|Primary Characters:||Miss Parker, Jarod, Sydney, Broots|
|Warning:||references to m/m sex and incest|
|Description:||Miss Parker makes a distressing discovery about Jarod. He finds out about her outrage on his behalf, and wants to do something for her. He also learns that something even worse was once done to her. They spend an incredible weekend together, which is good for both of them.|
With her usual understated charm, miss Parker flung open the door to Sydney’s office, slamming it shut behind her. But this time it seemed to him that her face betrayed more emotion than it normally did. There was now not just anger and tension, but also something else, something that hinted at outrage.
Sydney’s unperturbed calm infuriated miss Parker further. She threw down the file she had been holding onto his desktop and emphasized her gesture by slamming her fist down on top of the file. It seemed to hurt her hand, and Sydney thought he could detect a flash of pain in her eyes. Clearly, something out of the ordinary had occurred. It merely amused him to allow her tantrum to play itself out. He wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of playing up to her. She’d have to tell him what it was she wanted.
“What do you have to say about this?”
“If you’d tell me what “this” is about, I might be able to enlighten you, miss Parker.”
“I found this in my father’s office and -”
“Will you shut your mouth, Sydney, or I’ll shut it for you.”
“Ouch. I could probably prescribe something for your PMS.”
But the way her eyes darkened warned him that he’d gone too far this time.
“Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you, then I’ll see what I can do.”
“It’s a bit too late for that now. Look.”
She opened the file and waved her hand over the printed paper. Sydney read what it said and his face lost its serene look. Unconsciously, he raised a hand to his eyes and rubbed them as if he wanted to clear away some unwanted memory.
He still didn’t say anything, and it seemed he was deep in thought. But miss Parker wouldn’t let him let him off the hook that easily.
“This is the worst – No. Maybe not the worst, but still, where would you draw the line? Cannibalism?”
“You’re upset. And I can’t say I blame you. But when you look at the facts -”
“When you look at the facts, you can’t ignore the fact that you or someone else here, basically sexually assaulted him.”
“We did nothing of the kind. As another controlled experiment, some of Jarod’s sperm was collected. I understand they wanted to analyse his DNA.”
“You collected that sperm over a period of how long? Five years?”
“I’m not sure of the facts. This wasn’t my project. As you know, I’m a psychiatrist. I was merely informed about what was being done to Jarod. That’s all. You don’t need to look at me like that. Whatever else you might think about me, I’m no child molestor.”
“Oh. And how did they collect this sperm?”
“I imagine they had Jarod drugged. He must have been asleep throughout the entire procedure.”
But Sydney looked almost as sickened as miss Parker did. She was just too agitated to pay much attention.
“He was a child.”
“Not exactly. If I remember correctly he would have been about 16 when this particular experiment was initiated.”
“Oh, great. That makes it a whole lot better, doesn’t it?”
“Why are you so upset about this? Isn’t it your job to bring him in? I didn’t realize that you cared this deeply about him.”
“Don’t push it, Sydney. I could just -”
She ground out her cigarette stub in the ash tray Sydney had begun to provide, since the days when she used to throw her used cigarrettes in the potted plant which was on the bookcase by his desk. With hands that weren’t quite steady, she lit another one. When she was finally done, she brought the flickering flame from her lighter close to Sydney’s face.
If she expected him to flinch, she was disappointed. In fact, he hardly seemed to notice. His mind was dwelling on the possible reason why miss Parker was taking this particular discovery so hard.
In the end, she put away the lighter, grabbed the file off the desk and retreated towards the door. She had had her say, found out a little more, but she seemed far from satisfied.
“Miss Parker? May I ask what you intend to do with this information?”
“I don’t know. Return the file to my father’s office before – Before anyone notices it’s gone.”
“That is probably wise. Why this strong reaction? If you think about it, far worse has happened here.”
“It doesn’t mean anything to you? You think it’s perfectly ok to use a boy like that and -”
“As I told you before, I wasn’t involved in this project at all. No one asked my permission, as you might understand.”
“Yeah? But what do you think, really?”
“I think perhaps it’s more interesting to learn why you find this so important. What is it about this that bothers you so much?”
“You don’t understand that at all, do you?”
And before he could ask another question, she stormed out of his office, leaving him with his speculations. The frown deepened as he turned off the screensaver on his computer, accessed a file and began to scan it.
Another face, several miles away, clouded over as the impact of this new information sunk in. Jarod played the tape back and listened to it again. And again. His fingers drummed on the desk, but he wasn’t aware of it. With a sigh, he turned off the surveillance equipment.
