Sydney's attention was riveted on the folder in his hand. He read the
report over again, putting the pieces together and disturbed by the picture
painted by the information. It was even more important for him to begin
working with the Seraphim, and something like this just might tip the
balance in his favor. He would write up a report and submit it to the
Chairman, letting the information speak for itself. If the others involved
in the project disagreed, he'd be spared the humiliation of being shot
down in person.
He strolled up to the elevator and pressed the "down" button,
keeping his eyes on the paper until the doors opened. Glancing upward,
he stepped inside and froze, recognizing a familiar face standing inside.
He couldn't breathe for a moment.
His eyes swept over the security uniform clothing the woman's slender
body, the auburn hair pulled back neatly into an efficient bun at the
nape of her neck. She eyed him with a gleam of warning, stiffening with
alarm. She was the last person he expected to see at the Centre, and having
her there meant she had put herself in incredible danger. He dared not
give her away.
His palms began to perspire. He closed the folder and held it at his
side, moving further into the car and pressing the button for his floor.
Valentine stood behind her, so Sydney couldn't say what he wanted to her.
He smiled reflexively, and pretended she was unimportant. That was the
only way to keep her safe.
"How are you today, Sydney?" Valentine asked from the back
of the lift.
"Well, thank you," the Belgian returned. "And yourself?"
"Slightly bruised," the sweeper volunteered cheerfully. "Testing
a new security recruit today." He chuckled softly, and patted the
woman on the shoulder. "She passed. Kim, this is Sydney. He's one
of the shrinks here. Sydney, this is Kim."
Politely, he turned and offered her his hand as if he had never seen
her before, and she reciprocated.
Inside, he was frantic. He was furious. How dare she track him down to
that place? How dare she put her life in danger by getting a job there?
He was going to have to protect her somehow, without revealing her relationship
to him, and that was going to require some thought.
Working on his project was useless now. Kim's presence had distracted
him so thoroughly that he wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything
else, until he knew she was safe. And God help them both if anyone found
out who she really was.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
The doors of the elevator slid smoothly open and Mr. Parker waved for
the other man to exit slightly ahead of him, rapidly catching up so that
the two were walking side by side.
"Not a bad set-up you have here," remarked the man in a strong
Oxford accent but with a hint of something that suggested foreignness.
Parker showed his appreciation for the compliment with a wide smile.
"Your arrangements in Berlin aren't exactly second-rate either."
"It's better since we moved into the new building," the foreigner
admitted. "More space and lots of light."
For a second, the Chairman wondered if there was an implied insult in
the remark, but decided, for the time being, to ignore it. This was somebody
he wanted on his side, particularly in light of the recent events, and
his opinion should be humored. Looking ahead, Parker saw the blond woman
standing outside his office, her eye caught by his companion, and the
American urged the man forward.
"Mr. Delius, this is one of the members of the American triad. Eve,
this is the new director of the German group."
The woman's eyes traveled quickly over the crisply tailored suit, eyeing
the man's features and dark, earnest gaze that, at that moment, was coolly
examining her. Despite herself, Eve's gaze sank in the direction of the
floor, feeling her heart rate increase and her breathing quicken slightly.
"It's nice to make your acquaintance, madam," Delius stated
smoothly, shaking the hand that she tentatively offered him.
Parker nodded his satisfaction before turning to see a slender brunette
approaching from the other direction.
"I'm glad you got my message, Angel," the Chairman accosted
her as soon as she was in earshot, turning to see the expression of his
European visitor and hiding a grin.
"You wanted to see me?" Miss Parker queried sharply, her already
bad mood heightened by the sight of the woman who had lingered at the
entrance to Parker's office.
"As head of SIS," Parker glanced at the German to be sure that
the man had picked up on the high position that the woman held. "You'll
already be aware of both the presence of the other branches of the Triumvirate
and also the tragic death of the director of the German triad. This man
has taken over that position."
The German stepped forward. "A pleasure to meet you, madam. Your
servant, Mr. Delius." He took the hand that she offered, bending
his head over it and brushing the back of her hand with his lips.
Despite herself, Miss Parker was unable to help appreciating the gesture,
especially seeing the jealousy that flared in Eve's eyes as the Chairman
opened the office door. Delius straightened up, deliberately eyeing the
woman from head to toe before once more meeting her gaze steadily.
