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Detroit

Jarod Hades dusted a little something off his expensive purple gigolo shirt as he knocked on the door. He watched as a middle aged woman answered the door. "Hi there, remember me?"

"Uuuh, Jarod?" She blinked, taken back several breaths as he pushed his way into the house.

"Gosh, your house is just as pretty as I remember it," Jarod said as he looked around. He watched a man come from the back. "Howard, right?" He snapped his fingers at him and winked. "Never forget a name. Remember me?" He smiled and gestured to himself. "I bought you those Paris tickets for you and your wife. You know, to reconnect after I screwed her."

"What?! No. Uh." Joyce shook her head at her husband. "It was never like that."

"You called me up from the service," Jarod chuckled. "Come on, Joyce. I screwed you while your husband was living right above you." He looked toward Howard. "That'd be you."

"What are you doing, Jarod?" Joyce looked like she was going to become unglued. "Howard, I don't know why he's here."

"The service sent me."

"No, I did not hire another person."

"Well, you didn't hire another person," Jarod said. "You hired me. Jarod Heart. Cause you know I get the job done."

"No! No! I swear, Howard!" She tried to reason with her husband.

"Ooh. I was supposed to wait until after he was further out of the house this time?" Jarod asked with a wince. "I got confused. It didn't matter last time."

"No! No!" She pushed Jarod and ran to Howard. "I swear, honey, nothing, I'm not doing anything! He's off his rocker, please!"

Howard looked from his wife to Jarod. From his wife back to Jarod.

"Oh, I can't lie," Jarod said, tossing his hand across like it's no big thing. "The truth is, I'm not here to service your wife again, sir. She hasn't called the service. I just thought I'd have a little fun Pretending." He went to the front door and locked it. "Actually, I'm here just to kill you in a flashy style, and hopefully get a little Angel to follow me." He smiled at the both of them. "So? How do you want to do this?" He pulled a knife out of his pocket. "Die together in each other's arms? One at a time?"

He watched as Howard attempted to get the gun out of the closet. He aimed it right at him. "My, my, Howard. Bold move considering you only put bullets in that when you go hunting, but you're next hunting trip isn't for two weeks."

He went right over and snatched it. Then he put the knife back down on a nearby end table, reached into his pocket and started to put in his own bullets. "Don't worry though, I got the bullets for you." He cocked it at them. "Jarod's Valentine day reunited couple. He's sure to remember this one."


Jarod's Previous Lair

Broots was mere days away from getting from The Centre for good with Debbie. Once she came back. Until then, he had to deal with the presence of the one who stuck her with a needle in the first place.

Mister Lyle. The Triumvirate let him out, to help in the search for Jarod. He was moving around a new place of Jarod's, except that Broot's knew it couldn't be so. Jarod was down in Summerlin.

Broots watched him back and forth while Sydney stepped out for the phone. He didn't seem to even act like he did anything wrong. Getting Miss Parker pregnant. Using Jarod's bodily fluids without permission. Giving Debbie a shot that would eventually kill her. Nope, no remorse at all.

Focus. Scary. "Okay, our boy already learned about Valentine's day a long time ago," Lyle said. "I know I wasn't here, but I read the report. Same city too. Helped a, um." Snapped his fingers. "Cynthia Sloane. To stop destroying homes. This, however, isn't anything related to that." He sauntered around and looked down. "Well. That's new. Ick."

Broots and Sydney both came by the stairs where Lyle was sauntering around.

"I-It's the romance novel Jarod wrote of Miss Parker," Broots commented, disgusted. "But, it's. Ew."

"This fascination with my sister is getting sick, even for me." Lyle pulled on some gloves and grabbed the book. "It looks like it was read a thousand times and it's covered in stains. Ugh."

"Worn down. You can only barely see the image on the front," Sydney noted.

"Yeah, through all the stains of a sexual nature." Lyle bagged it. "The hell is wrong with Jarod? He just kidnapped her, why waste time with this?"

