I apologize for the very long delay in posting, and to make matters worse this is only half the chapter I had planned. I do hope to soon get more to you, hopefully one or two will still be interested.
THE HUMAN CONDITION
Chapter 13 –The Hands of Time
Night after night let hope be your light on your way
Day after day I won't walk away from this dream of mine
It's in The Hands of Time
Day after day like a lifetime away keep holding on
Night after night let hope be your light on your way
Day after day I won't walk away from this dream of mine
It's in The Hands of Time
By Joey Gioelie, Johnny Gioeli Neal Schon (Hardline)
The seaplane drifted to a stop and the lone passenger was helped to the pier. She turned to warmly embrace the pilot as they stood together on the pier. "Take care of my boys and yourself."
"Listen Macario, I can stay with you at Martha's Vineyard until Sydney meets with you. I don't like leaving you here alone anymore than Jarod."
"Major err Dad, we have a very strict timetable. I need you to stay with Jem until he's safe. Please, Dad."
He reluctantly nodded and hugged her once again. "Don't take any chances with your life, Cario. You have a family now that loves and needs you."
"We all will be careful, won't we?" She smiled slyly then added, "As careful and crafty as a fox in a hen house, right?"
He pulled her to him again and kissed her quickly on the cheek before turning and heading back to the plane. She heard the engines roar to life as she gathered her lone bag to walk to the street and a cab. Her eyes caught the glare of the gold ring on her middle finger as her hand wrapped tightly around her bag, enhancing the feeling of desolation she had been fighting since the family split up this morning.
Another boat ride from Nantucket and she was at the meeting place a few hours ahead of the time Sydney was to take her back to Blue Cove. The prearranged story was that they never left the States; she had been at Martha's Vineyard recovering the entire time. Thankfully between the men in her life there was enough evidence planted to make it look good. Lyle and company would have a hard time finding crumbs of evidence to the contrary.
Sydney would claim to have found her slightly under the influence of a mild sedative, Parker had enough of the medication to support the lie, it would appear that she recovering from the drug rather than only beginning to feel its effects.
She sat on the bench in front of the waterfront café waiting for Sydney, her sunglasses concealed eyes watching the families on the beach. There was a tall well-built, dark haired man walking toward the water with a young boy perched on his shoulders. Parker watched him walk, the way his wet swim suit hung on his hips and clung to his backside. Her thoughts went back to the few days she and Jarod had together at the cottage.
"Parker, Parker? Miss Parker are you alright?"
She started at the urgent tone in the softly accented voice. "Sydney." Her dark sunglasses thankfully hid her surprise at his abrupt appearance. She had completely lost track of the time, and constant the use of her old surname.
Her old friend and co-worker sat beside her on the bench. "You seemed lost in your own world. I've been watching you for a while before trying to get your attention. Are you all right? Your wound is healing?"
She sighed and touched his arm, "Thanks Syd, I'm fine. I guess the vacation is over."
"I'd hardly call being shot in the back a vacation. Although, when one is talking about a leave of absence from the Centre that's one of the few ways of getting as much time off as you could want." He put his hand hers, "There are many things I need to update you on before you set foot in the Centre. Are you up for this? I can call and tell them that you are not fit for travel and need another day."
"No. The last thing I want are visitors from hell and they'll come if we give them enough time. Besides we need to keep to the timetable. The success of this plan is in the timing." She lowered her sunglasses to look closely at the older man. He had deeper lines in his forehead, his eyes were slightly bloodshot, as though he hadn't slept in days.
"How about a cup of coffee before we start back?" He waited for her nod and with a firm hand around her elbow aided her to her feet. He could feel her scrutinizing look, avoiding eye contact with Miss Parker he guided her into the small busy café.
The waitress delivered the coffee and had turned to the next table before Parker nudged her companion. "Syd? What 's going on?"
The older man heaved a deep sigh then slowly picked up his cup and sipped, knowing the woman across from him was already being much more tolerant of his reticence than was generally in her nature. "Raines is back at the Centre, although it appears as Lyle is running things. There has been some rather strange whisperings going on regarding your brother and the deal he and Raines have made. "
"Syd, I hate to break it to you but life at the Centre is nothing if not strange. How strange are we talking here? Zombies in the basement or Lyle's appetite changing for an unquenchable desire for Elvis music?"