"Such a charming woman will present us with a detailed plan of the
best way to ensure that the assets of all three groups are secure? Surely,"
the corners of his lips lifted, "there are a number of things that
you would prefer to be doing than this
Raising an eyebrow suggestively, Delius watched as faint color rose in
the woman's face and her grasp on the folder in her hand tightened.
"It's an important job, Mr. Delius."
"Undoubtedly and," his tones became smooth, "I have no
doubt that you carry it out superbly."
Parker's lips lifted in an involuntary smirk as he waved a hand towards
the interior of his office. "I believe that we need to get things
As the other two entered his office, Delius allowing the woman to precede
him and holding a seat for her, the Chairman turned to where Eve continued
to stand in the doorway. Brusquely, he took the folder she carried out
of her hands and deliberately began to close the door in her face.
"We have business to discuss, Eve. Come back in a few hours and
we can talk about this." Giving the folder a flick with a careless
finger he firmly shut the door, leaving the woman staring blankly at the
smooth surface before she abruptly turned and headed for the elevator.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Mr. Parker took his place at the head of the table, looking down at the
faces along either side and finally meeting the gaze of the man who sat
at the far end, his face expressionless.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he stated as soon as the room as quiet.
"I'm sure you've all had time to digest the shocking news of our
dearly esteemed colleague's death, although I know, for some, it will
be impossible to ever get over such a tragedy."
He shook his head in sorrow as a murmuring could be heard from both sides
before silence resumed.
"Despite this," the Chairman stated calmly, "it is imperative
that we continue along the path that she forged for us during her many
years of devotion to the organization. The German sector has been quick
to name a replacement in Herr Delius, who has been an eager student of
Frau Berkstresser's for many years and will, I am certain, provide as
capable leadership as she did."
There was a moment of applause as Delius stood. "Thank you, Mr.
Parker. Colleagues," the man began, his eyes traveling quickly over
the others seated around the table. "We have much work to do and
the time in which we have to do it seems to be reducing every day. Rest
assured that the death of our valued friend and guide will in no way hinder
the work that we are carrying out at Die Fakultät. Indeed, we have
a hope that projects which are yet only in their infancy will blossom
into results that will be of significant benefit to the cause in which
we all have such a firm belief."
He glanced at several people seated around the table. "However,
as I am sure you are all aware, every new player brings with them his
or her own team of trained experts and specialists. To that end I have
asked that the heads of our Security and Corporate sectors accompany me
to this meeting. Herr Romei is in charge of Corporate for Die Fakultät
and the equivalent of the SIS section here in America is represented by
Mr. Peter Winston."
Parker looked up with a slight start at the name. For some reason it
seemed familiar, although the face was unknown to him. He struggled to
remember where he had heard it before, and in association with whom, but
was unable to do so. His thoughtfulness meant that he missed the slight
sneer evident on Delius' face as he looked down at another man who sat
further along the table and who had been casting a black glare at the
head of his sector since the meeting had begun. Herr Mogge resented his
demotion from head of Corporate fiercely, a fact of which Delius was well
aware, but the Director cared nothing of the other man's feelings and
only had him watched closely to ensure that the man wouldn't try to regain
his position, by fair means or foul.
With a small half-bow, Delius resumed his seat, to the applause of other
Triumvirate members. Mr. Parker, after waiting a moment to ensure that
the man wasn't going to continue, stood again to speak.
"The purpose of this meeting was to review some of our more important
projects. I have asked Dr. Cox to give us an overview of the Seraphim,
which he will be here to do in twenty minutes, but in the meantime, it
would be interesting for us to hear what has been happening in the Pretoriat."
He turned to Mr. Kruger, who sat further down the table, and Parker resumed
his seat as the South African Director got to his feet and began to speak.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod stood on the sidewalk and gazed up at the old building. His eyes
traveled over the orange brick face, its lower floors lightened with many-paned
windows, trimmed in white. His keen eyes picked up on the worn places
on its face, as though many hands had lovingly touched it and worn away
pieces of it with their affection. He held in his hand the delivery slip
he had received only the day before, and glanced once more at the address
on the glass above the arched doorway.
221b Baker Street.
The address was the same. He knocked, made his inquiry at the Sherlock
Holmes Museum Gift Shop, picked up the package that had been left there
for him, and strolled out onto the sidewalk just as a drizzling rain began.
He pulled the collar of his coat up to try to ward off the chill, but
the cold followed the column of his neck down to his body, freezing him
to the bone.
England was dismally cold at that time of year.
