Table of Contents [Report This]
This is a sequel to Twin Peaks
by Melody Lane Copyright 1997
Jarod got out of the red pick-up. He went around back to a silver horse trailer. He opened the tailgate to let out a beautiful, gray horse with black spots and a creamy white belly. Jarod patted the horse's neck.
The door to the stables opened. A man leading a horse came out. "Oh! You startled me," he said. "You are the new riding instructor right? Jarod Ryder?"
"Yes," Jarod replied. "You must be Patrick Aldin."
"That's right. My, you have a beautiful horse! What's his name?" Mr. Aldin replied.
"Buckingham," Jarod answered. "And he's quite a show-off."Just then the screen door to the house swung open and out ran a boy and a girl. They had dark brown hair and blue eyes. They ran right up to the horse. "May we pet him?" asked the girl. Jarod smiled and nodded.
"These are the twins. They're eleven," Mr. Aldin explained. "This is Brett and Brittanie."
"Hello," said Jarod.
"Nice to meet you," said Brittanie.
"Hi," greeted Brett.
"Jarod is your new riding instructor. Why don't you go put his horse in the stables and then help him unload his trailer?" Mr. Aldin suggested.
"Okay." Brittanie and Brett started leading Buckingham towards the stables.
"Well those are your students. They're great kids. They love horses as much as their mother did. I have another daughter, Natalie. She doesn't ride anymore. She had a horrible accident. She swears she'll never ride again," Mr. Aldin paused as Brett and Brittanie came running up.
"I love your horse," exclaimed Brittanie.
Brett went back around to the back of the trailer. Brittanie and Jarod followed. They began unpacking the trailer. "You're staying in the apartment above the stables. Dad guessed you would want to be close to the horses," Brett told Jarod as they carried items to the stables.
Jarod carried his metal case and suitcase up to the apartment last. It was a rectangular apartment. It had one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. It also had a small sitting area. There were six windows, two of which had a view of the main house.
The bed was close to a window facing the house. Jarod looked out that window. He could see Brett and Brittanie running up to the house. On the front porch was Natalie. She had blond hair and appeared to have hazel eyes. She was sitting in a wheelchair, staring off into space.
Jarod looked down at his red notebook. He opened it and skimmed the headlines. "Champion Mother/Daughter Riding Team," "The Aldins Do It Again!" "Accident kills Champion Rider Brooke Aldin, Daughter in Critical Condition." There was a picture of Natalie and her mother holding a trophy and another of Natalie jumping a fence at a competition. Jarod looked up as he heard a knock on the door. "Come in!" he called.
Brett came in. "My dad wants to know if you'd like to have dinner with us," Brett said.
"Sure, I'll be right down," Jarod replied.
"Great!" said Brett.
There are Pretenders among us.
Geniuses with the ability to become anyone they want to be.
In 1963, a corporation known as the Centre isolated a young Pretender named Jarod and exploited his genius for their research.
Then one day, their Pretender ran away...
**THE PRETENDER* *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"Miss Parker, I don't see why you insist on coming down here," said Sydney.
"Answers, Syd. Some of them must be down here," Miss Parker replied.
"Broots told you that a breach of security was filed for SL-27," Sydney reminded.
"I just want one last look at Raines computer, " Miss Parker answered. "Then, I'm out of here and back out chasing Jarod."
Miss Parker walked over to the wall she knew was fake. She was about to pull it back when she heard something. She put her ear to the wall and listened.
"Miss Parker, what is it?" Sydney asked.
"Talking, someone is in there," Miss Parker responded. She pushed the wall back a tiny crack so she could see in. Near the far wall were two men talking. In that wall was an elevator. On the floor, two children were playing with blocks, a girl who looked about five and a boy barely old enough to sit up. Miss Parker stepped back. "Syd, there's children in there," Miss Parker whispered.
"I'm surprised that they are still doing operations with Mr. Raines in the hospital," Sydney replied.
Miss Parker kept watching. "The men left are leaving. The children are still on the floor," Miss Parker told Sydney.
"We had better go before they find us," Sydney replied.
"You go ahead I'll leave in a minute," Miss Parker replied.
"Be careful," Sydney said as he headed for the exit.
Jarod sat around the dinner table with the Aldins. Miss Carmen Costello was the housekeeper and nanny. She served them the food. She had been hired a while back to help Brooke Aldin. Now she mostly helped out with Natalie, but also to looked after Brett and Brittanie.
"Do you think I'll ever be able to jump as well as my mom did, Jarod?" Brittanie asked.
"Maybe," said Jarod as he placed a hamburger on his plate.
Natalie sat quietly eating her hamburger, but keeping a close eye on Jarod. She watched him like she didn't trust him.
Jarod took a bite of his hamburger. "Beef, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard, between two slices of bread. This is very good!" Jarod exclaimed.
"You've never had a hamburger?' Natalie asked.
"They didn't have them where I grew up," Jarod replied.
"I can't imagine growing up without hamburgers," said Brett.
