Simmons and Hart Bookshop
Jarod accessed the shops ebay account and made notations on the
progress of the auction. Five minutes passed, during which time Jarod
had secured a new bolt hole for the Lynfords. That, too, was part of his
new mission. He had to do things to keep people safe from the Centre.
Before it had just been whatever caught his attention, without thinking
about it. Now, it was more like a crusade.
The final bid came through, and Jarod noted the address to send the book
just as his laptop announced that he had mail. Jarod opened it on autopilot,
and swore under his breath. There on the screen was another stylized Asian
doll. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that both dolls wore elaborately
painted faces resembling a Kabuki mask, one which symbolized death. The
annoyance that flashed through him at any reminder he might be helpless
in the face of the Centres plans brought him an inspiration.
He remembered the Asian women Lyle liked to keep around. Perhaps it was
time he sent Lyle a little surprise in retaliation.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's car
somewhere near Washington, DC
Morgan Parker had a busy day in front of her and the ride wasnt
made more comfortable by the fact that Broots was with her. He kept glancing
at her as though he wanted to ask her something, but didn't really want
the answer. Once again, he tugged at his shirt collar, as if struggling
to escape those unfamiliar clothes. It was driving her nuts. She wanted
him along to provide a distraction and let her explore some things she
needed to find out. But she didnt want to confide in him. She didnt
want to confide in anyone until she had things a lot clearer in her own
If youre hot, Ill turn on the air conditioner,
Parker commented. Both she and Broots were dressed in business suits.
Perhaps the new suit was making him uncomfortable. Better that his clothes
were bothering him than her actions.
Broots let her remark pass with a simple no. He didnt
expect that Miss Parker would believe he knew how to wear a suit, nor
did he think it wise at the moment to taunt her. This particular trip
had Miss Parker wound a bit tighter than usual, and that meant choosing
his remarks carefully.
They drove on for several miles. Broots looked at Miss Parker and sighed.
Are you going to be angry for the whole trip?
At least you could tell me why youre angry. Then Id
know why Im ducking.
Dont worry about it. After all this time, you should know
that anything to do with finding Jarod brings out the worst in me.
Yeah. Broots turned his attention to the scenery passing
in front of his window. Right now Parker wasnt going to talk, so
he might as well continue to make out his grocery list in his head.
Parker found a convenient parking place, and proceeded toward the building.
Broots followed her, hearing the beep of the remote car lock without turning
around. He didnt really have to do anything here except provide
a distraction if Parker needed one, so he could be as relaxed as possible.
She stopped to show her identification at the registration desk and proceeded
in. Im expected, she said as she signed the electronic
register. The credentials Parker flashed indicated that she was part of
the FBI, ranking slightly higher than the agent shed come to question.
Broots had done a very professional job forging them, and an even better
job of not looking guilty. For a man who rarely wore a suit and tie, Broots
managed to look at home in them. He handed in his credentials as well
with an ease that told Parker hed been practicing. In one sense,
this was a dry run of Broots training. Parker almost looked pleased
with her colleague. But they werent done here yet.
Parker and Broots were escorted into a corner office, and greeted by
the senior FBI agent, Robert Douglas, who had helped to track down Kyle.
Im not sure why you want to see me, but come on in and have
a seat. Your clearance is high enough for you to have read all the records,
Douglas stated matter of factly. Im not sure what else I can
Parker and Broots sat side by side in comfortable leather chairs. Broots
had pulled out a palm pilot and was taking notes. This had been prearranged,
since it was important that the FBI agent focus on the conversation, instead
of other things.
Oh, Ive seen the records, Parker replied. They
led me to some anomalies I wanted to ask you about. I realize that the
John Doe case wasnt exactly the highlight of anyones life.
Nevertheless, developments on a case Im currently working on seem
to indicate that there might be a connection between it and John Doe.
The older man looked puzzled. Except that Doe is dead. He died
in an explosion. Its presumed that Agent Jarod Ness, who was following
the case closely, also died in the explosion."
And John Doe had no friends who could be involved in my case?
Miss Parker asked.
Well, he was arrested for the kidnapping of Harriet Tashman. He
never said what he wanted from her, but he was pretty desperate for something.
He didnt get a chance to hurt her, either the first time he kidnapped
her or after the second time he escaped."
Is that a fact? Parker murmured. And nobody ever asked
Harriet Tashman what she knew that was so important?
The guy was a nut case. You cant predict what theyll
I disagree. Even the craziest have some sort of pattern. Some motivation
that drives them to do what they do.
That seemed to be what Ness thought. And he did catch up to Doe.
Guy was sharp, and he went through everything Doe had several times, not
to mention the videotapes on the case.
Maybe he just wanted a souvenir, Broots muttered. Parker
glared at him.
Do you know what happened to the Tashman woman? she said.
Sure. I kinda followed up on it because I was curious. I mean,
you gotta wonder what makes someone as nutty as Doe was. And then that
agent, it was like he had a personal stake in finding the guy, Douglas
The possibility of promotion will do that to you, Broots
answered. This time Parker didnt glare at her supposed partner,
but she did shoot him a look of surprised approval.
