classes, Jarod made his way to the communal office in the psych department.
He hauled his briefcase onto his desk with his left hand, still favoring
his right. From there, he removed a folder holding Talbot Davies' autopsy
records, which he had copied during a brief stint at Quantico’s hospital.
He wasn't alone in the room. Professor Chatham was at his own desk, seemingly
relaxed and reading a current copy of Psychology Today. Jarod was
beginning to wonder if the man ever taught a class himself.
With a small wave to acknowledge his presence, Jarod settled down and
began to look the report over carefully. Davies had been on several medications,
including the blood thinner Coumadin. Careful monitoring would have been
required, including periodic blood tests. It seemed unlikely he would
have eaten any dangerous foods, taken any dangerous substances, without
becoming aware of their effect. The interaction that killed him must have
been sudden and massive, but there was no trace of anything unusual in
the toxicology report.
He sighed heavily. Maybe it had been just an accident after all.
Across the room, Chatham took a small bottle out of his desk drawer and
removed two pills, downing them with a glass of water. At Jarod's inquisitive
look, he held the bottle up for inspection. "Ginko biloba,"
"That's an herbal supplement, isn't it?" Jarod asked.
Chatham stood, apparently taking the question as an invitation, and walked
over to Jarod's desk. "Would you like to try it?" he asked,
offering the bottle. "Broadens the mind, sharpens the wit."
"And dilates the blood vessels," Jarod added, reading the label.
"You need to be careful with this."
The professor waved away the possibility of consequences. "As long
as you're healthy, a little dilation never hurt anyone." He sniffed
slightly at the Pretender's polite refusal, and went back to his magazine.
Jarod stared at the bottle intently. An idea was beginning to come into
focus. Toxicology reports only covered a certain number of compounds,
unless you knew what you were looking for. Perhaps there were a few things
he still needed to check out.
* * * * * * * * *
After letting himself quietly in the back door of Davies' house, Jarod
explored the premises thoroughly. It appeared that he had been a neat
man who liked order in his surroundings. Every room was neat as a pin,
and Jarod doubted Tamara had the presence of mind, or the desire, to scrub
and polish right now.
The medicine chest in the bathroom and the kitchen cabinets came under
particular scrutiny. Jarod didn't find anything which would lead him to
believe Talbot was at all careless about his heart condition. No medications
other than those prescribed, not even a bottle of Tylenol. The refrigerator
had already been cleaned out, but nothing on the pantry shelves seemed
to contain harmful ingredients. If he really had indulged in something
he shouldn't that night, it had probably come from someone on the outside.
While he was there, Jarod decided to have a look at the book Tamara had
mentioned. But checking the hard drive on Davies’ computer presented an
anomaly that caught his attention instantly. In a folder called "Penumbra"
were copious notes regarding a series of murders in the late 80’s. The
manuscript was there too, but the file names looked odd. Every chapter
title had the designation ‘B’ after it, as though it was a second series
of text, though there was no ‘A’ section in the folder or anywhere in
the computer. Jarod searched Davies' home a second time, but could not
find an ‘A’ series of files anywhere.
It was possible, but unlikely, that Tamara Prescott had them. Jarod had
the impression that Davies hadn't said much to her about his works in
progress, so he probably wouldn't have given his files to her.
Those disks had to be somewhere, though. In this electronic age, a writer
would keep a copy of his files for the purpose of making changes once
an editor got hold of it at a publishing house. Talbot wouldn’t have committed
it just to paper and wiped out the working copy.
Someone had beaten Jarod to the punch, and taken those files. His job
now was to find out who.
* * * * * * * * *
Renewal always gave Miss Parker the creeps. One never knew what might
come rolling, hopping or thumping down the corridors in that nightmare
palace. Billowy curtains blew out in the breeze from the air conditioning
system, marking off therapy rooms and other private areas. She could hear
the soft beeps of monitors, the click-hum of respirators and other machinery
as bodies were kept alive against the will of Nature. The scent of antiseptic
was covered over with something sickeningly floral, making her stomach
She checked every room, every station, every curtained area she passed.
Up and down the quiet corridors she strode, the clomp of her thick soled
shoes intensified by her determined steps. Everywhere she looked she saw
misery and pain, but she did not meet the eyes of the patients in those
rooms for long, and upon confirming that they were not who she was looking
for, she dismissed them from her consciousness. None of the rest of them
mattered at that moment -- only the one familiar ghoulish face of the
man she had thought dead now for weeks.
She had never been this deep into Renewal before. Her hands rubbed her
upper arms, cold now even through her wool jacket. There was only one
more corridor left, all the way in the back, each room sealed with a metal
door and no windows. Carefully, quietly, she pushed on the first door.
It swung open easily, silently, and she stepped inside.
Not Raines. Not in the next room, either, or the next. She was beginning
to think her initial conclusion was off.
The fourth door opened, and she stood spellbound in the doorway, utterly
There he was, sitting in a wheelchair, oxygen tank parked beside him,
IV pole attached to the back of the chair. Behind him was a bed, the covers
still rumpled from where he had lain recently. He sat perfectly still,
unblinking, without acknowledging her presence at all.
Bile choked her. She swallowed it down, her body vibrating with rage
and disbelief. The door swooshed closed behind her, and she stomped closer,
arms crossed, ready for battle.
“You’re tougher than you look,” she snarled. “Or else Daddy’s not a very
Raines sat silently, his expression blank.
“Don’t you want to gloat?” she challenged him. “Come on, show some spunk,
She gave the chair a little push with her foot. It rolled backward, bumped
into the bed and sat still. Raines bobbled a little, but he didn’t move
to try to catch himself. He just sat there, staring straight ahead.
