Chameleon

 

home / season six / episode six / act III

   

Metis House
New York City

Kim nodded to the doorman and headed straight for the management office of the old brownstone. After presenting her identification to the manager, she confirmed her appointment with Mr. Michael Steinberg. Shortly afterward, the silver-haired gentleman met her in the lobby and escorted her into a small salon where they could speak privately.

"What can I do for you, Ms. Argent?" he asked congenially. “You said Angus wanted me to look over some business papers.”

"Yes, here they are.” She handed over the investment proposition Jarod Pendleton had presented the previous day. Hesitantly, she added, “My name isn't really Argent. It's Leone. Kim Leone. You arranged my adoption to Terry and Sarah Leone when I was a baby. Do you remember?"

The man's smile vanished. He glanced up from the portfolio, frowning. "I arranged a lot of adoptions, when I was a young man," he admitted, his tone clipped and business-like. "I'd be hard pressed to remember one out of all those."

"I think you'd remember this one," she prompted. "My parents flew in from Africa when they heard there was a baby waiting for them. On your advice, they flew right back out again the day after they took me in. That's not standard procedure on any regular adoption. In fact, you told them that the fact that they traveled so much was the main reason why you selected them. That was what had kept them from getting a child through regular adoption agencies. No secure residence pretty much threw them out of that game."

Steinberg's eyes narrowed as he studied her. He glanced nervously at the door to make sure they were alone. "All right, I know I can't beg off. But I can't help you with much. I wasn't privy to many of the details. The woman who brought you to me was --"

"Catherine Parker," Kim filled in. "That much I know. Was she my mother?"

Steinberg shook his head. "No. She brought me several children, and I saw her often enough to know they couldn't have been her own. She told me they were rescued from… unhealthy circumstances, and I knew her character well enough to trust her. So I didn't ask too many questions, and she never provided any answers. That's all I know, Ms. Leone. I'm sorry it couldn't be more."

Kim sighed, feeling her sense of hope flagging. "Thanks anyway, Mr. Steinberg. I appreciate your time. Please call me when you’re done looking over the offer, and I’ll take your comments back to Angus." She shook his hand and headed out the door and down the steps, preparing to walk back to the bus stop where she could catch a ride back to Manhattan.

But as she descended the steps, she saw a gleaming Bentley parked at the curb. Leaning against it was a man dressed from head to toe in black, a pair of Gargoyle sunglasses covering his eyes. She recognized him instantly.

"How the hell did you find me, Delaware? I only made this appointment yesterday."

Jarod slid his shades down on his nose and peered over the lenses at her. "Find out anything more from Mr. Steinberg?"

Her mouth fell open. She knew he was good. That had been apparent on the reservation, after she checked the details of what he had done there. But he seemed to have gotten farther in 24 hours than she had in five years of searching into her past.

"Nothing I didn't already know," she snapped when she could pull her wits together to form a coherent response. "Were you following me?"

He shrugged. "I wasn't sure you'd be here. I came to talk to him for the same reason you did. To see if I could help you find out who you are."

Kim felt her belly clench. "Why would you do that for me? You hardly know me. And the first time we met, well… that was no picnic. I certainly couldn't have won the Miss Congeniality award then. Didn't I threaten to shoot you if you got in my way?"

Jarod opened the passenger door of his car and gestured her inside. "I'm doing it because I know how you feel. I'm searching for my family, too."

That shook her, and she began to wonder if he might share her same connection with the lawyer. She came up beside him and met his steady gaze with one of her own. "Were you one of the babies Steinberg adopted out?"

With a look of profound sadness, Jarod pushed his sunglasses back into place. He shut the door after Kim had seated herself, skirted around the Bentley's front bumper and climbed behind the wheel. He started the car and pulled out into traffic without answering.

"Well, were you?" she demanded.

Eyes straight ahead, voice thick with emotion, Jarod replied, "No. I wasn't one of the lucky ones. Catherine Parker was killed before she could get me out."

Something cold uncurled in the pit of Kim's stomach and snaked its frigid way up her spine. She shivered, and rubbed her arms. "Out of where?"

"Someplace you never want to be," he answered enigmatically, and turned his attention to the drive back to Manhattan.