Why was he surprised? Compared to some of the other things that had gone on inside the Centre, this wasn’t any worse. Or was it? But it was no use denying to himself that this new reminder of what the Centre was capable of, filled him with terror. They couldn’t even let him sleep in peace. Someone had to come into his room and –
Most of the time, Jarod had himself under control, but this latest revelation had gotten under his skin. He needed to get out, leave this obsession with the Centre and the people he had known and allowed himself to care about in there.
That thought reminded him of miss Parker’s strong reaction to what he had been subjected to. He knew all about her feelings towards him, ambivalent as they were. In fact, he probably knew better than she did herself, but this was new. This reaction was something he hadn’t expected.
Suddenly, he was filled with a wish to do something for her. He wanted to wipe that tense look off her face and replace it with something close to happiness. At least as much of that that he was capable of providing. He knew what she liked, but buying her another rabbit probably wouldn’t be a good idea. She’d only have to return it to the pet store, and that wouldn’t bring a smile to her face.
What else did she want? Something he wasn’t sure he could make her accept. But he could try. And there were plenty of other, minor pleasures that he had learnt to appreciate, in the time he had spent outside. In freedom.
But first, he needed to find out more about this discovery she’d made. If they had done this to him, how many other children had been subjected to the same treatment? How many had they performed even worse experiments on? He needed to know, for his own sake as well as for those other nameless little victims.
The information was hidden under levels and levels of coverup. But he had never expected it to be easy. And to Jarod, the challenge didn’t prove too taxing. What he found was even more devastating than he had bargained for. It went further and had more implications than he’d ever been able to guess, which was a new sensation to Jarod. He was created to be able to simulate situations and draw the necessary conclusions from them. This shouldn’t have been any different, but it was.
This, though, he hadn’t been able to foresee, and that left him shaken and disoriented. Until now, he had been driven by two needs primarily, to find his family and his own origins, and to undo some of the damage the Centre was causing innocent people. There also was an element of revenge to his quest, he couldn’t deny that to himself.
In the wake of this new discovery, all that temporarily vanished. Now he was intent on one matter alone. Since he wasn’t the only one concerned with this, he knew he had to share this information with the other person who deserved to know.
That brought him back to his original intention. Now all he needed to do was make his approach, undetected by the Centre’s security. And that wasn’t much of a challenge, for Jarod.
He left the envelope on the table, giving her time to digest the new circumstances on her own. Part of him wanted to be there when she learned the truth, to offer her whatever comfort he could. But he knew she wouldn’t like him to witness her loss of control. Besides, he had preparations to make.
When Sydney got back after lunch, he found miss Parker sitting in his chair, a faraway look in her eyes. Far gentler than normally, Sydney called her name. It was a while before there was any reaction. And when she turned and faced him, Sydney was the one to show emotion, not miss Parker. Her face was a pale, tense mask, so tense, Sydney feared some kind of breakdown. Like that other time.
He walked over to her, and gently put a hand on her shoulder. It was indicative of the change she had undergone since the last time he’d seen her, that she didn’t pull away, or shove his hand off.
“Did you know about this too?”
Now he noticed the envelope lying on his desk in front of her. But he didn’t open it. He had known this day would come, and he had dreaded it. Now it had come.
“I think -”
“How could they? How could my father allow this to happen?”
“I don’t imagine he was consulted.”
“You knew they used Jarod’s sperm to impregnate me? And that they took away my baby? Sydney, I was 17.”
But her voice was strangely lifeless. Today, there didn’t seem to be any risk of being burned by a cigarette lighter, or shot.
“I wasn’t consulted either.”
“Then how did you know? I wasn’t one of your patients. Except for -”
“Exactly. And this time too, I was called in when they had taken the baby from you. When you had that breakdown. Didn’t you remember any of this before, miss Parker?”
“I still don’t remember a thing. Almost nothing since my mother died, until I went away to college. You didn’t have anything to do with that either?”
“You mean, did I make you forget? How could I do that? I’m a psychatrist, I don’t work magic.”
“Hypnosis, or something?”
“No. Nothing like that.”
“Then why? Why is my mind this empty? What did they do to me?”
“Your subconscious is trying to protect you from emotions that are destructive in their intensity. The pain was too great. You couldn’t bear to remember. So your mind made you forget.”
“But I need to remember. Do something.”
“Calm down. I’ll try. But you need to relax.”
Now her voice bordered on hysteria. Sydney knew that whatever he did, he might end up in trouble. If he didn’t manage to avert this breakdown his superiors would object. And if he did succeed, there was a question of how useful miss Parker would be to them in the time she took to recover. Also, she wouldn’t take kindly to any ministrations on his part. But he couldn’t allow her to go over the edge like this either. He might be a weak man, and a psychiatrist with questionable ethics, but he had some decency.