Anyway, the Tashman woman moved back to her farm and settled down.
Guess she figured the worst had already happened to her and nothing worse
She might be right at that. Parker stood. Thank you
for your assistance.
Ive had copies made of the records and tapes in the case,
as your associate requested. Broots had been the first contact here,
since it was easier for him to make the necessary calls without arousing
suspicion. That was another reason Parker had wanted Broots along.
Thatd be good. Thank you. Broots picked up the box
he was handed, and he and Parker returned to the car. It was weird being
with Parker when she was acting so much like Jarod. Pretending to be with
the FBI was a new experience for Broots.
So now were going to go bother Harriet Tashman. Broots
made it a statement.
Yes. It should be almost as creepy as hanging around a government
Why would you say that? Broots asked, more because he kept
hoping shed confide in him what her purpose was.
Morgan Parker just smiled. Jarods past would be there, as would
Kyles. If the Tashman woman really knew anything about Jarods
family, there would be other secrets as well.
* * * * * * * * *
Later that day
Miss Parker and Broots arrived at the Tashman farm shortly before dinnertime.
Miss Parker was pleased to see that Broots was ignoring the rumbling of
his stomach. There would be time to eat later, after she had more answers
to her questions.
They exited the car and made their way to the white farmhouse. A large
collie came to the door and started barking.
Broots looked wistfully at Miss Parker, flinching at the volley of barks
on the other side of the door. I dont suppose youd like
to be the one to ring the doorbell.
I hardly think its necessary for either of us to do so. If
shes in there, shell show herself, if only to get the dog
to stop making all that racket. Miss Parker stood confidently on
the porch. Soon a middle aged blond woman approached the door. She looked
through the curtains, then pulled the dog back, keeping one hand on his
You get the feeling strangers arent welcome here? Broots
Whatever youre selling, the woman said, were
not interested in buying.
Are you Harriet Tashman? Miss Parker asked. There was a vague
family resemblance, but she didnt quite match the photos Broots
If I were, whats it to you? she replied.
I need to speak to Harriet Tashman regarding John Doe, the man
who kidnapped her several years ago.
John Doe is dead. The police have assured us of that.
His brother isnt. I need to know where his brother might
be. Its important.
The curtains rustled. Behind them was another blond middle-aged woman.
She moved to the doorway. Her eyes widened in shock. She knew, of course,
who Miss Parker was. Jarod had told her what he knew of Catherines
daughter, but had stopped himself before painting her as either good or
bad. It appeared to Harriet that Jarod had wanted her to make up her own
Harriet pushed the other woman gently inside. Go on in, Elspeth.
Ill deal with this, you deal with dinner. The other woman
turned and left, muttering under her breath.
Youll have to excuse Elspeth. Shes a distant cousin
who has come to live here and keep me company. Shes not that fond
of strangers. Harriet had been delighted when Jarod had found a
distant relative who wanted to get closer to her. Living with Elspeth
could be difficult, but it was more welcome than being alone. Im
Harriet. And I dont know where his brother is. I do know you, though.
You want to take Jarod back to the Centre. That isnt something Im
going to help you do. Harriet carefully controlled her face, not
letting the others see how hard it was not to embrace Catherines
daughter. Once upon a time, she would have done just that. But years of
laying low had added a layer of caution.
Parker frowned. The only way the Tashman woman was going to trust her
was if she told her the truth. That much was obvious.
I need to speak to you in private. Could we talk? Miss Parker
summoned up a mental image of Gabriel to calm her and put her in the right
frame of mind. It must have worked to soften her features, because after
a few moments Harriet did leave the house. She led Miss Parker to a nearby
bench and they both sat down. Broots nodded in the direction of the car
and Miss Parker waved him away. Hed be better off out of the way
I need to talk to you about Jarod and Kyle. You knew both of them.
And you knew my mother.
Yes. Catherine was one of my best friends. She was a very special
Yes, she was. Lately Ive found myself wanting to be more
like her. Parker paused. I dont know if you knew this,
but I was very young when she died. I was raised by my father. He didnt
like me to use my first name, but Id like you to. Would you call
Harriet smiled. Yes. I remember how fond Catherine was her Aunt
Morgan. It's very like her to name you for someone she cared so much about.
Id like to hear more about her sometime. Would you tell me?
Parker kept her voice soft and gentle. Harriet didnt look like someone
who would get more helpful if she was frightened or angry.
Harriet looked into Miss Parkers eyes, and then made her decision.
Yes. But I have my reasons for wanting to avoid the Centre. Youre
still working for them, arent you?
There are reasons why it isnt safe for me to walk out of
the Centre just now. I can be sure Im not followed, though.
Parker glanced towards the car. I can assure you that Mr. Broots
is totally trustworthy. And a good friend. Hell keep an eye out
for any trouble, just in case.
Theres something else Id like to trust you with, but
Harriet broke off in mid-sentence. Merritt was crossing
the lawn, walking directly towards them. Miss Parker hadnt noticed
yet. She glanced at the man in the car. Broots was absorbed in a computer
game and hadnt seen the young girl.