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker's Office

Morgan spent the entire day and into the night examining the files on the disks Broots had dug up for her. When she was finished, all the pieces had fallen into place. She knew exactly what had been done to her, and why. The Chairman had been both brilliant and far-sighted, expecting to use her latent talents to retrieve errant Centre property at some point in her career. He had planned for the day when she would take over SIS, and she had followed that plan unconsciously to the letter. But things were not always as they seemed, and the position of power that she now occupied would both provide her with information she needed to accomplish her mother's plan, and put her in the same danger that Catherine had been in before she died.

But Morgan wouldn't make the same mistakes Catherine had. She knew who she could trust, and what should be kept from those confidants to keep both them and herself safe. Her inner sense was fallible, and she had to be aware of that pitfall, too. That was what had led Catherine to trust Raines with her life, and the life of her unborn child. That false belief in him was exactly what got her killed.

She could see, in her mind's eye, behind the door that terrible Thanksgiving, when Raines had skulked away from the house. For so long she believed it was him who had beaten her mother so cruelly, but now, listening to that subtle whisper in her subconscious, she knew the truth. Raines had come over to mediate between Catherine and her husband, and when things turned violent, the other man had left. Raines had been on his way downstairs when Parker had landed the first blow. There was no way he could have gotten down the stairs, out the door and halfway across the lawn that fast after the last blow fell.

Parker had done the damage himself, and all this time she had blamed Raines for it.

No wonder Catherine trusted him. He had meant to save her once already, or so she thought. She would have resisted the impulse to run away from him, after he had pretended to help her that awful Thanksgiving night.

But her daughter would not be so easy to fool. Broots had a child who could be held hostage, forcing him to betray her if someone found it necessary. Sydney had too many secrets already, and though she believed she could trust him, she also knew that he had been the one to do all those terrible things to Jarod as a child in the name of science, with the excuse that he was protecting the boy from worse. She cared for Sydney, but he was an enigma, and unless he dropped the barriers between them, there was no way she could trust him with everything.

Artemis was the Greco-Roman goddess of the hunt, a strong feminine persona who never let a man have the upper hand with her. She was always in control, ruthless, and indomitable. Those were hallmarks of Morgan's own personality, drilled into her by the lessons Parker had taught her. Looking over the material in her files, she could admire the genius of the man, but she hated him for everything he had done to her. He was the embodiment of evil, capable of the heartless torture of children to achieve his goals.

And she was first among them. He knew she wasn't his, and her training had been his vengeance against his wife for being unfaithful to him, and for trying to stop him from the cruelties he was inflicting on so many innocents. Catherine had paid, too -- with his physical abuse, with a forced pregnancy, and with her life.

The Chairman was going to pay for his sins. The empire he had so carefully built was going to come crashing down around him, and the instruments of that downfall were the women and children he had sought to destroy. And when it was over, she would be the one standing over him, gloating over her victory. She wanted to see him suffer, like she had suffered her whole life under his thumb. She wanted to see him in jail, treated like a common criminal, stripped of his fortune and his army of sweepers.

With that vision in mind, she packed up the disks and called Broots to return them to the archives. She didn't care if Parker knew she had been snooping into her own records. She might even thank him for the training with a gleam in her eye. And once he was on his knees, she'd be happy to point out that he had shot himself in the foot by making a slave out of the child he was supposed to have loved.

* * * * * * * * *

Morgan dialed Jarod’s private cell phone number from memory. She stood now on the porch of her house, watching twilight settle into full dark. Jarod picked up on the first ring.

"Have you found Yuri yet?" she asked him.

"That message didn't look like your style," he returned. "I was thinking Mr. Parker had sent it."

"He did. I'm just checking your progress, to see when I need to appear on the scene, just a moment too late, as usual." She smiled. "You haven't been sending me any clues on this one. That's out of character for you."

"I don't tell you everything, Morgan," he challenged. "You should know that by now."

"Just keep me posted," she warned him.

A moment of silence stretched between them, and she could feel his next question coming.

"How are the children?"

"They're all right, for the moment. We have time on our side, but it's running out fast."

"Have you found out when they plan to start the Aurora protocols?"