Not until he had returned to the warmth of his bed-and-breakfast room
and treated himself to a cup of hot lime-flowered tea did he take a good
look at the package. It had been sent from Germany, whatever it was. The
handwriting was neat, in all caps, to Mr. Jarod Champion. The postal slip
he'd received in the mail only the day before had given him time to prepare
sufficient ID to collect the package, but there was no trace of a sender's
He knew that it would have been X-rayed before being shipped across the
Channel. It yielded beneath his careful touch, fingertips exploring the
brown paper envelope before venturing to open it. Unable to divine its
contents, he finally pulled at the adhesive seal, lifting it gently open.
Out slid a piece of black cloth.
Gingerly, he picked it up and saw that it was a hood, much like the one
the Centre had used on him as a child, except that this one was adult-sized.
"Peek-a-boo," he murmured, turning it this way and that, gazing
at the eyehole-less blank fabric face. "I don't see you."
Nothing leaped out right away from the mask, but enough simulations and
he'd have some clues. He laid the hood on the foot of his rented bed and
bent over the envelope, studying it in turn for more source material.
Someone was astute enough to know where he was to have the delivery slip
sent to him. That in itself had been enough to get him on a plane bound
for England overnight. But who, besides an informed Miss Parker, knew
enough about him to be able to second guess such decisions in his life?
In all the years he had been away from the Centre, no one had been able
to do that but Angelo, and even Angelo had not been able to anticipate
him to this degree.
The handwriting was unfamiliar. The address, then, had to be significant.
He booted up his laptop and did a search of who had lived there, all the
while considering the name "Champion" that had been added as
part of the teaser. What he discovered was the almost religious appeal
of a fictional character named Sherlock Holmes, who had shared that address
on Baker Street. By all accounts, it was the most famous address in the
world, one that everyone who had ever heard of the enigmatic Holmes knew
He studied the package again, and this time noticed that the back of
the envelope had the faint imprint of a shoe sole on it. In a few hours
he had the make and size of shoe - one he wore himself - though that was
no clear indicator of anything in particular. So he took himself back
to Baker Street, this time through the legendary London fog that now rolled
about his feet, where he purchased a collection of Holmes stories. As
he walked back, he picked up a London Times that he skimmed through
until he returned to his room, where he read through all of the Holmes
stories with whispers of "Executioner murderer" headlines echoing
in his consciousness.
Then he leaned back in his chair, staring at the package and the hood,
and sighed, "The game's afoot." He studied the shoe imprint,
understanding the unwritten message. But who was the sender? And where
did he go from there?
Something was bound to pop up, but at the moment, he didn't have a clue
other than the headlines. He felt hollow inside, knowing that his mother
wasn't doing well. Add in Morgan Parker's recent rejection, and he felt
himself twisting up, sweating and trembling. Aurora whispered softly to
him, the memory of it seductive and still powerful, despite his months
of living clean.
And on top of all of that, someone was capable enough to track his every
movement, and stay a step ahead. That was the greatest danger of all,
and he needed to focus on that threat first. Whoever was playing this
game with him had the potential to lead him back to the Centre, or lead
the Centre to him. He needed to clear his mind and concentrate if he was
going to figure out this puzzle. Someone evil was challenging him, and
he had to be ready for what lay ahead.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
His presentation complete, Cox returned to his office with a sense of
satisfaction. Despite the slow progress of the development of different
Aurora delivery systems, the project was going as well as could be expected.
Seating himself behind his desk, Cox returned the folder containing the
results to a filing cabinet behind his seat, turning back to see a figure
in the doorway.
"A fine speech, my friend," the newcomer commented, walking
into the room and shutting the door.
"I'm no friend of yours," Cox snarled, rising to his feet.
"It was a business deal, that's all. It gives you no right to waltz
"Oh, I think it does," the German director stated smoothly
as he took a seat opposite the man. "You might as well sit down,
Cox, before you fall down. That would be rather undignified, don't you
Somewhat unwillingly, Cox resumed his seat, mistrustfully eyeing the
man opposite. "What do you want from me, Delius?"
"How very perceptive," the man remarked. "What on earth
made you realize that I want something?"