"I never had a hamburger until I came to the United States," Carmen told Brett.
Just then the door opened. A man with black hair, brown eyes and a cowboy hat entered. He also had on jeans and a plaid shirt. "Uncle West!" Brett and Brittanie exclaimed getting up. They hugged their uncle.
"That is Mr. Aldin's brother in-law," Carmen told Jarod.
"Hi Carmen," West said.
"Hello West," Carmen greeted.
"And who are you?" West asked Jarod.
Jarod stood up and stuck out his hand in offer of a handshake. "Jarod Ryder," he greeted.
"Jarod is the new riding instructor," Mr. Aldin explained.
"Really," West said. He shook Jarod's hand. "I'm Wesley Bryant, but everyone calls me West. Good to meet you, Jarod."
"What'd you bring us Uncle West?" Brett asked.
"My bag's out in the truck. Go get it," West replied.
Brittanie and Brett ran out to the truck. Natalie looked at her uncle. "Hello Uncle West," she said softly.
"Hi there Natty. How are you?" West asked.
Natalie sighed. "Okay, I guess."
West smiled at his niece as he sat down at the table. He helped himself to a hamburger. Jarod sat back down.
Broots sat at his computer. Sydney entered. "Sydney," Broots started. "They've posted another secret security alert about SL-27. This time two children are missing."
"Really. Have you told Miss Parker?" Sydney asked.
"No, I haven't been able to find her," Broots replied.
"She hasn't been up here?" Sydney asked. He sounded confused and surprised.
"No, why do you ask?" Broots questioned.
Sydney got up and left. He didn't answer the question.
Miss Parker's Home
Miss Parker was sitting at a piano in her house. Next to her was the girl from Raines' office and on the floor crawling around was the boy. The doorbell rang. Miss Parker got up and went down the hall to the door. She placed her hand on her gun as she checked to see who it was. It was Sydney. She let him in but only as far as the coatroom.
"What is it Syd? A lead on Jarod?" she asked.
"Where are they?" Sydney demanded.
"Where are who?" Miss Parker asked, sounding annoyed.
"The children you took from the Centre," Sydney replied. "If the Centre finds out then-"
"I'm not going to deny I took them to you," Miss Parker replied. "But I couldn't let them end up like your 30 year experiment gone down the drain."
"This is not about Jarod. This is about your mother," Sydney countered.
"No, Syd. This is about me." Miss Parker's eyes narrowed and her expression was one of pain and anger.
"What are you going to do with them?" Sydney asked.
"Give me 48 hours, Syd. Those children will disappear, completely," Miss Parker answered.
Sydney looked at Miss Parker. He could see how important this was to her. "Alright," he finally said. "But they'll be looking for you by then. You had better hurry." Miss Parker nodded. Sydney showed himself out. Miss Parker went back into the other room.
She looked thoughtfully at the children as she picked up the phone. She dialed quickly. "Malorie," she said. "I need your help."
Spring Meadow Arena
"Okay, now, Brittanie don't be so stiff," Jarod instructed. "Relax your arms and bring her around by the jump."
Brett was sitting on the white fence that surrounded the arena. Natalie wheeled herself close enough to observe the lesson. "Brittanie jump," Brett yelled.
Brittanie brought her white horse by again, but still didn't jump. "I guess I just can't work up the nerve. Princess wants to, I can feel it, but I'm not ready," Brittanie replied.
"My turn!" Brett said, hopping off the fence. He went over to where his brown horse was standing. "Come on Victory, let's show how it's done," Brett told his horse right before he mounted.
Natalie watched him practice with a hint of sadness. She went over each jump with him and could hear a crowd cheering. However, soon her thoughts turned to the night of the accident and all she could hear was thunder and screams.
"Brett, post Victory right here next to the fence," Jarod said. Brittanie sat on the fence watching, as Brett broke into a relaxed trot. Jarod glanced back and saw Natalie. "Does she always watch you practice?" he asked.
Brittanie glanced at Natalie. "Not since the accident. Doctors say she could ride if she really wanted to but I think she's lost the confidence," Brittanie lowered her voice to a whisper. "She thinks mom died because of her."
Jarod nodded. "Now, Brittanie, watch," Jarod mounted Buckingham as
Brett led Victory to the side of the arena.
Jarod rode Buckingham in a trot towards the jumps. As he neared the jump, instead of squeezing his legs against the horse, he raised the reins above the horse's head and Buckingham made it safely over the jump.
Natalie wheeled herself right up to the fence looking amazed. Brett and Brittanie ran out in the arena. "How did you do that?" Brittanie asked.
"A little special training," Jarod answered. He dismounted and walked up to the fence. Natalie was still looking amazed.
"How long did it take you to teach your horse to do that?" Natalie asked.
"A couple days. You just have know what they're thinking," Jarod replied. "I could teach your horse to do that."
"Spitfire is not an easy horse to train," Natalie replied. "And I don't ride anymore."
