My Would-Be Savior
Miss Parker looked, people were repressed, lied to, imperiled, even murdered.
It outraged her. She inhaled, trying to calm her emotions, forcing herself
to focus. She had goals. Protecting her two younger brothers was one of
those goals, so she spent as much time as she could overseeing Gabriel's
care. She also tried not to take umbrage at the fact that Jarod had decided
the best way of protecting Ethan was to send him away. Granted, he was out
of harm's way and being nurtured instead of tortured; still, it rankled.
Her second goal was to find her mother's DSA, as well as accept the fact that who she was before her mother's death was important to her future success. However, that was going to take some getting used to. It was the one thing Ethan had told her before he went away, that her strength came from within.
Alone in her office, she stared out the window, but she didn't see the people or the buildings or anything else. Not anymore. What she was actually seeing and thinking about was her problem -- a problem that had grown almost imperceptibly over many years until it weighed her down like the proverbial thousand-pound gorilla. She wasn't sure she could trust her father again, but that no longer mattered as much; she was learning to trust herself.
Parker was waiting for Broots and Sydney when they strode into the office. "Cox seemed rather out of sorts today, any clue as to why?" she asked as she turned in her chair to look at the two men.
"Seems that someone tampered with Cox's taxidermy shipment," Broots whispered. "Manny... you remember Manny down in shipping..."
"Broots..." Parker snapped.
"Well, it seems that all the eyes Cox ordered were replaced with milk white orbs and mailed to him."
"Seems that Jarod isn't turning a blind eye to the Centre's business, eh Sydney?"
"That would seem to be the case, but..." Sydney's reply had a warning bell attached to it. "I think that you should turn on the television, Miss Parker."
"Why? Missing your favorite episode of the 700 Club now that Raines is gone?" She gave him a little smile, and watched as he walked purposefully toward the corner of her office, sliding back a panel to reveal a small television screen.
* * * * * * * * *
The Attorney General had sent in the FBI's highest-ranking special agents, for there was concern that the bombing was an indirect threat on the government.
As they approached the task force headquarters, Jarod and the two agents who had picked him up at the airport were stopped, their identification scrutinized and recorded. Jarod followed them up a long outdoor stairwell to the top floor. They entered a private area, when all movement suddenly halted. Jarod glanced around the frozen scene at the long rows of computer terminals, and the student photos that were near each. This was the pulse point of the operation: direct telephone land lines were linked to the offices of the Attorney General and FBI director.
SAC Greer Paris swung a folding chair around, than sat down knee to knee toward Jarod and pushed up her wrinkled shirt sleeves. Though she was in the center of unimaginable pressure, she smiled as she slowly dipped her hand into a bowl of candy corn.
"I've heard good things about you, Mr. Mershon," she said with a drawl. "Candy corn?"
"It's Jarod," he replied, as he stared at the bowl of yellow, orange and white shaped kernels. "Is Kendra Evans still missing?" He reached into the bowl, taking a handful, and popped them in his mouth, his eyes widening at the sweetness.
"Yes. We can't seem to get hold of a current photograph, she's rather camera shy. At least at school."
Jarod's heart sank. The only bet he was willing to place was that odds at this point were not in their favor.
* * * * * * * * *
By the time he reached the blast site, he had his own bag of candy corn. Strolling the length of the site, Jarod watched the rescue workers carry empty stretchers into the security ring. They worked more methodically now than when he'd seen the first day's televised footage, evidence that they had abandoned hope of finding the missing girl. He walked past shards of glass and boarded windows. He had comprehended the death toll almost immediately, as well as the sobering truth of the individual lives lost.
A wave of fury rose through his body, deeper and more powerful than he imagined it could be, and he founding himself waging a battle within himself. A feeling of sickness seeped through his limbs and heart to be this close to that degree of evil, to see it, to touch it. Once again, something tickled the back of his mind, teasing him with memories he couldn't quite access. It had something to do with evil and darkness... Gritting his teeth, he pushed those thoughts away.
"Jarod! You okay?" Agent Maxwell asked as he caught up with him. Jarod nodded, but kept his face turned away.
"Ten seconds," he muttered, angrily, his hand tightening on the plastic bag.
"From the moment of the detonation, the explosion and then the implosion. My estimation is ten seconds." He pushed the bag of candy toward Agent Maxwell, his anger slowly dissipating at the carnage and destruction he was witnessing.
* * * * * * * * *
The sun was setting, and he was going on thirty-six hours without sleep from the time he first saw the aftermath of the explosion on television. He had less than six hours to get to McLean, Virginia, and the senator's home. He sat on the edge of the bed, which was littered with empty candy bags, as he prepared for the interview with Senator Evans. A knock on the door interrupted him; sliding off the bed, he peered through the peep hole and then swung the door open.
"The video tape from the school's surveillance camera is back from the lab. Want to take a look?" Greer Paris held up the small black tape, her features expressionless. "I want to show you something. As you know, we interviewed everyone that was on staff, except..."
"What do you mean except?" Jarod replied, shaking his head, the earlier fury returning.
"The school hired a temporary groundskeeping assistant who has since disappeared; unfortunately, we haven't been able to locate him. We thought at first that he was caught in the blast, but that wasn't the case -- the hidden video camera leading to the woods caught him on tape and he wasn't alone." She slid the video in to the slot, picked up the remote and hit the fast forward button, stopping the tape.
The picture was fuzzy, but recognizable as Jarod studied the shot. The white hair a dead giveaway, and the young girl with him could only be Kendra Evans. Jarod hadn't seen Mr. White in well over a year, on the plane ride from Hell. His presence could only mean one thing: the Centre was involved. The question was, why? What was Kendra Evans' connection to the Centre?