“Miss Parker. Please. Try to put this into perspective. It all happened many years ago. Will you let me -”
If he caught the situation now, before she started to hyperventilate, he might be able to prevent a new breakdown from occurring. Not letting her out of his sight, he walked over to the cabinet where he kept some rudimentary medical supplies. She saw his movement, and read his intent correctly.
“No more drugs.”
He returned to her side and looked down on her with concern.
“Try to breathe in and out slowly. Deeply. That’s right. In. Out. Good. I don’t suppose you’ll agree, but it would be best if you lay down for a while.”
“Don’t be absurd. I’m not sick. Just because I found out what they did to me, doesn’t mean I’m one of your nutcases.”
Her voice was close to normal again. Who would have thought it would be such a relief to hear that sharp tone again.
“I know that. Now, we can talk, if you like.”
“What exactly do you know about all this? About me and – Jarod’s baby.”
“Not much. Like I told you before, I wasn’t involved until you had that breakdown. As far as I could understand, they had kept you sedated the entire pregnancy, brought you out of it for the delivery. Then when you realized what was going on, I came into the picture. You were practically unconscious when I was taken to see you. From then on, my work was simply to get you back on your feet. Emotionally. You’re sure you don’t have any memories of this at all?”
Miss Parker frowned. Did she? Trying to concentrate, she closed her eyes to shut everything else out of her mind. Before she’d gone off to college, what did she remember? Not much. Snatches of images. Impressions. And – Yes. A fear of being held down. Strapped to a table or – That had to be it. But nothing about being pregnant or even giving birth. How was that possible? Wouldn’t there be marks on her body?
“Sydney, how is it possible that I don’t have any marks anywhere? I thought you got stretchmarks or something.”
“Temporarily. Especially at that age.”
“Of course, if you were to be subjected to a thorough physical examination – ”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“No. Alright. I will try to help you regain your memories, but I doubt that it will be very helpful. Like I said, you were kept barely conscious the entire time. It’s possible that there aren’t that many memories to regain.”
“In all those years?”
“The memories from the time after your mother’s death until you became pregnant belong to a different set of problems. And though it might be more difficult to retrieve them, that might in the end prove more useful to you.”
“Ok. Let’s start right now.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible. It’s not something you do in an afternoon. Or even a few days. I will have to make preparations and -”
“Oh. You’re always the same. Ok. Then when?”
“How about Monday morning? I should have everything I need by then.”
She shrugged and got up.
“Are you sure you won’t change your mind about the injection? It would make you feel more relaxed, but I give you my word it won’t tamper with your mind.”
“No more drugs. At least not that kind. Right now I wouldn’t mind some booze, but no needles.”
“I understand. But try not to drink too much. It’s no real solution.”
“Who are you? My doctor?”
“It seems I am.”
She bit back a sharp reply and put her hand on the doorknob, but didn’t open the door. Instead, she turned back again, and once again in a softer voice than he’d ever heard her use until today, she said his name.
“Sydney, what did they do with my baby? They didn’t use it for the same kind of experiments they did with the others, did they?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know anything about it.”
She hadn’t expected him to. Without another word, she turned on her heel and this time really left his office. The Centre was suffocating her. She needed to get out of here. Her own place might not be very cheerful, but she always made sure there was no surveillance equipment there. It was off limits to anyone from the Centre. Her father might have been welcome, but that he would show up was as little likely as an unexpected visit from Santa Claus.
When she turned the key, she had no premonition. Her only thought was to find that bottle of scotch, get into bed, and make sure she didn’t remember anything at all for a while. Throwing her handbag on the floor, heedless of the danger of her weapon going off, she went into the kitchen to find the bottle. Instead, she found a visitor far more welcome than Santa Claus.
How had he dared to come this close to the Centre? Everyone was looking for him, to bring him back. Including her. But here he was, standing over by the window, looking his usual mysterious self.
“You sent me that envelope. Of course. For a while I was afraid – Thank you. Why are you being this helpful?”
“Why did you tear into poor Sydney when you found out what they had done to me?”
Touche. Maybe he really did care a little. Something occurred to her and she had to ask him about it, though right now she didn’t feel at all hostile, whatever the answer might be.
“You don’t have this place bugged, I hope?”
“You have my word. Just the Centre itself.”
Again, something struck her and her facial color rose a little. He had heard her lose it in Sydney’s office. And he must be able to guess – But she wouldn’t comment. Not to this man who seemed to be able to see into the murky depths of her mind, and read her far better than anyone else could, including her father and herself.
“Good. They have too many secrets as it is.”
“Aren’t you going to catch me and turn me over to them?”
“I’m off duty. Want to join me?”
“What did you have in mind?”