"Let me spend some time with you and Spitfire. Then, we'll see if I can train her," Jarod answered. Natalie reluctantly nodded.
Miss Parker held the baby in her arms while the girl rang the doorbell. Malorie came to the door. "Hi Malorie," Miss Parker said, staring into the face identical to hers. "This is Sadie and Benjamin."
Malorie invited them in. She offered cookies to Sadie and began warming some milk for Benjamin. "You said you needed my help. What do you want me to do? And whose kids are these?" Malorie demanded.
"I stole these children from the Centre," Miss Parker replied.
"Isn't that dangerous?" Malorie asked.
"I need to find them their home or a home," Miss Parker replied.
"Well, do you want me to baby-sit?" Malorie asked.
"Not exactly. It might take a while, but I need to do this," Miss Parker explained. "I need you to pretend you're me."
"What!" Malorie exclaimed. "I don't know much about this Centre place, but from what you've told me, it is a place I don't want to go. Especially while pretending to be you."
"Malorie, I don't have time to tell you how important this is to me. But I really need you to do it. It will only be for a day or two, a week at the most." Miss Parker could see Malorie getting ready to say no. "Please, Malorie."
Seeing Miss Parker's pleading look, Malorie gave in. "Alright, but you're going to have to give me some pointers on how to be you," Malorie said.
"Are you twins?" Sadie asked. She had been staring at them.
"No, we're cousins," Malorie replied. She smiled at Miss Parker who looked a little nervous. "So, what's the first step to being you?"Malorie asked.
Miss Parker took a package of cigarettes from her pocket. "These," she said. Malorie looked disgusted.
Jarod led a black horse from the stables out into the arena. Natalie was right up close to the fence watching. "Spitfire doesn't usually like strangers but she seems okay with you," Natalie explained.
Jarod rubbed the horse's forehead. "She's beautiful," Jarod replied. "But I'm sure she'd like it if you were the one in the arena petting her."
Natalie was silent a second. "No, the last thing she needs is me," Natalie told him.
"The accident wasn't your fault," Jarod said.
Natalie wheeled herself in the gate. "Everyone keeps saying that. They weren't there. I was. It was rainy and even though it was dark I saw everything," Natalie cried. "If I hadn't put the horses in the trailer incorrectly then, when that car came we wouldn't have stopped, and Mom never would have been out there." Then, Natalie wheeled herself away towards the house. Jarod felt sad standing in the arena alone with Spitfire.
Carmen came out to the arena. She had been watching. "I'm not sure how much you know about the accident, but Natalie is positive it was her fault." Carmen paused. "They had just left a horse show. Natalie had put the horses in the trailer. But, she had been so excited, I guess she didn't harness them in right. Mrs. Aldin realized this at Seaview Drive. By then, it had gotten stormy. She got out to re-harness them. A car came spinning out of control and hit their car. The front of the car was crushed which was how Natalie was paralyzed. The trailer in the back became unhooked. Only Mrs. Aldin and her horse were in there at the time and it toppled over the side of the cliff. They were killed instantly." Carmen stopped. "I just thought you should know that, Jarod."
Blue Cove, Delaware
Malorie walked through security trying to figure out how Miss Parker could walk everywhere in high heels. They were very uncomfortable. She also was not enjoying the tight navy blue skirt. Why did Miss Parker where such dark and uncheerful colors?
Malorie got into the elevator with a genuinely angry expression because she was mad she had agreed to do this. She was trying to remember all the things she'd been told. Mostly all she had to do was be angry and look for Jarod. That couldn't be too hard.
Malorie got out at Sub-Level 5. Two men were in the room. One had brown hair, brown eyes and a receding hairline. He sat at a computer. The other had white hair and was going bald. He looked up as she walked in.
Malorie composed herself and put a solemn expression on her face. "Any leads on Jarod?" she asked gruffly.
"None yet," said the man at the computer. Malorie had been told his name was Broots. The other man was Sydney. "Where've you been? We've been trying to contact you," Broots continued.
Malorie tried to think of a good response. "That is none of your business," she said. Sydney stared at her.
"Are you alright, Miss Parker?" Sydney asked.
"I'm fine," Malorie said, trying to sound annoyed. "I just didn't get much sleep." She hoped that answer would suffice. Malorie went over to a chair and sat down. She tried to relax. She was going to be fine.
Malorie looked around. The Centre was a very dark and gloomy place in her opinion. Mostly everything was gray or baige. They desperately needed someone to re-decorate. Malorie wasn't quite sure what to do. She guessed now was when Miss Parker would light up a cigarette. However, there was no way she was going to smoke. It was a horrible habit and Miss Parker should quit.
Just then a man walked in. He handed Malorie a package and left. She stared at it. It was to Miss Parker. Malorie hesitated. Should she open it? She saw Sydney and Broots looking expectantly at her.
Malorie tore open the package. Inside was a goldenrod. She was puzzled. She picked up a note that read: Allergy season has begun. Now what was that suppose to mean? Suddenly, she realized it must be something from Jarod. It was still very puzzling.
