Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots
Paul Dillon as Angelo
Harve Presnell as Mr. Parker
Jamie Denton as Lyle
George Clooney as Valentine
Lenny von Dohlen as Cox
Keene Curtis as Fenigor
Sam Ayres as Sam
Candace Bergen as Eve
Pamela Gidley as Brigitte
David Gallagher as Alexander
Janet Hubert as Ms. Hart
Tyler Christopher as Ethan
Ashley Peldon as Merritt
Ryan Merriman as Jordan
Jonathan Osser as Jacob
Hugh Jackman as Sebastian
Angie Harmon as Ramona
Denzel Washington as Trevor
Sigrid Thornton as Elizabeth
John Daley as Cam
Samantha Mathis as Rebecca
Russell Crowe as Alastair
Michelle Trachtenberg as Andromeda
Paul Mercurio as Joseph
Justine Waddell as Julia
Robert Duncan McNeil as Peter Winston
Rove McManus as Frederick
Linda Carlson as Harriet Tashman
The ringing of his cell phone woke the man, who reached out for the device, connecting the call as he sat up.
"Julia!" He exhaled sharply, running a hand through his hair. "Are you all right? What did he do to you?"
"You know my name!" she exclaimed in tones that suggested she was smiling. "Did you find out about our son, too?"
"Some," he admitted. "I'm going to see what my brother can tell me in the morning."
"Jarod," she stated. "Say hello for me. Tell him it was nice to see him when he was in Berlin a few months ago."
"You know ?"
"I have to go," she interrupted, and the dial tone sounded in his ear a second later.
Disconnecting the call, Ethan dropped the phone on the bed, sitting beside it and seizing his bag, pulling out the photos. Checking his watch, Ethan saw that it was still too early to call his brother, concentrating instead on beginning to memorize all the information his sister had managed to find about his son.
* * * * * * * * *
"Of course not," Valentine replied calmly, keeping his voice low despite the relative security of the elevator. "And I've got a little present for you."
"Ah!" Cox accepted the small, wrapped package with a delighted smile. "Another birthday present I assume?"
"You're two weeks early," the sweeper chuckled.
"Well, I figured that you wouldn't have anyone else of that importance lined up for the actual day." Cox placed the videotape carefully in his briefcase. "So this will have to do."
The doors opened and Valentine stepped forward, glancing back over his shoulder with a laugh. "Happy Birthday, buddy."
* * * * * * * * *
Cam caught up with Jordan as the young man was about to go into the dining hall, seeing Jarod with a small boy in his arms several people ahead in the queue.
"Slacker," he greeted his friend. "I didn't see you in class yesterday."
"Yeah, I was forcing myself to eat ice cream and play with the kids," Jordan retorted with a grin. "It was tough, but I managed somehow."
"I'm sure you did," Cam agreed in mock-sympathy. "So will Your Highness deign to grace us with your presence today?"
"Not yet." Jordan nodded at Jacob. "When he's more used to the place and all the people, then I will, but for now I want to wait, and Dad agreed."
Collecting his tray, Cam took the plate offered by the woman behind the counter and, after getting a drink, turned to follow his friend to a table. His eye was caught by a gleam of golden hair from the other side of the room and he nudged Jordan.
"Hey, who's that?"
Looking the same way, Jordan recognized the girl and, without answering, led the way over to the table, taking one of the empty seats opposite beside Jacob and his father, and feeling his friend sit down beside him.
"Hey, Andromeda, this is Cam. Cam, this is the daughter of one of Dad's friends. She's come to live here, too."
Cam's mouth worked for a second without sound as he gazed at the young woman opposite, and Jordan tried to not laugh at the look in his friend's eyes as he began to eat his breakfast.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker stared down at the three envelopes on her desk before looking at the two men sitting opposite her.
"Any idea what these are?"
"None." Sydney reached forward. "But perhaps if we open them, we'll find out."
He picked up the envelope bearing his name and took the letter opener that Miss Parker offered, slitting the top. There was a moment of silence in the office as the psychiatrist flipped through the eight photos that the envelope contained. Finally an impatient voice broke the silence.
Sydney looked up, his face void of expression. "Eve is dead."
Broots' eyes widened as Miss Parker's narrowed.
"And you know this how?" she demanded.
"Let's just say I wouldn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out," the psychiatrist retorted dryly, dropping the pictures on the desk.
Miss Parker picked up the first photo and stared at it before slowly lowering the square piece of photographic paper back to the surface of the desk, her lips in a straight line. Suddenly reaching out, she snatched up the envelope with her name on it, slitting the top in one smooth motion and letting the photos slide out onto the desk. When they proved to be identical to those Sydney had received, she nudged Broots' envelope over to him, but he simply shot it a revolted look and tried to ignore it.
"So who did it?"
"More to the point, as head of SIS, shouldn't you know about it already?" Sydney replied quietly, and the woman eyed him. "After all, this is a direct hit on Centre staff."
"And on a person very close to Mr. Parker," Broots added, trying to avoid looking at the pictures showing the woman's blood-soaked clothing. "Do you think it's a message?"
"If it is then that narrows the field considerably." Morgan sat back in the chair with a groan. "I got a call about an hour ago from the Chairman, requesting me to assemble a cleaner team and send them to a warehouse a couple of blocks from here. When I asked for more details, I was told that I could read the report when it came in."
"I think we all know what that will contain," Sydney responded. "And I also don't think we'll have to look too far for a culprit."
The office was suddenly filled with a long and uncomfortable silence.
* * * * * * * * *
"Who's that?" Jarod asked, pointing to a face in a photo he held, and his son looked up at him with a beaming smile.
"Mommy," Gabriel responded happily, before turning back to the computer-generated photo Jarod had given Morgan for Christmas and patting the picture of himself, at the same time pressing the tip of the index finger on his other hand at his chest. "Gabwiel."
"That's right," Jarod agreed. "And this," he told the boy impressively, pointing at the other woman, "is Grandma. She's your Mommy's mommy."
The little boy examined the woman's face, his finger ending up in his mouth as he gazed at the picture. "Mine has Mommy?"
"Everyone has a Mommy, honey," his father responded, smiling sadly. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and produced the photo of his mother. "That's my Mommy."
Gabriel's chubby little fingertips gently stroked the woman's face before he snuggled closer to his father, detecting his emotional distress. Blinking rapidly several times, Jarod returned the photo to his wallet, which he tossed onto the table, before placing the other photo beside it.
The man looked around to see Merritt in the doorway and waved her into the room, putting his son down on the floor and standing up to give her a hug.
"I'm sorry I haven't come to see you since I got back," he apologized, waving her over to the sofa. "But I've been a little busy."
"That's okay." She sat down and smiled. "Actually, I wanted to ask something." The girl studied the floor for a moment before looking up at him, a pleading expression in her eyes. "The fact is, I've been a little restless over the past few days."
"Since Jacob was brought here?"
"Not just that," she admitted. "I like it here, and I want to come back, but I was wondering if I could go and see Aunt Harriet, just for a few days. Maybe take Jordan."
The Pretender ran a hand thoughtfully through his hair before smiling. "I have no problem with you going, if you want, although I don't want you traveling up there on your own. We can assign some bodyguards to go with you, though. But I don't think Jordan should go. Aside from everything else, I wouldn't let Jacob fly, in case anything happened to him, and I don't think Jordan will leave him. Not yet, anyway."
Merritt nodded. "I thought he might not come, and I will come back. I just want a break."
"A bit of country air too," he joked. "Okay, I'll call Harriet and see whether she's ready for you to go back. If she is, I'll arrange an escort for you."
"Thanks, Jarod." She stood up and hugged him. "I was kind of worried you wouldn't understand. I mean, you set everything up here for me really well, and I've got a great room and all, but I guess I'm a little restless."
He grinned. "I can't say that's any surprise, Merritt. I think it's probably genetic."
She was about to leave when she looked down at the little boy playing with a toy truck on the floor and then back at his father. "I don't believe we've been introduced."
"You haven't?" Jarod shot her a startled look as he picked up Gabriel, placing the boy on his knee and nodding at Merritt. "Gabriel, this is "
"Gamma!" the boy exclaimed, holding his hands out to the girl, while Jarod and Merritt stared at each other in confusion.
* * * * * * * * *
Ramona was checking through a folder when a knock on the door made her look up.
"Jarod! Hi! Come on in."
"Thanks." He walked into the office and shut the door, sitting down as she waved him to a seat. "I know you're Sebastian's provider of all things official, so I thought I'd see if you could help me get someone to escort Merritt up to New York State. She's going to visit a friend of hers up there for a few days."
The woman glanced at her desk calendar. "Actually, I was flying up to check on something at Saltier Labs in the morning, but I could go today instead and we can organize the return trip when she decides she's ready to come back."
Jarod's face broke into a broad smile. "That's perfect. She's feeling a little hemmed in and wants to take a break."
"Most of the young people feel a little like that when they first arrive," Ramona admitted. "When Jordan took off, that was my initial reaction, as well as Sebastian's. It wasn't until we talked to your Dad that we knew the real reason."
The Pretender couldn't help chuckling. "Well, you two squashed him flat when you told him what you thought of his behaviour. He won't be pulling a stunt like that one again."
"No, I'll bet." The woman laughed. "He's had a hard time meeting my eye since then, and he was a very confident young man before that. I hope he isn't taking it too seriously."
"Oh, he'll bounce back," Jarod assured her. "He's got the responsibility of setting a good example for Jacob now, and that's going to help him mature more than anything else."
Ramona's expression became serious, almost sad, but she refrained from comment as she took up a pile of papers, flipped through them and slid them into her bag before looking at him again. "Tell Merritt I'll be ready to take her up there in an hour."
"Thanks, Ramona." With a grateful smile, Jarod left the office to go and find Merritt.
* * * * * * * * *
Morgan's eyes traveled from the report about Uriel on her desk to the photo of her son that stood beside that of her mother, and suddenly made sense of a thought that had been nagging at her since discovering the truth about her father. Picking up the phone, she found herself hoping that Jarod was at Sanctuary and she would also be able to talk with her son as she made her way out of her office and left the Centre, walking along to the shoreline and looking out over the water as she punched in the number.
"Jarod, it's Morgan."
"Hey, good timing." He sounded genuinely pleased to hear from her, then his voice was suddenly further away. "Gabriel, come here, quick. It's Mommy."
There was the sound of footsteps clumping across a floor and then the familiar sound of Gabriel's breathing in her ear, a noise that made her eyes fill. "Hi, baby."
"Hi, Mommy. I miss you."
"I miss you too, Gabriel," she whispered. "Are you having fun there with Daddy and your friends?"
"Uh huh." Morgan could imagine him nodding vigorously in confirmation of the fact, and her view of the waves was suddenly misty. "Mine come see me?"
"Soon, baby," she promised, blotting the tears from her cheeks with her sleeve. "As soon as I can. Then you can show me all your new toys, okay?"
The woman suddenly remembered the reason for her call. "Can I talk to Daddy again?"
