A park in Pennsylvania
Morgan Parker walked in the autumn quiet next to the young girl who looked
so much like her. She wondered if it had been like this for her mother,
unnerving yet indescribably precious.
Harriet keeps saying I look like you, Merritt said, breaking
the silence. I never realized what that would feel like.
How does it feel? Miss Parker asked.
Scary. Like if I meet someone who knows you theyll automatically
expect me to be you, Merritt answered. And I dont know
enough about who I am to want to be someone else.
I know how that feels. People tell me all the time that I look
just like my mother. Its had a major effect on how I lived a lot
of my life. I used to think my mother was weak, but now, it makes me feel
good when people say it. That change of heart helped me make an important
decision. Parker paused.
What decision? Merritt asked, looking serious.
Looks arent everything. Miss Parker picked up a chestnut,
and held it in her hand. Then she tossed it gently to a small gray squirrel.
Whats important is that this once, I have a chance to be friends
with someone I want to get to know better. I know Im not your mother,
not really. But I can be your friend.
Youre sort of like my mother. Merritt smiled. I
like that. Ive missed having a family a lot. Harriet is nice, but
she isnt quite the same. Shed like to hide me in a cocoon
and keep me safe. But I need to get to know people and make my own decisions.
You're young to be on your own. But you have a lot of confidence.
Its how I was raised. I dont get too scared. I just
Curious about what?
You, for one thing. Jarod says you have a dad. And a brother.
Two brothers, really. I share one with Jarod. You should meet him.
Hes called Ethan.
Does he live near you?
No. He went with Jarod, to be safe.
If the Centre isnt safe, why do you stay there?
Right now, because of Gabriel. He's
my baby brother. I need
to stay near him and give him someone who loves him just because hes
a little boy and not because of what he is. He's very smart
like you and Jordan.
Why dont you just take him and run away? Merritt knew
running away wasnt always the best solution, but it held a lot of
Because I dont want him raised on the run, either. The Centre
has always been just one step behind Jarod. If I left, they might be a
lot closer than one step away from me.
Merritt tossed a chestnut of her own towards a squirrel. Parker stayed
silent, watching to see what would happen next.
Am I an experiment? Are you trying to hide me from the Centre?
Merritt was throwing out suppositions, hoping Miss Parker would convince
her that it would be safe for them to be friends.
No. I know youre your own person. Its true that if
the Centre discovers us it would make it harder for me to protest my innocence
and maintain my foothold in the Centre hierarchy. I cant deny the
Centre is dangerous, and that you should avoid coming to their attention
at all costs, Miss Parker paused. We might both be in danger.
Youre worth it, though. And I dont have a final plan, not
yet. I just like indulging myself and talking with you because I think
you can understand how I feel. Ive always liked the idea of a family
of my own and you may be as close as I can get to that.
You dont trust your father, Merritt stated.
No, I dont. Miss Parker was still referring to the
man shed called father for so long out of habit. But it was equally
true of her real father, whoever he was. There were very few people she
could totally trust and some secrets she was even going to keep from this
girl who already meant so much to her.
* * * * * * * *
Later in the day, somewhere near the ocean in Delaware
Miss Parker stopped her car and looked out over the water. It was one
of her nightmares that Gabriel would end up like Kyle. Gabriel had enough
self-identity to fight any programming which Cox would throw at him. She
felt fairly confident that he wouldnt break totally. And even as
young as he was, Gabriel seemed to have an instinct about who to trust
that would keep him from believing too many lies. But the Kyle shed
met in the Centre had been shut down, closed off. So far shed prevented
that from happening to Gabriel. But how long did it take for a child to
What shed discovered this time had been the extent of the programming
which Kyle had received. And the carrot used to motivate him had been
the chance to see his parents. Hed been desperate to find them,
sure they could fix anything.
That was all very well. If Gabriel needed her, he would know where to
find her. That she could control. But if the Centre used any consistency
in the methods they used to program these children, some overpowering
need would be programmed into Gabriel as well. Shed have to discover
what that need was and make sure she could use her knowledge to keep Gabriel
safe. That was something she could do which Jarod couldnt help her
with at the moment.
Simmons and Hart, Booksellers, Kingston, NY
Jarod booted up the store computer. Immediately, as hed come to
expect, there was an e-mail with a photo of an Asian doll attached. This
one had a scar on her face. Again, each detail of the dolls dress
indicated that the sender had great experience with Asian culture. Whoever
was sending these pictures knew what message they wanted to give him,
Todays message had been anticipated. The receipt of the e-mail
triggered a program on Jarods computer, which automatically bounced
back a little program. The code went into the senders hard drive
and sent to Jarod the first 10 files it found. Jarod opened the first
Memo regarding the Seraphim Project.
