New York City
"Pleasant night, sir?" Martin asked as he stepped into the
suite the next morning.
"Excellent," Jarod assured him, though that was far from the
truth. The demons were back to torment him nightly, stronger now than
they had ever been. "Ready to start a busy day."
"Your assistant arrived only moments ago. Were settling her
in her quarters and will show her up shortly.
"Excellent." Jarod was curious about this particular woman.
She came highly recommended by an old friend, one who assured him that
she would be discreet about Jarods assumed identity.
Martin gave him a smart bow and stepped out of the room. "Ms. Destry,"
he announced, stepped aside to allow her in, and retreated quickly, pulling
the door closed behind him.
Jarod smiled with approval and offered his hand. Dr. Fowkes said
you knew Wall Street better than anyone. He appraised the womans
appearance -- sixtyish and graying but well preserved, dressed in a conservative
power suit and sensible shoes, this woman moved with a sense of assurance
and straight-forwardness that Jarod liked immediately.
Jean Destry shook his hand and studied him over the tops of her Ben Franklin
glasses. Daniel said I was to treat you like an heir to the throne,
she returned. That I was to do whatever you wanted, no questions
asked. Thats not usually how I operate, but I trust him. He said
you helped him with a dire situation, and that whatever you were up to
here, it was to help someone who needed it. Is that right?
Im not sure. Just checking into things at the moment, but
it could certainly develop into that.
She nodded. Ive been checking over your portfolio. Very impressive...
He chuckled, and rubbed his chin. I seem to have a talent for making
money whenever I want it.
But you dont spend much of it, that I can tell. No real estate
holdings, no corporate interests. No personal history
left that hanging, as if hoping he would fill her in on his own.
Instead, he gazed at her from beneath his dark brows and offered a secretive
smile. Having a past erased so well is a very expensive thing.
That would confuse her, threaten her a little, and make her less interested
in digging. Hopefully, she would leave the subject alone and simply go
on Dr. Daniel Fowkes recommendation that he was to be trusted implicitly.
But if she did start snooping, he had answers for that, too. Lets
get down to business, shall we, Ms. Destry? I want an appointment with
Angus MacCaffrey. His company needs a transfusion, and I may just be inclined
to give him one.
Of course, sir. Ill get right on it.
* * * * * * * * *
They were everywhere, spying on him.
Mr. Parker stood by the window, looking out at the green lawn, the cliffs
and the ocean. People walked from the building to the parking lot and
from their cars to the building, few of them glancing up at the tower
where his office presided over the landscape, but he knew they were watching
Nervously, he glanced around the room, wishing he could see the surveillance
devices he was certain had been planted sometime recently. They were watching
him, waiting for him to slip up, waiting for the backlash of Fountain.
He could feel it.
He turned back to the window for a moment, then stepped back toward the
desk to return to work.
He glanced up at the familiar voice, touched with an otherworldly echo.
Catherine was standing there yet again, bruised and battered as she had
been that awful Thanksgiving four months before he'd had her implanted
with Major Charles's seed. She had defied him, endangered the Centre,
but she was too valuable to destroy. Had she not faked her death, she
would have been imprisoned soon enough.
But Catherine was dead now. Raines had shown him the footage of her murder
and the body, before having her cremated. So, she couldn't possibly be
"Leave me alone!" he barked at the ghost, and struggled to
keep his attention on the papers before him.
"Would you rather I made an appointment?"
He glanced up again, and this time the image was dressed in modern clothes,
with shorter hair and stiletto heels.
He sighed, wilting with relief. "Of course you don't have to make
an appointment. I'm just busy, is all."
"Then I'll be quick. Why did you send Jarod a message to find Yuri?"
That took him completely off guard. Not only was she good, she was fast.
Just as he had raised her. "Because Yuri is a loose cannon. He has
a destructive personal agenda, and no one but Jarod can catch him. As
long as he's out there, we might as well get what use we can out of him.