There was a rustle as the phone was handed back and then Jarod's voice, full of curiosity. "Was there something else?"
"Just one thing." Morgan smoothed the hair that was being blown about in the wind. "I need to talk to Merritt. Do you know where she is?"
"Darn it." There was a sound as if Jarod's hand had slapped against timber. "She just left here an hour ago, to visit Harriet Tashman. She was here before that. You could have seen Gabriel too."
Morgan swallowed a lump that disappointment caused to rise in her throat and then looked at the situation logically. "Actually, maybe it's best. Things are buzzing a bit here and I can't really afford to be out of the Centre for more than 24 hours at a stretch, even chasing you."
He chuckled. "One day, you might have to tell the Chairman you're too busy with everything else to look for me. I'd love to see his face when you do."
She smiled half-heartedly. "So Merritt's in New York State?"
"I'll send you the address."
"Don't bother," she told him. "I know it."
"You've been there?"
"Once, yes," she admitted. "Don't worry about it, Jarod. I'll come up with a reason to get to Dallas as soon as I can, if I have to lay a false trail there myself."
"Let me know what you want," he promised softly. "I'll have red notebooks scattered along every stretch of road between here and Blue Cove."
"Thanks." She blinked several times to clear her vision, turning resolutely back to the building that loomed behind her. "Give Gabriel a hug for me."
There was a second of silence, then the dial tone in her ear. Disconnecting the call, she slipped the phone back into her pocket before entering the Centre to head down to her office.
* * * * * * * * *
Tempest eagerly followed her big sister into the older girl's room, running over to a beanbag in the corner and squirming into it.
"Comfy," she told the young woman with a beaming smile, and Andromeda laughed.
"It sure is," she agreed, reaching into the bag she had carried and pulling out a pack of balloons, tearing them open and beginning to blow up the first one as Rebecca and Alastair appeared in the doorway.
"She looks just like you," he told her softly.
"Well, both," the man admitted. "But I was talking about Tempest."
He wrapped his left arm around her shoulders, resting his chin gently on the top of her head, as they both watched the girls play, using their telekinetic abilities to keep the balloons in the air. Rebecca entwined the fingers of her right hand with Alastair's, leaning against him and feeling as he kissed her hair.
"Excuse me," interrupted a voice from the doorway, and the two adults turned to find Cam behind them, holding a ball, at the sight of which Tempest yelped and struggled to her feet, running over to claim it. "Helen asked me to bring this up."
Rebecca's eyes danced as she saw the reluctance with which Cam handed it over. "Would you like to stay?" she offered. "I'm sure they'd love to have you."
Alastair choked quietly as he saw the eager look in Andromeda's eyes, which fell as soon as Cam approached her. He gently pulled Rebecca out of the room, nodding to Trevor, who was passing, and then to Elizabeth as she came out of her room.
The Australian woman's attention was caught by the expectant look on Trevor's face and stopped beside him.
"What's going on?"
The man chuckled, keeping his voice low. "Just setting a train in motion."
"Oh, really?" She raised an eyebrow. "Which one?"
The psychic gazed thoughtfully at the floor for a moment before silently reaching past her to open the door. Cam now sat on the floor, playing with Tempest, while her sister finished blowing up the last balloon. Elizabeth watched as the young man shot cautious glances at Andromeda, his eye sometimes catching hers, at which point his face would flush red and he would show dramatically increased interest in whatever the toddler was doing.
"So," Trevor whispered in her ear, his breath warm against her neck, "what do you think?"
Elizabeth giggled softly, turning her head so she could look up into his face. "I think Cupid's been a very busy boy in the past few days, hasn't he?"
* * * * * * * * *
Morgan packed the notes about her brother's son into a folder with the information about the five Berlin subjects before heading for the room in which she expected to find Broots. He was sitting at a computer station in the security theatre, running one of the frequent scans of the system, and looked up as she came into view.
"Can I do something for you, Miss Parker?"
She pulled up a chair close beside him so that she could be heard in a room that was constantly noisy.
"I'm going up to New York to check on a lead, and I'm taking Sydney with me. We might stay overnight, so I won't take you along this time. Keep tabs on the investigation into Eve's murder for me and send me reports on whatever comes up." She smiled. "Wish Debbie good luck on her ballet recital from me."
He grinned proudly. "Sure thing."
"I'm leaving my office in Lockdown," she told him as she stood up. "It's your responsibility to make sure it stays that way."
The technician's expression became serious. "I understand, Miss Parker."
"Oh, and Broots," she remarked loudly from the doorway, her eyes twinkling, catching Sam's eye as she turned. "Don't forget that you have a gym session later this afternoon."
There was a groan as the technician sank his head into his hands and his boss left the room with a grin.
* * * * * * * * *
She hesitated in the doorway of the room where Sydney bent over a blond-haired youth lying in the bed. The psychiatrist asked a soft question and received an almost inaudible reply, before turning to the nurse who waited beside him and giving several directions. The boy offered his hand in a gesture that spoke volumes for the trust that he had in his handler, and Sydney covered it with his own, squeezing gently before letting go, adding to his directions.
As the woman moved to obey, Sydney turned and saw his daughter in the doorway. Walking over to her, his face was as professionally expressionless as ever, but she could read the warmth in his eyes and was forced to suppress her answering smile.
"Did you want something, Miss Parker?"
"I'm going to New York. I'd like you to accompany me."
He hesitated briefly before nodding. "Overnight?"
"Fine. Should I meet you at the car?"
Morgan glanced at her watch. "Twenty minutes."
Without waiting for a reply, she left the room. He watched her go before leaving to find the nurse and give further instructions for Alexander's care.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod was involved in an energetic game of tag with Alastair, Gabriel and Tempest when the cell phone clipped to his belt rang. Fending his giggling son off with one hand, Jarod unclipped it and connected the call.
"Jarod? It's Ethan."
"Hi!" The man sank into a nearby chair while Alastair enticed the children away with the promise of a water-fight with Sebastian and his son. Ignoring all this, Jarod concentrated on the call. "It's great to hear your voice, little brother. What's happening?"
"I have to ask, Jarod -- do you know where Uriel is?"
The man's eyes traveled to where the small boy sat, drawing at a table with Angelique, seeing the bright blue eyes swing around to him, as if the child had guessed that he was the subject of the conversation, and Jarod raised an eyebrow.
"How do you know about him?"
"He " Ethan's voice broke and he had to swallow hard before he could continue. "He's my son. At least, that's what all the tests and everything that my sister found said."
"Are you sure?"
"If all the tests that the Centre did are right, then yes, I am sure."
Jarod's brow furrowed as he studied the small boy's features, forced to accept the fact that this child probably was his brother's son -- and his nephew, although he had suspected that there would be a connection of some sort since first reading the DNA test results. Ethan's voice broke into his thoughts.
"Where is he, Jarod? Do you know?"
"Yes, Ethan," he admitted slowly. "In fact, I'm in the same room with him right now. Come down to Texas and I'll give you the chance to meet him, if that's what you want."
Morgan accepted the keys for the adjoining bedrooms and picked up her bag. Sydney waited until they were inside the elevator and the doors had closed before he spoke.
"Somehow I doubt that Jarod is anywhere nearby."
"Oh, really?" Folding her arms across her chest, she leaned against wall of the car. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, in all the years we've been working together, you never checked into the hotel first," he told her with a knowing smile. "I can't help you cover up later unless you tell me the truth about why we're here, Morgan."
She couldn't help laughing. "You're right. Jarod isn't here. As far as I know, he's on the other side of the country."
"So why are we here?"
"Merritt," she admitted as the elevator stopped. The conversation ceased until they were in one of their rooms. When they were safely inside, Morgan continued. "I need to talk to her again, now I know who she really is. And I also thought that, maybe, we could make sure of the relationship between us, too."
Sydney cocked an eyebrow, accepting the mug she placed in front of him. "You're planning to do a paternity test?"
"Well, not personally," she remarked laughingly, sipping the hot coffee as rain hurled itself against the window outside. "And it's not that I doubt what you said. I just want to make sure this time."
He nodded understandingly, gazing at his daughter's profile as she stared blindly at the wall. After a long moment of silence, she reached into her bag and took out the paperwork on Uriel. Sydney watched her silently as she began to look through it again.
* * * * * * * * *
The Chairman put down the phone, glaring at the folder that lay on the desk in front of him. For a reason that he couldn't quite put his finger on, it didn't all add up. The biological samples that had been found at the murder scene certainly provided a culprit, but that seemed too simple. In all his recent attacks on Centre-related organizations or individuals, Yuri had never been so careless as to leave anything that could be genetically tested to prove his identity.
His concern was sufficient to make him look around for another suspect, and he had fallen back on a man he believed had committed at least one murder, the result of which shook the Triumvirate to its core. Although there had never been definitive proof that Valentine was responsible for the death of Mutumbo, Parker had always suspected it, and his son's decision to add the man to his own personal staff had, at the time, left the older Parker feeling more than a little uncomfortable.
The incident when Valentine had refused to complete the work Parker had allocated him and the rejected sanction both still weighed heavily on the Chairman. His investigation into the sweeper had turned up nothing that would provide him with such security, but Parker was still cautious of trying it again. His position as head of the Triumvirate was stable, but his mental health wasn't; it was important that that fact never got out or he stood to lose everything.
The knock on his door distracted his attention from his thoughts and he looked up as the two men he had called walked into his office. At Parker's direction they took seats opposite and looked up, their expressions expectant. The Chairman tossed the packet of photos over the desk at them.
"I'll assume you know what's happened. I want to know what you've heard."
"Only the gossip that's been going around the Centre all day," Fenigor commented calmly. "It's being said Yuri got careless and laid a nice little trail."
"And you think he'd be that stupid?" Parker shot back.
"We all make mistakes," Cox drawled. "Even the best of us."
"Not him," the Chairman snarled. "And Yuri would have no reason to go after Eve. Those two had no contact during his entire time here."
"Parker, we've got no way of understanding Yuri's motives, as you're well aware," Fenigor replied evenly. "Most people seem to believe that he wants to kill Triumvirate members, and," he added with a sly look at the Chairman, "Eve was only second in line after yourself."
"That's not good enough," Parker told him. "And I'm looking for a culprit elsewhere. I want to know what you two can tell me about Valentine."
The two men exchanged rapid glances. Who would have guessed that Parker would be so quick? But they had already laid their plans for this and the two began providing the alibi that had been promised.
* * * * * * * * *
The man crept down the darkened hallway, slipping into an inset doorway as a guard passed him, and then continuing, hearing his heart pounding loudly in his ears and feeling the sweat making his hands slippery. Stopping at the relevant room, he punched in the code and silently swung the heavy door open, entering and removing one of the soft shoes he wore. Using that to prevent the door from locking on the inside, he made his way silently to the bed in which the room's occupant lay.
