This story was written in 1996 or 1997, when I was in high school. This was my first ever fanfiction!I am uploading it to as part of a project to get all my past and present fanfictions archived here in one place. Feedback would be nice, but keep in mind I was much younger when I wrote this. :) I haven't re-edited it for posting here so please forgive formatting, spelling, etc. errors.
This story is based on NBC's "The Pretender" and all characters belong to NBC. No copyright infringements are in any way intended.
Comments and/or constructive criticism will be gratefully accepted. I hope you enjoy my story.
This story takes place shortly before the season finale.
Peter and the Wolf
"Mr. Jarod?" a little voice called as the rush of children stampeded from the school.
"Yes, Clarissa?" Jarod replied, smiling down at the little blond girl with the cherubic face. She blushed and looked at the floor.
"Would you come to my recital tonight? We're playing 'Peter and the Wolf'." She looked so shy that Jarod had to suppress a laugh.
He grinned, saying, "Why, of course, Clarissa. I'd be delighted. Have your mom phone me and tell me more about it."
She smiled, and Jarod walked her out the door. She started out, looking back to wave good-bye- -and didn't see the car come hurtling around the corner as she skipped out into the street.
"Clarissa! Get back!" Jarod yelled, racing towards her to pull her out of the way. He arrived only a moment too late, as the car screeched to a halt with tires squealing. He watched in horror as her tiny form was hurled high into the air with a terrible scream.
Later, as the ambulance drove away with its sad burden, Jarod had to get away from the grief. He walked, then ran, faster and faster, trying to escape the knowledge that the little girl he had grown so fond of in the short time he knew her was gone forever because he could not be there fast enough. The tears blinded his eyes as he ran. But even in this state of grief, he knew that he had to find someone to talk to or go insane. He saw a phone booth and called the only person he could think of.
Sydney drew his attention from the reports he'd been reading and picked up the phone.
"Sydney," he said.
"Sydney, I need your help."
"Jarod?" Sydney looked around to be sure no one was listening. "Jarod, what's wrong?"
"I can't talk now. Just meet me at the corner of sixth and King in twenty minutes."
"What? You're here in Blue Cove?"
"Come alone, Sydney. I'm trusting you." And he was gone.
Mr. Raines reached over and turned off the machine in front of him. "Clumsy, Jarod. Very clumsy," he rasped.
Jarod paced back and forth under the streetlight, which was beginning to glow faintly in the darkening evening. He put his hands in his pockets ad felt something familiar. He brought out the little Kermit the Frog Pez dispenser and looked at it. Unbidden, the image of Clarissa, laughing at her strange new teacher's love of candy, rose to his mind, and he flung the toy away.
"Jarod." The familiar Belgian accent was unmistakable. Jarod turned and embraced the man who had always been the closest he had to a father.
"Sydney. I knew I could count on-"
Sydney, surprised by this show of affection from the man he had hunted for so long, looked up instinctively and saw -
"Jarod! Run! Now!"
- and saw the men and women in black suits and ties reaching under their coats as they closed in from all directions. Sydney pushed Jarod away. "Run! Now!" he commanded, and Jarod fled.
He ran and ran, but the sweeper team grew ever closer. He wove through a crowd coming suddenly from a movie theater, never slowing. He turned blindly into an alleyway. Jarod glanced over his shoulder, not seeing the large crack in the sidewalk beneath him.
His foot caught...
Jarod fell roughly to the ground, his head striking the pavement with a horrible thud. He thought he heard the sound of running footsteps as he sank into blackness.
Miss Parker was in a foul mood. Jarod's latest notebook led her nowhere, and Raines seemed to be always hovering about, with his infuriating raspy voice and grim smirk.
Suddenly, Broots exploded from his desk with a phone pressed to his ear.
"What? Where?" he demanded. "All right, I'll have it ready. What? Okay, got it. I'll tell her, Sydney." He hung up slowly, an expression of stunned disbelief on his face. "Miss Parker?"
"What is it this time, Broots?"
Broots licked his lips nervously. "Miss Parker, that was Sydney. A sweeper team is coming in, and - "
"They've got Jarod."