She sighed. "We got lucky with that. They just found a contractor to continue the delivery method research you started, so it’ll be a while yet."

"And I'll just bet I know who the contractor is."

"How is Angus?"

Jarod's chuckle filled her ear. "Not happy to be out of retirement, but worried about his people. And with good reason. Shall I send him your regards?"

"No use tipping our hand just yet. He'll remember me when he sees me again. What he does after that, you'll have to be the judge."

"I'm on the fence about it at the moment. But I'll let you know. When it's time."

"Keep me posted." She disconnected after a beat, knowing he had shared all he wanted to give her. Broots was still looking for photos of Yuri, but none had been found so far. She hoped Jarod was safe, that he was being careful, but she knew that wasn't his style. If the situation required putting himself in harm's way, he would do it. That's just the way he was.

She took a deep breath of the autumn-fresh air, closed her eyes to imagine Jarod smiling at her, and went into her house to get ready for bed.

* * * * * * * * *

Kim's Apartment

Kim unlocked the door to her respectable apartment after checking the hidden seal she had left behind. So far, her luck was holding, and no one had been there yet to look into her life. She secured the door from inside, swept through the empty living room and into the bedroom that held the sum total of her possessions.

Dropping her keys on the floor beside the bedroll, she traded her chic business suit for sweat pants and a tank top, scrubbed her face clean of makeup and pulled her hair into a ponytail. After a vigorous workout, she used her cell phone to call in an order for Chinese delivery and sat down with her laptop on a small table beside her bed.

The first file she opened was an old one, a curiosity that had piqued her interest years earlier. She had kept the Jarod file open, in case he proved to be wanted for a crime somewhere. Occasionally she would stumble across sightings and would add that information to what she had already collected. But now she had a reason to do a thorough search into this enigmatic man’s identity, to find out who he really was, and what he wanted with Angus MacCaffrey.

Nothing she had dug up on him indicated a criminal past - in fact, he seemed to be some sort of quiet hero, saving a life here or catching a criminal there and disappearing without claiming the publicity that often went with such heroism. He had an agenda; that much was certain. What he didn’t seem to have was a past.

His financial resources were genuine enough. That only served to sharpen her interest in him to a razor edge, since all of the accounts were less than five years old, shiny and new, and incredibly large. He was privately one of the wealthiest men she had ever encountered, his assets liquid rather than tied up in businesses and real estate, enabling him to draw on vast sums, should he require them. Yet his expenses, what she could track of them, seemed random and incredibly frugal.

If he was on another of his rescue missions, then the world of the wealthy and powerful would be strange to him. He would need her help to avoid giving himself away. That is, if his motives were altruistic, as fit his previous pattern. He certainly wasn’t driven by greed. But who was he, really, and why was there no trace of a birthplace, a school he had attended, or any other link to his past?

She stared at a scan of an old newspaper article she had found shortly after crossing paths with him on the reservation. Wearing a fireman’s gear, his face dappled with soot, he held a child in his arms whom he had just saved from a burning building. He had saved Mike Bodie's life from the assassin out to kill him, and through some amazing legal wrangling, had the charges against Bodie dropped. Then he had just disappeared. That wasn’t the sort of man who went looking for power. He didn’t need money. So why was he there?

The last thing she had done at work was sneak into Rostov's office for a look at that machine in the silver briefcase. Kim had played the disk she had purloined, but it told her nothing. She had seen Jarod strapped into an electric chair, apparently about to be executed and protesting his innocence of whatever crime he had supposedly committed. While horrifying in itself, it told her nothing about him. Someone had obviously kidnapped him and performed those terrifying experiments on him against his will.

That sort of thing might certainly enhance his desire to know more about justice, but what exactly was he looking for?

The delivery man buzzed her from downstairs, and she let him in. Fetching the proper amount of bills along with a generous tip, she opened the door to his knock.

Jarod stared at her from over the top of his sunglasses, brown paper restaurant bag in hand. “One kung pao chicken, and one shrimp fried rice,” he announced. “Plenty for two. And I brought my own chopsticks. May I come in?”

“What do you want, Delaware?” she demanded, snatching the bag out of his hand. “And how the hell did you get my address?” She did not open the door any wider.