"First, it would appear that Raines has found religion." Sydney watched Parker nearly choke on her coffee.
"What are we talking here -African headhunter tribesman? He and Lyle would be serious disciples when it comes to offering sacrifices to sketchy gods. Don't accept a dinner invitation from those two unless you plan on being the main course."
Sydney mouth turned up slightly at her remark. "It would appear he had a change of heart after his stay in Africa. He certainly is putting on the appearance of a becoming new man, carrying his Bible with him and blessing those he passes in the hall. Rumor has it that he has been seen washing Willie's feet."
Parker picked up her cup and finished her coffee. "Yeah, with what? Not to be too judgmental but there are souls in that place that Clorox is not going to bleach out their bloodquilt." Parker turned toward the waitress, "Too bad they don't serve hard lemonade here, I really need one." She motioned for the waitress to refill their cups. "You think Renewal scrambled the unsmoked part of his eggs? Is this one of his games? I trust Raines as far as I trust a politician to tell the truth. No, there is much more going on here than we know."
"I have to agree with you on that one. You have to be constantly on your guard. This is the Centre, things are rarely what they seem." Sydney paused and looked closely at the tanned brunette across the table. He watched her expression, noting a difference in her eyes and her general demeanor. "Parker are you up for this? Once you set foot in that place, there is no turning back."
"You know me Freud, I do what I must to to survive and now I have more than myself to worry about." She sat back in her chair with a more thoughtful expression on her face. "How much did Jarod update you regarding this plan?"
"Enough to know he is sincerely concerned about your part , but he feels this may be the best chance of anyone getting close enough to the child Bridgette is carrying. Your child." He watched her stiffen at his comment, placing her coffee cup on the table.
"Miss Parker," the older man reached across the table and gently removed the hand from the mug and gave it a gentle squeeze, "things are changing quickly, so quickly in fact it's hard to keep track of who is doing what now. Are you up to this? Can you go back and put on the same façade and attitude you had before you were shot?" His fingers found the new ring on the middle finger, he pulled her hand up to look at the new addition. His gaze locked with hers.
"I'll do what I must or will die trying Syd. I don't have a choice, which is the theme we live by at the Centre. There are now too many lives hanging in the balance." She nodded to the ring, "Another gift from the treasure trove of Jarod."
Sydney's brows rose, "It was your mothers? It is beautiful, although I don't remember seeing her wear this one. Your mother's taste was impeccable. I see more of her in you every day."
Parker smiled, "It is beautiful just like she was and in my heart will always be, despite her flaws." She pulled her hand and fidgeted with her coffee cup.
Sydney eased her hand back into his, "Sometimes it is the flaws that make us unique and beautiful, remember no one 's perfect therefore beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder." When she lowered her eyes he continued with the previous subject.
"What about your father, Mr. Parker? He appears to be in hiding, but we all suspect he is waiting for your return before he resurfaces. You'll have to face him as though you have learned nothing new. If this is as we believe it to be -his game, you must be willing to play it." Sydney kindly squeezed her hand offering her his support.
Parker looked down at their hands and remembered the same parental support from her old friend and co-worker when he had been shot in the basement of an old warehouse by her gun. She sighed, " I don't know how to deal with Daddy. It will be hard to keep the resentment and years of hurt and betrayal under the surface."
"Parker, you have the same gene that gives Jarod the ability to be anything he wants. You just don't have the years of training. But you have the ability, translated into the instincts that have guided you. I believe you can do whatever you set your mind to and perfectly." He again gently tightened his grip on her hand, appreciating that she had not yet pulled her hand away. "Listen to those instincts."
The brunette tilted her head, "What do you know about these instincts Syd?"
