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Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Pretender characters. Please do not sue.


Prologue

The weather was depressingly gloomy. Dark clouds were covering the sky and strong Northern wind blew the remaining leaves from the trees. On top of it all the rain was pouring down with such intensity, as if it wanted to clear the face of earth from everything and everyone.

Dark. Cold. Depressing. This weather matched the mood of lone pretender standing in the middle of the chemistry looking at gravestone right besides Catherine’s empty grave. He didn’t know why he had chosen exactly this place today, but just standing here gave him some unexplainable feeling of peace. Maybe, he contemplated, it was because she had spent so much time here. Knowledge on how much this place had meant to her bought up warm feeling of connection.

Jarod still couldn’t believe the fact that she had just vanished, disappeared from the face of the earth. The most troubling fact for the pretender was that for some unknown reasons all the records of her had been deleted from the Centre mainframe. Not a single file held a record of her.

Today passed precisely five years since Parker was seen. The day before her disappearance there was nothing special, nothing out of order that would indicate her abrupt departure. She had left the Centre on her way out saying buy toSydney. Next day she just hadn’t showed at the work, when Sydney and Broots started to worry, they went to her house. Everything had been right in the place, no indications of struggle or that someone had left in a hurry. The car was still in garage and pictures of her mother stood on the shelf above fireplace. They had kept looking for her, even informed Lyle and Raines about her absence, but to no avail. Involving police of course was out of question, so they had tried their best using own resources. Even Angelo hadn’t been great help. Whenever asked about Parker, he had started to mumble something completely incoherent and after a while shut down completely.

When Jarod hadn’t been able to reach Parker by phone, he had contacted Sydney. Only then he had learned about her disappearance. Three months had already passed at that moment. Now he blamed himself for not trying to reach her sooner or to pay closer attention to happenings at the Centre. The truth was he had needed a break. After Carthis and their last conversation he had needed time to think. He needed time to clear his mind; to get a hold of his thoughts and emotions.

Sitting on his knees in the graveyard completely soaked, he reflected over last five years. He was still moving on, still searching for his family, still learning and exploring the world, but there was no driving force behind his actions. By losing her, he had lost his sparkle, his joy of living.

Until she was gone he hadn’t realized that she was the only constant in his life, only one who was always there, even when they were bickering, when they were not on the same side or had completely opposite agenda.

He still remembered the connection they shared on the island. Although it had always been somewhere in the air, it felt almost palpable then. They both had faced some tragedy there. The graveyard full of Parker’s burned to death by their grandfather was hers. Missing his mother by only scarce minutes was his. But they had faced it together and in the moment of need there was a closeness and support from other, although invisible to the outside world. He still remembered the warmth in her eyes, her voice, their almost kiss.

Right after Jarod had learned of her disappearance, he mobilized all the resourced in his possession for search. He used not only his pretender talents, but also his connections from previous simulations, when he had worked as a federal agent. At the same time Broots kept going through the Centre mainframe. But there was absolutely nothing – null, zero. It was like tracing a ghost. If they hadn’t known her, they wouldn’t believe that she even existed.

No one besides Broots or Sydney asked about her disappearance. And that wasn’t too surprising – with Mr. Parker still missing and Raines in charge there were a lot of other things to be occupied with. Lyle was quite happy about the fact that he didn’t have a competition to the throne. In his opinion Parker had just left, because she couldn’t meet the expectations or had finally snapped.

But that was not the whole story. After Parker’s disappearance pursue of Jarod was less active. It did not mean that it was not on. It was. Just not with the same fierceness. Both, Sydney and Broots were still in the team. They even got new team leader and from time to time Lyle also rattled the chain. But it appeared that whatever the Centre was dealing with now was of more interest to them. Some months after Parker’s disappearance, Sydney had been involved in several projects and Broots was highly loaded in technician’s room. According to Sydney, Lyle was walking halls quite smug and happy with himself.

Jarod had even considered at one point that maybe the loss of interest was because without Parker they hadn’t come even close at finding him. And they always had thought that Broots was the smart one and Sydney was the link. But with the Centre really rarely things were what they seemed.

Jarod’s thoughts switched to present. As always there was something going on at the Centre and had been for last five years. Usually with Raines and Lyle involved it was nothing good, but this time considering those few facts that Jarod had been able to gain it had nothing to do with Parker’s disappearance or him. Apparently the Centre had received large order that involved scientific work. Knowing fully well that the Centre was more that fully equipped and had really experienced staff it wasn’t a surprise. There also had been some major orders fromAfricathat had kept both Raines and Lyle occupied. But that was not what really bothered him. He had traced and hacked secret accounts of the Centre. There were large incoming amounts from untraceable source. That could mean only one – whatever they were dealing with was not legal and considering the effort put to make it all untraceable, most probably not ethical.

The damned circle of the Centre. You get one truth and three more lies. What had happened to Parker? Why the pressure to catch him was lesser? Who deposited millions in the accounts? So much to find out, with so little information to start with. More time passed, less confidence Jarod got that he will ever be able to unlock at least part of the mysteries. The minimum he hoped for was to find out what happened to the woman he loved.

Jarod slowly stood and looked around. It was damp and chilly. Sudden shiver ran through his body and goose bumps rose on the back of his neck. It was time to move, if he didn’t want to catch pneumonia. Turning around he began slow walk towards the car. He didn’t have the energy to hurry his pace even for the promise of shelter and warmth. There was huge void in his soul he was not able to fill and at times like this, when sadness overtook him, it was almost too heavy to carry. Jarod knew that he needed to snap out of this, because he had a long road ahead. After losing Parker, he desperately needed some stability in his life. So he gave up sims and took a field agent post at the FBI.

Working for FBI had its advantages. Taking into account his background, Jarod considered constant necessity to move around the country as one of them. At the moment he was headed to FBI office in NY. Actually, if he didn’t move soon, he would most definitely be late. The road ahead was still long. Having one last glace back and saying silent prayer, he started the engine, put the car into reverse and tried his best to concentrate on the road in front and forget about his own problems and most importantly – at least for a little while forget about the ache in his heart.

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