All trace of levity left his face. He took off his sunglasses and tucked them into his jacket pocket. “I want to know if you’re planning on telling Angus what you know about me.” He crossed his arms. “See, I thought about our deal this morning. Checking up on me is part of your job, and you’d be curious about my background. Maybe curious enough to say something to Angus. Maybe not tell him outright, but cast a little suspicion. Make him take a look himself, or have Rostov dig into my past.”

“What makes you think I know - or want to know - anything about you?” she challenged, stepping aside to let the door swing slowly open. He followed her toward the kitchen after locking up behind himself.

“We’re both naturally curious people, Kim,” he pointed out. “You’ve been investigating me on Angus’ behalf, and I’ve been looking into your past as well. I like to know the people I’m dealing with. So do you.”

“Aren’t you supposed to have your people do that?” she snapped. “Oh, that’s right. You don’t have ‘people.’ You’re a hands-on kind of guy, one who likes to do his own dirty work.”

He leaned on the kitchen door frame, his eyes taking in the meager furnishings, the lack of personal touches. “It keeps me busy.”

“And you are a man who likes to keep busy.” She took down her only bowl from the cupboard, filled it half full of fried rice and topped it with the spicy chicken and vegetable mixture, then handed the cartons to him.

“You shouldn’t eat standing up. It’s bad for digestion.”

Kim shoved her fork into her bowl and hopped onto the counter, letting her feet dangle, then attacked the food.

“So are you going to tell him?”

“Tell him what? That you’re a man with less than a handful of years' worth of history? That you’re apparently a financial genius with a ridiculous amount of money that you hardly ever touch? That you’re a one-man crusader for justice, always trying to help the downtrodden?” She popped a small bite into her mouth and chewed it thoughtfully. “If I don’t tell him, someone else will. Rostov’s probably checking on you, too.”

“In a week or two, someone might say something,” he agreed. “But not Rostov. And by then, I’ll be gone.”

She cocked her head. “Are you after Angus, or someone else?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Then neither am I.” She watched him studying her, and wondered if he really had been investigating her, as he had said.

“You like him, don’t you?” It was more of a statement than a question, and Jarod picked up the carton of chicken and vegetables.

“In a grandfatherly sort of way, yeah.”

“Is that how he sees you?”

“Not at all. He sees me as a smart, capable employee whom he trusts. Which is why I should tell him everything I know about you.”

“Are you thinking of staying on with him, even after you’ve finished using him to get what you want?”

Kim almost dropped her bowl, but recovered as quickly as she could. “What makes you think I’m using Angus for anything?”

The knowing look on Jarod’s face changed into bittersweet sympathy. “Because I know why you went to work for him.”

She bristled at his assumption. “How could you possibly - You don’t even know my real name.”

“Not yet. But in time, I will.” He smiled, but his eyes were still sad. “You’re a lot like me. I haven’t met many people who are.”

Kim couldn’t swallow, couldn’t speak. His pain was so evident, so raw, and it resonated in her. Instinct told her that he was kind, that he meant no harm. But there was something else about him that intimidated her. Something primal.

She eyed the pepper he held so deftly in his chopsticks, then shifted her gaze back to his eyes. Big, dark, soulful eyes full of tenderness and longing, hope and hesitant trust. She held her tongue as he put the pepper into his mouth and bit down on it. She couldn’t help smiling, and waited for it to have its searing effect.

His eyes watered. His face flushed, but he didn’t stop chewing. He set down the carton of food, angled toward the sink, turned on the faucet and positioned his head to let the water flow directly into his mouth.

“Water makes it hotter,” she offered mercilessly. “Eat some of the fried rice to cool down.”

Jarod jerked away from the faucet, turned off the water and lunged for the fried rice carton. After he swallowed the first bite, he sighed with relief and wiped his face with his palms. “I see you like it hot,” he mouthed, his voice a hoarse whisper.

She chuckled and swallowed the mouthful she had been enjoying while he struggled with the pepper. “Makes life interesting,” she agreed. “So what are you here for, Delaware?”

He picked up the carton of kung pao chicken again and scooped up a healthy bite of chicken and vegetables, with a broken piece of pepper adding a little color and flavor. “I’m here to try and save a life,” he answered honestly. “Will you help me?”