Joseph's heart ached as he watched the child sleep. The boy lay on his side, curled up into a ball, and the healer reached out a tentative hand, gently touching the hair that was as dark as his own. A lump formed in his throat and almost choked him, knowing what had been done to him, to both of them. He knew she was pregnant again, and supposed that, like this boy, that child would also be his. The man only wished that he could tell Julia he knew, so he could share the burden of what had been done.
The boy began to sob softly in his sleep, twitching on the bed as a dream that had no place in his young mind began to take hold. Joseph instinctively drew back, avoiding a flailing arm Peter flung out as he fought the demons in his dreams. When the boy was somewhat calmer, Joseph stroked the thin cheek with a gentle finger, murmuring softly under his breath.
Without warning, strong hands attached themselves to his arms and shoulders, one clapped over his mouth, dragging the man away from the bed. Instinct made him fight briefly, but Joseph knew that not only could he never win against so many, it would also go against him if it was reported. Finding his feet as the men stopped to close and lock the door, one guard retrieving his shoe and throwing it at him, Joseph caught the flimsy object before lowering his head and staring down at the floor, grateful, at least, that the child had slept through his father's ignominious removal from the room.
Dragged up three flights of stairs, he was pushed into an office, the brightness of which made him blink. Still studying the floor, he saw a dark-haired man walk in and seat himself behind the desk.
"I've had to call Winston about this," the man began almost apologetically, waving the gray-suited men out of the room. "Normally I wouldn't bother, but with both Delius and Leiden away from the office for the weekend, it's too risky for us not to."
Nodding slightly in acknowledgement, Joseph remained silent, his eyes still fixed on the floor. For a moment, the head of nighttime security watched the healer, finally waving at a chair.
"Sit down, Joseph. I'm not going to bite."
"Thank you, I I prefer to stand," the man responded in muted tones.
"What's going on, Frederick?" Peter Winston demanded as he entered the office, doing up his tie. "What's the emergency?"
"Sorry for calling you," the other man returned, "but I thought you'd want to sort this yourself. One of the security teams found Joseph's room empty and he was discovered in the boy's room."
"Ah." Understanding dawning in his eyes, Peter Winston looked at the healer before turning back to his second-in-command. "Thanks. I'll take it from here."
"Yes, sir." Frederick gathered up his reports from the desk and left the office. When he was gone, Winston placed a gentle hand on Joseph's arm, steering him over to a corner of the office where several armchairs and a sofa stood, forcibly seating the man in one chair and taking the other one himself, his face void of expression and his hands folded in his lap.
"How long have you known?" he inquired calmly.
Joseph felt himself beginning to panic and tried to force it back. He'd been prepared for whatever punishment that the Herr Direktor deemed appropriate, ready to have black eyes for a week, not be able to stomach food for days, even never to be either permitted nor physically able to look at his son again, but not for this. Joseph had heard rumors that, if Peter Winston asked a question, he already knew the answer. The man's tone confirmed this to the terrified healer.
"When did the report appear in your room?" Winston prompted. "It went missing from the archives three days ago. Is that when you found out about the boy being your son?"
"Yes, sir," he murmured, aware that admitting it would be better than either a denial or silence.
"He's a good-looking, intelligent boy," Peter mused. "You should be proud of him."
"He's not mine," the other man offered cautiously. "He belongs to the Herr Direktor."
"Unfortunately," Winston returned somewhat bitterly. "Although I'm not sure that would stand up in a court of law."
Not understanding the phrase, Joseph stayed silent, shifting somewhat uncomfortably in the seat, unused to something so soft. After a moment of consideration, Peter Winston looked up with a smile.
"I can't do a lot for you, Joseph, because usually, when I'm here, so are they. But perhaps tonight I can do you one small favor." His lips pursed slightly in thought for a moment. "Or maybe two.
Standing, he pressed a buzzer on his desk. A moment later, the door opened.
"Yes, Mr. Winston?"
"Get project number 865 out of bed and bring him in here. Escort project 642 here too, regardless of what she's doing."
The door closed again, but Joseph barely heard it. He could only imagine that this man intended to punish him in front of both his son and the child's mother, and the thought was absolute agony to him. Twisting the limp shoe in his hands, Joseph swallowed the lump in his throat, feeling that the other occupant of the office was watching him, noticing how violently his hands were shaking. Several minutes later, the door was opened and a boy ushered in, blinking sleepily in the bright lights. He clung tightly to the hand of the woman beside him, her demeanor outwardly as calm as she could make it, and the guard was dismissed.
Peter Winston picked up the child and took him over to the corner, sitting on the sofa with the boy on his knee as Julia silently watched, suppressing her anxiety and wondering what was going to happen now. Winston smoothed the messy hair and smiled into the small face, nodding towards the other man.
"Who's that, Peter?"
The boy, awake in an instant, gazed at the man for a second, his mother's warnings ringing in his ears. He cast a surreptitious glance up at the woman, who shook her head slightly, before turning back to the man who held him. "Joseph," he replied carefully.
"Did your Mommy tell you to call him that?" the head of security suggested, casting a sympathetic look in the woman's direction, eyeing the bruising around her neck and a large lump above her right eye, as the child nodded slowly.
Peter Winston lowered his voice slightly, bringing his mouth closer to the boy's ear. "What would you like to call him, just tonight, as a special treat?"
The boy's eyes were sad as he gazed at the man sitting in the other chair, his shoulders bent. He glanced at his mother again, who, by this time, had developed some understanding of where the situation was going and nodded. The child's eyes brimmed as he looked back at his father.
"Daddy," he whispered tearfully.
The blond man smiled, setting the boy on the floor, and gave him a gentle push in the direction of the other man. "Go on, Peter," he urged. "Only for tonight."
After a backward glance at his mother for confirmation, the child approached his father. The head of security stood up and placed a gentle hand on the woman's arm before going over to lock the door of the office. Turning back, he saw that Joseph had hesitantly reached out to the child, but, before his hand made actual contact, the healer snatched it back, staring from Peter to Julia as if unable to recognize them. Winston walked over and picked up the boy, placing him on the man's knee.
"This is your son, Joseph," he urged gently, seeing the tears glistening in the other man's eyes. "It might be the only time for a while that you can show how you feel about him. I can't give you long, but I can give you something to hold on to, something to remember in the hardest times. And one day, maybe all this will be over, and you can make a real home for him together."
The tears slid down Joseph's face as he clutched the boy to him, feeling the small arms wrapping themselves around his neck and the multitude of damp kisses that adorned his cheeks and neck. For a moment, the man buried his face in the boy's shoulder before looking up at the woman who stood beside him. As their eyes met, Julia sank to her knees beside the chair, feeling Joseph's arm pass around her shoulders as she wiped the tears from his face with a gentle hand, stroking their son's hair with the other. Peter Winston straightened up and watched the tender scene for a moment, before turning to his desk and trying to concentrate on his work.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle walked into the office after his brief visit to Donoterase, picking up the envelope from the flat surface, slitting the top and letting the eight photos slide out onto the desk. Sinking into the chair, he took up the first, eyeing the corpse that lay in a bloodied heap on the floor of a room, the huge wounds on her torso showing her long, slow death with the murder weapon clearly visible: a large blood-covered butcher's knife lay on the floor next to the dead woman's body.
"Messy, isn't it, Boss?"
Looking up, Lyle saw Valentine leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded over his chest, and picked up a photo, waving it in his direction.
"So why did I get these works of art?"
"Maybe whoever killed Eve thought you should see them. You probably ought to see this too." Valentine took a DSA from his pocket; one that he had found months earlier in Miss Parker's office. Walking over to the desk, he set up the player he carried in his other hand. Stepping back, Valentine again crossed his arms, eyes gleaming as he watched Lyle's reaction to the revelations contained in the DSA.
Lyle silently watched the short interview, his eyes widening only briefly at the proof of his father's infidelity. Knowing that Valentine had shown him the DSA to see his reaction, he firmly cleared his face of expression before watching the rest of the disk. After it finished, he took it out and slipped it into his jacket pocket, giving Valentine a curt nod.
"So what do we know about Eve's death? Any clues on the killer?"
"Well, the cleaner team should put in a report tomorrow morning." Valentine leaned forward and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "But the word going around SIS is that the killer could be close. Really close. Maybe even close enough to touch."
Nodding again, Lyle watched the man strolling out of the office. As soon as the door had shut, he pulled the disk from his pocket, inserting it once more into the DSA player and then starting it up. One line caught his attention.
"There's a couple in Kansas already waiting."
Casting his mind back, Lyle recalled a conversation with his father from almost two years earlier.
"You were supposed to go to Kansas, to a couple I trusted to raise you. Raines was responsible for putting you in that nuthouse."
Lyle's eyes narrowed and he held a short war within himself as to the authenticity of this DSA. He'd been told, from the time even before being brought to the Centre, that Mr. Parker himself had been the cause of him being sent to the two nutcases who had raised him. But that had been a fabrication designed to get his cooperation, from a man who had only ever told the truth when it suited him, and lied when he pleased. A gut feeling told him that his suspicions were right, that this DSA was accurate, that he was the subject of their discussion and that he was not Catherine Parker's son, although he had always known this to be the case.
But if he was Eve's son instead
He sank back in the chair, staring blankly at the DSA that he had frozen on the final scene on the disk, that of his father and real mother happily embracing. His swap of the lab results several years earlier had gone undetected and had given him what he wanted at the time - a place where he would be safe from any repercussions by unhappy former partners, such as the Yakuza. It had also given him undreamt-of power. This disk proved that not only was he really a Parker, and so a natural heir to his father, but that his supposed twin sister was not, and that would put her way out of the running for the Chairmanship, which he had feared having to compete with her to gain.
The photos on his desk caught his eye once more, and he picked them up, gazing thoughtfully at the dead woman's face. He knew very little about Eve. Of course, she had always been in the background at the Centre, and he had sometimes seen her leaving his father's office, but he had little work in the labs and so they had rarely met. There was, of course, the time he had offered to work with her, in the hope that she might be able to find a cure or a stabilizer for Kronos I. But that had come to nothing, which was no surprise when he had found out about her tampering with his medication.
Eyeing her features, Lyle wondered if she had known about their relationship. If she had, would she still have tried to kill him, or would she have acted differently. Perhaps -- lovingly? Might she have become the mother he'd always wanted, if only she understood the connection between them?
Shaking his head, Lyle refocused on his former train of thought. He would get Valentine to run a check as soon as he had the report about Eve's death to find out who was responsible. Not from any filial loyalty, but the fact that knowing the killer's identity could keep him ahead of a possible plot on his own life
"Maybe even close enough to touch."
The words slid back into his mind and he sat bolt upright, staring at the desk surface. Their time spent together in Asia had taught him that Valentine often meant more than he was willing to say, but in this case just that one phrase had been enough. The report, Lyle was aware as he got to his feet and began to gather his things before heading home, would provide definitive evidence of a culprit for Eve's death, but that wouldn't be the real killer.
He had just walked out the door.
* * * * * * * * *
A car waited at the door of the airport when Ethan exited the building, and Jarod stood beside it, eagerly scanning the crowd. His eyes lit up at the familiar face and he leapt forward, catching his brother in a hug.
