My Would-Be Savior
ceremony at the cemetery had been brief; the minister said a few words about
Zoe, her fight to beat her illness, her zest for living. Someone read from
Proverbs and Psalms at the gravesite. Then, the family drove back home.
A few good friends and family squeezed into the small neat house. It was painted white, with dark blue shutters and a picket fence. There were daisy bushes in the front yard, and a small rose garden that she loved so much. Standing in the grove of trees, where he had stood many months before and said goodbye, he watched her family file into the house.
Zoe's grandmother walked over to him, sadness filling her eyes, and her arms reached up to embrace him. His heart ached so badly he thought it would burst. Suddenly, one hand lowered, and her eyes darkened in fury.
"It's all your fault, Jarod," she said harshly. "Zoe's dead because of you. It's your fault... your fault...."
Jarod woke drenched from his dream, his left hand reaching for the remote to the television, pushing the button to change the station. He'd fallen asleep, something he didn't like to do, not since the day he'd found the origami figure of Onysius in Zoe's hospital room. He swung his legs off the bed and blindly stumbled to the bathroom.
* * * * * * * * *
The restaurant had originally been a barn. Stalls had been converted into booths, and the loft had been ripped away to expose splintery beams, now festooned with ropes of onions and red peppers. An unpainted plywood bar ran the length of the back wall, facing the counter and stools.
Sitting in the last booth, hidden from the other patrons, sat a man wearing a dark trench coat. A small diamond flashed in the lobe of his left ear. His hair was close-cropped and white as snow. He lifted his eyes to glance at the other customers in the restaurant, seeking the one who sat at the far end of the bar.
That man wore a white shirt, black tie, a sedate suit of European cut. He sat quietly, and made eye contact with the white haired man, briefly. The white haired man smiled, raised his glass and then left the bar.
The man at the bar watched him go. He then rose to his feet and strode to the booth, where he found the manila folder laying on the table. The man reached out a leather gloved hand for the folder. A few minutes later, the man smiled, tucked the folder under his arm and then departed. He pulled out his cell phone once outside the restaurant.
"How'd it go?" the voice on the other end asked.
"Call Senator Evans. Tell him that no place is safe," Lyle sneered.
* * * * * * * * *
Mr. Parker had the phone pressed against his ear, his voice strong and clear. He addressed a member of the Triumvirate with subtle sarcasm that impressed his guest, General Washburn of the Pentagon.
"A formidable man," the General remarked as he straightened the cuffs of his military uniform.
"Indeed," Mr. Cox replied, ice blue eyes glistening as he watched Mr. Parker terminate his call.
"My colleagues and I are concerned about --"
"I understand," Cox said gravely. "We are taking care of it."
"The Centre is ready to help in any way it can," Parker said. "Any way possible."
"That's wonderful, Mr. Chairman." General Washburn nodded his head, then got up from his seat and left.
"Have we heard from Lyle?" the older man asked, placing his hands on the glass desk top in front of him. With the ice blue eyes twinkling, Mr. Cox nodded his affirmation and grinned.
"The call is being placed as we speak."
"Good, we didn't spend millions on Project Bellona to see it die because some senator has a conscience."
"Not just any senator, Mr. Parker. Evans is the head of Defense spending in the Senate as well."
"Yes, yes. In other words, we own him," the older man snarled.
* * * * * * * * *
The teenager awoke on a small cot in a darkened room with the worst headache of her young life. Unable to determine whether it was morning or night, she turned on to her side. The urge to retch came upon her as she tried to rise from her position, so she lowered herself back down and fought to still her shaking.
A word, savior, along with an image of a woman, flashed in her mind. It was an image that haunted her ever since she could remember... a much older version of herself. Impossible that the image was real, or at least she thought it was. Closing her eyes, she drifted off to sleep.
* * * * * * * * *
Gone. Zoe was gone. At the hands of the Centre, a final betrayal. Jarod looked into the mirror, not liking the reflection that stared back at him. He had lost weight in the last few weeks, his mouth was like cotton, and he felt... Closing his eyes tightly, he did his best to prevent the tears from flowing out of the corners. He wasn't going to go there. Slowly, the anger crept back instead. Turning around, he was about to start the water for a shower, when the movie on the television was interrupted by a special news bulletin.
"Terror taunts our children. An explosion ripped through the halls of Wyndham Academy this afternoon at 2:34 Eastern time. The cause was apparently a bomb planted in the school's basement."
Jarod's heart nearly stopped at the sight of the news announcer interrupting the afternoon programming. The network news sound track beat rhythmically under the familiar voice.
He walked out of the bathroom, coming to a standstill in front of the screen, watching the horror unfold. Firefighters were frantically trying to extinguish the flames. He watched as lifeless bodies were carried from the rubble. Children were streaked with blood, and wounded victims sat dazed on the lawn. Smoke blackened the afternoon sky, wood burned and sirens wailed.
Something in the back of his mind nagged at him, and it wasn't until the newscaster started to talk about the prestigious history of Wyndham Academy that it clicked into place. Wyndham had a reputation for its program centered around gifted students who excelled in the areas of science and mathematics. Not only were the students that attended the school gifted, but some of them were offspring of high-ranking government officials.
He continued to watch as FBI agents surmised that part of the detonator that had been found at the origin of the blast was highly sophisticated, and not from some disgruntled person who had been rejected. Hurriedly he tossed his belongings into his duffel bag and headed for the airport. He had no future plans at the moment, so he made a quick call and booked himself on the next flight. Two hours later, he was headed for Virginia.
* * * * * * * * *
After disembarking from the plane, Jarod walked past rows of newspapers located in the airport terminal, all featuring a picture of the obliterated east side of Wyndham Academy.
A tap on his shoulder snapped him out his reverie, or more appropriately the anger that was seething just underneath his concern.
"Yes?" His answer was slow, hesitant, as he took in the men in front of him. Looking in their eyes, he knew. The look was there: regulation haircut and the generic dark suit... law enforcement. He had passed right by these men, the headlines from the papers having kept his attention. His heart took a free fall inside his chest, pressing against his lungs, shortening his breath to a few jagged gulps.
"Secret Service." The leather badge case sprang open in front of him. "Noel Maxwell, Scott Higgins. We've been asked by the task force to come and collect you. Do you have any luggage to claim?"
Nodding his head, Jarod pushed his earlier feelings of rage and anger behind him. The presence of the Secret service meant only one thing -- something else had happened besides the bombing. Feigning a "professional" smile, Jarod followed them back up the concourse, heading for the luggage terminal.
As they walked, Agent Maxwell strained from the weight of a three ring binder under his arm. It was stuffed with reports and photocopies of evidence. Wasting no time, he launched into a rapidly-paced introductory course, with emphasis on the national security implications.
Jarod listened, his mind still shaking the images from his head. It was only when Agent Higgins mentioned that Senator Kendall Evan's daughter Kendra was missing, that anger bubbled up again. She was the only student unaccounted for after the blast.
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