A PAIR OF RUNAWAYS by Llavigna, admin
THE RESCUE by Llavigna
A Pair Of Runaways
By: LML


Disclaimers:
I don't own the main characters of The Pretender. The only characters who are mine are the ones which are not the normal Pretender characters. No profit is being made here by the writing of this story or others similar to it. Furthermore, I have no aphilliation with or to anything connected with the pretender, its cast, production, etc. No copyright infringement is implied or intended.



Note:
This story is a very tough one for anyone under the age of 14 to read. It deals with adult themes/situations, and should only be viewed by persons who are able to read material such as this. I only rated this story PG13 because of this reason.
This story takes place somewhere between season three and four. This is the first of what I think will be at least two, possibly three stories. I hope you
like it!


Chapter 1: THE RESCUE
Denver Colorado, 9:45 pm


Amy's small features were bruised and swollen. She'd received a pretty bad beating this time, and she was sure that it wouldn't be any better. She'd been left out here to fend for herself just like the last time. But unlike the last time, she wouldn't go crawling back to the beatings, not now or ever again. This time her mom had finally done it. She'd made her choice, and her choice hadn't
been Amy. Her mother had chosen the latest boyfriend and the booze and drugs
over her little girl. Amy tried to rise to her feet, but could not. Her legs
wouldn't hold her weight. Something was seriously wrong. This time the beating
had been the worst she'd ever received, but she didn't think anything was wrong
with her legs. She began to cry, but then saw someone coming. Quickly she
extinguished any trace of tears and put a mask of neutrality and indifference on
her small face. It was an expression that no child should ever have to make,
especially one at such a tender age.

Jarod had just finished his latest pretend, and was trying to figure out where
he could go next. He'd thought he would go and check out some leads he had on
where his younger sister Emily might be. He'd come to realize over time that
finding his family was growing more and more difficult with each passing day.
And with this in mind, he vowed to himself that he would continue searching for
the rest of his life if that was what it took.

He'd had to ditch his rental car unfortunately, but he was certain Miss Parker
would be along very soon to find it and the clues he'd left in it. He was
wondering what this coming Christmas would bring him. The last one had been very
quiet, and the one before it had been interesting. He'd helped solve the murder
of a homeless man who'd dedicated every day of the year to gathering money to
survive and give the children in a local shelter a very good Christmas. Where
would he be this year? Would he find his mother or sister for Christmas? Or would he be back in the clutches of the Centre once again? No, he vowed, very decisively, that he would not be prisoner of the Centre once again.

Suddenly he saw something that caught his attention. It was dark, and at this
late hour, a small figure out alone usually didn't mean anything good. He slowly
made his way towards the figure sitting off in the shadows on the side of the
road. It was a miracle he'd even seen her.

As he approached her, he could almost see her stiffen and try to stand. He
noticed how she wobbled with difficulty and stumbled back to the ground. He
moved quickly and reached her just as she was about to fall face first onto the
ground.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Look if my mom sent you out here to find me and bring me back you can
just forget it. I'm not going back!"

This caught him a little off guard, but Jarod recovered quickly. He slowly
seated himself on the ground beside the little girl, and got a better view of
her. She looked to be about six or seven, with long strawberry blonde hair and
beautiful eyes, which he could easily see were already swelling with the bruised
features. He could see that she'd been hurt pretty badly, and that it would take
a doctor to help treat her.

"Honey, I'm not here to bring you back to your mother. I don't know who your
mother is, and I don't intend on sending you anywhere you don't want to go. But
you do need someone to take care of you. Do you have anyone I can take you to?"
The little girl shook her head. Jarod sighed and continued. "Okay then, is there
anyone I can call?" The child still gave no response. "Listen to me. You need to
be taken care of. If I can't call someone, and you can't go home to your mother,
then how about me? Now what do you say I take you to a hospital and get..."

"No! You can't take me to a hospital! They'll call my mother and then she and
Jack will come for me! They'll call the police and send me to a home for kids
nobody wants!"

Amy began to cry, despite the strength she tried to use to hide the tears. Jarod
felt his body ache. He felt pain for this child who had obviously been abused,
and not just once. He reached out slowly and wrapped his arms around the sobbing
child who crawled into them. It surprised Amy that she found herself trusting
this man whom she'd never seen before. But something in her heart told her that
it was okay to trust him.

"Okay. I'm not going to take you to the hospital, but could I take you somewhere
warm and safe? Do you think we can go somewhere so I can take a look andsee how
bad you're hurt?" Amy nodded, and Jarod smiled a great big smile. He started to
stand up, but noticed that the child couldn't get up. He bent downand lifted her
from the ground, carefully avoiding any bones, which might be broken. He moved
slowly and carefully until he was certain he could hold her without her being in
too much pain.

Since he'd abandoned his previous dwelling, he felt that he would have to get
her out of this immediate vicinity. He didn't want people around this town to
recognize him or the child. So, he made up his mind to find a hotel room for the
night and then he'd get the two of them as far away from Denver as was humanly
possible.

He walked for a few miles, until he spotted a hotel just on the outskirts of
town. He removed his long black jacket and wrapped the little girl in it.
Heentered the hotel and looked at the young woman seated behind the desk. The
woman eyed Jarod and then the little bundle in his arms.

"Where's your car? We don't take in homeless people, Mr."

"We're not homeless. Our car broke down on the highway, and my daughter and I
need a place to spend the night. I have cash if it will help." Jarod withdrew
his wallet from his pocket and handed the young clerk a one hundred dollar bill.

The clerk looked first at Jarod's tall build, and then at the little girl in his
arms. "Well, we do have one room available. It's up on the top floor. It's not
big or fancy, but if you want breakfast my mother and I start serving the guests
around eight."

"Thank you. We'll see you tomorrow then."

Jarod took the key to the room and headed in the direction the clerk pointed
with her head. Once inside the room, he laid the child on the bed and began to
examine her injuries.

Jarod took careful note of each and every injury on the child's body. He began
to apply a cool compress to her face to reduce the swelling. Next he began to
remove the child's bloodstained sweatshirt. He noticed her flinch and try to
pull away, but he placed a gentle hand over her arm and tried to reassure her
that everything would be all right.

"I really need to take a look at you to make sure you don't have any broken
bones. I promise I won't hurt you."

Amy relaxed and let him take off the shirt. Jarod took in a breath and
internally cringed as he noticed the wealth of marks covering her body. Her back
was overrun with welts and very nasty looking bruises. Jarod began to apply a
wet cloth on the child's back and noticed the whimper she tried to conceal. He
felt so much for this little one, that he couldn't help but let his own tears
escape. How could one's own parents do so much harm to their child? Itmade him
sick to think that such evil existed in this world, but he couldn't dismiss the
reality that such horrors did, in fact, exist.

"My name is Jarod. Can you tell me what yours is?"

"Amy. But Mommy always calls me other names."

"Okay, Amy, I need to look at the rest of your body. Do you think you can let me
look to make sure that you're not seriously hurt anywhere else? I promise I
won't hurt you."

Amy slowly tried to sit up, and Jarod helped her to shift her position so she
was now lying on her back. He put his arm gently behind her back and helped her
as she tried to sit up and reach for the waistband of her bloody pants. Jarod
waited until she got the clothing off her waist and watched it drop to the
floor. He noticed that her legs were just as battered as the rest of her small
body, but he was very concerned about the poor shape her legs and feet were in.
He noticed that her body was so tiny and thin, that he guessed she hadn't eaten
in several days.

"Please don't let them come for me. Please, Jarod."

"Amy, I'm not going to let anyone come for you. I'm going to take care of you
for now, and then we'll see what happens. Okay?" Amy nodded. "How long has it
been since you last ate something?"

"I don't know, maybe yesterday or the day before. I don't know. Mommy didn't pay
any attention to that. She was more concerned with the beer and that white
stuff."

Jarod looked puzzled, and asked, "White stuff?"

"Yeah. Mommy and her boyfriend always had a big bag of that white stuff and
needles and other things. They were really mean to me. Mommy used to say I was a
mistake and that I shouldn't have ever been born. Maybe I should go be dead."

This really tore at Jarod's heart. He wrapped the blanket around the little girl
and sat down beside her. He put a gentle arm around her and held her against him
as he looked into her soft eyes, which still held their innocence. He could see
the tears welling up in her eyes once again.

"Amy, you were not a mistake, do you hear me? And you shouldn't be dead. Your
mother doesn't deserve you."

Jarod just held the little girl until she fell asleep, and then he let her lie
down. He took out his cell phone and dialed one of the preprogrammed numbers.
The person on the other end answered almost immediately.

"This is Sydney."

"Sydney, why do people hurt children?"

"Jarod, are you talking about your childhood? What type of hurt do you mean?"

"Why do parents abuse their children? I know there are people out there who
don't deserve to be parents. But why do they do it? What makes them do it?"

"Well, Jarod, I can't say for certain what makes these people abuse their
children. Some do it as a result of substance abuse, and some do it because they
were a product of that type of an environment. Why are you asking me this,
Jarod? Is there someone you're worried about? Let me help you. Just tell me
where you are and..."