He woke slowly in the darkness, knowing without opening his eyes every detail of the room around him: his cell at the Center, virtually untouched since his escape a year ago. A whole year! It seemed impossible. One fleeting year of freedom, and he was back where he started. He groaned, opened his eyes, and sat up. His head pounded ceaselessly, but Jarod didn't care. Slowly, his eyes adjusted to the darkness, and he saw with some surprise that he was still wearing the clothes he had worn on the outside - he must not have been unconscious for very long. He stood up, staggering slightly with a wave of dizziness, and turned on the light. He looked around. Everything was the same as he remembered - but he could never be the same again.
Never again would he be the Jarod who knew nothing of the outside world, who had no idea what he was missing in his life-long isolation. Now he possessed that fatal knowledge, and as he realized this, Jarod felt his hope die within him.
Sitting again on the bed, Jarod remembered little Clarissa, and was assailed by new waves of guilt and grief. Perhaps, he thought, he was better off here - here, outside, what difference did it make? A tiny, vibrant young girl was dead because of his carelessness, and here, at least, he would not be responsible for more such tragedies. Jarod sank again into sorrow.
Suddenly, he remembered Sydney - Sydney, whom he had trusted with his life; Sydney, who betrayed him. As Jarod dwelt on Sydney's duplicity, his anguish began to leave him, to be transformed into an icy rage. No longer did he want to sit and cry, but only to bide his time until he could escape once more, and to repay Sydney for what he had done.
Jarod was jolted from his reverie by a sudden bleep from the door to his room. Automatically, without thinking about it, he went to stand against the far wall as Center procedure demanded. The door opened, and Miss Parker entered, holding her gun. As the door closed behind her, Jarod caught a glimpse of the two guards standing at the ready outside.
"Jarod," she said cooly, with a rather smug smile. Jarod thought, however, that he could see a touch of well-hidden frustration in her eyes.
"Miss Parker," he said. "Feeling a little jumpy?" he asked, glancing pointedly at the pistol she held trained on him. He was gratified by the annoyance that flickered across her face.
"Just a precaution, Jarod. We can't have you trying anything rash, now can we?" She smiled that satisfied smile again.
"Well, Miss Parker, have you come for anything in particular, or are you just here to gloat?" Miss Parker was rather startled by the coldness in her voice. No one could be expected to be cheerful in his situation, but he seemed positively grim.
"I've come to bring you to one of those little simulations that we all know you love so well." She lowered her gun slightly.
"So are we going to stand around all day exchanging pleasantries? Let's go." Jarod moved towards the door, but stopped as she raised her gun again to point unerringly at his chest.
"Not so fast, Jarod," she said. "First, I want to know something."
"And what might that be, pray tell?"
"What do you know about my mother?"
Jarod smiled, a cold, half-smile that chilled Miss Parker to the bone. "What do you know about my mother?" he returned.
"Don't play games with me, Jarod. I've waited too long for this. Tell me what you know about how my mother died."
"I don't know anything about your mother. I was in I-so-la-tion, remember?" He drew the word out sarcastically.
Furious, Miss Parker whirled and knocked on the door. "Let's go," she said.
Jarod followed her from the room.
As Jarod preceded Miss Parker into the simulation room, he saw Sydney waiting there, and his eyes grew flinty. Sydney crossed the room to him.
"Jarod," he began.
"Stow it, Sydney," Jarod said, and Sydney stepped back, his eyes showing his hurt and confusion.
"Jarod..." he said again, sadly.
"Sydney, just leave me alone. I put all my faith in you, and you betrayed me. I will never trust you again."
Sydney was shocked and deeply hurt by this accusation, and he knew Jarod well enough to tell that this was not at all like him. Behind the steel in Jarod's gaze Sydney saw a deep anguish, and a painful grief being carefully walled away. He also perceived that this was not the time to confront him about it. He sighed and turned back to the simulation.
"All right, Jarod, come sit here in this chair, and we'll get started."
"Jarod, please don't be stubborn. You have to accept the fact that you've lost the race, that you're back where you belong."
"I belong out there," Jarod shouted. "Outside, living a normal life with a family, parents, children! You took that away from me forever, and you're not going to do it again. I'm not giving you any more information that will get people killed. Now, I say no. No more simulations, no more tests, no MORE!"
Miss Parker, who had been standing uncharacteristically quietly by the door, spoke up suddenly. "It's not as if you have a choice, Jarod," she said, holding her pistol ready.
"Oh come off it, Miss Parker, we all know you're not going to shoot me. I'm too valuable. A dead man can't run simulations, now can he?" Jarod's voice was coolly sarcastic.