"Eight years of working together will do that," the other man
spat, tucking his hands under the desktop, out of sight, so that the man
opposite wouldn't see them trembling. "Tell me what it is and get
Delius raised an eyebrow, lounging back in the chair. "I'm disappointed,"
he told the other man. "I expected a much better reaction for the
man who made you everything you are today. Look at you." He waved
one hand around to indicate the spacious surrounds. "A good office,
an excellent job, a chance to work with the best minds that the place
"And you want that chance too," Cox finished for him. "No
"Oh, really?" Delius raised an eyebrow, leaning forward slightly
and pressing the tips of his fingers together as he rested his elbows
on his legs. "Are you really in a position to make a refusal like
that? After all, if your beloved Chairman knew of some of your plans,
life could get rather nasty, couldn't it?"
Cox leaned back in his chair, stiffening, feeling the blood drain from
his face. "How much do you know?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Delius chuckled as he got to his feet.
"I know everything. I always have." He strolled to the other
side of the desk, leaning against the solid piece of furniture with his
arms folded, his height meaning that he towered over the seated man. "And,
should the day ever come when you get to the highest point of all, I'll
be coming back for that little favor you owe me."
"I owe you nothing," Cox protested vehemently, standing up
suddenly. "Nothing at all. You repaid yourself a thousand times over,
with everything you put me through."
"It's a shame I don't see it that way," the other man told
him. "As I see it, your debts are still stacked up, and if there's
ever anything you can do to repay that, I'm sure you'll be willing to
do everything you can." He took a threatening step forward. "Won't
you, Dr. Cox?"
The man retreated a step, his eyes involuntarily widening, as Delius
returned to the far side of the desk and bowed his head slightly. "Until
we see each other again, my friend. Auf Wiedersehen."
Turning on his heel, the man left the room and Cox sank into his chair
with a slight groan, wiping a trembling hand over his forehead to remove
the beads of sweat that were sliding down it.
* * * * * * * *
Jarod relaxed in the armchair in front of the blazing fire that heated
his room and made his jacket, hung on the back of the door, steam, his
eyes fixed on the black mask that lay on the table in front of him. He
had no further clues as to what move to make next, although he had carefully
gone through the books again, to be sure. Even as he thought, however,
there was a sharp knock on his door.
"I just brought you some afternoon tea," stated a cheerful
female voice and a woman bustled into the room bearing a tray. "I
thought you might want something to warm yourself up after being out in
"Thank you," he replied quietly, moving the objects off the
table so that she could place the tray down. The woman then stoked the
fire and added some more wood from the basket nearby.
"Oh, and your friend apologized for not being able to wait around
for you to come back earlier. They left you a note."
The buxom woman nodded at the tray as she headed for the door and Jarod
picked up the square envelope that lay beside the teacup. When he looked
up to ask her about his mysterious friend, however, the woman was already
gone. Looking down again, he carefully examined the outside of the envelope.
The address had been hand-written and hand-delivered, meaning that there
was no postcode for him to work with this time. Extracting the other note
from his pocket, Jarod closely compared the two styles of handwriting,
noting that, although they were somewhat similar, there were sufficient
differences to suggest that they came from two different people.
With a sigh, he picked up the knife from the tray and slit the top of
the envelope, extracting the small piece of paper that it contained. Before
unfolding it, he held the envelope up to the fire but there was nothing
that he could see in the light, turning his attention to the letter. His
eyes ran over the words as he picked up one of the small cakes from the
plate beside the teapot and began to nibble on it. The message itself
was so cryptic that he could get no help from it, particularly as he had
no idea of his next destination.
Finally, frustrated, Jarod returned the newly arrived letter to the tray
and picked up the package that he had received at the Sherlock Holmes
Museum. His eye was once again fixed on the postcode and Jarod pulled
out his cell phone, getting the number for telephone enquiries in Germany.
Maybe, once he knew where the mask had come from, he could get a better
idea of what he should do next.
* * * * * * * * *
Tower Suite #3
Office of Mr. Sun
Miss Parker sauntered through the chrome doors, remembering the last
time she had seen this man. He had been her boss for years, but since
she had been put on Jarod's trail, she hadn't even spoken to him. Corporate
had been fun under his leadership. Mr. Sun was a dynamic individual, and
it seemed that whenever he campaigned for a client, no matter how outrageous
the initial terms, he always managed to get the best deal for the Centre
and satisfy the customers as well.
He sat at his desk, feet up, chair kicked back, phone in hand. He was
chuckling, closing yet another deal, but as he caught sight of her he
hurried off the phone and hung up, offering a big smile in greeting. He
rose from his chair, stepped around the glass and chrome desk, and gave
her a big hug.