"There are times when the subconscious is able to put together separate pieces of information –tidbits that on the surface are unrelated but in fact are a puzzle piece that create a definite picture. Not everyone is able to consciously tap into that portion of the subconscious or for those who can =are able to call upon the ability at will Often there are times when those instincts demand an action that the physical sense would equally demand an opposite action. Pretenders are those who not use those instincts but act upon their advice intelligently." Sydney leaned across the table and in a more quiet voice continued, "I've seen you change course in the middle of the track and get remarkable results. The gut instinct as you have named it, has served you well in the past. It may prove imperative to follow that instinct now more than ever, Miss Parker."
After several moments of silence Parker carefully drew her hand away from the psychiatrist's, "As much as I hate to, I think we better get this show on the road."
Sydney nodded and stood with her, "I'll pay the check if you want to freshen up before we start back."
Sydney stood a short distance away watching Miss Parker stare out at the ocean and the people on the beach. He could only guess at had her so distracted that she didn't hear him approach. Rather than startle her too much again, he waited and cleared his throat. The dark head turned immediately, he could see the tenseness ease as she recognized him. His concern for her grew and he began to understand the worry that filtered through Jarod's conversation with him on this way to meet Parker.
He held his arm out to escort her to the car. "I forgot to tell you that Jarod insisted I rent a car at the last moment. He wanted us to be able to talk without fear of my car or a Centre car being bugged." Sydney stopped at a llght blue Toyota sedan.
"Allow me madam, your chariot awaits." He unlocked and held the door open for Parker, taking her overnight bag and tossing it into the back seat.
When the silence between the car's occupants continued, Sydney looked over at the thoughtful expression on Parker's face sighing deeply he ventured, "Parker, I know Jarod has a plan he intends to follow, he alluded to as much. I'm concerned that one of us may unknowingly throw a wrench into things. God knows neither Broots nor I would ever want to be responsible for interfering with your plans." He glanced sideways to see her attention on him.
Parker touched his arm, "Sydney, I doubt either of you will do that, all you have to do is keep yourselves safe and out of the line of fire and safe. Go about things as normal. We are counting on their overconfidence leading them into making mistakes. It will only take one major mistake and the game is over, just like in chess. You remember chess, right Syd?" A warmth touched her smile as she took in her old friends eyes. "This will play out one way or the other. "
Sydney had hoped for more from her, she was quietly withdrawing into herself. He knew the signs of simming a project, she was exhibiting similar behavior that Jarod displayed in projecting the probable outcomes and reactions to expected from any variety of possible stimuli. Just when the older man gave up on getting any more information out of his younger passenger she broke the silence.
"Syd, remember the chess play called 'poisoned pawn'?"
She heard his gasp, and knew he understood part of their plan.
"Parker, I hope you two know what you are doing. That play doesn't always work when your opponent is familiar with the game and the strategy."
"That's just it. I don't think we are dealing with chess players on the same grand master level as your Pretender."
"Or you." Sydney smiled at the memory of the young girl jumping up and clapping happily clapping her hands before hugging Sydney after learning the game and beating him with a few unexpected moves. "You had a feel for the game even as a young girl."
Parker's blue eyes sparkled over the top of her sunglasses, "We are counting on that. They are expecting their pawn to return to them to be used as a Queen from the other side of the board. When they have taken the bait it will be too late to turn back." She paused and whispered the last statement, "For all of us."
They were about three hours out of Delaware when Parker asked Sydney to pull off at the upcoming rest stop. When the doctor steered to a quiet tree covered corner of the lot with only one other car in the vicinity he looked to the young woman and noticed her attention fixed on the new ring next to her mother's square ring she never took off. He sat watching her and the way she reverently touched the two rings. He fought down his curiosity regarding her newest accessory, he knew her well enough to know that she would share only what she wanted to share. In her life she had learned that secrets not only surrounded her but sometimes keeping the secrets kept her and those she loved alive. He knew Jarod was somehow responsible for he new ring. His position in her life had changed dramatically due to the children. Sydney knew too well the emotional bond the two had, they walked a fine line for many years, the quick emotionally charged glances rarely exchanged with the Pretender hadn't been lost on Sydney who earnestly now watched the expression on the beautiful tanned unguarded face said more than she would admit to.
His thoughts were interrupted when she reached into her purse and pulled out a pouch. She unzipped it and took a quick look around the lot to make sure they were not within observation range of pedestrians, other passengers or security cameras. Parker withdrew surgical gloves and a small vial and syringe.