"Oh, is that what you think?" she said, eyes blazing. "I'll shoot if I have to."
"Go ahead," he challenged. "What do I have to live for, anyway? An empty life locked away forever in this place? Please, you go right ahead and shoot me. I'm not going to cooperate with you."
"Children, please!" Sydney cried.
"You did ask for it," Miss Parker breathed. She raised the gun, aimed, and fired in one smooth motion.
Jarod yelped and doubled over to clutch his right foot. Sydney let out a strangled cry. He took out his phone and pressed a button. "Get me a medic in sim room 4," he said testily.
Jarod looked up at Miss Parker in disbelief. "You shot me!" he exclaimed incredulously.
"How very observant of you to notice," she retorted.
"Oh, put your gun away, Miss Parker," Sydney said in disgust. "And Jarod, be quiet before I shoot your other foot myself. I can't believe the two of you. You're acting like four year olds."
"Oh, really," Jarod grated from between clenched teeth. "I wouldn't know. I don't remember being four years old - but then, that's what you wanted, isn't it? That's when you took me from my parents and locked me up in this hellhole."
Miss Parker spoke over Jarod's last words, saying, "Sydney, I think you forget yourself here. My father -"
Sydney interrupted her. "Your father, I believe, will not care any more for this foolishness than I do. Now put away your gun and be quiet. Ah, good, here's the medics."
Two young men wheeling a stretcher and armed with medical kits entered the room. "Thanks," Jarod said, "but I can bandage my own foot. I'm a doctor."
"Physician, heal thyself," Sydney said irritably, "but get yourself on that stretcher. I'm not letting you limp all the way down to Medical."
Grunting, Jarod heaved himself up onto the stretcher. As the medics wheeled him out the door, the two guards from the door fell in on either side of him, and he looked up from his injured foot to see them and roll his eyes disgustedly.
Sydney stormed into Mr. Raines' office and slammed the door behind him. "What the blazes gives you the right to interfere with my case?" he exploded. "Jarod was starting to trust me again. I could have convinced him to come home willingly, but you had to go and stick your nose where it didn't belong, and now Jarod won't even speak to me!" Sydney stopped to catch his breath. "And who gave you authorization to tap my phone?" he demanded.
Mr. Raines endured Sydney's enraged diatribe impassively. "I saw the opportunity to capture Jarod, something you have failed to do for over a year now, I might add, and I took that opportunity. As for my tapping your phone, my authorization comes from the Tower, so you'd best take it up with them. Now, if you don't mind, I have work to do. As, I believe," he wheezed, "do you."
Sydney put a rein on his temper and said with enormous control, "You stay out of my business, Mr. Raines, or you'll regret it." He opened his mouth as if to say something more, but instead stalked out of the room, muttering as he went a few choice curses in his native tongue.
Jarod sat in the dimly lit infirmary, feeling somehow detached as the doctor stitched up the wound in his foot. The bullet had been removed and was now sitting unceremoniously in a dish on the counter.
"You're really quite lucky you know," the doctor said cheerfully. "About two millimeters to the left, and you could have really messed up your -"
"My metatarsals, yes, I know," Jarod finished for him. "Please, can we skip the bedside manner? I'm not really in the mood."
"My, my, aren't we testy today," said the doctor, still smiling. He continued to stitch, whistling merrily.
"What are you so happy about, anyway?" Jarod demanded.
"You happen to be looking at a man who has finally received approval this very day to take a week's paid vacation. My wife and I are going out west for a week. It'll be so good to get away." The doctor looked up from the stitches to smile happily at Jarod. "I've wanted to see a real cowboy since I was five," he said.
"Yes," Jarod said self-mockingly. "It would be good to get away."
"Oh, sorry, man," the doctor said, seeming uncomfortable. "I didn't mean to offend you or anything."
"It's okay," Jarod said. "I should apologize. I didn't mean to bite your head off there."
"Think nothing of it," said the doctor. He tied off the thread and wound a bandage around Jarod's foot, saying, "There. All finished. Now, I want you to-"
"Stay off my foot for at least a week or two, take two aspirin, and call you in the morning." Jarod smiled.
"Good man. I'll let them know you can go back to your room now."