This kind of do-gooder work is right up his alley." He frowned. "If
Jarod was still here, we'd have had him do simulations to help us catch
Yuri, but since he's not
She raised one elegantly sweeping eyebrow. "You don't think I could
catch this guy?"
He chuckled. "You knew Jarod, angel, which worked in our favor when
we put you on his trail. But you don't know Yuri. By the time you got
up to speed, he'd be gone. We're not sure exactly where he is, but we
know he's hurting us. He's subtle, careful. And he must be stopped. MacCaffrey
isn't the only contractor he's hit, and we don't know where to start looking.
We sent Jarod that information as a starting point. He'll figure it out
"So do you want me to back off Jarod till he gets the job done?"
He pursed his lips, thinking. "For the moment, yes. As soon as we
get word that he's captured Yuri, disabled or even located him, I'll let
"I'll let you know," she corrected, and turned to leave.
Parker chuckled. "That's my girl," he crowed.
For a moment she froze in mid-stride. Without looking back, she resumed
her exit and let the doors ease closed automatically in her wake. He had
done a damn fine job raising that girl. She was a force of nature, indomitable,
and she owed all of that to him.
Even if she wasn't his own flesh and blood, he was still her father.
She was his, and would always be. But if she ever found out the truth,
he knew he would never be able to trust her again. He would make it quick
and clean because he owed her that, for all the years of loyalty and love
she had lavished on him, without getting more than a few crumbs here and
there in return.
Sometimes it pleased him to look at her, and gloat in his triumph over
his traitorous wife. But other times, like just now, it was like looking
at a ghost that would haunt him forever. When those feelings came, he
could hardly bear the sight of her.
Parker shook himself to try to rid his mind of the thought, and get on
with business. There was so much to be done in getting ready for an apocalypse.
The world needed him
it just didn't know that fact yet.
* * * * * * * * *
Conference room, 27th floor
Angus MacCaffrey was president emeritus of MacCaffrey Enterprises. He
had stepped in to take the reins after his successors untimely demise,
and was all too willing to meet with the enigmatic Mr. Jarod Pendleton.
Ms. Destry accompanied the Pretender to the 27th floor conference room,
and Jarod sat at one end of the convex shaped table, with Angus himself
at the other, and flanked by two of his assistants.
Jarod recognized one of them instantly, though he couldnt quite
place her in his past. She was an attractive blonde, her hair upswept
into a fashionable do. Dressed in a black business suit accented with
a red silk blouse, she had given him a knowing half-smile that bespoke
the same recognition, and sat down after shaking his hand, right after
the introductions. Jarod turned his attention to the other man, MacCaffreys
head of security.
He was an attractive young man, tall and powerful looking, with a gleam
of keen intelligence in his chocolate brown eyes. Jarod saw him measuring
their guest, and told himself to watch out for that one. He could cause
problems, or possibly end up as a great source of aid.
Ms. Argent, Mr. Rostov, Mr. MacCaffrey, Jarod began. Its
a pleasure to meet you all. I know some good things about your various
enterprises, and would hate to see any of them go under. I have a proposal
He reached for a slim leather binder that Ms. Destry
that outlines the amounts and incremental stages
of investment I wish to extend to you. This plan should help MacCaffrey
Enterprises shore up its flagging stocks and continue with the research
that has been an industry hallmark in each of the various fields.
What do you want, Mr. Pendleton? MacCaffrey demanded, his
Scottish accent lightly flavoring his deep, elegant voice. People
dont offer something for nothing. And especially not in this city.
Call me Jarod, please. And I know Ill get my moneys
worth in return. The inhalant system for delivery of diabetes medication
has proven successful; and the expansion of testing for other drugs viable
for alveolar or patch delivery will be a boon. Nobody likes needles. And
the cybernetic limb replacements are far ahead of what anybody else is
working on at the moment. Not to mention the experimentation for genetically
based cures for disease. Who wouldn't want to be on board for all that,
when it's ready to hit the market?"
One of MacCaffreys thick black brows arched upward on his forehead,
contrasting severely with the snow-white of his hair and beard. May
I ask how you knew about those developments, Mr. Pendleton? None of those
projects have been released for public commentary yet.