“The bottle of scotch in that cupboard. I’m sure you’ve already gone through my place and you know where everything is.”
“Sounds tempting, but I have a better suggestion. How about a little vacation?”
“Vacation? Ok. Far away from this place. Where to?”
“You have a choice between Las Vegas and a little hideaway in the woods.”
“Hm. Normally, I’d have said Vegas without any hesitation, but right now I could use some peace and quiet. And you’re saying you’d take me there? What’s the catch, Jarod?”
“No catch. I just thought you could use a little timeout.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever needed anything that much. Ok.”
Jarod’s smile was so warm and sweet she almost choked and she used the excuse of going into her bedroom to pack a few things. She could hear him from behind her, but he didn’t try to invade her privacy.
“You won’t need much. I’ve already taken care of most of what you’ll need.”
“You went through my clothes?”
“I didn’t go into your bedroom, or the bathroom, in case you’re wondering.”
Fifteen minutes later, she was finished packing, and rejoined Jarod. He had moved from the kitchen and was sitting in her one comfortable armchair, the one that didn’t quite go with the rest of the decor, listening to a cd she didn’t know she owned. Some classical stuff. Or had he brought it? Either way, for the first time in her life, she liked that lame old-fashioned stuff a lot. Something about it reminded her of Jarod, and the look in his eyes.
Jarod got up with the same effortless grace that always got to her, switched off the cd player and turned towards her.
“Miss Parker, I’m really glad you decided to come along. We’ve never had the chance to do this before.”
“No. I guess not. That endless game of hide and seek hasn’t given us time to socialize.”
Jarod smiled a little. How he had managed to drive her to the limits of her endurance time and time again. Now he was questioning his motives for that petty behavior. It wasn’t fair, and the pressure had begun to affect her health. This weekend he’d make all of that up to her.
“Outside, we’ll split up. Take your own car and meet me over at the carpark outside the mall about two miles from here. We’ll leave it there and we’ll go on in my car. You know the place?”
“Yes, I know the place. Ok.”
She felt strangely reluctant to part company with him. And she of course he knew that. To her complete and utter astonishment, he pulled her into his arms, holding her close for a moment, and just before letting go and disappearing into the deepening twilight, he kissed her. Then he was gone, and she was left staring after him, with a dumbstruck expression on her face.
Still a little dazed, she got into her car and drove off. It didn’t take her long to get to the parking lot outside the mall. The place was still open, at least some stores, and there were still quite a few people coming and going, so miss Parker just mingled with them, waiting for Jarod to show up, if this wasn’t just another one of her dreams.
Disappointment rushed through her when the minutes ticked by and there was no sign of Jarod anywhere. Just as she was about to give up, she felt herself being jostled by a passing customer on his way to the car. Angrily, she yelled to him what she thought about people like him, when she again felt something brush by her arm. She turned and was looking right into Jarod’s eyes.
“You did come.”
“I said I would, didn’t I?”
“What kept you so long?”
“I needed to make sure you weren’t setting me up.”
“Oh. Well, as you can see, I wasn’t.”
“I know. Shall we?”
The car Jarod was driving was huge, and it was apparently filled with various purchases and other supplies. Jarod was a guy who believed in coming prepared. Miss Parker realized that she was filled with the kind of warm, bubbly expectation that she used to feel before her birthday, back in the good old days before her mother had died. She was looking forward to this weekend, like she hadn’t anything since – Since that day her mother had died. He’d better not let her down, after all this.
“Where are you taking me?”
“Like I told you, to a little hideaway in the woods.”
“If you want to play mysterious, fine.”
“I don’t play mysterious, I am mysterious.”
Miss Parker couldn’t think of anything to say to that, so she decided to just enjoy the ride.
When they turned off the main road onto a what looked like a dirt track, miss Parker was beginning to wish she’d worn something more comfortable. But then she didn’t own anything comfortable. What did it matter anyway? If she had to, she’d gladly ditch the shoes and walk barefoot, just to get away from it all for just a few days.
The trail kept winding deeper into the woods for so long, miss Parker was beginning to think they’d never get there at all. Wherever there really was. But eventually, before she fell asleep, they ended up outside a small, but solid-looking log cabin.
When she stepped out onto the track leading up to the front door, she realized that she had been right about the shoes. Jarod looked slightly amused, but didn’t comment. He just started carrying the supplies inside. After taking the shoes off, miss Parker decided to surprise Jarod by helping out. Not because she really felt all that self-sacrificing, but simply because she wanted to see the look on his face when she acted completely out of character.
“No. Don’t do that. This weekend is my treat. Just get inside and make yourself comfortable.”
“Well, if that’s how you feel about it.”
