Somewhere along the coast
Jarod always found it satisfying to drive at night. When the world was
dark, he didn't feel as different from everyone else as he did during
the day -- every day of his life. Almost no one was on the road at this
hour, and the later it was, the more he had a valid excuse for being tired,
discouraged and deeply in need of rest.
At night, he didn't have to pretend to be anything or anyone… only survive
being on the road, meeting the challenge of headlights. Sometimes he'd
do a sim of people in the cars around him, wondering who they were, if
they were his family, if they even had family. For all he knew, everyone
he drove by could be in the same position he was: alone, lost, and unable
to let themselves be found. If he ended up concentrating too hard on the
road, it didn't matter. There were no prying eyes to see.
Maine was a good place for that kind of driving. Jarod had total isolation
on the coast road, surrounded by trees and darkness. Cities like New York
and Washington were the worst places to be driving at night, because there
was always something going on. But, going south from Acadia National Park,
there were only small coastal towns where all the lights had gone out
by two in the morning. It was as though he were the only living person
awake in the world. He'd actually left Acadia at three am, unable to sleep
and tired of the bed and breakfast he'd been staying in. It didn't give
him the scope that some of his hideouts did.
Dawn would be approaching soon, which would give him a chance to go exploring
and make plans for where he would go next. In the meantime, he'd made
reservations at a cottage in Wells. Renting his own place, even a small
place, gave him satisfaction. Jarod pictured it in his mind: small, compact,
and white. It was a place he'd want his family to visit. For enough money,
the owners had mailed him the key, so he could arrive whenever he chose.
Sometimes, Jarod traveled randomly; at the moment, he found security in
having a plan.
His last pretend had involved the park service. Two college students,
boy and girl, had been hiking in the park. When they hadn't shown up at
the appointed time, their parents had called in the Park Service. They
had already been lost for two days before he had seen the news story.
Because of the ferocious downpours, it had been difficult to cover the
terrain, but Jarod had been hiking in that area before and extrapolated
their projected course. He had known that he wouldn't be the only person
who could rescue them… but he also knew that he would be the only person
willing to risk falling off the cliffs into the sea. At least he had no
ties here. There was no one who would suffer, just because they found
him amusing to have around.
Jarod sighed. The thing that kept him going was how happy the parents
had been to see their children safe again. It was nice to know that even
after children grew up, their parents worried about them. He wanted to
share thoughts like that with his own family soon.
Jarod missed his father most in the daytime. He missed Zoe the most at
night. He'd actually managed a deep and satisfying sleep when he was with
her, because he believed that she truly cared about him. The past few
weeks had been hard on his ability to sleep through the night. Everywhere
he looked he saw pain, and remembered those who had been hurt because
they were connected to him... Zoe, Kyle, Emily. Being alone was the only
way he could keep from causing anyone that kind of pain again.
* * * * * * * * *
Outside Blue Cove
The Western Diner
Sydney entered the diner with a small briefcase and made for a table
at the back of the restaurant. Two cups of coffee were already set out.
He was expected.
Broots waited, nervously drinking from his own cup. Under the table was
another briefcase, identical to the one Sydney had. Broots nudged his
briefcase in Sydney's direction. Sydney made quite sure by touch that
he had the correct briefcase. He'd put his initials in raised lettering
one he was giving to Broots, while the briefcase without the initials
contained Raines' documentation on Ethan. With that information, Sydney
would be able to help Jarod to help Ethan...or, at least get a better
idea of what was going on. Raines had been keeping information from all
of them for too long. That was about to end.
"I can't believe we're doing this, Syd." Broots fidgeted with
his coffee. He really should consider switching to decaf.
"Calm down, Broots," Sydney replied. "This is probably
unnecessarily dramatic. I wasn't followed. And we're far enough away from
the Centre that no one is likely to walk in by accident."
"Yeah, I suppose. It's just that anything to do with Raines gives
me the creeps."
Sydney took a sip of coffee. "Good. Those feelings will keep you
safe. Now, I don't want Parker to know what I'm doing, so it would help
if you pretend that you know nothing about any of this. As far as everyone
at the Centre is concerned, I'm just off on a vacation."
Broots shook his head. "Miss Parker is not going to be happy about
you going behind her back."
"If the subject comes up, blame me." Sydney's voice and gaze
were steady. "But it would be better not to let the subject come
"What about Lyle?"
"Lyle is more likely to be suspicious of Parker than of me. That's
exactly why I don't want her trying to help. It's too dangerous to tempt
him into following her around."
