Blue Cove, Delaware
Sydney looked at Miss Parker as she protested, his voice remaining muted.
"Actually, it's not, but has that fact ever stopped them before?"
"So, all of the women I saw
" Broots stopped short, looking
at Sydney. "How will they get what they need?"
"The pregnancies will be aborted within the required period and
the embryos sent wherever they have the research facilities," the
psychiatrist responded evenly. Suddenly his expression became thoughtful.
"Come to think of it, I can't fully understand why the experiment
isn't being performed in one of the laboratories. After all, it's not
as if the babies will get to the stage where they need the conditions
of the womb."
Morgan looked sharply back at the screen. "I didn't get this before,
but it makes more sense now. It says here that they also want to experiment
with the cells of the PLC. I didn't know what they meant by the abbreviation
before, but I guess it's the
"Placenta," Sydney finished, when she stopped. "Nothing
I've read about this suggested that the cells of the placenta would be
of any use in that respect, but possibly the published material isn't
as far advanced as what the Centre's doing."
"Or else they're trying to start Fountain from the memories of the
other people involved," Broots added in tense tones. "So they'll
take the embryonic cells and the placental cells
"And the women?" Morgan queried softly, her eyes still fixed
on the screen.
The question seemed to hang in the air for several seconds, until she
took the page from Sydney's hand and picked up the phone.
"This is Parker. I want the jet."
As she hung up, Broots looked at her. "What are you going to do?"
"Sydney and I will go and find out exactly what's going on. You
stay here and see what else you can find."
"What do you think you'll be able to do, Parker?"
"I don't honestly know, Sydney," she admitted, turning around
to look at him. "But unless we try, we won't ever know."
Nodding, the psychiatrist stood, and the two people left the office in
* * * * * * * * *
His work had revealed nothing, but Jarod hadn't expected it to. That
wasn't the way these things ever worked. His own investigations had provided
some answers, and he could go looking around for more when he knew better
what to look for. In the meantime, he pulled out the notebook and reviewed
the information he had so far in the various articles.
All of them were about children who were operated on at All Saints hospital.
Several days before the first article, which had come out only three days
previously, an autopsy on a child had revealed that organs had been removed
during surgery without parental consent. Autopsies that were then carried
out on other children who had recently died revealed causes of death all
related to the unauthorized removals and, as a result, all operations
at the hospital had been temporarily suspended, and the staff involved
stood down. Suspecting that the surgical area of the hospital would be
suspicious of any new applicants in that area, fearing an undercover investigation
as well as that being carried out by police, Jarod had joined the research
sector. This had provided him with access to some of the information for
which he had been searching.
Jarod picked up one and looked down at the face of a boy who had died
after the removal of his thalamus gland. For several moments, he gazed
into the eyes of the face in the photograph, trying to imagine what the
parents would suffer at losing a child in that way; how he would feel
if anything like that happened to Gabriel. Jamming his other hand into
his pocket, the fingernails of his clenched fist digging into his palm,
he let the clipping drift back to the tabletop and wandered over to the
The glass reflected the thick, black headlines, and Jarod's eye traveled
over the reflection of the name of the senior surgeon.
Something about that name nagged at him, but he hadn't yet bothered to
work out what. Suddenly it hit him, with such force that the breath exploded
out of him as if he had been punched.
The word was a harsh whisper, as Jarod sank his face into his hands.
Suddenly the dream came back into his mind, along with words that he himself
had spoken several years earlier.
"Come on, Luther, wake up. We've still got some work to do. Disconcerting,
isn't it? Waking up in pain, not knowing where you are. That's how I felt
in Mexico. That's how your son feels in his hospital room."
The darkness from his dream came back to Jarod again, the pain in his
side now making perfect sense, and he knew that, had he not woken, he
would have seen himself standing by that bed, a scalpel in his hand. Jarod
clenched both his fists, pushing them into his eyes until he saw stars,
trying to get rid of the vision, suddenly forced to justify his actions
"It was the only way," he argued aloud, trying to persuade
himself that the words he uttered were true.
No, a voice inside his head seemed to contradict immediately.
"Ryan would have died
Who says he didn't?