Kimball County, Nebraska
Seaview Drive was on a cliff. It overlooked a man-made pond. It was clean and beautiful. Deer were drinking from it. A few small trees were nearby. On the cliff was a two lane road.
Jarod hiked down the steep cliff. It was still slightly cluttered with fragments of metal from the trailer. Looking up, Jarod could see how easy it would be for a trailer to fall off. Also, since it was a two lane road, it was not very surprising that the car had been run into.
However, there was still something not right about the crash. Jarod wasn't quite sure what, but he knew something about the crash was not an accident.
Jarod entered his apartment. He took off a police badge and placed a folder on the coffee table in the sitting room. He sat down on the couch and ate a pez before he opened the folder. It was the police report on the crash. There were pictures and a layout of the crash site.
The Aldin trailer and car was facing north, towards the direction they had come from. It was hit head on. It had crushed the front of the car and unhooked the trailer. Mrs. Aldin had taken Spitfire out so it would be easier to re-harness her horse. So only Mrs. Aldin and her horse were the ones in the trailer when it went over the cliff.
Pictures showed the front of the car completely smashed and the trailer, also smashed, halfway down the cliff. Jarod looked at the dent in the front of the car. It was a large dent, but it wasn't from a wide car. It was from an arrow-shaped car.
The police guessed some drunk driver on the wrong side of the road had hit them. However, that would have to mean that the driver was so drunk they couldn't drive straight. They wouldn't have rammed into the Aldin's car head on completely straight.
Jarod look up from the folder. Someone had rammed the Aldin car, on purpose. Someone who had been at the competition.
Somewhere in Tennessee
"No, I've never seen those kids before, sorry," the store manager got back to sweeping his wooden porch. Miss Parker turned and got back into her navy blue rental car. She glanced at the back seat.
Benjamin was asleep in his car seat and Sadie looked worried. "This is not my home," Sadie cried. "I live in a big white house with green shutters. It has the numbers 344 on it. And in front there's a sign that says NCP-09."
Miss Parker sighed. She started the car and pulled away from the store. She was not accustom to living out of a car, or going against the Centre for the interests of someone besides herself.
After several hours of driving, Sadie and Ben were both asleep. Miss Parker stopped at a motel. It wasn't the Ritz, but it would have to do. She carried the children inside. She smoked, shortly, outside in the car, but then went inside.
She watched them sleep. She felt calm. Much calmer than she had ever felt in her life. She could understand why her mother had wanted to save children from the Centre. They were so helpless but so loving and trusting. Although she would not yet admit it to herself, she had grown some attachment to them.
It felt so wonderful to feel this way. No need to pretend she was something she wasn't. To be able to forget everything that had always seemed so important. Everything except Jarod. He was the one person Miss Parker couldn't forget. No matter what, he always lingered in the back of her mind.
Although, she was now seeing him in a whole new light. He was not an evil man around for Miss Parker to blame all her troubles in life on. He was a human being, with rights and a heart. Her mother had died trying to save Jarod from growing up in the Centre. Exactly what Miss Parker was trying to do for Sadie and Benjamin. Make sure they had the childhood she didn't get to have.
Jarod's truck pulled into the driveway. Parked in front of him was a brand new red pick-up truck. West was showing it off to the family. "Wow!" Brittanie exclaimed.
Jarod got of his own truck. Brett ran up to Jarod. "Look at my uncle's new truck!" he said excitedly.
"That is a nice truck," replied Jarod. "Where did he get the money for it?"
"I didn't steal it if that's what your implying," West told Jarod.
"No, that's not what I meant," Jarod answered. "I was just admiring it."
"I'll bet you were," West said. He looked very angry as he headed towards the stables. Mr. Aldin headed after him.
Carmen went up to Jarod. "West was very upset over his sister's death. He hasn't been the same." Then, she turned to head into the house to make supper. Brett and Brittanie went to help.
Jarod stood there a second next to Natalie. "Ready for another lesson with Spitfire?" Jarod asked.
"No, that was a crazy idea. Let's just forget about it," Natalie replied.
"Never riding again won't make the ghost go away," Jarod said.
"I don't believe in ghosts," Natalie answered.
"The ghosts in your nightmares. Images of the night of the accident," Jarod replied.
"You don't know what you're talking about," Natalie told Jarod.
"I know your torturing yourself is not going to help anyone," Jarod paused. "I have my own nightmares."
"What happened to me is different. It was my fault. I could have at least warned her before the car hit," Natalie sniffled. "Every time I close my eyes I see that gray car. I feel my legs tingle and hear the horses' whinny. And I can hear my mother's scream."
Jarod glanced over at the driveway. There was a gray car parked there. "A gray car like that one over there?" Jarod asked.
"Yes, but that's Carmen's car," Natalie said. "She only recently got it back. It was stolen the week before the accident. It was torn up when she first found it. It had to be in the shop for several weeks."
"So Carmen's car was missing at the time of the accident," Jarod asked.