"Syd, it's time. We went to great lengths to have one set of prints on the vial, Lyle's, so make sure you use gloves." After slipping her slender hand into one glove she handed him the vial and syringe then sat sideway in the seat sliding the top of her jeans down just enough for him to inject the drug into her hip.
Sydney turned the vial around to read the label and frowning looked at his friend.
Parker looked over her shoulder, "Now Syd, before all the local druggies line up for a dose."
He shook his head before gently rubbing the exposed skin with the alcohol pad, "Are you sure about this Parker?"
"Positive. Your protégé dreamed up this part of the plan. It is safe and we'll need this as our cover back into the hell hole. Remember the poisoned pawn move. Well it begins now."
Sydney sighed, but did as she requested. He watched as she resettled in her seat. "Let's move into the area near the building, I'm sure they have a vending machine with bottles of water. Walking a bit will start the drug through your system, and you can freshen up a bit before we take the final leg home. We need to ditch the evidence where it won't be found, the rest room looks like a good spot."
She looked back at the building then nodded and felt a hand guide her face to his.
Sydney's dark eyes studied her. "Parker I'll do all I can to keep you and your new found family safe. But you have to stay alert. That drug will still be in your system when we arrive at the Centre, your reactions are going to be slow, including your ability to think on your feet. Don't let anyone move you from my presence. I'll keep an eye on you and make sure you get passed this part. Don't let Lyle separate you from me. I'll do all I can, but you need to act as clingy as you can."
"I understand. Lets get the water and hit the rest room stop while I can still navigate the walk up there."
Sydney pulled out of the parking spot and around the lot to find a spot in front of the building, as he unhooked his seat belt and turned to open the door her hand stopped him. "Thanks Syd, Jarod and I knew we could count on you."
A short period of time had passed with small pieces of banter before the psychologist asked the question that Broots had approached him with while in the middle of the inside Centre research Jarod and Parker had requested of them. "Parker before the drug fully takes hold, there is something you should consider", he looked over at her to see her eyes were already heavy and she would soon be completely under the influence.
"You've got my attention Freud, for however long, you better spew it out." She chuckled at her choice of words and the look on the psychologist's face.
He sighed, "Broots told me about the attempts at cloning you found at Donoterase. you know the Centre and Raines have no conscious regarding fulfilling their goal. What if Brigitte's baby is born with medical problems or deformities? Are you prepared to deal with the possibility of a child with a short and painful life?"
Sydney had pulled the car into one of the few full service gas stations at the rest stop to fill the tank before asking the question. He wanted to be able to give Parker all of his attention should she need it. Now he watched as she closed her eyes, her head was resting completely on the head rest as a tear slid from the corner of her left eye. Sydney leaned closer and placed a supporting hand on her arm, reminding her she was not alone.
When she began to talk, her tone was soft and the warmth of her voice brought the older man close to tears himself. "Jarod and I discussed the possibility that Raines has gotten in dirty fingers into the mix. We all now the old ghoul isn't capable of allowing nature to take its course without him playing God. I'm hoping my Father would not trust Raines to have learned from his past failures."
Her speech was slowing and slurring as the drug took its affect. Sydney needed to know what to expect to best help if things took a course for the worse, so he prodded a bit more. "Parker, what are you prepared to do?"
"Love the child. No matter what, I want my children to know they are loved." She turned to her old colleague, her face filled with resolve but touched with a sad warmth, "I will love this child with all I am capable of just as I love his or her brother, it is eternal. They will never have reason to question it."
Sydney sensed there was more, "But…"
"Regardless of the health of the child, the Centre will never use me or anyone else to play their games." Parker turned to the front of the car and closed her eyes, her speech became softer, slowed by the drug as she continued, "No one else will sacrifice my children's life or chance at happiness in my father's or Raine's hunt for power. It ends here."
Before Sydney could question much more he could see she had gone limp, her mouth slightly open as her breathing deepened, the drug finally took complete hold. Sydeny warmly caressed her arm with his hand and whispered, "Puits de sommeil mon cher." (Sleep well my dear.)
