaky, breath, climbed into his car and pulled hurriedly out of the parking lot.