"Yes, that's right," Natalie replied.
"Is possible that her car was the one that hit you?" Jarod asked. He looked at the arrow like shape.
"Maybe, but I'm not sure. It all happened so fast and it was dark," Natalie turned her wheel chair so she faced the house. She smiled at Jarod. "Anyhow, that doesn't change anything. Just forget about getting me back on a horse. It's too late." Then Natalie wheeled herself inside. Jarod watched looking sad.
Malorie walked back into the room carrying a cup of coffee. "Is there anything on Jarod?" she asked.
"No. This note about allergies isn't much to go on," Broots replied.
Malorie's cellular phone rang. She was startled, then reached into her pocket and answered it. "Hello?"
"Malorie," Miss Parker said. She was still at the motel on her own cellular phone. "How is everything?"
Malorie glanced at Sydney who was watching her. She turned her back to him. "Alright," then she lowered her voice to a whisper. "I think Sydney suspects something."
"I knew it would be difficult to fool him. He's known me a long time," Miss Parker looked at Sadie and Ben who were still asleep.
"How are you?" Malorie asked.
"I'm alright. I haven't found what I'm looking for but I'm getting closer," Miss Parker checked her watch. "I have to go."
"Bye," Malorie said. There was a click and then silence. Malorie put her phone away. Sydney was still watching her. It made her nervous. She decided she'd have to avoid him. It was too risky trying to fool him. "I'm going out. Call me if you find anything, bye."
Malorie headed for the door. Sydney followed. He got in front of her. "Who are you?" he asked.
"Get out of my way!" Malorie exclaimed.
"Where is Miss Parker? Is she alright?" Sydney questioned.
"I am Miss Parker." Malorie thought a second, searching for the right words. She couldn't even begin to imagine what would happen if the Centre knew she was not Miss Parker.
"I don't know who you are or why you're here but you are not Miss Parker," Sydney answered in a low voice.
"What makes you say that?" Malorie asked trying to hide her fear.
"Miss Parker doesn't say bye at the end of a conversation, she doesn't answer her phone by saying 'hello' and she would have been very agitated if she hadn't smoked at least twice in the last few hours," Sydney replied.
Malorie felt as though she had just been marked for execution.
Somewhere in Tennessee
Sadie tossed and turned in her sleep. She groaned and mumbled. Miss Parker watched from a chair. She hadn't been sleeping since this whole escapade began. Watching Sadie sleep was rather distressing. Even though she was asleep, Sadie still seemed very frightened. Too frightened for someone who had only been around for five years.
Just then, Miss Parker's cellular phone rang. She picked it up rather sleepily. "What?" she asked.
"Still chasing ghosts?" said an amused voice on the other end.
"Believing in spirits now, Jarod," Miss Parker replied.
"Ghosts of your own fears," Jarod replied. "The ones you see as you watch those children sleep."
"The only ghost I have to worry about is you," Miss Parker hissed, looking out the window. "And what would you know about the children anyway?"
"It was only a matter of time before you would follow your mother and take children from the Centre. There's no way you would be sleeping with them in your possession," Jarod answered.
"What do you know about it?" Miss Parker asked rather dryly.
"You shouldn't be in Tennessee," Jarod responded. "You really should have listened to your cousin Carolina. She knew north was the way."
"And how would you know that, Jarod? Are you somewhere close by?" She questioned, avoiding yet another one of Jarod's puzzles. Then, Miss Parker looked searchingly out the window.
"Yes, but then I'm always close by," Jarod said in an amused tone. "Saddle up!" he said, right before hanging up the phone.
Miss Parker looked puzzled a second as she sat brooding over Jarod's puzzle about her cousin Carolina. She didn't have a cousin Carolina. And what did North have to do with anything? Suddenly, she thought back to talking to Sadie in the car.
"I live in a white house with green shutters with the numbers 344 on it. And there's a sign it front that says NCP-09."
Suddenly those letters and numbers made since, North Carolina Pipeline. Sadie and Ben had lived in North Carolina. She could have the children back with their parents in another day. Then she could get back to...Suddenly Miss Parker realized that she didn't want to get back to chasing Jarod or back to the Centre. She finally had a life. She wasn't ready to give that up. However she soon thought of Malorie and knew that she couldn't stay away forever. Even though she didn't know Malorie was having problems of her own.
Sydney sent Broots to get some coffee while he talked to Malorie. She was still hiding behind the Miss Parker persona. It was all she could do to hide her fears. "Now, tell me who you really are?" Sydney insisted.
Malorie still hesitated. She was hoping that nothing could be done until she openly admitted she was not Miss Parker. So, she was silent.
Finally Sydney continued. "Has something happened to Miss Parker?" he asked. Malorie swallowed hard. "I need to know."
Malorie figured that someone so interested in Miss Parker's well being wouldn't kill her, even though she shouldn't be there. However, the Centre was a very scary place. Gloomy and anything normally accepted wasn't accepted there. She longed to go back to Alaska where life was so much simpler.