Broots groaned and ran a hand over his non-existent hair. He didn't really
have much choice, not since he'd agreed to give Sydney the information
he and Miss Parker had found in Raines' Forest House. The files he and
Parker had saved from being burned still needed a lot of salvage work.
Since most of it didn't have to do with computers, and it did have to
do with patient information, Sydney was the obvious person to try and
decipher the files. Broots had also agreed to replace the files he was
giving Sydney with the decoy files in the other briefcase. That way, if
Miss Parker or Lyle came looking, he'd have something to give them. Not
that Lyle had anything to suspect at this point, but Broots wanted to
keep it that way. And Miss Parker, while not quite as scary, wasn't his
favorite interrogator either. Sydney had sworn there was no way that either
of them could be sure the decoy files weren't the real thing. He had spent
a great deal of time forging them by using files from other patients.
Raines, of course, would know the files weren't real. But Raines wasn't
in the picture at the moment.
"Yeah, Syd, but what if information gets back to Raines or Lyle?"
Broots hated that he had to do the worrying for both of them.
"For now, just look for Jarod in your usual manner, and report any
possible sightings to Miss Parker. Spend time with your daughter. If you
have a life, you're less likely to be suspected of doing anything clandestine."
Sydney paused to drink more coffee. "Raines' one weakness has always
been a tendency to assume business as usual. So even if he should return
to his usual pursuits, as long as he thinks you aren't a threat he'll
avoid you. Lyle will underestimate both of us if we let him. It's our
job to let him."
Broots snorted. "The entire world underestimates me. That shouldn't
be a problem."
"I know," Sydney said, smiling.
"You be careful, Sydney. I still think there's a lot of risk involved.
If Lyle even suspects anything is going on, we're in big trouble. Somehow,
I don't think that Jarod's going to be around for a dramatic rescue."
Broots got up to leave.
"I never expected one, " Sydney replied.
* * * * * * * * *
On the coast highway between Kennebunk and York
Headlights appeared in front of him, beaming around the curve into the
predawn darkness. They remained stationary, and Jarod slowed down as he
approached. A car was stopped at the side of the road. He saw a man get
out and attempt to flag him down.
It was unlikely to be a trap, since the Centre wouldn't have any way
to be ahead of him. There didn't seem to be anyone else around, so Jarod
decided it was worth the chance. They could probably use his help. He
pulled his SUV over to the opposite side of the road, and when he left
the car, he took out a flashlight and shone it in the direction of the
other car. Inside he could see a blonde woman, and a small boy who rubbed
the sleep out of his eyes. Jarod kept his hands loosely at his side, in
plain view as he walked across the street, so he wouldn't alarm them unnecessarily.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
The driver approaching was tall, light haired, and tough looking. He
reminded Jarod of his father, and the many Pretends he'd done with military
themes. The driver approached Jarod with the confidence that ranking officers
usually had. Jarod reminded himself to ask which branch of the service
when he got a chance.
"John, ask him if he can call a tow truck," the woman's high,
excited voice called. She tucked the blanket around her son, who watched
them with large, round eyes from the front seat. In spite of the safety
factor, the boy -- who looked to be around eight years old -- appeared
to have been sitting between his parents, sleeping against his mother
until the sound of Jarod's car awakened him.
"Do you have a cell phone? The battery on mine is gone, and when
the car died we were pretty much stranded. I thought I could get to the
hotel blindfolded, but apparently I don't know the way as well as I thought."
The man threw an angry glance back at the woman. "And we got off
to a late
"Not that late. I don't even know why we bothered," she replied.
"Ma'am, I'd be happy to try and call, but it is probably a little
late to get a tow truck. Or early, depending on your point of view. Why
don't I tow you instead?" Jarod knew he had rope left over from the
search and rescue mission, and although he'd enjoyed rambling on the dark
roads, he could get back to civilization fairly quickly. The need to always
be on the alert for escape routes meant that he had developed a love for
map reading. Being physically lost simply wasn't a safe bet.
"Thanks," the man replied, extending his hand. "I'm John
Carruthers. This is my wife, Natalie, and my son Jonathan."
"Jarod Forest," he said, looking at their car. It was a Toyota
Corolla that had seen better days, yet they were obviously well-dressed
Natalie smiled nervously. "We'd appreciate any help you can give
us, Mr. Forest."
"Just Jarod is fine. We'll have you out of here in no time,"
Jarod answered. Nothing like helping people in trouble to get the day
off to a good start.