The thought hit him with as much physical force as the earlier one had,
and Jarod quickly pulled the laptop towards him, staring at it blankly
for a minute before activating the program.
"Where do I start?"
The words came loudly in the silent room and, as his mind refused to
provide him with an answer, he sank his face into his hands again.
You could always find out about Luther, the voice seemed to suggest,
and Jarod nodded, pulling up the files about the Cadrenas Federal Prison
in Mexico. When the search revealed nothing, he picked up his cell phone
from its place on the table.
"Can I help you?" queried a polite voice in Spanish.
"I'm trying to find out some information about one of your prisoners."
Jarod got up from his chair, beginning to pace the length of the room
again. "Luther Ecksley."
"There's nobody here of that name, sir," the voice informed
him after a brief pause, during which the shuffling of papers had been
audible, and the Pretender stopped short.
"There has to be. He was given a twenty-five year sentence."
The voice was calm. "Mr. Ecksley died three years ago, sir."
Jarod swallowed hard, running a trembling hand through his hair. "C
can you repeat that?"
"Mr. Ecksley died a few weeks after a transfer from California back
to the Cadrenas prison, three years ago, sir. I can put you through to
the Records department, if you would like, and they can give you more
"No, thank you, it's fine."
He disconnected the call, staring blankly at the carpet before lunging
for his laptop. His violence almost knocked it to the floor, but he managed
to prevent that from happening. Logging into the prison records, he found
the reports about Ecksley, including the autopsy that had been carried
out on the dead man.
Jarod looked up slowly from the computer, his hands trembling and a bead
of sweat beginning to slide down the side of his face.
He had caused a man to die.
He had killed a man.
Jarod's fingers clenched themselves into fists as he sat back in the
Urgently, as if the information was going to disappear before he could
find it, Jarod logged into the computer records of the hospital in California,
bringing up the boy's medical history. Reading through the first parts,
he started to relax. There was no doubt that the kidney would have taken,
and that Ryan would be all right.
except for another operation performed almost a month after the
Jarod froze, staring at the medical notes he'd found. There could only
have been one reason for Ryan to have needed surgery the length and seriousness
of what he'd had to undergo later that year: if his father's kidney had
A note at the end of the file told him that the second operation showed
every sign of success, as a kidney had been donated by Luther's sister.
A final note at the end of the files revealed to Jarod that Ryan was now
doing relatively well.
The Pretender stared at the words, feeling something twist painfully
"It wasn't me."
Jarod slowly raised his head to see his reflection in a mirror hanging
on the wall opposite him. His face was ashen, apart from a red trail that
ran down his chin. Lifting a hand he slowly wiped away the blood from
where he had bitten his lip, looking at the screen once more.
The boy was alive. That was important, of course. But everything he'd
tried to do, all the problems he'd caused -- he had killed a man for no
reason! Luther Ecksley was dead because Jarod had done something -- his
eyes traveled to the articles on the table in front of him -- he'd done
a thing just as bad as those people that he had been thinking of punishing.
No, it wasn't just as bad. He knew that at once.
This was worse.
This was worse because he knew better, and because he had no excuses
Shaking his head, Jarod rose from the chair and walked over to the window,
resting his head against the glass and staring blindly out at the traffic
below. His hands began to shake and he raised one, pressing the palm of
it against the glass. Using it to push off from the window, he slowly
turned, his eyes running over the furniture in the room without seeing
it. Taking an unsteady step away from the window, something hard clenched
in his stomach as he forced out a sentence.
"I'm a murderer."
The words were a pain-filled murmur and Jarod sank to his knees, staring
at the blood on the tips of his fingers and feeling the damp trails as
tears began to course down his cheeks.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Broots once more impatiently consulted his watch, calculating the time
it would take before Miss Parker and Sydney could land in Ohio and get
to the hospital. Sitting down at his desk, he shut his eyes, resting his
forehead in the palms of his hands.
In his mind, he strolled into the cafeteria again, the Funyuns and Dingdongs
in his pockets as he collected his serving of tuna salad and sat down
at the table.
"Hi. My name's Leah. I know we're not supposed to talk to other
people here but you look like a trustworthy guy, so I thought I'd take
a chance. Are you? Trustworthy, I mean."
