Blood Will Tell

 

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Truth or Consequences, NM

Eagle Mountain Bank was her first stop. Jarod hadn't given her the extra key, but the bank had it in an envelope in the rental file, along with a copy of her signature that the Pretender had either stolen or forged, and a photograph of her for identification purposes.

The diary was the only thing inside the box. She took it, stuffed it into her purse and left as quickly as she could, returning to the hotel room she had rented for her overnight stay. Morning would have her on a plane back to Delaware, and she would read the whole thing on the way.

She couldn't wait, though, and ordered room service while she scanned the first page. She smiled as she read about Catherine's courtship with Parker, and the handful of entries during the first years of their marriage. The new wore off quickly, as Parker revealed himself to be self-centered and demanding. There were entries that alluded to problems at the Centre, but never went into specific detail.

Then, three years before Morgan's birth, something drastic happened that forever changed her marriage. Because of her strong Catholic beliefs and her work at the Centre, there was no way out of the relationship. She talked about her sister, and how Dorothy encouraged her to get away, to clear her head. That's when she made her first trip to Lake Catherine, Maine. Her first visit to Ben Miller's inn was an accidental stop on her way to visit her sister, but she felt so comfortable with the man that she promised herself to return.

Morgan already knew about those annual trips, and Jarod had suggested that Miller might be a candidate for her father. She knew that her mother wasn't the type to sleep around. If she had found a lover, he would have been the only one in her life.

Exhaustion kicked in, and she reluctantly gave in to it. Tucking the diary under her pillow with her pistol, she turned off the bedside lamp and sighed into sleep. The answer could wait until tomorrow, and if she didn't get what she wanted in the diary, there were other ways she could discover the truth. All she needed was time.

* * * * * * * * *

The window slid open, and through it came a soundless shadow. It eased lightly into the tub, stepped carefully over the side and listened. In the dark, it was easy to hear the smallest sound. The hum of an air conditioner turned down low took a little filtering out, but then a soft sigh issued from the next room, a sound of sleep.

The shadow moved into the dressing room, ignoring the reflection of his black shape as he took another silent step toward the bed. Just enough light came through the nondescript white hotel curtains that he could see the outline of her body beneath the sheets, blankets thrown over the end of the bed. Soft skin gleamed on her shoulders, chest and face. Her eyes were closed and scrubbed free of makeup. There was such beauty in her face, but no peace.

Valentine smiled. He stood over her, watching her sleep, appreciating the curves of her womanly form, the curtain of her long dark hair over the pillow. He would enjoy her soon enough. This was just a foretaste, a tease to keep him stimulated while he waited for just the right moment to advance. She had resisted him so far, but he knew some of her weaknesses now, like the perfume he had left on her desk. He would learn other, more important ways to get into her psyche, as well. He would make her come to him, make her dance and scream. She was made for that.

He bent low over her hair. Slowly, silently so she wouldn't hear, he inhaled her fragrance. And then he turned and went back out the way he had come in. Lyle had said he couldn't touch her, that she was off limits. Lyle was his boss.

But he wasn't the boss.

Valentine could do what he pleased, as long as he pleased the one who mattered.

* * * * * * * * *

Lake Catherine

Ben Miller was away when Miss Parker arrived, but the woman keeping the house for him during his vacation, Mrs. Beth-Ann Hodgins, recognized her from the pictures and let her into the inn. Parker went straight to her mother's room, to the cedar chest where she had found the envelope marked 'Rescued' that her mother had left behind. She sat on the bed and looked through the birth certificates and adoption contracts until she found the one she had come to locate.

The baby wasn't named -- 'female' was all that was marked where a name should have been written -- but the mother's name was Alexis Moore, and the father's was Jacob Ritter. There was a small photograph of the newborn attached to the birth certificate, but no other documentation that might have shed more light on where she went after Catherine took her away.

She sighed, and reached for a stack of the other papers, intending to put them back into the envelope.