Jarod smiled. Lets just say I have an inside source.
He waited while the three looked over the proposal, knowing it was too
good to resist.
MacCaffrey frowned up at him. You cant blame me for being
suspicious. With dollar amounts this size, theres always a drawback.
Im just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Jarod instinctively glanced under the table to make sure both of his
were still on. After a beat, he got the inference and shrugged. Theres
no catch, I assure you. I want to invest because I believe in what youre
doing, in the benefits people will reap when these projects are realized.
As for the money
He leaned back in his chair. I have
more than Ill ever need of that. Im not a greedy man, Mr.
MacCaffrey. Moneys easy to make, if you know how. Id rather
do something worthwhile with the cash than let it sit in banks accruing
MacCaffrey sat back and regarded his visitor with astonishment and a
grain of disbelief. A truly philanthropic soul? Youll pardon
me if I have a little trouble believing that, Mr. Pendleton. Especially
from a man with a fortune this size. I know the rich.
Id prefer it if youd call me Jarod.
Of course, of course. And you must call me Angus. MacCaffrey
stood. Ms. Argent tells me from your initial contact with us that
youre staying at Elan. Id be pleased if youd accept
quarters upstairs, in our guest suites, instead. He flashed a white,
toothy smile. My Scottish sensibilities find spending such exorbitant
sums on a bed and bath distasteful. With us, you can stay for free, and
receive all the same courtesies.
While you check out my financial stability and the terms of my
offer, Jarod added with a chuckle. Id be happy to accept,
Angus, on one condition. His eyes strayed to the security chief,
who stared back impassively. No surveillance in the suite. I have
a thing about being watched.
Im sure that can be arranged, the elder man agreed.
He patted Rostov on the shoulder. My young associate here has been
a godsend, discovering leaks we didnt know we had. Pity we had to
lose a good man like Al Jergens in order to get him. But as long as you
check in and out with our guest relations coordinator, Im sure we
can forego keeping an eye on you when youre in the house.
And your guest relations coordinator would be
The young woman sitting beside MacCaffrey stood. That falls under
my list of duties, Mr. Pendleton, she assured him.
Jarod was certain he knew her from somewhere, but the elegant clothes
didnt fit. Somehow, he pictured her in jeans instead, her hair drawn
back into a haphazard ponytail. Then he recognized her. Only her hair
was brown and her name hadnt been Argent. It was Kim Peace.
Would you come with me, please? she asked him. Ill
show you to your quarters.
Jarod turned to Ms. Destry. Would you see to having our things
moved, Ms. Destry? He handed her a platinum credit card. This
will pay for our rooms.
Of course, sir. Destry gathered up her things and headed
for the elevators, punching the Down button.
Ms. Argent pressed the Up button and waited for a car to arrive. When
they were safely ensconced in the privacy of the lift, she turned to face
him, a broad smile revealing small dimples in her cheeks. "Well,
Delaware, I never expected to meet you here. Out of your element, aren't
"I thought your name was Kim Peace."
"And yours was Green, wasn't it, Mr. Pendleton?" She crossed
her arms over her chest. "So what are you planning here? Are you
a con man, or what?"
Jarod was starting out in trouble. He would either have to keep her close
and hope he could convince her to keep her mouth shut, or get rid of her
fast and hope she'd be discreet and not tell everyone that he was a fake.
If she told anyone what she knew about him, his mission would be over
before it began.
"I could ask the same of you, since you were a bounty hunter the
last time I saw you. I hear that makes pretty good money, if you can handle
"Money wasnt the object of the exercise, she assured
him. Mike Bodie's bounty would have paid for a lot of what I needed.
Too bad you solved all his legal problems."
"What was it that you needed that $20,000 would buy?"
She sighed. "I was hunting for information. Still am.
Information on what?
Her smile faded. Thats personal.
The door slid open, and she stepped out, leading the way to a security
desk in a small lobby that looked much like that of an elegant hotel.