Inside, the cabin was well furnished, and she thought she might well get comfortable here. She started out by visiting the bathroom, and after that, stretched out on the sofa, where she must have fallen asleep within minutes.
Not until Jarod gently shook her awake, was she recalled to reality. And she remembered – But what had happened to them as kids wasn’t what she wanted to discuss right now, so she merely acknowledged that she was awake.
“Are you hungry? I’ve fixed you something in the kitchen. Otherwise, I’ve got the bed made for you.”
“Oh. Just give me a second and I’ll be out in the kitchen with you.”
“Good. You won’t regret it.”
“Oh? What have you got for me?”
“Wait and see.”
“Oh, ok. I’m coming.”
“Before you go. Look at these movies I got.”
“Star Wars? Oh, why not?”
“I also got these classics. The guy in the store said women love them. Casablanca, Gilda.”
“He was right. I certainly love them both.”
But when she got to the kitchen, miss Parker stopped and stared. Whatever she’d expected this was far from it. The table was filled with what might be labeled an 11-year-old’s favorite junk food. Mainly candy, cookies and desserts of various kinds.
She was reminded of how the Centre had stolen Jarod’s childhood. Her own had been cut short as well, but at least she remembered birthday parties, snacks and treats. She hadn’t eaten any of this since she was 10 or so, and suddenly she knew she was going to love every second of this weekend. Smiling at Jarod, she sat down at the table.
A lot later, they left the kitchen, miss Parker having eaten more than at any time in the past 15 years. She knew she’d have to starve the following week, and work out every night, but it would be worth it. Now she wasn’t a bit sleepy anymore, and she was beginning to look forward to watching a movie with Jarod, but to be honest, she was hoping they’d get to see one of the classics, rather than Star Wars. Though she did think she’d make a far better intergalactic warrior princess than that wimp Leia.
And Jarod had been telling the truth about this being her weekend. Without any hesitation, he popped Gilda into the VCR and returned to her side, putting an arm around her. Though the whole setup reminded miss Parker of some high school makeout scene, she didn’t have any wish to push him away.
At times, she blinked away a few tears, but was too busy not letting Jarod notice, she failed to pay attention to Jarod’s reaction, which was very similar to her own. Movie classics was another first for him. Eventually, the movie ended and Johnny and Gilda disappeared back to the United States. Jarod and miss Parker stayed put. Neither one of them wanted to retire for the night, bringing the amicable atmosphere to a close.
Avoiding catching Jarod’s eye, miss Parker tried to find some conversation that wouldn’t spoil the mood, which made it difficult to say the least. What else did they have in common, but traumatic memories and a minefield of painful topics best avoided?
It seemed Jarod was reading her mind.
“We haven’t discussed the child.”
Warily, she turned to face him.
“No. Do you know anything about it?”
“I didn’t know anything about this, until you found that file, but when I discovered what they did to you, I knew I’d have to find that child.”
“Have you made any progress?”
“I’m sorry. Not yet. But I’m working on it. Miss Parker?”
“This changes things, doesn’t it?”
As he said it, she knew it was true. They would forever be bound together by what they’d shared, unwillingly and even without their own knowledge. And suddenly, she knew that there was no other man in the world she wanted to be the father of her child.
She didn’t know what else to say, and Jarod too, appeared to have said everything he wanted to say. What had been done to them was so traumatic, it didn’t bear thinking about, far less talking about it. Instead, their conversation moved on, or rather came to a stop, but the closeness they felt didn’t end. Jarod’s arm was still around her shoulders, and she loved the sensation.
This was so totally unlike her other encounters with men. She was always running, only briefly allowing herself to get lost in the other person. By this time, normally, she would have already been to bed with the guy and driven back to her own empty apartment. Jarod seemed to be in no hurry to leave, but to her disappointment neither did he make a move.
Of course, a passive guy had never stopped her in the past. She could be the one to made the move. But with Jarod, everything was different. And she knew she couldn’t bear it if she tried and found that he didn’t want her after all. If that happened, it would have been far better not to have tried at all. Again, he seemed to have read her mind. The look in his eyes changed, and he pulled her closer.
Mm. He was good. She hadn’t expected that, but then she remembered who it was that must have taught him to kiss like that.
“What’s wrong? If you’d rather not -”
“No. I’d love to – It’s just that -”
“Never mind. I’m being silly. This weekend is for you and me. Let’s forget about everyone else.”
“This is about Nia, isn’t it? You’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ll always treasure that memory, but like you said, this is just you and me.”
“And you’re sure about this, Jarod?”
“I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”
“In that case, what are we waiting for?”
“Oh. Well, I told you I’d fixed up the bed.”
His grin was infectious.
“You planned this all along?”