"Okay. I'm not Miss Parker," Malorie paused. "My name is Malorie Howard. I'm Miss Parker's cousin. She asked me to be her a couple of days. She's alright. She'll be back in a day or two. She had some things to take care of."
"She's hiding the children isn't she?" Sydney asked but not really in a questioning tone. Malorie nodded. "Where is she?"
"I'm not exactly sure, but as soon as she gets back I'm gone. I promise," Malorie explained. Then added schemingly, "Or I could leave right now and you could explain to everyone why Miss Parker's not here."
Sydney understood. "Just inform me if she contacts you," he said. He turned and went back into the tech room. Malorie let out a sigh of relief. Now, she had an ally.
Dale's Auto Shop
"Yeah, it was a nice car," said Dale. "Really beat up though. Looked like it had been in some kinda accident. Lady didn't say so though." Dale wiped some of the oil off his hands and looked at Jarod. His face was still smudged and so was his blue jump-suit.
"How did the front look?" asked Jarod.
"Look like it had rammed into somethin'. Now why do you ask?" Dale demanded.
"I'm her insurance broker. Investigating on whether to pay for the damages," Jarod replied.
"Why? She paid in cash. All $900," Dale answered. "Where'd she get all that money if it wasn't from her insurance company?"
"That is a very good question," Jarod replied.
Jarod looked out the window to the apartment above the stables. It was dark and rainy. In his head he was pretending the night of the accident. He could see the cars collide and the trailer come unhooked. He could see the trailer tumble down the cliff.
Knock! Knock! Jarod answered the door. It was Carmen with a plate of food. Jarod smiled his knowing smile. He invited her in.
"Jarod, you missed dinner," Carmen explained holding up the plate.
"I wasn't very hungry," Jarod responded. "But thank you." He took the plate. It was turkey and mash potatoes with gravy. "You know you have a very nice car," he commented.
Carmen gave him a nervous smile. "Yes, now that it's been fixed."
"Fixed?" Jarod questioned. "You mean from the accident."
"Well, I suppose it could have been in an accident. I wouldn't really know. It was stolen and I only recently got it back," Carmen replied.
Jarod nodded. "There's something I should show you," Jarod said. He handed Carmen the bill from the auto shop. She gasped. At the bottom was written: $934 in cash, paid in full.
"How did you get this?" Carmen asked.
"Well, you just have to know the right questions," Jarod answered. "At first, I wondered why you would become involved in this. I didn't think you were the kind of person to kill for money."
"No one was suppose to get hurt," Carmen answered. "The horses were insured for a lot of money. West promised me half of whatever he could get. Somehow he found out I was an illegal immigrant. He forced me to help. Brooke had promised to give him three or four thousand as soon as she could afford it. He planned it well. He stole my car which put me out of suspicion and went to the horse show."
"So he was the one that loosened the horse trailer and harnessed the horses wrong," Jarod decided.
"Yes. He wasn't going to ram them head on. He'd expected them to lose the trailer with an easy nudge but Brooke got out to re-harness the horses. So instead of horse insurance money he got $5,000 out of the will. I wouldn't have helped or taken the money but he told me he threatened to have me deported. I wanted to tell but West told me that if I did, he'd kill me too." Carmen started to cry. "Oh there were so many times I would have liked to tell Natalie how I truly knew it wasn't her fault. But I couldn't."
"Well I think it's time to give West nightmares and Natalie sweet dreams," Jarod replied.
344 Humming Blvd.
Talasaw, North Carolina
Miss Parker parked the car right out in front of the house. There was a For Sale sign in the front lawn. However, she still decided to give it a try. She left Sadie and Benjamin in the car. She wanted to be sure she had the right house.
Miss Parker went up to the door and knocked. She waited a couple seconds before knocking again. She was about to leave when the door opened. "May I help you," asked a lady. She had blonde hair like Sadie's and brown eyes. She was leaning against the door and it was only open a crack.
"I think I may have your missing children," Miss Parker said.
The woman opened the door wide. "Sadie and Ben? Where are they? Are they alright?" she asked. Miss Parker showed the woman to the car where she threw her arms around the small children. "Where were they? How did you find them?"
"That's a very complicated story," Miss Parker replied. The woman led Sadie and Ben back to the house and motioned for Miss Parker to come, too.
"Please tell me everything," the woman pleaded.
Miss Parker glanced back at the car. Across the street, she saw a black car. It pulled away from the corner and drove away as soon as she looked at it. Was she being followed? Or was the house being watched? Was the Centre planning to kill Sadie and Ben's parents? She couldn't let that happen.
"Mrs.-" Miss Parker started as they stepped into the house.
"Brenner," the woman finished. "Colleen Brenner."
"Mrs. Brenner, where is the rest of your family?" Miss Parker asked.
"My husband is picking up my oldest son, Tommy, from school," Mrs. Brenner answered. Miss Parker closed the front door and looked out the window next to it.
"When do you expect them back?" Miss Parker questioned. She saw the black car pass by again.