"Parker! It's great to see you," he cheered, and offered her
a seat on his sofa. He sat down a cushion away, giving her room, yet maintaining
warm closeness. He sighed. "I just can't get over it. Every time
I look at you, I think
" He paused, his humor melting away,
and shook his head. "Never mind. How've you been, kiddo? I heard
you got kicked upstairs to SIS. Congratulations."
She smiled. She could never resist his charm. Neither could anyone else.
"Yes. I'm global director now, which you knew already. There isn't
a whole hell of a lot that happens in this company that you don't know
"You've been in SIS before," he remarked casually, his green
eyes studying her, measuring. "But I got the impression you didn't
like it. That's why you transferred to Corporate, if I remember right."
She nodded. Her smile faded. "But I was a different person then.
I like to think my eyes are more open now."
He sat back a little, and cocked his head slightly. "Oh? In what
"A lot of ways," she assured him. She laid her hand briefly
on his knee. "I used to think my mother was weak. I hated it when
people told me how much I reminded them of her." Bittersweet memories
tugged at her mind, teasing her mouth into a half smile. "But now,
I enjoy hearing it. Just now, when I came into your office, I saw that
look in your eyes. You were remembering her, but you thought saying so
would make me angry."
He smiled. This time, there was genuine warmth in it, and in his eyes.
"She was my friend, Parker. I miss her."
Something pulled at her heart as she gazed into his eyes. She knew that
her mother and this man had worked together since Catherine first came
to the Centre. They knew each other long before she was born. And that
he cared deeply for Catherine was evident in his eyes. Might this man
be her real father?
"So do I." She sighed. Her eyes held his. "Were you more
than friends, Mr. Sun?"
He looked genuinely shocked. "What ever would make you think that?"
He composed himself, pulled a little farther away from her, now sitting
fully upright. "No. We weren't lovers, Parker. Not that I wouldn't
have wanted to be more to her, but there was only room in her heart for
one man, and that wasn't me. We were just friends." He leaned forward,
balancing his elbows on his knees, and bowed his head sadly. "She
was my hero."
That struck a chord in her. "What do you mean by that?"
He shot her a sidelong glance. "The way she felt about people, always
trying to help. She cared about everybody, and it went soul deep. She
was such a light in my life. I
I can't explain it any better than
that. She was just such an amazing woman. And I'm sorry you had to grow
up without her."
"You think I'd have been different, if she had lived," Parker
mused. He seemed to be trying to tell her something, but danced around
it to keep from saying too much. He was afraid of her, and she felt little
whispers inside her, too faint to hear. She closed her eyes for a moment
and listened, straining to catch the message.
Tell him. Tell him everything.
She didn't want to resist, but in the Centre, caution was an imperative.
"You're right. I would have been different, if I'd had my mother's
counsel to listen to as I grew up." She laid her hand on his shoulder,
and left it there. "And I've been learning to do that lately."
He faced her again, hope flickering in his eyes, and curiosity.
She placed her hand over her heart and smiled. "I still have her
with me, Mr. Sun. In here. All I had to do was listen."
His mouth tightened. His brows twitched together. For a moment, she thought
she saw tears in his eyes that disappeared when he blinked and turned
away. He nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean."
But he didn't, and that was obvious to her. "My mother was special,"
she told him. "She knew things. It was a gift." She saw his
eyes move back to her face, and knew then that he understood. "I
have the same gift, Mr. Sun. Only I didn't know it until recently. I never
listened to that little voice inside me that was hers." She gave
his shoulder a squeeze and drew her hand back to her lap. "Now, I
He studied her intently. Emotions flickered over his face, flashing in
his eyes. An explosive sigh blew out of him, and he relaxed against the
cushions. "Thank God." He buried his face in his hands for a
moment, rubbed it wearily as if he had just awakened, and then dropped
his hands into his lap again. He turned fully toward her and laid his
right arm over the back of the sofa, a touch of excitement gleaming in
his eyes. "I want to tell you something about her. She didn't die
in that elevator, Parker."
"Please, call me Morgan."
His face split into a beaming smile. "Yes. She loved your name.
It was her favorite aunt's."
She nodded. Morgan knew she had chosen her own name, as her brother Ethan
had, and that it was simply a happy coincidence that she shared the name
with her mother's aunt. Her name was the key to her inner sense, and the
reason it had not been used for such a long time. "I know. And I
know she faked her death in that elevator."