The heat of the pepper mixed beautifully with the tender chicken, the sweet, crunchy vegetables and savory sauce in the dish. Kim saw the pleasure in his expression as he began to enjoy the new food. It was obvious he’d never eaten anything like it. He closed his eyes and moaned softly. “This is good.”

“I have terms,” she stated. “You’ve told Angus you don’t want surveillance in your suite. That raises questions for me that I know you won’t answer truthfully.”

“Try me.”

She shook her head. “How would I know if you were lying?” Fishing for a piece of plump shrimp, she went on. “I propose an alternative. Angus noticed that look between us yesterday. He’s a sharp guy. So I told him we were old friends.”

“I see.”

She shot him a warning glare. “Don’t be getting any ideas, there, Delaware. This is strictly a business proposition. I don’t want Angus hurt, so the deal is, you get a watchdog while you’re his guest. That way I can be sure you don’t plot anything that I don’t know about.”

“As long as it’s you, I’m okay with that.”

“We can pretend we had a thing for each other, that the flames are rising again.” Something about this idea alarmed her. It felt dangerous. It felt exciting. Her pulse quickened.

Jarod frowned. “You want him to think we were pyromaniacs?”

Caught off-guard, Kim laughed. This guy really needed some work. “Lovers, Delaware. Only behind closed doors, it’s hands off. Just keep it discreet and tasteful in front of Angus, and he’ll believe it. Okay?”

“I can do that.” He set the carton down and met her eyes. “But now I have to kiss you. If we’re going to make it a convincing pretend, we can’t be touching each other for the first time in front of him. The uncertainty will show.”

She hesitated for a moment, but realized he was right. Setting her bowl aside, she slipped off the counter and closed the distance between them. Tiptoeing up to reach him, she gave him a light, impersonal peck on the lips and resumed her seat on the counter. Surely that would be enough.

Gooseflesh rose on her arms. It had been a long time since she had kissed anyone. That casual connection with him left her tingly and slightly disoriented. And before she could gather her wits and her food, he was standing in front of her, his large hands smoothing over her cheeks, holding her face still while he moved in for the real thing.

She saw a glimpse of steel in his coffee-brown eyes before they closed, preparing himself for the business of the coming kiss. His hands were so warm, so gentle. His lips, when they touched hers, were so careful, so hesitant, so uncertain, that she felt an awkward pleasure rise up inside her. It was nice, to be kissed that way. She slid her hands up over his shoulders and around his back, leaning closer for more. His mouth was hot and spicy from the peppers, and as the kiss deepened she felt her head swimming. He was intoxicating. She was losing control. And she liked it.

The kiss seemed endless. Her hands roved over him hungrily, exploring his face, his shoulders, arms and back. With every touch she wanted more, unable to recall anything but the moment, the need she felt, and the pleasure of his responses.

His palm struck the cabinet door behind her head as if to catch his balance. He wrenched himself away from her. Part of her cried out with disappointment, heart pounding from the unexpected noise, but reason flooded in quickly and she realized how she was sitting. Her knees were parted and he stood between them, holding her close with one arm wrapped around her waist. His forehead rested against her neck, and she had pushed his coat completely off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Both of them were trembling, panting as if they had just run a marathon.

“Kim…” he whispered hoarsely. “I can’t… I can’t let anyone close to me. Can’t afford the risk.”

“Not to worry, Delaware,” she breathed. “I don’t plan on sticking around for long either. No strings, okay?”

She could see when he raised his head to regard her that he wasn’t clear on that expression. Such simple clichés, so far beyond him. She wanted to know why he was like that. But he had to understand the limits, and not try to push past them.

“Just remember, this isn’t real,” she warned him. “It’s just for show.”

“Yeah,” he agreed softly, a trace of bitterness in his voice. “That’s the story of my life.” He stroked his fingers across her cheek and swayed drunkenly into an upright position. Pain, longing and loneliness gleamed in his eyes as he stepped back from her.

“Just business,” she reiterated. But the attraction she had felt during that incredible kiss did not go away. He was even more dangerous than she had first thought, and she would have to be wary of him to prevent their conspiracy from becoming all too real. “Besides, you’re not my type.”