Jarod and Kim walked through a metal detector to enter the area, and she
registered him with the guard on duty. They gave him a guest pass which
acted as a card key, and Kim escorted him into a large, well appointed
suite at the end of the corridor. The living area boasted a glass wall
looking out on the bay, with a splendid view of Ellis Island and the great
statue standing watch upon it.
Make yourself at home, she told him. You wont
have to worry about unwanted visitors here, and everythings free,
including your meals. Order through the computer here
indicated the unit set up on a large desk facing the window.
you also have Internet access if you want it. Theres a separate
line next to it - here - for you to plug in your laptop, if you prefer.
The lines are secure and untapped, if you worry about that sort of thing.
Jarod wandered around the room, looking for the hidden cameras and microphones
he knew were already installed. One by one, he located them, blocking
the lenses with some nearby object or turning the camera toward a wall
where possible. When he finished his sweep of the room, he heard applause
and turned to see Rostov standing in the doorway.
Looks like you got them all, he cheered. Im impressed.
Next thing you know, youll be doing my job. Unless, of course, working
for a living is beneath you.
Theres still the camera in the building across the street,
focused on the suite windows, Jarod returned, clasping his hands
behind him. But youll have that one shut down, wont
you, Mr. Rostov?
The younger man chuckled, his hooded, dark eyes gleaming with appreciation.
Very good, very good, Jarod. Ill have to watch out for you.
He winked and left the suite, closing the door behind himself.
Jarod strolled to the windows and closed the drapes. So how long
have you worked for Angus?
Six months. Not that its any of your business. She
booted up the computer.
Ill bet being in one job that long is beginning to chafe.
Isnt it? Jarod was fishing, but something about her told him
his instincts were right. A killer resume would have been necessary to
get that job, one almost too good to be true. But her previous position
as bounty hunter would not have appeared on it anywhere. Instead, there
would be entries illustrating a first-class education, degrees in business
and public relations, possibly experience in the media. Who she really
was would be hidden under impenetrable layers of camouflage, just like
his own history. Only he was also fairly certain that she had never been
at the Centre.
So what was she still hunting - or rather, who?
She sighed wearily. Heres the menu that automatically comes
up when you boot up the system. Its pretty self explanatory, so
I dont think youll have any trouble with it. She raised
her eyes to meet his at last, flinging a silent challenge at him. Look,
Ill keep your secrets if you keep mine. Do we have a deal?
Dont you want to know why Im here?
Kim crossed her arms again. Oh, Ill find that out, Delaware.
Trust me. And if your intentions with Angus are anything other than honorable
You can trust me, Kim, he assured her.
She lifted her chin in defiance. I dont trust anybody,
she shot back. If you need anything, you can call me. My extension's
1741. Eyeing him warily for another moment, she turned and left
him quickly behind.
* * * * * * * * *
An hour later, Kim took a call from the desk manager on the guest floor.
I think you should come down here and okay this personally,
he told her.
What is it?
Mr. Pendletons things have arrived, and theres this
briefcase with some sort of device inside. Ive called Mr. Rostov,
and hes on his way, but I thought you should see it, too.
Ill be right up.
Five minutes later, Kim stepped off the elevator just ahead of Rostov
coming out of another car. They met at the security desk, where Ms. Destry
stood with a cartload of luggage, including the silver Halliburton. The
guard took his hand off the case to allow them to examine it, and Ms.
Destry hurried down the hall toward the guest suite.
We X-rayed all the luggage like were supposed to, the
guard told her. But this one had shielding, so we had Ms. Destry
open it. Ive never seen anything like it before.
Kim took note of the view screen and the neat rows of small optical discs.
Looks like some form of old technology DVD player, she guessed,
and reached for one of the discs. Let me see if I can get it to
If you do, you could be arrested for industrial espionage,
Jarod called, coming quickly up the hallway in response to Ms. Destrys
hasty summons. It is a playback device, as you guessed, and those
are storage discs. The information stored on them is confidential, so
unless you want me to take my offer and leave, youll let me have
that case and its contents.