Find them, Morgan.

The young man whose baby picture she had in her hand was nearly 30 years old now. She had no way of knowing whether the name on the birth certificate was the name the man now wore, or his original name which would have been changed after adoption or placement with a family for safekeeping from the Centre. But she could not let go of the papers.

"Why?" she murmured, staring at the baby's pink face. She closed her eyes, concentrating, searching for that quiet place in her heart that was her mother's legacy. Tell me why I need to find them, Mama.

You need them, and they need you. They need to know where they came from.

She sighed, and bent her head, clasping the papers and pictures to her chest. That was a journey she didn't want to make, didn't even know where to start. But as much as she let the thoughts cross her mind, she felt the answering warmth of her mother's spirit.

"I will, Mama. I'll find them."

No one will understand like they do, sweetheart.

She nodded, opened her eyes and went out to her car to fetch her laptop. She borrowed Ben's scanner for the photos, but took the time to type in the records rather than taking any of the papers with her. They were too valuable to have at home or in her office -- if the Chairman got suspicious and instituted a search of her things, she didn't want those to be found.

As soon as she got back to the Centre, she'd write the files to a DSA for Broots to begin working on, looking for clues to what might have become of the children, and what had been done with them while they were in the Centre. She needed every scrap of information she could find on them to be able to know where to start looking for them, but she knew that she was going to have to depend heavily on the slowly developing inner sense that was her mother's legacy.

Just as she picked up the last stack of papers, she glanced at the one on top.

Dara.

That was one she knew something about, but she'd have to check her personal notes to remember everything about the conversation she'd had with Dara's adoptive mother. There was something significant about that one that she needed to begin the search, but she couldn't quite pin down exactly what it was. That, too, would come in time.

She placed the envelope back into the cedar chest, gave the room a fond farewell, and smiled at her mother's photograph as she went to thank Mrs. Hodgins for her hospitality.

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney's home

The day had been long and tiring. It was late, and the Belgian was already in his pajamas, but there was one more thing that needed to be done before he could sleep. He pulled the box from the shopping bag he'd brought home with him earlier, and took out a heavy antique silver picture frame. The velvet covered back was hinged to allow access to the glass, and he carefully placed the photograph of Jacob and Alexis into it. Securing it, he turned it over in his hands to look at them.

They made a lovely couple. He could see how much his brother cared for her in his expression, in the way his arms wound around her slender waist. Sydney touched the glass, tracing over the faces thoughtfully.

"She's safe, Jacob," he told the picture. "Your baby is out there somewhere, all grown up. And one day, I'm going to find her for you, and tell her all about you." He sighed. "I only wish I'd known Alexis better. You should have told me."

Sydney chided himself for thinking such things. He had known, all along, somewhere deep in his soul, in that unfathomable connection he shared with his twin. He had also been struggling with the same issues regarding the children, wanting answers the Centre was unwilling to give. But unlike his brother, he had turned away from the unsettling questions, the answers that didn't quite add up, and in the end, he had done nothing to help those children, or his brother.

All that was ancient history, and no power on earth could change what had happened to each of them.

Sydney carried the photograph to his bedroom, took the photograph of himself and Jacob from its normal resting place on the nightstand, and replaced it with the new picture. This was how he wanted to remember Jacob, smiling and deeply in love. This was the first thing he would see when he awakened in the mornings, and one day, there would be another photograph to fill the empty space on the left side of the frame, a photograph of a young woman whose face Sydney had never seen.

He stretched himself out under the covers and closed his eyes, letting his mind relax and wind down from the long day. Sleep crept up on him slowly, and a vision presented itself to lead him into dreams. The faces were familiar, and reminded him that it had been too long. He would call or write a letter soon to Nicholas and Michelle, and one day he hoped that they would all be free from the shadow of the Centre.

And he hoped he would still be alive to see it.

