'Til Death, She Could Wait
She'd known, as Thomas faded away, that she wouldn't see him again. Daydream, vision, whatever it was had brought a certain peace to her heart, but not to her mind. And as she had let her mind drift away she knew Jarod was watching, just as she knew, when she found herself once more in front of Thomas's grave, that Jarod was gone. It had been an echo in the trees, his voice in the air stereo to the voice on the phone.
That night Parker carefully folded the red flannel shirt, and placed it under her pillow.
She sat on her couch, an untouched tumbler of scotch on the table in front of her. She stared at the liquid, letting herself half believe that if she got drunk, Tommy would come back one more time. She knew he wouldn't. So the glass sat, under her gaze, a last chance for the dead to rise like vapor. She waited.
At midnight the phone rang.
Her lips curved upwards at the
Tommy was gone.
She'd made her peace with that.
Nothing would bring him back.
But she still wanted vengeance.
She was a Parker.
That still counted for something.
She'd gone after Brigitte, but that death, by any hand, wasn't the end. Not for a Parker.
The phone remained silent, and Parker smiled at her glass. What was it Jarod had said? She needed to "keep her wits about her." He was right. He was wrong. In the bar, at that time, what she'd needed was oblivion. Pain washing around her, filling the booth he so casually invaded.
Maybe, she told the silence, things would have been different if he'd taken that drink. Played friend in her moment of weakness, rather than cryptic puppeteer. Let her wallow. Maybe that was even true.
Because now she had her wits about her, and she was ready to face the "missing pieces."
Her mind drifted, waiting. One thing she had never been known for was patience. One thing most didn't know was that she could be patient, oh so very patient. Not when she was on the hunt, racing against time. Then movement was the only choice, relentless and brutal. It was when she was lying in wait, when she had all the patience in the world. Hunting in reverse: move faster than your prey and then-
-At one o'clock the phone rang, and her lips curved upwards at the
Brigitte had been the easy target, part of the puzzle's edge.
The edge pieces were easy, the ones completed first for a sense of progress and more clues.
Jarod had been right, a puzzle was a good metaphor for the tangle The Centre made of their lives.
He should be proud, she was working her way inwards.
He should be proud, but the thought brought no satisfaction. He would only goad her on. She was a big girl, she could goad herself.
In the silence, Parker smiled at her glass. It was just scotch, scotch and air. No ghosts would rise, just a promise, softly fragrancing the room. A small shrine to Tommy's memory, like the shot glasses on his grave. Then she had drunk hers, now it was all for him.
No. She could lie to herself and say it was a shrine; the feeble attempt of a woman who had never been religious, who only believed in things she could see and touch – and sometimes not even then. But it wasn't. It was a promise, a reason to wait. Patience. She didn't have to throw it down her throat, she didn't even have to sip. It could sit there, so she could sit there.
At two o'clock the phone rang, and her lips curved upwards at the
The sad thing was, Tommy would have told her not to do this, and she would have believed him.
Tommy was gone.
Now it was just her.
In the breath before the phone would not ring again, Parker pulled it from its cradle. She took her time drawing it to her ear, offering a lazy "what" to a sharp intake of breath.
The silence stretched on, might have been an empty line but for the lack of dial tone and soft sounds of breathing fuzzing the connection. It had been the right moment, she knew, the one where he was starting to pull the phone from his ear.
Eventually he spoke, as calm and knowing as the odd lilting cadence of his voice could make it. "Did you find your closure, Miss Parker?"
"Of a sort." She kept her answer cryptic on purpose, but she was also protecting the comfort she had gleaned from her last goodbye. That was hers.
He paused again, considering her words. "I didn't think you were going to pick up."
She laughed then, somewhere between a derisive snort and a true peal. It was funny, oh so funny.
"I thought I'd better, Jarod, if I wanted to get any sleep at all tonight." A mocking note accompanied his name, making it saturated with more derision than the crudest nicknames she thought up for him. This hadn't escaped him, her gut was sure, he was trying to figure her out.
The silences, she knew, would keep coming, as he tried to work out what she was thinking, what she was feeling. There was a game they played and she nearly always lost, but Thomas wasn't a game.
"I would have stopped. After this." There was apology there, skim of oil floating on the ocean of intent.
Jarod was notorious for hanging up in the middle of conversations, but that was a game she HAD learned to play. "I know." He always called for work and for play. He would never close down until the work was done, and always end before the play was dangerously under way.
She wanted to think that she knew all this analytically, knowledge compiled from dozens of encounters, but that wasn't quite right. This sprang from her gut, a certainty she could not entirely justify but knew was correct.
He was off balance again. Had been since he gatecrashed her graveside ablutions. Calling out for her whenever she lapsed into silence, as if she might have faded away as well, as if for once he wasn't sure of his aim and was waiting for cues. He'd given her all the power concerning Thomas, and that was what made this so easy. Disappointing that he'd done that, she was itching for a challenge.
"Are you alright?"
Laughter choked her throat, but this time she didn't let it out. Such a stupid question, from a man who could learn everything else.
"No." The answer was natural, and in every reasonable sense of the word, true. This would not break her. This was not over.
"What are you going to do now?" The question was soft, tentative, just like the boy she once knew, the one who had been her friend.
"Why, Jarod, I thought you already knew." She waited until his silence became his question. "I am going to wait, and I am going to hunt down whoever murdered Thomas, and I am going to make them pay."
"You said Brigitte-"
"-Pulled the trigger, yes."
A rustling and small thump, he was moving around or changing positions. "Then who? Do you know who gave the order?"
"Oh yes, them. Glad to see you're finally learning, Jarod, sometimes the hand that slaps you isn't the only one you need to watch out for."
"Taking down The Centre is a bigger job than you can handle alone."
The Centre. She was beginning to have dreams, etchings of how that power would be crushed under her heels. How the Triumvirate would be next. "I'm not talking about The Centre. I'm talking about the people who killed Thomas. The individuals. The ones who made it personal."
"You know who ordered the... hit?"
He waited for her to tell him who it was. If she did he would help her, as much as he ever claimed to help. Questions to more questions, she was tired of it all. She wanted the action of the chase, not an endless wait while she spent her days running after him.
This wasn't a game and she wasn't going to tell him. Something he would eventually figure out. Genius that he was.
Thomas wasn't a game, but this conversation was. Every conversation with Jarod was a game, and these conversations were the first field on which she has learned to win. Tommy wouldn't have wanted her to play like this, but then Tommy didn't have all the facts, any more than she had. Tommy was a good man, and would have told her not to do this even if had known it all. She didn't know if she was a good woman – probably not – but then without Tommy around, being a "good woman" didn't hold much appeal.
Tommy was gone. Now it was just her. She was a Parker.
She smiled, it felt like a feral grin even without a mirror. She had waited long enough, and once the prey was spooked, she could begin the hunt. No more patience. No more waiting. She let the scotch flow down her throat, smooth and fiery and as heady as pure power. On the other end of the line, Jarod was waiting. This was the last moment he would hang up on her.
Not quite time for her to hang up on him. He needed his answer, after all.
She hung up the phone, let herself laugh. It felt good to be on the hunt again, she'd waited far too long.