"It's great to see you," he greeted the man enthusiastically. "We should have gotten together earlier in the year." He hustled his brother into the car, which slid smoothly away from the curb as soon as the door was shut, Trevor at the wheel.
"Where is he?" Ethan asked in muted tones, looking around the car somewhat nervously, casting a wary glance at the young man seated opposite them.
"The place we're going to," Jarod told him. "I didn't want to expose Uriel to any more excitement than meeting his father."
Ethan pressed his hands together to try and prevent them from trembling, feeling sick at the word that his brother had just uttered, forgetting his concern about the stranger in the greater anxiety of his new role in life. Father. How could he be a father? He knew nothing about it and was only just able to take care of himself. Waves of depression still swept over him occasionally, and, although he was getting better at shaking them off, it was unbearable for Ethan to imagine having to show something like that to any child, let alone his own.
Surprised at his silence, Jarod glanced at Cam. The young man made a gesture attempting to explain the emotions he had detected and the Pretender nodded slowly, slipping an arm around Ethan's shoulders and squeezing gently.
"It'll be okay," he urged quietly. "We'll make it okay."
"I I don't know how to do this," Ethan admitted unevenly.
"None of us do," Jarod reminded him. "It's instinct, little brother. You've got plenty of that, and, if you should be about to make a huge mistake, I think she'd stop you before it happened."
"Are you sure?" His brother's eyes were full of fear as he looked up, and Jarod hurried to provide as much comfort as he could.
"I don't know about the voices," he reminded the man. "I don't know what you hear, what she tells you. But I do know that you want to do the right thing for your son, the same way I do." He smiled at the younger man. "We'll learn together, okay? We'll get the experts who already work with the kids to teach us what they know, and we'll know more than them, because we'll understand more about our sons than they do."
Nodding, but not really convinced, Ethan turned his head to look out of the window, staring out as the massive airport flashed past, giving way to open country with the view of the city skyline hazy in the distance.
* * * * * * * * *
"You wanted to see me, Dad?"
Mr. Parker eyed the younger man as he strolled into the office and sat down. "I've got a new job for you. Top priority. No excuses."
"You want me to find Yuri?"
"Exactly." The Chairman pushed a folder over the desk. "That information will get you started. I'll give you more as you need it, if you do."
"I've already got a high priority project," the younger Parker reminded his father. "You've said all along that Faith was the most important thing."
"Yuri ranks alongside Faith, except that I want Faith brought back alive."
I don't, Lyle thought to himself. But I'm not telling you that.
"You know, Dad, I got those photos, too." Lyle nodded towards the pile visible on the Chairman's desk. "Any idea why I they might have been sent to me, since I hardly knew Eve?"
"Yuri presumably wants to show how dangerous he is. Your sister got them as well."
Doubletalk, Lyle thought bitterly. Just like my supposed 'sister' got for years. Strange to think that I can almost empathize with her.
"There would haven't been another reason then?" Lyle prodded. "She wouldn't have a connection to me in some other way?"
"Look, son, if I thought there was anything more you needed to know, I'd tell you." The older man looked down at his paperwork. "But now I have things to do and so, no doubt, do you."
At this dismissal, Lyle nodded, getting to his feet and walking as casually out through the doorway as he had entered it. When he was gone, Mr. Parker took out the report that the cleaner team had submitted from the scene of Eve's murder. Opening it, Parker reread the conclusion.
According to what they found, there hadn't been only one killer.
All of the signs suggested there were two.
Two names provided as determined by DNA tests on evidence collected.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod walked with his half-brother into a room close to the nursery, and in which a boy had clearly been playing with a pile of building blocks. However, Uriel was already on his feet as they entered, his blue eyes fixed eagerly on the door and an expression of fervent anticipation on his face. As the younger man stepped nervously into the room, the boy gave an excited squeal and, his arms stretched wide, ran to him, bumping into his legs and squeezing with all his might. Jarod laughed, placing a hand on the younger man's shoulder to steady him, and then, after giving his brother a reassuring pat on the arm, and despite the look of concern Ethan shot him, left the room, closing the door behind him and walking to the nursery where his own son waited.
"Daddeee!" Uriel shrieked breathlessly. "Daddydaddydaddydaddydaddy!"
Feeling somewhat breathless himself, Ethan hesitated for a second before sitting down on the floor. Instantly, Uriel was in his lap, exploring the pockets of his shirt and pulling on his buttons. The man's arms curled loosely around the boy, as if afraid that holding him too hard would cause his son to break. Uriel continued to gabble eagerly for several moments before falling silent and looking up at his father.
"Mommy come, too?" he suggested hopefully.
Ethan was suddenly reminded of the end of the first phone call, when he had clearly heard Julia struck, before shaking his head.
"No," he stated slowly. "Mommy didn't come."
"Mommy hurted," the boy whimpered, his bottom lip protruding and beginning to tremble. "De bad man hurted Mommy."
Looking around helplessly and finding himself alone, Ethan realized that he was going to have to deal with this situation himself. A phrase Dr. Goetz had uttered returned to his mind with stunning clarity as he looked down into the child's face.
You have a good heart and a good mind, Ethan. You just need some confidence.
This would be his test, the man suddenly realized. His future with his son depended on it, and he also remembered the flame of protectiveness that had developed in him when first learning about this child. It rose again now, as tears appeared in Uriel's eyes, and Ethan wrapped his arms more firmly around the boy as his shoulders went back and his chin rose slightly.
"Mommy's okay, Uriel," he promised solemnly. "I talked to her and she's okay."
The boy's blue eyes looked up at him candidly, brimming with tears that had not yet fallen. Ethan nodded encouragingly.
"Really. Honest." He forced a smile. "You don't want me to have to tell her you were crying when she calls me again, do you?"
The boy's head shook vigorously from side to side as the lip receded and the tears vanished as if by magic.
"That's better," Ethan encouraged, astonishing at his own daring. "Now, what would you like us to do?"
"Daddy stay wif me?" Uriel proposed gleefully, beaming as Ethan nodded. Scrambling up out of the man's lap, he waited until his father was standing up before reaching out for his hand. Ethan nervously offered his fingers, finding himself pulled in the direction of the blocks, following his son across to the corner of the room and sitting down in front of the pile
Lyle settled in behind his desk and picked up the photo of the dead woman. As when he'd learnt the identity of his daughter, there was no emotion accompanying this revelation. The chance of using her influence to strengthen his position were now as non-existent as she was, and his lips narrowed to a straight line as he dropped the photo onto the desk, leaning back in his chair.
Interesting that his 'sister' also received copies of the photos. No doubt Valentine had sent them to her so that, as with the Steinberg murder, she would be reminded of his power. His brow furrowing into a frown, Lyle was forced to consider that her success at returning Jarod to the Centre had increased her power. No doubt finding Yuri would do the same for him, but Lyle was unhappy with the amount of knowledge she had in her present position
In fact, he was forced to reflect ruefully, her knowledge had always been substantial. She was no doubt aware of the information on Kronos I, to which her own technician had directed him, a year earlier. If her knowledge was ever allowed to supercede his own then, son of the Chairman and member of the Tower or not, his future would be limited. If his biological mother hadn't been able to stay alive by siding with him, what hope did he, Lyle, have by trying to do the same thing?
His visits to Donoterase and other places had resulted in him being left somewhat out of the loop about the projects at the Centre itself and Lyle made a firm mental decision that, from now on, that would have to change. He had no chance of success if the major details were allowed to slip past him, only to be caught by those who waited close by for him to drop the ball. His first priority, as always, was himself, but now it was also time to pay a little more attention to everyone else too.
* * * * * * * * *
Their discussion at the restaurant where they had dinner had been mundane, the same as they had generally discussed when following leads. But, at the same time, there was something different, both freedom and a sense of restraint. Neither mentioned it, but it hung between them, as did the other difficult topic of mode of address. Sticking with casual subjects was not simply a security measure in case they were being watched; it also seemed safer.
Sydney waited until they were again ensconced in the privacy of their hotel rooms before bringing up a subject that had been interesting him.
"What's between you and Peter Winston?"
Morgan tossed her head, turning away in an attempt to hide the knowing expression in her eyes and also to escape from the amusement in his. "I can't see that being any of your business. Nor on what you're basing your assumptions that there has to be anything between us."
"Oh, really?" The man arched an eyebrow. "Well, first, I've known you for years and I know what that look on your face means." His expression softened. "I saw it there for almost the whole time you and Thomas were together."
"Don't go there," she warned him quietly. "Please."
"And secondly," he continued with a nod of his head to acknowledge her plea. "I'm your father, so surely I'm allowed to have a paternal interest in what my daughter's up to, aren't I?"
She couldn't help smiling at that. A sequence of scenes flashed through her mind, the numerous times when her assumed father had uncaringly brushed her off and Sydney had been the person who had been there as a comfort. Although she hadn't ever intended to admit it to him, it meant a lot to her that somebody would bother asking how she was. His query now simply seemed like an extension of that and she was surprised at how natural it felt.
"Nothing serious," she admitted. "I knew him in Italy, so we've got something in common."
The psychiatrist raised an eyebrow. "And that's it?"
"So far," he added with a smile, his eyes dancing. "Are you going to see him again?'
"He's back in Berlin," Morgan reminded him. "It's a long way to go for a date."
"Distance is relative," he assured her. "The stronger your feelings for someone, the less far it seems."
"It's a 12-hour trip," she retorted, wrapping her hands around the mug of tea he had made for her. "That's a long time in anybody's language."
* * * * * * * * *
Jordan woke suddenly to feel the slight weight on his feet and sat up quickly, seeing Jacob's face turn to him, wide-eyed, obviously terrified of punishment. Slowly the weight lightened and Jordan realized that Jacob was gradually backing down the bed and off it towards the small bed standing in the corner. Scooting along the mattress, Jordan raised the child back up beside him, wrapping him in a corner of the blankets.
"What's the matter?" he asked gently. "Bad dream?"
Jacob's head slowly shook from side to side, his eyes still fearful, and Jordan lifted the child onto his lap.
"It's okay," he urged. "I'm not mad. Honest."
Jacob snuggled into his arms, obviously comforted by the reassurance. Jordan tightened his hold on the small body, remembering when he had wistfully seen Gabriel carried by his father and had wondered how it had felt. He didn't have to wonder now. Just as he had picked up on the child's pain when Jacob had been in Cox's cellar, so he now knew how Jacob felt in the arms that were currently wrapped around him.
After several minutes, he looked down at the child again. "So what's wrong?"
Gulping slightly with nervousness, Jacob finally spoke in a whisper. "I I'm hungry."
"Well, that's okay," the young man told him. "You're allowed to be hungry here. Let's go get you something to eat."
Straightening up, Jordan swung his legs off the bed, standing with Jacob in his arms, and carried him into the living room, remembering the discussion about Jacob's diet and knowing that several small meals a day would be the best way to counteract his malnourishment. Walking over to the kitchenette, he opened the little fridge that had been supplied for them.