Light glowed in his eyes. "I keep hoping that, one day, I'll get
a postcard or a telephone call, or that maybe I'll see her picking flowers
by the roadside in the spring. Did you know why she left?"
Morgan's heart clenched. He doesn't know the truth. "Yes,
I know that she was pregnant, and she wanted to keep the baby safe."
She sighed. "But you won't be hearing from her again, Mr. Sun. She
trusted the wrong person with her life."
The shock was genuine, followed immediately by grief. He bowed his head.
"Raines. On the Chairman's orders
And as a part of his own
She could see something dark and ugly settling into his attractive features.
"I'll bring you the DSA."
He had closed himself off to her now. She rose. Glancing around his office,
she thought it looked more like a record producer's than a corporate mogul's.
He had a guitar on a stand in one corner, which she knew he often played
when he was thinking. There were vinyl albums from his favorite bands
framed and hanging on the walls. Racks of CDs took up space on the credenza,
framing a Bose CD player that had music issuing from it almost constantly.
Even now, she could hear the soft strains of something New Age and soothing.
"I'm sorry," she told him truthfully.
He rose, standing right in front of her. After a beat, he reached out
and took her face in his hands, his eyes hot with pain. His thumbs stroked
her cheeks gently. "You can see her every time you look in the mirror,
Morgan. You can hear her in your heart. All I have left of her
He dropped his hands, stepped back and strode stiffly over to the stereo.
He popped out the CD and reached for another. "All I have left of
her is memories," he growled, and cranked the volume. The song was
dark and filled with pain. She thought it was Pink Floyd, but wasn't sure.
Parker turned and let herself out the door. The reason she had come to
see him would wait. She had renewed an old friendship, gained a new ally,
and wounded him to the core all in one sitting. Now she needed to give
him time to grieve, and then she would help him heal. They had a lot to
do, and having the support of one of the American Triad was a definite
plus. She'd make good use of him, but carefully. She couldn't afford to
get him killed.
* * * * * * * * *
Plane over London, England
Jarod settled himself into the plane seat and pulled out the note again.
His eyes ran over the cryptic clue it contained and wondered how best
to solve it.
Charlotte 'n' Wilmer's friends await your arrival in the village.
The young circle of political sponsors is ready in the castle.
He stared out of the window, planning his first move when he arrived
in Berlin. It had taken some time to work out that the postcode he had
found was connected to a suburb of that city. Pulling out the notes he'd
made, Jarod glanced at a small detail he'd written during the phone call
when making his enquiries. The suburb, the woman had told him, was either
called Charlottenburg or Wilmersdorf. She hadn't quite been sure which.
Looking down at the note again, he had to smother a chuckle.
Charlotte and Wilmer in the village. Jarod took out the map he had bought
before his sudden departure from London. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. 'Burg'
translated to castle and 'dorf' was the German word for village. Obviously
the rest of the clue was going to lead him to the next piece of the game
he seemed to be involved in. He took a pen and notepad out of his shirt
pocket, starting to scribble the translations of the words that made up
Young - jung
Circle of political sponsors - politischer Förderkreis
But the signature? E.V.?
And what did the collection of numbers mean?
Jarod stared blankly at the seat in front of him for a moment before
the sitting woman in the seat next to him attracted his attention.
"Eh, excuse me?"
He turned with a slight smile. "Can I help you?"
"Well, it seems that you're going to the place I was supposed to
visit as well, and I wonder if you would mind delivering something for
At his slightly mystified expression, she nodded at the notepad on the
tray in front of him. "The Fördererkreis Junge Politik e.V.
My friend's son is staying there right now and she asked if I'd give a
letter to him, but if it's not too much trouble, would you mind doing
it for me?"
"Can you tell me," he asked hesitantly, "what it is? A
"Not really. It's a student home." She took his notepad and
wrote some directions on it. "If you catch the 109 bus from the airport
to the railway station and then either the bus 149 or the X34, get off
at Amtsgerichtplatz, and you'll be right in front of it." She showed
him the place on the map. "The student home is there."
He took the envelope and tucked it into his jacket pocket. "Not
a problem. Thanks for your help."
"Are you visiting someone there too?"
"Not exactly." He took out the note and handed it to her. "It's
kind of a game."
"A treasure hunt?"
"Something like that."
She read through the words and smiled. "That's almost like the cryptic
crossword puzzles I used to enjoy as a girl."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "Cross
"Yes." She unfolded out a copy of the Times, turning it to
show him the page. "It's a lot of fun."