Sydney looked offended. "Mister Lyle, it may not be that kind of fluid." Sydney looked at the book. "It seems water-soaked. Let me see it."

"Have at it. He's your monkey doing the jerking."

Sydney put on his own gloves and looked at the book. He opened the pages up. "Water has stuck the pages together, but you can clearly see all the soil marks. Dirt, all over this book."

"It's a dirty book," Lyle said. "Can't miss the reference, Sydney."

"No, Lyle." Frustrating. "Dirt. Earth. Soil." He shook the book and more dirt fell off. "This book wouldn't get this wear and tear from average use."

"It's like it's been through a jungle," Broots agreed.

"This book has been through a jungle?" Lyle asked. "Great, so, our great Jarod is out in the jungle somewhere, holding Jane hostage while looking at porn."

"I still believe that Jarod did not mean to shoot Bhekumbuso," Sydney said, "and I do not believe Jarod is prone to leaving America." Sydney looked back at the book, seeing if he could discover anything else from it. Was Jarod leaving clues to steer The Centre away from his true destinations?

"Whatever. Let's get the lab to analyze the soil so we can figure out where the ape's hanging around at." Lyle took the book back. "But, still, FYI, Sydney?" He chuckled. "Water isn't white."

Broots shuddered at that.

"Finally gone. Repulsive." Sydney tried to shake it off and looked toward Broots. He slipped him a piece of paper. "Jarod wants you to call him immediately."

"Oh. Uh? Okay." Broots looked out the window to check on Lyle. "I hate him, I really do." He looked toward Sydney. "But, um? He's right there."

"Right where?"

"Water isn't white." He dialed the phone number.


Jarod's Home . . .

The touching moment of Jarod feeling the kicking was instantly interrupted as Miss Parker seized the phone when it rang. "What Broots, tell me you got something going on now. Anything weird, out of the ordinary. The Triumvirate owns The Centre. No scratch that, The Centre is just a place for them to monitor, a new branch for them. Something has got to be going on, my bitch senses are tingling like crazy."

"Well, uh, good morning to you too?"

"Broots!" Miss Parker shouted. "You can't tell me nothing is happening."

"Well, um, Mister Lyle is helping us in Jarod's new, uh, lair."

"Jarod doesn't have a new lair," Miss Parker said. "You know that, Broots."

Jarod raised his eyebrow. "No time to do just about anything yet. What new lair? Where?"

"Where are you now?"

"Detroit. This place, it's got Jarod written all over it though. Small innocent things like candy hearts. There are cookies, with m and m's inside, and candy heart boxes and valentines just all over the place. Like um, last time."

"That does sound like him." Miss Parker looked to Jarod. "We didn't miss some second Valentine's day card lair in the past, did we?"

"You've never missed any, period," Jarod said. "That would only give me hope, and you know The Centre hates doing that."

Miss Parker got back on the phone. "Anything unique, Broots?"

"Well, um, yes? The romance novel Jarod wrote for you is here. It's covered in soil and it's badly damaged, like it survived the jungle. It's also. Um."

"Also what, Broots?" Miss Parker asked.

"Can I talk to Jarod instead?"

"No."

"Oh. Um. Well? Please?"

"Fine." She wasn't going to get an answer. She looked toward Jarod again. He would have to get involved at some point. She would have to keep her focus strong. It didn't feel like she had any left. She had to be strong though, for everyone. "Broots wants to talk to you."

Jarod took the phone. "What's unique in this so-called lair of mine?"

"The romance novel you wrote for Miss Parker is here," Broots said. "It's covered in soil, and it's badly damaged. And it's umm."

"And?" Jarod asked.

"It's covered in what appears to be . . . white stuff that . . . intercoursing nature?"

Jarod looked back toward Miss Parker. "What?"

"What is it?" Miss Parker asked.

