Disclaimer in part 1
Note: I know it's been a REALLY long time since I've posted anything. I want to thank those of you who have sent me emails to ask if I plan on continuing (the answer is 'yes' but RL and my Muse aren't being cooperative). This very short chapter doesn't really move anything along, but I'm hoping it gets the juices flowing and reminds everyone of what has happened to date. Oh and, yes, it's still Day 8 and, as a reminder, this story is also taking place in 2000. Thanks again.
Survival II – Retribution
"Full disclosure, right?"
Adam looked up from his computer as Ryan entered the room. He nodded stiffly. "Full disclosure."
"And you're going to swear to me that it's a two-way street."
"I wouldn't have it any other way, Detective."
Ryan's raised eyebrow and smirk told Jarod's brother that he didn't believe the statement, but the Detective did not voice his skepticism. Instead, he pulled at one of the chairs and sat beside Adam.
"Then, you go first," he said. "So far, you've told me a lot about your life until last year. I get that you are feeling responsible for the current situation. Once again, for the record, I don't buy it, but my gut is screaming that we don't have time to argue."
Adam dropped his eyes briefly but said nothing.
"I need to know what happened at the beach house," he said simply. "And I need to know the events that led to it."
"I have every intention of telling you, Detective. It's the reason I came to see you in the first place," he replied. His voice was soft but confident. "Before I do, though, you need to understand one thing."
"And that would be?"
"Once I tell you, there's no going back. You and everyone involved will be in as much danger as my family."
"Adam, I have been with the Department for most of my adult life. This would not be the first time I was put in the line of fire and it probably won't be the last. It's part of the job."
"The Centre is not your run of the mill threat. The things I've told you so far are just the tip of the iceberg. They have the capability of doing things you can't imagine, especially if they feel threatened," the boy countered, adding firmly, "There is a real reason that my mother is so upset with me, Detective."
"I get it. I saw the DSA's. The Centre is beyond dangerous. I don't care."
"That's just it – you SHOULD care."
Standing suddenly, he pushed the chair away and crossed to the far side of the table. His eyes never left Adam's. "I just got off the phone with Jillian Kincade. She wanted to know if I'd spoken to you, yet. She wanted to know if you could identify the men who held you captive at the beach house – the men responsible for kidnapping, drugging and trying to kill her."
Except for inhaling deeply and releasing the breath much more slowly than normal, Adam did not reply.
"She didn't deserve to be in the middle of this, Adam. She was a means to an end to them – disposable and inconsequential," he continued, watching the younger man. "If my hunch is right, Rose Barber, Jennifer Forrest and Susan Pearce were used in similar ways."
Adam nodded stiffly, providing the Detective with solemn confirmation of his words. He remained quiet, watching as the man returned to the other side of the table and released a string of mild of obscenities.
"Except for Jillian, they're all dead. They were murdered. They were tortured. During their final hours on this earth, they were terrified and alone," he said, not bothering to hide his frustration. "So, you see, Adam, I don't have time to care about what this situation could mean for me – I'm more concerned about what it means for them! Now, are you going to identify the people responsible, or not?"
Adam took another deep breath and nodded. "Yes."
Miss Parker stepped into the room without warning. The Major immediately stood, positioning himself as a barrier between arrivals and his son. When recognition dawned, his posture relaxed and he smiled shyly as he slid back to the edge of the bed. She glanced at Jarod and, in the instant before he shifted his gaze from his father to her she saw a mixture of surprise, pride and wonder.
"I hate to break up the party," she said, when both men were facing her. "But, Major, it's time to go."
Jarod glanced at the clock above the door then shook his head. "Parker, visiting hours don't end . . ."
"The guards at the main entrance just called Doctor Collins for permission to send up another visitor. Cara DeWitt is on her way."
He frowned. "You called my attorney?"
There was a slight hesitation, as the Major looked between his son and the brunette. "Other than the two of you, who would call Cara DeWitt and tell her to come see you?"
Jarod drew his gaze from Parker and faced his father. "It must be either Lyle or Philip."
"Why? Why would they . . .?"
"We'll figure that out later," Parker replied. "I'll have Broots check her phone records and see if he can narrow down the call that alerted her to what happened here. Right now, it's more important that you and Sydney make yourselves scarce. Let's go."
"I'm not going anywhere. I want to meet this woman and ask her a few questions."