He eyed the black and white squares before reading through the list of
clues printed beside it, pairing up the clues with the few answers she
had been able to fill in and using that to work out how the thing was
"Fascinating," he murmured before glancing up to see the expression
of surprise on the woman's face.
"You've never seen one of those before?"
not the part of the paper I'm usually interested in,"
he replied awkwardly.
"Oh, you're probably one of those sports buffs," she commented,
laughing as she surreptitiously eyed his figure. "Well, maybe you
can use the crossword to work other parts of your brain than those in
which the MVPs and all-time best scores are kept."
For a moment, Jarod considered responding, but decided that this was
neither the time nor the place to get bogged down in explanations.
* * * * * * * * *
The Centre, Archives
Broots copied the last DSA, put the original back in the file drawer,
and took the copies with him, stuffed into the pockets of his pants and
shirt. In his hand he carried a benign folder from the Archives, so that,
in case someone stopped him and asked him what he had taken, he could
reply with a clear conscience. Even so, he was sweating as he returned
to his office, walked in and shut the door. Almost as an afterthought,
he locked it as well, and then did a quick scan for surveillance devices
that might have been planted in his absence. Even as Miss Parker's Number
Two, he couldn't be too careful.
He didn't want anyone walking in on him while he was cataloguing those
DSAs. It would be even worse if someone came in while he was viewing any
of them. He could feel the danger radiating from them, but Miss Parker
had instructed him weeks earlier to amass everything he could on that
project, and this was his first chance to follow up on it. He had simply
added to the most current mission Miss Parker had sent him to complete.
Each one of the Seraphim caregivers was an expert in early childhood
behavior, education and development. They had been hand picked from among
the country's finest, and each had been employed at the Centre for a minimum
of five years before they had been put in charge of one of the children.
Their loyalty was unquestioned - they belonged completely to the Centre,
and believed in what they were doing.
That was precisely what made them dangerous. Some of the DSAs contained
recordings of the eight women in action, during routine tasks prior to
the births of the Seraphim. He had already copied the documents in their
personnel files onto the disks, and the information that was contained
on them would certainly offer a complete profile of each individual, how
they thought, their strengths and weaknesses.
Broots had never met any of them besides Ms. Penfield. She seemed okay,
kind of stern in a grandmotherly way. But it wasn't in his job description
to second-guess why his boss wanted the scoop on these people. They were
among the most trusted employees in the company, responsible for the shaping
of fine little minds, including Miss Parker's baby brother. He was sure
that, if she suspected some misbehavior on their part, she'd have said
something to him.
All she had told him was to dig up everything on the eight women he could
find and make portable copies of the information.
That part was easy enough. Terry Camp was their supervisor; Sydney was
their manager. Broots didn't like sneaking into Sydney's files, but worried
about that less than digging into Lyle's stuff. At least, he didn't worry
that Sydney would kill him if he got caught.
What worried him the most, though, was the other errand he had been on,
the one that had taken him to the Archives. The Shiva case files had already
been examined, but not the DSAs. What he had seen in the paper files was
enough to know that Yuri was bad news, but after the report came back
from Miss Parker's trip to MacCaffrey Enterprises, something had been
bothering him about the guy. He was still on the loose, and nobody seemed
to be paying much attention to that fact.
He spent a few minutes cataloguing the dialogue for future reference,
and then did a search for a few words at random. Nothing popped on "Jarod"
or "Seraphim." When "Artemis" had a hit, he scrolled
the trackball to the location, digitally reversed to the beginning of
that simulation, and let it play. With sweaty palms and clenched stomach,
he plugged in a few more keywords and watched Yuri in action.
When he finished, he locked the Shiva DSAs into the safe Miss Parker
had given him for just such sensitive items, and went to the bathroom
to wash his face with trembling hands, and try to calm himself down while
he decided whether or not he should tell her what he had found. The best
person to handle that information was Jarod, but he had no idea how to
get it to him without risking his own neck. For that, he was going to
have to think like Jarod
or wait for the Pretender to show up on
his doorstep again. Broots didn't want to wait on this. He needed to get
it in Jarod's hands fast.
It might not mean anything, really. But it could also get Miss Parker
killed. He'd show it to Sydney as soon as he could, and have the Belgian
relay the message to Jarod next time he called. That was the best he could
do, and he hoped it would be good enough to save her life.