Sydney adjusted the car's CD player to a low volume and settled back to enjoy the classical music hoping it would allow his passenger a more relaxing sleep while the drugs did the job of adding to the flawless illusion they had worked so hard to develop. He eased the rental onto the interstate that would take them back to the bowels of hell. He maintained the speed limit even allowing the car to drop below it giving Parker time to rest and the worst of the drug to pass through her system hoping that by the time of their arrival she would be in a semi conscious state.
Jarod paced back and forth in front of the sliding glass doors, watching the plane land, he glanced over at his son to see that Jem was sitting at the kitchen table with his head down supported by his hands. At the sound of the engines cutting, Jarod quickly exited the house and bounded down the steps to the pier reaching his father as the older man exited the plane with a duffle bag.
"Why?" Jarod stood toe to toe with his father. "Why would you have helped her slip away like a thief in the night without even saying good bye." Jarod gripped his father's shoulders, "Dad I don't understand."
"I believe you do Son. She did it the only way she knew she could. This was not any easier on her than it is on you. She felt in the long run it was the only way." The Major slapped his son on the shoulder, "If my hearing hasn't totally left me, she said goodbye last night."
Jarod suddenly looked sheepish and embarrassed, "You heard?"
"Only because I couldn't sleep and went to the kitchen to make coffee." The Major's grin held a sympathetic element, "Jarod, that woman is not made of stone, you of all people should know that. She is in an intensely new relationship and has a vital part to play in this operation. Think about it, how would Miss Parker say goodbye?"
"Miss Parker wouldn't."
"And yet wasn't that what Cario tried to convey to you last night? Not exactly a goodbye per say, but more of this is just the beginning?"
The frown on Jarod's face eased a bit, "How did you get to be so wise in the ways of women?"
"Son, I've lived in the world twice as long as you have and I'm a good observer."
"is that all, Dad? You seemed to have developed a few close relationships along the way. The woman the helped with our get a way for instance."
The Major stared hard at his son before answering, "Jarod, your mother and I have been apart much longer than we were together. I loved her then, but I can't say I even know her now. Every time I've come close to making contact it was almost like she purposely avoided it."
Jarod saw the pain and rejection in his father's face and understood the feelings, "I know Dad, we were so close to meeting in Boston. I blamed the Centre."
"I heard that Emily is now out on her own, your mother sent her away too. It's as though she either thinks she is the one attracting the Centre or she wants a fresh start - one in which she feels safe and happy." The Major looked down at his feet, "I think she may blame me for not being able to take care of our family."
"Dad none of this is your fault. We can work it all out on the other side of this mess. Cario has a good mind for seeing things I miss. We'll have her help and that of Mr. Broots." Jarod slid his arm around his father, "We need to go up and cheer up your grandson."
Jarod entered the kitchen first to see that Jem had not moved. He glanced at his grandfather to see him slide envelopes from the inside of his flight jacket. He handed Jarod one, then sat beside his grandson. He put the envelope under his hand and moved the hand between Jem's elbows directly under the boys face, raising his hand from the table to expose the envelope. He cupped his grandson's chin and tugged his chin so the boy now faced him.
The face that looked at his grandfather was one painted in hurt and misery. "Jem, you knew she was leaving this morning." The envelope lay untouched where the Major had slid it.
"Yes but I thought she would say goodbye."
"I think her goodbye was the night on the beach with you. She wanted to leave with warm thoughts of how tightly knit you three had become as a family. I don't think the woman had it in to leave seeing regret and tears in the eyes of the ones she loved. I know, because she barely held herself together on the flight over." The Major picked up the envelope and placed it in the boy's hand. "She asked that I deliver her messages to her family."
The Major retrieved a good drink before going out to the patio, leaving the two alone to read their missives, he had read his on the way back. He held his glass out to the ocean as though toasting the woman, he know thought of as his daughter, on another coast. "Well done, Cario. Well done."
Jarod help up his envelope to show his son, "Well, I guess we should see for ourselves what your mom had in mind." His trepidation showed in the way he fumbled the envelope before finally opening the seal. It was a note of few words.