"What would you like?" he asked. "Some apple? A piece of cheese? Maybe a slice of bread?"
"A midnight snack, huh?" remarked a laughing voice from behind them, and Jordan turned to find his father with Gabriel in his arms. The toddler beamed at the two boys before holding out a hand for the apple Jordan held.
"Hungwy, Daddy," he complained to Jarod. "Bwekfast now?"
"Not yet," the man remonstrated. "But maybe we could all have something to eat."
Placing the boy on the floor, he filled a small saucepan with milk and, with a wink at Jordan, got a jar of cocoa out of the cupboard. Grinning, his oldest son placed Jacob on the floor and began to core and slice the fruit as the two youngest played with a ball they found nearby.
* * * * * * * * *
Hearing a sound from the doorway, Fenigor looked up from the notes he was rereading as Cox strolled into his office.
"Don't you knock?" he snapped.
"For anybody else, yes," the doctor stated, his blue eyes gleaming with laughter. "For you, no."
"You'd better sit down," the older man stated inhospitably. "I was going to have to call you on this soon anyway. I need your input."
Pushing over the folder in which he had been taking careful notes, Fenigor swallowed the last of the cold coffee in his cup.
"Looks good, Alex," Cox remarked. "How long until we can get started?"
"A few weeks," the scientist told him, glancing at the calendar on his desk. "That's how long it will take to arrange for the surrogates, perform viability tests and all the other etceteras."
Cox placed the folder on the desk and leaned forward, placing his elbows on the flat surface in front of him and resting his chin on his linked fingers, his eyes gleaming with eagerness.
"And who will the lucky individual be?" he asked softly.
"That's pretty much up to you," the scientist retorted, leaning back in his chair. "We can either do another female -- that Evans girl was an outstanding success -- or we can try a male again to see if Echo was a genetic error or a biological one."
"Who do you have in stock?"
Pulling up a coded list, Fenigor turned the computer screen so that his companion could see it, also handing over a key so that the list could be understood.
"Well, haven't you been a busy boy?" Cox remarked dryly. Suddenly, his eye was caught by one name and he stared at the older man, whose eyes were twinkling. "How on earth did you get her ova?"
Fenigor shrugged. "Annie Raines was taken in for surgery not long before she disappeared. The surgeon was a friend of mine and was quite happy to oblige."
"Is it quite as good, though," Cox queried, "if Raines himself isn't here to find out about it?"
"Actually, it was only a personal thing that made me get it. But we can always use the ova for any males we want to clone." Fenigor nodded at the page. "Make up your mind, Cox. I've got things to do now, even if you don't."
The doctor eyed the list thoughtfully while the scientist watched, waiting for the reaction that he expected. When Cox reached the last few names, as Fenigor had predicted he would, the cold, blue eyes widened and he turned eagerly.
"Does it take any more work to do eight clones than one?"
"Well, you have to find suitable mothers, of course, preferably with no relatives to look for them when they disappear," Fenigor stated noncommittally. "The implantation process, the pregnancies -- they all take time. But, no, it's no real challenge to make the next generation of Superhumans. Not now that we know how to do it so well."
Cox smiled greedily. "And does Parker have to know?"
"He didn't know about Echo, did he? And in his deteriorating state," Fenigor broke off to chuckle, "I don't think he'd be capable of finding out."
Linking his fingers behind his head, Cox also leaned back in his chair. "It's a shame, in a way," he remarked, "that we can't use another wife. But we should have thought about that before we gave Valentine his orders."
Their restrained laughter rang out for several minutes, heard by nobody on the almost empty floor of the building, before they turned to the serious task at hand.
* * * * * * * * *
Leaving the dining hall after breakfast, Jarod saw Elizabeth about to enter a room further along the hall and increased his speed to catch her up.
"I wanted to thank you," he began, "and to apologize for my skepticism the other night."
She laughed, surreptitiously eyeing him, the nurse in her pleased at the healthy brightness of his eyes and the color in the rest of his face. "Is it helping, Jarod?"
"So much." He shook his head in amazement before his expression became thoughtful. "I don't suppose you'd consider coming along with me whenever I leave?"
Elizabeth leaned against the doorjamb and folded her arms as she shook her head. "I can't," she stated firmly. "For you, the dreams are an unpleasant side-effect of the life you had at the Centre. But for Sebastian, what I do is life or death. For Gideon, too. Surely you can understand that."
He half-smiled, nodding. "I think 'unpleasant' is a little kind, but I get what you mean."
"And can you imagine the problems if I did come?" she grinned. "Every time the sweepers turned up, you'd have to drag me out of bed, and I warn you, I get very grumpy if I'm disturbed." Her eyes danced. "That's a benefit of being here. In that sense, it really is a sanctuary. Nobody's silly enough to risk me biting their head off. Almost," she added thoughtfully.
Jarod grinned. "I'll remember not to wake you, then. And I do see your point." He pulled her into a hug. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." She returned the hug and smiled before disappearing into her room as Jarod continued down the hall to the elevator.
Sebastian stepped out of the inset doorway where he had watched the scene, about to follow the Pretender to the elevator, when Trevor brushed past him in the other direction. From the glare on the psychic's face, Sebastian knew that something was seriously wrong, but it wasn't until Trevor shot a sharp glance back his shoulder at Jarod, his glare darkening further, that the pyrokinetic picked up on his friend's jealousy. Smothering the urge to chuckle, he waited until Trevor entered the dining room before strolling to the stairwell and jogging up to the two flights to the room where Gideon was waiting for him.
* * * * * * * * *
The car pulled up outside the large farmhouse and the two occupants got out, seeing the curtain twitch on the front of the house.
"Looks like somebody's home," Morgan remarked dryly. "Not the most welcoming of people."
Sydney smiled somewhat mysteriously. "I think that depends on the visitor."
Even as he finished the sentence, the door opened and Harriet stepped out onto the veranda with a wary expression, which dissolved into a smile at her visitors.
"Ms. Tashman." The psychiatrist bowed his head slightly before placing a hand on Morgan's arm. "I believe you've already met my," he swallowed a lump in his throat, "my daughter."
The woman's eyes cleared of the last of her former wariness and there was greater warmth in her smile as she turned, offering her hand to the younger woman.
"Yes, I have," she agreed. "Morgan, I'm glad you came. Jarod called to tell us you would be here this morning."
After casting a somewhat confused glance at her father, to which he replied with a knowing smile, Morgan turned back to Harriet, nodding in agreement. "Is Merritt around?'
The girl appeared in the doorway of the house at that moment, smiling at the sight of the woman on the doorstep, but her reaction was almost the complete opposite of Harriet's. When she saw the man, the smile faded and she froze to the spot.
"It's okay," Harriet urged her. "This is a friend of mine, and Morgan's father. Dr. Ritter."
"Sydney," the man added, offering his hand, which the girl shook.
"Why don't you two go and talk?" Harriet urged. "Sydney and I have plenty to discuss."
The psychiatrist stepped away as Merritt came down the stairs of the house, and Morgan waited for the girl to join her on the path before they strolled off in the direction of the barn. Once the two young women were gone, Harriet held the door of the house open.
"Come in, Sydney."
"Thank you." He smiled, following her into the house, looking around the hallway. "Not much has changed."
"You're right," she agreed. "Like to have a look around when I put the kettle on?"
"If it's not too much trouble."
The man waited for her sign and then walked down the hall, stopping at the doorway of a room and looking in, his eyes traveling over the old furniture and even the same pictures on the walls. He ran a hand along the top of the dressing table, still as meticulously free of dust as it had been the day, more than forty years ago, when he and Catherine had come here for a weekend.
The voice made him jump as he turned to find Harriet once more behind him, offering a sealed envelope with his name in Catherine's familiar writing. His throat closed as he reached out for it, swallowing a lump in his throat as he accepted it.
"This was the last one," she told him softly. "And when I sent it to you, it was returned, so I kept it in case you ever decided to get in touch."
"I'm sorry I didn't," he told her somewhat gruffly. "But after it was over, it was painful to remember what had happened, particularly after Catherine's death."
"I can imagine." She walked with him along the hallway as he carefully and lovingly slid the letter into his shirt pocket. "I was sorry to hear about the accident, with Jacob."
"Thank you." Sydney sat down at the kitchen table. "My brother died several years ago. He went peacefully, at home with me."
The woman placed a mug of coffee in front of him and took a seat opposite. She watched as he looked around the room, picking out small details that he could remember from his earlier visit. Then the man's brown eyes swung back to her, full of curiosity.
"How did you meet Merritt?"
Harriet smiled, remembering the scene. "I was in Pennsylvania, doing some work for a church in the area, and we met at a bazaar that the church was holding. She looked so like Catherine that I couldn't help going over to talk to her. We ended up working on the same stall for the afternoon, and when it was quiet, we would just chat about things."
"If she's anything like Catherine, that wouldn't have been hard," Sydney remarked quietly, and Harriet nodded in agreement. Slowly the conversation turned from Merritt to the years that had passed since the two people had seen each other last and the memories of their mutual friend, Catherine Parker.
* * * * * * * * *
"Did you come to find out more about yourself through me?" Merritt asked the question without looking up as she sat on a straw bale in the barn and swung her legs.
"Not this time." Morgan sat opposite her. "This time, I came to tell you more about yourself."
The girl's blue eyes swung around to examine her curiously. "I already know who I am," Merritt responded flatly. "I'm you."
Morgan remained silent for a second, absorbing the calmness with which this had been said and hating to have to contradict it when the fact seemed to cause the young woman no distress. But Morgan had been lied to for most of her life and knew how bad it was. She couldn't inflict that on somebody else.
"Actually, that's not strictly true," the woman corrected. Reaching into her pocket, she produced a photo of herself and her mother, when Morgan had been about nine years old. Handing it over, she watched the girl study it intently.
"That's you and your mom?"
"Yes," Morgan agreed. "As you can see, I look now the way she did then."
Merritt suddenly looked up sharply. "Are you saying that I'm cloned from her and not you?"
Slowly nodding, Morgan saw the surprise in Merritt's eyes fade quickly, replaced by curiosity. She supposed that, having already accepted that she was cloned from one person, the revelation that it was someone else wouldn't be hard to accept.
"You told me last time we saw each other that Gabriel was your brother, but Jarod told me he was your son and why you didn't tell the truth." Merritt handed back the photo before seizing a piece of straw and beginning to tear it to pieces. "If I'm cloned from your mother, I guess that's why he called me Gamma yesterday."
Morgan's eyes filled, making her look hastily at the ground, as it hit her that her son had instantly made the connection between her mother and this girl, in the same way as he understood the connection between himself and his parents.
"Does your father know yet?" the young woman prompted, her eyes shifting warily towards the door. "You said you didn't trust him, so I guess you wouldn't want him to know that you know."
"That was the man I believed was my father, the one I described to you," Morgan replied, finding it strangely natural to tell the girl these very personal things. "The man Harriet just told you was my father is someone I trust intimately. He knows about Gabriel, yes."