Jarod had to laugh. Good old reliable Sydney. It was almost funny if he thought
about it, Sydney was trying to get a line on where Jarod was hiding, but Jarod
wasn't going to bite the bate Sydney had thrown him.

"Let me guess. Miss Parker and Mr. Broots are standing nearby, hovering around
your phone, trying to listen in on this conversation, aren't they. But in any
case, you can tell them that I'm somewhere safe from the Centre."

He disconnected the conversation, and went back over to the bed with the little
girl, still sound asleep. He looked at the little girl's smiling face. Even in
sleep he could see happiness in a face that had obviously been so badly
mistreated. He knew that she was better off somewhere other than with him, but
at the moment he was the only family this child had, at least the only family
she had that would not hurt her. Jarod reached out to tuck the blanket around
her better, when she started to cry softly. Jarod reached out and picked her up
from the bed. He held her against his shoulder and began to walk about the room.

"It's okay, Amy. It's all okay. You're safe."

Amy began to relax, and her crying ceased. Jarod kept walking with her until he
was certain she was sound asleep once more. Once he was certain she was sleeping
again, he sat down on the bed against the headboard. It wasn't long before Jarod
too, found sleep. The last thing Jarod saw before his eyes closed was the top of
Amy's little head resting on his shoulder.

A few hours later, Jarod awoke to the sudden sensation of something leaning
heavily on his chest and upper body. He tried to move, but then remembered who
was lying on his chest. Instead of moving too much, he shifted his body into a
more comfortable position and relaxed once more. He looked down at Amy's little
face, still fast asleep.

"In a perfect world, kiddo, I'd give anything to be your father." He thought to
himself as he imagined the possibilities of becoming a father. Probably not
likely, since his life consisted of running and hiding from the Centre and Miss
Parker. Just then Amy opened her eyes and stretched.

"Hey. Look who's finally awake." Jarod tickled Amy just under her chin, which
got the desired response of laughter from the little girl. "So, what do you say
we get up, and I'll get us some breakfast and you a new change of clothes."

New clothes. Something Amy had never heard before. "Do I really get new things?
Can I help pick them out?"

"You sure can, but you can't go to a store dressed in the clothes you were
wearing when I found you. I'm going to have to go out and get one outfit for you
while you wait here for me. Besides, we don't want anyone to see you here in
this town. We're going to go very far from here."

"I don't ever want to see Mommy ever again. She hurt me and so did Jack."

Jarod knew instantly that this child needed to talk about what had happened to
her. She had to talk to someone, and she trusted him. So, he began to ask
questions. "Who's Jack, Amy? What did he do to you?"

"He hit me. He called me lots of names, names that Mommy called me, and some
other ones."

Jarod asked her if she could tell him some of the names that she was called, and
she started rattling off a whole list of names, things a five-year old child
should never say. "Amy, how old are you?"

"I don't really know. I think I'm five or six. But I don't know."

While Jarod took a look at the injuries on Amy's body, he noticed that she
didn't flinch any longer when he touched her with a cool cloth, or when he
changed a bandage he'd put on a wound the night before. While this was going on,
Jarod noticed Amy staring at his large bag that was perched beside the bed. She
pointed to it as he headed in that general direction to retrieve something from
the overnight bag nearby.

"What's in there?"

"That's what I use when I work."

"What do you do?"

"Well, uh, I do lots of things."

Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker stood in front of the man she'd both feared and now loathed. Mr.
Raines, and his ever present oxygen tank, had made an entrance into her office
early this morning just as she herself had entered for the day. She'd been
curious at first, but once the old man had begun to make his usual taunting
remarks on how inefficient her quest to find Jarod was, she began to grow more
and more pissed off. Who the hell did Raines think he was anyway? She'd
remembered how he had tried, and at that time succeeded, in instilling fear into
her when she was a young child. It had been shortly after her mother's funeral.

"Miss Parker, if you can't catch Jarod, then I'll just have to find more
efficient personnel, who can. I won't stand for insullence and I refuse to
tolerate sloppy work. You've proven to the Centre time and again that you have
had difficulty in the past in capturing Jarod and returning him to us. Now, what
will it be? Will you continue to produce nothing of importance, or will you
finally finish the job you agreed to undertake over three years ago?"

"Listen to me, and listen good. I'm not about to stand here and take in your
idle threats. If you think you could do better, then why don't you try capturing
him yourself instead of undermining my ability to do my job." She stepped
forward and pinched the line connecting Raines to his oxygen tank. "And if you
ever try to threaten me ever again, I'll put a hole in you and your oxygen tank.
And this time Sydney won't be able to save your sorry hide with the help of
anything here in the Centre. So let me catch Jarod my way, and do me a very
large favor."

"What." Raines wheezed through what little air he had been able to gasp in. He
could see that this member of the Parker family wasn't afraid of anything or
anybody. She wasn't like her father, and she most definitely did take after her
mother. Catherine Parker had been as gutsy as they'd come, and her daughter was
no exception to that rule.

Miss Parker clamped down harder on the tubing of the oxygen tank as she hissed
into Raines's face. "Take your wheezing, oxygen-sucking self and go back to the
tower and stay there. I'll be certain to contact you once I have successfully
captured Jarod and have returned him here to the safety of the Centre. And then
I'm leaving this hellhole for good. Just you remember that."

Parker watched as Raines and his oxygen tank left her office and wheeled down
the hall. She headed back to where her desk stood, empty and waiting for her
arrival. No sooner had she sat down, than Sydney entered carrying a cup of
coffee and a file folder in the other hand.

"Morning, Syd, how's your morning going? Better than mine I hope."

"Well, as far as my morning is concerned, I think I have something you'll want
to see." He stepped forward and handed Parker the familiar red notebook Jarod
always left for them. She opened it and noticed the familiar handwriting. She
read the words to herself, and then peered closely at the other contents of the
notebook. Sydney gazed at her lightly.

"It was federal expressed to me here at the Centre. Since we never recovered a
notebook in Colorado last week, I'd have to assume that this is the one Jarod
meant to leave for us."

"Sydney, Jarod never forgets anything. Everything he says and does is with some
sort of meaning or purpose. He wanted to send this to the Centre."

But the look she gave him spoke more than her words had just said. The tone of
her voice had been very dry and flat. But her expression conveyed a feeling of
sorrow, and maybe one of relief as well.

"Parker, is something wrong? Would you like to talk about it perhaps? You know
you can tell me anything. Your mother confided in me, and maybe it's time you
did the same. It might help if you talk about what's bothering you."

Despite her better judgment, she decided to finally open up and tell him what
was on her mind. Hell, if it had helped her mother then maybe it would do the
same for her. She began to speak. "Sydney, I'm starting to wonder if I'm ever
going to capture Jarod. I'm afraid of what'll happen to me if I can't fulfill my
part of the deal I have with my father."

Sydney smiled at his co-worker and took a sip of his coffee. "Parker, I've known
you since you were a little girl. You've never not been able to finish something
you started. And if I know something about this place, and I'm almost positive I
know a whole lot of things about the Centre, I'd tell you not to worry about
anything except getting your job done. I want Jarod back here just as much as
you do, but I'd like him brought back here alive. I think you're doing an
exceptional job right now, and if you'd like to, we can set aside an appointed
time to sit and discuss everything if you wish."

"Thank you. I'll take that into consideration."

A mall in Oregon

Jarod walked through the crowded aisles of the store, pushing a shopping cart
with Amy perched in the seat in front and all sorts of kids' clothing in the
basket. He couldn't help but notice how Amy's little face lit up with delight
when she saw the different types of clothing in the children's section. Jarod
knew it was risky buying an awful lot of clothing for a child, and even
traveling with a child was dangerous, but there was nothing he could do at the
moment. He didn't want to put her into the hands of the child welfare people,
they would only put her in a home where she didn't know anyone or back with her
mother and the hellhole she'd just been rescued from. He knew his flight from
the Centre would be much more dangerous now, but he refused to let Amy be put
into an environment where she would be harmed in any way shape or form.

"Okay, Amy, let's take these up to the counter and pay for them, and then we'll
be on our way out of here."

"Where are we going today?"

"Well, we're going to take a little road trip, and in order to do that we're
going to need to make arrangements with a friend of mine who has a recreational
vehicle."

"What's that?"

"Well, it's like a little house on wheels. People take them all over the
country, or so I'm told."

Over the next few hours, Jarod purchased several toys, some more clothing
accessories, and a brand new RV, courtesy of the Centre's funds that he'd gotten
hold of. He was now sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle, driving down the
highway, heading for California. He knew it would take him some time before he
could get there, and there was also a pretend he had to enter into. He'd read in
the newspaper in Oregon the day before about a young girl who had been brutally
raped and left for dead. She'd accused and confronted her rapist, but due to a
technicality, the man had gotten off, Scott free and no proof of the attack was
ever found. Jarod was going to go into this pretend as an investigator on the
case, but with the case being closed, he'd have to start the whole investigation
from scratch. But now he had a new element to worry about. Amy was with him now,
and he had her to take care of and the new pretend at the same time.