“I believe in making plans ahead of time.”
“I see. Don’t let me stop you.”
The bed was huge for such a small room, and made up to perfection, but she hadn’t expected anything less from Jarod.
“You have no idea how much I’ve dreamed about this moment.”
What? This had to be one of her dreams, because what he was saying was what she’d dreamed over and over again for years. But she knew better than letting down her guard even now. Besides, actions speak louder than words.
After a moment, though, she felt impelled to take a breath and pulled back a little.
“Hold it. What is this? The Kama Sutra? Jarod, did you study for this?”
The sweet, shy look in his eyes gave her the answer to that one.
“I just thought you’d want -”
“I appreciate it, Jarod, but I thought that woman took care of the problem?”
“She did, but I wanted this to be really special for you.”
“You make this special. Don’t try so hard, Jarod. And as it happens, I’ve had quite a lot of practice. Just let me cover this, ok?”
His smile deepened, and he pulled her closer again.
“Whatever you say, miss Parker. I’m in your hands.”
After that, they let their bodies do the talking.
The rest of the weekend passed in very much the same way. On Sunday night, they both knew it had to come to an end. Jarod’s work was far from done, and miss Parker regretfully decided that no matter how divine this weekend had been, her place was at the Centre. At least for a while longer. Nothing had changed, at least not permanently, but in another way everything had changed. It just wouldn’t do to allow herself to take anything for granted.
This time, in the early hours of the morning, Jarod pulled up outside her apartment building, to let her out. She didn’t want to go. Not on her own.
“Come up for a while.”
He hesitated, then gave in. It was too soon to part. Though it was madness to stay for long this near to the Centre, he didn’t want to leave her yet.
“Ok. But just for a little while.”
“I know that. But my place is safe. I never allow any bugs in there.”
“I know. I’ve checked.”
“Yes, I always keep an eye on things. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Ask me again next week.”
“I think not.”
Upstairs, they didn’t waste any time. They went into her bedroom and started over again. Miss Parker noted that Jarod, as always, learned fast. The sun came up, and they still didn’t want to part, but Jarod knew that if he didn’t pull himself out of her arms now, all his work would be wasted. Someone would call, ask what was keeping her, maybe show up and check on her. It should be obvious by now that no one got any special treatment, daughter of one of the directors or not.
“I’m sorry. It’s time to go. You know why I can’t stay. And I guess you won’t -”
She knew what he was going to say, and she didn’t want to hear it. Part of her wanted to give up everything and just go with him, and live the life of a fugitive, rather than going back to being alone and bitter. But she didn’t have a choice and she knew it. Not yet. Maybe one day.
And he knew far too well what was going on inside her mind. One last time, he held her, and put his lips close to her ear, whispering something.
It took her a little while to process his words. Then something else struck her. And she stared at him in astonishment.
“How did you know my name? No one does. Not even Sydney.”
“It’s my job to find out things. You know that. If I were you, I’d focus more on the three little words before your name.”
She did. A slow smile spread across her tense features, and she leaned over and whispered the same three words into his ear. Then she had to watch him leave. She heard the door close behind him and felt a searing pain. This weekend, which was the closest thing to happiness she’d felt since her mother’s death, was over.
When would she see him again? And though the time they’d spent together had made her momentarily forget, she knew what her job was. If anyone found out about this, she’d be in as much trouble as Jarod, but she couldn’t bring herself to care about that. It was far too late. Already close to 8, but she needed a little rest, before she had to face her work and Sydney. With his scent still in her nose, she drifted off to sleep.
Sydney hadn’t forgotten about her and her traumatic memories. Just like he had promised, he had made preparations for her treatment, and when she didn’t show up as he had expected, around 7.30, he had taken a ride over to her home, to check on her. Her behavior last week had alarmed him. But he never got that far. Instead, he witnessed Jarod’s stealthy departure. Jarod. Perhaps he had worried needlessly. Slightly more hopeful about his patient’s prospects, he returned to his office.
Not until after lunch did miss Parker make an appearance. She looked less tense than Sydney had seen her, even since she was a child. Rested, contented. It wasn’t hard to guess what had caused the change in her. She was holding a cup of scalding hot coffee in her hand, as she walked in. Putting it down, she surprised Sydney by apologizing for her late arrival.
“That’s alright. Did you get a good night’s sleep?”
“And did you have a restful weekend?”
Having dispensed with the polite small talk, miss Parker picked up her coffee cup again. But Sydney’s warm tone of voice really soothed her. More sentimental than she could ever remember feeling, she looked at Sydney and almost smiled.
“I sometimes wish I had a father who was more like you.”
Sydney’s reaction stunned her. His agitation was unexpected.