Jarod moved away from her stomach and started to leave the room. He looked back to make sure she didn't get up. Gemini must have sensed he wanted her to stay there, because he got right on top of her stomach with his ear and started talking about the process of what was going on inside of her. "Broots."

"Yeah, Jarod?"

"Test it too. Find out who the hell it is."

"Yeah. I'm sure we will."

He hung up, remembering what Mister Parker and Bhekumbuso were arguing about. Bhekumbuso even said, straight to his face, they didn't want him anymore.

They weren't after him anymore.

"Just, keep the twin angels away from the devil, and hold on tight."

"Don't let her get confused between the angel and devil. He's not like the others. He's not a kid. He's something different."

"The Centre can't run without a Parker. Speak through anonymous phones if you don't want her to stay, but she has to use it! Lyle's unfit, Raines is gone. Use it to track the devil. Track him . . . or he'll steal all the angels."

There was someone else after Miss Parker.

It must be what everyone referred to as " . . . the devil."

Jarod held the phone, much to Miss Parker's chagrin. All day long he tried to reconnect with his old friend, but it was like she still wasn't budging. The nicer he'd be, the worst she became. He had already demanded she tell him what she was hiding, and all she could say was that it was too late, and she needed to return to The Centre to take control. That was it.

He was getting edgier so he would make the next call. Someone knew something he didn't, and he had to know what.


The Centre

Broots looked toward Sydney vaguely as he searched the computer. Miss Parker and Broots only ever shared one secret from their partner. He thought he could get out of the Centre before it had to be revealed to him. Because it would make him emotional, he would have no choice but to tell Jarod, and Jarod would . . .

Knowing Jarod? He would have surrendered right then and there to the wrong people. . .

/"Did you find it?" Miss Parker asked. "The connection between Jarod and my mother? Anything on the picture that could help?"

Broots had gone silent. "No. Um, I slipped. I'll get there, but there's something you should know." He wasn't able to keep good eye contact with her. "I discovered something new today. A new secret opened up today, besides that." He bent closer to her. "I-I don't know what to do about it! If Sydney found out . . ." He looked away. "He can't keep secrets, he'd tell Jarod, and he'd be devastated."

"Hello?" Miss Parker scoffed. "Broots! We are catching Jarod. He is our prey. So start speaking in my language."

"Okay. This, uh, was right before Thomas Gates' end. It looks like it was in a hidden alert file. Possibly hidden by your father or Raines." Broots brought up the page. He watched as she hovered over him. Her heart must have been hammering. "Well?"

"Seal it up." She stood back up. "Seal it all up. Not a word to Sydney."

"Right. I thought so."

"Broots. Seal it up really well," she said, glancing back at the computer. "Even I don't want to be able to access it again."

"Okay." Broots stared at the computer. "Sorry, Jarod. Um." He looked at the screen one more time before he deleted it. "Sorry, Kevin Baily."/

Jarod was on the phone now, it couldn't be denied. Broots knew what he would find soon. It was going to traumatize the poor Pretender. It was too far.

It was just too far.

"Anything new yet, Broots?" His voice was tense. He probably knew Broots was hiding something too. That he knew something like Miss Parker.

"We are looking, Jarod," Sydney assured him. "I'm sure it's only a matter of-"

"Hit." Broots dreaded the word as he said it. "Ah. Uh. A connection to Jarod Heart," Broots said softly. "A. A woman named Joyce Cullman and her husband Howard . . . they are, uh, dead."

"What?" Jarod yelled in the phone. "When?!"

"It's less the when, then the how, Jarod," Sydney's voice took over. "It was yesterday. They were . . ."

"What, they were what?" Jarod demanded.

"Jarod. They were tacked up to their living room wall, their hands holding each other's and a heart around them with the words, With Love, From Heart."

Broots and Sydney both covered their ears as they heard Jarod's painful yell.

"Joyce! I. No. No! That twenty five years of . . . the . . ."

"There was something else found at the scene," Sydney said softly. "It's a copy of your service card, as well as the novel you wrote with Miss Parker on the cover again. This one was clearly new, but it was still . . . soiled."