"Any minute now, why?" Mrs. Brenner asked.
"Start packing. The people that kidnapped your children are after you." Miss Parker turned to look at Mrs. Brenner's worried expression. "Hurry, we don't have much time."
Jarod sat in his apartment already planning West's punishment. He made phone calls and addressed envelopes to the police. Wrote letters and signed statements. He ate hamburgers and pez. Asked people to do him favors and made his own airbags. even did some looking around in West's car. And wired himself to a tape recorder. He talked to Carmen, who gave him her car keys, before he sent his plan into action.
Kimball County, Nebraska
The family was staying at a rented house. Brett and Brittanie had a horse show. Carmen entered West's room. "West, there's something I think you should take a look at," she said.
"Not now," West replied.
"No I think it's important. I was driving along and I came across something that might be incriminating," Carmen added.
"Something to do with your car?" West questioned.
"I think you should drive out and have a look at it," Carmen answered.
"Drive? Where's your car?" West asked.
"I ran out of gas a ways down the road. But you should see it if you drive straight down Seaview Drive," Carmen replied.
West glanced out the window. It was already dark and it was starting to rain. "Fine!" he said angrily. He tossed aside a cowboy magazine and got up. "You comin'?" he asked.
"Can't," Carmen said. "I have to make sure Brett and Brittanie get their rest." He put on his cowboy hat and headed out the door.
He got into his newly polished red truck. By the time he had started it up a storm was brewing. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed all the way down Seaview Drive. West grumbled to himself. He had his headlights on but they weren't much help. He could barely see where he was going.
Suddenly in the distance he could see the bright headlights of another car. It was coming straight at him He swerved but the car still hit him.
It was quite a jolt. West felt a tad bit disoriented as he was pushed into the airbag. Then he tried to get out. The door was stuck. He pushed and leaned on it. He was just about to yell for help when a bright light shined in his eyes. "Who's there?" West demanded.
"Someone who believes in justice," Jarod answered lowering his flashlight.
"Jarod! You always were too nosy for your own good!" West exclaimed. "Just wait until I get out of here. I'll get you!"
"How can you even look at those children? Knowing you killed their mother. Your own sister and you killed her," Jarod accused.
"Who do you think you are?" West demanded struggling to free himself.
"Profit, that's what it always comes down to. Isn't it, West?" Jarod continued.
"You let me out of here!" West ordered. "You rammed my new truck and now your accusing me of killing people. What gives you the right-"
"You gave me the right, West!" Jarod argued. "From the second you threatened Carmen until now. You were asking for it."
"And what if I did do all the things you accused me off," West laughed. "You can't prove anything."
"That's all I needed to hear," Jarod replied. He showed West his tape recorder. "Goodnight," he added, turning to leave.
"Jarod, you can't leave me here!" West whined.
"You left Natalie for almost four hours," Jarod answered. "Don't worry. I called the police. They should be here soon. At least I hope so. I wasn't sure if I gave them good enough directions." Jarod placed the manila folder in Carmen's car. He placed the recording on top of it. Then, Carmen pulled up in Jarod's truck and he got in. The car drove away leaving West yelling and struggling to free himself.
Malorie and Sydney had continued their conversation in low voices. Just then the phone rang. Malorie answered. "Hello?"
"Malorie, I need you to fly here," Miss Parker said. "I'm in North Carolina. Talasaw. I need you to be here within twelve hours."
"I'm on my way," Malorie hung up the phone. She turned to Sydney. "I need a plane or private jet, but it has to be ready to leave in ten minutes."
"And what's the reason for this sudden flight?" Sydney asked. Malorie hesitated.
"Must be a hit on Jarod," Malorie answered with a scheming smile.
"Must be," Sydney replied. Then, they left the tech room.
344 Humming Blvd.
Talasaw, North Carolina
Several hours later, Malorie and Sydney pulled up in a navy blue car. They got out and went into the house. "Are you ready to leave?" Malorie asked.
"We will be. The Centre has a patrol car outside. It passes the house every ten minutes or so. The next time it passes we leave," Miss Parker explained.
"Then what?" Malorie asked.
"We'll get in separate cars. The Brenners in their van and you and Sydney will go to the plane. You'll fly somewhere safe. I'll lead the patrol someplace else and I'll meet you in Alaska in twenty-four hours," Miss Parker told Malorie.
"No, you started this and you should finish it. You go with Sydney and the Brenners. I'll be the decoy," Malorie countered.
"Malorie, if you get caught..." Miss Parker began.
"...then I could be in a lot of trouble. I know that. But this time I'm not going to argue with you," Malorie looked out the window. A black car drove by. "Go!" Malorie ordered.
The Brenners and Sydney exited the house. Miss Parker was last. She stopped a second. Then, Miss Parker did something unexpected. She gave Malorie a hug. "You owe me," Malorie said. Miss Parker nodded and smiled. "You'd better hurry!" Malorie ordered. Miss Parker got in the car she came in. Sydney climbed into that one, also.
