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Lyle darted forward breaking his sister’s fall and hoisting her over his shoulder. Willie stared open mouthed at his master’s face frozen in his gaping last breath. He dropped his gun and slipped to a seat. The air felt suddenly lighter, like a black cloud had lifted and everyone in the room could breath more easily than they had in years, as if in death all the oxygen Reins had trapped in his tank had been re-released into the atmosphere. The parasite’s body had died long ago, he had only lived on through the energy he derived from the fear people had for him. In one click Parker had lost any fear, loathing, or even pity for the man. Her indifference had killed him; the combination of her indifference and her mother’s channeled through her. The shot she fired had merely been the drama to demonstrate what had silently occurred beneath skin.
Lyle carried his sister up to Sydney’s office. Sydney was at his desk, his head in his hands, gaze fixed straight ahead. He looked up as Lyle entered, briskly rising to his feet and reaching one hand to Parker’s forehead, the other grasping her wrist. Her faint pulse pounded feeling back through his body. The sensation of its rapid beat vibrated into his heart and filled his ears. He saw her face, he heard her heart and clocks tick on his desk. He was numb to all else in the room. Broots arrived. Sweepers hung in the background curious but valuing their life over information. Lyle rubbed his thumb in nervous silence. There was a mood of expectation that was finally met by the nerve rending jangle of the phone. It resounded through the centre paralyzing action. Lyle lifted the receiver with a shaking hand.
It’s the tower. They want to see my sister. They want her to go up alone.
“She’s in no fit stat….”
Sydney’s voice petered out as two armed figures muscled the door back, their gaze on Parker’s slender figure. She was close to consciousness and the phone had pretty well broken the spell of shock. She looked up from the mahogany velvet couch where Lyle had placed her. She wondered if she was looking at the end yet or whether she had already passed beyond it. Her hand squeezed Sydney’s, Her eyes smiled genuine thanks into Lyle’s. As she walked tall between the two tower cleaners her fingers brushed Broots’ shoulder as in seeming slow motion they passed through the door. She halted and flipped a glance back to Lyle. “We’re not mediocre,” she muttered, remembering their past conversation when she’d been playing the role of Angel of Death. Now she stood between two. Killing Lyle in cold blood as her father had assigned her to, that would have been a crime, but murdering Reins of her own free will and ending a reign or tyranny - it wasn’t something she reflected that she could regret. They passed her, so called father and Brigitte down the hall. Mr Parker gaped but he already appeared to be distancing himself from his daughter and turned away refusing to address her. Brigitte didn’t smile. Her customary lollypop lay on the floor, slipping from her grasp unnoticed when she’d heard the news. She didn’t avoid Parker’s gaze or smile provokingly. Her blue eyes met Parker’s head on, they seemed to be seeing each other for the first time minus the masks, the petty grudges and the hate. Brigitte reached out her hand, her eyes filled with dismay as Parker was led on. Approaching the elevator was like approaching a room in which they hold a lethal injection or the electric chair. Her eyes dilated, her breathing quickened but she was a Parker. Steel descended and she glided towards her fate with relaxed defiance. The numbers lit upwards this time. Elevator silence settled in her throat, the ding announcing arrival sounded deceptively everyday. The doors paused before opening. Her expectation of the customary T board flashed like an afterimage before her eyes before reality crept between the cracks and vision took over. The room was filled with light from a wall to ceiling circular window that encompassed them. There was a table, plush white leather chairs and a glass of water. The carpet was soft; gentle classical music was playing in the background. Parker frowned, confused.
“What’s going on?” she called spinning. The cleaners had retreated and she was alone but she felt like she was being watched. A door behind her opened and she spun to face… her prey?
“Jarod, wha.. What are you doing here?”
Jarod grinned gently clapping.
“Well done Parker. Game over you might say.”
“It’s 30 years too late Jarod,”
“Better late than never.”
“But I just killed Reins Jarod. You don’t approve of murder remember, you only see things in black and white.”
“I admit I’ve been a bit shade blind over the years but I’m starting to make out the colour grey.”
“But how are you up here? Why aren’t I facing torture worse than death? Where are all the weirdos? Who opened the curtains? What the hell is going on?!”
“It’s a long story Parker.” She gave him a look she usually gave Broots. “I’ll give you the abbreviated version.” Her face relaxed. “Mutumbo was murdered. The Centre fell in Africa and the only element holding the remaining pieces together was Reins, but the Centre’s clients have been feeling somewhat dissatisfied of late. The FBI got too curious, The government was getting a little too much scrutiny.”
“And whose fault was that?” Parker glared
“Reins held the key to most of the horror. With him gone there can be no more Centre.”
Parker felt suddenly insecure. The Centre was like a security blanket that her life had always been wrapped in. She didn’t know how to react to the naked feeling of having it ripped away.
“So what happens now?”
“If you listen closely you’ll hear the soothing whirr of shredders. The FBI hasn’t closed in yet, All files will be destroyed.”
“But why? Don’t you want justice?”
“I’ve wasted my life living in the past searching for justice, a way back instead of a way forward. Lately I’ve been feeling I just want it to end. We’re free Parker, Out of the maze, We don’t have to run any more.”
“But if I don’t chase you what do I do?”
Parker hadn’t meant to ask the question out loud but she felt so numb, so directionless, so alone.
“Maybe we could run together?”
Jarod said almost too softly. Parker sank to a seat reaching for the glass of water. “Got anything stronger?” Jarod smiled. “I promise you you’ll never have to medicate yourself against the pain of the weight of reality again Parker.”
Parker stared into the water and then looked around the room. A tank of fish was arranged to one side. She watched them wiggle in and out of green reeds. “I’m dreaming Jarod.” Her mind wove with the fish as she relaxed back into the soft seat. “I’ll wake up dead in a minute and it will be all your fault that I missed the chance to go down with a fight.” She shook her head tiredly then began to laugh. Removing her jacket and messing up her hair she jumped up into the moment, whether a delusion or not, and embraced it and Jarod. Free at long last.