* * * * * * * * *

Nursery, Room 14

Angelo watched the child through the grate. She was small and blonde, and for the moment, all alone in the room. She cuddled a soft cloth doll close to her, the one she was almost never without except at bath time. She rocked herself gently, clutching the doll to her chest, and hummed.

She wasn't aware of him just yet, but as soon as he moved to unfasten the screws holding the grate closed, she flinched and ran for the corner, cowering behind a large floor pillow.

She started to cry, tears streaming silently down her chubby cheeks, big blue eyes wide and frightened, not a sound coming out of her except for tense, shallow breathing.

Angelo pushed the vent open and slipped slowly out, keeping his eyes on her all the time. He wasn't sure what he should do, but she was so sad, and so afraid. He could feel it, pounding against him like tiny fists. He squatted down on all fours and hummed the same tune she had been creating a moment earlier.

"Angelique." He pointed at her, then at himself. "Angelo."

The child cowered further down behind the pillow.

"It's okay," he promised, and smiled. "Feel me." He closed his eyes and remembered how her sadness had touched him, how her unhappiness called to him from the depths of the Centre. She had been better since Jarod had come to her and started working with the children, but the connection between them still called to him. "Had to come. For you."

She stood up cautiously, peering at him from over the top of the pillow. Her anguish subsided slightly, as curiosity blossomed inside her. He could sense it, that tentative opening of herself, wondering if he would hurt her as so many others had.

He opened his eyes and stared at the floor in front of the pillow, rather than directly at her. She was so beautiful, so precious, so fragile of spirit. He knew who she was, how she had come to be. She was part of Faith. And she was part of him. He could not help but love her. His eyes filled with tears as he let that sensation radiate from him, like sunshine on a cloudless summer day, endlessly warm and pleasant. She needed to know that she was loved, that she belonged to him, was part of him.

Angelique dropped her doll, tiny mouth hanging open now as she stared at him. She took a step away from the pillow and let it fall. Then she took another step, away from the corner. And then she was running, flying across the room toward him, arms outstretched, her cherubic face filled with grief and fear and need.

His arms opened and he let her crash fully into him, knocking him onto his butt as he embraced her fiercely.

"Baby sad," he sobbed.

"Not sad," she sniffed against his neck. "Got my Angel now."

"Got Angel always. Inside."

* * * * * * * * *

The West End
Dallas, Texas

It seemed to Mimi that Sanctuary was nothing more than a prison. She was tired of staying in her room, tired of the weirdos that her boyfriend called friends, tired of being "looked after" all the time. Just for a little while, she wanted to get away. Dallas was a big enough place to get lost, and with the cash she stole from her knight in black leather, she could have a good time indeed.

A taxi took her to the hottest dance club in the city, and she got in with no trouble. The lights and the noise, the bodies in motion, grinding against one another with impersonal abandon, all of it was exactly what she needed. All she had to do was step out onto the floor, and there would be someone to take her mind off her troubles and her recent captivity. She wouldn't be smothered anymore.

Maybe, if she got lucky, she wouldn't even go back to him and his oddball friends.

She saw the guy in the balcony eyeing her right away, but ignored him. He had the look of money, with a well-cut white suit, his jet-black hair pulled back into a ponytail. A neatly trimmed beard and mustache framed just his mouth, his jaws clean-shaven. He was pretty in a masculine sort of way, and looked tall. And he never took his smoky dark eyes off her while she danced.

An hour later, she was sitting in his lap on the balcony, a drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. He promised a lot without saying a word, and when he paid the check with a wad of cash, she followed him outside into the night. He had a limo and a driver waiting, and she smiled broadly as she got into the back with him, ready for anything.

* * * * * * * * *

He stood on the street corner, a light drizzle of rain dampening his platinum blonde hair and beading up on his leather coat. Across the street, a line of yellow crime scene tape had been stretched across an alley. Police cars blocked most of the street, and uniformed officers directed traffic through the narrow opening that was left. A coroner's van was parked on the sidewalk, and he could see them pushing the gurney toward the open doors.