Jarod sat in thought for a moment about the little girl sitting beside him,
sound asleep. "Well, little one, you and I are going to be together for now."

The Centre

Sydney stood beside Broots' desk watching the genius at work on the intense
search for Jarod. He was curious about the conversation he'd had with Jarod just
a few days before, but something was very unsettling. He had asked for Broots to
search the area of Jarod's last pretend, somewhere in Denver Colorado. Broots
had come up with nothing as of yet, but he still kept searching. Just then the
genius turned from his monitor and looked at the older man.

"Sydney, I think I've got something. There is a missing kid report from a woman
in Denver. But here's where it gets tricky. The woman and her boyfriend are both
drug addicts, and there's a very questionable absence of time between the time
they say the kid went missing and the time they reported her disappearance. They
reported her missing this morning, but she went missing sometime around late
Sunday night."

"So, what do you think, Broots? Do you think Jarod found the child and took her
with him? As radical as it seems, it could very well be the case."

"They don't pay me to think around here, just track Jarod down and do all the
technical stuff. But if you really want my opinion, it is possible Jarod
could've found the girl, and then taken her with him."

Sydney looked thoughtfully at the technician for a minute, and then something
clicked in his head. "You know, you could be on to something, Broots. If the
little girl went missing sometime that afternoon, and if Jarod found her a short
time later, there is a very good chance he could've taken the child with him."
Sydney looked at the man and then smiled. "Who knows," he began to speak once
more. "if this child is with Jarod, then maybe he's getting a taste of what
raising kids is all about. Maybe he'll know a little of what I went through with
him."

He looked at the door as it swung open and in walked Miss Parker. She didn't
look too pleased at all either. She advanced on her two friends. Although she
would never admit it openly, she considered both the men to be her two closest
friends within the thick walls of the Centre. She could never consider her
father, brother, or Mr. Raines as being trust worthy.

"Well, boys, I've got Jarod's life in a box from his last hole in the ground. It
doesn't look like there's anything worthwhile, but then again one never knows
when it comes to Jarod and his many different names and lives. So, how about you
two? Come up with anything new?"

Sydney gave her the news of what Broots had found, and the woman looked sternly
off into space. She was thinking, and very hard from the look of it. Suddenly,
she turned and left the tech room. Her companions watched her leave, and then
went on to do their tasks.

Miss Parker entered her office, and sat down at her desk. There was something
very disturbing about this newest development. Broots would keep searching for
some more information to give them a clearer picture of where Jarod could be
hiding. But now, they had to assume that Jarod had taken the abused child with
him. And, if it were true, Jarod would and could be easily be weighted down
because of the girl. Just then the phone on her desk rang. Parker lifted the
phone and curtly answered.

"What."

"Well hello there, Miss Parker." It was Jarod. How could she mistake that smooth
velvety voice for that of anyone else?

"What do you want, Jarod? Where are you and the child?"

Jarod avoided the question, and instead replied with a short little laugh.
"Children, Miss Parker? I never knew you had such a heart of gold. Your mother
would truly be proud of her daughter and how you turned out. But then there's
your father. What would your father say if he knew you were asking about a
child? But in any case, I'm sure you'll be interested to know that there are
people out there in this great big world who do terrible things to children."

"Jarod, I know full well what you're talking about. I see things like this every
day in the newspapers and on television. Don't play games with me, Jarod. Where
is the girl? Her mother has filed a missing persons' report on her."

Jarod didn't hesitate this time, but instead replied with as much briskness and
hostility in his voice as he could possibly manage without outright shouting.
"Her mother is also a known drug addict and a prostitute. She herself not only
beat this child, but also allowed the boyfriend she was taking up residence with
to do the same and a whole lot worse. They left the kid out on the highway, in
the dead of night with little clothing on her body. When she was found she could
barely walk, and she cries and is stricken with nightmares." Then he
disconnected the conversation and replaced the phone in his pocket.

Amy had just woken up from the short nap she'd begun only an hour ago, and was
searching around for something to occupy herself with while Jarod drove. Jarod
pulled over to the side of the road and was looking intently at the child who
was almost smiling at him.

"Hi there. Did you sleep well?" Amy nodded. "I stopped so we could get something
to eat. Do you like ice-cream, Amy?"

Amy looked at him with a frightened expression on her face. "I don't know. Jack
let me have ice-cream once, but then he made me play the game with him."

Jarod didn't let his rage and anger show through his facial features. He just
looked directly into Amy's little face and asked, "What kind of game, Amy? Did
he hurt you?"

"He hurt me, but he also made me do some other things too." She paused for a
moment, and Jarod thought he'd have to coax her to tell him more, but she began
talking of her own accord. "He made me do some bad things. Nobody told me they
were bad, I just thought they were. I didn't like it, and he got mad. Then he
hit me really hard. He made me bleed, and Mommy yelled at me for making him hit
me."

"Did your mother know what he made you do, Amy? Did she know what he did to
you?"

"I tried to tell her, but she called me a liar and hit me an awful lot. I didn't
ever try to talk to her about it again."

Jarod almost certainly knew the answer to his next question, but it had to be
asked anyway. He hurt for this little girl and all she'd been through. But now
everything would change. "Amy, did Jack ever want you to play that game with him
after that first time?"

"Yes. And he never gave me any ice-cream or anything nice. He would always hit
me or do something else to hurt me and make me cry. I can't cry in front of him
and Mommy. If I cry they get angry and hit me harder."

Jarod lent forward and gently reached for the child. She didn't recoil from his
touch, but rather went to him directly without a second thought. Jarod just sat
there, holding the small child in his arms and letting her cry on his shoulder.
It was something he'd wished someone had done for him when he was a boy. He
remembered the pain and grief and other emotions he'd felt while in the care of
the Centre.

"Hush now. It's all going to be okay. I'm not going to let you be harmed ever
again. I promise you at least that much. I'll do everything within my power to
be certain you are safe."

"I'm scared. Jarod, will my mom and Jack ever find me ever again? Can I stay
with you forever?"

Jarod didn't know what to say in response. How could he tell this child
something he knew could only lead to trouble in the future, whether it is
immediate or distant? And yet, he had finally found someone who could very
easily be considered family to him. This child had no one in her life who would
love and care for her as she should have been loved and cared for for the last
several years of her life since her birth. How could he lift this child's
spirits and hopes, and at the same time how could he break the little heart that
had begun to trust him in such a small expanse of time? He gazed fondly at the
little face, and the questioning look she gave him. He could easily read the
pleading expressing in her eyes. Finally he made up his mind. He knew that it
was a decision, which once made could never be reversed, but that didn't matter
to him. Although he was on the run from the Centre, he needed something and
someone in his life.

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

Jarod gazed at the little girl, who smiled and turned to look out the window.
"What's that? Is that ice-cream?"

Jarod smiled and laughed. He was going to spoil this little girl for now. She'd
never been given anything good in her life, so now it was time to make up for
lost years. He smiled and nodded. "Yes. That's an ice-cream truck. Let's go see
what they've got."

Jarod and Amy exited the RV and headed in the direction of the ice-cream vender.
Jarod ordered a large cone with every flavor possible.

"Well, sir, I can't put all that in a cone, but how about a dish? Will that do?"
The vender smiled warmly at the two customers. Jarod nodded at the man and then
ordered a large chocolate twist for Amy.

"Trust me, kiddo, you'll like it."

They ate their treat outside, sitting on a bench in a park surrounded by tall
trees and a play area for children nearby. Jarod noticed Amy eyeing the kids
playing in the sandbox and on the other toys. She looked then at Jarod, almost
as if she were asking for his permission to go and play.

"If you want to go over there and play, then go right ahead. Just stay where I
can see you, and don't go any further than the play area. Don't go with anyone
you don't know, and don't talk to anyone you don't know. You can talk to
children, but not adults. Do you understand me?"

"Okay, I promise."

Jarod watched as Amy sprinted off in the direction of the play area. He watched
as she made her way toward the sandbox first, and seeing that there was nothing
too interesting there, headed over to the swings. He noticed at once, when a
young woman approached with a small child lagging behind her, and another one
running far ahead of her in the direction of the play area. The woman released
her hold on her younger child, and watched with a smile as the child ran to
catch up with her sibling. The young woman made her way over to the bench where
Jarod sat and seated herself on the bench and watched as her children ran about
the play area, tagging one another and other children who'd seemed to join in
the game. Jarod kept his eyes glued to Amy as she went about playing with a few
other children. Jarod then noticed the woman sitting beside him.

"Hello. How are you doing? You've got two adorable children."

"Well thank you very much! So do you. Your daughter is adorable."

Jarod didn't know what to say at first, but then he responded by thanking her.
Although Amy wasn't his child, he decided that this would be the best scenario
to stick to.

"Kids seem to get into an awful lot, especially when they run into other
children. Once you've cleaned all the different bumps and bruises that your kids
come home with, you've got more difficult roads ahead."