Jarod touched his father's arm, bringing the man's gaze to him. "Dad, Parker is right. You need to leave. You said yourself that we don't know if Ms DeWitt is friend or foe. Philip hired her on Lyle's say so; there is a very good chance that she is associated with the Centre."
"Which is exactly my point," the older man responded. "You shouldn't be alone with her until we figure out whose side she's on."
"I have met with her several times. She truly seemed to be trying to help but I did not tell her about all of you. If she is not with the Centre there is no harm; if she is, though, she can't know you're here."
Unsure, the Major glanced at Miss Parker and then, over her shoulder, at Sydney. The psychiatrist was standing quietly just inside the room. When he looked back at Jarod, he saw that his son had spotted his mentor and was now harboring a faint smile.
"I wasn't there to protect you from the Centre, Lyle or Kelley. God help me, I wasn't there and I should have been. This time is going to be different," he promised.
Jarod frowned, concerned by the sadness in his father's voice. "What are you saying?"
"I can't stop whatever might happen to you while you'reinside these walls but I can make damn sure you don't go through it alone. I will be here every day, Son, and I will stay as long as the regulations allow – longer if I can pull some strings. Maybe your friend, George Harper, could make a few phone calls. In any case, I won't hide while you are a target. I won't leave you alone. Not again."
"I'm not alone. I haven't been alone for a very long time."
Unsure, the Major did not respond immediately. He stared at his son then glanced at Miss Parker and Sydney before turning his gaze back on Jarod.
"I may not trust my memories, Dad," he continued softly, "but Philip never made me question what is in my heart. I promise. I know you love me."
Gently reaching up, he wiped the sweat and damp locks of hair from his son's forehead and nodded. "More than you could possibly fathom. I would give my life to keep you safe."
"But I don't want you to," he whispered. "I don't want you or Mom or Em or Adam or … anyone .. hurt. You have to let me handle this."
"The Centre used us against you every chance they got; and each time, you fought back on your own," he replied. "You've been hurt in more ways than I can imagine. This time, it's going to be different."
His eyes darted from his father to the psychiatrist. "Sydney, tell my father I am not exaggerating. Tell him it is not a good idea for him to become more visible."
The psychiatrist moved to the foot of the bed and stared at his protégé for a long time, a small, knowing smile gracing his lips before shaking his head. "Your father has been fighting against the Centre and Lyle for a very long time. He knows what they are capable of. He is well aware of the risks."
"You need to allow your father to do things his way this time."
"If the Centre or Lyle . . ."
"Let me worry about them, Son," the Major smiled, "The U.S Air Force didn't make me an officer because I look good in the uniform, you know."
"Maybe not but it's a sight I'd like to see sometime," Miss Parker announced in a throaty voice. "I have always had a thing for a man in uniform."
Jarod glared at the woman. "This is not a joke! My father . . ."
"Your father is trying to help you. We all are. Stop being so difficult and, for the first time in your life, just go with it." Turning her gaze on the older men, she added firmly, "And, speaking of going – I need to get you two out of here. Now. We'll figure out the next steps when we're back at the bungalows."
The Pretender sighed, frustrated that his point wasn't being taken seriously. He wasn't accustomed to being this out of control. As much as he appreciated that his family and friends wanted to help him, he didn't need to run a simulation to know it could end badly.
His mind was running at full speed, almost keeping time with the tightening of the knot in his gut. He looked at his mentor and nodded, half-heartedly agreeing, when Sydney said they would talk tomorrow.
When his father hugged him goodbye, he reciprocated, holding the man fiercely as he whispered one final plea for him to reconsider. But, when the Major pulled away, he only repeated his promise that everything would be all right. Jarod watched him move to the door, searching his mind for the argument that would convince them all that the plan was dangerous. Nothing came. Instead, he stared dumbly at Sydney as he disappeared into the hall. And, when his father stopped at the threshold and turned toward him, his throat seemed to close – making it impossible for him to speak, even if he had found the words.
"I love you, Son," he smiled. "Get some rest. We'll talk again tomorrow."
Ryan listened quietly as Adam relayed the events of the last week. He talked about Claire's history with his family – how she and his mother had crossed paths years before, his mother walking away with disks that could destroy Claire if the Centre was to discover them and how Claire had befriended Emily in order to keep her under surveillance for Lyle. Finally, he told him about how Claire had appeared at the concert in Chicago, threatening the lives of his friends if he didn't go with her.