Malorie got in the navy blue car. The Brenners' van and Miss Parker's car turned right. Malorie turned left. A couple minutes later she heard a car squeal behind her. She could see the Centre patrol car following. Malorie sped up. The other car sped up, too. Malorie smiled. This decoy idea was working. All of a sudden she heard a gun shot. Her car swerved uncontrollably. She couldn't see anything for a moment. The car tumbled and rolled. Malorie had no idea what was happening. All she knew was now the Brenners', Sydney and Miss Parker were all safe.
Jarod put his last bag and suitcase in the taxi. "Are you sure you have to go?" Brett asked. Jarod nodded.
"But we don't want you to leave," Brittanie whined.
"You were a fine riding instructor. It'll be hard replacing you," Mr. Aldin added. Jarod and Mr. Aldin shook hands. "I'd really like to thank you for everything you've done."
Jarod look down at the newspaper in his hand. The headline read: Champion Rider Killed by Brother. It told about the accident and how Wesley Bryant was convicted.
Jarod was just about to get into the taxi when he heard a yell. "Jarod, wait!" It was Natalie, riding Spitfire. "I just wanted to say thanks, for giving me back my confidence and believing in me even when I didn't." Natalie and Jarod both smiled. "Last night was the first time I slept without nightmares. Thank you, Jarod."
Somewhere in Europe
Miss Parker and Sydney were ready to board their plane to leave. "Thank you again, Miss Parker. You've done so much and you barely
even know us," Mr. Brenner commented. Miss Parker was silent. She wasn't used to comments like these.
"I'd better go. The plane will be leaving soon," Miss Parker finally said.
"Wait!" Sadie cried. "Will I ever see you again?"
Miss Parker wasn't sure. "I don't know," Miss Parker admitted. "I hope
"I hope so, too," said Sadie. She gave Miss Parker a hug. Miss Parker was surprised at first but she soon gave Sadie a hug back. Then, they said good-bye and Miss Parker and Sydney got on a plane.
"Well, does this mean your going to stop chasing Jarod," Sydney asked.
"No," Miss Parker said, indignantly. "He's caused me way too much trouble to just let him get away now."
Miss Parker and Sydney entered the house. There had been no answer when they'd knocked. Malorie had given Miss Parker a key. She looked around the house. It didn't look like Malorie was home yet. The radio was on though. "...And in the news, a car crash in North Carolina may have proved fatal. An unidentified woman was seen driving her car when another car apparently ran her off the road. The car exploded several minutes after the crash, but at the present time it appears there were no survivors. In other news...."
Miss Parker turned off the radio. She sat down on the couch in disbelief. Malorie couldn't be dead. She had just become a part of Miss Parker's life. She couldn't be gone. Not yet. "I shouldn't have let her do it," Miss Parker began.
"She knew what kind of risk she was taking," Sydney replied.
Just then, the front door flew open. Malorie ran in She saw them sitting on the couch looking amazed to see her standing there. "Oh, I was hoping to get here before you heard the news," Malorie said. "I wanted to change first. Maybe I should have just changed here. Then, I could have been here in time to let you know I was alright. News just travels too fast, I guess"
Now, instead of a Miss Parker outfit, Malorie wore blue jeans and a purple tee-shirt. "I managed to get out of the car before it exploded. I hid in some bushes until the sweepers left. Then, I went to the airport. I heard the news when I was in the taxi on the way here. I sure hope I didn't scare you too much."
Miss Parker stood up. She walked up to Malorie. "You told me I owe you," she said. Malorie nodded. "Consider that debt paid. I'll never ask you to be me again."
"You'd better not," Malorie answered. "A person could get killed trying to do your job." Malorie laughed.
Just then, Miss Parker's cellular phone went off. "What?"
"The goldenrod is the state plant of Nebraska. That's where Jarod is. Lincoln, Nebraska," Broots explained.
"Sydney and I will meet you there," Miss Parker replied. She hung up and turned to Sydney. "We have a hit."
Miss Parker, Sydney and Broots climbed out of a black car. They looked around. Carmen walked up to them followed by Brett and Brittanie. "You must be Miss Parker," she said. "Jarod said you'd be coming." Brett and Brittanie ran off towards the stables.
"Did Jarod leave anything behind?" Miss Parker asked. Carmen motioned for them to follow her to the stables. Brett handed Sydney a red notebook. Sydney looked through seeing the headlines. "Is that all he left?" Miss Parker questioned.
"No, he also left this particularly for you," Carmen replied. Brittanie handed Miss Parker the reins to Buckingham. "This is Buckingham."
Miss Parker looked at the horse rather disgusted. Broots and Sydney were both choking back giggles. "Not a word, Syd," Miss Parker warned. "Not a word." She looked at the horse once more. "Where are you, Jarod?"
Buckingham Palace, England
Exact Same Moment
Jarod stood in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace. He was dressed as one of the palace guards. And he probably would have fit in perfectly if he hadn't had such a large grin on his face.
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