Jarod sat restlessly on the bed in his room. He was increasingly bored, and in the long, sleepless hours of the night, his thoughts turned always back to that innocent little girl, skipping carelessly into the street. When he did sleep, Jarod was inevitably awakened by the sound of that terrible cry echoing in his dreams. Finally, he settled into a restless doze.
When Jarod awoke the next morning, he forgot momentarily where he was, but as soon as he opened his eyes, his misery returned to him. A guard brought in his breakfast, but he didn't touch it. Lying there on the bed, Jarod thought back to the days he had spent teaching Clarissa. No longer would that happy little child leap and play, or run to tell her new teacher, Mr. Jarod, that Aaron was pulling her hair again. Her violin would go unplayed. Her parents had lost her forever - and it was all his fault.
Sydney paced around his office in frustration. "He won't talk to me!" he sighed. "He doesn't heat, barely sleeps, and he almost never speaks to anyone. He blames me for betraying him, and I can't get near him to help him."
Broots looked up from the computer screen. "Well, I don't think I would be very happy if I were taken prisoner and shot in the foot either, especially if my jailer were someone I trusted," he ventured.
"It goes deeper than that. I practically raised Jarod. There's more to this than he's telling us. If only I could convince him that I didn't betray him."
Sydney was shocked. "Of course not! I would never betray Jarod. Raines tapped my phone - I still can't find out how he managed it. He overheard us talking and sent out the team. I would explain this to him, but he won't listen to me - he just turns his back on me. He's hurting inside, and it tears me to see it."
For several days, Jarod stayed in his room, eating nothing, never speaking, until he was visited by the last person he would ever have expected - the computer expert, Broots. Jarod had seldom even seen the man, much less known him. Broots entered the room nervously and stood apprehensively by the door. Jarod looked over idly to see who had come to cajole or threaten him next, but he found himself curious when he saw his visitor. He pulled himself up into a sitting position and looked him straight in the eye.
"I'm not going to bite you, you know," Jarod said.
"I kknow, I know, I - There's something I have to tell you, Jarod. You're being way too hard on Sydney. He's falling apart inside. Sure, no one expects you to be happy to be back, but it isn't Sydney's fault, and he cares for you more than either of you is willing to admit." Broots finished and stood there, waiting for a reply.
Jarod almost laughed. "Not his fault? I'm being too hard on him? He betrayed me, Broots. He was the only one who could have known where I was going to be that night, and there was the sweeper team standing ready to pick me up like some parcel that's been lost in the mail. I trusted him, Broots, and now you say I'm being too hard on him?"
"Jarod! Snap out of it! Sydney had nothing to do with the sweeper team being there that night! Look," he said, calming down a bit. "Mr. Raines had Sydney's phone tapped. I don't know how he knew that you two were communicating, but he did. It was Raines who sent out the sweeper team, not Sydney!"
Suddenly, Jarod understood that what Broots was saying was the truth. He flopped back down onto the bed, realizing the hurt he had caused Sydney by pushing him away. "Will you go get Sydney for me, please? I think I need to talk to him."
Sydney entered the room cautiously, surprised to see Jarod sitting up, seeming nervous somehow. "Jarod, Broots said you wanted to see me," he said.
"Sit down Sydney. I'm sorry I don't have any refreshments to offer, but you know how it is." Jarod said, trying to tease a little, finding himself unable to laugh. Sydney crossed and sat on the bed beside him.
"I do indeed. Jarod, I want you to know that - "
"You had nothing to do with my capture? Yes, I know that now. That's why I asked for you. I want to apologize for accusing you like that."
"It's quite understandable, Jarod. Don't worry about it. But, Jarod..." Sydney paused.
"Jarod, what's bothering you?"
"Well, maybe the fact that I'm back here again, captured, bereft of my freedom, and with a bullet wound in my foot might have something to do with it."
"Jarod, I'm a psychiatrist, and I've known you since you were four. I can tell when something's wrong. I mean, why did you call me that night? What did you need to talk about so badly that you would risk it to meet me personally?"
Jarod flinched. "Don't worry about it," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it."
"Give it a try, Jarod. You sounded terrible on the phone."
"It's over now," he said.
"Jarod, talk to me," Sydney said, moving closer to him, making him look right into his eyes. Jarod saw the genuine concern in those eyes and he could not stay stoic any longer.
"I couldn't save her, Sydney," he said, and the tears began to flow from his eyes. Sydney reached out to take Jarod's hand comfortingly.