“What is your type?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I never found anyone who could keep up with me.”

He nodded. “Just business,” he agreed, and stooped to pick up his jacket. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Intellect kicked into gear. If she left him alone for even a few hours, he could set any number of plans into motion that could have disastrous effects on Angus. She shook her head.

“I’ll pack a bag. I’m moving in with you tonight.”

“Okay,” he murmured. “I’ll drive you.”

She slipped off the counter, aware of how close to the fire she stood. “Don’t get any ideas, Delaware,” she warned him. “I’ll be bunking on the floor next to your bed.”

“You know they’re going to be watching us anyway,” he observed. “But I’ll be a gentleman. Nothing will happen between us. We’ll just make them think it has.”

She looked into his eyes and wanted to believe him, but she knew the fire had already been lit. Things had been set into motion that could not be stopped. She left her food on the counter, no longer hungry, and went into her bedroom to pack. Minutes later, she had shut her laptop down and stowed it into her briefcase, hooked an airline bag over her shoulder and draped a garment bag with several days’ clothing over her left arm. She led the way out the door, locking up behind herself. The next time she returned to that place, she would be a different person, filled with the knowledge of a mystery she had avoided all her life. Part of her was excited, ready for the coming adventure, but more than anything, she was afraid. Things were about to get very complicated between her and the handsome stranger.

“Let’s get it over with,” she ordered, and led the way into the night and back to his suite in MacCaffrey Towers.

* * * * * * * * *

MacCaffrey Building
Security Offices, Surveillance Control

Yuri sat alone in the control room, his fingers gliding across the controls for the video panel, watching the pair move through the building. The tension between them was even more palpable now than it had been the previous morning in the conference room. Something had happened to up the stakes, and he was certain it could only be one of two things: a conspiracy had been enjoined, or things had gotten personal. Either way, he could use their changed relationship to his advantage in controlling old Angus. It would be fun to watch the old man squirm.

Enjoying a cup of café latte while he relaxed, Yuri nudged the volume controls up a notch and listened as the couple entered the guest quarters, temporarily ignoring the computer beside him as his searches through the Internet for any scraps of information on this enigmatic man ran on their own. Rostov might be head of security there, but Yuri followed no one’s orders except on the surface. He had business there, and if this Pendleton fellow met his criteria, he’d be next on the list.

Yuri had gotten a charge out of looking into that Halliburton the guy carried. He had not been able to make time yet to steal into the guest quarters and fetch one of the disks to test it out, but the machine told him a great deal. This guy was connected with the Centre - Yuri recognized the technology - and he was going to find out everything there was to know about Pendleton. It was time he left MacCaffrey anyway, as soon as he was finished with Angus.

* * * * * * * * *

MacCaffrey Building
Guest Suite

Recalling the rehearsed dialogue they had discussed in the car, Jarod began as soon as the door had closed. “You’re sure Angus won’t have a problem with this? It’s not a conflict of interest?”

Kim set her bags on the floor and pressed herself against him. “Angus needs money. You want to give him some. I don’t see a problem there.” She kissed him briefly, sensuously, and slid out of his embrace to retrieve her things and carry them into the bedroom. “Getting to spend time together is a fringe benefit for both of us.”

He followed her, his hands sliding into his trouser pockets while he watched her hang her clothes into the closet beside his. He strolled purposefully about the room, re-checking for surveillance devices that might have been planted or moved during his absence. “I forgot exactly why we broke up.”

“I think it was more our schedules than anything. Long distance relationships never work, so we just sort of let go when the time came to part ways. At least, that’s how I remember it.”

He nodded, continuing his sweep of the room. “I’m glad we got a second chance, Kim. I missed you.”

Glancing at him over her shoulder, she agreed. “You’ve been on my mind a lot, too.” She carried a gold satin slip she had taken from her overnight bag into the bathroom. Moments later, she emerged wearing the flimsy garment, her blonde hair down around her shoulders. Suddenly, she didn’t seem to know what to do with her hands.

Jarod couldn’t help but be affected by the sight of her.

“I’d almost forgotten how beautiful you are,” he whispered, then shook his head. “No. I could never forget that, Kim.”