Sitting bolt upright, Broots stared at the wall in front of him, breathing
fast, feeling his fingers tighten into fists and a sudden feeling of nausea
rise in him. The scene had replayed itself in his mind almost every day
since he had first met her, and it had only been during the past few weeks,
the man realized suddenly, that he had been thinking about it less often.
Now, of course, it would haunt him even more.
Shaking his head, the technician sat up and looked at the files on the
computer, waiting for him to work on them. Aware that he would be unable
to concentrate, Broots reached into the drawer of his desk. He pulled
out a box and, taking his house keys, found the tiny one that would unlock
the box. Opening the lid, he took out a gold bracelet and laid it on the
open palm of his hand, moving it slightly so that it sparkled in the light.
He could see her again in his mind, the bracelet sparkling in the light
as their fingers had touched briefly. The memory of her bright blue eyes
and blond hair caused a lump to rise in the back of his throat and only
by swallowing and blinking hard could he stop the tears forming in his
eyes from falling. Suddenly, as if the metal had burnt him, he let it
drop back into the box and, in one single movement, relocked the box and
swept it back into his drawer. A moment later, a vague murmur of voices
that had drawn his attention in the first place became louder.
Looking down at the surface of his desk, Broots finally became aware
of a cream-colored manila folder lying on his desk. It had obviously been
placed there in the brief time when he had gone to make himself a new
cup of coffee, which, Broots realized as he reached out for the place
where it should have been standing, was presumably still sitting on the
tray of the coffee-making machine, thoughts of Leah having distracted
him enough to prevent him from taking it. Broots was about to go and get
the coffee when the label on the folder caught his attention, snatching
his attention away from both the voices in the hallway and the coffee.
The words were breathed, almost inaudible, as Broots opened the folder,
his eyes running over the information it contained. He only had time to
read a few words when the voice that he thought had passed by could be
clearly heard outside the door of his office, a familiar voice that made
the technician flip the folder shut and shove it into the drawer on top
of the box. His door opened just as he turned his eyes to the computer
screen in front of him.
"Excuse me, Mr. Broots?"
"Yes, Sam?" The man looked up, hoping his face was as expressionless
as he wanted it to be.
"There's somebody here to see you."
"Oh, yes?" The technician glanced at his computer. "I
I'm kind of busy
"It'll only take a minute." The older man stepped around the
sweeper and into the room. "I wanted to renew an old acquaintance."
really?" the man stammered, nonplussed. "I
I don't remember
"Oh come on, Mr. Broots. Surely you remember coming down with Miss
Parker to find me down in Renewal Wing?" The man's voice was light,
but there was a deeper tone of meaning obvious in it. "I certainly
do, even if you don't seem to." Fenigor turned to the sweeper. "Thank
* * * * * * * * *
if you're forced to resort to more extreme measures -
"That was too extreme." Jarod propped his elbows up on the
table and rested his forehead in his palms, his voice an almost incoherent
mumble. "I never meant for him to die. It wasn't ever meant to go
that far. I never meant to kill him."
He raised his head and examined his hands, where fingernails had pierced
the skin when he had clenched his fists, before rising to his feet and
pacing the room, his eyes seeming to see not the hotel room but the glass
that had once separated him from Ecksley, his hand once again holding
the black telephone receiver.
"Do you believe in redemption, Jarod?"
"Maybe. You have a lot to make up for."
"This could be a start though, right?"
"Redemption," the Pretender murmured. Looking up, Jarod could
see the gray clouds through the window, the weather reflecting his feelings
within. "Where do I go to find mine? Didn't I earn it too? I help
people if I can. Isn't there anybody to help me?"
"As a part of your personality, its strength can become your
greatest asset. What you feared most may yet turn out to be your saving
grace. Try to think of it that way."
"Not now," he moaned, sinking down onto the bed and staring
at the floor. "No, I can't think of it like that. Not anymore. It's
not just a dark side now. It's all of me."