The body was concealed in a black plastic bag, but he knew without looking inside that it was Mimi. He had tracked her that far, but he was too late. For one moment he had let his attention slip, concentrated on a different aspect of his responsibility to her, and she took that moment to escape.

He had known she was restless. He saw that the others gave her the willies, but he had counted on her trying to settle in with them. Only she hadn't wanted to do that. And while he was distracted with his medical research into a treatment for her, she made plain what was most important to her.

He didn't blame her for wanting her freedom. But it didn't make his pain any less. He had failed her, and that was all that mattered.

That, and tracking down her killer. He was very good at that sort of thing. And when he found the man who had taken the light from his life, he would reveal what true darkness really was to Mimi's murderer.

* * * * * * * * *

Blue Cove Cemetery

The sun was shining in a cloudless azure sky, and a light breeze had picked up, taking away the heat of the Indian summer. Man and woman strolled together over the neatly trimmed grass without speaking. She led the way, walking the path by memory from the front gates.

They came to a stop in front of a large marble headstone that read, Catherine Parker.

"I knew I remembered that name from somewhere," Miss Parker mused, her gaze shifting to the headstone just to the left of her mother's.

It read simply, Alexis Moore, 1937-1968.

"You haven't been here for a while," Sydney observed.

Parker shrugged. "I figured, what's the point, since I know my mother's not in there?"

Sydney squatted down and placed a bouquet of white roses and gardenias on Alexis's grave. "The point is remembering. Paying homage."

The woman smiled, and patted her chest, tears gleaming in her eyes and then blinked away. "I have her in here, Sydney. I don't need a grave to put flowers on in order to remember her. She's in my blood, in my soul. She'll always be a part of me."

He nodded and pressed to his feet. "Thank you for remembering this for me. I only wish..."

He didn't have to finish the sentence for Parker to know what he meant. Jacob and Alexis should have been buried together, and would have been, if Sydney had known about the relationship and where Alexis had been laid to rest when his brother died. There was nothing to be done about it now, so she touched him briefly on the shoulder and left him to return to her car and the drive home.

"Good luck, Sydney," she whispered as she glanced at him out the passenger window. He hadn't said anything, but Broots had told her the whole story, showed her the DSAs and everything. She knew what his next move would be, and she hoped he found his niece. It would be a way to touch his brother again, just for a moment.

Angelo.

He had their mother's eyes, only she had never seen it until after she knew for sure that he was her twin. He had the inner sense that Raines warped into that phenomenal empathic ability, and Lyle hadn't exhibited even a flicker of that talent. Angelo was her mother's legacy, as much as she was herself. There was so much to make up for, so much lost between them, and the best time to start was now. As she drove home, she thought about all the things she'd like to do for him, and made a mental list. He needed so little, and had such an enjoyment of small things.

First thing in the morning, she was going to stop by the store on the way home, and buy every box of Cracker Jack on the shelf.

Angelo was going to get a birthday present, even though their birthday was still months off. She was going to give him a party with just the two of them, take him to the park and let him play on the swings, maybe even go to the circus, if he could handle being out among that many people. She would be kind to him, and she would learn to love him. He belonged to her, after all.

She couldn't tell him, not as long as the Chairman was in power, but one day Angelo would know the truth. And she would see to it that he was never mistreated again. Raines was no longer his master, but she didn't know for sure who had control of the empath at the moment. Soon, though, no one would be ordering him around but her. She would protect him, for as long as she could. To do that, she would have to be strong.

And God help anybody who got in her way.