The woman nodded and smiled at Jarod warmly. "I know what you mean. I swear my
two kids come home with more cuts and scrapes and bruises than I ever thought of
coming home with. So what about your little girl? How many times have you had to
patch her up from falling off the jungle gym?"

Jarod was a little taken aback by this, but regained his composure. He wasn't
sure what he should say to this woman. In reality, he'd only patched up Amy's
bumps, bruises, and other injuries only a few times. But he couldn't very well
tell that to this woman.

"Oh, she's had her fair share of childhood injuries, some more serious than
others. But never the less she's a good girl."

"I'll bet your wife thinks the same about her too."

"Her mother isn't with us any longer. It's just me and Amy now."

"Oh, I'm so very sorry! I didn't realize."

Just then Amy came bounding over to Jarod, a scared look on her face. Jarod
waited patiently as she came running and held his arms out to her. "Hey there.
What's wrong?"

"There's a woman over there who said I looked like a welfare case or something.
I didn't talk to her like you said, but she came over by the other kids and
looked at me."

Jarod rose from where he was sitting and took Amy's little hand. "Can you point
the woman out?"

Amy pointed over to a tall red-headed woman standing over by the swing set,
pushing a dark-haired child. Jarod, still holding Amy's little hand, made his
way over to where the woman was. Once he reached the woman, he promptly gained
her attention and began to speak very rapidly.

"Excuse me, but do you have a problem with my daughter? Because my daughter just
approached me and told me about something that you said just a few moments ago.
Now, just so you're well aware, neither myself, nor my daughter, are welfare
cases. And I take it personally when someone insults my daughter by calling her
a welfare child."

"I've never seen either of you before, and I'd know if I had. I'm one of the
teachers here at the local elementary school, and your daughter, if she really
is that, doesn't even look like you. Where's her mother anyway?"

"You know something, that's none of your business. Come on, Amy, it's time to
leave. I wouldn't want you to pick up any of this woman's bad habbits."

The woman looked incredulously at Jarod and Amy as they walked away. Jarod kept
hold of Amy's hand as they made their way toward the RV. He helped Amy into the
vehicle, and then got in behind the wheel. Amy turned to face him.

"Jarod, did I do something wrong?"

"No, Amy, you didn't do anything wrong. That woman was being very mean. Not mean
like your mother and Jack were, but mean with her words. She said something that
was not very polite."

Amy seemed to understand, and then looked away for a moment. But just as
quickly, she looked back at Jarod and asked, "Jarod, why did you say I was your
daughter? Why did you tell that woman I was your daughter when you got mad at
her?"

Jarod thought quickly and then smiled at Amy. "Well, I told her that because if
you're going to stay with me for now, we need to pretend that you are my
daughter. Think of it this way. Now you have a new family who won't hurt you any
more. Not like your first."

The Centre

Miss Parker was sitting in her father's office, waiting for him to return from a
meeting he'd had to attend at short notice. She couldn't help but think about
the phone call Jarod had made to her that morning. What was it about this
conversation, which was very different and very interesting all at the same
time? How could Jarod be involved with a child, and an abused one at that? What
was his position in this newest of pretends? Was he a social worker, or was he
just a person who'd run a crossed a child in need of someone to love and care
for her as well as protect her. Something was very intriguing about her
telephone conversation with Jarod and the information that Broots had recovered.
Suddenly, the sharp trill of her cell phone interrupted her silence.

"What?"

"Hello, Miss Parker. Did you give some more thought to what I said the last time
we spoke? Have you figured out where I am and what I'm doing?"

"I know you've got that kid with you, Jarod, and I'm going to give you a piece
of advice free of charge. Lose the kid that is unless you want me to catch you.
You know what will happen if the Centre finds her with you, Jarod. They'll take
her and subject her to things no child should ever have to endure."

Just then the door to her father's office was pushed open and in strolled Mr.
Parker. Miss Parker quickly and quietly closed the phone, terminating the
conversation with Jarod. Her father looked at her for a moment and then spoke.

"Well hello, Angel! Sorry to keep my favorite girl waiting, but you know how
demanding the tower can be. Who was that on your phone?"

"Just the police in Denver, Daddy. We've got a lead on Jarod, but it's a cold
one. It seems that the police have a few cases that they'd deemed unable to be
solved that were suddenly and miraculously solved recently. It could very well
be the work of our wonder boy, but after some extensive checking I've determined
that Jarod took no part in solving these mysterious cases."

The older Parker looked at his daughter thoughtfully for a moment, and then
scratched his balding head. "Why do you figure it wasn't Jarod's work? Doesn't
the pattern fit with what he's been doing out there for nearly four years?"

"Well, at first glance that's what I thought. However, after speaking with the
local and state police forces, they've confirmed that there was no one with the
name of Jarod, first or last, recently employed or added to their duty rosters
in the last several years. I even checked the other various angles, which might
have appealed to Jarod's interests, but again there was nothing helpful in any
direction. All I have to go on is the items from Jarod's last lair in Bolder
Colorado, and that in itself isn't saying much."

Parker looked for a moment at her father and then quickly excused herself. She
knew that Jarod would undoubtedly call her back soon enough to complete the
conversation she'd cut short. No sooner had she reached her office, than Sydney
appeared with a look, which spoke volumes on his face. She turned to face the
psychologist and watched as he ran a hand nervously through his thinning hair.

"Sydney, what's the problem? Did Jarod contact you with something important, or
did we get a braking lead?"

"Well, I figured that I'd have received a phone call with the information I was
given. But rather Jarod has decided to email the information directly. Broots is
of course unable to trace the origin of Jarod's message to us."

"What do you mean by us, Sydney?"

"Well, Parker, Jarod mentions the two of us in his email. Here is a print out of
Jarod's message to us." Sydney passed her a paper with a few lines of printed
text on it. Parker read it to herself and then out loud.

"Hello, Sydney, and Miss Parker. This is a message geared toward the both of you
concerning your latest barrage of questions. There is a great deal of evil in
this world, and unfortunately, children do suffer from evil at the hands of
those into whose hands they are placed for protection and care. If I am able to
help just one child, that is one child more who will not suffer a fate that
should never befall anyone, child or otherwise. Keep looking, and maybe you'll
learn the whole truth of the matter behind what has happened recently. Oh, and I
wouldn't expect anything less than total dedication and fruitlessness on your
parts to attain my whereabouts. However, I don't intend on being here when you
do discover where I've been keeping myself as of late. Good luck, and happy
hunting."

Parker and Sydney stared at each other for a quick moment, and then Parker broke
eye contact. She stared intently at the piece of paper with the cryptic words
and their meaning in her hand. How did Jarod always seem to know how to get to
them? How did he always manage to capture their attention and then leave them
dangling from the bate he'd pitched in their direction?

"Well, Sydney, it looks like your boy has just proven my theory. I do think his
humane nature prompted him to take that little girl on the run with him. I think
he found her after she'd been abused, and took her somewhere safe with him and
is now attached to her. He's formed an attachment to the child, and we both know
what will happen if the Centre gets their hands on the both of them."

"Raines and the rest of them would use the child as a tool to weaken Jarod's
defenses. They would do it without a second thought to what they did to the
child, including endangering her welfare or even killing her. How quick you are
to forget that we too are a part of the Centre. They've destroyed everything
they've ever touched. You know as well as I do that your father also has a large
stake in this."

Parker started to stride toward the older man, but his penetrating stare stopped
her right where she stood. "Sydney, I know what you're saying is true, but I
can't let that affect my job, and that is to bring Jarod back to where he
belongs, here in the Centre. As soon as my job is finished, I'm out of here for
good, and I'm not going to look back, not for one single solitary second."

San Francisco

Jarod parked the RV in a vacant spot in a campground. Amy was sound asleep in
the seat beside him, and he figured it wouldn't be prudent to wake her at such a
late hour. He exited the vehicle's cab and entered the living quarters. He began
to arrange several items in the living area, and then retrieved the child from
the cab. He placed her in one of the bunks, and then set up his laptop and began
working diligently.

He finished his work within two hours, and then went to his own bed for the
remainder of the night. When they awoke in the morning, there would be a lot of
things to do in preparation for the latest pretend Jarod would enter into. As he
lay there, staring up at the ceiling of the RV. His thoughts drifted to the
Centre and his childhood. He pushed those thoughts aside for the moment and let
his mind drift to thoughts of Miss Parker. How could such a complex woman such
as she be so conflicted with the truth and what she'd been lead to believe for
so many years?

"Jarod?" The little voice and the hand, which tapped him relentlessly on the
arm, shook him from his thoughts. He sat up and allowed his eyes to adjust to
the darkness. He could see Amy standing beside his bed, persistently nudging his
shoulder in order to try and obtain his attention.

"It's not time to get up yet. It's still time for sleep." Jarod said quietly.
"Come on. I'll tuck you in, okay?"

"I had a nightmare. Jack was there and Mommy and you. They were hitting me
again, and you couldn't help me."