He lifted his hands briefly, before letting them fall helplessly in his
lap again, the tears continuing to pour, unheeded, down his cheeks. In
his mind, he could see her again, the light shining on her blond hair
as she appeared in the doorway of the motel room, making her look more
angelic than she had even in those terrible hours on the mountain. The
specks of blood on his hands caught his eye and his throat tightened,
making it momentarily difficult to breathe. The longing for help Jarod
had begun to feel faded as he looked at the blood and the full realization
of his actions sank deep into his heart and mind.
"I know, now, why you didn't ever stay with me, Faith. You were
always too afraid." He swallowed the urge to throw up and leaned
against the wall, shutting his eyes with another soft moan. "I'd
be afraid of me too. You should never have brought me back from Eclipse.
I didn't deserve it. You should have left me there. Left me with Kodiak.
Then what I did would have seemed right, instead of knowing that it's
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"I was hoping to be able to speak with Miss Parker, Mr. Broots.
Do you have any idea where she might be?"
The technician managed to stop himself from wriggling in his chair, unwilling
to look into the cool, expressionless eyes of the man standing opposite
him on the other side of the desk.
no, Mr. Fenigor. She and Sydney left to check out a possible
lead on Jarod."
"So you're still running that little game." The corners of
the man's lips lifted slightly. "I would have thought that the three
of you could have been given more productive positions at other places
in the Centre instead of chasing after him and others like him. After
all," the man's smile grew wider, "it's not really that necessary
that he be brought back here, is it?"
Broots' brow furrowed slightly. "I
"Oh, it doesn't matter." The man shrugged carelessly. "I'm
sure we'll catch up at some point. I've got so many things that I'd like
to talk to her about." He smiled, producing a card from his pocket
and sliding it over the desk. The technician saw that it contained a cell
phone number. "As soon as she comes back, you will let me know, won't
of course, Mr. Fenigor."
"Good." The man turned to the door, glancing back over his
shoulder with a wink. "And good luck with your search."
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney looked over as Miss Parker drove the car through the streets from
the airstrip where the jet had landed as the late afternoon sun lit the
city. "What do you want to do first, Parker?"
"Let's get to a hotel and register. Broots said that he'd send us
any articles he could find about the whole thing at the hospital, so we
can do some background work before we go there for a proper investigation."
"What are you really hoping to achieve here?" His voice was
quiet. "Even if you stop it happening with this hospital, there must
still be others
"This is a start, Syd. We have to start somewhere." She pulled
up in front of the building offering rooms, eyeing the four stars on the
sign. "This'll do."
Sydney exited the car when she did and followed her up the stairs, waiting
silently as she booked them into double rooms with adjoining doors. He
took the set of hotel room keys she held out as they walked back to the
front of the building.
"I'll park the car." He took the rental car keys from her hand
and opened the driver's door. "You take the things in and see what
"Thanks." She flashed him a tight smile and carried the bags
into the building as he drove the car into the hotel's parking lot, found
a spot and then got out, starting to walk towards the elevator.
Glancing carelessly at a car parked nearest to the elevator, Sydney stopped
short, staring into the front seat. His breath caught in his throat at
the familiarity of what he was seeing. Underneath a cream medical folder,
the corner of a red notebook was just visible. Reaching out a hand, Sydney
cautiously tried the door, but it was locked, as were the others when
he checked them. Running his eyes over the rest of the car's visible contents,
his expression became one of deep thought as the elevator doors opened
and the psychiatrist stepped inside.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Fenigor shook the hand of the man being introduced to him, preserving
a standard expression of mild interest, but was unable to help seeing
the knowing gleam in Cox's eye that appeared as the Chairman turned away.
When Parker looked down at the paperwork on the desk in front of him,
Fenigor risked a wink in response before clearing his face of expression
and turning his attention back to Mr. Parker, even as the Chairman looked
at the doctor.
"What do you think, Cox? How would they respond to someone like
"Well, it's difficult to say," the man responded thoughtfully.
"Still, as you seem sure that he won't cause the children any difficulties,
I don't have any concerns. If there's a problem, we can simply stop him
from going in with them."
"Fine, fine." Mr. Parker nodded in agreement. "Then perhaps
you could take him down to meet them now?"
Fenigor cast a glance at the clock on the wall. "As I understand
it, Parker, the children are now having their naps. Maybe it would be
better to wait until later."