"We started around six pm, but then we took some additional turns
and detours. And neither of us seem to do well reading a map," John
Natalie sighed, and brushed her brown hair to one side. "We're just
tired. Do you know how far we are from Wells?"
"Not far. I'm headed there myself. There are some lovely cottages
there and I've rented one."
"Then we'll be neighbors," John told him.
"And neighbors should always help each other," Jarod replied.
It took very little time to tow them into town once he'd begun. The cottage
he'd rented had two bedrooms, and Jarod offered them to the strangers.
They were all exhausted enough to accept; so tired, in fact, that they
didn't notice their host immediately set out jogging along the beach in
the glow of dawn. Jarod slept very few hours per night, sometimes none
at all. His time in the Centre caused him to cherish each day, and celebrate
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney walked down the corridor humming a quiet French tune. He was smiling,
and dressed in a polo shirt and slacks, much more casually than usual.
Miss Parker approached him, looking her usual efficient and sharply dressed
self. She glowered at Sydney, annoyed that anyone could be quite that
cheerful in the dark corridors of the Centre.
"Well, you certainly are a happy little camper, aren't you?"
"It's time I took a vacation, Parker. I'm going to visit with a
friend. Perhaps you should try it.".
She glared at him. "What about finding Jarod? What about the other
secrets lurking here at the Centre?" Sydney was her backup, someone
she could always go to if she needed it. With him gone, she'd be on her
own more ways than she liked to think about.
"I don't believe the search for Jarod is entirely dependent on my
presence. And a continuously digging for secrets can be very boring,"
Sydney answered mildly.
Nothing showed on his face. He knew that everyone at the Centre must
believe he was only interested in rest and relaxation. After the past
few weeks, there was little doubt that all of them deserved some vacation
time. It was safe enough for them to know he planned to visit Michelle.
That was the story he'd given out to Broots, who undoubtedly would be
asked to repeat it by Lyle or Cox.
His relationship with Michelle was well known. And he'd certainly spent
enough time trying to convince Parker to have a normal life. If he looked
as though he planned a normal holiday, there was the possibility no one
would look beneath the surface. With the recent changes at the Centre,
he knew he was no longer considered a principal player.
He'd applied for a two-week vacation, hoping that would give him a chance
to talk to Jarod and find out what progress had been made with Ethan.
He had little chance to help while he was still in the Centre; Jarod wasn't
going to risk getting close enough to be hurt again. But if he was
in a place from which he could send a private e-mail, he had a chance
to make contact. Sydney respected Major Charles, but the Major couldn't
know the workings of Jarod's mind the way Sydney himself did. He might
be Jarod and Ethan's biological father. But he couldn't provide Jarod
with the guidance he needed to help Ethan.
Sydney knew Jarod's strong sense of responsibility. Jarod needed to help
his family. And Sydney needed to help Jarod.
Parker sniffed almost audibly. "I thought you were my friend. Leaving
me alone in this chamber of horrors is not my idea of friendship."
"Parker, you've worked here a long time. Now is not the time to
become squeamish," Sydney replied blandly.
"I'm not exactly squeamish. I just don't like the things that are
happening around here." Parker turned her glare up a couple of notches.
Sydney sighed. Only Parker would say something like that out loud. In
theory, she should know how vulnerable she was. In practice, Daddy's little
girl simply didn't believe it. "Then do something to change things.
But do them carefully. You won't enjoy anything you aren't alive for."
"I am not responsible for any of the unpleasant situations around
"But you may be connected to the source of the problems in many
ways," he reminded her. "Use those relationships to make the
changes you want."
"Relationships," she snorted. "How would you feel if you
found out you were related to the entire Addams family?"
Sydney chuckled. "That's certainly one way to describe things. But
you need to continue to move forward. The answers you're looking for are
not going to be found by attacking them. If you relax, you just might
get the insight you need."
"If I relax, I might just be eaten alive around here," Parker
snapped. "Staying here is not relaxing."
"That's why I'm spending this vacation with Michelle. Spending time
with a friend you can trust outside of the Centre is bound to be better
than staying around here worrying about things." Sydney moved forward
a couple of steps. It wouldn't do to prolong the conversation.
"I don't worry, Sydney," she returned sharply. "I make
the answers fit the questions."
Sydney made his exit, a surveillance tape tucked into his coat pocket.
He was sorry that he couldn't stay and help her, but it would do neither
of them any good.
Having discovered she had another brother had produced changes in Parker.
Some of those changes had the potential to be frightening. Sydney doubted
he'd seen more than the tip of the iceberg.