* * * * * * * * *

Chairman's Office

Parker's eyes roved over the reports unhappily. Some of the shadow corporations were in serious jeopardy. Financial assets had virtually disappeared, but they didn't have Jarod's usual signature to label them as his thefts. Key people had resigned, taken ill or died of late; far too many to be mere coincidence. Something unpleasant was afoot, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

Some of his best people were working on the problem. Initial reports had come up with some interesting hypotheses, not the least of which was the development of a rival corporation centered in the heart of what was once the Soviet Union. There was even an indication that some of those who had voluntarily left their positions had joined up with this upstart think tank, and something was going to have to be done about it. Already plans were underway to develop intelligence on who they were and what they had up their sleeves.

But there was another, even more disturbing possibility that Parker didn't want to consider. He had the Shiva file on his desk, had looked through it more than once, and each time convinced himself that it was not possible. The Shiva Project was dead.

In the Centre, however, things tended not to stay that way.

He pulled the folder back before him with a sigh, opened it up, and began to read it all over again, feeling the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he read the first protocol.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
The Pretoriat
Boer City, South Africa

The jacaranda trees were in full bloom, painting the cosmopolitan city in shades of lavender and green. David stopped outside the doorway of the white stone building, briefcase in hand, gripping the handle tightly. He hated that place, hated what it stood for, what it had become, but still he followed his own footsteps there every day, beating a path between the Centre and his home in the hills. Taking a last breath of free air, it was all he could do to force himself into the arched, brass edged doorway, past the identification checkpoint and into the elevator. After that, it had him and his reservations were temporarily conquered, buried under layers of guilt, built up over 30 years of work. His blonde hair was now liberally streaked with white, mute testament to how much of himself he had put into the job, but his sapphire eyes were as clear and intense as the day he had started, fresh from the university. There were lines around his eyes, but he hardly looked like he'd survived five decades of toil, most of them buried in the depths of that place, conducting unspeakable experiments upon his innocent young subjects.

He had been with the Centre a long time, and had seen Triumvirate Station shift from its beginnings in Germany, to a long spell in Boer City, and now to the upstart Delaware facility. For years the Americans had been producing better, faster results in the development of the project, and now, because of their apparent success, they had earned the right to pilot the research the rest of the way to completion. He had worked long and hard to keep Mutumbo pleased, but Parker had outstripped them all with the talent he had procured in America.

David sat down at his desk, unloaded his briefcase and put the files he'd been working on at home onto his blotter. There were messages waiting in his computer and voice mailbox, but he hesitated before diving into the day's work. He had someone on his mind, and couldn't bear seeing her. The practice run Kruger ordered the day before had been awful, and the girl was recovering in the infirmary, but she would never be the same. Terrible burns covered most of her body, including her pretty face. Though she had the pyrokinetic talent, she lacked control in its use, and forcing her to test her limits in the trial yesterday had nearly killed her.

He buried his head in his hands. "No more," he breathed, his perfectly cultured British accent husky with unshed tears. "Heaven help us all."

A sound in the hallway just outside his office made him glance up.

Two blonde men in suits pushed the door open in his dimly lit office, and the taller one flipped the overhead light switch to brighten the room. Mr. Kruger made himself at home in the guest chair, while Mr. Voorhees stood patiently behind him. David squinted at the brightness and frowned at his boss.

"You know too much light hurts my eyes, sir," David growled unhappily. He reached into his jacket pocket for his sunglasses, and put them on.

"You need to get used to it," Kruger assured him with a grin. "That which does not kill us makes us stronger, yes?" His Americanized English was liberally tinged with native German inflections. "We have good news. The debacle yesterday with your pyrokinetic -- we have a use for her that will end her suffering."

David's head came up. He sat straight up in the chair, his forearms and nape prickling with gooseflesh in anticipation of the orders. This was not good.

A large black man with a scarred face came into the room. Dressed impeccably in an Italian suit, his expression was one of superiority, assured of his own power. Tshwane was a cleaner, known for his intelligence as well as his brawn. He stood behind Kruger, making plain to David that no protest would be tolerated.