“Don’t say that. I wouldn’t make a good parent. If I’d been a better man, I would have done more for Jarod and the other children. Like Jacob. He -”
“The way you talk about Jacob, you’d think you were lovers.”
His outburst had put her back in her usual mood, and she was about to gulp down most of the coffee all at once.
“That’s because we were.”
Spilling most of the scalding brew all over her, she also burned her mouth and throat with what little she’d managed to swallow. An attack of coughing had her almost choking.
Sydney walked over to her and gently rubbed her back, until she was breathing more easily. He turned back to his desk and found a few tissues for her to wipe the coffee off her clothes with.
“Are you alright?”
“Sydney. You – No. I’m not alright. That coffee was -”
“You burned yourself?”
“Yes. But never mind that. What were you saying about Jacob?”
“Oh, that. I’m sorry if I upset you. It’s fairly common among twins, especially boys. Didn’t you know?”
“Let me get this straight – or maybe that’s not the word – did you just tell me that you and your twin brother -”
“Yes. Well, you did ask.”
Sydney’s smile was again infuriatingly serene. Perhaps his story about Jacob would serve to distract her. He wasn’t betraying his brother. Jacob was dead and buried and anyway, they weren’t ashamed of what they had done. No one who wasn’t a twin could understand.
Seeing miss Parker lose her tough demeanor was an added bonus. In her eyes, Sydney could read shocked disbelief. Apparently, despite everything that was going on in this place, she could still be astonished over something.
“Yes. For a while in our teens. After that, Jacob began dating women of course.”
“But you didn’t?”
“Not until his – Not until the accident. I didn’t feel I needed anyone else. Emotionally, you understand. Being a twin means not needing any outsider. At least I didn’t. Jacob was looking for more.”
They had been 14, 15. Something like that. It had gone on for maybe four, maybe five years. He didn’t remember anymore. What he did remember was the almost symbiotic relationship. The sex had been interesting, but it was the emotional bond that had attracted them both. Not that their bond needed enhancing. He could still recall in detail exactly how it had felt to be so fulfilled. Jacob’s accident, the coma and now, fairly recently, his death, had robbed him of that.
“After the accident, I needed something else too, and I began dating as well.”
Sydney ignored her question. Let her keep on guessing. The mystery would occupy her mind and draw her attention away from her own miseries.
“If you don’t have any more questions, maybe we should get to work?”
The weekend she’d spent with Jarod had put this issue out of her mind for a while, and for that alone she appreciated all he’d done for her. But he was gone, safely away from this place, and she had other priorities now. She couldn’t help wondering if he would be successful in locating the child. Their child. Or rather their teenage child. She realized that she didn’t even know if her child was a boy or a girl. A young Jarod, or a little girl like she herself had been.
Sydney’s treatment took longer than she thought, and she decided not to go back to her office at all that day. Someone would inquire, or even make trouble about it, but right now she couldn’t be bothered. Her own place would still be empty but at least now there would be the memory of Jarod’s presence. His scent.
In the parking lot, she ran into Broots. Today, she felt relaxed and even contented, despite everything, so she shot him a smile that seemed to hit him like a blow to the face. He stopped and stared, mouth open and eyes vacant, but just for a moment.
“Wait up, miss Parker. Could I have a word with you?”
Well, she had brought it on herself. Be nice to him and have the poor geek all over her for the next couple of hours. But she felt rather mellow this afternoon, so she stopped and allowed him to catch up.
“Ok. What it is?”
Broots looked a bit hesitant, as if he didn’t want to tell her what was on his mind, after all.
“I don’t have all afternoon. If this is important -”
“Yes. It is. But I was wondering if -”
Something about his face made her stop and think. What if he had some information that the Centre wouldn’t be too happy about? Broots had been of help before.
“Oh, ok. Why don’t you follow me in your car over to the mall? I need to buy some groceries, and maybe you do too?”
“Uh. Yes. That’s right.”
She did need to do some shopping, but she hadn’t intended to. Now she might as well get it over with. Mineral water, a few biscuits. After her weekend with Jarod, she really needed to cut back on the food. On the other hand, they had been getting a lot of exercise too. Smiling as she recalled just what type of exercise they had gotten, she walked over to her car, trusting Broots to follow.
At the mall, they parked their cars and walked inside. There were people everywhere, so this might not have been such a great place to chat after all. But she was tired and a cafeteria might be just the thing right now.
“How about over there? Will that do?”
She ordered another cup of coffee, and as she did so, she was reminded of Sydney’s strange story about him and Jacob. It couldn’t possibly be true, could it? Sydney must have invented it to shock her. That was the only explanation she could think of. Or maybe not. Broots seemed to have said something that she didn’t catch.
