Says It All
The black SUV drove up the curving blacktop and pulled into the parking space that was reserved for Dr. Brazelton. The figure was dressed monochromatic; he had on his trademark black leather duster. Underneath he had on a black suit, black shirt, charcoal tie, and black-tasseled shoes, his eyes hidden by black shades. Making his way up the sidewalk to the house, Jarod wasn't sure which was louder, the music or the arguing that was coming from within. A quick knock and the door opened to reveal an older woman.
"Oh thank goodness! She's impossible, Jarod."
"Sister Evelyn," Jarod grinned, "Kendra's a child. In what way is she being impossible?"
"Always up to mischief, and she's no child. Definitely a teenager with an attitude and temper to match. Oh, and don't call her Kendra. Claims that isn't her real name."
"Her real name? What do you call her, then?" Jarod looked at the woman, perplexed.
"Merritt, that's all she will answer to. Please, go talk to her. Something's been troubling her all day. She won't talk to me or Father Patrick about it." Sister Evelyn gestured toward the room to their left. "She said you were coming."
"She said that? I didn't even know until this morning," Jarod replied as he reached for the knob on the door. "I'll take it from here, Sister."
Jarod pushed the heavy oak door open and stood in the doorframe, his eyes seeking and finding the person he had come to see. She was sitting on the sofa, her hand reaching for the silver disc in the CD player in front of her. A newspaper lay folded on her lap, her expression troubled. Entering the room, he sidestepped when the disc came whirling toward the door like a frisbee.
"I heard that you've been giving everyone a hard time, Ken... Merritt, is it?" he stated.
"It's about time, Jarod. And Merritt, that's my name. Dad called me Kendra, it was the closest thing to Kendall. Something about all the Evans having names that start with a K, rather silly if you ask me," she said turning her head toward the door. Her blue eyes were blazing, yet a faint smile curled the corners of her lips.
"So now you're just going to change it?" Jarod looked at the girl, raising an eyebrow, watching her nod, her smiling growing.
"Mom wanted Merritt, so they compromised. It's my middle name but... everything that I received had it engraved on it. " She reached out the pinkie of her left hand, holding a small silver band up for Jarod's inspection. "See, it's engraved and on the inside, here, read it. It was from--"
"Mom," Jarod read from the inscription and then looked at her with a sad smile, "Merritt wins one's soul."
"I won their hearts and souls," she said softly, a sob choking her words, "even though I wasn't their biological child."
"You... how did it make you feel when you found out that they weren't your...." he stammered. "According to your father, they never got around to telling you."
"Yes, I knew that I was adopted. A girl I went to school with, Alison Sanborn, she told me after my mother... so, I tried searching after, but... I had nothing... no starting point. It wasn't like I could go to my father, I know that he loved me but when mom died, he was so lost. I didn't want him worrying about me."
"He was worried about you, frantic really. He told me you were withdrawing, pulling away, since your mother's death."
"I was trying not to worry him." She smiled wistfully, tears glistening in her eyes. Jarod watched as she turned her head away, and quickly swiped away the droplets that had escaped. The mannerism was so familiar, that of a young girl from long ago. "Friday was our day together after mom died. He'd come to my music lesson and then we'd go to dinner. No matter what he had on his schedule, he rarely missed a day, until the last eight months; I knew, sensed, that something was wrong, and then security was increased at school." A grim smile appeared as she settled back into the sofa, crossing her long legs under her. She pushed at a stray strand of hair that escaped from the low ponytail.
"He knew that something was wrong with this project." Jarod took out a folder from the case that he had brought with him from the SUV, placing it on the table, then stooped down, his fingers picking up the CD from the floor.
"I don't think it's damaged, but you might want to play it, to make sure." He held out the disc. "You really like them -- Charybdis?"
"Yes, very much. I'm sorry I threw it, but..." she reached down for the newspaper that sat on her lap, "something just isn't right." Jarod took hold of the paper, and found the article that was causing the troubled expression on Merritt's face.
"Mysterious circumstances surround songwriter's death. Why are you concerned?"
"Something is very wrong here, Jarod." Merritt pointed to the article, her voice edging up an octave." I'm telling you that it's wrong. Dante Canetti was getting married next month to the lead singer, Beckett Maron. They have a daughter."
"Perhaps," Jarod said, skepticism in his voice, "they were a new band, it's not an easy life. Maybe it got to him and the only way he could cope was...."
"No, call it what you want, my instincts, intuition is telling me that it's not what happened." The self assurance emanating from her caused him to stop coming up with arguments as to why this happened. Taking a seat on the sofa beside her, he leaned back, his fingers tented under his chin, listening to her explain all the reasons why this was wrong. Her passion was unbelievable, and for someone that she didn't even know. It was that passion that reminded him more and more of a young Miss Parker.