"Gabriel's very cute," Merritt grinned. "He looks like Jor Jarod." The girl shot a sideways glance at the woman to see if she had heard, but Morgan's expression remained thoughtful. Instead, the girl continued with an idea that had occurred to her. "He's lucky," she remarked wistfully. "He has a mom and a dad. I don't have anybody."
Morgan glanced sharply at her, detecting the regret in the girl's tones. "You want me to be your mom, don't you?" she asked softly.
The girl's shoulders hunched nervously. "Yeah." Merritt looked up candidly, her eyes glistening. "I miss it, having someone I can depend on and ask for advice, like I used to."
Morgan moved over to sit on the bale next to the girl, feeling a thrill go through her as she put her arm around the young woman, Merritt's head coming to rest on her shoulder and an arm slipping around her waist.
"I won't be able to see you often. At least, not for a while," Morgan warned. "It's still dangerous because of the Centre, but I know you understand that threat."
"Uh huh." Merritt lifted a hand to wipe away the tears from her eyes. "I know. Jarod told me." She suddenly giggled. "I guess this kind of makes me Gabriel's sister, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does," Morgan agreed. "Not genetically, of course, but I think it would be good for both of you to try and make that sort of connection."
They sat in silence for a moment, both deep in thought, before Merritt spoke again.
The word brought Morgan to the brink of tears, but she forced them back, beginning to stroke the girl's long, brown hair.
"Can I call you sometimes?"
"Sometimes, yes, but it's better to wait until pretty late. I'm usually home from the Centre then, so they won't know. You have my cell phone number."
Nodding, Merritt's arm tightened around Morgan's waist. The woman's eye was caught by the girl's hair as it slipped through her fingers and it reminded her of the other reason for their visit. As she pulled away slightly, her daughter lifted her head, meeting her gaze steadily.
"Merritt," the woman began, gathering the girl's hands in both of hers. "I need to ask you a favor."
* * * * * * * * *
"Did you get what you wanted?" Sydney asked as they drove out of the town, heading for Blue Cove.
"Yes." Morgan nodded, thinking of the hair and cheek-cell swab in the airtight bags in her case.
"And did Merritt get what she wanted?" the psychiatrist continued, smiling at the startled look that Morgan shot at him.
"How did you know that she wanted anything?"
"I recognized the lost look in her eyes," he told her. "I've seen it in an identical pair for a long time. In fact, it's only recently that it's disappeared." He placed his hand over hers as it rested on the gear lever. "I hope it's for good."
"So do I," she murmured, blinking rapidly to clear her vision. Suddenly a thought occurred to her and she shot him another sharp look. "And how about you clear up the mystery of how you and Harriet know each other?"
He couldn't help chuckling. "I wondered when we'd get to that."
"Was it something to do with Momma?"
"Yes," he admitted softly. Resettling himself in the chair, he placed a hand on his shirt pocket to ensure that the letter was still there before continuing. "The Chairman sent your mother away to the office in New York to check on their security, at the very beginning of April, only a few days before she left for Maine. With Jacob's help, I was able to come up here and join her for that time while still apparently turning up to work on Friday and Saturday. We spent the weekend together at Harriet's farm so nobody from the Centre would realize what we were doing."
"And they never did?"
"I don't think so." Sydney stared through the windshield. "If they did, nobody ever said anything to me."
* * * * * * * * *
"So, if we arrange a meeting for eleven tomorrow morning, that will give us time "
Sebastian trailed off as he looked up from the computerized diary he had been scanning to find Trevor staring blankly at the opposite wall.
The Australian banged on the table to get his friend's attention, whistling sharply and seeing the other man blink before he focused his attention on the plan shown on the computer screen.
"Sorry," he apologized immediately. "CGB at twelve."
"That was three meetings ago," Sebastian commented somewhat acidly. "If you can't keep your mind on this, Trevor, I'll ask Ramona to do it."
"No, it it's fine."
"Could have fooled me." Leaning back in the chair, Sebastian arched an eyebrow. "Well, what is it?" He smiled at the hesitation in his friend's eyes. "Come on, confide in your ol' Uncle Sebastian. Tell him all your dirty little secrets."
"And I thought my family was weird before." Trevor rolled his eyes, throwing the computer pencil onto the table. "Just don't worry about it. I'll take a run later to clear my head. Maybe I'm getting a cold or something."
"I don't think the disease you've got is found in any medical dictionary, and I'm sure it's one Namir couldn't cure." He eyed the man, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "And you've got it bad, mate. Really bad."
Trevor shot Sebastian an exasperated look. "I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what are you talking about?"
His boss shook his head in mock-disappointment, suppressing a grin with difficulty. "A hair out of place and a wrinkle in your suit, Trev. Honestly!"
Realizing that he was being made fun of, Trevor ignored the exaggerated way in which Sebastian was rolling his eyes and looked down at the diary again. "This meeting's in Washington State. Do you want me to go up there?"
"She'll still be here when you get back," the other man reminded him, tapping the computer pencil impatiently against the top of the desk, causing various incomprehensible scribbles to appear on the screen. "I just wish you'd get it over with."
"Get what over with?" his friend demanded. "What are you talking about?"
"Cam isn't the only one whose heart flutters whenever he goes down that end of the hallway," the Aussie replied cryptically. "Yours is audible every time the elevator passes the residence floor. And as far as after breakfast this morning went, if looks could kill, we'd currently be digging a six-foot something long grave to lay Jarod out in."
Trevor folded his arms, glaring at the other man. "I have no idea what you're talk "
"I've been there, mate," Sebastian interrupted. "I remember what it's like, when you don't feel as if you can put a comprehensible sentence together in her presence, and you wonder what she's up to every minute you're not there to watch her." He grinned. "Be a normal guy, for a change. Go up there and ask Elizabeth what she feels about you. Even if she knocks you back, she'll still respect you for asking."
"And when did you become the expert on all things female?"
"Since I got this." Sebastian held up his left hand and tapped the gold band on it. "I went through it all, and not just with Sumi. I've been rejected, and it hurt, but it was better to know than wearing a hole in the carpet of my room by all the pacing that accompanied the wondering." He shot a sly grin at his friend. "It's also threatening to bankrupt my company and send me around the twist, so will you just do it?"
"I'll think about it," Trevor compromised, turning his attention back to the computer and retrieving his pencil. "Now, can we get back to this?
Sydney's visit to Angelo, immediately upon his return to the Centre, had been routine. There was little need to fear being overheard or watched down here, their activities being of interest to few, if anyone, but the psychiatrist had no way of knowing how much of the changed situation within the Centre the empath understood, so he had maintained a program in an attempt to bring a sense of continuity into the younger man's life.
Standing, he turned to the door. Angelo had been increasingly agitated during their session and the older man had decided to omit several activities that he had intended to try. Before he could leave the room, however, the empath stopped his impatient pacing and snatched up an envelope from a shelf, scampering over to push it gently into Sydney's hand.
Accepting the buff-colored envelope, the psychiatrist raised an eyebrow.
"What is this, Angelo?"
"Timmy," the empath murmured in mournful tones, trying to conceal himself in the darkest corner of the room.
Intrigued, but also concerned by both the attitude of the younger man and the name he had said, Sydney returned to his chair, dropping his folder on the table and easing open the envelope. In it was a thick sheet of paper, which he unfolded. It was, as he saw at once, a birth certificate in the name of Timothy. No last name was given. But what immediately caught Sydney's eye was that the certificate bore two pictures -- faces that had been cut out of photos. The man's gaze traveled longingly over Catherine Parker's features, feeling a lump in his throat. The events of the past few days had increased his pain at what he had lost so many years ago, and he could only hope the things he had gained would make up for that.
Thus far, the significance of the action hadn't completely sunk in, but, turning his eyes to the other picture and seeing an image of himself, Sydney suddenly realized what it meant. He looked up sharply, meeting the bright blue eyes that seemed to stand out from the shadows. Getting to his feet, he slowly approached the corner, carrying the certificate with him. Bending down, he met his son's eye, holding out the sheet.
"Angelo, did you do this?"
Raising his head, Angelo steadily met the older man's gaze, giving a firm nod. Putting out a hand to make sure he remained balanced, Sydney pointed at the two faces.
"Do you know who these people are?"
Angelo gave him a small smile, first pointing at the word 'mother' and then the photo of Catherine Parker. His index finger indicated the word 'father' and hovered over the picture of Sydney's face, taken from a recent DSA, before moving to rest gently on Sydney's chest.
The psychiatrist felt his breath catch in his throat, straightening in an effort to prevent himself from falling. With what he understood of Angelo's mental abilities, a combination of Raines' notes and his own observations, there was no way the empath could have made the connection himself. He took a closer look at the pictures, seeing, from various marks and handprints, that they had been attached to the birth certificate some time earlier, meaning that Angelo must have known the truth before either himself or the empath's sister. Although this flew directly in the face of everything he believed about Angelo's abilities, it did support several other instances, such as when Angelo had told Sydney about the Seraphim.
Thoughtfully, Sydney watched as Angelo pulled himself up onto the desk, the older man sitting in a chair so that they were on eye-level. His son met his gaze steadily, as if knowing how important this moment was and determined not to slip away mentally during it. Replacing the birth certificate in the envelope, Sydney put it in front of the younger man before looking up.
"Angelo, how long have you known this?"
For several seconds, Angelo gazed at him before snatching up the file about the experiment that Raines had performed and opening it, pointing at the date it had been done.
"How did you know?" Sydney prompted gently. "Did Raines tell you?"
There was a smile on Angelo's face as he emphatically shook his head, patting his chest with an open hand.
"Momma," he mewled softly.
Understanding dawned and Sydney closed the booklet, pushing it aside.
"She told you," he clarified. "You hear her too, just like your sister and brother do."
With another emphatic nod, Angelo curled himself up into a ball on the desk, rocking slightly, as he had been just after the experiment Raines had performed, when Catherine had rushed into the room to find him.
"That was when you first heard her," the psychiatrist murmured, half to himself. "When there was nothing else you could hear, that was when she first reached you."
The empath's eyes were clear as he looked up, recognizing the pain in the older man's heart and the guilt that was also rising rapidly, pushing aside even the anger he felt. But, as had happened so often before, there was no way for Angelo to express his understanding. The older man's eyes reflected his emotions as he stared blankly at the folder, but he looked up as Angelo straightened from his curled position, slipping off the desk and ambling over to the corner.
Sydney watched him go with a regretful sigh, believing that the moment of clarity was gone. But his son turned, holding another folder, which he put down on the desk before pulling a picture out of his pocket and placing that on top. Looking at it, Sydney was unable to restrain a gasp. It was a copy of the picture he had at the bottom of the box of the letters from Catherine. Startled, the man looked up to meet Angelo's knowing gaze as the empath again retreated to the corner.