“A mutual friend got in touch last week.”
There was no doubt who that friend was. Now her attention was fixed fully on the computer expert.
“Oh. Go on.”
“He – uh – t-t-t-old me about wh-what they’d done t-t-t-to you.”
Why would Jarod tell Broots about that? But she wanted to hear more about Jarod, so she just went on listening.
“About the baby. And he asked me t-t-t-to trace it for you.”
“And have you?”
“I have found something. Before I get back home, I’ll email Jarod the information. From th-th-th-the l-l-l-library. So it can’t be traced.”
“Yes. Ok. What did you find out?”
“A woman was hired to care for the baby for the first few years, until they could b-b-b-begin – th-th-th-the t-t-t-tests.”
“I’m not sure. They wanted to see if J-j-j-jarod’s s-s-s-special abilities and intelligence would be p-p-p-passed down to his offspring.”
“Yes. Ok. Go on.”
“The woman m-m-m-must have s-s-s-suspected s-s-s-s-something so she took the child and went away.”
“They got away. The Centre hasn’t been able to find them.”
“Oh. You’re sure about this?”
“Yes. I found it in some encrypted files -”
“Ok. Did you find out what it was? Boy or girl?”
“You d-d-d-don’t know?”
“No. I didn’t know anything. They had me drugged and -”
“I’m s-s-s-sorry. It’s a boy. J-j-j-jason.”
“Yes. I’ll do my best to trace them for you.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate this, Broots.”
A boy. Jason. He must be just like Jarod. Those eyes – But if the woman got away, maybe this little boy had had a better childhood than his parents.
Broots watched miss Parker cautiously. He knew that any more sympathy from him wouldn’t be welcome. But he wanted to do something to comfort her. What had been done to her was horrible. It went beyond anything they had already been guilty of. To be used that way, and then have her baby taken away from her. And suddenly Broots knew what might comfort her just a little.
“Debbie talks about you sometimes. She misses you. D-d-d-o you think that she might come over some time?”
Miss Parker was struck dumb. Her spontaneous reaction was to tell Broots he could take care of his own child. She was busy enough as it was. But it dawned on her what he was trying to do. And she couldn’t help smiling a little. Jarod’s treat really had put her in a good mood.
“I guess if you can’t find anyone to babysit and it’s an emergency, I could help you out. But don’t make a habit of it, ok?”
“I wouldn’t dream of imposing like that. Thanks. Debbie and I really appreciate your help.”
“You’re welcome. Now I need to do that shopping. And you had something you had to do as well, right?”
“Yes. I’ll keep looking and I’ll l-l-l-let you know as s-s-s-soon as I find anything.”
Now all she wanted to was to get back to her own place, get rid of the shoes that seemed unusually uncomfortable, and to stretch out on her bed that would hopefully still carry Jarod’s scent. She bought some groceries and other necessities, and returned home as soon as she could get away. Food was the furthest thing from her mind, so she shed her work clothes and put on a t-shirt that was lying at the bottom of her closet.
Her bed was still unmade since Jarod’s visit, and she stretched out and pulled the covers up. Curling up into a ball, she buried her nose in the pillow, and tried to fall asleep. She wasn’t comfortable in that position, so she moved around a bit. Then her hand made contact with something soft that hadn’t been there before. At least not as far as she could remember. She rolled over and took a look. When she saw what it was, her eyes filled with tears.
A stuffed toy rabbit. Jarod had remembered. And this bunny she didn’t have to return to the store in the morning. It was white and had pink eyes, just like she wanted it. With the toy animal in her arms, sleep wasn’t so hard to find. In a moment she was fast asleep. In her dreams, she was back in the cabin with Jarod.
Jarod himself was far from sleepy. The information Broots had sent him would be useful. He thought he could follow the trail even if it was old and faint. And when he found his son –
But he had underestimated his offspring. The boy, Jason, had inherited not only his father’s intelligence, but also his mother’s and with it all her paranoia and nerves. Before the woman he had believed to be his mother had died, leaving him to fend for himself, on the street, she had warned him about the men who would follow him. He mustn’t let himself get caught.
Horrible things happened in the place they had fled from. And with his special abilities, the teenager didn’t find it at all difficult to evade the pursuit. In the year that had gone by since his mother’s death, he had been close to capture four times. But he wasn’t going to let himself get caught. He trusted no one, and wanted no contact with other people. Even this stranger who proved to be so much more of a challenge than the others. Apparently they had put a better hunter on his trail this time. That wasn’t going to make any difference. It almost seemed as if Jason could read this man’s mind. They thought alike, but that wouldn’t help the tracker. As long as he didn’t slip up, the chase could go on forever.