Parker couldnt miss Harriets gaze, however, and her eyes
turned toward Merritt. Her lips parted as though she wanted to say something,
but she was speechless. What do you say when you meet someone who looks
so much like you used to? Someone who almost could be you. Parker
thought back to her memories of herself at the same age. Merritts
eyes werent as haunted as hers had been, so there was a slight difference
between them that was deeper than the up-to-date clothes the teenager
Hi, said Merritt. I knew youd come.
Do you know who I am? Miss Parker asked. It seemed best to
take this slowly. She hadnt liked being rushed as a child. Probably
Merritt didnt, either.
Yes. Jarod told me. But Id know you anyway. You feel like
a friend, Merritt answered, with a shy smile.
Miss Parker remained motionless, frozen with emotion. Shed gone
to considerable trouble to arrange this meeting, to prepare herself for
it. But she didnt feel prepared for it now.
Parker forced herself to listen to Merritts words. She still hadnt
gotten the hang of her inner sense, at least not all the time. But it
appeared that her younger self did. So, she thought, not really her younger
self. Someone who looked like her but wasnt necessarily anything
like her. Yet here was someone with whom she could build a family of sorts.
You should go back in the house, Harriet said. We dont
know if we can trust them.
Merritt tossed her hair in teenage annoyance. But before she could speak,
Yes, for now you should go. Id like to spend time with you,
and with Harriet. In order for me to decide where Im going from
here, I need to get in touch with the part of me you represent. You remind
me of who I could have been if I hadnt always been striving to meet
my fathers goals.
I know what its like to have an ambitious father, Merritt
Not like mine. Mine is hard and cold. Thats why Harriet doesnt
trust me, Miss Parker answered, looking to the older woman for confirmation,
and finding it in her eyes.
I still intend to get to know you better, Merritt stated
Im not going to be able to convince you to be careful, am
I? Harriet asked.
Ill be careful. But Id like to meet you again and talk
longer, Merritt answered, as she spun and turned towards the house.
An observant person would have noted that she was watching the car with
Broots in it very carefully. No matter how intrigued Merritt appeared
to be by Catherine Parkers daughter, the lessons in self-preservation
Jarod had taught her were ingrained in her habits.
Harriet shrugged. That was Merritt. Shes an incredibly strong
person who reminds me greatly of your mother. Catherine had that kind
of self confidence, the certainty that she would always do right.
Jarod has told me about Merritt. He thinks we could be friends.
Parker didnt actually know if Jarod thought that way, but she knew
Harriet would believe it.
Jarods always trying to help people. Hes been a very
good influence on Merritt, Harriet answered. I dont
really have a lot of influence with her, but this seems to be something
she really wants to do.
Its important to me, too. Like Jarod, there are parts of
my past I dont know a lot about.
And even though Merritts very much a part of the future, I need
to spend time with her. I want to watch her grow up and be her friend.
The phraseology wasnt typical for Miss Parker, but she knew that
anything other than gestures of friendship would drive Harriet away.
Harriet looked somewhat uncomfortable. It was as though she hated to
refuse Catherines daughter anything, but still couldnt get
the spectre of the Centre out of her mind. Are you going to be staying
here long? You could stay for dinner.
Miss Parker looked at her watch. It was getting late, and shed need
to make an appearance at the Centre early in the morning. It wouldnt
do to vary her routine too much all at once.
Not tonight. I have to be going. And I think perhaps youd
feel better if we took things slowly. Ill need a way to get in touch
with both of you, though. If it would make you feel better, we could meet
in a more public place, Miss Parker answered as she stood and turned
toward the car.
OK. Addresses and phone numbers were exchanged, even though
both of them knew without saying that it would have to be an emergency
for Harriet to risk calling anyone so closely connected with the Centre.
Harriet walked Miss Parker to the car, so that it was her that Broots
saw when he looked up. Broots put away his game and smiled nervously,
as if caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Harriet returned his hesitant
greeting and backed up toward the house so that Parker could swing the
car around in the dirt driveway.
Broots watched Harriet wave good-bye, and asked, Did you find what
you were looking for?
Oh, yes. She knew my mother and is willing to talk to me about
her. Broots, this is important. I dont want the Centre to have any
idea of who Im meeting or why. My father would go ballistic. But
I refuse to live with the lies and secrets anymore. I need to know who
my mother was to people other than my father and me. That means talking
with Harriet and tracking down any other leads she can give me, without
letting anyone in the Centre know. Parker very carefully didnt
mention Merritt. Had it been necessary, shed have had Broots use
his skills as a father to give her pointers on how to get the girl to
trust her. That, after all, was why Broots was along. His open, honest
manner made people trust him. When he was with Parker, people trusted
Even Sydney? Broots asked.
Its not that I dont trust Syd, Miss Parker answered,
but the fewer people who know of my current interest the better.
Itll be safer for him and safer for me.
Broots groaned. If Im going to be in danger, Id at
least like some dinner first.
Well stop at the first place I see, Miss Parker promised.