Jarod swung his legs to the floor and put his arms around Amy's shivering body.
He picked her up off the floor and carried her back to her own bed, laid her
down, and tucked her back in. He sat down beside her and held her hand as he
spoke softly to her.

"Amy, listen to me. I'm not going to let anything happen to you. Your mother and
Jack will never find you, I promise. Now it's time you got some sleep. I'll be
right here when you wake up in the morning. Now get some sleep. We have a very
busy day ahead of us tomorrow."

Jarod bent over and lightly kissed the child's forehead, just as his mother had
done when he was a small boy. The memories of her began surfacing more
frequently than before, and he was now able to recall specific events with his
family. The clearest and most specific one he had been of his mother giving him
a lunch box. He remembered her telling him that he would be attending special
school. He remembered the teachers who had come to see him. And, he remembered
bits and pieces of the night he was snatched from his family.

He watched Amy's chest rise and fall until her breaths were even. He knew with
no doubt that she was back asleep, and he was planning to follow suit and do
just that very same thing.

"Good night." Jarod's soft whisper had no effect on Amy's slumber as he
straightened the blanket around her and headed back to his own bed for the
remainder of the night.

Within a few short hours, Jarod was awakened to the feel of someone crawling
onto the bed with him. He opened his eyes and saw that it was Amy, trying to
crawl up onto his bed. He noticed the light streaming in through one of the
windows, and realized that it was time to get up. He started to sit up, but Amy,
not realizing that Jarod had woken up, had tried to crawl over him to reach his
other shoulder. She'd already nudged his other shoulder until she realized that
it wouldn't do any good. Maybe if she tried the other side, just maybe she'd get
some results. She was almost on the other side, when he started to sit up. This
through Amy off balance, and she landed hard on his chest, expelling the air in
his lungs with a very loud oomph coming from him.

"Well good morning. Didn't I wake up quick enough for you?" Jarod tickled Amy
just under her chin and listened to the peels of laughter the act resulted. He
lifted her off his chest and set her on the bed beside him. "Okay, okay, I'm up.
So what do you want for breakfast?"

"Could we get some pancakes please?"

Jarod smiled widely and sat up. "If it's pancakes you want, then pancakes you'll
get. Come on. I saw a little diner on the edge of town when we pulled into the
campground last night. I'm sure they'll have pancakes there."

After he'd dressed and given Amy the privacy to dress herself, they climbed into
the cab of the RV and headed in the direction of the large city. They were well
outside the city limits of San Francisco, but it was still close enough to be
considered a part of the outlying area of the city. They pulled into the parking
lot of a diner a short time later, and entered the establishment.

Once they'd seated themselves in a corner booth, a waitress came over to their
table and asked them what they'd like to order. Jarod decided he'd have eggs
over easy, and some orange juice. The waitress then turned her attention to Amy.

"And what would you like, honey?"

"I'd like some pancakes, please?"

The waitress smiled and nodded at the pair. "I'll be right back with your food."
And then to Jarod she said, "You've got a very beautiful little girl there. And
she's very polite as well."

Their food arrived in a short time, and they ate it in silence until Jarod broke
it. He waited until Amy finished the mouthful and then said, "I have to do some
work today. You can come with me for a little while, but if I have to go
somewhere I can't take you, then I'm going to have to leave you with a
babysitter. Is that okay?"

"Will you come back?"

Jarod took Amy's little hands between the two of his. "Of course I'll come back.
I'm not leaving you for good. If I have to leave you, it won't be for any longer
than a couple of hours. In fact, I'll give you my cell phone number just in case
you get scared or lonely, okay?"

"Okay, but don't leave me."

The rest of their meal was filled with little interruption, except for the
waitress checking on them periodically to see if they wanted anything more. Once
they'd finished their meal and had gotten back in the car, Jarod took out his
cellular phone and pressed a few buttons. Amy watched intently as his hand
selected each button and pressed it. He waited for someone to pick up, and when
they did, he said, "So, have you given any more contemplation to our earlier
conversation? You know it's rude to hang up on someone, especially if that
someone has information which could be useful to you."

At the Centre, Miss Parker sat at her desk holding onto the receiver of her
phone.

"Well, Jarod, you never answered my question entirely. I strongly believe you
have that child, and unless you get rid of the kid, you'll be putting her life
in danger with the Centre. You don't want anything bad to happen to her, now
would you?"

Jarod said nothing right away, but instead waited to listen to Parker and the
words of wisdom she might have to offer. Unfortunately, however, Amy chose that
moment to sneeze. Jarod internally shuttered at the sound of the child's sneeze,
but showed nothing on the outside.

"What was that, Jarod, a mouse? Have you taken up residence with the three blind
mice now? Or am I right, and was that the child in question?"

Jarod quickly covered the mouthpiece of the phone and whispered something to
Amy. He held the phone in front of her mouth and she said in a clear voice, "My
name is Amy. What's yours?"

She sat there frozen in place. She thought she was dreaming for a second, but
then she realized that it couldn't be a dream. She'd heard a child's voice
saying, "My name's Amy. What's yours?" So it was true! Jarod did have the child
with him, and they were on the run together. She decided to play a littlegame
with the child, via the telephone lines, and see what came of it.

"Hi, Amy, I'm Miss Parker. I'm a friend of Jarod's. Can you tell me how you met
Jarod?"

In the RV, Amy looked questioningly at Jarod and he nodded. "He helped me. He
said Mommy and Jack would never hurt me again."

"How did you meet him, Amy?"

"Mommy and Jack hurt me, and I ran away. It was really cold out and I didn't
have a jacket or anything. Then Jarod found me. He says I don't ever have to go
back to my mommy or Jack ever again. They drank out of bottles and cans and used
needles and a big bag of white stuff."

At the Centre, Miss Parker had the same reaction to the comment that Jarod had
had when he'd asked Amy about what happened with her mother. Then the
realization hit her like a ton of bricks. The white stuff was, no doubt,
cocaine. She decided to get more information from the kid. For once, she was
going to do the right thing. And maybe it would help her to find out where Jarod
was and bring him home.

"What did your mother and Jack do to you, Amy?"

Amy began telling Parker some of the things that she'd told Jarod, things her
mother and Jack had done, with the occasional nod of encouragement from Jarod.
He too had his own agenda for this little tactic. He would get Parker to see
what a living hell the child had been in and then get her to exact a sort of
revenge on the mother and Jack, a revenge he himself could not take. He knew
Parker well enough to know that she wouldn't kill the couple, only make their
lives just as much of a living nightmare, or maybe more so, than that of Amy's.

"Amy, can you tell me where your mother lives?"

Amy looked at Jarod and was silent. Jarod nodded once more, and Amy responded.
"Mommy and Jack live in a messy apartment on Green Street in Denver. Mommy and I
used to live with another of her boyfriends before Jack, but he left us one day,
and then she met Jack. I don't ever want to go back there. They were mean to me
and they hurt me. They hit me, and I didn't like it. They got mad when I cried,
so they would hit me again to make me stop."

Parker sat in thought for a moment. Since there was no appropriate age given on
Amy, Parker had to guess that she was somewhere around five or six years old. It
almost made Parker cry, listening to Amy tell her all the things that had
happened to her. But then she got an idea in her head. She would go down to
Denver, meet the mother and the boyfriend, and seek some retribution for Amy.

"I've got to go now, but I wanted to say good-bye to you first. Give Jarod back
his phone please."

Amy said, "Bye bye," and then pushed Jarod's hand with the phone away. Jarod had
no sooner put the phone to his ear, when Parker began hissing sharply into it.

"Let me tell you something, Jarod, I'm going to deal with her mother and the
boyfriend. But this isn't over. I'm going to bring you down, and when I do, I'm
going to make sure that kid is put in the foster care system where she belongs.
You never should've taken her along with you. And if you've crossed any state
lines, which by the way I am almost certain you have, then you're going to be
charged with kidnapping. Do you have any idea what kidnapping means, Jarod?"

"As a matter of fact, Parker, I do know first hand what kidnapping is. It's what
the Centre did to me when I was just about Amy's age. But I don't intend on
letting you catch me. But at least you're going to take on a portion of your
mother's work, no matter how small it may be. Catherine Parker would be very
proud of her little girl."

Jarod disconnected and put the phone in his jacket pocket. He started the engine
and drove away from the little diner as quickly as he dared without breakingany
speeding laws. He gazed out the window and thought of Amy and Miss Parker. His
thoughts were interrupted by a police car coming up behind them, blue lights
flashing and siren wailing.

"Amy, I need you to trust me and just agree with everything I say. Oh, and don't
call me Jarod."

"Okay, but what do I call you? Are we playing that game you told me about
before?"

"Yes."

Jarod pulled over, even before the officer signaled for him to do so, and began
hunting for the proper papers. He extracted the license and registration from
the glove compartment, and waited patiently for the man to exit his cruzer. Amy
watched as the young man, obviously a rookie, strolled over to Jarod's window
and peered in.

"License and registration please." Jarod handed over the papers and waited for
the patrolman to finish inspecting them. When he'd finished examining the
documents, he handed them back over to Jarod.