Rostov straightened. Ill make you a deal. You keep the discs
and Ill take the case for a more thorough examination. I want to
make sure its not concealing any kind of weaponry. Can you handle
Jarod saw the determination in the security chiefs eyes and knew
there would be no denying him. He nodded. Fair enough. But it had
better be in working order when I get it back.
Rostov nodded to the guard, who began to put the discs into a small box
he took from underneath the desk. Not to worry. Im good with
The guard handed the box toward Jarod, tripped and spilled the discs
all over the carpeted floor. Apologizing profusely, he helped Jarod and
Ms. Destry gather them up again. Rostov closed the case and sneered at
the uniformed man, glancing at his nametag. Let me give you a tip,
there, Bramson. When your IQ rises to 50, sell. He turned on his
heel and strode smoothly toward the elevators.
Kim watched the doors close, her eyes narrowed, and then bent to pick
up one of the discs that had rolled behind her shoes. She slipped it into
the pocket of her suit jacket and reached to pick up the next nearest
one, dropping that one in Jarods box. She didnt think he had
seen her palm the first disc, and after shed had a good look at
it, she would find a way to put it back with the others when he wasnt
looking. Anything that would give her more information on this mysterious
man would be useful in keeping ahead of him, and she needed every advantage
she could get.
* * * * * * * * *
Under the heading of Red Files, Broots and Miss Parker had entered:
Jarod, Project Proteus
Angelo, Project Argus
Morgan Parker, Project Artemis
Mason, Project Achilles
Lyle, Project Arkham
Under Blue Files:
Faith, Project Looking Glass
Ethan, Project Mirage
Gemini, Project Gemini
Sun-Chai, Project Chimera
Yuri, Project Shiva.
Pele and Thor remained a mystery.
The Yellow Files were all grouped under the project name Seraphim:
But there was also the enigmatic sub-folder, Apocalypse. That was going
to take some serious talent to uncover, and with all the other items on
his list, he wasnt sure it would wait until later. He instituted
an automated search to see what turned up there, and continued with his
other research in the meantime.
Broots had nearly all of the Blue Files pegged. He had set up the electronic
database as Miss Parker had ordered, buried deep in the mainframe and
firewalled against any intruders. It was the best piece of programming
he'd ever done, and he was quite proud of it. All he needed was a little
more time to search through the archives for more on Projects Pele and
Thor, but for the moment he was concentrating on Project Artemis.
Apparently, Mr. Parker had started the project when Catherine died, and
all of the training was kept in sealed files located only through numbered
archive disks. He retrieved them personally, and put them in a locked
box that had not left his person since he returned to his office. At the
moment, it was sitting on his lap, waiting for a call from Miss Parker
to let him know when she had returned to her office.
Someone knocked on his door, and pushed in before he could answer.
"Valentine! What the heck are you doing here?"
Lyle's assistant grinned and seated himself in the guest chair wedged
against the wall in Broots' tiny office. "Just paying a friendly
visit to a fellow tech."
Broots felt himself draw up inside. This guy was all smoothness and charm
outside, but he could feel the threat, hidden away as it was beneath all
the suaveness and good looks. He started to sweat, instinctively clutching
the archive box closer to his body with his left hand. If he was going
to not look suspicious and guilty, he was going to have to play along.
"Sure thing. What can I do for you?"
Valentine chuckled. "Well, you know how my boss is about computers,
Broots remembered, and laughed. "Yeah. He thinks they're, like,
evil or something."
The other man smiled and nodded.
Broots felt himself relaxing, buying into the guy's act. He wanted to
make that work for him, but he would have to be on guard. He knew Valentine
was good. That was why Lyle had brought him on board. "He just doesn't
understand how valuable a tool they can be."
"You can find almost anything on a computer, if it's there to find,"
Valentine mused. "If you just know how and where to look."
Broots nodded. "Yeah, if you've got the skills."
"Maybe you could show me a few things, sometime," the other
man suggested congenially. "I've been looking for some of Lyle's
old records, and can't locate more than a few bits and pieces of things.