Sydney wondered why, if she knew her son had survived and what Raines had done to him, she would have sought shelter in the home of the man who had done such a terrible thing to her child. The only explanation he could come up with was that she obviously feared her husband more, and considering what he knew of what she had suffered at Mr. Parker's hands, he didn't find that fact particularly surprising. Morgan had told him more about the night when she had seen her mother beaten, and Raines had acted as mediator. Perhaps that, too, had convinced Catherine she would be safe with him. He remembered the DSA and the words Raines had uttered, that he was only acting under orders, and not for the first time he wondered whose.
His eyes traveled over the photo and he remembered when it had been taken. He had arrived at Harriet's farm on the Saturday morning, and Catherine had appeared that afternoon, once the business at the office was completed. They had spent the afternoon together picnicking in a grove of trees near the house, and Catherine had asked Harriet to take the photo. It had been Sydney's great standby for years, and it had obviously meant just as much to Catherine, if she had given it to Angelo, which seemed likely.
"Your mother gave you this," the older man stated, suddenly understanding. "She gave it to you just before she went into the elevator. You followed her and that's how you were there to see it."
Nodding, Angelo's head sank down and Sydney had a suspicion that his blue eyes glistened with tears. Standing and scorning the use of his cane, Sydney walked over to the corner, kneeling in front of the young man and placing a hand on his shoulder. Angelo lifted his head as the tears streamed down his face, meeting the older man's gaze, before Sydney put his arms around his son's shoulders, holding him while the younger man sobbed.
* * * * * * * * *
Trevor slipped into the dark room, pausing in the doorway before making his way over to the bed. She lay on her side, head on one arm, her lips slightly parted as she slept. He brushed a strand of hair away from her face, trying to put a name to the emotions inside, but feeling that something was missing when she wasn't looking at him out of those laughing brown eyes. Several seconds passed in silence before he suddenly bent down, brushing her cheek with his lips.
Elizabeth awoke to feel warm breath on her cheek and rolled onto her back, opening her eyes to find herself staring straight into a pair of equally dark ones. She jumped as he straightened and took a hurried step away.
"What on earth are you doing?" the woman demanded.
"I nothing," Trevor muttered, heading for the door.
"I never said you had to leave," she remarked quietly, sitting up. "I only wanted to know what you were trying to do."
Trevor hesitated, indecisive, somewhere between the bed and the door, examining the floor with interest. Elizabeth watched him for a moment, finally getting out of bed and slipping on her silk bathrobe, making her way over and standing in front of him.
"Do me a favour," she proposed.
"What is it?" he muttered awkwardly.
"Show me what you did." She smiled. "I want to know if that was a dream or not."
He hesitated for a moment before giving her a hurried peck on the cheek and then lunging for the door, but Elizabeth caught his wrist, freezing the movement in an instant.
"That's not how I dreamt it," she told him. "It was more like this."
Reaching up, she slowly brought her lips towards his cheek, her breath warm on his skin, causing goose-flesh to rise on his arms, before her lips brushed against his face, feather-light, so much so that he wondered for several seconds whether she'd even done it. Withdrawing only a few inches, her whisper tickled his ear.
"I think that's what it was like, but I can't be really sure unless you show me again."
After a further hesitation, he leaned forward again, but, as his lips were about to touch her cheek, Elizabeth reached up and cradled his right cheek in the palm of her hand, turning her head so his lips made contact with hers. Trevor found himself unable to pull away as his arm slid around her waist of its own accord, drawing her gently towards him. Elizabeth's hand released its hold on his wrist and slipped around his shoulders as she leaned against him, eyes closed. He tangled the fingers of his free hand in her hair, fingers tightening around the loose curls. The rush of air from between her lips as the kiss finished was almost a regretful sigh.
"Was that how you dreamt it?" Trevor murmured, aware that he had finished the kiss before it got to the point he had dreamed about. A twinkle in her eyes suggested that she was aware of what he was thinking as she briefly considered.
"You know, I'm just not sure."
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he ran the backs of his fingers down her cheek. "Do you think, if I did it again ?"
"I hope so," she urged playfully. "Because otherwise it might drive me crazy, not knowing."
He leaned forward again, feeling her arms slide around behind his head. Trevor drew her closer, the kiss becoming somewhat more urgent, and both were slightly breathless when it ended.
"That must have been one heck of a pick-up line I used when I first saw you," the man grinned. "I only wish I could remember it so that I could sell it to all my friends."
"Most of your friends seem to be doing quite nicely on their own," Elizabeth remarked, her lips just inches from his. "How about you let them do things their way and you do them yours?"
Trevor framed her face in his hands, gazing down into her eyes. "Cupid certainly has been a very busy boy over the past few days."
"Hasn't he, though?" she murmured as his lips approached hers again. "The poor little thing must have had no sleep at all."
* * * * * * * * *
"So what else did you find about Eve's murder, Broots?"
The technician opened a folder onto the desk before sinking in the chair opposite, glancing at his boss.
"But I didn't exactly find it, Miss Parker."
She looked up at him suspiciously. "What do you mean by that?"
"It was left on my desk."
Raising an eyebrow, she looked down at the information before eyeing him again. "So who put it there?"
"I can't be sure "
"Of course you can't," she muttered before looking at him with an apologetic half-smile. "It's been a long morning. What were you going to say?"
"Well, I thought at first it was Angelo, but something made me think it wasn't. Then I found this."
He pulled a photo from his pocket and tossed it over the desk to her. Miss Parker picked it up and looked down to see Debbie asleep in bed. The time and date on the bottom of the photo revealed that it had been taken the night before. She looked up and for the first time saw the furious glint in the technician's eye.
"Who was it, Broots?" she prompted gently.
"I'm willing to bet it was Valentine," he told her, trying to swallow the anger building up inside him. "He's showing us that he's keeping an eye on all of us, that he can touch us any time he wants to. But if he so much as lays a finger on her "
Nodding as the man choked and fell silent, she looked down at the information again. After a few minutes of silence, she spoke without looking up.
"So Cox and Valentine go back quite a way."
"And there's the suggestion that they were quite close for some of that time," another voice stated from the doorway as Sydney entered. He pushed a sheet of paper across the desk and then sat down beside the technician. "It's a memo. Cox sent it to Africa, to tell Valentine how his work here in Blue Cove was going. Angelo seems to have intercepted it, because there's no record of it on the system."
"This is dated only three weeks after Cox appeared in Delaware," Miss Parker murmured as she looked at the page. Nodding, she slid the sheets into the folder Broots had given her and shut it, pushing it to one side. Picking up another folder, she offered it to Sydney.
"This is the report from the site of Eve's murder. All tests suggest that Yuri's the one who carried it out."
"You're skeptical?" Sydney suggested, recognizing her tone as he accepted the report.
"Considering he supposedly scattered hair all over the room, yes, I am. Yuri, like Jarod, isn't that stupid. But those who know about him may consider Yuri to be a convenient scapegoat. My only question is where somebody could get the material so that it could be used for that purpose." She looked at Sydney. "My job deals with the Centre only and the records I looked at suggested that no genetic samples are kept here. I know they keep sperm and ova at Pakor, but would they keep hair, too?"
"Possibly," the psychiatrist commented thoughtfully. "Samples of hair and other genetic tissues are taken from all the subjects, ostensibly to ensure that if anything happened and they were required to identify 'projects' here at the Centre, they could do so using DNA testing. They may also have had plans one day to use Yuri as a potential donor for one of the Seraphim and taken the necessary biological material from him for that."
Miss Parker nodded slowly, wondering privately if any of the children did belong to the wayward, sociopathic Pretender. "And how could someone get access to that sort of thing?"
"If a person had worked there, they would easily be able to slip in and out. No one would consider it strange." Sydney arched an eyebrow, waiting for her to understand his meaning. "And there's a person who would fit in that category very nicely."
"Fenigor," the woman agreed, nodding slowly. "And Fenigor and Cox work very closely together these days."
"And Cox and Valentine have a history," Broots finished somewhat bitterly. "So we've got a nice little trio who will all back each other up in case Mr. Parker gets suspicious of that," he tapped the report on which Miss Parker's hand was still resting, "and asks for answers."
The head of SIS looked over at the two men. "We need to find some way of anticipating his next move. We're all potentially in danger - that much is obvious."
She eyed the three envelopes containing pictures of Eve's murder and then looked over at a filing cabinet in which was stored the newspaper article about Michael Steinberg's murder several months earlier at, she was almost positive, Valentine's hands.
It seemed he was quite an expert.
And not just at physical torment. She glanced at Broots' face, still red with fury, and then turned to the photos that still lay on the desk. It suggested an intimacy with the technician's house, and she was suddenly reminded of the time when, supposedly under her orders, Broots had gone to Hogan's Alley and been confronted with an image of his daughter being held by Damon. The similarities suggested that Valentine had been responsible for both events.
"How do we anticipate someone like that?" Broots pondered, his eyes firmly fixed on the photo of his daughter and his usual nervousness replaced by a white-hot fury at the audacity of the man to take such an intimate photo of Debbie.
"First, we have to understand him and his motives." Miss Parker looked at Sydney. "I'd like you to make me a psychiatric profile. When we understand the way he thinks, we'll have a much better chance of being able to second-guess him. And maybe see if one of the pretenders can work out something."
Sydney nodded. "I'll see what I can do."
"Do you want me to see what I else I can find about him?" the technician proposed.
"Do it later, Broots," she told him gently. "Go home now and make sure Debbie's okay."
* * * * * * * * *
The man shut the car door, slipping a hand into his pocket to check that he had all that he would need. The page rustled in his pocket and he patted it as he opened the door of the apartment building and lightly ran up the first flight of stairs.
Tapping on the door, he heard the footsteps cautiously approach.
"Just a ghostly visitor," he assured her, hearing the chain released and the bolt unlocked.
The door opened and he stretched his face into his best smile, seeing the relief in the woman's eyes.
"Valentine!" she exclaimed. "You could have given me warning."
"I would have, Boss," he assured her, running a gentle finger down her cheek as she opened the door wider. "But you vanished on us without a trace, and it's taken me a while to find you. I thought it was just better to come, in case you up and vanished again."
She smiled as he chuckled, letting him in and then bolting the door behind him. "That would have depended on whether I thought they were on to you or not."
"Not unless I want them to be. You know how I am about keeping secrets." He pulled the sheet out of his pocket and tossed it onto the bed. "A report for you. I'm sure you'll find it interesting."
Clearly intrigued, she picked it up and, in so doing, turned her back on him. Valentine had the rope out of his pocket in the second it took her to realize that the page was a signed sanction with her name on it, and as she gasped the rope slid around her neck, tightening almost immediately. He pulled firmly enough that she was unable to get her fingers under it to tug it away, twisting it so that it would cut off her air as quickly as possible. When he saw that her hands had lost some of their strength and her eyes were rolling, suggesting light-headedness, he loosened the cord slightly. He wasn't read to kill her quite yet.
The semi-conscious woman slumped back against him and he lowered his mouth to the level of her ear.
