Lost and Found


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At the Centre

She moved quickly through the Centre's corridors, an incongruous sight to those unaccustomed to seeing the totally composed Miss Parker with a baby who was, by definition, just a tiny bit messy. While Gabriel was considerably neater and better behaved than many babies, he still loved to do such baby things as play with his sister's hair. Not many people would have believed that Miss Parker would tolerate that.

Miss Parker brought Gabriel back to his room with two and half minutes to spare. Her father was waiting inside pacing impatiently.

"You're early, " she said as she got Gabriel out of his jacket and set him in his playpen.

Mr. Parker watched his daughter very carefully. "Angel, could you let me know if you take Gabriel out again?" He tried very hard not to show his daughter how much she was irritating him. If the baby became too distracted, there might be a chance that he wouldn't perform properly. And that didn't even begin to touch the consideration that there were those who wanted to harm his son. His daughter was more than capable of taking care of herself and there were relatively few people inside or outside the Centre who would dare be a threat to her. But Gabriel was just a baby. And her fondness for the baby was likely to have a negative impact on her effectiveness as a bodyguard.

"Daddy, I just took him for a little drive. I'm his sister. I'd never let anyone or anything harm him."

"I understand that. " Mr. Parker said tersely. "But I worry about him, about you both. It isn't good for his life to be disrupted. You must remember, Angel, how hard it is to grow up without a mother. He needs the stability of routine."

"Daddy, he'll always have the stability of a sister who loves him very much," Miss Parker replied, looking at her father head on.

Mr. Parker sighed. He didn't like losing control, even to one of his children. If his daughter got too out of line, he'd have to find a way around that without making her suspicious. Some days she was entirely too much her mother's daughter.

He squeezed her shoulders in a gesture that was almost a hug. "Just keep me informed."

Gabriel was watching quietly, his eyes moving from one Parker to another. He didn't know why Daddy was upset, but he did know that Daddy was hiding something from his sister. He didn't like to look to see the things that were hiding underneath because they made him scared. But whatever was keeping Daddy from being happy wasn't good.

Of course, Daddy," Miss Parker left with her usual loving smile on her face. Inwardly, however, she was more determined than ever to keep being a gentle, persistent, and loving influence on her brother. It was perfectly normal for her workaholic father not to know everything about child care. She hadn't known that much herself until she'd started reading. But she'd spent the last year proving that Jarod wasn't the only one who could study a topic and become an expert on it.

* * * * * * * * *

In Maine, four days later

Jarod, John and Natalie pulled up the news on the computer. It showed that the school was being shut down. And with information about how the children and families had been manipulated out on the Internet, it was less likely that the same scenario could happen again. Jarod's suggestion that they celebrate with ice cream sundaes was something both adults could agree on. Perhaps they'd continue to agree on other things. Jarod didn't have enough data to know for sure if the Carruthers would divorce or find their way back to each other. All he could do was to remove the road blocks and hope for the best.

* * * * * * * * *

In Maine the next day

John and Natalie Carruthers walked Jarod out to his car. As usual, Jarod's possessions fit easily into a small duffel bag. Jonathan started to come with them, then darted back into the cottage.

Jarod raised his duffel bag and lifted it into the back seat.

"It's time I left. I've got a lot more towns to go through before I have enough material for my article. It's been great meeting you." Jarod said as he started the engine.

"Just don't travel so fast you don't take time to relax." Natalie replied, most of her attention focused on her son.

Jonathan ran back to the car. He brought Jarod a sand dollar. "It's for you, for luck."

"Thank you, Jonathan." Jarod replied. "I wish I had something to give to you."

"You're my friend. That's something." Jonathan grinned up at him. "It's nice to have a friend who's older and knows stuff."

Natalie smiled. "Next time, we'll have more time to spend together."

Jarod nodded. He wasn't going to mention his lack of a fixed abode. But he didn't have to.

John Carruthers handed him a card with his e-mail address on it.

"We do expect to keep hearing from you. We've enjoyed this visit and would like to repeat it. Don't forget," John insisted.

"Thank you." Jarod was startled. Except for Argyle, who usually tried to use him for something, he didn't maintain contacts with people once he'd finished helping them. But it could be nice to see this family again. He might just take them up on it someday when it was safe.