"Jarod, we never said goodbye, I refuse to now." The words were followed by a series of eights laying on their side all woven together lined up the entire width of the note and continued on to the other side and off the edge of the paper.
Jarod smiled sadly as he studied the note again. When he looked up at Jem he noticed the boy had tears in his eyes as he held his letter in front of him staring without seeming to read it.
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours?" Jarod teased lightly.
Jem watched as Jarod sat beside him at the table. He studied the man he came to know as his father, than quietly folded his letter and handed to him. Jarod mimicked his action folding and handing over his own note.
"Infinity, she is always with us." Jem's smile was watery, "Eight is symbolic of infinite, I just wish she would have said goodbye or let me hug her one more time."
His dad hugged him, "I know, I wish it too. But if she would have seen the tears in your eyes when she left it would have been harder for her to leave. You know she loves you don't you?"
Jem nodded and looked at his unopened note in Jarod's hand. His dad smiled and opened it to see a sketch of the beautiful birds flying over the cliffs with a nest and a small bird waiting to be fed. Beneath the rough sketch were two quotes followed by a hand written note:
"Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul. And sings the tune without words and never stops at all.
"A mother never leaves her children at home even when she doesn't take them along."
~~Jem, I'm not sure I have the wording exact but you know how I feel about you and making your life safe and happy is my priority. I will see you soon.
Her eyes were heavy she heard whispered deep voices surrounding her, Miss Parker struggled to open her eyes. A gentle warm grasp on her wrist helped relieve the sense of panic that gnawed in her gut.
The thumb slowly moved up her wrist, a gentle smooth comforting motion. She tried to focus on it and allowed her memories to sharpen and her purpose to focus. The soft slightly accented words whispered close to her ear at once sharpened her senses and awareness and at the same time allowed her the realization that Sydney had stayed true to his word and kept close to her. His hand covering the new ring from Lyle's attention.
She slowly opened her eyes and looked at the face that was close to her own. The concern in his eyes were in direct contrast to the soft tone he calmly conveyed in speaking with her.
"Hello, Miss Parker, it's good to see you fully awake. You are in the infirmity at the Centre. They are monitoring your vitals, you are doing fine."
"At least she stopped whining for Sydney, looks like Ratboy did a good job on your back too. What happened? The bark or the bite? Looks like once you were healthy enough he was anxious to be rid of you. "
She didn't need to turn to know that just beyond her vision stood Lyle. "Something like that, guess he thought I could finish recuperating in the loving arms of my family." She nearly choked as she rasped out the sentence.
Sydney frowned as he quickly moved to pour her iced water out of the pitcher on the table near the bed. He gently eased the bed into a position that raised her head and allowed the straw to slid into her lips as she swallowed.
After the cooled water refreshed her drug induced dry mouth and throat she put her hand on Syd's to move the glass away. "Thank's Syd."
"Guess Ratboy must have made you beg for your treats 'cause it looks like you have learned manners. I'd have given my thumb for that one ...oops wait already did that once." Lyle smirked but remained at a distance studying her reactions.
"I have a good idea Lyle why don't you take that thumb and shove it where the sun doesn't shine. Or have you already learned that trick?" She watched as the smirk slid from his face then added, " Where's Daddy?"
"Seems like you put Dad in a bad position with the powers that be. He is missing, on the run, trying to escape the headhunters." Lyle tilted his head watching her every reaction.
"Why? You were there, you saw what happened, apparently no one takes you too seriously Lyle or you could have protected Daddy. Unless it works to your advantage to have him gone." She glared at him, "Power gone to your head already that you served up one member of your family? How long before you take total control, and serve me up too?"
Sydney moved around the bed to stand in front of Lyle effectively blocking his view of Parker. "Miss Parker has been through a lot in the lately, Lyle , I think it best if you allow her to get back on her feet."
"Lyle has always been the first in line to kick a person when they are down. Isn't that right, Lyle?"
Syd's voice hardened, "Miss Parker."
Lyle stormed out of the room.
Syd gazed up to the camera nearly hidden by picture over Parker's bed; he lowered his gaze to Parker, deliberately drawing her attention to the position of the device, her nod was barely perceptible.