"Jah, it seems you've guessed it. Tshwane will take Ella to a specific location, where she will then ignite--"

David leaped to his feet. "No! She's much too injured to travel, Mr. Kruger. Moving her would be sheer torture. I forbid it."

Kruger's expression collapsed in total shock. Then he grinned, slapped his knee, sat back in the chair and laughed. "You forbid it! And who do you think you are, herr doktor? You are not the one to give orders here." He snapped his fingers toward the man standing behind him. "Tell him, Mr. Voorhees."

The other man spoke clearly, his British origins also readily apparent. "Ella will be given a strong pain killer that will make her comfortable enough to travel. She'll barely be conscious. Once we have her in place, the medication will wear off rapidly. When the level of pain becomes intolerable, she will no doubt ignite, literally becoming a timed incendiary device." He swallowed hard as he finished speaking, and shifted his gaze guiltily to the floor.

David stared at him. Neither of them had ever spoken of their feelings toward their work, but it had been obvious in Voorhees' eyes that this assignment made him ill. He could not make eye contact, and added, "It will be best for Ella to go quickly. Without this, she faces a long and painful recovery, and people will react to her in horror for the rest of her life. This will be... almost a blessing, ending it now." His voice had softened with compassion at the end.

Taking a slow breath, David shook his head, his lips pressed firmly together. Then he sighed in defeat. "Will I be required to give her orders before she leaves?"

"No," said Kruger. "Just confirm Vorhees' theory, and you will never have to look your failure in the eye again."

"My failure? My failure!" David choked on the swell of rage that suddenly bubbled up inside him. He clenched his fists on the desk, wanting desperately to set Kruger straight, knowing he dared not do so and live. Kruger was far more dangerous than Mutumbo had ever been, and David knew it. Quickly, he strangled his anger, cramming it down into its usual prison at the roots of his soul. Professional demeanor was the key to survival in the Centre. He sat back down in his chair, his back stiff, his tall body tense with unspoken protest. "Is there anything else, Herr Kruger?"

The German stood, and straightened his expensive black suit. "That will be all, David. Close out Ella's files and take further work with her off your schedule. If you need another project to fill your day, we can certainly find something for you to do." He strolled toward the door. "Come, Voorhees. Mr. Tshwane, you know where to take our little firecracker."

Tshwane gave a single elegant nod, and led Kruger out into the corridor.

Voorhees stared at David for a moment. He started to open his mouth, closed it firmly and turned away. Then he turned back. "I'm sorry, David. I know you liked her."

David nodded, and rested his head in his hands again. "She's only 17," he whispered. "She hasn't even lived yet."

He forced himself back to work, as he always did, when tragedy struck his subjects. He had done his very best through the years to blunt as much of the trauma for them as possible, but he didn't always succeed, couldn't always take away their pain or shield them from the dangers inherent in the research. The suffering was becoming too much for him, and something was going to have to give or he'd end up leaping off a tall building.

Punching in the code on his telephone that allowed him to retrieve his voice messages, he sat with pen and paper to take down any necessary information or requests for future action. The first three were from his staff regarding current research projects. The next one, however, was strange indeed.

It was a long distance call, by the sound of the static in the background. The voice was American male, gruff and raspy, but not one he recognized right away. He listened to it twice before requesting from Pretoriat SIS that the origin of the call be traced via phone records. Then he listened to it again.

"I know what you're doing. You can't beat us. We're the ones who did it. We succeeded, when you failed. But you've got to watch your backs now. Shiva's coming to destroy us all, and the ghosts won't leave me alone."

Hours later, SIS confirmed that the call had come from the new Triumvirate Station in Delaware, but a specific telephone extension could not be determined. There was something familiar about the voice, but he couldn't quite place it. Whoever it was sounded slightly unhinged.

David decided not to investigate further unless the caller contacted him again, and chalked it up to the damage the Centre had done to some unfortunate soul who happened to get too close to a telephone.

End of Episode
Blood Will Tell

 
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