"Her ransom demand was for my mother to turn over the disks; but, in truth, she never planned to let me go home. She'd made a deal with Lyle. When it was all over, she would walk away with the disks and he would walk away with … me." He cleared his throat, and quickly ran his fingers through his hair. "But Claire decided she wanted everything. She convinced herself that bringing me back to the Centre was in my best interests but she failed to see that double-crossing Lyle was a mistake. She underestimated him and his plans."
"What do you mean? What kind of plans?" he asked darkly.
"All you need to know is that Lyle wanted to use me to make Jarod do things he wouldn't do otherwise," Adam replied. With his eyes still on his hands, he added, "And vice versa."
Ryan hesitated then slid from the chair and moved toward the boy. As he did, however, Adam rose from his seat and moved across the room. The detective watched the young man for a moment, then sighed and returned to his chair, deciding to keep his distance. Over the past few days he'd become fond of Adam; the last thing he wanted was to upset him by forcing him to reveal something he wasn't ready to discuss.
"I was kept on a ship called 'Retribution'. I was drugged. Lyle and Claire tried to frighten and confuse me. They did everything possible to make me believe that my family didn't want me anymore." His voice cracked as he admitted, "It almost worked. If Emily, Jarod and Miss Parker hadn't shown up when they did, there's no telling where I might be right now, or what I might believe."
"How long were you gone?"
He shrugged and wrapped his arms around himself. "Only a couple of days."
"A lot can happen in a couple of days."
Adam did not comment. Instead, he took a deep breath and described his rescue from the ship. Despite his claims to the contrary, it was obvious that Adam had been traumatized and all Ryan could do was to make a mental note to discuss his concerns with the boy's parents.
He talked about waking several times, in his room at the beach house, and finding Jarod sitting by his side, holding his hand. Each time his brother promised everything was all right, talked him down from his nightmares and urged him to go back to sleep. When he woke, around sunrise, Jarod was gone.
"I didn't know it, at the time, but Jarod had gone missing." Adam sighed. "Miss Parker found him, eventually, at the hotel."
"Do you mean the hotel where Claire James was murdered?"
"Yes but Jarod did not kill her," he insisted, his voice returning to the dark tone. "I don't know what happened in that room – but I know my brother, Detective. He did not kill anyone!"
"I didn't say he did," Ryan replied gently.
Unsure, Adam turned from the man and rubbed his forehead while he gathered his thoughts then told Ryan that, though Miss Parker and Jarod called to warn them, they weren't able to vacate before Lyle's men attacked the beach house.
"It happened so fast," he murmured. "There was yelling and gunfire and someone grabbed me from behind. I remember thinking that I should stop fighting. Maybe they'd leave Jarod and the rest of the family alone if they had me. After all, I didn't come into the world as part of a family, maybe I wasn't meant to have one. Maybe Claire was right and I belonged at the Centre."
Ryan saw the boy's expression change as he realized he had spoken aloud. Their eyes met, briefly, but, before Ryan could comment, Adam added, "My father appeared out of nowhere. He got me – all of us - out of the house and to a safe place. Because of him, no one was hurt – at least, no one on our side."
The fear in Adam's voice melted away as he spoke about the Major. In its place was love and pride; Ryan could not help smiling to himself. Maybe the kid was going to be all right after all.
"But I needed to see my brother. I needed to talk to him face to face … about everything. It was the only way I could make sure he was … that we were … all right."
"You doubted Jarod?"
Adam glanced at the man but, instead of answering the question, proceeded to explain how he snuck out of the safe house the next morning. "I went to Miss Parker's apartment but Jarod was gone and she was upset. She wouldn't let me go with her to find him. Instead, she told me to check for connections between Lyle and Philip Kelley."
He held his breath, hopeful. "Did you find something?"
Adam nodded. "Lyle contracted with Philip Kelley to do research and experiments in the area of mind control. They began working together over a year ago, while Jarod was Lyle's captive at the cabin. When the Centre sent Lyle to Africa it should have all been over. But, somehow, they knew Jarod was alive and Philip showed up at the hospital where Jarod was recuperating. Within a couple of months he manipulated his way into being Jarod's therapist so that he could continue his experiments."