"Hush, now, Jarod. Who couldn't you save?"
"Clarissa. She wasn't watching and the car came and I told her to stay back but she didn't listen, and -" Jarod broke down and cried. Sydney put his arm around him and gently held him as the sobs came uncontrollably.
Sydney understood immediately what must have happened. "Hush now, hush now, there was nothing you could do, Jarod," he said. "There was nothing you could do."
"I should have been there, Sydney. I should have been there to save her."
"It was an accident, Jarod. These things happen. There now, hush."
Jarod's sobs slowly subsided, and he turned away, wiping his eyes. "Sorry," he said. "I don't know what came over me."
"I get the feeling, Jarod," said Sydney, "That this is something you've needed to talk about for awhile now. Do you feel better now?"
"A bit, yes," Jarod admitted. "Thanks."
Two floors above in the security room, Miss Parker silently watched as Jarod opened his heart to Sydney. Unwillingly, she felt a tear come to her eye and she wiped it away angrily. A security guard entered suddenly, saying, "Oh, Miss Parker! Can I help you with something?"
"No," she said and left the room in search of a cigarette, leaving the startled security guard to watch the screens.
Days passed into weeks, and Jarod's foot began to heal. Sydney came to speak with him often, and his heart began to heal also. Things seemed to return to normal within the Center. To those who knew little about it, it seemed almost as though Jarod had never escaped, as though that year of frustrated searching had never occurred; but to those who knew Jarod, things would never be the same.
Sydney was happy to have Jarod back where he belonged and close at hand, and he was glad that Jarod had decided to trust him once more. He knew, however, that his Pretender would never again be content in the Center. His heart pained him every time he saw Jarod, limping back and forth in his room, depressed. He regretted ever being involved in the project.
Miss Parker found herself more and more frequently getting angry with herself. Jarod's recapture had been her assignment, and Raines had beat her to him, humiliating her before the Tower. She had to admit to herself, however, that her anger went deeper than that. She was furious at the compassion that she could not help but feel for Jarod. Before his escape, Jarod had only been another subject in the Pretender project - well, perhaps it went a bit deeper than that, but that was a long time ago. When she had been chasing him, he had always been somewhat of a challenge, someone she had to outwit and outchase. Now, ever since she witnessed that heartbreaking scene on the security tape, she could not help but see him for what he truly was - a human being. She hated that inability to treat Jarod unfeelingly, and she stormed through the Center like a thundercloud.
Jarod walked with Sydney, trailed by the ever-present guards, down the hall towards the sim room.
"Please, Jarod, will you stop being so stubborn and cooperate with me just this once?" Sydney was saying. He sounded tired.
Jarod looked down at the floor before him, thinking, knowing that his steady stubbornness would eventually prove fruitless anyway. Finally he sighed, saying, "All right, Sydney. I'll do your simulations. But," he stopped walking, looking Sydney straight in the eye. "But only on three conditions. One, that I know before agreeing to anything who is going to get the information and for what purpose. Two, I want to know everything you can get your hands on about my parents and my family. Three, that Mr. Raines not be involved with me in any way whatsoever. Take it or leave it."
Sydney smiled. "I'll do what I can. I think the best thing to do is talk to Miss Parker."
"Miss Parker? Why?" Jarod asked suspiciously.
"Miss Parker can talk to Mr. Parker," Sydney explained, "and Mr. parker can give authorization. I'm a man subject to his superiors like any other. Hopefully, he won't think your demands too unreasonable."
"They're not demands, they're conditions. You make me sound like a terrorist."
Sydney laughed helplessly. As they approached the simulation room, Sydney said, "Seeing as you're here now, why not do this one today, eh?" His tone was cajoling.
"What all do you know about it?"
"Not a lot. The objective is to test different speed language learning techniques."
Jarod mulled it over, trying to think of a way this simulation could be turned to evil use. "All right," he sighed finally. "I'll do it."
"Good man," Sydney approved. "You'll be using a computer - Broots did the programming, so if anything goes wrong, it's his fault." Jarod chuckled, the first happy sound Sydney had heard from him in over a year.
As they entered the simulation room, Sydney narrowly avoided a collision with Miss Parker, who was walking purposefully from the room.
"Why, Miss Parker," said Sydney, "I didn't expect to see you here." He looked at her questioningly.