Your request to work with this child has not been granted at this time.
It is felt by the Centre management that she will benefit more from working
with her current tutors. We will keep your request in mind and notify
you should your assistance be deemed necessary.
That was enough. Jarod hit the key which sent the worm into the other
computers hard drive, destroying the digital footprints that would
lead back to his inquiry. Hed have to scrub this e-mail account
and try and stay out of the way of his unknown enemy. Perhaps the other
files would tell him more about his adversary. Someone blamed him for
the childrens isolation. A quick sort through the files and through
his memories led him to Sun-Chai and Mason. They were the only living
parents of any of the Seraphim who would have the ability to sniff out
his electronic address.
The Asian dolls led him to believe Sun-Chai was the culprit, rather than
Mason. And Jarod was sure that if he was wrong, Sun-Chai would see that
Mason got his fair share of the consequences. Although the records from
the Centres Asian branch had shown that the pair worked together
well and often, Sun-Chai was by far the more deadly. Shed severely
injured one partner who had compromised a case, and Jarod felt sure there
had been others not included in the records. Mason had gained Sun-Chais
respect by the simple strategy of not making any major errors. Jarod had
the feeling that not doing what she wanted with regards to her child would
count as a major error.
Sun-Chai was confident and capable enough to have found out about the
Seraphim project through her interest in recapturing Jarod. It was even
possible that she had some maternal feelings for the child, and felt that
the Centre was best served by Jarod returning to teach the children. Jarod
would need more data to accurately assess Sun-Chais motivations,
and that meant waiting before he made his next move.
So it was to Sun-Chai that he sent his final gift. The box was almost
as half as tall as Jarod, and marked Handle with Care-Personal
and Private. Inside were half-sized models of each of the Seraphim,
seated at the feet of their mentor, Jarod. The expressions on the dolls
were rapt, as though they were totally entranced. Hed accept responsibility
for whatever influence he had over the children. But the protective bubble
hed encased his models in would provide the recipient with a most
unpleasant surprise when opened. The scent that would envelope them would
be hard to remove, and harder to trace. But if Sun-Chai were determined
enough, she might manage to figure it out. In that case, Jarod would meet
her again on his ground, in his time. If she really wanted to help her
daughter, Jarod would find out. If she was part of a Centre trap, Jarod
would be prepared.
By the time it arrived, Jarod intended to be very, very far away. He
picked up his duffel bag and got in the car. Hed meet the Lynfords
at the airport, brief them on what happened, and head out west for awhile.
A change of pace would be a good thing.
* * * * * * * * *
The house was silent, as houses are apt to be at three in the morning.
Morgan Parker was startled out of a sound sleep by the ringing of the
phone. She picked up the receiver and said What? in an annoyed
voice. Hearing only the dial tone, she woke up enough to realize her cell
phone was still ringing. She got out of bed and padded to her purse. Removing
the cell phone, she climbed back into bed. What! she said
again, even more irritated than before.
Didnt anyone ever teach you any phone manners? Jarod
said in a mildly amused tone of voice.
Didnt anyone ever tell you it isnt nice to call in
the middle of the night? she answered.
I wanted to be sure you were alone, he answered.
Miss Parker sighed softly. Is there a problem, or do you just want
I wanted to talk to you, not the Miss Parker who has to hunt for
me. I want to know how Gabriel is doing, how you are. Is that so wrong?
Gabriel is fine. He misses you, but I think Ive helped him
enough so that hell be OK, for now. Parker was willing to
provide reassurance to Jarod, she just wished hed called at a slightly
more socially acceptable hour.
I dont know. I miss having the old certainties. Things are
The secrets are still there. It isnt just about bringing
down the Centre and getting the children free. Life -- our lives -- are
about finding out the truth. That means knowing and exposing all the secrets
that have been used to keep us all prisoners. The answer was typical
of Jarod, the sort of taunt he used to make to drive her nuts. The difference
was that this time Parker knew what Jarod meant, and she agreed.
I know. It seems to be safe enough now for me to try and find some
of those answers, she said. And I gather you know where Ive
made a beginning.
Yes. You look for answers. Ill look for more questions. Well
talk later. Parker heard the click of the phone that told her Jarod
had hung up on her. She set the phone on her bedside table and glared
at the ceiling as she lay down again.
As usual, Jarod was right. The only way she was going to get answers
was to go after them herself. But at least she knew now it wasnt
just answers she needed. Solutions were needed; solutions that would permit
a safe method of communicating with the people she cared about, without
putting any of their lives in danger. She wasnt going to be content
with stolen moments, either with Gabriel or Merritt. That meant getting
control over her life.
End of Episode