"He should be rather easy to find, don't you think?" Paris turned to look at the man who had moved off the bed and closer to the screen. Jarod was beyond shocked, and a cold spike ran through him. "I want you to take a picture of this man to Senator Evans. In the meantime, I'm having these photos printed and flashed everywhere in the universe. We're going to get this son of a bitch no matter what."
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney hit a couple of buttons on the television, and Parker watched CNN announce that the explosion, which had killed fifteen students as well as wounded many others, was now being classified as an act of terrorism against innocent children. She watched the scene shift from the announcer to the devastation at Wyndham Academy, to a video shot of a man that she recognized. Sharp intakes of breath from her two companions signaled that they recognized the man as well. After all, they were the ones who had informed her about the albino in the first place. An all points bulletin had been issued in the states for any information. The news was like a transfusion. But locating him would be impossible on her own, especially with an army of Feds after him. Her expression was one of stone as she walked over and flicked off the set, then picked up the phone.
"Daddy, I have a lead on Jarod." She hung up the phone. "This is exactly the sort of situation that he would involve himself with, don't you agree, Syd?"
* * * * * * * * *
The house was silent at 8:15 in the morning, the sounds of his shoes echoing in the hallway as he walked into the elegant living room. Jarod had hit the stage of fatigue where sleep didn't matter anymore. He needed to help someone, and since it was too late for him to help Zoe, locating Senator Evans' daughter would have to suffice.
"Do you know why your daughter was taken, Senator?" Jarod asked.
"I've been raising too many questions, and expressed my doubts about approving the current defense budget in the Senate. There's a special project that the government, namely the Pentagon, wants approved. I've been rather vocal in the way that we received the technology, so I've made some enemies. Couple of weeks ago, my daughter thought that someone was following her, and yet no one at her school saw anyone."
"Did she get a look at the person that she thought was following her?" Jarod asked, as he removed the video scan from the folder in front of him, handing it to the Senator. "Anything she told you would be useful."
Evans handed the picture back. "Sorry, I don't recognize him. After she complained of being followed, I received a phone call about her, here at home." The man stopped talking for a moment, his body trembling. "I thought she'd be safe. She had security at the school, it was supposed to be airtight. I want my daughter found. Since her mother died five years ago, she's started to withdraw into herself. She used to be such a happy little girl." The Senator walked over to the baby grand piano and removed a silver frame from it. Walking back toward the couch that Jarod occupied, he extended the photograph. "My job doesn't allow me to spend a lot of time with her, but she's my life."
"This phone call, what was it about specifically?" Jarod asked, his eyes never leaving the photograph. A smile that could light up a room, bright happy blue eyes, long reddish-brown hair... something about the photo struck a chord with him. His finger traced the girl's smile. "Beautiful."
"Isn't she? The call was a veiled threat, nothing more." The Senator turned away, and yet Jarod caught a flicker of worry in the man's eyes.
"Sir, if your daughter was threatened, we need -- I need -- to know the nature of the threat. It could help explain why your daughter was the target."
"You know that I am involved in the Committee for Defense Spending in the Senate. Well, about five years ago, a project known as Bellona fell into the government's lap."
Jarod's head jerked up at the use of the word Bellona, his eyes narrowing slightly. It wasn't possible... or could it be the same project that he, himself, worked on while at the Centre?
"This project, it's something that the DOD is eager to see funded because they've spent years developing it?" Jarod's voice took on a neutral tone.
"No, someone else did all the preliminary work. The Defense received designs for exotic, high-energy, pulsed-power sources. It was a done deal. The components worked, the defense was all excited, they saw how the technology could be used to create a fundamentally new kind of warhead. From the start, I've had my doubts -- the more I learned the creepier it got. The project is too weird, it didn't seem to come from any physics class I ever took. The technology is too advanced, some of the components are being fabricated elsewhere. I was going to speak out, demand full disclosure about the project."
"But why your daughter, Senator? Do you believe that someone you work for or with would kidnap you daughter, just to stop you?"
"It was whomever is funding this project, Agent Mershon. It had to be." The senator raked his hand through his hair, then turned back to face Jarod. "They knew the truth about --"
"Kendra was adopted. My wife and I never told her." The Senator paused before he continued. "My wife was planning to, but she was killed in an automobile accident. Kendra was ten, and I couldn't bring myself to do it after that. You see, Kendra's rather special. Not only is she intelligent, but she has a gift." Jarod's gaze fell upon the photograph again; there was something about the girl's smile that seemed to call to him. His eyes returned to the Senator.
And as he studied the grave face of Kendall Evans, what he was really thinking about was a little girl who had a similar smile a long time ago, a smile which had eventually been driven away. He also thought about how Zoe's smile was taken away through her needless death. For those smiles, he could handle anything. Even the Centre's machinations. The warning bells had gone off in his head at the mere mention of Bellona, but now when the Senator talked about his daughter and a special gift, Jarod knew that there was more at stake here than a weapons project for the Pentagon.
"The budget vote is scheduled for Monday, Jarod. I planned on demanding full disclosure on Friday, before the House votes," the senator said softly, as he slumped into the chair next to the couch. "Please find my daughter." He sat in long silences between his deep breaths, his eyes clinched shut in concentration. "I am still going to ask for disclosure..."
Jarod rose from his spot on the couch and headed for the doorway, then stopped and slowly turned around.
"Senator, you said that Kendra was adopted. Is it possible that her biological parents have tracked her down and want -- ?"
"Impossible, the people at NuGenesis told us her parents were dead."
Jarod's eyes opened wide. His feet unable to move forward. He couldn't make a single word emerge from his mouth.
"NuGenesis?" his volume edged up when he finally could speak.
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