"Okay, Mr. Parker, everything seems in order with your vehicle. Now, do you know
why I pulled you over this morning?"

Jarod smiled and reached out to take his documents from the officer. "Well, to
be honest with you, Officer, I really couldn't say. I wasn't speeding, I don't
have any tail or headlight problems, and I haven't been drinking. So, maybe you
could tell me why you've just pulled over a fellow police officer."

The younger man looked a bit puzzled at this remark. He'd noticed the name Jarod
Parker on the license and that the man had indeed been doing none of the things
he'd just inquired about. "Well, I didn't mean to offend you, Officer Parker,
but..."

"You didn't offend me, and my name is Lieutenant Jarod Parker. Please call me
Jarod. I was just wondering why you pulled me over. Is it the vehicle I'm
driving?"

"Well, to be honest with you, Lieutenant, uh I mean Jarod, it is a bit odd to
see someone driving a recreational vehicle through the streets of San Francisco.
But I can sort of understand why you drove in, I mean if you're on vacation it
makes perfect sense."

"Yes, but that would be if I were on vacation. I'm actually transferring to this
police department. I'm on assignment here temporarily from Lawndale to help out
with some cases that have been deemed unsolvable. Maybe there is a connection
with a few of the cases we've been working out there."

The patrolman looked next over to Amy. He noticed a little smile on her face.
"So you like having a policeman for a daddy?"

"Yeah. It's neat because he puts the bad guys in jail."

Then to Jarod the rookie said, "If you'd like, I can show you how to find our
station house. That is after you drop you daughter off with your wife and then
we'll go in my car. Just show me where you're staying, and..."

"Officer, my wife isn't with us. In fact, we don't know where she is at this
point in time. She just up and disappeared one day, leaving me and Amy hereby
ourselves. Until I can find a day care or somewhere safe for Amy, she goes with
me. I know it's not policy or anything, but I don't have anyone to leave my
daughter with."

"Believe me, Jarod, I understand how you feel. I've got an infant son myself,
and if anything were to happen to his mother, well I don't know what I woulddo
with him whenever I went to work. Do you have any family or anyone she can stay
with during the day while you're working?" Jarod shook his head. "Okay then,
follow me. We'll take her with us, and while you're in with the captain, I'll
keep your daughter busy."

"Let's see if that's okay with her first. Amy, do you mind going with us to the
police station so I can meet my new boss?"

"Can I see what a jail cell looks like?"

Jarod laughed and agreed. "That settles it."

Chapter 2" REVENGE'S REWARDS
The Centre, 10:45 am


Broots sat in front of his computer terminal and was vigorously drumming his
fingers on the keyboard, trying to compile all the acquired data to find the
next place Jarod might be heading. The sudden touch on his shoulder caused him
to jump back and spill his half empty coffee cup onto the floor.

"Relax, Mr. Broots. One would think you had something to hide if just a light
tap on the shoulder makes you jump and spill your cup of coffee." The liquid
voice of Bridget floated over the back of roots' neck and into his ear.

"I'm not hiding anything, Bridget, you just startled me that's all. Even my
daughter has done it a time or two. It's just something normal for me I guess."

"Very good then. In any case, I just thought you should know that if you'd ever
like to get into something bigger and better than just the mundane routine of
tracking down leads on the genius that ran away, then by all means, come and see
me. I'm sure we can work something out which would be of great benefit to
yourself as well as others involved."

Broots sat at his computer terminal and watched from the corner of one eye, as
Bridget turned and made a graceful exit from the tech room. How was it that
Bridget always managed to stir up trouble of one form or another whenever she
showed up in the Centre? How had Bridget, the woman with the fake English
accent, the manner which spoke volumes of her superiority over anyone she felt
was beneath her level of intelligence, and her fake charm come to be involved
with the Centre in the first place? It was time to do some very high profile
searching on the woman who was both loved and hated.

He'd never really forgiven her for the T-board that Sydney, Miss Parker, and
himself had all endured for nearly two and a half days. He knew full well that
Miss Parker would have loved to have been able to put a bullet into the little
bitch's head after learning she'd been the one trying to drop Mr. Parker's
helicopter from the sky. And yet, all at the same time, Bridget had target the
weakest and strongest members of the team in charge of recapturing and returning
Jarod to the place he'd broken out of. However, she had, as of yet, failed to
target the most neutral person on the team, Sydney. Why was this? What had
prompted Bridget to first stalk Broots, attempt to frame Miss Parker for the act
itself, attempt to kill Mr. Parker whom she was supposedly in love with, and
then try to murder Miss Parker herself? But why had she not made Sydney a member
of those on her little list of people in need of major chaos and disorder in
their lives?

Miss Parker entered the room, and for the second time that morning, Broots got
the scare of his life. Parker grabbed for the young technician and held his
stiffened body against the back of his chair.

"Take it easy, Broots. What's gotten into you? You look white as a ghost. Find
something concerning Jarod, or was it something else?"

"Well, Miss Parker, I uh got a visit a while ago from our little friend with the
fake English accent. She tried to persuade me to be the turncoat against you and
Sydney. She seems to think that she can use the offer of money or other tidbits
of interest in order to get me to turn on the two of you. Not that I'm buying
into it, but she seems to think she can keep throwing the offers in my face
until I finally crack and give into what she wants. I'd never do that to you or
Sydney."

Parker smiled at the person she thought was highly intelligent and sometimes an
idiot all at the same time. She really did have to give him credit, though. She
didn't know too many people who would turn down all kinds of offers from the
higher-ups in order to better their situation, however tenuous it may be.

"Broots, I didn't think you'd turn on us. You may be a little gullible, but not
that gullible. Anyone that accepted an offer from Bridget and her so-called
friends would have to either be crazy or in love with death in order to take on
that beast of nature. But that's not the reason I came here. We're going to
Colorado. Jarod was there last, and I've got a strong suspicion he needs our
help."

"What!" Broots almost fainted at these words. "What do you mean Jarod..."

"Just shut up for now. I'll explain later, when we're on the plane."

In thirty minutes, Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots were heading for Denver
Colorado. Parker had just finished explaining the situation to her two
companions, when her cellular phone rang loudly.

"What!"

"Hi, Miss Parker!"

"Hi there. How did you get this number?" Parker waited for the small voice to
answer the question, but it didn't take long before the reply came.

"I watched Jarod push the buttons earlier. I just pushthe same ones he pushed."

"Well where is he? Is he there with you?"

"No, he had to go somewhere for a minute, but I wanted something to play with,
so I picked up one of his phones. He has one in his jacket, but I found one in
that big case he carries around with him. Are you mad I called you? I just got
bored. I wanted to talk to someone. Is it okay?"

"Absolutely." Parker had to give the kid credit, she was smart, and also had
very good memory skills. Sydney and Broots looked at her quizzically for a brief
second, but she glared at them and they occupied themselves with some other
task.

"Where are you?"

"Sorry, but I can't tell you that. I can't say anything about where I am, or
what we're doing, except that I'm having a lot more fun that I ever would have
had at Mommy's. Where are you?"

"Heading for Denver. I'm going to see some people there. In fact, you might know
them. Remember what we talked about before?"

"Yes, but why do you want to see Mommy? Are you gonna tell her you know where I
am, or that you talked to me? Please don't let her find me!"

Parker looked around to see if her two companions were listening to her
conversation, and she noticed that Broots was busy with a crossword puzzle, and
Sydney was thoroughly engrossed in a very thick book. She went to the back
portion of the chopper and lowered her voice so only Amy could hear her.

"No, Amy, I'm not going to let your mom find you. I'm going to make sure she
goes to jail where she belongs for what she and Jack did to you. But I want you
to do something for me. I want you to talk Jarod into calling me later on
tonight. He doesn't have to know we talked, okay?" She knew full well that
the kid would undoubtedly tell Jarod everything, that was if he wasn't listening
to the conversation already. But then again, kids were pretty good at lying when
they wanted to.

"Sorry, Miss Parker, but that's not possible. Amy and I don't keep secrets from
one another. But I must give you credit for giving it the old college try. She's
not that dumb to believe she could keep something from me anyway."

"Damn." Parker thought to herself. Jarod was there listening the whole time, and
he knew right where she was heading as of this moment. "Well, Jarod, I must also
give you points for excellent thinking on your part. You really had me going for
a minute there."

"Actually, Amy never really lied to you. I was out doing something, and she did
find the phone in one of my bags. I just made sure she knew what buttons were
for you. I mean we couldn't have her calling Mr. Raines or Bridget or someone
else who might not like talking to children, now could we?"

Jarod hung up the phone, breaking off Parker's reply. She sat there listening to
a dial tone for a few seconds, and then rejoined Sydney and Broots. As she took
her seat, neither of the men spoke up to question her about the phone call. They
both knew who Parker had been talking to, or at least that was what she was
going to let them think. Parker looked at both of them, cleared her throat, and
began speaking.


Denver Colorado, 3:30p.m.