"I just came to see that our very own David Copperfield here doesn't do another disappearing act while under your care - and to make sure that moron Broots got everything right."
"It's always touching to see your trust in me," Jarod said.
Miss Parker gave him a withering look. "Just get in there. We're wasting time out here." She turned and led the way back into the room.
As Jarod looked around the chamber, he saw the small glass cubicle in the center, and he was overcome by a memory...
He was confused and frightened. Where was his mother? The little glass room he was in was bare and scary. He heard a low conversation taking place just outside, and then suddenly the door opened, and a tall, kindly-looking man stood there, saying, "Hello, Jarod. I'm Sydney. I'll be looking after you for a while." His accent was oddly comforting. The man smiled warmly at him.
Sydney smiled at Jarod, looked over at the impatient Miss Parker, who had just taken out a cigarette and was now fumbling for a lighter, and rolled his eyes comically. Jarod smiled back.
He sat down at the computer, which sat ready near the left wall. He examined the display, and adjusted the keyboard slightly. As he did this, a corner of white paper peeking out from beneath the keyboard caught his eye. Printed quite clearly on the folded note was the name: Jarod. Jarod, remembering a Pretend wherein he had been a professional children's magician, slipped the note up his sleeve and out of sight. Though he was burning with curiosity as to what the note contained, he forced himself to act naturally. He put on the headphones, flexed his fingers theatrically, and began the simulation.
Later that day, Jarod returned to his room, his head spinning with Russian phrases. He laid his cane against the wall near the bed and lay down. Turning carefully so as to keep his back to the security camera, Jarod removed the note from his sleeve and read:
This is the one and only opportunity I will give you. Three days from now, as the guards bring you from the simulation room, the fire alarm will sound. In the resulting confusion, you must overcome the guards and go straight until you come to the end of the hallway. Turn right, and the first window you reach will be unlocked and unalarmed. Do not fail - it is the only chance you will ever have.
The note was unsigned. Jarod felt at first elated, then suddenly suspicious. Why would anyone want to help him? Sydney might, he thought, or perhaps Angelo - though one never knew with Angelo. The note was typewritten on plain paper, and Jarod was at a loss to identify the one who sent it. Practically anyone could have had the opportunity. Jarod let out a breath excitedly. He would not look a gift horse in the mouth.
Jarod soon began to worry, however. Had his foot recovered enough? What if he could not overcome the guards? What if the note was only a cruel hoax, designed to taunt him into dreams of freedom? What if -
Jarod forced himself to push away that line of thought. Worrying wouldn't help anything. He smiled, happy with the thought that he had a friend at the Centre.
The next two days passed more slowly than any Jarod could remember. There were two more simulations, the first dealing with sensory deprivation, which Jarod found very unsettling, and the second being a game of computer-opponent chess, which he enjoyed very much. Before each simulation, though, he insisted on knowing the purpose of the experiment, making sure his conditions were met.
Finally, the day arrived, and Jarod found himself hard-pressed to act normally, the anticipation of his escape putting him into an uncharacteristically sunny mood. He ate his bland breakfast quickly, and paced round his room with his cane, waiting anxiously for the time to come. That afternoon, as he arrived for the simulation, he greeted Sydney with a broad grin.
Sydney looked up from the chart he was reading, saying, "Good afternoon, Jarod. How are you doing?"
"Just swimmingly, Sydney, just swimmingly."
Sydney looked at him suspiciously. "Are you feeling all right, Jarod? he asked.
"I haven't the faintest idea why, but for some reason, I'm unbearably giddy. What do you think - a sign of encroaching madness? You are the psychiatrist. Do you think I'm crazy?" Jarod grinned impudently at him.
Sydney smiled fondly at him, saying, "Not yet, I don't - but I think perhaps I am to put up with you so long! Now, if you think you can rein in your glee for a few hours, we'll begin."
As the simulation proceeded, Jarod calmed down and settled into his part. When Sydney pronounced the session over, he stood, clear-
headed and ready for anything. He looked Sydney in the eye before turning to go, saying, "Good-bye, Sydney. Talk tomorrow?" Sydney looked puzzled, but nodded his head.
Jarod moved into the corridor, carefully assessing the two guards escorting him - their strength, movement, readiness, weaponry. Suddenly, as they turned the corner into a long corridor, the sprinklers overhead began to rain on them, and a loud klaxon began to blare.