* * * * * * * * *

At Michelle's

Sydney sat on the porch at sunset waiting for Michelle to return. Some portion of this visit had been pure vacation. Not only did he want to have an answer in the affirmative if someone asked him if he'd had a pleasant vacation, but he had deeply missed having Michelle as a confidant. While he hadn't told her any details about what was going on, she was one of the few people he could confide in regarding his concern for Jarod and Miss Parker. It had been helpful just to have a chance to express that unspoken anxiety in words.

He'd had a chance to compile a separate set of notes, on Ethan, on Jarod, and on Parker. He wanted to have a bird's eye view of the puzzle that would let him help all of them as much as he could. He'd needed this time to think things out.

Sydney still wasn't sure exactly who he was the most concerned for. Ethan, definitely, was at a disadvantage. He seemed to have no defenses. Sydney realized that as he transcribed Raines' notes into the computer and e-mailed them to Jarod. Not directly to Jarod, of course, but to a dummy account they both knew the password to. Raines seemed to have left the boy with nothing to rely on except for a very unreliable inner sense. And if Jarod lost another brother Sydney didn't like to think of the consequences.

Miss Parker also had a strong investment in her brother. That was good. She'd have the best chance of finding her inner sense if she could learn to ease up on herself a bit. Parker didn't really know how to relax, and while that might save her life, it would also interfere with her ability to use her intuition. Her father was resenting the subtle changes she was making in Gabriel's life. Sydney couldn't tell Parker what to do. She had a way of never acknowledging that she listened to him. But Sydney was very concerned that someday soon Parker would face a choice between what was best for Gabriel and what her father wanted.

And where did Lyle fit into the picture? Broots had sent him an e-mail reporting that Lyle was keeping far too careful an eye on her. Considering Lyle's reputation, that couldn't be good.

So far, both Sydney and Broots had managed to stay out of Lyle's way. That was how Sydney planned to keep things if he could. Unfortunately, Miss Parker didn't have that luxury.

The phone rang. As he'd anticipated, it was Jarod.

"Sydney, are there ever any good answers?" Jarod asked. He had driven past Boston towards Cape Cod. He was now in a motel off of one of the many rambling roads that lined the southeastern edge of Massachusetts.

"To what questions?" Sydney looked at the pages of notes he'd made; full of questions to which he didn't have the answers. Questions about people he cared about.

"I suppose the question is why can't families just be happy? Why do people have to split them apart and take such delight in it?" Jarod asked.

"It's not that way for everyone. " Sydney reminded Jarod. "And as long as you're helping people you are making a big difference."

"Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your help." Jarod rested his hand on the case with the DSA's. He wouldn't watch one tonight. He wasn't ready to face his past yet.

"You're welcome, " Sydney replied, hanging up the phone. Even now Jarod didn't feel it was safe to have a long phone conversation. There was always the concern that the call would somehow be traced no matter how careful either of them were. Sydney had been reluctant to waste precious phone time telling Jarod about the precautions he'd taken on his end to be sure he was not being watched by the Centre.

Sydney was conscious of a great feeling of sadness. This man, who was as close as a son to him was always forced to deal with the fact that people didn't want him to be happy. More than anything, Sydney wished he had a way to help Jarod be happy and safe. Perhaps sometime he'd find a way.

Jarod hung up the cell phone. He had to keep searching for answers. For now, that search meant sending another e-mail to Ethan via Dr. Goetz. Ethan was the one member of his family that Jarod hadn't lost track of yet. Sydney's information would help him help his brother. Meeting Jonathan had reminded Jarod that using a talent could be a good thing if that talent meant a lot to you. Ethan had talents and he should be encouraged to use them. The person who Ethan might trust to encourage him was his brother.

He also sent another e-mail to an account he hoped was one belonging to his father. It had been too long since Jarod had had contact with his family. He could trust Sydney to tell him if he knew that the Centre had found his family. But Sydney wasn't always aware of what Lyle and the others were planning. Unless he was there to protect them, Jarod was going to worry. He had to find a way to turn that worry into something productive.

Jarod looked out the window. There was nothing outside but trees. It was always a comfort to him to be able to look outside and see the world, even through the cover of darkness. He listened to the wind make the branches tap on the window. Darkness and silence. But he wasn't in the mood for TV or DSA's.

Spending the night in a motel was boring. He went to the front desk and paid his bill. It was time to leave this spot and find another place to rest.

Perhaps his answers lay further south. Had Emily returned to Philadelphia? The night and the road beckoned to him and Jarod drove off into the darkness.

End of Episode
Lost and Found

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