Nothing but a dial tone was heard.


Jarod's Home . . .

"Where's the Triumvirate?" Jarod asked, moving straight into the living room toward Miss Parker. "I have to turn myself in."

"The Centre was supposed to capture you," Miss Parker said boldly, not even needing to ask. Something happened to someone he cared for in a previous Pretend. "Not the Triumvirate, Jarod."

"Who is he?" Jarod accused her. "Don't even lie, who's masquerading as me?!"

"Plagiarism," Miss Parker said. "He is the only copy I've found that the Triumvirate has of you, except, that he has had focus treatments since he was very, very, small."

"When did you find out about this?!"

"Shortly after I received a picture of our mom's together," Miss Parker said. "I discovered it. They set him loose one day, right around Tommy's death. A warning shout out no one heard because someone covered it up from hitting The Centres red alert histories on you. Broots found it. The same thing."

"Someone I helped in a Pretend was murdered?" Jarod asked. Oh, he was nauseous and mad at the same time. "Who?"

"A boy named Kevin Bailey," she said. " . . . you're first-"

"Pretend." Jarod covered his eyes. He took a moment of silence for the first young boy he helped. His first red book. "That kid. He was just starting to live. He lost the ability to walk because of a . . . so young!" He shook his head. "No! Two people have already died in less than twenty four hours. I know thousands of people, Miss Parker! Even if I try to find him, more lives will be lost in the process. Lives that I helped save, are now targets to be killed. That's not worth freedom."

"Jarod," Miss Parker warned him. "Not the Triumvirate. It's not an option."

"So, I just wait 'til he murders more of the people I helped? People I knew?" Jarod asked her. "No. I'm not playing this game. Where do I turn myself in so this stops? The same place I rescued you, is that good enough?"

"Jarod-"

"Stop protecting me!" He shouted at her. "I'm not a fourteen year old snowflake anymore, Miss Parker. There's someone out there, Pretending to be me, and killing in my own names!"

"And it doesn't stop on a dime, Jarod!" she shouted. "That isn't how he acts. He isn't there just to get you back to the Triumvirate. He was set free as a warning, for me, just like Kevin Bailey. So, that's it! Unless a Parker gets back into The Centre, he'll strike again. It's not for you. It's for me."

"The Triumvirate was just hoping I turned myself in?"

"They knew you would have, if you didn't know it wouldn't make a difference," Miss Parker said. "These deaths aren't your fault, they are my failure. I failed to get and protect copyrights on you by getting to The Centre after daddy's . . ." She took a moment. "I have to get back to The Centre, Jarod. I have to get into my father's seat, and reclaim it as mine. If I don't, this will continue. You have to let me go."

/"My Angel's going to do what she can. Follow her lead. Do you understand?"/

"The Centre. I can't just let you . . . " He looked toward her stomach.

"Daddy already set it all up with Angelo," she reminded Jarod. "They all think that you kidnapped me out of confusement and you shot Bhekumbuso. If you haven't noticed, even Mutumbo pulled his weight back in after his supposed death. No one even said anything, we're all used to it. Nothing is certain. Mutumbo wants them in The Centre, he'll be fine. I just have to watch my back with Adama."

/"My Angel's going to do what she can. Follow her lead. Do you understand?"/

/"Jarod! The Centre can't run without a Parker. Speak through anonymous phones if you don't want her to stay, but she has to use it! Lyle's unfit, Raines is gone. Use it to track the devil. Track him . . . or he'll steal all the angels." /

Steal all the angels. Mister Parker wasn't talking about just his daughter, or his grandkids. "He was talking about everyone I ever helped."

"I have to go, Jarod!" She yelled again. "I know that you're not happy about it, but it's like putting three people's safety on the line for a thousand others. You said it yourself, you can't stop him from striking again. He's not for you, he's for me. He was for me last time, but Raines or my father or someone hid it! To lessen the guilt. But it doesn't matter. This is my deal," she said again.