Ryan heard everything the younger man said, but his mind kept returning to the discovered connection between Lyle and Kelley. The contract, used in conjunction with the DSA recordings, would be damaging evidence. It could prove the two men had kidnapped, tortured and tried to coerce Jarod into killing Jillian Kincaid for no other reason than to see if they could. If he was really lucky, he might find a judge who would put them away with limited testimony.
Maybe – just maybe – there was a way to bring the Centre down without Adam putting himself in harm's way.
She watched the car drive away then turned from the window and made her way to the door marked 'Security'. The guard nodded slightly in her direction but made no attempt to stop her as she placed her hand on the knob and stepped inside the room.
He looked up as she entered, his expression melting from annoyance to anxiousness. "You aren't supposed to be here."
"And, yet, here I am."
"My attorney should be here any minute. Any questions you have can wait . . ."
"I have already waited too long; I am not a patient woman."
She grinned as she moved in front of him and slid on to the table. With one foot propped on the edge of the chair, she slid the toe beneath his thigh and extended the other leg to the arm of the chair, resting the heel of her shoe in the space between his thumb and forefinger. Handcuffs held him to the chair, preventing him from doing anything but shift uncomfortably in the chair as the tip of the shoe hovered over his hand.
He took a shuddered breath, his eyes traveling slowly to hers. "What do you want?"
Her head cocked to one side, she raised an eyebrow and stared at him. "Honestly, I want you dead but it wouldn't help Jarod much. So, for now, I'll settle for you telling me everything and, I warn you, if you lie to me just once, it'll be the last time."
"Both Jarod and Jillian have stated that you were at the beach house the night she almost died."
"I was," he sighed. "Lyle and his men found me at Miss Parker's apartment and brought me there. After about an hour, they pulled me to the window so I could see Jarod arrive but as soon as he saw me, they pulled me back."
"Lyle wanted you each to know the other was there."
He nodded, though there was no question.
"Did you see Jillian?"
"No, but Lyle referred to 'the girl' more than once. He wanted Jarod to kill her. He gave the order several times and was upset that Jarod seemed to be stalling." When his voice began to tremble, he paused, took a deep breath and hugged himself. After a long moment, he continued though his words were hesitant and soft, "Lyle had a cell phone. Jarod told me, later, that he'd been given a Bluetooth earpiece to wear so that Lyle could hear everything that happened on the beach."
"And Jarod could hear what was happening in the house," Ryan finished, when Adam's voice faded.
"Lyle held the phone up when . . ."
A quick sharp blow to his kidney pushed his weight against Willie's arm. Even if he'd had the presence of mind to suppress the scream, Adam doubted he would have been able to do so. It was instinctive, guttural and, like the pain that was pulsating through his body, could not be controlled.
He heard Jarod calling out to him through the phone but before Adam could respond, Willie's hold on him slipped from his neck to his mouth. Desperate to communicate with his brother, to ease Jarod's guilt, he screamed into the Sweeper's hand. In response, Willie tightened his grip.
Seated with his back to the mirror, Adam looked away from the man. Suddenly the images and sounds of that day were out of control. He had told himself that he had been strong; that he had been brave. But the memories made him feel otherwise. He hadn't fought back. He hadn't done anything to help himself or Jarod.
He stumbled as Willie pulled him toward the door but found his footing long enough to face Lyle.
"Don't believe everything you hear. Jarod did not do it. You can do anything you want to me, but Jarod would never hurt, let alone kill, that woman."
"You're right." Slowly stepping in front of the younger man, Lyle grabbed Adam by the chin. "I can do anything I want to you."
Bringing his fisted hands to his eyes he leaned on his elbows and inhaled deeply. His lungs wouldn't hold the air. No matter how hard he tried to control the breaths, they came faster and faster.
"What do you say we get out of here?"
Startled from his thoughts, he looked at the Detective standing beside him. Confused, he shook his head. "But … I'm … I'm not finished."
"Maybe not but I think it's time for a break." He placed reached over and he closed the lap top. "A change of scenery will do us both some good."
Jarod looked up as she entered. Claire smiled and, as she sat beside him, asked if he needed anything and how he was feeling. He shifted in the bed and met her gaze. Suddenly, his plan to play along with her, to continue as if he believed she was working in his best interests seemed foolish.
Before he could change his mind, he responded to her question with his own, "Who sent you here, Miss DeWitt? What do you want from me?"
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