The room was cluttered with bottles, cans, dilapidated furniture, and other
items. She sat in the middle of the mess and watched for the vein to pop up from
the loss of circulation and blood. It was her fifth attempt to inject the
needle, but she refused to give up. She'd already collapsed a few of the other
more prominent veins, but then again, she wasn't that worried. If worse came to
worse, she could use other veins in her legs and other parts of her body. The
coke was already in effect, but she both needed and craved something more. There
had been a time when the coke was more than enough to stimulate her and give her
the extra edge she wanted. Now, all it did was get her started. She needed more
than just coke to get by.

Jack had made sure she got more of what she wanted. He made sure she'd been
introduced to speed balls, and LSD as well as several others. She'd started
shooting up shortly after her daughter had been born. She started just to keep
herself from going crazy whenever the kid cried or needed something. She was
surprised that the baby hadn't been affected by the high amount of drugs in her
system, but then again, maybe it had something to do with the fact that she'd
been in rehab when Amy had been born. They'd wanted to take the child from her,
but she'd sworn to them that she could and would change her life style. She went
by all their rules, even contacting a social worker that would help her learn
all the important things she'd need to know as a new mother. But eventually, her
past caught up with her, and the ex-boyfriend she'd thought she'd left for good
came back into her life, causing her to lose both her job and her newly acquired
sobriety. The baby was only a few months old when she'd packed up their
belongings, moved in with her ex, and quit being clean.

Just then a knock sounded at her door. Shit! Nobody in this neighborhood knocked
on a door. A knock on the door usually meant drug busts. She knew they'd been
looking for her, but after she'd left Ohio and headed for Colorado, she'd
figured that the cops had all but given up on her and her baby. She hadn't seen
Ohio in nearly six years, making her daughter almost six by now. And anyway,
where was the kid? It had been nearly a whole week since they'd last seen her.
She'd been crying for something to eat, and Jack had finally had enough. She
vaguely remembered Jack hitting the kid a few times, and then locking her out of
the house. When the kid didn't return in three days, she went to the police. She
never gave them her real name, just an alias. She was known as Candy to most of
the dealers in the area, and that was how she liked it.

The knocking had since ceased, but now Candy was aware of several people in the
room with her and Jack, who had passed out hours before from the booze and drugs
in his system. She looked at the woman who approached and grasped her roughly by
the shoulders.

"You're under arrest, Candy, or should I say Gloria Lawrence. I'm with the
federal Marshals, and you are charged with flight from prosecution, child abuse,
violation of parole, possession with the intent to sell, possession of an
illegal substance, or several as the case may be, and half a dozen other
things."

Parker pushed the woman out into the waiting arms of the state troopers she'd
phoned only a few hours earlier. Broots and Sydney had made their way through
the filthy apartment and had succeeded in finding the unconscious Jack, on the
couch, bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand and a needle almost fully submerged in
his arm. Between the two of them, they managed to drag him out to the large
vehicle parked in front of the building. Parker turned to the troopers and spoke
up.

"Okay, guys, if you'll help us get these two into the vehicle, we'll take them
from here. They're also wanted on kidnapping charges. The little girl belonging
to this woman," Parker pointed to Gloria Lawrence. "was supposed to be turned
over to the welfare authorities when her mother went off the wagon. We've been
after them for quite a while."

The troopers complied and nodded in farewell as Parker climbed behind the wheel
of the vehicle and drove off. Of course they weren't federal marshals, and they
weren't taking them to turn them over to the Ohio State police, at least not
yet. There were a few things that needed to be cleared up first. Parker would
rather have liked to take them out into some dry field and blow them both away
for what they'd put a little child through for so very long. But common sense
prevailed, and aside from that, Sydney had coaxed her out of that particularly
gruesome scenario.

San Francisco, California

Jarod sat acrossed from the young teenager who'd been raped and was now coping
with the reality that her attacker had gone free. Amy was happily playing with
some very interesting toys in the next room, but it had taken some convincing to
get her to stay there. She'd latched onto Jarod when he'd suggested the idea of
a babysitter, and he wasn't about to upset her any more than was absolutely
necessary.

The young victim's name was Sandra Bradford, and she was just sixteen. She'd
been at a party with some friends and had decided to leave when some of the
partiers had chosen to open up the liquor cabinent and break out the most
expensive stuff. She'd called her mother's house, but no one had been there to
answer. She left a message on the machine saying that she would be walking home,
since she had no money for a cab. She left the party, and had only gotten about
six blocks or so when she heard someone following her.

"Sandra," Jarod began. "I need for you to recall as much of what happened after
you noticed someone following you home. What came next?"

"I went to run, but he grabbed me. I was under a street light, and I got a
pretty good look at his face. He tried to cover it with his sweater, but it fell
when he grabbed me. I recognized him as being one of the kids from the party."

"Do you know his name, Sandra?"

"Yeah. His name is Seth James. He's a football jock, and he had been hitting on
me all night. I told him I wasn't interested, and then I thought he went off to
find someone else to hit on. He was one of the ones who'd been drinking with all
the rest of the jocks there at the party. I never would've gone if I'd known
there was going to be alcohol at this party."

Jarod spent the next two hours taking her statement, and then smiled
reassuringly at her as she stood up to leave. Since no physical evidence of
James' being the attacker was found on Sandra's body, he'd been let go. There
was no dispute that she'd been raped, and no doubt that it had been a very
violent assault. But because of the lack of evidence linking James to the
attack, the case had been put on hold.

Jarod quickly began to set up a sinario in which he would be working at the high
school for only a few short days. He double checked everything before leaving,
and then shut down his laptop. But before heading to the school he headed over
to where he'd left Amy earlier that day. He checked to assure himself that Amy
was all right, and that she would be okay with his leaving her for only a few
short hours longer.

It only took Jarod an hour to find the football jocks, and only a minute to spot
Seth James. He was sitting in the middle of a large group of jocks who were busy
talking and joking around about the normal stuff jocks discussed. Jarod had a
part to play, and he would play it as best he knew how.

"Hey, guys, I'm your new coach. My name's Jarod Parker. You can either call me
Jarod or you may call me Coach Parker."

One boy spoke up. "So how long are you staying here? Think you'll be around
longer than the last coach was?"

"I'm filling in for Dale Krandle since he's just undergone a minor surgery. He
won't be back for a few days, so it looks like you're stuck with me until he
returns. Oh, and don't think of pulling any of the stunts you used to pull on
Coach Krandle, because for starters if there's one thing I can't stand it's kids
who think they're too good to do the same work as anyone else, and second of
all, if you do decide to be stupid and pull something, I can assure you that it
will come back to kick you in the ass times ten."

"Think you're a tough guy, huh?" This was Seth James. His description matched
Sandra's description of her attacker perfectly. Jarod leaned down into Seth's
face and stared directly into the kid's expression.

"No, but if push comes to shove, I can tell you this much. You won't come out
the victor of the battle." Then to the rest of the athletes Jarod said, "Okay.
Everybody take your laps and continue until I say stop."

An abandoned building, Bolder Colorado

Gloria Lawrence tried to back away from the woman holding her in a captive
position. Since she and Jack had been taken into custody by these three Feds,
nothing had been done according to the laws that she knew of. "Let me go, you
bitch! You have no right to keep us here like your prisoners and treat us like
this!"

"Funny. Isn't that what you did to your daughter Amy for six long years? Did you
give her a chance to be set free of your pathetic lifestyle of men and drugs and
alcohol?"

Just then Sydney tapped Parker on the shoulder, signaling that it was time for
her to hand the woman over to him for his method of treatment. Parker letgo of
the woman briefly, but only long enough to cuff her hands securely behind her
back. She forced Gloria into a waiting chair, and then secured her legs to those
of the chair with two more sets of handcuffs. She turned, and backed out of the
room very slowly and methodically. It was time for her to go and work on the
boyfriend for a while.

While Sydney worked on the woman, she worked on the boyfriend, and Broots
maintained communication with the Centre whenever necessary in order to keep the
real reason for their trip a secret. Sydney figured this would work, since he
was a trained psychologist, and in his field of work, dealing with hostilitywas
no big surprise. He'd certainly seen enough over the last thirty years or so. He
took his place in a chair opposite from Gloria Lawrence, and smiledat her.

"Look. All we're trying to do is get you to tell us what you did with Amy. If
you tell us that then you can leave this place."

"What about the charges? I want those dropped."

"Sorry, but I'm afraid that isn't going to be an option. You see, Ms. Lawrence,
you broke the law and now you need to face the consequences of that action. What
happened to make you go back on the drugs and alcohol? What happened to make you
fall so far from where you'd gotten in your life? You were a mother on her way
to sobriety. You had your whole life ahead of you, and you've thrown it all
away, and for what? What was it worth to you Gloria? What was so terrible that
you thought drugs and booze would solve everything? What did your little girl do
that was so terrible, that you beat her until she couldn't walk? Please just
tell me and this will all be over, kind of like a bad dream you've just woken up
from."