Parker lunged at him, gripping the chair arms to get in his face. “Don’t
expect me to buy this act, Reverend Billy. Everybody else might, but I
know better.” She gave the chair a little shake. “Poor Mr. Raines. No
more threatening than a spud, huh?” She smiled coldly and gave him a wink.
“I can still make hash browns out of you anytime I want. And if this is
real…” She laughed softly. “I can only hope. But it still wouldn’t be
justice for what you did to my mother. She trusted you! But I never will,
“He can’t hear you.”
She whirled, straightened up and glared at the man who had entered the
room so quietly behind her. “What are you doing here, Cox?” she demanded.
Cox’s pale eyes settled briefly on the wheelchair behind her before returning
to her face. He smiled. “Just checking in on our Mr. Raines.”
“Don’t tell me you have an alternate specialty in hydromulching?”
The doctor came fully into the room, walking soundlessly toward them.
His expression was almost fatherly as he laid his hand gently on Raines’
shoulder. “Why, no, Miss Parker. But Mr. Raines came to our emergency
clinic very nearly too late. They had to do a great deal to save him,
but unfortunately, other damage was done. We had to… wipe the slate clean,
as it were.” He gave the older man a squeeze and raised his eyes to hers.
“His body is healing nicely, but he’ll never be the way he was, I’m afraid.”
He smiled at her. “You don’t have to worry about Mr. Raines plotting against
your father, ever again. Isn’t that comforting?”
She shot a scathing glance at Raines, then fired off another at Cox.
“I don’t believe everything I see in this place,” she growled softly.
“I know better.”
Slowly, she leaned down into Raines’ face and hissed, “I’ll be watching
you, old man. And I’ll be waiting for you to make your move.”
Miss Parker pushed the chair backward into the bed as she turned on her
heel and strode out of the room.
Cox smoothed his palm over the other man’s shoulder. “She has no idea,”
he crooned softly. “You won’t be coming back at all. But then, she has
other things to worry about now.” He chuckled to himself. “Oh, yes, she
He pulled the chair back into place, set the brake and patted Raines
on the shoulder again before he left the room.
Raines sat silently in the chair without moving. He didn’t even blink.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod waited an appropriate length of time before turning in his report
at the FBI Academy at Quantico. He presented it to the appropriate secretary
in person, as Tamara had requested, though he wanted to get out of there
as quickly as possible. He had done too many pretends with FBI personnel,
and there was always a chance he might be recognized by someone passing
through. That could get really awkward, and he didn’t want to have to
deal with that sort of thing at the moment.
The secretary accepted his report, smiled and flirted a little, which
he politely rebuffed, and he started out the door, on his way back to
A gray-haired man with a ready smile stopped him in the doorway.
“Are you the visiting shrink at Braden? Doc Prescott’s had some good
things to say about you.” He extended his hand and shook Jarod’s firmly,
leading him back into the office. “I’m Cletus Malcolm, Behavioral Sciences.
Why don’t you come into my office here and we’ll talk about a couple of
things before you go. Got a minute?”
Looking for the quickest exit he could find, Jarod glanced at his watch
and replied, “Well, I really need to--“
“Just take a couple seconds, I promise,” Malcolm insisted, and pulled
Jarod by the elbow past the secretary’s desk and into his office. He closed
the door behind them and hustled behind his desk. “Tammy tells me you’re
interested in Talbot’s book.”
“Prescott,” Malcolm clarified as he fell into his chair. “Tal was a gifted
writer with a good head on his shoulders and a nose for the truth. He
came up here last year, checking into some background on a closed case
he wanted to use as the base for a book he was working on.”
“Yes, Dr. Prescott told me about it. She said the book was about a profiler,
and the cases he solved.”
Malcolm bounced in his chair as he pulled up to the desk. He seemed to
be always in motion, an energetic man with an active mind. As he booted
up his desktop computer, he nodded. “Yeah, it started out that way. He
was going to ghost write it for one of the players on the original investigative
team, but the guy was trying to make himself out to be something he wasn’t
and Tal wasn’t comfortable with the original slant. So, he started working
on a draft of his own. I saw some of it -- Tal wanted me to do some fact
checking -- and it was good.”
Jarod ignored the remark about misrepresentation and fixed his attention
on the manuscript instead. “Do you still have a copy of it, Mr. Malcolm?”
“Soon as I can find it -- here! I thought I kept a copy on my hard drive.”
Malcolm lowered his voice and leaned toward Jarod conspiratorially. The
Pretender came closer to hear him. "Tal said this was going to be
a bit of a bombshell. Apparently the screw-up is some mucky-muck in the
Psych Department over at the university, and this is guaranteed to make
a big dent in his reputation. All I know is, it's a good story."
He fished out a blank diskette, still sealed in the box, and copied the
electronic file onto it. “You give this to Tamara and as soon as I know
she’s got it, I’ll delete it off my hard drive. Okay, son?”
Jarod smiled, enjoying the man’s congenial attitude. “I’ll do that, sir,”
he promised, taking the diskette and stowing it in his briefcase. “If
she can get it published, maybe the royalties can help her recover from
Talbot’s death. I think he’d have wanted her to have the money.”
Malcolm nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. But I thought he’d sent
it off already?”
“Did he tell you that?”
The older man shrugged. “Nah. I just assumed. He had it finished a few
days before he died. Wanted to get it out of the way before the wedding,
you know," he added with a wink.
"I understand." Jarod turned to leave. "Thank you, Mr.
Malcolm. You've been very helpful."
“My pleasure. And I look forward to reading your report on Lung Li.”
The Pretender offered a smile filled with secrets just before he strode
out the door.