She smiled, her cheeks pinking slightly. “One of the things I most enjoyed about you was the time you took with foreplay. Hours and hours of it.” She took him by the hand and led him to the sofa in the next room. “How about some music?”

“Does the suite come with anything I like?” He sat down and waited for her, enjoying watching her move about the room in that barely-there lingerie.

“Let me see,” she mused, running her fingers over the spines of the CD jewel cases. She selected a half dozen discs from the same section of the shelf and put them into the stereo. “McKennitt, Brightman and MacLaughlin,” she announced. “Three of your favorites.” And as the soft, sensual music began to fill the room, she settled herself in Jarod’s arms, ready to play her part in the drama they had crafted together.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre parking lot

“Where are you going?”

Miss Parker turned at the sound of Lyle’s voice, taking note of his position in the parking lot. He must have just arrived from somewhere, since he and his henchman were just getting out of Lyle’s car.

“Since when do I report to you?” she snapped, turning back toward her car, purse and briefcase in hand, trying not to hurry away from them.

Lyle jogged to catch up with her, while Valentine followed at a more relaxed pace. “Got news on Jarod?” Lyle demanded. He was smiling as if he knew something.

She froze him with a glance, and hit the auto-unlock on her electronic key fob. “You’ll know when I bring him back.” She got into the car and hit the electronic lock, but a fraction of a second after Lyle opened the passenger door.

He got in, unlocked the car to allow Valentine into the back seat, and buckled himself into place. “Where are we going?”

“Get out!” she snarled. She wanted no tail on this mission. No one needed to know where she was going. She hadn’t even told Broots.

“If you’re out to catch Jarod, you might need some muscle.” He nodded toward the back seat. “And personally, I’m curious how you located Jarod that last time. Out of all the places he could have been in the world, how did you pick that sleazy hotel? Sorry, but I’ve just got to know."

"If you knew how Jarod's mind works, like I do," she spat, "you'd get it. But since you don't, get the hell out of my car so I can do my job!"

Lyle smiled smugly at her. “Nope. Not this time. Where are we going?”

“New York. Got enough meds to keep you stable for that long a drive, there and back?”

Valentine reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a small medical case. He flipped it open to show her the vial and sheathed syringes that would give Lyle several days’ worth of his necessary medication.

She could see that she wasn’t going to get them out of the car. But she could certainly lose them once she got to the city, just long enough to do her business and look like she was doing her job. That would have to be good enough.

She started the car and drove away.

* * * * * * * * *

New York City

It was nightfall when she arrived. She took the time to check into her favorite hotel, letting the two men deal with the desk clerk on their own. She went to her room long enough to drop off her bag, then headed for the restaurant with the men shadowing her. She would not allow them to sit at the table with her, and took her time looking over the menu. When they had placed their order, she headed for the ladies’ room, went out through the bathroom window, and continued on her mission.

Her notes had given her most of the information she needed, and the rest of it she got from Broots. She knew the lawyer’s address, and drove directly to Metis House. From the outside she could see that the lights were on, and she hoped that Michael Steinberg was home.

Schmoozing her way past the doorman, she walked confidently up to his apartment and knocked.

The man who opened it was silver haired but still attractive, and obviously shocked to lay eyes on her.

“Catherine!” he whispered in awe.

“No,” Parker answered. “I’m her daughter. May I come in, Mr. Steinberg?”

His grip on the door handle tightened, and a look of alarm flared in his eyes. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.”

“I know how you helped my mother,” she began softly. “I know how dangerous it was for you, and I’m grateful. But now I need your help, too, and no one else can answer my questions.” She glanced away, making sure they were alone. “Please. I promise it won’t take long. I don’t want anyone to know I was here.”

He nodded, stepped aside and let her in.

On to Act IV

 
  The Pretender - NBC, All rights reserved.
Web Maintenance by Rayhne
  home | primer | season five | season six | staff | updates | guestbook
"Ownership of the characters of The Pretender is property of NBC/TNT/Pretender Productions. Copyright of the original works on this site, including title graphics and written episodes, are the property of their creators and the VS site only, and may not be used without express written consent of the authors/artists/webmaster."