"The Centre."

"Is a sheep in wolf's clothing, not the other way around," she warned him. "I'll get you anything in there that might be about your family, top clearance, I just don't think-"

"There's anything there. It's in the Triumvirate somewhere." He thought back to the Pretender Alex. Sent to the Triumvirate.

/"And they thought you were the smart one!"/

"While we are lollygagging about like this, this second Pretender is out there, using your connections, Jarod!" She yelled. "You said it yourself. You know thousands of people. You have hundreds of identities. You can't save them all and us." She crossed her arms over her stomach. "You'll never do a single Sim again, because they destroyed lives. Risking three while leaving thousands on the line isn't any smarter here."

Jarod still didn't answer.

"Nothing's going to happen. They just need a Parker in The Centre. The second Pretender won't be called off until I am there. If you don't move, someone else you knew will die a death they didn't need to!"

"Why do they need a Parker in the Centre?"

"I don't know. It's just the way it's always been. Probably contract related because of the scrolls." Miss Parker looked at him steadily. "I'm a big girl, Jarod, we both know that. I took care of myself back then, I can take care of myself now. Just give me the keys, and let me go." She held her hands out. "Keys, Jarod!"

"Will he still be out there?" Jarod asked softly. "Even if I turned myself in?"

"Yes," she said softly. "Let me do what I have to. Give me the keys."

Jarod reached in his pocket. She was right. Three lives. For how many out there? "Will he go away?"

"He'll be out there as long as they want him out there, but he won't interfere with you," she said. "I don't know if that means he'll be good, or he'll just keep it low key so we won't know. I can't guarantee anything. Except that to stop this, now, before another life is lost that you know, I need the keys."

Jarod pulled out the keys. He didn't want to. She made to grab them, but he grabbed her.

In the deepest hug he could give. "I'm still trapped behind the same damn glass." He pulled her head toward his.

"If we find him, it's over. Broots and Sydney will make sure you get everything to help try and stop him too." She tried to pull away slightly. "You have to let me go."

"I just . . . found you," Jarod said.

"I was gone practically a couple of days, Jarod."

"That's not what I meant." He stroked her cheek ever so gently. "If we get through this? Can I analyze you?"

"When we get through this," she corrected him. "It'll be like hunting you, but we've got you too this time. This bastard won't be out there forever. I have to go. You have to let me go."

He didn't want to. Nothing in his heart wanted to let go of her. There was no protection for her, just herself and her attitude. A flimsy cover story. And someone out there, with his abilities, with a thirst to hurt the people who knew. The people he helped.

/"My Angel's going to do what she can. Follow her lead. Do you understand?"/

"I understand." He wanted to do something as she was in his arms. Not knowing when he'd feel her again. When he would be able to touch her again. Even though he could hold her, he still couldn't hold her. Unable to save her without putting thousands on the line, she was the one again. Right outside his door. Suffering. "Kri Kraw Toads Foot, Geese Walk, Bare Foot." He breathed slightly. "Morning time's coming soon, Angel, I promise." He felt a strange release, a relaxation under him. Something he'd never felt before.

That's right. 'Angel' still worked on her. He rubbed the top of her head softly with his. "Debbie and Gemini are going home. I am going to try and find this Pretender masquerading as me as soon as possible."

But then, he did what he had to do.

He let his Angel fly.


The Centre . . .

Broots and Sydney walked side by side with her through The Centre, each of them determined to see she got through. Broots took the left side. Sydney took the right. Miss Parker walked straight in the middle with fire in her eyes.

In front of the office door, Adama and Mutumbo waited.

"You are here?" Adama asked.

"I am. Once I got away from Jarod again," she said confidently.

"Hey, hey," Lyle complained as he sauntered straight up to them. "Why are Sydney and Broots at your side? I'm your family."