But I'll bet you could come up with everything, couldn't you, Mr. Broots?"
"Sure. What do you need?" Broots put both hands on his keyboard,
getting ready, anticipating another morsel of information dropping into
Valentine grinned. "Project Shiva."
"That's not--" Broots caught himself. He knew it wasn't one
of Lyle's projects. That had belonged to Mr. Raines. "--anything
I've ever heard of. Where should I start the search?"
The other man shrugged. "Archives, maybe? The project was canceled
in January of last year." He rose and started to move around the
desk, to look over Broots' shoulder.
The tech hurriedly closed all the windows he had open of a sensitive
nature before Valentine moved into position. Broots proceeded to show
the other man how to query the Centre mainframe, which would help him
dig up most of the routinely available files on that subject
of course, those Broots had already retrieved and moved to Miss Parker's
"Yeah, I found those already," Valentine told him. "Im
looking for others that won't pop up off the regular search engines."
"There's the archives," Broots suggested. "Though not
all of those files are available electronically. Sometimes you have to
locate the numbered reference and actually go down there to match it up
to a disk or a paper file."
"And how would I do that?" Valentine leaned closer, hovering
right over Broots.
"Plug in the word 'archive' in the search parameters," Broots
answered, sliding further down in his chair, to try to hide the box of
discs in his lap from any casual glances. "After that, you'd have
to do some programming to do a more extensive search, but I'm not authorized
to show you that."
Valentine nodded, apparently satisfied. "Thanks, Broots. I think
I'll be busy in Archives for a while." He smiled and offered a casual
salute, then sauntered out of the office.
Broots melted into his chair for a moment. That had been close, and scary.
He phoned Miss Parker's office and as soon as she answered, he asked her
to come straight to his office, rather than risk someone like Valentine
seeing him with the disks and taking them away before he could get them
to his boss. Working for Miss Parker carried a lot more weight these days,
but Lyle's henchman frightened him. He had read the man's file, and knew
what Valentine was capable of doing.
And Broots didn't want to be there if things got personal.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod sat down at the desk. He explored what was available through the
company mainframe, and then did a little programming to search through
personnel files. First, he looked up Kim Argent, and found pretty much
what he expected. Next, he checked on Rostov with similar results. Perfect
resumes, without a hint of anything out of place, but with Kim, he knew
her credits were as fictitious as his own.
Almost as an afterthought, he checked on the name Al Jergens. The late
security chief had a typical career, and was at the top of his game when
he passed away suddenly six months earlier. Jergens had driven his car
full speed into a tree on a lonely stretch of road in rural Delaware,
not too far from a town called Blue Cove.
That was a little too much of a coincidence for Jarod. He decided to look
into that incident, adding it to the list of other recent deaths of MacCaffrey
employees taking place in the last year or so. The company's financial
troubles stemmed directly from the radical changes in leadership following
a string of deaths, not the least of which was Henry Calfax, whose apparent
suicide had resulted in Angus stepping back into the role of active president
after a two-year retirement.
Discreetly covering up his intrusion into the company mainframe, Jarod
plugged in his laptop and instituted an Internet search for the name Rostov.
Among the many entries was one that sent a chill up his spine. Rostov
was a Russian city made famous for being the center of the hunting grounds
for one Andrei Chikatilo, the former Soviet Union's most prolific, most
horrifyingly efficient serial killer, dubbed Citizen X during the long
hunt for his identity.
The Soviets had kept the murders to themselves, rather than asking other
nations to avail their resources to help them catch the killer. Jarod
was glad that he had not been put on that job, since he was still a child
when the first murders were discovered in the 70's. Chikatilo murdered
women and children for 12 years before the Russians finally identified
Jarod finished his search, and turned instead to constructing a history
of Ms. Argent. He knew what she did during a certain period in her life,
and that was as good a place to start as any. Bounty hunters had to register
at the reservation when Mike Bodie had been a wanted man, and Kim was
one of them. He would take whatever fiction she had used then, and extrapolate
from there. She was still hunting, and he wanted to know what it was that
lay at the end of her search.