"This is quite a shock for you, isn't it, Madame Director," he hissed mockingly. "And you thought the DSAs you entrusted to me, to give to the Chairman if anything happened to you, would be sooo safe. You really believed that I would come to your rescue if the situation required it. But I get a bigger bonus by sticking with my current boss than I ever could have with you, so I'm switching allegiances."
He tightened the rope a little more, hearing a faint gurgle from the woman, before loosening it yet again, allowing her to draw in another breath.
"You see, the current head of SIS came up with a very effective scheme for the part you played in the disappearance of the children, and that sanction was very easy to come by." Valentine had to chuckle again as he remembered the body of the sweeper in the alley several blocks away, where he had been ambushed. Valentine wasn't going to let anyone else do the job that had always rightfully belonged to him, particularly when such things gave him so much pleasure.
Putting his hand into his pocket he held up the first of the DSAs he had stored there, turning the object so that it glistened in the light, and then snapping it between his thumb and middle finger. A second followed, and then a third.
"One more left," he reminded the woman, whose tongue lolled out of her mouth, rapidly turning blue. "And I'll do that one just before I leave. Only, you won't be around to see it."
He tightened the rope one last time, pulling her up so that her feet left the floor, and feeling as her body slowly went limp. The process, as it always did, took several minutes, and he listened to the last of the air rattling in her lungs before there was silence.
When at last the woman's body lay on the floor, he stood over it and extracted the final DSA from the pocket of his jacket, holding it up in the light.
"You know," he told the corpse, eyeing the silver disk. "Maybe you had a point. This could come in very handy one day. I might keep it among all my other souvenirs, just in case the time should arrive when it has a use."
Chuckling, he slipped it back into his pocket, straightened his jacket and left the room, the door closing behind him with an almost soundless click.
* * * * * * * * *
Morgan noticed the envelope as soon as she entered the office. Placing the folders she carried on the desk, she sat down and picked it up, slitting the top. Pulling out the first sheet of paper, she unfolded it, her eye caught by a notation on the top of the page.
Her brow furrowing, she sat back in the chair, trying to work out how they could have provided the test results when she had sent the samples -- identified only by code numbers -- to the Centre's lab, in spite of her own misgivings. As she gazed blankly at the opposite wall, a knock on her door made her jump and she slid the page and envelope into a drawer before speaking.
Sam stepped into the office and carefully closed the door behind him before walking over to the desk.
"Did you find it?" he queried in muted tones.
The woman narrowed her eyes and pulled the page out of the drawer. "Should I presume that you were the reason the Centre labs didn't provide me with these results?"
"Yes, Miss Parker," he agreed at once. "My brother called me as I was taking them down for you and told me that he suspected someone knew what they were. Instead, he suggested I get them sent up to Saltier Labs in New York."
She raised an eyebrow. "Do you know what they are?"
"No, ma'am," he replied promptly. "Alastair didn't tell me -- in fact, I don't think he knows. Just that it was very important to you, and the results would be accurate if they went to Saltier, instead of using the Centre's facilities."
Morgan nodded thoughtfully before looking up at him again. "And why not tell me?"
"You were in a meeting and I didn't want to disturb that," came the prompt reply.
She looked down at the page again and Sam took this for a dismissal, leaving the office. When he was gone, she pulled the second page out of the envelope. The three samples -- Merritt's, Sydney's and her own -- had been provided without identification, but Morgan had worried that the Centre labs might recognize the patterns of the DNA and alert the Chairman. Sam's actions had prevented that, and she was grateful.
The first page contained the details of the process completed, including the time taken and the name of the person who had carried out the tests. The interesting part of the test came on the next page.
Heading the sheet was a diagram of the three samples, numbered according to the information she had provided, and revealing the categories that had been tested. Beneath that was a single sentence summarizing the results, and Morgan's eyes glowed as she read it.
The test proves, with an accuracy of 99.9%, that sample (3) is the offspring of samples (1) and (2).
Morgan felt tears filling her eyes as she let the page fall back onto the desk. The relief of finally having an answer, and for it to be someone as dear to her as Sydney had become, meant that she was momentarily unable to cope with the magnitude of it. Feeling one of the tears escape from her eye and begin to slide down her cheek, she rose and quickly walked into the bathroom that adjoined her office, locking the door after her.
For several minutes, she let the tears of relief flow, pacing in a contained circle in the small room, with no other way of expressing her emotions. After a while, Morgan regained her self-control and began to splash water on her face to remove her slightly less than perfect makeup. As she turned off the tap, however, a sound from the office startled her.
Morgan's breath caught in her throat as she stared at her reflection, eyes wide. Casting a frantic look around the bathroom, she saw at once that the sheet with the results wasn't in the room with her, realizing at the same instant that she had left it on the desk. Taking a soundless step across the room, she flicked off the light switch and pressed her back against the door, trying to hear if the man was still in the room, a task made more difficult as her heart pounded loudly in her ears. To her boundless relief, she heard his familiar footsteps walking to the door, the slight creak as the door opened and the dull thud as it shut behind him.
Her heart pounding in her ears, Morgan sank against the door in relief, waiting for another couple of seconds before leaving the bathroom and entering her office. A pile of folders now sat on her desk, and the woman frantically pushed them aside, her eyes immediately lighting on the page, which she snatched up in relief. Pulling the envelope out of the drawer, she rammed the sheets into it and thrust it into her bag, flinging the straps over her shoulder and selecting at random a folder as a pretext for her discussion with Sydney before leaving the office to find her father.
* * * * * * * * *
"You killed me, Parker."
He was almost used to the one voice that haunted him at odd moments but this was a chorus, three voices that spoke as one, and he looked up as he entered his office to see three female figures appear from shadows in the corners of his office.
Catherine's face was streaked with sweat as she had been on the DSA he had watched, her face still glowing with the combined effort of giving birth and the delight of the small form that she had held in her arms for such a short time. But her eyes held the terror he had seen as she had faced death in the guise of the gun that Raines had pointed at her head.
Eve's face looked as he had last seen it as she sat over the desk from him. But her body was not the same. It was no longer the curvaceous figure that he had last seen leave his office several days before. Through the gaping holes in her torso, Parker could see the office walls behind her.
And here was the third. Brigitte, her face also streaked with sweat, stood between the others, her eyes burning into him and still wearing the same blood-soaked maternity dress he had seen her dead body clad in before he walked carelessly out of the cabin and let Cox blow it up, as they had always planned.
His eyes traveled from one face to another, gradually backing away as all three began to come closer, closing in on him, hands outstretched as if reaching for his throat. Taking a step away, he watched them approach, feeling the coldness of the fingertips as the first hand was able to brush against his skin. There was a loud crash as he bumped into a table near his desk and a pile of books slid to the floor. He cast a frantic look at them before turning back to the three faces close to his.
"Mr. Chairman? Is there something wrong, sir?"
The door of his office was open and his secretary stood there, a quizzical look on her face. Parker cast a hunted look around the room, seeing that the three women had seemingly disappeared back into the shadows from whence they had come. He pulled his jacket straight, trying to regain his dignity, and took a step away from the window, against which he was pressed.
"Everything's fine," he assured her crisply, sitting down at his desk. "Nothing wrong at all."
"Well," she stated slowly, sending a concerned look in his direction, "all right, if you're sure."
When the door was closed, Parker leaned back in his chair, wiping a hand down his face to get rid of the perspiration that beaded it. It took several seconds for his heart rate to return to normal, and he had just picked up his pen when a female laugh rang in his ear and, although to his eyes the room looked empty, a cold hand slid along the back of his neck.
Extracting the letter from his pocket, Sydney placed it on the kitchen table, deliberately turning his back on it as he walked over to put the kettle on. She had promised that she would contact him at least once after she had faked her death and disappeared from the Centre, and for thirty years he had believed that she had broken that promise. Never once had he considered contacting Harriet, although she had been the person to whom they had sent their letters for each other, certain that the ex-nun would readdress them and forward them on.
Filling the mug, he turned, picking up the letter again and returning it to his pocket before making his way into the living room. Lowering himself into the armchair, he placed the cane on the floor next to him and put the mug onto a convenient small table before easing a finger under the edge of the envelope. The paper crackled loudly in the silent room, and the decades-old paste yielded quickly to his eager pressure, opening to reveal the white paper inside.
Sliding out the page, he unfolded the letter carefully, concerned in case the sheet fell apart, but it unfolded with obliging ease. For a moment, his eyes simply savored the writing, appreciating the smooth lines of her script, before donning his reading glasses and beginning Catherine's final letter to the man she had loved.
4th October, 1970
My dearest Sydney,
It is now almost six months since we last saw each other -- time no doubt worse for you because of your uncertainty about me. As promised, I write to you now from the refuge I have managed to find from those who wanted to kill me. You would perhaps, should you know my location, find the term 'refuge' rather ironic, but I only hope that it will remain such for me. The role I am playing in the Mirage project is drawing to a close, and I can only see two results from it.
One is that I shall soon be able to come back and we'll take Jarod, Angelo and my daughter away to a safe place where we will never hear the word 'Centre' again. Be assured that in such a circumstance you could have your dream of a family of your own fulfilled, more than you could ever imagine. You are still as dear to me as you ever were, and had not the danger at the time been too great to ignore, I know that we could happily have lived the rest of our lives together. With God's help, we may still have that chance.
But should I never return, as I sometimes fear may be more likely, I beg you to do your utmost to save the three children who need it most. I ask you to be a friend to my daughter, in a place where she will have very few of those. Protect her, care for her as you would your own daughter. Believe her to be so if it will help you to do everything you can for her. Keep yourself safe, Sydney, so you can also protect those helpless children.
As everything is so uncertain, I can say nothing more definite to you at present, except that I feel St. Christopher watching over me. I pray this journey will one day come to an end so that we can be together again, if not here on earth then in some better place. Trust in that and pray for me.
My love forever,
Sydney's eyes were wet when he looked up, but he brushed away the first tear before it could fall. Standing, he left the letter beside his mug and walked to the cupboard where he stored the precious box of her letters, carrying it back to his chair. Removing the photo of himself, Catherine and baby Morgan, he placed it on the mantel, whereon already stood a photo of Nicholas and Michelle. Going into his bedroom, he brought out the photo of Jacob and Alexis, placing it beside that of his son.
Taking the photo from the bottom of the box, he went to the hallway and opened his briefcase, removing a box that his daughter had given him that afternoon and sliding out the frame inside it. The picture was a perfect fit, and he stood it beside the trio of himself, the woman he had loved and their daughter. Standing back, he eyed the layout, safe in the knowledge that the only people who would see the photos were those who had most to do with them, namely his daughter and his niece.
Returning to his chair, he picked up the photo again, wishing with all his heart that Catherine had felt safe enough to tell him the truth but understanding why she had not. Returning the page to its envelope, he brought it briefly to his lips before picking up the pile of letters that lay beside the now-empty box, slipping the most recent envelope under the band and putting the bundle back into the box, which he put on the floor. With a feeling of contentment, he sat back in the chair, looking up at the photos of his family and sipping his coffee.