She looked at the psychologist for a second and then eyed the doorway. "Is that
other woman coming back any time soon?"

"No. Parker isn't coming back here to talk to you for quite some time. Ms.
Lawrence, I've spoken with your boyfriend Jack, and he seems to think that you
knew about what he did to your daughter and yet you did nothing to prevent it.
Why is this?"

"Look. You know nothing about raising kids, okay? I'll just bet you're a
workaholic who's a pencil-pushing old-timer who thinks he had to walk fifteen
miles to school, up hill both ways. You know nothing about the kid. I gave her
to my mother or someone else who wanted her. God knows I didn't want the little
brat to begin with!"

Sydney stared intently at the face of the drug addict in front of him. He'd
known what she was going through with her withdraw symptoms, the shakes, themood
swings, and much much more. But what could he do about it? His job was to get
her to tell him what happened to the kid, or at least what had posessedthis
woman to allow her drug-dealing lover to hurt the little girl.

"Sydney," Broots entered the room with a cellphone in hand. "It's Raines. He
wants a status report from each one of us on how the search for Jarod is going."

"This is Sydney." He took the phone from Broots and spoke in his usual manner.

"Well? How goes the search for your run-away genius? Why aren't you three back
from Colorado yet? Either Jarod's there, or he's not."

"Well, Mr. Raines," Sydney began easily. "Jarod has been spotted here in
Colorado by a strong source we've been using for information. However, the
factstill remains that he could be hiding underground, lying in wait for us to
leave Colorado."

Sydney listened as Raines audibly wheezed in some more air through his oxygen
tank and then spoke once more. "Fine. Just find Jarod and bring him back. I'll
send a sweeper team out to make sure you're doing all you can. They will be
there within a few hours."

Meanwhile, Jarod was working the athletic teens until they were exhausted. He
knew the limits of how hard he could push the kids, but in any case, he wanted
these kids to know that he was going to be as tough as any other coach would be.
The James kid had really started to get to him, and there was nothingmore he
wanted to do than to just take the kid out back and confront him on Sandra's
attack the night of the party. Amy was busy playing in the daycarecenter at the
police precinct, and he'd parked their vehicle back at the campground where
they'd spent the previous few nights. He'd only been there a few days, and these
kids were really starting to become less and less tollerable.

"Okay! That's enough for today. Se you all at practice tomorrow. Oh, Mr. James,"
Jarod singled the youth out from his friends and ushered him over to a side of
the field. "I was wondering if you'd be willing to help me out. I need you to
help me pack up the equipment and put it all in the storage area for the night.
I hope you don't mind."

James did mind, in fact he minded quite a bit. But this new coach could really
spell trouble for him if that was what he wanted to do. Seth resigned himself to helping the new coach out just once, and then he'd take off like a bat out of
hell. He had places to be this evening, and staying after to become bestfriends
with the coach wasn't on the top of his list of things to do. He picked up an
armload of the equipment from practice, and carried it into the storage room
behind the gymnasium.

"So, anything good to do around here?"

"I wouldn't know." Seth answered Jarod's question in the driest of tones
possible. He was going to make this guy see that being here was not one of
theplaces he wished to be.

Jarod obviously understood the kid's sarcasm, because from that point on not a
word was spoken between the two of them. It only took them an hour to finish
putting things where they belonged, and then Seth James turned and left the
building. Jarod eyed the youth as he exited the school in a hurry, and pulled
out a red notebook.

"Well, Mr. James, you certainly do have things to do this evening. But somehow I
don't think partying is going to be one of them."

Jarod made a quick note in the book and then went in the same direction as the
boy. He caught sight of him as he made a left-hand turn, and headed down a darkened
ally, heading for what was probably anabandoned building where some of the
troublesome kids partied frequently. Jarod watched the kid as he walked
brisklythrough the dark area created by the two larger buildings on either side.
Slowly, he began to follow the boy until he was in the darkest part of the
ally.Using what vision he had, Jarod crept upbehind the boy and struck with a
quick, but very meaningful punch to the side of his head. It was hard enough to
knock the kid out for a little bit, but not hard enough to kill him. Jarod
needed this kid to be scared, and scared he would most definitely be once Jarod
was finished with him.

Jarod brought the kid into an abandoned building and proceeded to tie his arms
and leggs together, making it almost impossible for the kid to move. Suddenly
the boy began coming back into consciousness. Jarod had prepared for this and
was now wearing a mask in order to cover the more visible parts of his face. The
genius watched as the youth struggled to move, but he was unsuccessful in his
attempts.

"Who the hell are you? What do you think you're doing to me?"

"Doesn't feel so good, now does it? You're at the mercy of someone else, not
knowing what's going to happen...not knowing whether you're going to live or
die."

"You can't do this to me! I don't know who the hell you are, but when I get out
of this I'm going to make you wish you'd never even so much as looked at me!"

Jarod ignored the comment and grabbed at James's shirt. He grasped the boy's
face and wrapped a cloth blindfold around his head, and tying it securely in a
very strong knot at the back.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!"

"Only the same thing you did to Sandra Bradford. You attacked her after she left
a party, and you raped her."

"No! That wasn't me! I was found not guilty of that. She's a lying little slut
who probably didn't want to tell her parents she went out and screwed some guy
after getting herself too damned drunk to remember his name."

Jarod was now very furious. "Oh come now, Mr. James, you couldn't stand the fact
that Sandra Bradford rejected you. You attacked Sandra Bradford that night after
the party because you were angry with her. You were angry with her for not
giving in to your advances. You waited until she went to leave the party, and
then you followed her. You followed her until she hit the ally. But she noticed
someone was behind her, and that's when she started to run. Isn't it?" Jarod advanced upon the kid once more, now having grabbed at his shoulders and
pinning his struggling body down to the ground with his weight. James began to
curse and try to fight back, but there wasn't much he could do with Jarod
holding him down.

"Okay! I did it! I tried to get her to go out with me. I'd been drinking that
night, and I got a little carried away with what I was saying to people at the
party. Sandra didn't want any part of me or my pick-up lines, and she told me so
right in front of my friends. I waited until she went to leave, and that's when
I followed her out of the party. I knew what route she'd take home, so I
followed her. When she saw that someone was following her she tried to run. I
was faster and I caught up with her. I grabbed her and pinned her to the
ground."

"And that's when you raped her wasn't it!" It wasn't a question but more like a
statement. James' face seemed to lose all of its color and Jarod had to almost
slap the kid to get him to answer. However, he never laid a hand on the boy. All
it took was for Jarod to grasp the boy's shoulders and shake him just a little.

"Yes! I did it. I raped Sandra Bradford. Now, please let me go."

"I don't think so. You see, Seth, everything you've just said was caught on
tape. And I'm very sure that the police would love to hear it, considering the
fact that they're right outside."

"Noooo!" James's scream could be heard by the three officers waiting outside the
building. As they went in and arrested the youth, Jarod handed one of the
officers a tape recorder.

"I think you'll find this information quite interesting." Jarod said, and
slipped past the other officers.

An abandoned building, Bolder, Colorado

Sydney looked at the woman, who by now was exhibiting all the classic signs of
someone going through withdrawl. The shaking had become more and more violent,
and her mood swings had not been very pleasant to endure. As Sydney watched
Gloria Lawrence, he didn't notice that Parker had entered the room.

"The boyfriend cracked. He told us everything we wanted to know about the kid."

"So what do we do with them?"

"We hand them over to the authorities, but under the assumption that they
murdered the kid. Since no one knows what really happened to the kid after she
disappeared, it's safe to say that they killed her and got rid of the body."

Miss Parker stepped forward and grasped Gloria Lawrence's tightly cuffed wrists.
She pulled hard on the cuffs until the woman had no other recourse but to follow
her out of the room. Once the couple had been placed in the custody of the local
authorities, Broots, Sydney, and Miss Parker headed back for the Centre.

An hour later, Jarod and Amy were on their way out of San Francisco. Still
driving the RV, they made their way across California. They didn't know where
they'd be going next, but wherever it was, they were together and safe from the
Centre. As he drove, Jarod had an idea.

He retrieved his cellular from his pocket and dialed Miss Parker's cellphone.
She picked up on the second ring with a very annoyed, "What!"

"Just calling to see how you made out this afternoon with your little project."

"They're in custody and charged with the murder of the girl. The police can't find the body, or the anonymous United States Federal Marshals who arrested the pair in Colorado. Other than that,
there's not too much I can do."

"Thank you. Amy will really appreciate what you've done for her. I also
appreciate what you have done. Your mother really would be very proud to see her
daughter doing something good."

"I didn't do it for you, Jarod. I did it for Amy. As much as I don't like what's
happened to either of you, I still have a job to do. And make no mistake, Jarod,
I mean to Pursue you until I finally have captured you and brought you back to
the Centre."

"I wouldn't expect anything less than total dedication on your part, but there's
something I think you should know."

"What?"

"The rules of the game haven't changed, just another player. I'm going to make it very difficult for you to find either of us, just as I always have. Neither you, nor the Centre will be catching up to us."

The End


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