"Will somebody get him out of here?" She said. "Find a nice tight cell for him. No, wait." She looked straight forward at him. "Put him in Jarod's new cell Raines was building." She wiggled her fingers in a shooing manner as he yelled and was taken away by sweepers. She'd love to see him get out of that. "Mutumbo."

"Miss Parker." Mutumbo nodded. "It is good to see you inherit The Centre. We shall do many things together."

"Miss Parker." Adama did not seem as happy. "This only stands as long as Mister Raines is gone."

"Then it stands," she said. She looked toward Mutumbo. "Unless you have something pressing to say to me. I run The Centre my way. I get rid of what I don't like. I'm not a slave, like the others, to your every whim."

"Those." Mutumbo scoffed. "Are heavy words."

"To the man who is responsible for keeping me in a cell for six months and impregnating me?" she said. Yeah, there we go. Now it was in his focus again. "You're lucky that's all I say. Adama?" Miss Parker looked toward him. "The Centre would like to keep in closer communication with you than it has in the past. I don't guarantee everything we talk about will get done, but it will be considered."

Adama was her enemy. The closer she could be to him, the better.

"I think considering the strained relationship between my part of The Triumvirate and The Centre? This, would be welcomed." He bowed his head gradually. "Welcome to The Centre. Bhekumbuso's replacement is not quite ready yet, but I am sure we can handle all difficulties with ease."

"Hm." Miss Parker watched them both move as she flung the doors open. Sydney and Broots walked right in, right beside her, on each side.

She walked up to the desk that used to be occupied by her father, looked up and saw her mother's painting. Standing proud. She moved over toward the seat and took it as gracefully as she could in her condition. "Sydney. Please have someone fetch my Angelo. Now that I run this place, I want him beside me instead of down in The Centre."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Miss," she corrected him. "Miss Parker."

"Yes, Miss Parker," Sydney nodded and left.

She watched as Adama and Mutumbo both walked in themselves to look at her. "May I help you, gentleman?" she asked.

"She is the perfect Parker." Adama nodded toward Mutumbo, who begrudgingly nodded. "With you, we will make great strides to The Centre. We would be honored if you would have your honeymoon in the Floating Bed Bridge."

"Absolutely," she smiled gracefully. "Can't wait." She watched as Sydney returned with Angelo. He was not far, and properly dressed already. "Hi honey. Fetch your things, you'll be coming home to stay with me now."

"But? Angelo confused again?" Angelo looked to Sydney.

Sydney smiled. "There's no confusion. She came back to you, because she loves you, Angelo."

"Yeah. And, uh, babies need their father," Broots spoke up from the other side of the desk.

"Okay?" Angelo smiled. "Okay."

"This?" Adama gestured to Angelo. "This is-"

"I swear, if you say anything bad about my Angelo, I will not be responsible for my actions." She stood up from her chair in a huff. "He used to be quite normal, yes, I can't hide the fact that he's different now. But, he used to not be. Being down in the depths of The Centre with Raines changed him," she said. "I fell for him as he was getting treatment. It did not work, but it did not change anything inside me."

"I am working with Angelo daily," Sydney said following her lead. "Raines did a number of things upon him. Most can be fixed."

"Will be fixed," Miss Parker said. "Because A Parker never changes their mind."

"Understood," Adama said with a bow. "My mother was the same way, tragically. Something happened to her too, and she is no longer the same. I never knew what it was, but its best not to look into the trite too deeply. You lose focus."

"Yes. We shouldn't lose focus," Miss Parker agreed. "Should we, Mutumbo?"

"I agree, we should not," he said roughly. He sighed hard. "I believe Angelo will be fine as a husband, but he will not be fit to run The Centre in the future unless he passes The Triumvirates tests." He gestured toward her. "However, with your twin angels, I'm sure we don't have to worry about the future."

Mutumbo and Adama both bowed and left as her sweepers came in.