* * * * * * * * *
Parker lay in her bed and stared upward into the darkness. She felt sick. Wired by raw nerves dipped in stress hormones, she trembled more from her body's natural chemicals than from fear, feeling much too unsettled to sleep. She remembered seeing the boy at Donoterase, the shock of it. She'd gone back with Broots, the gruesome specimens in jars and tubes, the creepiness of the whole place, the feelings of revulsion that crept through her. Had that been her first reaction to seeing Kendra? She relived the sense of familiarity that ran through her when they had touched. She had brushed it off as a high brought on by an adrenaline rush, until they were face to face in the car on their way back to D.C. Thinking about the younger version of herself rattled her to the core. There were so many questions that needed to be answered, the first being why and who had allowed it to happen. Yet, part of her was elated that Kendra had been given a chance to live outside the Centre. Outside the sphere of duplicity.
* * * * * * * * *
Knowing that Lyle, Mr. Cox and Mr. Parker would be away until late morning, Broots had arrived early, so that he could dig around in the Centre's mainframe. At this particular moment he was frowning as he stared at the file: background reports on the Evans, as well as medical records of Kendra Merritt Evans, up until she was ten. A mixture of hope and fear twisted in him as he darted a look down the hallway at the still empty corridors and reached for the phone.
* * * * * * * * *
Parker entered her office, approached her desk and spotted the box labeled in familiar handwriting. She lifted the top to reveal layers of red tissue paper, then cautiously pushed them aside to discover a blue leather hardcover. Its title was embossed in ornate gold letters: The Nutcracker. Gently lifting the book out of the box, her left hand caressed the cover before cracking it open. Tucked inside was a picture, a picture that she hadn't seen in years. Lowering herself into the leather chair behind the desk, she let out a slow breath. As she picked up the photo for a closer inspection, Broots suddenly burst into her office.
"Don't you knock?" she snapped.
"Sorry, Miss Parker but..." He paused, his eyes catching the inscription on the back of the photo. "The Sugar Plum Fairy. The Nutcracker? "
"It's nothing. What?"
"The Nutcracker... Debbie auditioned for a part. She's playing Arabian Coffee. She couldn't wait to tell you. She was hoping that you would come watch her, along with Gabriel. I told her that perhaps you would come but that bringing the baby was probably out of the question."
"That's why you rushed in here, right?"
"Oh, no. That search you asked me to do...." he stammered, glancing nervously around the room.
The snap of fingers brought him back. "I found files and references to the Evans, but when I went back... gone. Deleted," he whispered.
"Hard copies, something, anything. Find it. Oh, and Broots? Does Debbie have time to come here later?"
"After practice, but are you sure, Miss Parker?"
"Yes, Daddy's tied up in meetings all day." She watched him scurry out of her office, happy. At least someone was, she thought. She sat at her desk, her fingers idly drumming on the book, when the shrill of the phone interrupted the silence.
"Crack any files lately, Miss Parker?" Jarod asked.
"Funny, Jarod. Why the book and the picture?"
"Music, dancing, it allows one the express how one's feeling. Isn't that why you did it?"
"Auditioned for the Corpo di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala during your senior year."
"How...?" she asked, her voice low.
"A little mouse," he chuckled. "Giulia Albrecht danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, once, then never danced again. A loss the Corpo never understood. Afraid of what Daddy would have done if he had known, Miss Parker?"
"Damn you, Jarod," she replied, her voice cracking with raw emotion as she terminated the call. Tucking the picture between the pages of the book, she took it with her, heading toward the nursery to share the tale about children with her baby brother.
* * * * * * * * *
"The only weak link is Parker," Lyle said. "She really loves that baby."
"I know," Mr. Parker responded.
"So, what are you going to do? She could undo everything we're trying to accomplish." Lyle watched his father's eyes narrow and realized that he had overstepped. "I mean you. How will you handle her?"
"The same way I always do. Lie to her."
"And if that doesn't work?" His features were skeptical.
"Why wouldn't it work? It's always worked before."
Offering a nod of acceptance, Lyle turned to leave, meeting Cox at the door.
"Good morning Mr. Parker, Lyle," Cox sneered as he entered. "Mr. Lyle, any news on the boy or the major?"
"No, but I am working on it," Lyle snapped, stepping around him and out the door.
Turning to acknowledge Mr. Parker, Cox shook his head, his eyes cold. "Since you put him in charge of those files, they always seem to go missing or end up dead. Kendra seemed to show so much promise, too, at least from the reports that I've read. Why wasn't I told that there was a second clone?" he demanded, while trying to force the jealousy from his tone. Just because Lyle was proving himself incompetent didn't mean he should demonstrate those tendencies himself.
"We needed a second test subject and at the time, she seemed the perfect choice, accessible. As I said, it was my decision." Mr. Parker looked up, as if daring Cox to defy him
"Why adoption? Why not here?" Cox queried.
"Raines wanted control of both, he was desperate to have her and Gemini. That, I was against, so I went to the Triumvirate. It was actually Madame Director who decided to place her with the Evans. Senator Evans was on the fast track in Washington. If he hadn't gotten suspicious of the Bellona Project, he was being considered for the GOP ticket in 2008. What a coup that would have been!"
* * * * * * * * *
The sound of footsteps toward the door sent Lyle away from his eavesdropping post. "Dammit," he muttered as he headed back to his office.
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