"That's the fire alarm!" exclaimed one of the guards.
Jarod looked at him with a gleam in his eye. "This month's fire safety message: Know when to go!" he said, and swung his cane up and around and into the guard's stomach. He whirled, smashing his fist into the face of the other guard, and whirled again to kick the feet out from under the first. He began to run.
Fear rose in Jarod. He could not run as he would have liked, being forced into a sort of loping jog by the injury to his foot. With the fear, however, came a sort of adrenalin - rushed excitement. He reached the end of the corridor and looked back. The guards were running after him, and closing fast, reaching under their jackets for their guns. He turned the corner -
- and stopped an inch short of Mr. Raines, who stood in the middle of the hallway, gun in hand, the ever-present oxygen tank sitting unobtrusively behind him. He looked even more sinister than Jarod remembered, a hard task to accomplish.
"Going somewhere, Jarod?" he wheezed with an oily smile.
"Get out of my way, Raines," Jarod warned.
"No, I don't think I should do that. Not until they catch up, anyway," Raines returned calmly, pointing at the guards, who were now only about ten yards away.
"Then I'll just have to go through you," Jarod said calmly, lashing out with his bad foot to kick the gun from Raines' hand, grunting as it impacted, aggravating the wound. He scooped up the gun quickly and pointed it squarely at Raines. He doubled his fist to do what he had so desperately wanted to do for so long, then thought better of it, moving round behind the cadaverous scientist to hold the gun to his head.
The guards stopped and pointed their pistols at him, yelling, "Freeze! Drop the gun!
Jarod smiled. "I think that's my line, gentlemen. Now, I am going to count to ten, and if those guns are not at my feet within that time, Mr. Raines here dies."
The guards looked nervously at Raines, who nodded. They uncocked their pistols and threw them to rest at Jarod's feet. He picked them up smoothly and placed them in his pocket.
"Excellent," Jarod said. "I'm sorry I can't stay longer and chat some more, but you know how it is." He edged his way over to the window, beckoning a guard to follow. "Open it," he ordered.
The guard opened the window slowly, grunting under the weight of the reinforced glass. Jarod watched him impatiently. "Get on with it, man!" he yelled.
Without warning, and with amazing speed, Raines suddenly jammed his elbow into Jarod's stomach, grabbed a gun from Jarod's pocket, and wrenched himself from his captor's grip. Faster than the eye could see, he had the gun cocked and pointing dead center at Jarod's chest. He backed up slowly two steps, and smiled again that oily smile.
"Stalemate, Jarod?" he rasped smugly.
"Leave me alone, Raines," Jarod fumed. "I will shoot you."
Raines wheezed a sinister chuckle. "I don't think so. Kyle might have, but not you, Jarod. Sydney gave you too many morals for your own good."
Jarod started. "Kyle? What about Kyle?"
Raines ignored the question. "You intrigue me, Jarod," he said. "I think I'll keep you."
Not wanting to even think about what that could mean, Jarod checked his aim and said, "Funny, I don't!" He squeezed the trigger and was off almost before the bullet, running to the window, as the gun in Raines' hand went flying, and the evil man clutched his hand in pain.
Jarod leapt out the window on his good foot to land in a small clump of bushes. he took to his heels and fled. As he left the Center behind once more, he heard the sirens of the approaching fire engines and smiled.
Sydney looked up from the reports he'd been reading and picked up the phone.
"Sydney here," he said.
"Jarod!" Sydney grinned.
"Well, Sydney, the hunt resumes, I guess. Give my regards to Miss Parker - and Broots, too."
"I will. Oh, Jarod, if you're interested, Mr. Raines is very anxious to speak with you - at some length, I understand. He seems quite annoyed with you, for some reason."
Jarod laughed. "Tell him I'm terribly sorry, but I'm rather busy right now."
"Good-bye, Jarod. Good luck."
"Good-bye, Sydney - and, Spasibo."
Jarod closed the phone as a nervous young man poked his head into the room.
"Five minutes to curtain, Maestro," the man said. "Peter and the Wolf, eh? That's always been one of my favorites."
"Thank you," Jarod said. "It reminds me of a little girl I knew." He took up his baton and followed him from the room, saying, "This one's for you, Clarissa."
I just want to say that I haven't been watching the Pretender long, and though I've tried to be as accurate as possible, any mistakes I've made are purely my own.