"Everything checked, top to bottom for any kind of listening device," she demanded. "Move!" She stood silent with Broots, Sydney, and Angelo until the sweepers said it was clear and left the room.

She turned to look at Broots. "Open up all access codes to all files. Make sure Jarod gets it. If there's even a shredded morsel of the name of his first family dog, I want it discovered."

"Yes, Ma'am. I mean, Miss Parker," Broots said.

"Calm down Broots, I haven't changed any," she said. "I just have a different office. Sydney, I want a full investigation started on SL-27 and anything that is hiding down in there, I want to see. I don't want a stone unturned in The Centre. If I am running it, then by god I'm running it." There was a stack of folders on her desk. She opened the first folder on the front of her desk.

She closed it and threw it in the trash. "Sydney, I want an entire background check on any and all children in this facility."

"Yes, Miss Parker," Sydney agreed.

"If something not in the status quo comes up in background checks, I want to know right away," Miss Parker insisted. "My eyes and ears only."

"Yes, Miss Parker," Sydney agreed.

"Oh and one more thing, Sydney." She looked at the desk in front of her. Her father's desk. Now her desk. All those years there. "Everything goes according to schedule until I look deeper into matters, except we are not chasing Jarod anymore or the DSA cases. Mister Broots?"

Broots looked around himself, then gestured to himself. "Me?"

"Yes. What do you think we should have Lyle do? He can't just lie around all day. We pay for his food. We shelter him. He doesn't have the brains to do a simulation." She clicked her tongue. "I'm leaving that up to you. However, I do warn you, he doesn't mind pain. He just hates tedious tasks."

"I think collating would be a good suggestion," Broots said. "Delinquent call calling. I'll get on that, Miss Parker."

"Thank you, Mister Broots."

Broots smiled. "Your um, your welcome, Miss Parker. Uh, if I can be so bold?"

"Mister Broots?" Miss Parker looked toward him. "You are the left hand person of the woman in charge of The Centre. You had better be bold."

Broots nodded. "It feels really good to see you sitting there."

"Thanks," she said. "Mister Sydney?"

"Do I have to be Mister?" Sydney asked.

"Yes, Sydney. All respect due to you. If you won't take your last name, you'll take it with your first. Follow the standards," she warned him.

"Oh fine, Mister Sydney," he agreed. "Yes, Miss Parker?"

"I want you to go around The Centre, make sure no child's life is being used in a negative way. I trust you can recognize signs. Pink slip anyone you think is doing wrong. Full authority."

"I can recognize signs," Sydney said. "I will keep my eyes open."

"Good. Mister Broots? I want you to feel free to take a vacation at any time for as long as you need." She looked toward him. "The Centre will not be involved in where you go."

She picked up another folder on her desk, looked at it, and threw that one in the trash too. "Sick day regulations. Anyone who wants to leave The Centre because they feel so much as a cold coming on is allowed to. Last but definitely not least." She turned to Broots. "I want to know anything and everything about Jarod's lairs that crop up. I don't mean the usual, Mister Broots."

"I know what you mean," Broots said in a whisper. "I'll let you know."

"Good. Most likely it will have stopped." She picked up her next folder. This time, she set to work actually working. "That will be all for now, gentleman."

"Miss Parker," Sydney said.

"Hm."

"There are no words," he said.

She looked up from her work and toward him. "Just follow my commands, Mister Sydney. It doesn't matter how much I piss them off." She set back down to work. "They can't do anything for three months anyway and I'm the only one here to run this rodeo. They killed two people to make sure I got back here in the fight, so they are going to deal with this bitch 'til the end." She sighed. "Besides. If we're still stuck at the end?" She shook her head. "At least I did some good. Oh. That reminds me."

She looked back toward Sydney. Her eyes filled with emotion. "If it's my time on the elevator, make sure the twins don't ever go to the Triumvirate. Okay?" Her voice was quiet towards the end as she went back to work.

"I see now . . ." Sydney said softly.

"See what?" she asked.

"Why your father called you Angel."