Cox sent a look of respectful surprise in the other man's direction,
an expression immediately picked up on by Parker, who laughed.
"You'll have to watch yourself with this one, Cox. Alex probably
knows as much about the kids as you do."
"Perhaps," the doctor responded coolly, rising to his feet.
"And in the meantime, I have things to do. Mr. Fenigor, if it's convenient
for you, we could meet to discuss the children in my office in 30 minutes."
"I'll look forward to it." The man bowed his head slightly
in acknowledgement, watching him leave before turning back to the Chairman.
"Let me know if you think there's going to be a problem," Parker
stated at once. "We can't afford for anything to go wrong in that
"Oh, nothing will," Fenigor assured him, standing also. "If
you'll excuse me, Parker, I want to get my things set up in the lab and
"Good, good." The other man nodded. "I'll see you later,
Nodding, Fenigor left the office, letting the door fall shut behind him
before casting a smirk at the man who was waiting in the hall.
"'Perhaps,'" he remarked mockingly, in snobbish tones, tilting
his nose in the air and watching out of the corner of his eye as Cox grinned,
falling into step with him. "'Perhaps' I know because you told me
"Perhaps," Cox laughed as they got into the elevator. "I
always thought you were a scientist, Alex, not an actor."
"I try." Fenigor shrugged. "What act will we put on in
front of the kids?"
"The same," Cox agreed after a moment of thought as the elevator
descended. "Several of those caregivers are in Parker's pocket and
tell him everything. But it can 'thaw' over the next couple of days."
The older man handed over a card bearing a number and an address. "I
got a new cell phone and this is the suite I was allocated. Feel free
to drop in at any time."
"Oh, I will," Cox agreed. "After all, we've got a lot
to discuss." He glanced at his watch as the car arrived and the two
men got out, strolling down towards Cox's office. "By the way, I
meant to tell you that Echo's on track."
"Glad to hear it," Fenigor retorted. "Should I keep going
"Every few days," the doctor responded carelessly. "Doesn't
need more than that."
Cox stopped at the door of his office and waved an arm in a gesture that
was an invitation. The other man entered the office with a smile, sitting
down comfortably on the other side of the desk as his friend took a seat
on the other.
* * * * * * * * *
"It's not supposed to happen like this." Jarod lay on his back,
studying the ceiling, talking aloud as if there was someone else there
to hear. "You aren't supposed to come back into my life when it's
finally all over. I should just to be able to walk away, to forget it.
Why can't you disappear, Luther? Let me forget!"
"Guilt is a healthy emotion. It stops most people from doing
bad things, or at least makes them repent. You are not suffering from
guilt. You are shamed. Shame is an unhealthy emotion. Why are you ashamed
of yourself, Jarod?"
The words of the psychiatrist seemed to hang in the air and he recalled
their conversation on that New Year's Eve. Jarod considered calling Lily,
but as he had on that other occasion, when he felt as though he were falling
apart as Eclipse swept in on him, he knew that there was no point. This
time, the feeling was different.
This time he deserved to feel it all because he was directly responsible
for what had occurred.
He could remember the way it felt to hold the syringe in his hand and
to exchange the few words of light banter with the man, before cutting
him open and taking
Jarod squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the image and rolling
over so that his face was pressed into the pillow.
"Why couldn't I forget this? It's not fair that I should be remembering
this. It hurts too much."
It is fair, the voice seemed to say in response. You killed
a man. Why on earth should you be able to forget? No doubt he didn't.
Right up until the moment he --
With the word coming out almost as a scream, Jarod sat bolt upright on
the bed, hands clutching either side of the mattress, as if it were a
boat rocking on the sea during a storm.
"Why didn't they get rid of all this when I was returned to the
Centre?" a voice moaned, and it took Jarod several seconds to realize
that the words had come from his own mouth. "Why didn't they wipe
it all away? Why do I have to remember?"
You killed him.
The voice sounded in his mind again.
Why shouldn't you remember what you did? Why should you get an easy
escape from the results of your actions? You know how bad peritonitis
is. You know how much pain he would have been in as he died.
"He was a criminal," Jarod protested weakly.
He was a human being, the stern voice replied. A living, breathing
human being. And you took all that away from him.